Nowhere to Run

The castle courtyard was quiet, so quiet that you might imagine you could hear the snowflakes landing; a slight sibilance just on the edge of hearing. Or perhaps it is just me, and my changed state has given me more sensitive hearing. Given how small this island is, I sometimes wonder where people get to when it is so quiet. Perhaps, like me, they have fallen to this habit of sleeping the night and day away. I do not quite know why this is happening. There were occasions, back in London, where I might do so, but there was usually a reason; some excitement or activity the night before. I would ask Anna, but I do not otherwise feel unwell, and besides, submitting to her diagnosis would involve revealing things I am not quite sure I am ready to reveal.

I went to the infirmary anyway, to see how the patients were getting along. Or, as it turned out, there was just one patient. The children were nowhere to be seen. Gwyn was still there, apparently unchanged in condition, save that the nurse, or Anna, had managed to get her out of her tunic and into something more appropriate for nightwear. The teevee gadget was still showing the same extremely unlikely temperature, despite her forehead feeling slightly warm to my touch. It is hard for me to tell, with my own body temperature being more akin to the ambient temperature than to any normal body heat. She was still unresponsive, save for the usual twitching and muttering about running.

Lacking any reason to be elsewhere, I sat in the corner with her. Lord knows, this was a familiar enough situation to me, thinking of all the times I sat up with Mother when the worst of the sickness was upon her. There was the same quiet warmth, a similar antiseptic smell and the sound of somebody breathing in bed, although, in Gwyn’s case, lacking the cough that so often accompanied Mother’s illness. Thinking of those times, it occurred to me that I could read to Gwyn. I did so for Mother all the time when she was confined to bed. She would have me read all sorts of things, though the Romantic poets and Mallory were always her favourites. I had spent many an evening reading the adventures of Uther, Igraine, Arthur and Merlin to her. I read that so many times that I almost knew the book by heart. Sometimes she would just lie there and listen, but often, the familiar words would soothe her into sleep.

I also remembered reading somewhere that sometimes, patients in a prolonged state of unconsciousness can respond to familiar words or music. Lacking the musical talent of my mother, I decided to read. Gwyn liked going to medieval fairs, she had said, so I thought she might appreciate Mallory. Certainly, it was no great task for me to read from that. I read the first few chapters, not knowing if she was even aware of me. Perhaps she was, faintly. It might have been my imagination, but I felt that the twitching and muttered references to running were both reduced slightly. After a while, I thought I would try something different. As I said to her at the time, maybe something contemporary with her time would be better. Of course, I had nothing form her time I could read, but then I remembered that she had said that tales of Victorian vampires were a popular fad in her time. I had to laugh at that idea, for although I clearly knew nothing of the tales she knew, I was fairly sure I could tell her some tales about the life of a Victorian vampire. Though, in this case, perhaps it would be better if she didn’t understand me. I read to her from my journals for a while, or at least, extemporising to make it more of a narrative than I might usually write. Strangely, it seemed to work, as the twitching stopped, and her breathing slowed to that more usual for somebody in deep sleep. Either that or I bored her to sleep.

I only stopped when I heard voices outside, Aoibheann’s and Emanuel’s, I think. It would not do to have others hearing my tales, certainly not those bits where I described my becoming. Aoibheann came in without Emanuel, so I assumed he had gone upstairs to find Anna or Riley. Once again, Aoibheann seemed distant and again gave the distinct impression of not approving of what I was doing. I told her that I used to read to my mother all the time, but she could barely acknowledge that as a good thing. She then fell silent and did not respond to my further comments. Eventually, I got bored and left, to go tend the bar for a while. I did tell her that she should come tell me when she works out whatever it is that was bothering her, but I am not even sure she heard. I really must find some time with her to ask what it is that bothers her so much.


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