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Death Came Knocking

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Death Came Knocking

Not long after I took up the role of the lonely sentinel of my late grandmother’s house, an epidemic came rolling through the Gilded Bowl. Cybelline, Carafras, and all the little villages alike were scrambling to quarantine the unfortunates who had been infected with the illness (and there were plenty), and put together a vaccine for those who hadn’t. They weren’t quick enough though. This thing was brutal. They started calling it ‘The Knock of Death’. Cheery, yes? And you know, they weren’t far off, calling it that. Why do I say that? Well, it’s because I managed to get my own sorry, scrawny arse infected with that bright mess.

How, I couldn’t rightly say… I had practically no contact with people! Pathogens carry themselves in ways no one can see. Carried invisibly on the air, toward even my isolated little place of residence, the Knock of Death fell upon my door.

Usually when I feel myself coming down with something I go to the Dragginwood to wait it out. That wood heals you from the spirit outward. But this time it was something else. It was all I could do to drag myself to the trees and into a patch of underbrush, like the sick animal I was. I felt… oh, how can I put it. I felt like a dirty scat-stained rag cut from the seat of a moon-fiend’s unwashed underpants, which the Hagmother then used to wipe her great cosmic dilly and throw into her eternal underground wastepile. I had never felt so disgustingly ill before and I haven’t since. I could not get up from the brush in which I lay. Fever raged in me like a bonfire. Sweat seeped from my skin and yet I shivered. My head was swimming with delirium and I could barely see. Muscular spasms seized me in waves, making me go rigid. My body ached ferociously from top to bottom. It felt like I was hovering on the threshold between one world and the next. And worst of all… I couldn’t even hear the Dragginsong.

Whenever I had a moment of coherent thought, I wondered if I was really going to die. I wondered how much longer it was going to take. Mysteria would be disappointed. She had been very clear that I was to stay alive, not to follow her to the other side. But what could I do? I couldn’t help that a microbial malefactor had found its way into my blood. It wasn’t as if I had asked it. It wasn’t as if I had sat down to tea with it and made careful plans of how and when and why it was to kill me. No, it had just come of its own accord as all pathogens do. Mysteria couldn’t fault me for that, could she? These were the thoughts that my half-conscious mind kept going over and over as I lay fading in the bushes.

But then something happened that I’m still not sure I remember rightly. I felt a presence, another person. I distantly heard the rustling of the foliage as they drew near to me. I felt something take careful hold of my arm and lay it straight out next to me. I felt my sleeve being rolled up above my elbow. Something very faintly pricked the soft middle part of my arm, the part that hides when your arm bends. And then… I slowly started to feel better.

My temperature began to drop. The shivering and convulsions eased. My head started to clear. And best of all… the Dragginsong started to find its way to my ears again.

I still ached all over, and I felt disgustingly, pathetically weak, but I managed to turn my head just enough to get a look at just who it was that had come. My vision was blurry, and I was still not fully coherent, but the person I saw looked like a man… an elderly chap with silver hair and a kindly smile permanently etched in his face by the wrinkles of age. Two bright purple eyes glittered at me from behind glass lenses. I could barely keep my eye open, but I saw him smile most warmly at me, approving of my recovery. I think I felt him put a gentle hand on my head, in an almost fatherly fashion, as if to say it was all going to be alright now.

And then he was gone. I can’t remember if he got up and walked away, or if he just vanished… or really, if he was ever really there at all. I fell into a heavy sleep after that, and it all felt like a distant dream upon my waking. I stirred to life in that same patch of foliage, and I sat up, feeling almost like I’d never been ill to start with… death had never knocked after all. I quickly examined my under-elbow for any marks where I had felt the prick. There was nothing there.

I got to my feet… a shaky effort, and I felt dizzy for a few seconds upon standing. But then I was alright again. Leaning on a nearby tree, I puzzled… had the old fellow simply been an illusion? A vision conjured by a delirious brain? Surely SOMEthing had happened… before the ‘vision’, I had been the farthest thing from recovering, and after it, I was mysteriously healed.

What was more was that the old fellow’s face seemed very familiar… I couldn’t tell you why. At the time I brushed him off as a hallucination, and staggered away into the forest, letting the Dragginsong provide the last bit of healing I needed.

~
But a few days later I saw the old chap again.

Not in delirium this time. Not in a dream. I really saw him. Ran into him on a stroll in the moor.

Or at least, it might have been him. The gray hair, the glasses, the deep smile-lines… I actually paused walking to take a second long look at this guy when I saw him. Usually when I run into people I do my best to get away from them as quickly as I can. Not this time. Shows you how surprised I really was.

And this is the really stunning part. He stopped and looked at me as well. He didn’t squirm. He didn’t squeal. He didn’t cover his little eyes like a nancy at the sight of my face. He just stopped, leaned on his walking stick, and grinned a silly grin at me.

“Bee in your bonnet, love?” he squeaked, raising his eyebrows expectantly. I blinked. Bee in my bonnet?? What in the eleven bells was that supposed to mean?

I couldn’t bring myself to answer immediately. I was still too busy studying him, and giving an eyebrow to his odd manner of speaking. I would have quite liked to ask him about the other day… if he had been in the Dragginwood and had anything to do with my recovery from the Knock of Death. But I simply couldn’t. It was hard to be sure that I had truly seen anything at all. Even if I had, how could I be sure this was the same fellow? Sure, he looked like him… deep-down mysterious familiarity and all… but his manner was off. In my delirium he’d come off as almost… shall we say… angelic… like a wise, powerful, otherworldly guardian or some mental sort of it. But now I had the impression I was simply looking at a weird, loony, barmy old man.

I regained my composure and crossed my arms slowly about me. The closest I could get to the things I really wanted to ask was “Heard about that Knock of Death business?”

The man’s face lit up… a bit too brightly… with over-theatricized understanding. I narrowed my eye a bit.

“AAAAAAaaaah,” he uttered, “yes! Yes indeed. Mm. Nasty, NA-STEE business, that one! Felled a lot of folk, it ‘as… poor, poor things.” He paused to look sorrowful. “BUT!” he suddenly swung back, making me start and grimace. “The good news, I hear they’ve got something! Some miracle cure that someone just came out with. They’ve been rescuing people right and left with it. Way I ‘eard, it’s both an antibiotic for those infected, and a vaccine for those so far spared. Intravenous.”

“Wot.”

“It means they stick something into your vein, of course. In your arm, just here.” He gestured to his middle-arm. “Shame no one can remember which of the doctors came up with the stuff…” He trailed off, gazing into space, looking the picture of a mind’s hinges starting to come loose with age.

My eye narrowed still further. My scowl deepened. I gathered what ‘intravenous’ meant. I didn’t need him to explain. What my brain was really fighting with was the notion that THIS bloke… this loon… had put a magic antibiotic in my own vein just the other day. It couldn’t be. He was daft as the day is long, and probably senile. Still though… there was something. Just something. I couldn’t deny the familiarity of this… this codger. And yet I wasn’t sure enough to ask him the thing I really wanted to ask him. After all I’d been delirious at the time. How could I be sure what I saw? There was the risk of coming off almost as barmy as this gent.

“SAY!” he snapped back again after trailing off… making me start yet again and my patience lessen critically. “My ‘ouse in’t that far yonder…” he gestured off into the hills a ways.

“You don’t live in Cybelline?” I cut across. I briefly wondered how much more I could narrow my eye before I lost sight.

“NAH,” the old man scoffed loudly with a flippant wave of his hand. “Not moi taste.” He chuckled with a thoroughly irritating nasal snort. “As I was sayin’… my ‘ouse in’t that far yonder, and I was wondering, if’n ya got nuffing better t’do, ya might like to join me for tea? Inneresting young lady, you seem, mightn’t mind getting to know ya!”

I looked aside momentarily in pure disbelief. My quick smile was really more of a grimace. Nobody else in my living memory has ever just up and invited me for tea, like a regular member of Whimsy-kind. All the same, it wasn’t about to happen. I informed him,

“Erm, no. I don’t reckon.”

“AWWWW, you sure? I make a MEAN CUP!” That awful snorting giggle again. He actually reached out and gave me a small playful push, upon which I winced. And I could have sworn his eye twitched. Mine certainly did. But for another reason.

“Don’t count on it, codger,” I told him, with absolute shortness. And then I turned and walked away. I was having no more of this irritating encounter.

“Next toime, then??” he called after me, still with that level of cheer utterly detached from reality. I shook my head as I walked away. I’d hoped this barking-mad old sock wasn’t going to make a regular habit of popping into my life and peddling teatime.

But alas… he was to haunt me like a ghost for the next seven years of my life. An irritating, flippant, recurring ghost who would pop up out of nowhere and then practically vanish into thin air. There would be long breaks where he wouldn’t show up for months, and I’d think I was finally rid of him. And then, wouldn’t you know it, there he’d be again, brandishing his teatime at me like a weapon of mass irritation. And no, never once would I agree to his tea. I didn’t want any part of any substance that this half-unhinged bum drank regularly. I’m sure anyone would understand my reasons.

What had I been reduced to. I’d only ever had one member of my own kind for company at a time. Why did the previous one have to die, and leave me with THIS as her replacement??

~,,:bulletblue:
Another little chunk of Mask Face's life, in the group with 'Small Things'. This came pouring into my head as I woke up one recent morning, begging me to write it before I even began my day. :D I love it when that happens. I just LOVE writing out bits of Masky's experience. It just makes my whole day when I get one of these. Even when they have darkness in them... seriously, only Mask Face could be so amazing even when she comes down with a terrible illness. <3

(Why can't that preview picture be bigger? I worked hard on that damn thing. Hm. Maybe I'll have to share it separately so folks can actually SEE it. :XD: EDIT: Here it is. fav.me/d9g4s0o :meow: )

~Sequoia
imaginationsflightiestescapade…
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Jedder77's avatar
Very fascinating story!