Infection
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Infection

A short story by Sophia M.

9
Infection
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“Madge, can you get it out?”

“It’s odd. I haven’t seen it enter like this before.”

“But you can get rid of it, can’t you? You can fix her?”

The voices rose and fell above her head. Her friend’s voice was strained and high with worry. Madge, the healer, spoke lowly, trying to inject a note of calm into the room, but she could hear the confusion and uncertainty as Madge spoke.

“I don’t know if trying to extract it would hurt her. It seems to have made its way through and in.”

“But she can’t be left like this!” Annet was panicking. “If anyone finds out they’ll push her outside the line!”

She almost heard Madge frowning. “If it gets to her heart, she won’t be able to stay inside the line regardless.”

The words dropped a heavy silence into the room. Then Annet was shrieking, “Cut it out! Cut it out of her!”

There was a rustle of cloth, a scuffing of feet on the earthen floor, and a resisting yelp that was soon silenced.

“You will calm down,” Madge ordered, her voice soft and steely. “I haven’t seen it like this in all the years that it’s plagued us. If those that only have it above the flesh are cast out, then having it under the flesh is twice as dangerous.”

“But if you—“

“No,” the word was firm, but gentle, apologetic. “Trying to cut it out could kill her. And besides, I don’t have the tools to pull it out without it touching me, or escaping from the room. Nor are my tools delicate enough for such a procedure. I can’t help her.”

Silence then, a pause of shock and denial. It wasn’t long before she heard Annet sobbing.

“She can’t stay here, Annet. She needs to be taken somewhere else,” Madge was unrelenting on that point. “I won’t offer information if you want to try hiding her, but if they ask me directly, I won’t lie.”

She supposed that that was reasonable, and more than what most people would do. She could picture Annet nodding shakily through her tears, grief bent.

“Come, let’s move her out. Quietly and quickly,” Madge urged.

She felt arms surrounding her, picking her up and setting her feet on the floor. One arm went around her waist, supporting her and guiding her. The other took her hand and wound it around a neck, pulling her arm snug across a shoulder – probably Annet’s. She heard the creak of Madge’s wooden door, felt the humid breeze of the night air across her cheeks. She twisted her head back.

“Thanks for trying, Madge,” she said honestly.

Annet choked back another sob; Madge drew in a shaky breath.

“I wish I could do more,” came the mournful reply.

She nodded and turned back to the breeze and let Annet lead her out into the night. It was hard, walking without seeing. The moon was full; she knew that because yesterday it had been just shy of completely round. But she couldn’t see it now. She couldn’t see the moon, the stars, the path that ran home. It was quiet too, unnaturally so. She wondered if the world was holding its breath, waiting to see what would happen to her. Annet could try hiding her, or she could cast her out. She stumbled over a rut in the ground.

“Careful,” Annet murmured to her.

“Where are we going?” she whispered at her friend. It was hard to tell, but if memory served her right, they weren’t headed to the edge of the line, not unless Annet was taking her to the opposite side of the circle.

“To my house. I can hide you in the woods behind it. You remember that old woodcutter’s cottage a little ways in? You’ll have to stay there.” Annet sounded determined.

“I can’t let you take that kind of risk,” she said, worried. Harboring someone like her would result in Annet’s banishment too if they were ever found out.

“Don’t be stupid, Elspeth. I can’t abandon you. What kind of a friend would that make me?” her voice trembled on the question.

Elspeth dug her feet in, making Annet stop and adjust her arms.

“What?” Annet asked lowly. “We can’t afford to stop, someone could see you.”

She shook her head in her friend’s general direction. “I won’t let you get cast out for me!”

“Now is no time to be a savior!” Annet hissed. “You’re coming with me and that’s that.”

Annet tugged her along and she had to follow or risk falling. They trudged along in silence, stumbling here and there where the path was uneven. As the time ticked on Elspeth could feel Annet shuddering nervously against her now and then.

“Almost there, almost there,” she was mumbling under her breath endlessly.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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