Updated: Feb 7, 2021
My God, I even missed the leeches.
I believed wellness would come until the day my fingernails fell off, revealing the soft pink of my nail beds, contrasting against my sallow, paper thin skin. At that point, I no longer cared if I died, my only solace the slip of sunlight peeking out from beneath the curtains at daybreak, whispering empty promises of strolls through the garden and picnics on the countryside.
At first, the loneliness bothered me, the isolation a cruel fist that held me defenseless in its fevered grasp. Fever - that was perhaps the worst of it, my vision, memories, reality slipping through my own fingers like grains of sand. Was I really a mother, a wife, a daughter? Or was I something different, an accursed queen trapped in a tower, waiting for my king to halt the executioner’s blade? I longed for a knight to rescue me, staring desperately at the covered window lest I miss his hand. But neither king’s order nor dashing chevalier arrived.
Eventually the maid’s visits were few and far between, my chamber pot barely in need of emptying, and the doctors stopped bringing their leeches, though the sores where they suckled still stared back at me like hateful eyes. My God, I even missed the leeches. They offered company where there was no longer any company to be had.
At one point, I’d risen, in a pyretic dream perhaps, and threw one of my books at the window, shattering the glass and releasing the cruel winter winds into my room. The pummel of their fists gave me the illusion of vitality, making me feel alive for one glorious moment before I collapsed onto the ground, snowflakes collecting on my yellowed nightgown.
I awoke to a raven perched on my snow dusted hip, staring at me with curious black eyes.
“Have you come to collect my soul or my flesh?” I asked her in my mind, no energy to speak aloud. Something wet streamed down my face, but I didn’t have to touch it to know it was my blood.
Raven did not respond, just hopped down from her perch towards my slackened fist, examining the empty spaces where my fingernails had been.
“Ah, so it is my flesh,” I sighed. “Well, I’d advise against tasting my diseased skin. I have contracted something that frightens all away.”
She cocked her head at me, blinking as she studied my eyes.
“Every man who has ever loved me cherished my eyes,” I told her. “As you can see, none of them are here. You are more than welcome to them; I shalln’t be needing eyes any longer.”
A burst of winter air came through the window once more, this one calling my name. I imagined my soul floating along with the sparkling snowflakes, perhaps making it as far as the sea. I watched the vapors of my breath rise to greet them, joining them in their pirouette, following willingly, as we drifted along the spaces between the worlds, over the dead trees and snow capped hills until the air became brackish and I saw the frothy swirls of endless ocean.
I was there, thankfully, the moment sweet Raven settled her tiny feet on the bridge of my nose, grateful, it seemed, as she helped herself to the soft, warm meal of my useless eyes, eyes the color of the distant sea.