Dr Darius Esteridge slid his four iron back into the bag and frowned down the green where his white ball bounced twice upon landing and came to a rest just off the main fairway. He had scored a three under in the previous game, but news from the hospital had taken away any remaining interest he had had in the game. The sun was out and there was no threat of rain. It should have been a good day for the doctor. Hagley Park was a sprawling, 200 hectares of lush green gardens, sprinkled with sports grounds, the botanic gardens and two golf courses. To the eastern side, the direction
Esteridge was looking, stood the Canterbury Museum: home to one of the world's most extensive and exquisite ornithological collections. Esteridge had planned on wandering through the exhibits on his way home that night. Instead, it looked as if he would return to the hospital.
"The Thompson woman is no longer dead, you say?" he asked the red-faced young man who stood on the green.
"Hmm, troubling, especially considering the husband has recently committed suicide."
"Shotgun, I believe," he added, mostly to himself. "Something about the will, I think..."
"How long was she dead for?" the doctor asked, brightening somewhat, although he had been the one to sign the death certificate.
"Three days, sir."
Esteridge rubbed his chin, considered pulling out another club, but gave up and turned back to the club house.
"Well, I suppose I should talk to young Doctor Jones about all this
resurrection business before the media gets a hold of it. The hospital has a reputation to uphold, after all, and it will simply not do if our deceased clientele suddenly become... not deceased. No, no, that will simply not do at all."
The younger man shook his head in silent agreement.
Jones had been sent to the staff room again. He had strict instructions to stay behind the doors and not see any more patients, at least, not until Dr Esteridge had come in from his day off. He sat on an armchair, leaning his chin on his pulled-up knees. He had been staring through his glasses at the poster of the southern Alps for nearly an hour, and no one had come in. The other interns had shunned him, the more seasoned doctors seemed to be frightened of coming too close, and the nurses looked right through him.
Jones had been working at the central Christchurch Hospital for seven weeks as part of his internship. He had pulled all-nighters, had listened to ancient doctor's drone on about the sins of modern medicine, and he had still managed to smile at every patient he saw, and unlike the other interns, he actually bothered to use their first names when he talked with them, and took care in actively listening to what they said. His peers called him 'soft' and his mentors thought he was perhaps a little soft in the head, but Jones couldn't approach medicine in any other way. He wanted to make lives better, not make money. He wanted to cure disease, rather than study it. He wanted to stave off death...
And that was what had happened.
He had staved off death... several times. And this time he had actually managed to turn it back, to undo the damage of a major embolism.
The door swung open and let in the controlled chaos of the emergency rooms. Jones looked up and saw the grave expression on Dr Darius Esteridge's face. He had obviously seen Mrs Thompson. There was a moment when Jones looked at Esteridge when he thought that perhaps everything was going to be okay, that this unusual gift for curing the ill would be seen as a positive, maybe even an asset for the Hospital. It was, of course, a false dream.
Even as he watched, Dr Esteridge's face reddened, and the sweat seemed to materialise at his temples.
"Jones..." he started. "Jones..."
"There's no evidence of the embolism on any of the scans," Jones said. "Her circulatory system is better than it has been in twenty years. Her daughter said she hadn't seen her mother look so alive since 1986, for Christ's sake. You can't say this is a bad thing."
Esteridge shook his head, and Jones could almost
hear the bones of his neck grind against each other.
"The woman was deceased," he said. "She is scheduled for burial tomorrow morning."
"They'll refund the money," Jones said.
"I'll talk to them," Jones continued.
"You are a menace," Esteridge spat. "Five patients in five weeks, Jones. You cure ovarian cancer in your first week here, without even touching the patient. You walk into the operating room after an horrific automobile accident, and when you walk out again, the two children who were both in severe cardiac arrest, suddenly sit up and call for their mothers. An amputee suddenly grows a new arm. And now this Thompson woman. This dead woman. This perfectly acceptable corpse is now walking around out there asking for her husband who has, I might want to remind you Dr Jones, shot himself in the face with a shotgun within the last twenty-four hours because he can no longer live without his wife."
"I might be able to help..."
"No," Esteridge said, cutting off any protest. "You can collect your belongings and sign out, and not come back. Go back to your university, go back to your laboratories and tutorials. There is no place for you in a modern hospital. We do not offer the miracles that you seem capable of."
The word seemed to spear through Jones' heart. There was a lot of regret and shame tied up with his Catholic upbringing, and talk of miracles brought it suddenly all too close for comfort. Dr Esteridge was passing off his healing ability as a freak event, something passed on through God. Esteridge wasn't a religious man, and made no secret of it, so Jones took the comment as an acidic insult.
"You're turning me away because I can cure disease?"
Esteridge bit back his words.
"Just go, Jones."
And the door closed.
fumbled with his keys outside his house, although it was more a sign of
stress than clumsiness. Durham
Street was quiet, the streetlights sparkling up along the prestigious
street and illuminating the restored buildings on both sides of the road.
His own house was a square-fronted brick terrace which dated back
to the 1890s, and which had found its way down his decrepit family tree
from his grandmother's sister. It
was ironic, really, that Jones had this incredible ability to cure the
most horrific of afflictions, and yet his own family had mostly dropped
off the Tree of Life many years before.
His parents had died when he was a teenager, and his grandparents
shortly after. He had an Aunt
Stephanie, but he hadn't spoken with her since she had moved north to
Wellington. He had an Uncle
too, formerly attached to Aunt Stephanie, but not much had been heard of
him since he was discovered wearing his wife's underwear.
Jones led a somewhat solitary life, which wasn't unusual for a medical
student. Most of his friends
said he was cursed, and while they laughed it off with another can of iced
beer, Jones started to wonder if he'd be the last of his line.
turned the key and stepped into his home, immediately warming to the
familiar smell and comfort of the old building.
It was nearly 3am, but the house was there to welcome him.
home," he called and dropped his knapsack against the passage wall,
kicked the front door closed, and walked towards the kitchen, already
thinking of some potent coffee and a Tim Tam biscuit.
When he got to the kitchen he noticed that someone had already got
to the fridge and was busy fossicking around for the chocolate biscuits.
man was dark, a Maori, and as he turned to look back at Jones, it was
clear that although this man possessed great strength, his body was no
longer as spry as it once was. There
seemed to be pain in his movements. There
also seemed to be a sparkle in his dark eyes, something which stopped
Jones from running back down the passage and into the street.
are you doing here?" he asked. His
voice seemed strong, although his heart was beating fast.
man smiled and looked at his hand which carried the brown packet of
broke into my house to get a Tim Tam?
Would you like a short black with that?"
have misunderstood me," the man said.
"On several accounts. Firstly,
you assume that I have broken into your home.
That is an inaccurate description.
Secondly, you assume that I came here for a biscuit and coffee.
That is also inaccurate, although you were taking your time, so I
thought I would indulge in a little earthly sin while I waited.
And finally, you assume that I am a dithering fool, which is far
from accurate, although many adversaries have thought so, much to their
man took a small bite of the biscuit.
the coffee?" Jones asked. "I
take it that's a 'no', right?"
are hiding your anxiety in sarcasm and avoidance.
Ask me questions which will lead to illumination, not
looked at the man closer. He
was terribly familiar, although he had difficulty placing the timeless
face. It was 3am, after all.
are you?" he asked.
am the Mark," the man said.
made the connection. He had
grown up on the adventures of this man and the other Knights.
Superheroes and supervillains: clashing in the skies above
Auckland; their exploits splashed across the daily papers and the evening
have heard of me. Most people
have. I am here to activate
you, to bring you out of your mundane world where you clearly do not
belong. From this mundane
world, I will escort you through veils of reality and unreality, through
power and powerlessness, and bring you to your destiny.
You have a gift. Indeed,
it is a gift balanced with a curse, but with close attention to my
teachings and dedication to our cause you will slip from the shackles of
your half-life and emerge into a new, enlightened and powerful
blinked. He looked to the
coffee machine on the bench, and then back to the Mark.
did you get in?" he asked. "I
mean, if you didn't break in?"
parents invited me here. In
fact, your family has been quite helpful in tracking you down."
felt the stainless steel bench behind him, and his fingers gripped the
edge. From behind the Mark,
almost like condensation in a bathroom, his parents materialised in the
middle of the kitchen. Their
wispy bodies seemed only partially corporeal, but their faces retained
hints of colour and glimpses of personality that he had achingly missed
since before graduating from high school.
They never spoke, but Jones could sense pride in their ghostly
expressions. Pride and love.
you come with me?" the Mark asked.
"It is time, and there is a great need.
Will you come and learn of your destiny?"
nodded. He turned his eyes
from his parents to his new teacher.
I will come."