Touch of Fever
I walk through a crowd of people. Not one of them see me. Not one of them ever do. Not one of them ever will.
But I can see them. I can see every single living person in this kingdom. They cannot hide from me.
I single out a boy of about eight. He is licking something off his fingers. His blonde hair shines in the light and his blue eyes sparkle like jewels. He is obviously just a peasant, but when he grows up he will be more handsome than countless princes.
I reach out and touch him with my right index finger on the forehead. He cannot feel my touch. Not yet.
My finger drops down to my side.
I hate who I am sometimes. I hate what I do. I hate my very existence.
The boy will not feel well tomorrow. His parents will not have enough money to pay a doctor to see him. But the boy is strong; he will survive the sickness that is now running through his body.
I walk away from the young boy. He doesn't even know I was ever there.
I continue to walk through the marketplace. The next person I choose is an elderly woman sitting in the shade next to a stall. She has lived a long, happy life. I do not think she will live much longer after my visit. But before I touch the woman, I follow her gaze to a middle-aged man and a young girl running the stall. The man shares many of the same physical traits of the woman, and the girl also has a fair share of the man's looks. They are a family.
I finally touch the elderly woman. She closes her eyes, making me think for a split second that she felt me. But she didn't. She is just sleeping.
I take a step away from the woman. I do not think she will be in pain when she passes. I take another step back. I am taking a life for not the first time, and surely not the last time.
I am hating myself again. I decide as I walk away that I shall not visit that family again for a long time. A long time from their point of view, at least. Not necessarily from mine.
I walk through the crowd, only touching a few people as I get closer to where the nobles stay. On my way I see a stand selling beautiful mirrors. I stop for a moment to look at them. Big and small, complex and simple, expensive and cheap mirrors are all being sold. Without touching any of them, I look into the mirrors. They do not show my reflection. They never do.
I am just about to turn around when one of the mirrors catches my eye. It is small and square with rounded edges. I take a closer look at it.
Looking at me from the mirror is a young woman of maybe eighteen. She has fairly pale skin and thick brown hair that falls down in waves. Her eyes are such a dark brown that they are close to black. She is beautiful, but there is sadness in her eyes. I smile at her, and she smiles at me the same time. And then I realize that the girl in the mirror is me. Never before have I seen my reflection. I reach out for the mirror and gently lift it. I normally never take anything, but this mirror seems special. I slip it in a pocket of my dress and continue on walking.
I reach my next destination: a large house belonging to a wealthy man and his family. The man never did anything to earn his money. No, he had inherited it when his parents died after I visited them years ago. Now I am visiting him, giving him a taste of what his parents suffered before their deaths.
I walk right through the doors of the house. He is in his study, reading a book. The man has brown hair and brown eyes. He isn't handsome, but he isn't necessarily ugly either. His face is a fairly forgettable one. I will not forget it, though. He had been in the room with me when I touched his parents.
Once upon a time, he had been a kind young man. His parents' deaths made him cold and hard. I sometimes wonder how he would have turned our if I had never visited.
Oh well. The damage had already been done. I touch the man and walk out of the house, heading towards the palace. I touch a few others on my way.
My last victim before I entered the palace is a girl. She has long red hair and green eyes. The daughter of a high-ranking nobleman, she has been engaged for months to another noble.
She is wearing a long, beautiful wedding dress and there is a short plump woman standing next to her. The girl I am here for is likely getting her dress altered for the final time before the wedding. Yet despite how beautiful she looks in her dress, the bride is frowning. On closer inspection, I see that her eyes are red from crying.
I know why she is not happy, just as I know everything else. She is not in love with her fiancé. No, her heart belongs to another man, one her parents do not approve of. She will never learn to love the man she is about to marry. He is just as cold as the rich man I had touched before.
Besides the girl and the plump woman, there is another person in the room. The mother of the bride she must be. Yet she does not feel sorry for her daughter. In fact, she is pleased with the match and the money that will come with the marriage, seeing as the father had just gambled away the last of their money. I am tempted to reach out an touch her instead, but my plan would be ruined if I lost control.
I turn back to the girl. The man that is about to become her husband is already cheating on her. She knows that. The man she is in love with is waiting for her, rich or poor. She also knows that. I am about to touch her and make everything okay. She does not know that.
A pin pokes her in the side. The girl yelps and the mother tells her to be quiet. I choose that moment to lift my hand and touch her forehead, just as I did to countless others. I keep my hand there for a moment before moving away.
The girl is going to get very sick, which I silently apologize for. The fiancé will grow upset that the wedding will be delayed, yet he will not visit her. He will quickly call off the wedding emotionlessly, thinking she will die.
Yet she will not. The man she loves will try to visit her every day, but the parents will keep turning him away until the wedding is called off. The parents, giving up hope of their daughter's survival, will let the man in. And every day the two lovers see each other, the girl will get stronger to the point of full recovery. He will propose, she will accept. The parents will approve, finally seeing how their daughter loves the man. It will also help when they learn that he is, in fact, quite wealthy.
I know all of that and more. But the bride does not, and tears are slipping down her cheek.
I slip out of the room without turning back and walk towards the palace, not stopping to touch anyone else.
I then see who it is that I must now touch: the king. He is middle-aged and his hair, which had once been golden, is now mostly gray and cut short. His skin has wrinkles that I do not remember him having, but his eyes are the same hazel.
The king is sitting in one of the smaller of his libraries, flipping through official documents. Everything is so calm that I almost feel bad for what I am about to do. Almost.
A long time ago, I had walked through the castle while walking towards the last king. I had touched him, but he did not die because of the sickness. I was about to leave when I saw the prince, the present king. He was handsome and stopped me in my tracks. He could not see me or hear me and did not know of what I had done to his father, but there was just something about him that was special. I ran out of the room, but found myself visiting the castle more often afterwords.
The prince eventually became the king. It was on the day of his coronation that I decided that I was in love with him. I did not leave his side for weeks, and not touching anyone was hard, but I thought he was worth it. And the people of the kingdom loved it that no one had gotten sick after he became king. But eventually he took a wife. She was beautiful, but had the intelligence of a beetle. I was hurt. Then again, it was not like he could have asked a person he did not know was there to be his wife. I simply left the palace the day of their wedding, touching a handful of people the moment I stepped out of the castle walls.
I have not seen him since. Until now. Oh how things have changed!
I slip my hand into my pocket and grab the mirror. I take it out and set it down next to the king. I wonder if he will see me in the reflection.
It takes a moment before he eventually spots the mirror. He slowly reaches for it and holds it out. I step behind the king. He is looking in the mirror, but I am out of the view. I move closer, but do not touch him.
The king then almost drops the mirror out of surprise. His hands are shaky when he looks back into it. I bend down so my face is next to his in the reflection. I then try to smile a little.
The king glances away from the mirror, looking right at me. I am sure he doesn't see me though because his eyes didn't focus on me. It really is strange having people look right through you.
"Who are you?" he asked when he looked back into the mirror to see me again. "What are you? Why are you here?"
"So many questions, but I am not sure you want to hear the answers," I say, looking at his reflection.
"What was that? I cannot hear you," he said, looking confused and frightened. I shake my head.
Suddenly, the door to the library opened. In walks the prince, a near clone of his father, yet even more handsome (if that is really possible). The prince looks to be twenty at most, young and strong.
I straighten and watch him, but the king still looks in the mirror, moving it so he can see me. "Are you trapped in this mirror?" the king asks. I shake my head, but the prince looks very confused.
"No, I am not, Father. Are you feeling okay?"
"Can you see her, boy? She is standing right behind me!"
"See who?" the prince says, moving closer to me.
"Look in this mirror!" The king moves the mirror so his son can see me.
"Who is she?" the prince asks, his eyes suddenly wide like his father's.
"I do not know."
I just stand there while they talk for a moment. Eventually, I reach out and finally touch the king. He cries out even though I know he cannot feel me. He almost breaks the mirror, but the prince catches it as it falls.
"Why did you do that? Why are you here?" the prince quietly says to me.
I slowly say, "I am sorry." I hope he can read my lips.
"Sorry for what?" The boy knows nothing. I will let him keep the mirror. I think it is best if only he can see me.
I repeat myself. "I am sorry."
The king is touching his head where I touched him. He is very quiet. The prince tries to follow my gaze using the mirror.
"What did you do?" the prince whispers.
I shake my head. "I am sorry." I walk out of the room. In the doorway, I turn around to look at the two. I do not want them to hate me. I will not kill the king. Just as I did not kill the previous king. But I refuse to fall in love with this prince, as I had the last.
Too late. I somehow know that I shall end up falling in love with this prince. I will watch him grow older and fall in love with someone else. I will watch him have children and I will watch them grow.
At least this prince will be able to see me. I also know that he will keep the mirror. He will look into it every so often, looking for me in it. He may fear me or he may be just curious, but he will never love me like I will love him. He cannot love someone he cannot touch or hear and hardly ever see.
I shake my head and walk away. I choose not to touch anyone else that day.
I hate who I am sometimes. I hate what I do. I hate my very existence.
I am Sickness, Illness, and occasionally I am Death. My touch can take down the mightiest of men. I cause the plague, the common cold, and everything in-between. I can give you a touch of fever, just as my touch can give anyone a fever.
And there are many of times when I hate my very existence.