As she slowly opened her eyes, a wailing from across the dark, candlelit hall instantly reminded her of the waking nightmare. Strands of hair were embedded into her forehead and swept across her face accentuating her pale, gaunt jawline. Her eyes rolled around in fits of agony and curiosity to see what had changed, if anything, in her death chamber. The dank smell of death hung heavy in the air. It was difficult to differentiate the floor and the ceiling, the walls and the windows. It was a wooden room, almost a box, containing her contagion, awaiting the final, tighter wooden box.
The light and colourful rooms from her family estate seemed like the memories of someone else now. The songs played by her sister, Elizabeth, on the family piano, which would fill every room in the house with joy and life, swirled around her head like a wasp. The last memory she had was of her father’s face as he closed the carriage door. He had paid the doctor to bring her to London to die. There was no hope for her now. Not since the blisters emerged. He couldn’t risk infecting the rest of the family. So, his youngest and dearest daughter Emmanuelle was sent to die, alone and in agony.
Upon arriving in London, she felt what it must be like for a corpse. She was tossed about, covered up and talked about as if she weren’t there. Occasionally, a kind nurse would try to comfort her, stroking her hand and dabbing her forehead. The doctors were never kind. Poking, prodding, retching and writhing. They were equal parts fascinated and repulsed by her.
“Money can’t save you from the plague,” they would often say.
She fell in and out of consciousness so often that the living and the dream worlds sometimes merged. The fever had played wicked tricks on her. She saw herself riding back home on her beloved horse, Daisy. Naked and radiant, she galloped through the fields of Hampshire where her family awaited her arrival, dancing in jubilation. More oft than not she was floating above her own corpse, wrapped in white linen, stained by the still seeping wounds from the blisters. Her family hadn’t come to say a final farewell, she was there, dead, cold, alone and insignificant for eternity.
But sometimes, her fever brought a strange gentleman to her bedside. He had long, thick black hair that was always neatly held back and under his top hat. His eyes were grey, like when the sun bursts through a rain cloud. He had a funny moustache and an exotic accent.
“And you say she is from aristocracy?” he would ask the nurses.
Always grinning from their affirmative answers.
Of late, he was visiting her at least once a week. On this particular night, Emma had been very lucid, lucid enough to realise he had no face mask, no covering at all to protect himself. She reached up to stroke his face, for reassurance that he was indeed there. But she passed out from exertion before she could feel anything.
The nurses started wrapping her feet and legs. A sign the blisters were getting out of control. Water was the last thing her body could ingest. It seemed hopeless. It had always been so, but Emma hadn’t quite accepted it until now.
The farmer across the room from her had succumbed just an hour before. He could only have been 17. Strong like an ox, with hands like shovels and voice deeper than a well. He looked like a man of 80 as they carted his body to the mass grave.
Emma felt as though she were crying, but the sweat rendered her senses of touch useless. She no longer knew if it was night or day. It seemed a shadow had filtered her eyes; making it so that only the candle from a nurse’s hands permitted her to see so far as in front of her face.
Tonight, that candleholder was, in fact, her stranger. A Count, from what she had heard the nurses say about him after he left.
“My dear sweet Emma, a beauty such as yourself cannot be left to die here, I beg of you, let me take you to my estate, where you shall have the best of care until you are brought back to life.”
This fever truly was the devil — encouraging hope hours before her last breath. But suddenly, it slipped and lost its grasp of her. She felt a cool facecloth on her forehead as she opened her eyes. Something the fever forbid her to feel since she was first bedridden in her family home.
A fire was roaring on the other side of this grand bed-chamber. A doctor gently lifted off the cloth, rinsed it in ice-cold water and dabbed her face again. He turned to talk to someone in the corner of the room. She couldn’t make out who, but it was an unusually tall shadowy figure with piercing white eyes.
“It has broken, sir” the doctor exclaimed, “the infection is rapidly regressing, and I believe in a matter of moments she will be clear. As we both know with the last patient, this may not last long.”
The shadowy figure spoke solemnly, “you can go.”
Emma was exuberant — pinching herself to ensure this wasn’t the last, most deceitful trick of the fever yet. Rubbing her arm as she sat up in the huge bed. She remembered suddenly that the shadow was still in the room as the doctor closed the door.
The white, unblinking eyes started coming towards her. The shadow began to take form as the fire cast its light upon it. A naked male body moved toward the bed as if floating. His skin pale as snow and crooked in ways she had never seen. But he looked so powerful.
Emma froze when she saw his face. It was her stranger. His thick black hair now let loose around his shoulders. His eyes would not stop staring into hers. As he got closer, his skin was almost transparent, it was truly revolting, yet it continued to come closer.
She had wanted to say thank you. Thank you for saving her life, but she no longer felt saved. She felt…hunted. The stranger lifted his arms out as he neared the bed. Emma tried to move, but before she could blink, his teeth sunk into her throat. Drinking her in. Her virginal, thick youthful blood soaked her hair, and his, as he made noises that would haunt her soul into the abyss.
© G G Flavell 2020
About the Author:
G G Flavell is a new author based in Scotland. Inspired by the worlds created by JRR Tolkien (with the tattoo to prove it,) George RR Martin and Charlaine Harris to name just a few. He also enjoys reading philosophical works, with Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus among some of his favourites.
Unsurprisingly, his writing leans towards fantasy and dark fantasy genres. He lets his imagination take him places the real world can’t.
When he’s not writing, reading or daydreaming, he is most liking to be found cuddling the life out of his French Bulldog Romy. Yes, like Romy and Michelle.
He writes with fun in mind, with passion and with wine.