I was miserable. There was no other word to describe how I was feeling. I woke up the next morning on fire—my head, my throat, everything. At the same time, amazingly, I was cold. I couldn't stop shivering and I wished that I had a few more blankets on top of me. I was alone in my bed and I didn't stop to wonder where Erik had gone. I was much too preoccupied with how I was feeling. What was wrong with me?
My head swimming, I fought my way to a sitting position and looked about for Erik. He was no longer in my room and I couldn't hear him anywhere. Had he left the house? That thought drove me to my feet, but in the next moment I grasped the bedpost in a fit of vertigo as my head swam.
Abruptly, he was there, standing in the doorway and gazing at me with concern. When had the door opened? Why hadn't I heard it?
"Phillippe, are you all right?" he asked, stepping into the room. "You're pale."
"I'm burning and I'm frozen," I croaked. I really didn't care that it didn't make sense.
In a few short strides he crossed the room and laid a hand on my forehead. "Merde," he gasped. "You're burning up, Phillippe! Here, lie back down. I'll be right back."
Time seemed to do funny things then since he was back almost immediately and telling me to do something that didn't make sense. Why did he want me to open my mouth?
"Please open your mouth," he said frantically. "I have to take your temperature!"
I didn't understand, but I opened my mouth obediently and felt a glass rod enter my mouth and slide under my tongue. I closed my lips around it automatically and nodded when Erik told me to leave it in for five minutes. My throat burned and my head ached and I wished I could die. Suddenly the thermometer was pulled from my mouth and I heard Erik swear again.
I fought my eyes open and looked at him.
"Your temperature is very high," he said, putting pillows behind me so I could sit up. "Open your mouth and let me see your throat."
For the next few minutes I obeyed all his orders while he looked at my throat, in my ears, and shone a light in my eyes. As soon as he said I could I dropped into the pillows with a sigh.
"It's nothing too serious," he said, sounding vastly relieved. "Thank goodness."
"What is it?" I rasped, wishing my throat would quit hurting.
"A case of pharyngitis," he said, cleaning the thermometer and putting it into a leather bag. "Your ducking in that cold water yesterday couldn't have helped."
"An infection of the pharynx," he told me. "The pharynx is your throat."
I thought about all the classes I'd had in school and not one of them had mentioned the pharynx. What a waste.
"The good news is that the infection isn't that bad yet. I'll compound some medicine for you and get you something to drink." Now that he knew what it was he seemed much calmer, but I'd noticed that he hadn't yet mentioned the bad news. Didn't the bad news go with the good news?
The day passed in a haze for me. My mind wandered with fever and I couldn't keep track of time. A minute seemed an hour and an hour passed in a minute. What could have been minutes or hours after taking my temperature Erik was there with a steaming mug of something that smelled bitter and slightly vile.
"What's that?" I croaked, wishing my throat would stop hurting.
"Willow bark tea," he said, helping me sit up and pressing the cup against my lips. "It will help bring down your fever and help your head stop hurting."
That was all I needed to hear and I gulped the stuff down without realizing just how awful it would taste. I gagged, but the tea stayed down and I handed the cup back to Erik.
"Why are you glaring at me as if I'd tried to poison you?" he asked.
"That was terrible!" I complained. I had never, ever tasted anything so obscene in my life!
"Sometimes medicine has to taste bad," he reminded me. "Wait until you taste the medicine I'm going to give you to treat the infection."
I groaned, but Erik took pity on me and brought me a pitcher of cool water to drink. A few glasses of water got rid of the awful taste in my mouth and I was able to fall into a doze for a while. Minutes or hours, I had no idea how long it lasted. I woke up to the sound of a tray being placed on my bedside table and sat up to stare at a bowl of beef broth, some bread, and a glass and pitcher of what looked like lemonade.
"How are you feeling?" Erik asked, laying a hand on my forehead.
"Fairly awful, thank you," I said honestly. "Could I go back to sleep?"
"You need to eat something," he told me, propping me up once again with pillows. "Your body needs fuel in order to fight this illness."
"It also needs rest," I said pointedly.
"Don't be childish, Phillippe," he said, spooning up some broth and holding it out to me. "Open up."
"Oh, honestly-!" I snapped, staring at him. Did he really intend to feed me? "I'm not a baby!"
"Then prove it."
I glared at him and if looks had been able to kill, he would have caught fire in an instant. He chuckled as if he knew what I was thinking, but I allowed him to lay the tray across my lap and I began to eat. I managed most of the broth and half of the bread and all of the lemonade. My sore throat welcomed it; Erik had sweetened the lemonade again with honey and it felt marvelous going down.
"Better?" he asked, removing the tray and letting me flop back into a recumbent position.
"Yes, thank you," I said politely.
Erik took the glass from the tray and filled it again with lemonade. Then, he took a small glass bottle out of his waistcoat. "This is your first dose of the medicine that will get rid of the infection," he said, removing the bottle's cork. "It will taste foul, but another glass of lemonade should take the taste away. You should take it now while you have food in your stomach."
I took the bottle and knowing it would be a bad idea, I sniffed it. I coughed and my eyes watered as the odor hit my nose. "I have to drink this?"
"Yes," Erik said firmly.
"What makes it smell so awful?"
"Garlic," he said.
I stared at him. "Garlic?"
"Garlic can be used to treat some infections," he elaborated. "Also there are a few other things in there that are good for people who are ill."
I was still staring. "Garlic?"
"Drink it down, Phillippe."
I held my breath and upended the bottle into my mouth and this time I nearly did gag it back up. Without a word Erik held the glass of lemonade out and I drank it faster than I'd swallowed the medicine. In a minute the awful taste was gone and I sighed in relief. Once again I looked at him and raised an eyebrow. "Garlic?"
He laughed. "Yes, Phillippe. Garlic."
He laughed again, spread another blanket over me and left me to my rest.
Nightmares plagued me. If asked I couldn't say what they were, but I knew they were evil and that they meant to do me harm. They circled me like birds of prey intent on tearing me apart. I cried out, fighting to get away, but neither my arms nor legs would work. Something heavy was on top of me, holding me down and threatening to smother me.
Who was that? What did they want?
"Phillippe! Wake up!"
I was awake already! There was no way that such torment could be a dream!
Suddenly, my eyes were open and I was staring at Erik. I could see his eyes gazing at me with concern.
"Dearest God, Phillippe!" he cried, still holding onto my shoulders. "You're on fire!"
"What?" This alarmed me more than I could say. Had I knocked a candle over?
"How long has your fever been like this?" he wondered aloud, disappearing into the bathroom. I heard water running and then he was back with a damp washcloth to put on my head. "Wait here. I'll get you some willow."
"Laced with hemlock, I hope?" I joked. With the way I felt, death would be rather a nice change. My nightmare was still fogged around me and I hoped that a joke or two would help me wake up the rest of the way.
"Dear God, no," he said. "What on earth were you dreaming of? I'll be right back."
Time did funny things again because no sooner had he said that than he was back with a hot cup of willow bark tea. I drank it without an argument even knowing how bad it tasted. I felt terrible and suddenly I coughed.
Erik stared at me. "You're coughing?"
"That's the first time," I said, trying to forestall any panic on his part. He didn't look far from it.
Where on earth was I going to go?
I must have fallen asleep again because I could remember dreaming something about an opera and a ghost and pair of pointe shoes that danced on their own. Then I opened my eyes and there was Erik, measuring different powders and what looked like dried leaves into a large bowl. Once he was satisfied with the combination he added a kettleful of boiling water, turned my head toward the bowl and began to fan the steam toward me.
"Breathe the steam in," he instructed me. "Breathe as deep as you can, all right?"
I nodded and tried to do as he said, but each time I took a deep breath I coughed. Each time I coughed it got worse and began to hurt.
"Try shallow breaths instead if it hurts too much to breathe deeply," he said. "Singers' breaths are not necessary right now."
I nodded and coughed. "Is this normal for pharyngitis?"
"It's gotten worse," he said. "That's all."
"Then why are you so worried?" I wanted to know. I was not used to seeing him scared.
"Well, this is the first time I've had a child and this is the first time that that child has ever been sick!" he said, pacing. "Dear God above, how could Christine and Raoul stand having you sick?"
I laughed and coughed. "You should have seen them when I had the measles."
He stared at me and shuddered. "I've heard about cases of measles. No, thank you."
I kept coughing and I could tell that the coughing worried Erik. Each time I coughed I could swear I saw him wince. What made it all worse was the fact that I couldn't get very much air in between coughs. A deep breath could trigger another cough and that would be that.
Once again, time did what it liked and played tricks on me. It hadn't felt as if I had slept, but suddenly it was morning and Erik was there with toast and tea and trying to get me to wake up enough to eat. A few bites of toast and a sip of tea and I was unable to take any more. I had my medicine and some more willow tea and went back to sleep; that time I knew I'd slept.
I dreamed. Back were the black demons, tormenting and screaming at me.
Do you know what he is?
Who were they talking about?
Do you know what he's done?
Were they talking about Erik? What did they mean?
You know the things he's done, they howled at me. He's just waiting. That's all. He's waiting.
Waiting for what?
Once you cease watching him, once you forget to be on your guard, you'll be his next victim.
Victim? What on earth did they mean?
He's just waiting. That's all, you foolish child. Just waiting…waiting…waiting…
Waiting? What were they getting at?
We'll be waiting, too, child.
With that final promise, the demons mocking me left and I was able to actually rest for a small while before pain began. My chest hurt and I felt as if I were being choked. I tried to call for Erik, for Mother and Father, but no one heard me or came to my aid. Slowly, far too slowly for it to bring relief, the pain faded and I slipped into darkness.
When I woke up next I knew what Lazarus felt when Jesus resurrected him. I couldn't believe how deeply I'd slept. I felt completely drained and found I couldn't move when I tried to sit up. What was wrong with me now?
"Thank God," I heard Erik breathe. He sounded just as exhausted as I felt. "Welcome back to the waking world, Phillippe."
"What?" I whispered. I couldn't speak any more loudly than that; I was still far too tired.
"How much do you remember?"
"Remember of what?"
"Never mind," Erik said wearily. "You've been under a long time. How do you feel?"
"Tired," I said, feeling more tired than I could describe. That word would have to do.
"I expect you'd be so."
"What? I don't understand."
"You've been in a fever for the last three days, Phillippe. I haven't been able to get a coherent word out of you for that whole time. Your fever's finally broken and it looks like you're on the mend. Does your chest hurt?"
I took a breath. "No. At least, I don't think so. Why?"
"You were coughing a lot and you were coughing very hard," Erik explained. "I was afraid you'd hurt yourself."
"I think I'm all right," I confessed.
"I'm glad," he said, pouring me some water and helping me drink. "You can't tell how glad. Do you feel as if you could sleep again?"
I nodded. "Yes."
"All right. Get some sleep."
Going to sleep was easy but at that point waking up was beyond my capabilities for more than a few minutes at a time. It could have been minutes or hours later that I woke up and Erik was talking to me. I knew he was trying to tell me something but what it was…well, I was sure that if it was really important he would tell me again.
I was certain I dreamed again, but this time the dream was amazingly real. I saw the boat on the underground lake again, the passages, and then surprisingly I was outside, being carried in Erik's arms somewhere. None of this made sense.
"Just hold on, Phillippe," I heard. "It won't be that long before we get to where we're going."
"Where are we going?"
"Somewhere that's better for you," he said. "Ah, here it comes."
I could hear horses and wheels, so I craned my neck around until I could see what was coming. A closed carriage pulled up in front of us and Erik opened the door, laid me down on one of the cushioned seats, and got in himself before closing the door. He wrapped a blanket around me, put a pillow under my head, and tapped the roof of the carriage to let the driver know that we were ready to set off.
"I've missed something at some point," I said, fighting going back to sleep.
"It doesn't surprise me," Erik said, giving a tired little chuckle. "We're going to a good place for your convalescence, Phillippe. You'll recover faster there."
I nodded and closed my eyes. "I already feel better."
"You're still very weak," he said quietly. "Try to go back to sleep."
He didn't have to tell me. Even as he spoke, I could feel consciousness slip away again.