Michael was walking, and yet not walking, through Thousand Candles. He drifted along, his sight blurring, his arms burning.
In time he understood he was looking for something. He couldn’t say what it was, but he was of two minds about it. One train of thought had him longing, for something or someone, and the other had him hunting it, like a wolf to a doe.
Perhaps it wasn’t even a single thing. Perhaps he searched for two things, or nothing at all.
No, definitely something. Otherwise, why was he wandering the halls in the middle of the night? Or, it must be the middle of the night, because no one else was about. His arms and face burned, and he longed to lay down.
“I’m not sure, Albert,” a disembodied voice said.
Albert. Hadn’t he just been talking to Albert?
No, I’m searching. He continued around and around the manor, but it was oddly empty. No, not oddly, he told himself, it’s nighttime. Everyone is sleeping.
“Michael,” a voice called.
Ah, that must be who I’m looking for, he thought. That’s…well, that must be the person I’m looking for, he decided, shaking his head.
“Michael, come on, pal,” the voice continued.
The burning in his arms, face, and chest intensified, and he found himself starting to have a tremendous headache as well. The voice called his name a few more times and it was painfully loud, as if the person in question were shouting from within his own head. He stopped his progress toward the sound and grabbed his head, not wanting to go closer to the unbearable noise.
“Stop, stop,” he begged the voice. But it continued, and his pain deepened.
If only I could find…but the thought trailed off, and he did not know the answer. The fire in his flesh and the throbbing pain in his head were bringing tears to his eyes. They streamed freely down his cheeks. He ran down the corridor, but his legs did not move. He was floating, but now at great speeds.
“Michael. Michael. We just need you for a moment, just to take a little medicine, then you can sleep. Come on, wake up, just a little.”
Michael’s eyes fluttered open, and he found himself looking into the kindly face of Doctor Hardale.
“There, there, that’s a good lad. I know it hurts,” Hardale said quietly. “Just a little of this, don’t want you to choke.” He pressed a pill to Michael’s lips, and Michael obediently took it into his mouth. It was followed by a cool glass of water. He swallowed, then shut his eyes.
“Michael,” the doctor continued, “it would help if I could look at your eyes for a few moments. Can you look at me?”
Michael forced his eyes open with difficulty and looked at the doctor.
“Thank you. I know it’s hard.” The doctor looked him over. “Alright, lad. One more medicine, and then it’s back to dreamland. Here you are.” He held a spoon of syrup to Michael’s lips and tipped it down for him.
“You’ll be back asleep soon. Just relax. Let the medicine do its work.”
Michael was profoundly grateful when the doctor stopped talking. Even his soft and kindly bedside voice hammered nails through his skull. Still, he had to ask.
“What…happened?” he groaned out, his eyes still shut.
“A fit,” Hardale answered. “You’re going to be fine, Michael. Rest now. Questions later.”
Michael found that he didn’t have much choice in the matter. He slept.