The room was silent. A man stood from his stool beside a bed, walked into the next room, and lightly closed the door. His body leaned against the door, head making a slight thud.
After many minutes, he stood, stroking back a lock of greying brown hair. He picked up his overcoat from the chair and walked outside. It was a beautiful day , but no one was outside. No one. The usual dust in the air was missing, no people or horses to kick it up. The man walked down the road. His hands crossed over his midsection and his shoulders were hunched up. He walked with a slight limp, an old injury from his past as a farmer.
A rat ran across the street. His arms unfolded and he took a few steps backwards. The rat, covered in black fur except for its paws and tail, stood up on its back feet, nose twitching as it sniffed the air. Unsatisfied with what it smelled, it lowered back down onto all fours and scampered off down an alleyway. Once the rat was fully out of sight, the man continued on his walk, crossing his arms over his midsection.
After a few minutes, he opened the door to an apothecary. Inside stood a man with a long white bird mask and dark clothes. Through the mask it was hard to see his eyes, but you could imagine a worried look on the doctor's face.
"Wil," the doctor said, "your wife has gotten worse?"
All Wil could do was slowly nod. The doctor moved to his shelves filled with bottles and bags and scanned them, letting out a long "Hmm…" as he moved down the line. As he searched, Wil stood, placing his weight on his good leg. He moved to scratch his upper arm but stopped himself, holding his hands in tight fists down by his sides. He scanned the room to distract himself. A musty smell filled the room, probably from the dried carcasses of who-knows-what on the wall. The bottles which lined the packed shelves were filled with various liquids, powders, leaves, and insects. The doctor moved into a back room and Wil caught a glimpse of some dead things floating in jars.
The doctor finally returned with a jar filled with black bugs, and Wil instantly released his fists and tried to appear more relaxed.
"These are leeches. Place a few on her arms. They will come off when they are full on their own."
Wil nodded, taking out a small metallic coin and placing it in the free hand of the doctor, and grabbing the jar from his other.
"T-thank you," Wil stuttered.
"Anytime, just let me know if she continues to worsen."
"I will," he said and left the store, clutching the jar tightly as his arm began to itch again. He clenched his teeth together tightly. Across the street he saw a carriage go by. It was covered in a heavy cloth but Wil saw a limp hand hanging out the back. He hurried home.
Wil closed the door behind him and quickly set the jar down on the table, grabbing hold of the back of a chair. His head felt light and his breathing was heavy. His vision blacked out and when it returned, he was sitting in the chair. The chair creaked as he leaned his head back and rubbed his eyes.
Wil bolted upright, nearly falling out of the chair. Across from him was a very strange doctor. He dressed in the typical white bird-shaped mask, but with gold embellishments. Instead of the long black cloak, he wore a patchwork black jacket and red vest with a white cravat. He also oddly sported a top hat and cane.
"W-who are you and what are you doing in my house?" Wil yelled.
"Now now my good sir," the doctor said in a calm tone. "I am here to help you. My name is Mr. Raven." The doctor tipped his hat slightly.
"I don't need help—"
"Oh? Then who are the leeches for?"
Wil held his breath as his arm began to itch again. He glared over at Mr. Raven. He couldn't see Mr. Raven's face behind the mask, but something told him he was smiling. His black jacket shifted to a greenish-blue color for a second as he leaned forward.
"Come now, Wilfred," Mr. Raven said with a tilt of his head.
"Tisk tisk, lying again?"
Wil could feel his throat tighten. He couldn't let others know he had the sickness… they would have confined him. He wouldn't be able to do anything. He'd have been useless. By saying that his wife, Edith, was still alive, he could help himself without letting others know. He had avoided saying she was dead for the a past five days and now that feeling of loss was sweeping over him. He felt sick to his stomach and his body was shaking. He could smell the rot coming from the bedroom. He began to sob.
Mr. Raven placed his white gloved hand on Wil's shoulder. "Now my dear Wilfred. Don't fret. I can help you." Wil's sobbing slowed.
"Here's what I can do," Mr. Raven said. "I can heal you, and you might even be able to see Edith again. Maybe she'd make you that shepherd's pie you loved so much."
Wil looked up at Mr. Raven with puffy red eyes and a confused look. "How?"
"Oh don't worry, it's easy enough and you don't need to do a thing. All I need is for you to come with me."
Wil glanced over at the bedroom door, where his wife was in the long sleep. He looked up at the dark eyes of Mr. Raven's mask and gave a slow nod. Mr. Raven set his hat down on the table.
"Good man, now follow me." Mr. Raven helped Wil out of his chair and led him to a wall of the room. There was a door that Wil had never seen before. It was large, reaching all the way to the ceiling, and had carvings of… heaven? The dark wood showed clouds, doves, and a bright sun. It shimmered gold as the light hit it in certain ways. Mr. Raven made a sweeping motion with his hand, loosening a black feather from inside his sleeve, telling Wil to open the door.
The door creaked open as Wil pulled against the heavy door with his weak arms. He looked inside.
All there was was darkness. Wil took a step backwards but then lurched forward with a shove from Mr. Raven. Wil disappeared into the black. Mr. Raven then closed the door, spun around on his heals, and walked back to the table with a slight skip in his step, a few more feathers falling to the ground behind him.
Wil's lifeless body sat in the chair, limp. Mr. Raven reached into his pocket and pulled out a deep red rose. He set the rose lightly on the table and picked up his hat. The doctor continued his skipping walk and went outside onto the street, but not before tipping his hat towards Wil and his wife.
Mr. Raven looked at his pocket watch, and headed towards the next plague-ridden house to collect another soul or two