It is cold in the basement.
She closes her eyes and leans back in her chair, holding her head in her hands. Her fingers trap insubstantial curls against her face and they stick to her forehead, sweaty with fever and delusion. Her hands clench the arm of the chair tightly as another spasm racks her tiny frame, her knuckles turning white. She runs her tongue around the inside of her dry swollen mouth and tastes the salt metallic tang of blood as it trickles down her face, painting bloody ribbons against her stark white neck. Her throat begins to close and she tries to cough, but only manages a weak dry heave through the mess in her lungs.
Her toes curl inside her too-small shoes as she draws one leg up to rest against the other. Dusty sunlight paints a watery stain against the far wall, gray with peeling paint. She fixes her colorless eyes on a crack in the wall and tries not to blink as the tears start to come again.
It seems like it was centuries ago that the last doctor came. She remembered him only vaguely. He was just like the rest. All he did was run his eyes over her dispassionately, squeeze her wrist, glance into her gray eyes and then loudly whisper to her parents that she couldn’t be saved. She had heard.
But by then she had started to believe that it was true. The doctors all said the same thing, and she had grown used to the sight of her parents with sunken red eyes, averting their gazes whenever she tried to talk to them. Ask them what was wrong with her.
Mama, why I am I dying?
Of course they couldn’t answer. They whispered comforting things to her in the middle of the night when the fevers were worst, smoothed her limp hair back from her face and patted her hands, but it never helped. It couldn’t fill the hole in her heart. It couldn’t fix her.
When rumors had spread about her sickness, there had been fear. She had been taken down here, to the basement. For your health, they said. She’d smiled at them, shown them that she believed them, but she knew better. They didn’t want to be seen with her anymore. They didn’t want people to talk. They didn’t want her anymore.
She bows her head and folds her hands in her lap, like she is praying. Her fingers massage the backs of her hands as she tries to rub feeling back into them. It is cold in the basement, and the dust aggravates her sickness. She coughs into her hand, wetly, and a trail of blood drips into the lap of her stained gray dress.
She wonders if they have forgotten about her yet. She has nearly forgotten them. Her mind begins to go blank. She can’t remember her name. She can’t remember anything.
She looks down, and sees that the front of her dress is stained red. She touches the fabric, and her fingers come away wet. She wipes her mouth with the back of her hand, and more blood pours out. Her hands begin to shake and he doubles over, the blood coming faster. She rocks, back and forth, but her vision is fading. She slides from her chair and lies splayed on the ground, her hands continuing to spasm.
Finally she is still.
It is cold in the basement.