The Death of Mel

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

2 Corinthians 4:3-4

“Open your eyes darling…to the things unseen.” The soft whisper kissed my cheek as I lay by the extinguished campfire. A gentle sigh escaped my lips, but my eyelids refused to even flutter awake. No, I willed myself to stay in dreamland as long as possible. Suddenly, I felt a sharp kick in the ribs forcing me back to reality. I bit my tongue before I could cry out.

“Who gave you permission to sleep in on our busiest day, Mel?” The sun was barely at the horizon as I scrambled to my feet. Even though it wasn’t bright enough to see, I could tell by the silhouette that the Ringmaster was the one looming above me. Standing a solid nine inches taller than me, the Ringmaster was wearing his standard black top hat, billowing shirt, black pants, and leather boots. I involuntarily winced when my eyes settled on the whip coiled in his left hand.

“I allowed you to be part of this family. I raised you and taught you for the past fifteen years. This is how you show gratitude?” Ringmaster sneered at me with disgust.

“I’m so… sorry Ringmaster.” The words came out as a choked whisper as fear continued to rise within my chest. I was still recovering from the bruising he gave me yesterday. For some reason, Ringmaster enjoyed hitting my ribs. Silence was my lone companion, and I welcomed it with confusion. Finally having the courage to look up through my tangled hair, I could see that Ringmaster had walked away to attend to the day’s work.

I released a breath I didn’t realize that I was holding. Without any delay I made a new fire to boil water for washing the costumes. A ghost of a smile came to my lips as I heard the tell-tale signs that my siblings were waking up. Well, none of us were blood siblings, but they were all family to me. The traveling circus was all I ever knew. Left as a babe, Ringmaster raised me and allowed me to stay as long as I worked for him.  I wasn’t the only one left alone. Everyone in the circus was either an orphan, runaway, or abandoned, so it’s no wonder that the circus was known as the Lost Circus. Everyone in the circus was talented. Some were dancers, some were acrobats, and a few were horse whisperers. The Ringmaster played the lead role as an illusionist. Being the youngest, I couldn’t do any of those things, so I was in charge of making sets and costumes.

The Lost Circus traveled throughout the country of Slaven never staying in the same town for more than a week. By noon, the big tent was up with all the wires and staging in place, and the horses were fed and groomed. Everyone did their part. As any other day, the Ringmaster took the entire crew on carriages and horses into the local town to draw in a huge crowd for the show that night. The people of Minera were more than eager to snatch the flyers especially from the older girls.

I forced myself not to gawk as men tried to flirt with my sisters. Daisy tried to laugh it off, but I could see her eyes shifting wildly like a trapped bird. Chrys stepped in, and she winked at the man taking the attention away from Daisy who looked extremely relieved. Paris was a total pro at this. To anyone else, she seems like the sweetest and most genuine person you could meet, but really she could care less about people. I was no longer surprised whenever she showed me the wallets and cash she stole from people over the years.

“Mel, stop daydreaming and get more customers!” Rick tersely whispered as he walked past me to reach a couple of older women. I looked down at my stack of flyers, but I still wasn’t able to get rid of a single one. Even Thara was able to get rid of her flyers. As the most abrasive sister, Thara did not trust outsiders. Still, she just sucked it up and did her job.

From what I could tell from this town, it’s mainly a coal-mining town. Everyone worked, even the children. I don’t think there was a single person who wasn’t stained with the dark residue of coal. The largest crowd circled around Ringmaster and a female townswoman. The woman laughed shyly at something Ringmaster said. A feeling of dread clutched my heart. Ringmaster snapped his fingers before a plume of gray smoke engulfed the woman. The crowd gasped with fear but switched to thunderous applause as the woman’s worn out dress transformed into a dazzling black satin gown. It was like she was a different person.

The locals were clearly infatuated by the Ringmaster. Medium length blonde hair was tied back with a leather band which was a great contrast to the black hat and suit. The only splash of color was the bright red vest and tie. He was tall, dark, and handsome with an air of mystery and danger. Who could possibly resist? Even my siblings were blinded by his fake charm despite his treatment of us. I was the only one who saw right through the façade. He says he’s our father, but he is nothing but a snake. I caught my breath as steely gray eyes glared straight at me for a brief second. No, he couldn’t possibly know what I was thinking… The words did nothing to calm my rapid heartbeat. I looked down at the flyers and groaned. Of course! He saw my stack of flyers. If I didn’t get rid of the flyers, Ringmaster would probably whip me.

Fed up with everyone treating me as if I were invisible, I left the main road and walked to the business sector of town.  Reaching into my pocket, I pulled out a few thumb tacks to stick flyers against the wood boards of the building. A twinge of guilt ran through me as I belatedly realized that I didn’t ask the proprietor’s permission, but I just ignored it and kept going from building to building. I was down to one more flyer, but before I could punch in the tack against the wall a huge Labrador ran full speed into me. The wall took the brunt of the force of my fall, but my eyes smarted with tears when I realized that the pin was angled out of my palm. The shock was quickly being replaced by the horrible pain. Clenching my teeth, I pulled out the object with my free hand.

As soon as I saw the first rivulets of blood, my world tilted on its axis. I don’t even remember hitting the ground. It all happened so fast…

“Darling…Open your eyes darling.” The distant voice sounded anxious. No, worried. My heavy lids opened with a slight crack.

“Ah, you’re awake!” The masculine voice was tinged with amusement now. Slowly sitting up, I realized that I had no idea where I was. Instead of being in the center of town, I was sitting on green grass. The spray of water tickling my bare ankles made me realize I must be near a stream.

“How’s the hand?” The deep voice shook me out of my reverie. Looking down with confusion, I noticed not so much as a scab or a scratch appeared to mar my right hand. What in the world?

“Did you heal my hand?” I asked with wonder.

“Well, it wasn’t the Labrador.” The stranger chuckled and nodded at the dog. I couldn’t stop the crooked smile desperately trying to escape. For some reason, I felt comfortable with the man. There was nothing very appealing about him. He appeared to be in his mid-thirties of average size and average features, but there was something about those onyx eyes. They seemed ancient. No, they seemed timeless. Even the twinkle in his eyes was brighter than any star of a night sky.

“Are you a magician like Ringmaster?” As soon as the words popped out, I regretted them. The stranger’s face visibly changed into grim, hard lines, and his eyes flashed even brighter with unspoken rage. Is he about to hit me? I involuntarily jumped as the stranger placed a hand on my head. I dared not to even breathe fearing that I would be burned in that instant. When he grunted and ruffled the dark tresses on my head, I blinked with surprise.

“Darling, I would never harm you out of malice,” he whispered. All I could do was nod with wide eyes. Such gentleness was so novel to me.

“Umm, I should go back. My family is probably worried about me.” I knew that was not the case, but I didn’t want to get in trouble for being gone too long. The stranger nodded and gave me a hand to stand up, but he abruptly moved away and began to walk upstream. The dog happily followed. For just the briefest of seconds, I saw the stranger wince in pain.

“Impossible!” I exclaimed. Before giving another thought, I ran to the stranger and overtook him. My hands shook as I grabbed his right hand. All I could do was stare. “Why does your hand have my injury?” Yes, his hand did have the same puncture, but there were more…

Unceremoniously, I grabbed the other hand. Splinters of wood stuck out of the left palm as if he had fallen against the wooden boards in town. I pushed back his long sleeves revealing multiple scars. Some appeared old. Others looked like he was whipped this morning. Angry, red lines ran across his forearms as if he was branded by iron. I could only imagine what other injuries were hidden beneath his clothes.

I didn’t even realize that I was weeping until I felt rock solid arms completely wrap my now shaking form. “Oh dear child, why are you crying?” he said with warmth. I lifted my head and looked at this man with incredulity. “Ringmaster was going to whip me this morning. He threatened to abuse me so many times for all of my mistakes, my shortcomings. He even said he would burn me with a branding iron when I got caught lying.” I took a shaky breath. “Now here you are…carrying my punishments.”

One look into his face confirmed it. He didn’t deny it. His sad smile more than confirmed my suspicions as the pads of his fingers wiped away the rest of my tears. “Come along. Let’s go for a walk.” Before I knew it, I was placing one foot in front of the other. Questions raced through my head until one plopped off my tongue.  “Why did you do all of this?”

“Simple. I love you, and I want to adopt you.” The stranger said the words as if that was most logical thing in the world. Before I could fall from tripping over my own feet, he grabbed my hand and continued to lead me.

“Who are you?” I whispered with amazement.

“Who do you say that I am?” He returned.

I looked up at him with uncertainty. I waited for him to say something, but the stranger was silent.  My eyes rested on our clasped hands. “Are you a healer?”

He smiled at me as if I said an inside joke, “I have many names. One of those names is Great Physician.” As if anticipating my next question, he continued, “If you want to know my other names and know who I really am, you must walk daily with me.”

“How?” The single word came out with fevered desperation, and the Physician stopped walking. I didn’t even realize that we had already reached the town square. “Mel, you have to die and be reborn. Are you prepared to be my child and be committed to me?”

“Yes,” I said without hesitation. For so many years I had desired to have a true father. Every night I cried myself to sleep hoping that someone would free me from the power of the Ringmaster, shackled to my shortcomings.

“Close your eyes.”

As soon as I shut my eyelids, I felt the feather soft touch of the Physician kissing my forehead. As soon as He broke contact, my heart began to sting. Suddenly, it felt like it was about to burst. I couldn’t breathe as I crumpled to the dirt floor. I tried opening my eyes, but I was blinded by bright light. My blood seemed to burn under my skin. When I didn’t think I could handle it anymore, the pain receded. In its place, I suddenly felt light as air. I felt reborn.

“Now open your eyes, Melody” said the Physician.

As soon as I did, I gasped with shock. The town of Minera was gone. Instead, I was standing in a great throne room. The Physician no longer looked average. He was absolutely beautiful to behold! With new eyes, I could see Him as the Prince of Peace. Truly, He was a King. He grinned from ear to ear like a proud Papa.

When I realized that He was staring at me, I looked down and realized that my tattered rags had been replaced by a gorgeous white gown. I felt like a princess!

“Melody, as My daughter, you are a princess,”

“Why are you calling me that name?” I questioned.

My Father looked at me with solemn eyes. “Before you were even born, I knew you. Your name is actually Melody, and you were created to be a living song for my glory. This world has forgotten their true King. You must tell them of Me.”

Suddenly, I wondered how in the world I could possibly achieve that. “Don’t doubt. I will walk you through this,” my King replied.

I opened my mouth to ask something until I heard a distant voice.

“Mel…we’re going back!”

Before I could even blink, I was back to Minera. My white gown was gone, but my Father still managed to give me a new dress with pockets. I turned to thank Him, but He was gone. Panic began to rise.

No, nothing will ever separate us, Melody. I will be with you forever. I am the Comforter.

I couldn’t see Him, but I could still feel His hand holding mine. Taking a deep breath, I began running back to my Lost family to tell my siblings the good news.

My name is Melody, and I am the daughter of the most High King. I can’t wait to begin living for my Father!

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