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Caderyn yanked on the reins. His fevered mind barely registered the horse’s protested whinny. He threw his legs over the side and slid down. Wiping the sweat from his face with his coat sleeve, he staggered to the small wooden house.
“I need the doctor.” His hoarse cry bellowed through the night. He pounded on the door. “Doctor!”
Fist raised and ready to knock again, the door opened two inches. “Are you the doctor?” A wave of dizziness swept through him. Clutching the doorframe, splinters dug into his fingertips. He. Would. Not. Faint.
“Are you the doctor?” Caderyn asked again, peering through the opening and spied the shape of a portly, short man.
“Yes.” A thin, high voice replied.
“I need you to come with me. My wife. She’s sick. Smallpox.”
The doctor’s thoughts slammed into his head. Hurry . . . Quick . . . Shut door . . . breathe on you . . . touch you. “I can’t help you. The whole town is infected.”
“Please. She’s with child.”
The doctor hesitated . . . unborn . . . saved . . . taken from the womb . . . No . . . risky . . . blood . . . contamination . . . Not worth my life . . .
Caderyn placed his hands against the door and pushed. Sarah needed help. His unborn babe needed help. The door swung free.
The doctor stumbled back, eyes wide. His expression changed to horror the moment he saw the red spots gracing Caderyn’s left cheekbone.
Ah . . . infected . . . Get the . . . The barrel of a rifle poked into Caderyn’s chest.
“Leave. My. House.” The doctor enunciated each word with a jab of the gun.
“Please,” Caderyn begged, stumbling out the door. “There’s no one else. My wife—”
“I can’t help you.” The doctor jammed the gun into Caderyn’s chest one last time, forcing him further away, then slammed the door.
Caderyn lurched forward and pounded on the door. No. No. No. “You must help me. She’s with child.” A bout of coughing racked his body. He slapped his palm against the door. “I need help!”
Caderyn pushed from the door. His chest burned with every breath. It took three tries to get in the saddle. The doctor had said the whole town was infected. Where else could he go?
Wrapping his coat around his large frame, he hunched his shoulders. The chills were back. Spinning the horse, he kicked him into a gallop. He would care for Sarah himself.
Caderyn struggled to keep his eyes open against the rushing wind. He couldn’t recall the last time he’d slept. Between burying his daughters and taking care of Sarah, he hadn’t been able to rest when the sickness began to mark him. No matter, though. He was thirty-four and lived a long enough life. His unborn babe deserved a chance at living and he’d do everything possible to make sure it happened.
The wind whipped at his eyes making them tear. Raising the collar of his jacket, his fingers brushed over the marks on his face that rose that morning. Sally Mae had bumps all over her face and body before she died. Little Laura died two days after her fever begun. Sarah was just beginning to show the red spots.
Shivering violently, sweat beaded on his forehead. Burning up but unable to get warm. He had no energy to steer. It was too dark to see a horse’s length in front of him anyways. Laying his head down on the mane, he closed his eyes. This would offer a reprieve from the wind until his eyes adjusted. He’d lie here but for a moment.
Caderyn woke to the sensation of falling then the jolt of the hard, cold ground as he slammed into it, bounced once, then lay still. Breath sawed in and out of his lungs. His body and head ached. Rolling over, a groan pushed from his lips. Sitting or standing seemed an impossible task at the moment. Sarah. He gritted his teeth. Get up. Get up, damn, you. Bright light shone in his face and he covered his eyes with his hands. Did the moon break free of the clouds? Had it even been out? He stilled. Slowly dropped his hands, squinting at the sky. The light was so blinding he couldn’t see past it. Was this the sun?
Fear sliced through him. How long had he slept? The horse should have made it to the house by dawn. Had they turned somewhere? He tried to roll back over. Urgent, sloppy attempts to get onto all fours. Where was he? Sarah could be dying as he lay here. She could be—no—he had faith. The Creator would save her life. She carried one of His precious children.
Suddenly the bright light dimmed. Twisting his head to the sky, he searched for the proof it was still night. Please let it still be night.
He froze. Clouds didn’t cover the moon.
There was no moon. No sun.
It was a ghost. A glowing male body with long white hair stood next to him. Its face was indiscernible in the light.
Caderyn trembled with fear. His boot heels dug into the ground, forming grooves in the dirt as he tried to move and went nowhere. The ghost laid his hand upon Caderyn’s upper arm. Mouth falling open, Caderyn inhaled to scream.
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