The Angel of Mercy

Her name was Artemisia.  And hers was the kind of beauty that made you look at her twice. Not the leery kind, mind you. But the kind of beauty that diluted every other emotion except pure unbridled love. The kind of love a child feels for her mother or the kind a devotee holds for his creator.  As she walked the streets daily from her humble quarters to the temple of worship, people silently queued up just to look at her. They believed a mere glance was enough to wipe away sins accumulated over several births.  "She is so pure. She is an angel, straight from heaven..." They whispered as she gracefully walked past, her robes pulled tightly around her and her covered head bent, nodding humbly in greeting and acknowledging them. " The angel of mercy..." "Our saviour..." But every word that formed their praises and their adoring looks bore into her heart like a stake. She felt her white alabaster skin going pink with gooseflesh as guilt washed over her and she chided herself, "You are no angel. You don't deserve their adulation..."_  But then, willing herself to ignore the voices in her head, she pulled her headscarf closer to her face and hurried away from them. She reached the shrine at last and ran inside, falling at the feet of the statue of the creator, “Mercy, my lord. You preached mercy. I am only continuing on the path you laid for us to follow. Why do they praise me so much like I am God? I am only doing my duty as I understand it…” Later, she efficiently slipped into her work uniform and rushed to meet her superior. She knocked at a door and said “Nurse Artemesia here. May I come in?” “Of course, enter, my dear,” said a voice that was full of warmth. And when she went into the room, Artemesia found herself in front of this incredible lady called Florence Nightingale. The lady who was now called ‘The lady with the lamp’. This lady who had changed the face and fate of the wounded and the sick and the suffering; the unfortunate leftovers from the horrendous war of Crimea. Florence had become a beacon of light as she visited wounded soldiers in the night with her lamp and tended to them with kindness and tenderness, easing their pain, while relentlessly supervising the conditions of the recovery wards. Artemesia had been one of the nurses who had been training directly under her and in her presence, always felt overwhelmed and almost close to tears, “You called for me?” “Yes”, smiled Florence, “I am so proud. I have been hearing a lot about you. They call you the ‘angel of mercy’ and ‘the lady with the cup.’ Like I roam the streets around with my lamp, you go around with your medicine bowl, tending to the poor soldiers. I hear you especially are a messiah to the ones who have no chance to survive. You stay with them, offering them medicine and being with them till their last moments on this earth. You even help their families with the funeral arrangements. You are truly an angel!” Artemesia bowed her head with humility “You are too kind, madam. I am only trying to follow in your footsteps, madam!” *** Artemesia was back on the streets, painstakingly looking around for the needy. She found several heroes of the war in pathetic conditions; in various stages of pain and decay. She tended to each one of them, soothing them, encouraging them, even singing to them in her soft comforting voice.  Though many of them were in no state to even utter a word, their eyes did all their talking. She could see in them their gratefulness for her and how for them, she seemed nothing less than an angel sent to relieve them of their suffering. “I am no angel. I am only doing the Lord’s bidding…” she whispered, her tears smarting her eyes. It was in the dead of the night when Artemesia dragged herself from her last patient for the day. He had had no chance. Life was painfully and very very slowly ebbing away. She crossed herself and hastened the process by giving him her special concoction. She looked at the medicine bowl in her hand that had the ashes of all the souls she had liberated. Closing her eyes, the angel of mercy drained it… The End?? Footnotes: The picture prompt is a painting believed to be of Artemesia 11 of Caria. After the death of her brother/husband, she is believed to have mixed his ashes in a drink and drunk it. I have used the picture prompt and the facts creatively, adequately sprinkled with poetic license!   Penmancy gets a small share of every purchase you make through these links, and every little helps us continue bringing you the reads you love!