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Seth sucked on his tongue and choked on the blood flowing there.
“Yes, Father.” Seth reached for some aprons the maids laid out for him.
Joseph Van Gelder lifted his son’s face and inspected the blood dribbling out the corners of his mouth, focusing on it mixing with spit and tears. “Is it true what they say, that you have fits?”
“No, Father. It was a spectre that overpowered me.”
Seth rested on his knees. “There was a ghost in the hall — ”
His father pointed at the floor. “Clean.” He watched Seth scrub. “When?”
Seth didn’t raise his eyes. “I do not know, Father. It was there when you and Addie left.”
“I’m sorry, Father. I didn’t — ”
“What did it do? Did you see?”
“It did nothing. Nothing until I came here to bathe. It seemed prepared to go away until I noticed it flickering there.”
“Flickering? It wasn’t a steady light?”
“No, Father. It seemed ready to leave until I spoke.”
“What did you say?”
“I called out asking if anyone was making fool of me.”
“You spoke nothing from the Solas?”
“How could I, Father? [[I’ve not seen the book]] until this day.”
Father grunted the truth of it but the sound did not please Seth or calm his fears.
“What has happened, Father? What have I done?” What have you done to me?
“It would seem those who Speculate do more of the Operate. Jebulon hear me.”
Father’s attention focused back to Seth but his gaze didn’t give the boy pause. “Finish this. Clean yourself. Then bring yourself to me. We have reason to talk. ” He closed the door, leaving Seth alone in the bathing chamber.
Seth dropped the aprons beside the tub, shrugged out of his robe and slowly sat in the lukewarm waters, careful not to let any pass the lips of the tub and splash the floor. Today, less than an hour old, was not a day Seth hoped any day to be: his jaw ached where Father thrashed him, Addie and another housemaid mocked him, things came from him no one warned him of, and his privy ached with a pressure never felt before. For the first time in his life his body sickened him and he didn’t know why. It sickened him to the point he feared touching it, any part of it, his body a new and alien thing set to consume him if he gave it a hint he existed.
He felt this before, when the spectre approached; a sense of something about to consume him. Something he couldn’t stop. Something he couldn’t fight off. Much like Father when Seth misspoke during a meal.
But now… Now he loathed his own flesh and it frightened him so. He lowered his face into the still waters and cried.
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