There was once a man who wandered around an enchanted forest with 17 cats and a suitcase, and six fingers on his right hand. All the parents of the little children kept them away from the man, as they feared he would be a bad influence, and one day they would follow him with their own suitcase and their own clowder of cats. Every day, the man would wander through the village with his suitcase, minding his own business, and humming a merry tune.
In his suitcase, he collected magical herbs to remedy sickness and injury. He would collect the glowing purple flowers, the roots of old and twisted trees that had minds of their own, golden apples, and other assorted items. He always avoided the blackened tree with the gaping hole near the bottom. The hole radiated misery and darkness from wherever it led to. All the trees around it had wilted and died, and none of the bright green grass blanketed the rest of the forest.
One day the old man with and his clowder of cats decided to go to the old dark and twisted tree with a gaping hole to investigate and see if any of the items he needed were nearby. When he got close, his cats began to arch their backs, hair on end. As they got closer, the old man noticed a child was laying in the ground with a pale and disgusting creature crouching nearby. It only had a mouth, and where its eyes should be skin covered, and its nose was merely slits in its face.
The child was crumbled in a ball, laying still on the muddy ground. All 17 cats hissed in unison before the man raised his walking stick and yelled a phrase in a strange language, and a brilliant flash of light came from the stick and the demon fled, screaming in a guttural sound and climbing back into the hole.
The man then looked at the crumbled child and knelt beside him, inspecting his body. His left arm was at an odd angle, and gashes covered his face. Gently, he picked up the child and carried him back to his own little hut in the enchanted forest.
When he got to his hut, he put the child down on a table and began crushing ingredients in a ceramic bowl. He poured the powder into a pot with a sweet-smelling potion and put it over the fire and waited.
Outside, the clowder of cats began to howl and hiss. The man walked out into the twilight to see a group of men with spears, swords, and torches. A man stepped forward who appeared to be the child’s father.
“Where’s my child?” he demanded, brandishing a sword in one hand and a torch in another.
“Your child will be healed soon,” the man assured the father. “He is in my hands, which are good hands. A demon attacked him earlier this evening. Come.”
The man beckoned the father into his hut, and the father dropped his sword and gave his torch to another man before dropping to his knees beside the table his son was laid upon. The medicine man poured the potion on all the child’s wounds, his skin sealing once again, only dried blood remained, which his father wiped off with a wet towel. The boy woke up, grasping his father, who scooped him up into his arms.
“You must come to be a medicine man in the village!” exclaimed the father. “You are no monster after all!”
“My place is here,” said the man. “But you know where to find me when I am needed.”
With that, the father left with the group of people, several of whom were playing with the 17 cats. The man and his clowder watched them leave in the falling night sky.
2 thoughts on “Medicine Man”
What was the symbolism of the 17 cats?
Quite honestly, nothing.
This story started (and always will be) little more than a writing exercise that was so out there and enjoyable I decided to publish it. The exercise was fairly simple: I was given random personality tributes of a character I had to use, the 17 cats being one.