Despite my best efforts, a scream ripped through my throat. It was muffled by the rod and I bit down. The nurse worked carefully. Whatever she dipped the gauze burned worse than fire. She had to rub the skin around it inside the wound and I was afraid I would break Angel's hand. I was sobbing from the pain, my face wet with tears, and Angel was crying as well.
"I'm almost done," the nurse promised.
She put the pieces of gauze covered in that awful liquid that stung my nose on a metal plate. There was a lot of blood on the tongs. She then took up the jar of cream and unscrewed the top. I was thankful she had a steady hand as she covered the flat metal rod with it. She dipped the tongs into hot water to sanitize them.
"Take a deep breath," she instructed and I whimpered as she used the tongs to move the skin and rubbed the wound with the ointment.
I couldn't stop screaming. Never before had I experienced such pain. My throat was hoarse with the screams that tore through me. Finally, the nurse stopped. To my horror, she then took out a needle with thread.
"I think you should close your eyes, sweetheart," Angel whispered.
She was a little green and I did as she said. A sharp pain in my stomach told me what she was doing and I tried to get away from her.
"You need to stay still, David," the nurse said firmly. "It is very important that you stay still."
I could only whimper my response as she continued to sew the wound shut.
"Why do you need to do that?" Angel asked.
"So the ointment doesn't get out," the nurse answered. "If it does, it will not work and the infection will spread. I also want to get this shut without waiting for it to scab over."
"How bad is the infection?"
"Not too bad. He'll be sick for a few days which will prolong the healing process," she added with a sigh. "We caught it early, though, thank goodness."
"She's almost done," Angel told me, brushing sweaty bangs from my face. "Hang in there."
Ten minutes later, I heard a snipping noise. I didn't dare open my eyes, though, until I knew a new bandage was wrapped tightly around it. I opened my eyes to see a lot of blood on the sheets again. The nurse had needed to remove the blanket and Angel's face was brilliantly red and mine turned red, too. She was doing her best to avert her eyes as the nurse quickly got a sheet when she realized why we were both embarrassed.
"You can take out the bite," she said finally and I opened my mouth.
I winced as my jaw popped and spat the bite out. I fell against the pillows, panting heavily.
"You did such a great job," Angel said, kissing me and rubbing my jaw for me.
"You really did," the nurse agreed and a servant walked in with yet another tower of bed sheets and blankets.
They helped me stand and I swayed dangerously. I wasn't sure how much blood I had lost but I knew it was enough to set me back to almost square one. When I was back in bed, I couldn't stop it and passed out.
I was in a desert. I ran desperately, trying to find water. But all I could see around me were sand dunes and the scorching sun. I fell to my knees and cried. The sand burned my skin and I shouted to whoever could be listening. Just one drop of water, one bit of shade; that's all I wanted.
I opened my eyes, my body drenched in sweat. A few servants were working around me, putting cold rags on my body. I was naked again and my body was shaking with chills. Someone was talking to me but my eyes dropped again and I fell back into nightmares.
I wasn't sure how long I had been sleeping, waking up, then sleeping again. It felt like just a few minutes but the sun kept disappearing through the window beside me. After the third day of my fever, I was starting to feel cooler and the servants put me under some thin sheets. I thought I was getting better until I started to shake so violently my arm wounds ripped open again.
I cried in agony. I cried for Angel but she couldn't come to me. The king was, though, and he held my hand while the servants worked, saying words of comfort. I threw up several times. Most of the time it was just bile but a couple times it was blood. The nurse came in every hour to change my bandages and force bitter medicine down my throat.
I tried to throw the servants off of me, screaming for Angel. Why wasn't she coming? How could she leave me like this!? The king started muttering something in my ear. I didn't know what he was saying but I did hear Angel's name and I calmed enough to stop screaming and fighting.
Then, just as suddenly as it came, the fever was gone. I woke up to see that I was in new clothes and new sheets. The nurse was gently removing the bandage on my stomach and let out a sigh of relief.
"The infection is gone," she told me when she saw I was awake. "Your fever has gone down, too."
"Did all of that really happen?" I asked.
My voice was very weak as I told her what I remembered. She sighed and held my hand briefly.
"Yes, I'm afraid so."
"The king made her leave on the first day," she answered, rubbing more ointment on my ankle. "Your ankle is looking much better. You have a few more days before you can start using some crutches."
"What are crutches?" I asked, my words slurring.
She answered but I was already asleep.
Finally, the day came where I could get out of bed. I was incredibly weak from my fever but it was nice to get to move around. The doctor brought in two long pieces of wood. They were thin on the bottom but got wider and had a sort of padding on the very top. She showed me how the padding went under my arms and there was a rod for me to grip onto.
"We'll practice in the hallway for now," she said. "But I don't think you're ready to go out into the whole castle just yet."
I was annoyed until I realized how much work it took. We didn't even make it to the end of the hall before I started feeling dizzy. She helped me to bed. She assured me that I did very well, though, and helped me back into bed.
"Will you see if Angel can join me for dinner?" I asked. "If I'm awake," I added with a snort.
She smiled and nodded, leaving me. I missed Angel terribly.
I looked over at the night stand. There was a stack of new parchment and a few quills with ink. I shimmied up so that I was sitting and pulled a dinner tray that had some soup on it from a few days ago on it. I put the bowl down and started to sketch something random. I had been sketching for maybe ten minutes when the door burst open and Angel threw herself onto me.
"Oh David!" she sobbed, holding me and I rubbed her back. "I was so scared!"
She was pale and her hair was messy. She had dark circle under her eyes and I kissed the top of her head.
"Shh," I whispered. "Shh. It's okay now. I'm okay."
"I-I c-c-could hear you-you screaming but-but Father wouldn't let me see you!"
"I know, sweetheart. I'm okay," I repeated but she continued to sob, gripping my shirt.
I let her cry until our food arrived. She wiped her tears away and sat beside me on the bed. The servants put the trays on our laps and we ate. I couldn't eat solid foods yet so I stayed with soup. While I ate, Angel looked at one of my drawings. Her face was sad.
"Is this one of yours?" she whispered and I nodded. "Why did you draw this, David?"
I was confused at her tone of voice.
"What do you mean?" She handed it to me and I sighed. "Oh."
I had drawn a sketch of bare land with the shaded figure of a man on his knees, clearly bent in agony. At the top where a sun would be, I had drawn a demonic face, twisted with a horrible grin.
"Throw this in the fire," I said firmly. "It was one of my nightmares."
She kissed my cheek and I smiled sleepily at her.
I didn't manage to finish my soup before I fell asleep again.