Fragments of conversation occasionally pierced my subconscious. First I heard Jacer’s voice close to where I was laying.
"Sister," he said. "I am here with you. I am not sure how my presence will help with your condition, but you have it nonetheless." The rest of his words were muted by a white hot spike in my body temperature.
Then a woman’s voice I didn’t recognize came through, heavily laced with an accent that was foreign to my ears.
“You have no other choice in the matter,” she said sharply. “You either trust me or she dies. Contrary to popular belief this sickness is not solely a kissing disease. It can be caught many ways but there are only a few methods of eradicating it.”
“What you want to do to her is archaic!” shouted Jacer, slamming what sounded like his fist onto a nearby surface. My body just barely registered the vibration from the impact. “There is no science to this medicine you are preaching, not anymore.”
“Alright, I need everyone to calm down,” said Jericho firmly. “While you two argue semantics, Eddy is lying here on my table dying. I know it sounds crazy, Jacer, but Eddy doesn’t have many options given our current location and the predicament we find ourselves in with the law. Any other physician would sooner turn her over to the authorities than save her. If you want to keep Eddy alive, this is your only opportunity to do so.”
There was silence and then the sound of a door opening. “Thanks for convincing the guard to let me come in, Jericho,” came Aster’s voice, sounding distracted.
“If anything happens to her because of this, I will hold all of you accountable,” Jacer conceded angrily, ignoring Aster’s entrance.
“Here, if it makes you feel any better I’ll help,” said Aster. “Just tell me what you want me to do.”
Their voices began to swirl together. I felt a refreshingly cool hand brush against my neck, only to be replaced by something dreadful and slimy. Shortly after, the wall of delirium slammed forcefully down on my drowning mind.
It was dragging me through my memories, garbling them and making familiar faces and places seem like new nightmares. The only thing I kept seeing clearly was my mother’s face.
My illness-addled brain finally settled in a corner of my reminiscence that I hadn’t visited in years. Mere hours before my mother took her final breath I stood lurking in her doorway, secretly watching my parents spend their last few tender moments together.
Her cheeks were gaunt and her eyes sunken, but not even consumption could strip away all of her beauty.
“Have you finished the plans, Jace?” she whispered, wiping a drop of wayward blood from her lips.
“Not quite, my love,” he said somberly, bowing his head. “I know what I’ll need…it’s just the matter of procuring these items that troubles me. I will be breaking an indecent amount of laws in the process.”
“It’s all for the best of causes, dearest.” She squeezed his hands with what little strength she had left. “You and I both knew when I became pregnant that we would have to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to keep our sweet baby safe.”
“What if they get to me before I can lay everything in place for her?” My father asked in anguish. “What if they see all this coming?”
Gently my mother took his face into her hands, gazing lovingly into his eyes. “Edwina is just as brilliant as you are. If by some miracle of misfortune you don’t make it to the final steps I have faith that she will be able to put together what pieces of the puzzle are available to her. Between your brain and my heart, she will not fail. You and I will always be with her.”
He pressed his lips gently against hers in one last act of love.
Like a bullet out of a gun I was catapulted back into consciousness, gasping loudly for air as if my lungs had never beheld oxygen. The medic, Nadia, was clutching my chin, trying to get my eyes to focus on her own.
“Try to concentrate on the sound of my voice. You have to slow your breathing down or you will hyperventilate.” Her mouth was a hard line but her eyes were soft and full of kindness, like my mother’s.
“Thank you so much,” I said, my voice cracking from a dry throat. It was then that I noticed the many open wounds covering my skin. “Oh my…I never thought I’d see a live bloodletting, let alone be subjected to it. Did you use leeches or a lancet?”
Nadia smiled, her mouth softening, and shook a glass jar containing charred leeches.
“You beautiful, creative woman,” I said, pulling her into a hug. If it hadn’t been for her I wouldn’t be alive. If not for the illness combined with the rapid loss of blood from the leeches, I might not have shaken loose that old memory.
Nadia laughed, caught off-guard , and hugged me back. “Where did you find this bizarre creature, Jericho?”
“I am a chronic victim of being in the wrong place at the right time,” he said, winking. Beneath the gallantry, the relief on his face was evident.
“Eddy…” Jacer’s voice sounded weak and the expression on his face was one of tremendous anxiety. When your eyes met, my mother’s voice came floating back to me from my Fever dream.
“Between your brain and my heart, she will not fail. You and I will always be with her.”
A sudden and alarming realization hit me and I felt my eyes widen as I stared at Jacer.
“Nadia, what’s wrong with her?” asked Jacer, rushing to my side in order to inspect me closer.
“I’m fine, I’ve just been thinking this entire time that your heart was purely artificial…but I should have known better,“ I said in awe, placing my hand over his chest to feel its wondrous pulse. “Your heart was the only thing I’ve never seen blueprints for, but I thought that was because of its simple design. It isn’t simple at all, Jacer.”
“Eddy, I think you’re still a bit delirious. You need your rest in order to fully recuperate.” Jacer tried to lay me back down on the table but I resisted.
“No, I’m not delirious. Where’s Aster?” My hand shot up to my chest instinctively for my locket but only felt bare skin. “Jacer do you have my locket?”
“Aster excused herself as soon as Nadia said you would recover,” said Jacer, confusion creasing his brows. “I’m quite certain your locket was around your neck when we brought you to your room.”
I shook my head in bewilderment before uttering something I never thought I would. “Did…did Aster steal from me?”