Even as noon of the next day passed, Izam was still alive. When Hossal entered the hospital room with Mana in tow, Rimiel was checking Izam’s pulse from his perch next to his bed. The light of early afternoon illuminated Rimiel’s profile with a white glow. Despite not having the opportunity to sleep the last night and day in addition to the long journey he had just completed, no fatigue was visible on his face.
He’s passed the age of sixty, and yet Grandfather remains the picture of health.
To Hossal, this man who had introduced him to the world of medicine and taught him so much in place of his late father was indescribably dear. However, whenever his grandfather stared directly at him, Hossal felt his chest tighten faintly out of nervousness.
Even though Hossal was standing right next to him, Rimiel didn’t look up until he had finished taking the pulse. Eventually he placed the boy’s arm back on the blanket, lifted his face, and stared at Hossal.
“His blood pressure has fallen slightly and his pulse is slow as well, but his condition is stable.”
Hossal nodded, “Thank you. I will take over from here, so please get some rest.”
Rimiel got up, and grunted a short confirmation with his back turned to Hossal. “I shall take you up on that offer. But, please wake me at once should there be any changes in his condition. No need to be overly considerate with me.”
With Rimiel’s exit, silence reigned in the room. Izam’s mouth hung open slightly as he slept.
Looking down at his pale forehead, Hossal muttered under his breath, I really wonder what’s going right now on the other side of his forehead. There’s just pale smooth skin under which is a little fat, bones, and the brain. What movements are taking place inside that brain? Do people think about something? Do they feel pain? Does it cause the body to tremble?
Every time his grandfather had explained the structure of the human body to him in his childhood, Hossal had seen an illusion in his head of a human body with transparent skin so that one might see the parts within as they worked. Even now that he was an adult, he sometimes still saw it.
A body that continues to struggle to survive, even when the actual person is unconscious. A structure that keeps single-mindedly moving even during sleep, like a life-form separate from the thinking and feeling ego… Unbeknownst to this boy, his body is desperately working to keep him alive. What’s a body? What’s an existence? Each time I see someone’s body, I cannot help wondering about that.
Hossal gently fixed the slightly disheveled blanket, sighing. Then he looked back to Makokan who was standing in a corner of the room.
“Could you bring some tea?”
“Please prepare some for Mana as well.”
As Makokan nodded, Mana waved his hand in a hurry, “No, that’s not…”
“Don’t mind it. It’s no additional work either way.” Makokan placed his hand on the door with a laugh, but someone hesitatingly knocked on the door from the other side before he could open it.
Opening the door, Makokan found Mazai standing in the corridor. His eyes were bloodshot and glazed over, making him look feverish.
Makokan reflexively exclaimed, even as Mazai anxiously peered into the room.
“…How is Izam doing?”
Hossal stood up, and answered, “Please come inside.”
Mazai complied, walking up to the bed to look at his son.
“We’re keeping him asleep with medication, but his condition is stable.”
Hearing Hossal’s report, the tension left Mazai’s stiff face, softening it in relief.
Apparently unable to say anything else, Mazai placed a hand on the head of the bed, gazing down at his son’s face. His face in profile seemed rather red.
“It looks like you’re running a fever.”
Mazai turned in Hossal’s direction, nodding, “My throat began to hurt a little while ago as well.”
He lowered his eyes to a syringe laying on the medical side table by the bed, and then looked back at Hossal.
“I asked Doctor Miral to give me the new medicine as well, but…”
“You were told that it wasn’t possible, right?”
“Yes,” Mazai breathed heavily with his shoulders heaving and moistened his dry lips with his tongue, “Why?”
Hossal had him sit down on a chair, and answered as he took his pulse, “It’s possible that your body will overreact to it.”
“Indeed. You might find it hard to breathe, and in the worst case, it could even endanger your life.”
Mazai furrowed his eyebrows, “But, you’ve administered it to Izam, haven’t you?”
“Yes. We injected it because Izam’s body was clearly losing against the illness.”
Mazai was silent for a while, but eventually he managed to speak his mind, “I’m currently running a fever, and my body feels sluggish. Doesn’t this mean that my body is beginning to lose against the disease germs?”
Hossal didn’t answer at once, only staring at Mazai for a while.
Releasing a hot breath, Mazai asked, “Umm, does the overreaction always happen?”
“No, not always.”
“Do you definitely die, if it happens?”
“There is a risk, but it’s also possible that you will be spared. However, there are various other ways it may negatively affect the human body besides causing an overreaction, so…”
“But, it’s not like you will definitely die from it, right? Isn’t the probability of dying from the Black Wolf Fever higher?”
Hossal remained silent, but Mazai pressed on with a hoarse voice and imploring eyes fixed on Hossal.
“Please administer it to me. I’ve been bitten by a dog carrying the Black Wolf Fever, and it’s already taking its toll on my body. Even if you don’t use the medicine, the probability of me dying is high, correct? …I can’t afford to die yet. I mustn’t leave my wife and children all alone. Even if it’s just by a bit, I need to maximise my odds of survival.”
Pursing his lips, Hossal thought it over seriously. He stayed like this for a long time, but eventually he sighed deeply, and looked towards Makokan.
“Please tell Miral to prepare the allergen treatment and make her way here.”
Before long, Miral arrived and made the necessary preparations after Hossal explained the situation to her.
While Mana lined up the medical tools exactly as told since it was an unfamiliar procedure to him, Hossal went over the risks and potential problems.
“Please tell us at once if you feel like the blood has decreased in amount, or you feel as if something is in your throat and preventing you from breathing easily. If you do have an overreaction, it usually occurs within five to ten mul (minutes) after it is administered, but since it can also happen within a few min (seconds) in quick cases, please inform us immediately should you feel unwell.”
Mazai looked worriedly at Hossal.
“My throat hurts right now, is it going to be different from what I’m already feeling?”
“Yes. Please tell us if you feel like you are suffocating.”
Mazai nodded. Hossal deftly injected the contents of the syringe into Mazai’s arm.
“Please press this wadding down on the place where I pricked you. How do you feel right now?”
Mazai swallowed, “…It doesn’t seem like anything in particular has changed. My throat still hurts, though.”
After some time, he began to feel drowsy. On Hossal’s orders, Makokan had carried a single bed into the room with Mana so that Mazai could stay with his son. Mazai closed his eyes in obvious relief after lying on the bed. His body had likely felt very heavy and his skin had become much redder from the fever.
Miral made sure that Mazai and Izam weren’t dehydrated, and that either Hossal, Miral, or one of their pupils was always present in their room, but even after several hours, Mazai didn’t react poorly.
That evening, Yotal’s son Orim, and his mother Slumina presented with symptoms of fever.