Long have I fought against Death.
It is part of me; I could do nothing else. Not after she left us. I was just a child when my mother fell ill; she had just divorced my father when the infection pierced her like an arrow out of nowhere.
My earliest memory is of her funeral: strange people in black, emotions contorting their faces like masks; shortly after, her remains were cremated. I never really knew her, but even then, nothing more than a toddler, I was changed by the indescribable pain inside me.
I was sent to live with an old acquaintance of hers. I never saw my father again. But the old man loved me as his own, and paid for the best possible education. As I grew older, he was more than a surrogate father—he was my mentor.
Despite all he did for me, I missed the woman I barely remembered.
Distraught at the all-too-soon decease of my mother, I decided to do what I could to help others, and to spare them my incessant grief. My life was devoted to the healing and beneficence of all men. With my mentor’s encouragement, I excelled in my learning. All fields of medicine were mine to explore, and I learned as much as humanly possible, until graduating.
After some years of working as a heart surgeon, I chose to offer my talents to everyone, everywhere, for free. I went on the road, healing anyone who asked. They called me a miracle worker.
Things went well as I cured just about everyone I came across. Until one day in a small rural town, where technology was at least a decade behind, I found something I could not handle.
A young man was presented to me, with strange marks all over his body. He was underweight and uncontrollably vomiting.
His father suggested it was bad food poisoning, but that couldn’t be right—this had been going on for weeks. I tried other ideas, such as various poisons or infections, but ultimately could find no sure cause of the illness.
The young man died.
The mayor appeared that evening on television, decrying my presence there. “We were told not to interfere with His discipline,” he said. “He told us everything would be alright once Henry learned his lesson. That if we interfered, there would be further punishment, for all of us. And what did you do? You brought an outsider to interfere! Look at what you’ve done.”
During the following days, dozens of the townspeople fell ill, with all different kinds of infections, cysts, boils, tumors. I was powerless.
But one night I had a dream. A distant silhouetted figure beckoned me toward a well. In it was healing water.
In the morning, I found it not far from the motel where I was staying. It was old and abandoned, but there was still water.
Despite what the mayor had said, some of the sick still came to me, pleading for me to help. I gave them the water in desperation, and every single person who came to me was quickly rid of their disease, regardless of what it was.
Soon a crowd had gathered around, amazed. The mayor was not happy.
“What have you done!?” he cried in horror. “He will surely kill us all now!”
A knife suddenly gleamed in his hand, and he rushed toward me.
We struggled, pushing back and forth, me trying to gain control of the blade.
“Help me,” I grunted to townspeople. “Please.”
They stood in place, uncaring. Some visibly shook their heads from side to side. Others seemed enthralled at the spectacle, as though the life or death situation was all in good fun.
At last the mayor, being a large man, overpowered me. He stabbed me countless times, blood flowing onto the grass, leaking into the well where the healing water was.
A white-faced man appeared before me, His nose tapering to a point like a beak. The rest of Him was shrouded in darkness. It was just He and I in the void around us.
“Get up,” He said. His face did not move with the words.
“Why? What’s going on?”
“Get up. We have work to do. Now you see the truth.”
He handed me a bird mask.
I awoke, breathing desperately. The mask was in my hand.
I looked at the blank faces of those around me. Those I had healed, and those who loved them.
They cared not for me.
Standing shakily, I slid the mask onto my face. I was a new person.
I knew now that I had wasted my life, but He was here to guide me.
Long have I fought against Death.
Having tasted of mortality, and of the ungratefulness of man, I choose the will of the Bringer of Death. For none deserve anything less.