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Ruth poured cool water on a cloth and laid it across James’s forehead, hoping to relieve his latest attack of fever. He barely reacted, having fallen into another state of near-unconsciousness. Ruth thought back to when James had first fallen ill. It seemed like a minor matter when he came in from the fields that afternoon, explaining that he was feeling weary and had to rest before finishing his work. He wound up spending all that evening and all that night in bed trying to recover from his bout of sickness. That had happened occasionally, but he usually recovered by the time morning came around, so Ruth was concerned when morning came and James showed no sign of improvement. He spent most of that day in bed. The next day he seemed better, albeit somewhat weak. The following day, however, he again fell ill. A week passed with no great improvement in his health. Ever since then his health had steadily gotten worse. He was constantly weak, his bouts of fever had increased in frequency and intensity, and he had started suffering spells of unconsciousness. His skin often burned like hot coals, and at times he turned so pale that he resembled a corpse, something which frightened Ruth.
The physicians and so-called healers in the village had been unable, or in some cases unwilling, to help. Finally an elderly woman, known for her compassion, wisdom, and virtue, told Ruth to take James into the forest south of the village and travel south seven miles. There she would come to a clearing, the home of the strange man-like creature known as the Beast of Genov. It was said that the creature could absorb the sicknesses of those brought to it, but only if it were approached without fear or malice. It was this hope that had caused Ruth to transport James out here. She cradled his head in her lap as she waited, all the while offering up prayers, trying to alleviate his symptoms, and observing their surroundings.
She was reflecting when she heard a loud snap, like a branch had been broken. Startled, she looked in the sound’s direction. After several seconds, she saw a form through the brush. It paused and then came into the clearing. Ruth’s eyes grew wide and she held James closer, but she didn't make a sound. She merely gazed at the creature, who observed her for a few moments before beginning its approach. The creature resembled a man overall, but walked on all fours like a beast. As it came closer & closer and Ruth could see it more clearly, her anxiety grew. The creature’s human-like arms were twisted and adorned with spurs resembling fragments of broken bones jutting from the skin, and its hands and feet were backward. Its nails were like the claws on a bird’s feet. Its eyes were dull and grayish-black like a piece of lead. It had a human-like face except for the jaw, which hung down loosely and was lined with rows of fangs on every side.
Ruth was frightened, but she remembered the woman’s words. She swallowed her fear and remained calm & nonthreatening. She wondered if she should speak, if the creature would understand her, but then she saw it observing James with an expression of comprehension. It stood still for a few moments and then, after only a brief hesitation, it reared up and gripped Ruth’s shoulders. Ruth was alarmed, but did not panic, instead remaining still. As the seconds passed she began to feel queasy. At first she thought it was just her dread, but as the feeling increased she realized what was happening – the creature was drawing the sickness out of James and into her. After taking this in, she steeled her resolve and again hugged James closer to her.
She grew feverish and uncomfortable, and her strength started ebbing from her system. As the color returned to James’s cheeks, her skin began to grow pale. Her forehead began to burn until it felt like she was roasting in an oven. As her condition worsened she felt James’s body move. The movements were slight and feeble at first, but then they grew stronger and steadier. She felt debilitated and miserable, but her determination never wavered. She began to tremble and jerk as the fever ran its course, but still she kept her grip on James.
She felt ready to faint, but then felt a gentle hand on her face. It was James, who looked at her with eyes filled with concern and sadness. With his revived strength he hugged her and held her close. She gave him a weak smile and rested her head on his shoulder.
As she rested she found her fever easing and her strength returning. The feelings of malaise steadily drained from her system. At first she felt almost numb, but then her health began to return. Her body relaxed and started regaining its vigor. Her skin cooled and regained its proper hue as her consciousness increased. In a short time her vitality had been completely restored. To Ruth’s amazement, it now felt like she had never been sick at all.
The two arose to their feet with no problems. James laughed with joy as he walked steadily for the first time in days. He even did an impromptu celebratory jig, causing Ruth to clap her hands and laugh in delight. They hugged and kissed, and after wiping away tears of happiness they turned and saw a strange man gazing at the two of them. He was not handsome, but his caring eyes and benevolent smile gave him a pleasant appearance. Ruth wondered where he had come from, and then she realized that the creature was gone. The being told them, “It’s all right now. Return home and live well.” He turned from them and walked back into the woods.
Ruth and James walked home arm in arm, their steps lively and strong. They spent the rest of their days caring for each other, helping others, and giving thanks, and each day they offered blessings for the wise woman and for the Beast of Genov.
Written by Raidra