Fanfiction for Bre’s Fever world.
The Blue found me just as the sun kissed the horizon, dusk folding the world in her velvet arms.
“Ha! And what took you so long?” I barked at him, tapping my cane into the dirt at the base of the tree I’d selected as my resting point. “Thought you Blues were better hunters than that.”
The Blue paused for a moment, taken aback. I cackled. Good. I wanted to keep him on his toes. I had few pleasures left to me now, I intended to savor all of them.
“You know why I am here,” he said. His voice was low and even. Emotionless.
“They teach you to do that at one of those fancy city schools? Pretend you don’t feel anything?” I snorted. Idiocy. Sending off a boy to be a bounty hunter just because his Fever came out Blue. A joyless lot, those marked by Blue. Shameful, to think those who could fly through the air should be given so horrible a path as the hunting and killing of their fellow man.
I sighed. The weight of the injustices of the world was not my burden to bear or alter. The fact that the Blue was here at all was a testament to that. “Aye,” I said. “I know why you’re here. You’re here because I killed that Brown, the Dawson girl.”
The Blue’s eyebrows lifted. “So you admit to the murder of Eloise Dawson.”
I rapped the ground sharply with my cane. “I’m a Green, boy. A healer. I met death before you were cutting your first teeth, and I’ve been on close terms with it ever since. I know it when I see it, I know it when I steal a body from it, and you can be damn sure I know when I cause it. I’m no fool. I knew where this would lead before she called me to her home that night.”
He stood, keeping his distance. I wasn’t sure if I was glad of the reprieve, or if I wished he’d just get it over with. The spiraling patterns of blue crossing his left cheek and spilling down both forearms still glowed slightly from recent use. My own jagged tattoos of green were faded, so pale they could barely be seen against my skin. He wasn’t holding back because he was afraid I had any chance of resisting him, so it had to be simple curiosity.
I nodded approvingly at the thought. Good. Curiosity meant he wasn’t so jaded that he couldn’t listen or care about other people. A lot of Blues ended up that way – a side-effect of the job.
“If you knew, why did you run?” he asked.
“Couldn’t very well stay there, now could I? I know the law, same as you, same as anyone.” I snorted. “You think I should have just waited for you? Sat in my rocker and let you kill me right there, in front of my daughter and grandkids? Let them watch?” I shook my head, lips pursed. “Use your head, boy. I had to get out, and before my daughter knew what I’d done. She’d have tried to stop me. Tried to protect me. Couldn’t let her get caught up in my decision. She’s already been nattering on at me about moving in with her. Thinks I’m an invalid. Sweet, but not too bright, my Marigold.”
Her face rose up in my memory and I pushed it away for the moment. I knew the price. I’d known the price that night, and made my decision. Regret and loss were luxuries I could not afford.
A long pause fell between us, and I was in no mood to break it. Let him do the damned thing and be done with it.
“Why did you kill her?” he asked, breaking the silence.
I briefly considered not telling him. Wasn’t his business. Wasn’t anyone’s business but mine and the Dawson girl.
Still. I glanced into his face, now in deep shadow as the last sliver of sun spilled over the edge of the world. The swirls of his tattoo flared brightly against the dark, and for a moment I saw my late husband. He’d been a Blue, as well, before a hunt gone wrong had taken him from me. The moment passed. I knew this wasn’t my Dannel. Even so, maybe this boy had a someone somewhere sitting at home and worrying for him, whispering brokenly to a babe in fresh swaddling that her daddy would be home soon.
“I know what you’re thinking,” I finally said. “Maybe she would have died anyway. You think maybe I was just shortening the process. It’s not true. She wouldn’t have died anyway. She would have lived on for years, possibly even raised a family. She had the eye of a young buck in town already. She was pretty, Eloise Dawson. Frail, though. Always sickly. Even as a child. Her own parents were surprised when she survived the Fever.” I sighed. “True to a Brown though, she wasn’t a dreamer. She knew the world, had her head on straight.” I sighed, my breath puffing slightly as the first chill of night set in. Nightbugs set up their starlit symphony and a few ambitious fireflies sparked erratically around the underbrush.
“I visited that girl every week of her whole life. We weren’t kin, but might as well have been. I know the rhythms of life, know what a body should feel like, how it should work. We both knew there was something wrong. She was always in pain. She waited to call on me till she coughed up blood, sometimes. Said she didn’t want to be a burden. Knew other folks needed healing as well.” For a brief moment, my eyes met his. “She smiled more than anyone else I ever met, smiled brightest when the pain was at its worst. We both knew I couldn’t fix her. Both knew all I was doing was prolonging the pain.”
I shook my head. “I could feel it, under her skin, every time I touched her. It was like she had something alive inside of her, something eating her from the inside out. I could repair the damage, soothe her pain, but it never lasted.”
“The first time she asked me to kill her was when she was eleven years old. Can you imagine? Can you imagine being eleven years old and asking to die? She wasn’t angry, wasn’t upset. She was just tired of being alive.”
I cleared my throat, then continued. “I told her no, then, and she didn’t ask again for four more years. After that, she asked every time I visited. She never pitched a fit, never begged. She just asked, real quiet-like, after her parents left the room. I always told her no. She always nodded her head and smiled that damnable little smile, and let me do my healing. We went on like that for almost a year. Her askin’, me sayin’ no.”
“Three days ago, I finally said yes. I tried something first, something we both knew was gonna hurt. I tried to kill the thing in her. I know the rhythm of the body, and I could feel the places she weren’t right. Killin’s just the opposite of healin’, really. I killed those places where I could feel the wrongness. She never once screamed, though she couldn’t hold back the tears. Neither could I, but I kept going anyway.”
“Worst of it was, I think it was actually working. After I killed a place, I could heal her back up the way she should have been, and the wrongness didn’t come back. I just wasn’t strong enough to do it all, and she wasn’t strong enough to bear it. She just…stopped, and that was the end of it.”
The silence rose up between us again, thick as the lump in my throat, until I couldn’t bear it any more. “I don’t regret it. I’d do it again if I could. You know the law.”
When he spoke again, his voice was low and even, but no longer emotionless. I shouldn’t have told him. He didn’t need the guilt. Didn’t need to know why I’d done it – he’d have been happier if I’d just told him I’d snapped, or made a mistake. Why did I burden him with the knowledge? It didn’t matter. I should have kept quiet. I must be going soft in the head. It was over. That’s all that mattered.
“You are charged with the murder of Eloise Dawson. You admit the crime as planned and stand before me, unrepentant.”
He lifted his hand, and the spirals on his arm brightened. Light rose from his tattoo like steam from a kettle, so bright it seemed almost white. A dagger lifted from his side of its own accord and hovered in the air between us. The grass and bushes nearby shuddered in the sudden wind.
“Do it, already,” I whispered, and the dagger flew to me, metal glinting. I wonder if I will see my Dannel?