The Inevitable

Favien's eyes remained glued to the sleeping girl, frozen in terror at her convulsing body. Her physical agony mirrored itself on his own emotional suffering. The temptation to wake her up with a soft touch traveled from his mind to his fingertips. It stopped there. Albeit a shaky, restless sleep, it was sleep nonetheless. She had spent weeks wide-eyed, blindly staring at the ceiling. Favien would have wanted to read to her, just as he used to a decade before. Her eyes had stopped working a month prior. His voice had started fading even longer than that. At a particularly violent convulsion Favien stood up with a jolt. He whispered her name with a cracked, dysfunctional voice.

He had nightmares all too frequently. Nightmares about her, about her last breath, about her fading spirit. Favien imagined her in a flowing white dress, pale skin unaffected by the corruption that spread through their town, eyes lucid and observing. In his mental image that was how she looked before being taken away by the celestial chariot. Then the dream ended, and he returned reality. A reality about a dying girl.

Favien placed a hand over her forehead. No fever. Her breathing slowed temporarily, allowing for some seconds of rest. Then the convulsions returned and she tossed about, restlessly. Favien bit his lower lip underneath the mask. He used to ask himself what will I do if she dies; by then he would ask himself what will I do when she dies. Death never became easier. Favien had learned that quickly; his father had started teaching him medicine at a tender, impressionable age. The man was stripped bare of thought as the girl jerked with increased agitation. He observed her, immobile, until the girl returned to a more tranquil pace.

The two of them would talk. They would share long, detailed conversations. She would do almost all of the talking, to spare Favien the agony of utilizing his pained throat. And how she talked! She would narrate every single day of their childhood spent together. Some details evaded Favien's own memory, but her certainty in speech made him reluctant to doubt. Sometimes she sung, too. Old songs they used to listen to on radios as children. Most of the lyrics had been lost to time, but she filled in the gaps with her imagination.

Favien had buried his own father without a single tear. The few healthy enough to attend the funeral attempted to imitate his stoic posture, but seeing their savior with closed eyes and hands folded on his heart proved too painful. Favien had stopped crying too long ago to remember how it happened. With each new death he witnessed, the sadness eventually turned to fear. Fear that he had not tried enough, fear that his lack of experience had been a cause, fear that... No, his father always reminded him that the blame never lied in his hands. But who could reassure him then, with his mentor underground? Favien held the man's title and wore the man's clothes, but he was not his father.

He feared the inevitable. An irrational behavior he could not repress. Favien knew that the sleeping girl would slip from him eventually. He knew there was no cure. He knew the infection had spread too far. Her movements became increasingly restless once more, and Favien's breathing became heavier. He was not afraid of her death in itself, he feared the nothingness it would leave behind.