The Centurion's Man by Ken Proctor

The Cenurion's Man

By Ken Proctor  

My eyes dart down to the platter to confirm that, once again, it contains only the seeded loaves. But to my astonishment, not only are all seven loaves now on the platter, but the three that I had broken into pieces have been restored and made whole again.

“Take, eat,” he commands, but gently, and over his shoulder I see my master nod his approval and encouragement. I reach for the small, imperfect loaf that I had set aside for myself, but the gentle stranger turns the platter so that my hand falls on one of the loaves that I had broken and he had restored.

This time there is no hesitation. I raise the flat seeded loaf to my face and, after inhaling the sweet, fresh, aromatic scent of it, I take a huge bite....

And Leap Out of Bed!

Oh, will this haunting saga of shadows and unrelenting chaos not cease? I have leapt from one unreality to another! Questions flood my mind as I strain to untangle fact from fantasy... and yet this vision has a more tangible feel. The touch of the floor under my bare feet, the sounds of the neighbors through the open window, even the smell of the city that invades the master’s house when the wind is contrary, all hold an authenticity that belie what I am seeing.

I stand in the master’s chamber, having just sprung from his bed. What was I doing on the master’s bed? And what is that smell?

Judging by the light slanting in through the vented gable, it is late in the day, and I should be in the larder and pantry making final preparations for the evening meal. So why am I just waking... and why here?

“Misha?” I turn quickly to the door; horrified that Fallah has found me here.

Her huge eyes and sharp gasp attest to the severity of my offense. She drops a towel and a basin of water to the floor and stifles a scream, while pointing at my legs. It is then that I notice the filth and the stench that surround me... excrement and urine mixed with blood and puss cling to my right leg and thigh, soaking the simple cloth bound around my hips. My hair is caked with old sweat, and my face, stubbled by at least a weeks growth, crusty with sweat or tears or both.

I spin to inspect the master’s bed and, as I suspected, it is a twisted heap of filth encrusted bedding on a ruined linen mattress. Nothing will be saved from that fetid, repulsive pile. All must be burned. What have I done? What happened to me? Why was I in this room at all?

Turning to Fattah for answers, I see only more questions in her eyes. The color has drained from her face, and she clutches at the doorframe for support. But as I stand beside the disheveled bed in my sodden and malodorous condition, she must read the same look of stricken bewilderment on my face. Quietly, she asks again, “Misha?”

But I do not know what she is asking, and I only have more questions. “How... what...?”, I stammer unhelpfully. I take a tentative step toward her, but she halts me with a raised hand and guarded look. The small covering plastered to my groin begins to slip and, sorry as it is, I snatch it back.

“You are standing,” she stammers. “Misha, how are you standing?” But again, I do not understand the question or its implications. I look down at my feet, my knees, my legs... other than the obvious need for bathing and a clean tunic, I am mystified by her reaction.

And then I don’t care. It is not so important for now how all this happened. It is momentarily irrelevant. What is critical is that I do all I can to clean up this mess, including myself, and to arrange for a new bed and bedding for my master. At the same time, there is a meal to prepare, not flat bread, and this room to clean, bedding to burn, the floor to scrub... so much to do.

“Fallah, hurry, please, you must help me.” I begin stripping the bed with one hand while pinning my covering to my hip with the other. Where did all this blood and excrement come from? Irrelevant! Focus on the task!Next Chapter

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Giving your heart to others by listening to their heart


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