Pulling a Sick day…
With the sunrise Joe awoke in Nat’s bed, he felt a little self conscious about it. How had he got here? And more importantly where was Nat? He turned his head to the side, Natalie was sitting beside the bed with her head resting on the covers. She had stayed up late into the night worrying and caring for Joe and had finally fallen asleep out of sheer exhaustion. Joe felt as if he’d been hit by a truck...a very big articulated one too! With some effort he pulled a hand out from under the covers and felt his forehead, his temperature felt normal, no fever. He blinked, no trace of the blackness in his vision. He stared groggily around Nat’s bedroom, for a moment not recognising it. His movement stirred Natalie and she groggily lifted her head to look at him.
“Morning sweetheart sleep well?” He smiled hoarsely.
“Joe?” She said, “Oh my God are you alright?”
“I don’t know…What happened? It was all so dim and strange. How did I get here?” His voice felt croaky and his throat raw.
“I don’t know what happened, but you went to practise, you had done maybe fifteen minutes and then I heard you call for help. I came out and found you on the landing, face down and out cold!”
“I remember...” Joe reached a hand to his forehead, it was as if the memory hurt him. “Vaguely, I felt so strange. I did a chained lightning spell and then it was like I lost all strength.”
“You shouldn’t over do it…”
“I wanted to see if I could get to the sixth target, been trying so long, but five just knocked me sideways. I don’t think it was that though Nat it was like something gripped me…” Joe shuddered, as he pressed his hand to his stomach, “the grip was cold and felt like something really bad! I felt like my insides were twisting up and I heard…” Joe looked confused, he tried to recall the voice he’d heard.
“You heard what?”
“I don’t know...something, like nothing I’ve heard before. It wasn’t good Nat. I thought maybe I had overdone it, so I switched to a fireball, got a big one too! Then whatever it was gripped me again, much stronger, I think something’s wrong, very wrong!”
“You were delirious, you spat something onto the landing Joe. Your...your spit was black!...and thick like you’d drunk crude oil or something.”
“I had a taste in my mouth too Nat, like something had crawled in there and died! Yuck!” Joe turned his head and spat onto the carpet, “Oh sorry…I’ll clean that up later!” He collapsed back into her pillows with a deep groan, every muscle in his body ached. Thankfully though his spit had regained its colourless normality.
“Do you think a doctor will help?”
“The GP couldn’t do anything for me before what makes you think he can do anything now? I just need to rest…maybe I’ve been overdoing it after all.”
“Consider the possibilities Nat. One, this is some magic induced thing, how’s the GP going to cope with that? Two, it’s something from outside, he can’t stop it! Three…”
“Three it is something mundane like a dose of flu.”
“In which case why am I not feeling it now? I think it’s magical and therefore beyond the doctor’s aid.”
“Well your schedule has been rather full these past few days so you could probably do with a day off! I’ll call the family you’re supposed to go perform for this afternoon and say you’re indisposed.”
“Thanks Nat…efficient as ever!”
“You know Joseph…” Nat smiled as she kissed his cheek, “if you’d wanted to get into my bed that badly, there are better ways to go about it.”
“Ha ha, very funny, how about if you get a little time you come join me, it’s nice and warm here now,” Joe patted the covers beside him with a playful smile, then he groaned and lay back, “Oh-h-h-h!”
“I think I’ll call the doctor all the same, if it is a normal mundane thing maybe he can help.”
Over the remainder of the morning Joe rested, at times he would sleep, his sleep was troubled and fitful. He kept hearing that voice repeating the word “magus” over and over, so cold! At other times he would try to read, or make notes on his spells, he diligently recorded his spell use with success and failures noted and what he’d done to achieve each. Mostly though he just tried to relax his mind, each time he did he recalled that malevolent voice calling him.
At midday Nat came in with a tray with two bowls of steaming hot soup and crusty bread on it.
“Lunch is served if you feel up to it. Thought I’d join you too if you don’t mind.”
“I think I can manage it, if I take it slow. Maybe I can even manage you too.” Joe sat up with a groan and accepted the tray onto his lap.
“Well it’s not a race Joe. My mum always swore by Chicken soup as the great cure all.”
“Yeah? Funny so did mine. Got a cold, Chicken Soup, got the flu, Chicken Soup, measles or any of a hundred other ailments, Chicken soup. I wondered if she’d use Chicken soup if I amputated a thumb or finger.”
Natalie laughed softly, “That’s more you Joe. Soup is more easily digested when you’re sick. How are you feeling now?”
“Better, thank you nurse. I really don’t know what came over me. Is Draco around?”
“He’s in the front room far as I know, he likes sleeping by the fire. He was here most of the night with me trying to find out what was wrong with you.”
“Ah OK.” Joe drew back the covers as if to get up.
“Where exactly do you think you’re going mister? You’re not well!” Nat pressed him back into bed, “If you think I’m letting you get up after the scare you gave me, you don’t know me Joseph Winstanton…I’ll go bring Draco in here. You…just lie back and drink your soup like a good patient. I want you to take it easy. I called the family, they were upset of course but when I said you weren’t well they understood.”
“Call them back when you get a moment and say I’ll do a show for them when I’m more up to it…no charge!”
“Sure, I think they were more upset for their son, it is his birthday today.”
“Yeah well can’t be helped, I’ll add something extra as way of an apology…maybe at the weekend if they’re prepared to wait.”
“That’s assuming you’re feeling better by then.”
“I think it was just a passing thing Nat. Like I said it was like something gripped me…something with fingers like ice!” Joe shuddered and slid a little more down in the bed.
“Careful with the soup! Can you describe it better now you’ve had time to think about it more?”
“I don’t really know, I’ve never felt anything like it before. Mind you listen to me, I’ve only been doing this magic game for a few months so it’s all new isn’t it? But I had this sickly foul taste in my mouth, my guts felt all tight and bunched up and my head swam.”
“You said you heard something too?”
“Yeah it scared the hell out of me…you said I was delirious so I may have imagined it.”
“Care to tell me?”
“I’m trying to put it together myself right now, but I’ve got a creepy fear it might be related to something Draco told me about the day he arrived. That’s why I need to talk to him.”
“Creepy fear? That means it’s something bad doesn’t it?”
“I don’t want to scare you! So I don’t want to make any molehills look like mountains at least not until I can talk to Draco, it could be just my imagination.”
“I’m supposed to be your girlfriend now Joe, you shouldn’t keep secrets.”
“I’m not trying to…I just want a clearer idea what it might be before I go scaring you and it turns out to be nothing. Plus being my girlfriend I want to keep you safe.”
Natalie eyed him warily, “Fine keep your secrets then. I’ll get Draco…after all it was me that saved you, not him! And you...you have your soup, try not to spill it.”
“Nat please, I’d tell you if I knew.”
“Well when you talk to Draco do you want me to stay or are you going to keep it a secret just between the two of you? Leave the little woman in the dark? You scared me half to death Joe.”
“Don’t be like that, I said I’m just not trying to make any…”
“I know molehills into mountains. If it’s dangerous Joe then I think I should know, at least then we can face it together.”
Joe sighed and hung his head, he nodded briefly, “Yeah alright, stay, but don’t go jumping to any conclusions…like I said it could have been the delirium.”
Natalie left the room and returned a few moments later with Draco in his dog form trotting beside her at heel.
“Draco I think we need to talk.”
“Sit on the bed Nat and snuggle up to me a bit huh? Bit chilly and I could do with a hot babe to warm me up. Draco can have the chair.”
Nat smiled warmly and climbed up onto the bed beside Joe, they were side by side separated by the covers. Joe thought for a while, he was silent as if trying to put into words what he felt.
“Draco…” he started quietly, “do you remember the talk we had the first day you turned up?”
“Of course magus, I remember everything.”
“Do you remember telling me about a creature? A demon that the old Great Magus faced and fought?”
Joe drew in a breath and held it releasing it slowly, “I think it’s waking up...” He said ominously.