Awake or dreaming?
I couldn't tell what state I was in, other than that it wasn't a good one.
All I could sense concretely was that there was pain, throbbing pain as if I were on fire. My mind swam.
I was laid out horizontally, in what I assumed was a bed, from what I could tell by the feel of my back, but I was not lying in comfort; everything was pins and needles. Every sensation felt raw and chafing. I was warm and perspiring, and yet my teeth chattered, and a constant, slow, undulating tremor went up and down my body as if I were my own tide, rolling in and out.
Trying to open my eyes was a gargantuan task I was not suited for. My eyelids would not respond, so I remained in a shallow darkness and tried to discern meaning.
There was the constant sound of screams. Whether the screams came from my mouth, my mind, from others, from nightmares…I was not at liberty to say, for I was not at liberty at all. My faculties were entirely compromised. I was not free. Something had taken over me. Some part of my mind was still my own, as I wondered if this was what it was like when a body was overtaken by a demon.
If I was entirely far gone, or entirely overtaken, perhaps I wouldn't have had a sense of self at all. It was said that people who were truly mad did not ask if they were mad. So perhaps, in this terrible state, there was hope for me.
The first thing I remembered as a product of true awareness, rather than swimming in a timeless sea of discomfort and confusion, was that I was laid out somewhere familiar, and there were voices. Outside of myself. But there remained many voices within myself too. I had to take a moment to sort out one versus the other.
After some time trying to pick apart the noises and distances, I began to recognize the exterior voices. Mrs. Northe. My father. The low, deep resonant voice repeating prayers. Reverend Blessing. He was praying over me. Was I being exorcised? What had happened? Had the demon, in speaking to me through that poor wretch who collapsed on Mrs. Northe's floor, transferred something unto me? Into me?
Was the pain I felt actually all those runes again carved onto my flesh? Was there any hope for me, or was this the beginning of the end? What had I done? Why did my wrists feel so sore?
A particular searing scream from my own mouth shook me fully alert, and I looked up into the dark-skinned face of Reverend Blessing, who was anointing my head with oil and murmuring scripture.
I renounce thee...
I tried to help him in my mind, to echo, to reiterate, to join in the scripture by my own renunciation of the evil that had clung to me, but only unintelligible noises were coming from my mouth. My cheeks burned in shame; it was like the ugly sounds I made when first regaining my atrophied voice...
That's when I noticed I was bound.
What had I done that required that I be restrained? A turn of my head revealed that my wrists were done up in long white strips. Ripped fabric from sheets or pillowcases were wound round my wrist and tied to the metal headboard in one of Mrs. Northe's pleasant guest rooms that at this moment felt very stifling and utterly unwelcoming.
My stomach churned in a sickening roil and clearly that nauseating sense of horror read on my face, for my father rushed to me with an awkward reassurance that was hardly reassuring...
"It's all right, Natalie. You didn't hurt anyone. Too badly." He chuckled nervously, miserably. "Just a...scratch or two, it was fine—"
I made some kind of sound of protest or shame, my blush further ignited by humiliation and frustration.
"Nathaniel and I held you back as you turned, before anyone was hurt," Mrs. Northe added. "You received the brunt of the toxin borne in on that poor fellow... And that stuff...changes people. It makes sane persons into animals."
I wanted again to retch at this, but something stopped me, something small and lovely. Even in my fevered state, I noticed Mrs. Northe take my father's trembling hand in hers, not in a measured gesture of comfort but a motion on instinct, a gentle act that was so natural and intuitive to her that wanted to join in that collective comfort, for us to be a family. Whatever fear and confusion raced inside my scattered mind, those same raw emotions were writ large directly on my father's face... I wanted to be well again for their sakes, for Jonathon's sake; all that was important to me bolstered me. I regained some sense of myself in my regard for my loved ones, as if I touched the foundations of some sacred site and the divine reached down to steady me in return.
I seemed not in a fit state to respond to them, so I merely bit back a sigh, a cry, a heaving and exasperated curse. I felt my body conspire against me and the whispers near my ears threaten to drag me back under into the murky depths once more. Before I lost consciousness again, I overheard Mrs. Northe say something about Jonathon.
His name was the one thing that could keep my eyes open.
"Where?" I managed. Mrs. Northe and my father exchanged a look. The nauseating feeling I was fighting returned in force, but now layered with a fresh terror. "What...what about Jonathon!"
"He's gone. We don't know where. It's been two days."
My eyes rolled back in my head, my whole sense of self and sensation pitching and roiling as if I were tempest-tossed in the worst of seasick throes. Before I lost myself again, I prayed with all my heart, then, that I could dream, and in that dream, find the man I loved and see where he'd gone and what he'd need of me if I could shake off these dreadful curses of ours...
(End of Chapter 12 -- Copyright 2013 Leanna Renee Hieber, The Magic Most Foul saga - If you like what you see, please share this link with friends! Tweet it, FB, + it! The Magic Most Foul team really hopes the audience will continue to grow and it can only do so with YOUR help! If you haven't already, do pick up a copy of Magic Most Foul books 1 and 2: Darker Still and the sequel: The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart and/or donate to the cause! Donations directly support the editorial staff.
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