I’ve been under quarantine for the past three days, confined to a windowless basement room, with a bed, bucket, candles and a table and chair. I wish I was back home in my own bed. I’d give anything to be back home in my own bed.
But at least there’s a fireplace here, and a bit of Sparks burning in that fireplace, which gives me something to talk too. Sparks told me that nobody can visit me. That explains why Aisling hasn’t been in contact.
I’ve never missed anyone so much.
Along with the aches, I’ve got nausea, cold sweats, itchiness and blurred vision. Food gets pushed in through a hatch. The bucket gets taken out the hatch. I feel like I’ve been left here to ferment.
I can’t complain too much, though. I know that Ganhook’s care is the best I’ll get in any world. I also know that, one way or another, I’ll be out of here soon.
I hate tell tales. In Shinytop’s case, I’ve already forgiven him because he may have saved a part of my life once again. I say a ‘part of’ my life because the Boneman Fever doesn’t fully kill you. In fact, nobody’s too sure what exactly it does. All I know of it is what Sparks knows. And that’s not much.
And this fever thing is in here with me. Ganhook made sure of that. From the moment he ordered me to the basement, he made me stop ever twenty metres or so, and wait a few minutes so the fever thing would be sure to follow.
And seeing those bits of shadows flicker along behind me through the corridors and down the stairs was enough to make me want to flee screaming from The Keep. Worse still, Ganhook stayed so far away it was hard to understand his orders even when he shouted.
It was almost a relief when I entered this room and the shadow bits slipped in behind me before Ganhook slammed the door shut and locked it.
‘The fever must fully take you,’ Ganhook said through the hatch. ‘There’s no other way. Once it latches onto you, it’s impossible to shake.’
‘Let me go home,’ I cried. ‘There’s great medical treatment there.’
‘I suspect that’s what it wants. It’s an opportunistic sickness. It may have sought you out because you’re an outlander.’
Suddenly I felt dumber than a mouse trying to pet a cat. Who was I to risk the human race just because I was sick and scared and wanted to be home in my own bed? ‘A smart illness?’
‘Genius level in some ways.’
I sighed. ‘Oh hur-ah.’
‘Once it’s taken you over, I’ll have people here to try and extract it.’
My heart jumped. ‘Try?’
‘I’ll bring food soon, my friend.’
I froze. Friend! Ganhook never, ever called anyone ‘friend’.
Shortly after that he made me change into sack cloth clothes. They itched like hell, making my feel like I was about to shed my skin and live out my final days as some raw bleeding thing. Ganhook said it was necessary. If my skin was red and irritated it would encourage the fever to inhabit me quicker.
There wasn’t anywhere for the shadowy bits of fever to hide in this room, so they settled in the corners. At first, I tried to keep my eyes closed. But I kept imagining those bits were closing in on me and it was impossible not to look. After a while I discovered that if I kept two candles lit in the centre of the room the light smothered the sight of the fever.
I’ve also realised that Sparks is acting as a kind of nurse. It comforts me, keeps the room temperature steady, tells me what the others are at, and checks my condition. I know this because I woke this morning to find a tongue of cool blue flame stretching from the fireplace to just above my forehead.
‘Checking your temperature,’ Sparks said. ‘Ganhook’s orders.’
Over the past few days I’ve noticed less and less of the shadow bits. Though I’m trying not to think about where they’re going, it’s pointless. There is only one place in here that they want to go. And it’s not the bed the bucket the table or the chair.
It’s into me!