Flare didn’t get the cure that night. Every time she steeled herself to get up and go to the door, the pain spiked. Every time she shifted herself to try and get to her feet, the pain rumbled. Every time that she tried to just go to sleep already, the pain doubled its volume. The pain demanded her attention over and over again, until finally she gave up and let it keep her from thinking.
She woke up some time later. While she had been trying her hardest to fall asleep, her exhaustion had made the choice to simply wait until she’d given up on sleeping at all, and only then to let it happen. Flare spared a quiet moment on the couch before her pain realized she was awake and cursed her exhaustion for not working faster. Then she stood, headed to the door, and left.
Hazel, thankfully, wasn’t around to stop her this time. Instead, Flare wandered out into the street, mind still drifting slightly inside her head. She felt unfocused after sleeping on that sofa, and after enduring the night’s pain.
Hazel turned the corner ahead of her, the doctor following close behind. Both of them were gossiping aimlessly about the festivities. The words didn’t manage to penetrate Flare’s head, but the people themselves did. Flare allowed herself a little groan as the doctor and Hazel approached her.
“What are you doing up so soon?” Hazel asked, “Let’s get you back inside, you don’t need to worry about a thing. I’ll make sure to get whatever it is you think you need.”
“Yes, from what Hazel’s told me you should be on total bed rest,” the doctor said.
Flare didn’t resist as they brought her back inside, only groaning slightly. Once more she was lain back down on the sofa.
“Now, I hope you don’t mind, but I’ll need to do some tests if I’m to properly diagnose you,” the doctor said.
Flare grimaced. “I know what’s wrong.”
“We’ve been over this,” the doctor sighed. Then they pulled up a chair and sat down. “Why don’t you tell me what you think is wrong, then?”
“Monster outside the village,” Flare forced out as the pain in her gut sprang up once more.
“And that’s why you’re so bruised?”
Flare tried to choke the pain down long enough to find the right words. Sadly it would be distinctly un-witchlike to tell the doctor to go lick the edge of town. Instead, she said, “In part,” hoping the doctor would get the hint that she wasn’t in any condition to talk about it.
“What part?” the doctor asked.
Flare glared at them. The doctor stared patiently. The pain scrambled her thoughts. She groaned and shifted how she was lying on the sofa.
After her pain failed to let up, Hazel said, “I’ll go fetch Harriet,” and left.
The doctor cleared their throat. “Well, if you aren’t going to clarify, I’ll just begin my tests. First, I’ll need some blood.” The doctor produced a needle.
Teeth clenched together, all Flare could do was vigorously shake her head.
“Don’t be nervous, this won’t hurt a bit.” The tips of the doctor’s fingers began to trace out the numb charm. Flare tried to move her arm out of the way, but everything she did felt like a monumental effort, and she found herself unable to do anything as the charm was gently applied.
She tried to bat the needle away. The doctor gently pushed her hand out of the way and inserted the needle. The pain was nothing compared to the cacophony in her stomach, but that wasn’t what concerned Flare. What concerned Flare was what was being drawn up into the needle.
The blood only poured in slowly at first, coating the inside of the needle as it burbled out. Then the blood stopped. The doctor drew back on the needle a little harder. A small spurt emerged. The doctor pulled back harder still, and this time something else came out through the needle, and Flare let out a gasp of pain.
A depthless worm, wriggling and writhing as it was forced out of her vein, splashed free into the syringe, and in shock the doctor pulled the needle out. Flare’s hand went straight to the puncture, covering it in case any of the others tried to escape. She could feel them in her arm, jockeying to try and get to the hole.
“Tapeshades,” Flare said.
The doctor stared dumbly at the monster inside their needle.
“That’s what’s out there,” Flare said.
The doctor shook the needle a little, watching the monster bounce around inside.
“Stop trying to give me medicine,” Flare said.
“Can you tell me about them?” the doctor finally asked.
Flare made a pained noise and gripped her arm harder. One of the little monsters was trying to fight their way out. She could feel it pushing up against her hand, trying to break her grip. It wasn’t strong, but it was disconcerting.
“Hm,” the doctor said.
It was that moment that Hazel returned, Harriet in tow. “What did you find?” Hazel asked.
The doctor held up the needle. Both Hazel and Harriet stared at its contents. Harriet looked over at Flare, still trying to hold her arm shut before anything else got out.
“Throw that to the ice,” Flare said. “Don’t let it out. Get me a bandage.”
“Do you need help? Are you okay?” asked Harriet.
“I need a bandage,” Flare hissed.
Harriet opened her mouth, looking like she was about to say something. Then the doctor said, “Oh, I’m sorry, I’ve got one here,” and Harriet closed her mouth.
The doctor leaned in with the bandage. Flare went to grab the bandage to apply herself, but the doctor shoved their way in without noticing. They applied it loosely. Flare could see the slight bump from the tapeshade trying to sneak out.
“Give it,” Flare said, and tightened the bandage. The doctor stood back.
Hazel said, “Well, doctor? What shall we do?”
The doctor looked at her, then back at Flare. “I have an idea. Let me go fetch some medicine.” They fled.
Flare didn’t watch them go. She was too busy enduring the next wave of pain as it hit her.