To C. and P.-
The fact is that I am in pain all the time. Of course it makes me a brilliant necromancer, a resplendent Duchess, the pride of my house, et cetera.
The fact is that I do not want to be scintillating, et cetera. I want eight hours of sleep and the ability to keep down food. I want people to stop whispering outside my door as if knowledge of what my own body is doing will shatter me.
I know I’m dying. I’m fine with dying- a lot more than anyone around me, honestly, the way they shush me at the mere mention of my funeral.
You are the reason I’m all right with staying alive. It’s like how when the Seventh gets a good data signal I’ll take stimulants to stay alert because even if I could sleep it wouldn’t be better than talking to you. I want to stay here, in the world of the living, because you’re here too. I want to be where you are.
-Dulcinea S., D. of R.
Another sleepless night. Staying awake to consciously operate my lungs, because I feel they’ll stop if I get distracted.
Thinking about you is easier than remembering to breathe.
I’m glad you’ll have each other when I’m gone, although that might seem too controversially Fifth. My brain is so tired that I can hardly form words- my organs are burning- wish you were here. I’d still be suffering, and maybe you’d be fast asleep, curled up into each other, sprawled haphazardly with your glasses still on, Pal.
Honestly I hate any scene in a book or play where one character removes another’s glasses and claims to have made them more beautiful. That’s bullshit. Glasses are wonderful. Glasses are a delight.
An end to my suffering is too much to hope for, but I’d like to suffer near you. I want to be touched by someone who’s not palpitating my organs, for a purpose other than getting the knots out of my wasted muscles- someone who’s touching me because they want me, and not because they’re paid to keep me alive.
You know, I don’t think it’s going to be the cancer that kills me.
I think it’s going to be the wanting.
With fevered (ha) yearning,
Both of you keep writing such sweet things in your letters. Maddeningly sweet things. Things that keep me awake.
“Your cavalier doesn’t know what he has in you. I wish I could kill for you. I mean, he won’t.
Dulcie, you ought to be writing to people who appreciate your work- it’s not your fault that actual critical literary analysis is underhyped as fuck in the seventh, you’re one of the best thinkers in the arts I’ve ever read- I’m sending a link to an academic journal I found while helping Pal with some research. Turns out submissions are open soon.
Pink doesn’t wash you out, by the way. It looks good on you. Everything does.”
“I wish more than ever that our responsibilities to our respective Houses didn’t exist, that we would be free to love each other. That we could be free.
What if we ran to some planet at the edge of known space where no one had ever heard of necromancy? We could be ordinary people. We could just be.
I want to make tea for you, to hold you when you’ve lost the ability to thermoregulate and you’re shivering too hard to sleep. It would be an honor to stay with you for however much time you have left, and Cam says she would go with us wherever we ran.”
How is one supposed to reply to a letter like that? I can’t help but think that if you saw me in person, it would all fall apart.
I’m not beautiful. I can fake it for a photograph, prod my circulation into working and generate some cells to pad out my face. Most of the time? I’m dying, and I look like it. I look like a skeleton with skin on, and not even a well-constructed one. (Nil per os again- the lining of my esophagus is apparently in absolute tatters, my stomach muscles do nothing remotely useful no matter how much energy I prod them with. Caught Pro crying the other day when he thought I was asleep. Mortifying & trag! I suspect soon he will know that I know. We haven’t made eye contact since.)
In theory, I am beautiful; in actuality, I look like a badly-preserved corpse. Blue lips. Veins, status bulging, location everywhere. If I take more than a few steps at a time, all my hair spontaneously separates from its follicles, because apparently it’s too exhausting to concentrate on having eyelashes and quelling neuropathy at once.
Dearests, my heart, my blood- I can bear everyone else’s pity. I couldn’t bear yours.
Cam & Pal-
If I die before reaching Canaan House- which is a possibility, this much excitement isn’t great for my oxygen saturation, and this transport shuttle is rattling my bones horrifically- promise you won’t let Pro eulogize me. He’s written poetry about me and I can’t bear it. All his verses make me sound sweet and kind and saintly. Tender, even. Delicate! Maidenly!
Insert assorted pantomime retching here.
Tell the truth about me. That I didn’t care whether or not I was dying, but I wanted to tear every medic in the House apart for not giving me decent pain medication. That I threatened anyone who touched me with cold hands, used an exorbitant water allowance falling asleep in the bath, distracted myself with painting awful blobby watercolors, and was at best a middling necromancer with an above-average imagination.
Tell everyone that I loved you both so selfishly it burned away my fear of death.
(Pro's yelling for me- something trying to dock w/ the shuttle? I'll set this to delete as soon as I stop typing.)
If I make it to Canaan, and we don’t become Lyctors, I have a plan. I’m going to put Pro into a coma- Camilla, I can sense you judging me, a small coma. He’ll be fine. And while he’s unconscious, you two can steal me away. Possibly we also fake my death. The Sixth, the Ninth, beyond Dominicus; entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee, for whither thou goest I shall go. The fact is that I cannot fathom a purer expression of love than reverse engineering the nasal cannula, and there is nothing that could scare me more than the idea of outliving you.