All of a sudden Phoibe feels all atwitter and unable to focus on her work at the haberdashery re-hanging clothes on the racks that had previously been in the dressing rooms. All she can think about is having failed Marcos.
Last night Dr. Floros visited the apartment. He briefly treated Marcos to ease his symptoms then in an adjoining room gave her and Kallias the devastating news that it would be a month or less before their son would die.
Tears start to form and roll down her cheeks, Phoibe hurries to wipe them before her co-worker notices but it is too late, the woman is already at her side, a hand on her shoulder and whispering an order in her ear, “Pull yourself together now Phoibe, there are customers here!”
“I cannot help it Margaret, my boy is dying!”
“Phoibe I sympathize… why did you not stay home today then?, and without waiting for an answer Margaret answers for Phoibe, the money that is why now stop crying!”
Out of the corner of her eye she sees Margaret is right she has to gain control of herself because a customer is giving her a harsh look before hurrying to the entrance to exit the haberdashery. The other customers, two men and three women, suddenly become overly focused on their study of clothing for sale. Only a third man deviates from them. He is in his mid to early forties with dark hair wearing a long wool coat over a two-piece gray suite, who walks over to her. At first Margaret is going to intervene but the man says softly, “It is not necessary, let me speak with your co-worker a moment in private, if I may.”
Margaret is temporarily at a loss for words and then says, “Of course, just go through the curtains ahead and turn to the right a break room is there.”
“Thank you,” says the man.
A few minutes later the two are sitting across each other on wooden chairs. Despite her red eyes and the flesh around them being puffed from crying, Phoibe has managed to gain some control of herself. “I am sorry Sir, I am sure you did not expect to…”
“Nonsense, it was clear you are in anguish over a child, is that right?”
“Yes… I am sorry you heard that. I did not realize my pronouncement had carried.”
“The impending death of a child whether the first or another in the family is just as painful.”
“You understand then having had it happen to you.”
“No, I have not lost a child myself. In fact I am not married and have no children. However, I have met many parents who have found themselves in the same place as yourself with a child dying. I have been able to help extend the lives of their child. Tell me about your child and what is killing him?”
“He is dying of consumption. Last night,The doctor who treats him, Dr. Floros, gave my husband and I the news that Marcos will not last beyond another month. My son is not the first child my husband and I have had who has died,” says Phoibe before explaining her family’s sad past. She finishes and says tearfully, “My son is my last child and I cannot bear to have no one left after my husband and I are gone. You see I tried to find an alternate means to save him but after a month of searching nearby neighborhoods I gave up, I should not have done so. But you say you can extend my child’s life? Please do not give me false hope,” Phoibe begs.
“There is a chance I can extend your son’s life. I have succeeded with some children in the past but not all.”
“How long has these children lived days, a week?
“It varies but I can tell you most live longer than expected.”
“How do you do this? With medicine?”
“I use no medicine instead… bear with me for a bit and let me show you what I mean. Please give me your hands.”
Phoibe hesitates doing as asked. What could him holding her hands possibly have to do with helping her son?
It now the middle of night and Phoibe watches Marcos sleeping, his breathing ragged. She is unable to rest as thoughts of what took place at the shop fill her mind not just with fear but doubt…that she is wrong to not make use of this dark magic.
In the first few seconds after he took her hands in his own, she was aware of her own person and then the next she was herself looking down from the ceiling of the break room sitting across from Mr. Bernard. Phoibe panics and starts to scream when a bright white light envelopes her, taking with it her fear. The only reason she can think of as why is, the light is Divine but just as quickly it came , it is gone. Soon Phoibe finds herself in a dark cave lit only with torches fit into stone holders built right into the water perspiring curved walls. On the floor she sees Mr. Bernard in a priests robe crouched down beside two girls who are naked except for cloth over their nether regions.
Both girls look like they are sisters. They are the same age either seven or eight years old with dark brown hair, blue eyes, matching high cheek bones, slender noses, cupid lips, and creamy white skin. They are also the same height but not weight. The girl on the left appears healthy where her sister on the right is under weight-the shape of her bones peaking from under her skin. Also she has blue hued lips, dark-colored heavy bags under her eyes, and her skin is perspiring skin all signs of severe ill-health.
Mr. Bernard dips his hands into a nearby ceramic bowl filled with oil then proceeds to coat the skin of each girl with it as he chants intelligibly. It is several minutes before each girl begins to glow At first Phoibe thinks it is the same Divine light until suddenly in increasing horror she watches as the healthy sister literally becomes a part of her sister.
The two girls facial features shift – no literally she thinks they fight for dominance over a single body. Phoibe wants to close her eyes but it is not possible. Her mouth opens and screams for Mr. Bernard to stop the unfolding events but she is not heard and they keep going. Finally the horror before her ends as the features of the now single girl have finished blending together and have settled. All Phoibe can think of is what she is witnessing is the work of the Devil and then slowly she realizes the longer she stares transfixed in her spot that the girl before her is healthy.
It was not long after this that Phoibe’s spirit returns to her own body and she becomes aware of the break room again. She shakes like a leaf in terror. Suddenly, Phoibe rises from the chair she sits on to run from Mr. Bernard but he still has a firm grip on her hands. She does not stand for it and begins to kick him in the skins to get him to let go of her hands but he fights her at the same time he tries to reason with her. Phoibe screams and just as Margaret comes hurrying into the break room, is she finally released. Phoibe pushes her away past Mr. Bernard and then Margaret who tries to grab her but she slaps her co-workers hands so she can keep running, running straight out of the haberdashery. Phoibe does not stop running until is safely in her apartment with the door bolt and chain in place.
Now hours later unable to sleep she is having second thoughts of all things about the dark magic Mr. Bernard showed her. Phoibe knows if she turns away from this Marcos will join his brothers and sisters in heaven. Can she after all she tried to do to keep her last child alive now reverse herself and let nature takes its course? Can she really?