Hassida the Stork felt frustrated. The man lying on the bed was almost dead – but almost, since his Soul refused to leave the inanimated body. That Soul was destined to go to a newborn baby, and it was the Stork’s task to take it there, but Hassida had no power over the Soul as long as it was still attached to the body, and what was she to do?
The man, who had been fatally wounded by a hit-and-run car, was lying on a bed in the Emergency room of the Hospital, enclosed behind curtains that secluded him from the outside world; beside the Messenger Stork that was invisible to most human eyes, there was no one there. The medical crew had given up on him, and no family was called to say their good byes. Was he all alone in the world? Hassida asked herself when she saw that unusual sight. A middle-aged man who was bound to have family and friends, but did not; how sad!
Time passed, and Hassida knew she must hurry. The potential newborn, though still in its mother’s womb, was ready to venture on its way out; but what if the Stork was not on time with its Soul? It will never live to see daylight! She must do something, and in a hurry. In this town on Earth, she thought, there was only one person she could appeal to. Quickly she left the hospital and flew away.
Ofara the Witch, black eyes and black hair shining in the morning sun, stood on her balcony overlooking the street below, looking absently at some vague distance. She noticed a speck on the background of the lightly cloudy sky, and before she had time to move aside as she saw it growing and advancing hastily toward her, the flying creature it became shot at her, passed and entered the living room behind the woman. As Ofara turned, she saw the stork standing erect on the plain floor, glowing in its white, red and black colors, in great contrast to the Witch’s dark clothes. Ofara knew the bird immediately.
“Well! Hassida! What is the great rush?” she asked complacently, when the Stork was still gasping for breath. She formed a strange, exotic picture on the background of the plainly furnished room.
“Oh, Ofara! Something awful is happening and I don’t know what to do about it,” Hassida clacked. “You must help me!”
“All right, all right. Come on, I’ll give you some water and then you’ll tell me all about it,” the witch said. She brought a deep bowl of water and put it before her the stork, who dipped her red beak in it, raised and threw her head back to swallow the liquid. Only after she had done it a few more times did Hassida managed to calm down and resumed her story.
“You see, it’s this man who is about to die, almost dead, in fact, and I was going to get his Soul and carry it across town to where a new child is waiting to be born. That Soul belongs to the new baby, and if it does not get it, it will not live! How can I coax it to leave its old, dying body and come with me? This has never happened to me before, you know.” She was really agitated now, and the Witch felt she must do anything in her power to save the day.
“I’ll come with you, but if I don’t know the man, it would be very difficult to speak to his Soul, I’m afraid.”
“I have an idea he’s some kind of artist that you may well know,” the Stork said; “but I know very little about your human affairs.”
“An artist?” Ofara repeated. “That should be easy, then.” Not being an artist herself, Ofara at one time studied Art at College, just to be in on other spiritual subjects besides her own, and she got to know the artist community in Town quite well. She thought, now, who was it that was going to die; but she was unable to come out with a name.
“What is he dying of, do you know?” she asked as they prepared to leave her flat.
“I heard the staff at the hospital saying that he’d had a fatal accident; he was crossing the street where he shouldn’t, walking deep in his thoughts, and was run over by a careless driver.”
“He’s not old and infirm, then?”
“Not at all. He’s about fifty and seemed in the best of health. Only absentminded and not caring much for the world around him, I thought.”
“Ah!” said the Witch, “I think I know who it must be…” and she sunk in her reflections for a moment. “Come on, then, let’s go. You fly over, and I’ll… You know…” She concentrated, taking care to wrap herself in her invisible form. In no time she found herself in front of the curtained cubicle at the Hospital, Hassida flying in a few seconds after her.
“Just as I thought,” said the Witch; “Baylore!”
“Is that his name?” wondered Hassida; “I couldn’t get anything from his Soul, nothing reasonable, at least.”
“No, I shouldn’t think so…” Ofara reflected.
“You know, then, what is the matter with him? You know why his Soul is so reluctant to leave that body which is virtually dead?”
“I know the whole story,” confirmed the Witch, “and it’s not a very good one. You see, Baylore was really a promising artist at first, and his teachers predicted he should make a good name for himself.”
“What happened, then?” asked Hassida.
“He met me, for one,” Ofara gave a short laugh, with sounding like something between bitterness and mockery.
“You?” the Stork wondered.
“Yes, it’s an unfortunate story. You see, he thought he’d be able to use my powers to advance his ability as an artist, instead of working at it as he should have. Looking for a short cut to glory, in fact.” She paused to reflect, her face clouding.
“And it did not work?”
“Of course not, I’d have none of it, as much as I loved him; so we separated. Then I heard he met someone else, who would allow him to take advantage of her powers, and it came to a bitter end because glory was very short and then the great fall, as he lost his own creative power to his laziness…”
“And then?” asked the Stork when Ofara stopped talking again.
“Then his mind was lost to drink, which possibly led to him being carelessly run over. But it seems that his Soul, still talented and creative as it used to be, feels there is still some living in this wasted body… I’ll have to talk to it, to convince it that this life of creativity is waiting for it in the new-born’s body.”
“I hope you can succeed,” Hassida whispered, full of hope. With these words Ofara pulled away the curtain and the two of them entered the sick man’s cubicle.
The man, his thin body lying still under the covers, his face drawn and yellow and his eyes closed, showed very faint signs of life. The life giving tubes had been drawn away as useless, only the monitor was beeping sluggishly to the final heartbeats.
“Baylore,” Ofara whispered; “Baylore, can I talk to you for a minute?”
The sick man’s eyelids fluttered, then slowly opened. At first his gaze roamed the room, unfocused, then it lay on Ofara.
“Off – wha –” he mumbled.
“Let go, Baylore,” she continued to whisper, “let someone else have the chance.”
“Chance? I had a chance; it went away –”
“I’m afraid so – but now your Soul has another chance. A new artist is being born, waiting for you, for your talented Soul. Let it be –”
“I – I –” and again he closed his eyes.
All was quiet; only from afar the usual sounds of an active place were faintly heard, and the faint beeping of the monitoring machine. Then, the witch and the stork became witnesses to the struggle that was taking place inside the dying man. His body started to twitch, gripped by a violent spasm that grew stronger and stronger. His back arched back and forth, his eyelids fluttered violently, his arms flailed about.
‘How was it,’ Hassida the Stork reflected, ‘that this Soul was strong enough to five such a fight to stay in the body that had failed it, but was not strong enough to fight against its faults?’
But it was Ofara the witch who had the last word and the last action. By her own invisible powers of persuation, she manages to calm the Soul down; gradually, the man’s wild movements assuaged, his agitation softened. Suddenly, his eyes opened, and a final look of begging desperation peeped out from them. Then, at once, the beeping stopped and the artist’s eyes lost all expression.
Into the silence that fell, Ofara said, “Here you are, Hassida, that Soul is yours and you can take it to the newborn.”
No one, not even the witch, saw how the invisible bird attached the freed Soul to herself and was gone from the sickroom. “Rest in peace, Baylore,” Ofara said quietly, sadly, and left the room just as the attending nurse appeared to check on the patient.