Hey there, we're back!
Taylor's had some much-needed rest, and I've, well, let's just say I've been busy and leave it at that. I'm not sure Adam wants me to tell you too much about events he hasn't chronicled yet.
So this story, in Taylor's own words, is a Blast from the Past - cleaned up and revised, strengthened and edited and brought up to speed. Now she's gonna share it with YOU!
Ali lay bleeding in the dirt. The tax collector stood over him, whipping cane in hand, scolding him, threatening him. Ali's shirt was torn and bloodied, his back ripped to shreds.
A man walked down the road. His robes were clean, woven from wool far finer than Ali's. His feet were healthy, his face unblemished. Ali's feet ached from the miles of walking he'd had to do to get there. The sensitive skin had cracked and bled with every step. When the richer man passed, he refused to even look at Ali. His only acknowledgement of Ail’s presence was to bow his head, quicken his gait, and disappear into the dust.
There were others around, mothers tending to crying babies, men counting coins under the tax man’s watchful eyes, offering what they could in exchange for mercy. Ali had nothing to give. No coins, no wool, no milk, or cow. All he had were the clothes off his back and his blood on the tax collector's hands. No one came to his aid. No one sought after him. As always, the powerful kept their hold on the powerless with their whips and leering eyes.
A sharp pain tore through Ali's side as the tax collector kicked him. Ali coughed and curled up, closing his eyes.
"Please Lord," he choked out the prayer. "Take this from me."
He opened his eyes to see the sandaled feet of a child. He hadn't heard her come to him, yet there she was: a little girl with eyes as blue and bright as the River Jordan, hair spilling down her back, flowing freely, unveiled.
Pain shot through Ali's back and legs as the tax collector struck him with the cane. This man, in all of his cruelty and venom, didn't seem to see the girl. In fact, she seemed invisible to everyone around her except Ali.
She reached her hand to him, and Ali felt the sudden urge to rise. The tax collector's boot stopped him in his tracks. He fell back to the ground, clutching his stomach. The girl didn't flinch. She didn't falter. Her eyes pleaded with him.
Ali gathered his strength. He rose, his muscles shaking, his back crying out. Blood dripped onto the dirt, from his head, from his hands, from his back. As he reached for her hand, the young one withdrew it. She crouched before him and took his face in her hands instead. Her words were slow, her voice soft as his mother's hands.
"By his will, you are healed."
Ali closed his eyes. His body, his bloodied, broken body, regained its lost strength. Remarkably, his cuts and wounds began to heal. Ali looked down at himself, his eyes wide and unbelieving. When he finally found the courage to look up at the girl, she was gone. No tracks were left in her wake. Not even the dirt was disturbed. It was as if she was never there.
Something struck the ground - the tax collector's cane, and Ali looked back at the man's trembling hands.
The man couldn't finish. Instead, he grabbed Ali, pinning his arms behind him, and led him in the direction of an officer.
"This man is possessed by a demon!" he called.
Ali looked over his shoulder. Again, he saw the little girl standing in the very spot she'd appeared before, her face brightened by a smile. Despite the darkness of his predicament, Ali smiled back.