Author's Note: Thanks for reading this. The next chapter will probably be either Robert or Simon, depending on my mood. Then again, there is a chance we'll get back to Helen soon, or start talking to Joseph.
Robert's Journal III
15th October, seven o'clock in the morning
When I was woken by the maid five minutes ago John was still in the same position I found him in: stock still, wide eyed and open-mouth. When I attempted to take his pulse he was cold to the touch, and his heartbeat was slightly raised.
While he is unable to talk, perhaps it may be a good idea to make a note or two on the boy's current appearance. Like Joseph, the boy is dark-haired with a strong jaw, but very, very pale. They do not seem to be focusing on anything specific, but instead darted about in a distressed fashion. The hands are surprisingly small, and the protuberant bone on the right hand suggests that this hand is dominant. I cannot judge his height well as he is lying down, but he is severely underweight. (Hollow cheeks; slight shaking; skin stretched tightly over bones; limp, dull hair.) Joseph tells me he refuses to eat most days, complaining of nausea. There are shadows under his eyes- he has not been sleeping much, either.
(Thank God Helen is not here to see him, or she would weep.)
He is starting to shift onto his side- I think he might be able to talk now.
Ten o'clock. (Attached to the entry: two ink drawings; one of two nails and the other of an oval with two ink splodges in the upper half. Neither one is very detailed.)
Once I'd introduced myself to John as his father's friend and a doctor, he sat up and did his best to talk to me. I had to lean forward a little to hear him, which could indicate a throat complaint and thus another symptom; then again, Joseph did say that his younger son had always been quiet having had colic in infancy.
This is my consultation, recounted to the best of my ability. I began by asking if he was feeling better after the night before. In reply I received a nod.
"Your father tells me that these terrors are becoming more frequent. Perhaps you could describe them to me?" (This was more my own curiosity than a question of any medical worth.)
At this he lowered his head as though ashamed and replied, "Forgive me, Sir, but I don't remember. That sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? I do my best to cling to pieces, but once I open my eyes I forget what I saw. Then again..." Silently he reached out and picked up a crumpled ball of paper from the top of a pile of open books. Without a word he handed me the ball which, when I smoothed out the pages, held two sketches.
My Miriam had the most wonderful eye for art. Now and again I find unfinished sketches tucked away between long-shut books, and I can never understand how she had the patience to add such detail; a slender slipper peeking out from the hem of a dress, the gilded veins on a dragonfly's wings. Looking at her better pieces, it would be easy to believe they were photographs rather than mere drawings.
However John's pictures were unlike any Miriam ever showed me, though the first was nothing too unusual: a simple drawing of a nail with black droplets dripping from the tip. (Not a particularly skillful drawing, but certainly nothing to worry about.) What caught my attention was the second page, showing what appears to be a human face. Yet the face pulled my eyes to it, peculiarly, because this face had no eyes of its own. The two sockets were instead a scribbled black, and leaking it at the inner corner as though from the tear duct. When I asked John if I could keep these drawings, he agreed that I could and asked if I had any more questions.
At this, I asked him about the lesion.
"Is this causing you any pain?"
"A little, but not much."
"Have you got any others like it anywhere else on your body?"
"Thank you. Have you had any similar marks before that have vanished?"
"Have you experienced any aching or pain while awake."
"Some. Around this..." He traced a circle around the lesion with his right forefinger. "There's a sort of burning."
"And is there any stiffness in the muscles of your hand?"
"Apart from those... Sorry, I don't know what the medical term is for them... There's only stiffness there when the rest of me can't move either."
"I understand," I assured him.
"You're welcome. May I ask something, Sir?" he ventured, lifting his head slightly. The dread creasing his brow made him look closer to thirty than twenty. "And if I can ask you," he asked. "Will you answer me honestly?" he asked, his expression pitiful.
"I will do my best, young man. And Robert is fine."
"All right, Robert." He glanced at the ceiling for a moment, perhaps praying, and then returned his gaze to me. "Do you think I am going mad?" he asked, finally. As he said it he squeezed his left wrist with the right palm. Looking at him, I wondered if a simple death might have been more merciful than whatever this was.
"No, John," was my answer. "I would not say so from this conversation."
Sighing with relief, he fell back into his cushions like a corpse happy to die.
"Thank you. And as a doctor, do you think I will die from this?"
"I cannot say, I'm afraid. I don't know what your condition is." Hoping to help, I attempted to comfort him. "You are young, though, and in good hands, so I think things will get better."
I didn't fool myself and I certainly don't think I fooled John, but he thanked me anyway for my opinion, commenting that "I had to ask, Doctor. I'm sorry, but no one will tell me anything."
"It's quite all right," I replied and made my goodbyes, glad to have relieved his fears of madness at least even if I had made little other progress. I wonder if perhaps these drawings might be therapeutic for the young man. Then again, could they possibly make him worse?