A Dream of Flowers

Janet watched helplessly as her patient writhed in his delirium. Gilberto's fever was even higher than it had been last night, and she cursed herself for having succumbed to sleep a few hours ago. Then she cursed herself for thinking she could have done anything even if she'd been awake. She just didn't have the skill that her teacher had had, and the villagers knew it.

Gilberto had stumbled into the village two days ago, a great festering wound in his thigh. There had been some debate over whether to kill him or bring him to Janet for healing. That there had been any debate at all showed how little faith they had in her. Not that she could blame them--how much had she done for Jamil a month ago, when he had been taken with a sickness that Marion could have handled even without her sight?

The pot of water came to a boil, and she took it off the fire and put some leaves into it. They had not been any use yet, but it was better than nothing. But the action triggered something in her memory. A dream from her nap earlier.

She had been standing over Gilberto, as now, and Marion had been there. Marion had bent down to pick a flower that was growing on the floor. It wasn't one that Janet had seen before--frail purple and white flowers. Marion put the leaves and flowers into a pot of boiling water and applied it to Gilberto's wound. The dream ended there, but Janet had the clear impression that Gilberto's future was brighter than it was now.

But if she had never seen the flower before, why would she be able to find it now? She laughed bitterly at herself as she made a compress from the herbs she had already prepared. She was going to go off looking for a flower she had seen in a dream, in the hope that it would help her patient. Ridiculous.

But she was already running the dream over in her mind. If it was a message from Marion, or even some memory of her mentioning the plant, then it should be accurate in some fashion. The plant was growing in the floor. Ridiculous. Or was it growing under the floor?

Marion's house, that was now Janet's, was little more than a shack. It had a pit dug in the ground under it for storage, but no more than that for a basement. The shack was also a few inches off the ground--room for a plant to grow. But if it was a flower, how could it grow in the darkness under the house? It would have to live in a place where it could get its share of light, like near the edge of the house.

Dashing outside into the early dawn light, she made her way on her knees around the shack, looking for the purple and white flowers from her dream. Nothing. Nothing but grass.

She heard a cough across the street and turned to see Averil, out early as always. He was affecting not to notice her odd behaviour, instead concentrating on clipping the grass from around his house...which was a shack, like hers...

"Averil!" she called. His head came up in recognition. "Do you have any purple and white flowers under your house? It's important!"

Averil smiled uncertainly. "Good morning, Miss Janet. I don't know, but I will check." He peered around under the house, self-consciously aware that he must look as undignified as Janet had a few minutes ago. But his search, unlike hers, was rewarded. "I do indeed, Miss Janet," he said.

"Bring me one of them--leaves and flowers. Quickly! I think I can save Gilberto's life."

Averil nodded and plucked one of the plants, taking care not to disturb the other he saw. He carried it over to Janet, who dashed out to meet him in the middle of the street and kissed him on the cheek when she took the plant from his hand. "Thank you, Averil, you're a lifesaver. Literally, I hope." Then she dashed back inside, hoping her last pot of water was still warm enough to boil quickly.

Several hours later, Janet sat down in weary happiness. Gilberto's fever had broken, and the wound on his leg was looking better. She had cheated death again, it seemed.

Soon the soldier's eyes opened. "Who--where?" he asked feebly.

"Don't move," Janet said, bringing a cup of water to him. Her eyes met his, and she noticed disconcertingly that his were filled with a crazed sort of desire. He reached weakly for her, and she had to step back. She left the cup within reach and went to prepare another potion. Damn--Marion's ghost could at least have mentioned that the flower was also an aphrodisiac...

[Paul Echeverri have me the assignment Dream, Delirium, Death & Desire

without reference to Sandman or entelechies]

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The Den of Ubiquity/ Aaron V. Humphrey / alfvaen@gmail.com