Aphelion Issue 273, Volume 26
June 2022
 
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Miracle Men

by D J Rout




On the 6th of August 2025, the same face appeared on every screen in the world and in every language necessary, and said “That will do till I return.”

 

It was the sort of bar that had almost disappeared before the Announcement but had now come back into favour since everyone had gained some control over their life.  It was quiet, not crowded, but there were still dark patches on the walls where, once, there had been flat screen TV’s keeping the sun off the walls.  In some bars, these had been covered by paintings, but not here.

Jason de Vries counted the patches subconsciously as he looked around for somewhere to sit.  The bar served beer, which was rare and welcome in these days when so many people could make wine.  As he walked up to the bar, he was putting an insurance valuation on the missing TV’s – which was such an established habit he was hardly aware of it anymore.

There was one man sitting on the middle stool of the bar.  Jason evaluated him, too.  He was the sort of person who sat next to you in an empty train carriage.  He wanted to be noticed, and even sitting, or wobbling, on a bar stool he wanted people to have to sit either side of him.  Jason looked around at the empty booths, but only saw a group of frat boys, conscientiously drinking beers in one booth, and one booth with a single man in it, looking alert and friendly, and not doing a good job of concealing the pistol under his right armpit.  Bouncer.  Jason hoped there wouldn’t be any work for him, himself, tonight.  He was tired.

The man behind the bar looked calm, a little tired, and not really interested in the sole man at the bar.  Jason waved at him as he approached the bar, and the barman nodded.  Jason wondered for a moment whether this barman was one of the UnGifted.  It seemed a plausible reason for working behind a bar in a job he clearly didn’t enjoy.  He didn’t wonder about the man drinking at the bar.  Sometimes, you just knew whether someone had been Gifted or not.

He put two empty barstools between himself and the drinker, sitting where he could look past the drinker to the bouncer in case something happened.

“Water or what else?” the barman said.  He wasn’t being rude; it was the standard question these days.

“Vodka martini, dirty, leave the olives in.  Thanks.”

The barman smiled as if he’d got an award, and it was.  He had a creative job where creativity was never called upon and cocktails of any kind probably brightened his night.  Jason glanced over at him, then looked at the other drinker while he listened to the slosh of ingredients and ice in the cocktail shaker.  A gin martini should be stirred, but you can’t do much damage to vodka.

The other drinker was nursing a pint of Guinness, thick, dark, cold – the lifeblood of hopeless men.  Yes, this man had been Gifted, as most people had, but Jason didn’t know in what way.  He looked away so the man wouldn’t see him staring, but he kept an eye on him in the mirror behind the bar until he saw him take a drink of his Guinness and saw the level in the glass drop.  So that wasn’t it.

“Rough night,” he said.

“Hmm?” said the drinker.  His words were not slurred, and he reached for his pint mug quickly and easily, so he wasn’t drunk yet.

“I meant, er, ‘rough night?’” Jason said.

“Hmm,” said the drinker.

The barman brought Jason’s drink over, and Jason dropped a ten on the bar. 

“Keep it at even tens all night,” he told the barman.  “I won’t be here that long.”

“Thanks!”

The martini was good, one to be proud of.  Jason sipped the cold briny drink, tasting olives and a good vodka.

Tipping had got the other patron’s attention.  He looked over at Jason levelly.

“Rough night?” he asked.

“Work wasn’t great.  You?”

“Work isn’t great – right now.”

There was more to follow.  Jason waited, not touching his drink for the moment.

“Ten years before all this, you know.  2015, good grades, university, job, career.  Then…”

Jason sipped his drink to look thoughtful and interested.  He put it down.  The level in the glass hardly changed.

“Ah…” he said.

“Ten years and then the fucking Announcement.  It’s all over.  There’s not even research!  Look at that guy over there!  See him?”

“Yeah,” said Jason, watching for the barman’s reaction out of the corner of his eye.  “Bouncer.  I won’t bother him.”

Healer.  You know what he does?  Before those frat boys leave, no matter how drunk they get, he’ll heal them.  Boom!  Not drunk anymore.  They drive home no problems.  They can’t even drink to forget!”

“The law is supposed to keep the roads safe.”

“I should’ve been a lawyer.  Still ten years, same money, but they still have lawyers.  Still have trials, judges, lawyers, witnesses, juries.  It all goes on.  But – but – “

“But?”

“Then along comes that guy.  He’s nothin’, nothing!  Three seconds of airtime and he can cure the sick and I’m – “

“No, you’re not.”

“I was a doctor.  Now what am I?”

“Unemployed law student?”

“Comedian?” the drinker asked.  “Doctor Dan Murphy.”

“Jason de Vries,” said Jason.  They were too far apart to shake hands, but each lifted his drink in salute.  Jason put his down neatly on its coaster, Dan Murphy took a long swig of his Guinness.  The level dipped appreciably.

They each stared at the mirror behind the bar the way you will when you’ve exhausted the conversation.  But Jason knew by now that Dan wanted someone to listen to him, so after a moment he turned back to him.  Dan was there, alright, wanting to talk.

“It’s the elephant in the room, isn’t it?” Jason said.  “I’ve known some people to just ask, and it doesn’t bother me.  Just ask.”

“You were Gifted,” said Dan.

“Almost everyone was,” Jason replied.  “What did you get?”

“I walked across the lake to get here.”

“Oh!  That’s rare.  What about calming storms?”

“I don’t know.  There hasn’t been a storm to test myself on.”

“Maybe someone else is calming them.”

“Maybe.  Not much compensation for losing a career, though, is it?”

“Remember that stat about people changing careers five times in their life?  This is change number one.”

One of the frat boys laughed loudly at something or other.  Jason looked over to the bouncer to see his reaction.  He seemed alert but unperturbed.  Fair enough.

“Give me about eight more of these,” Murphy said, “and I might see it like that.”

“Well, you wouldn’t be the only one who’d lost a career.  My father was a translator.  Now they have people with the Gift of Tongues.  Afrikaans, IsiZulu, Xhosa, Flemish – it’s all one to them.”

“What does he do now?”

“He turns a lot of water into a lot of wine.”

“Hm,” Murphy replied, as if he understood Jason’s point.  Jason’s father was a Diesel mechanic who had been Given a healer’s gift, for which he found little use, except to cure the men who also worked around Diesel fuel of the cancers they got.

The frat quartet had got louder.  One of them had burst into song in some language or other, and he probably had the Gift of Tongues himself, but it wasn’t leading to greater understanding between the four of them.  It was really none of Jason’s business, but he watched the bouncer.

The bouncer checked his gun before getting up.  It might come to violence, then.  Or the bouncer was just trigger-happy.  Murphy said something that Jason didn’t catch, because he was concentrating on the altercation that was brewing at the front of the bar.

“Nobody’s interested,” Murphy said again.

“Hm?  In what?” Jason asked, watching as the bouncer said something softly to one of the frat boys.

“In sport or television or any kind of entertainment,” said Murphy.  “These places used to be full of TVs.  Now nobody cares.”

“They – we – got interested in higher things.”

“I used to like sport.”

“I don’t know.  Once you can prove the existence of an afterlife, a literal Heaven and a factual Hell, who can hit or kick or throw a ball just seems…  But I never cared much for sport, anyway.”

One of the frat boys stood up.  The bouncer took a step back, presumably to get fighting room.  The boy raised his right hand, palm towards the bouncer.

“Thou shalt tarry – “

The bullet took him just in the collarbone, throwing him back into the booth on top of his friends.  The sound of the shot, in a quiet bar like that, sounded like the end of the world.  It nearly was, for the frat boy.  The bouncer slipped the gun back into its holster and stared the other three down.

“You heard him,” he said.

“He was joking.  It was a fucking joke.”

The bouncer turned and walked back to his table.  Jason heard the barman pour something and saw him come around the bar and go over to the bouncer with a drink.  The bouncer had earnt it.

The three boys were sitting in their booth, wondering what to do.

“I could’ve helped,” said Murphy, looking from boys to bouncer and back again.

“I can help,” said Jason, getting up.  He went over to the frat boys but turned to the bouncer and barman first.

“Mind if I cut in?” he asked.

“He’s dead,” said one of the frat boys.  The bouncer just waved dismissively.  The barman went back to his station behind the bar.

“I know,” said Jason.  “Pretty fucking stupid fucking thing for him to fucking do, wasn’t it?”

“He didn’t know what he was saying.”

“He sounded pretty clear to me.”

“But nobody can do that,” said Murphy from the bar.  “It’s a myth.  The Wandering Jew is a myth.

“Who wants to risk that?  That’s why he has a gun.”  Jason answered Murphy by speaking to the frat boys.  “What’s his name?”

“Dave,” said the frat boy who seemed to have the Gift of Tongues.  “David.”

“David,” said Jason, and there was power in his voice that filled the room.  Everyone could feel it tingling around them.  Murphy half stood then sat back down.  The bouncer watched Jason.

“David,” he repeated.  “Come forth.”

David’s eyes fluttered open.  He looked around, coughed once, then again.  The wound in his neck closed and healed itself.  He coughed again, and he put his hand on his bloodied shirt to catch the bullet he coughed up.  The resurrection had sobered him up.  He stood, shakily.

“It’s all true,” he said.  “I saw it.”

“Yeah, it’s all true,” said Jason resignedly.  “Better get your mates home.”

“Yeah, yeah.” David said.  “Yeah.”

They all got up, each one leaving a twenty on the table for the beers.  Jason watched three of them stumble to the door, with David following soberly.  He didn’t’ look back, but Jason knew from experience that he was thinking about what he’d seen.  They all did.

“That’s a rare Gift,” said Murphy when Jason sat down.

“Yeah, it is.”  Jason finished his martini.  As usual, he didn’t want to be where he’d just done a miracle.  It was too much like work.

“So, is this what you do?’

“I’m the State Resurrectionist.”

“What a job.”

“Justice must be seen to be done,” Jason said.  “Especially by the guilty.  You die for every death you cause.  Is that just?  Was the way we were Gifted just?  Could that kid really have given the bouncer eternal life?”

“It’s a myth.”

“It’s Matthew 16:28, perhaps.  But I can do it.”

“You could save so many.”

“Shakespeare, come forth?  No.  We know there’s a Hell.  We know there’s a Heaven.  Why call them back after so long?  See you around.”

“Sure, sure.”

Jason dropped two tens on the bar.  The bouncer got up to heal his drunkenness, but Jason waved him away.  He was going to walk home.  It wasn’t far.

Outside, he looked up at the starry night sky.  Had there been an extra star up there when Dave had died, and had that star ceased to be when he brought him back to life?  That was a story his father used to say.  David had not had that much time in whatever part of the afterlife he had been to, but his life had been changed by it.  He, Jason, knew what the afterlife was like from the killers who, sometimes, told of the three days they spent in Hell before he resurrected them.  It wasn’t fun.  They were grateful to be back here even for the short time before their next lethal injection.  Their victims, especially the children, sometimes spoke of meeting God.

“Who are we that we should have such powers?” Jason said to no-one, except God, who he knew could hear him.  The answer came into his mind as it always did, as if he imagined it.

If Not You, Who?


THE END


2022 D J Rout

Bio: D J Rout has been writing for fifty years and is probably no better than when he started. He has previously appeared in Aphelion and his most recent publication was in the 2020 Canadian anthology Die Laughing. He lives n Ballarat, Australia, where he drinks to a point where he writes like James Joyce, only with more punctuation, and then he picks himself up, dusts himself off, and starts all over again.

E-mail: D J Rout

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