Quest For A Cure: Part 3
TW: Death, Alzheimer's
I sat atop a tall chestnut mare, doing my best to navigate with the small compass I was given. Dora rode beside me on a smaller dapple gray mare. “So...your dad is certainly something,” she said.
“Tell me about it,” I said. “I wanted to punch him at least ten times while we were in there.”
“I can see why,” Dora said. “Do you think all that stuff about your mother was true?”
I sighed. “I don’t know. It doesn’t really matter. Whether it’s true or not, she must not have liked being here. Otherwise she would’ve told me about it.”
“Or she liked it so much that it hurt her to talk about it,” Dora said.
“I guess I’ll ask her when I get back,” I said. “Either way, I’m sure Leroy means well.”
“I hope.” Dora looked at the ground. “You’re lucky that he’s trying. I’d kill to have a father, even one like that.”
My heart went out to her. I had grown up without a father, too, and it felt wrong that I had one now, but it was a hell of a lot better than thinking he’d abandoned me. “I’m sorry, Dora.”
“Don’t be,” she shrugged sadly. “You can’t fix it.”
But I’d give anything to be able to I thought. “You never told me about what happened to your mom,” I said. Dora stiffened. “Uh, but you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.”
“No, you’ve told me plenty about your life-you deserve for me to tell you this,” she sighed. “It’s just...hard.” She took a deep breath and I waited for her to continue.
“I was raised by my mom,” she began. “We were super close. I didn’t have any siblings and, obviously, my dad was out of the picture, so it was just the two of us. Until…” she trailed off.
“You don’t have to tell me anything.”
“Stop saying that, Damian,” she said, her voice shaking. “It’s okay, really. I want you to know.” I held my tongue and she continued, “She just disappeared one day when I was about 11. When I left for school she was there, and when I got back she wasn’t.” Dora sighed deeply, her entire form hunching into itself. “For a couple days I went on like everything was normal, staying either at home or at school. But she didn’t come back. I had asked people in my town about her but they didn’t know anything. She was just...gone.”
“Stop apologizing,” she said. “Really, it’s okay. I dropped out of school and dedicated my life to searching for her. I haven’t made much progress yet…” She looked over at me, gazing into my eyes. “That’s why I wanted to help you find a cure for your mom. I kind of have a soft spot for things like this.”
“You’ll find her,” I said.
“You’ll find her. You’re brilliant, you’ll be able to do it.”
Dora flushed, looking down at the ground. “Well, uh, thanks.”
I smiled shyly. “No problem.”
We sat there in silence for a few moments, just looking at each other. Something passed between us-an understanding, a new closeness. Dora cleared her throat. “We should...uh…”
“Right,” I said, nudging my horse forward. “C’mon, Lazio’s place is only a little while from here.”
After another hour of riding, we came upon a small clearing, where a small wooden hut sat. “I think this is it,” I told Dora.
I dismounted and led my horse to the door. I reached up to knock and stopped, my hand hanging in the air. I hadn’t considered the possibility that Lazio might not be able to do anything. What if I had come all this way-done all this work-for nothing?
Dora read my mind. “Hey, it’ll be alright.” She set her hand on my shoulder, sending a shiver down my spine. “He’ll be able to help her.”
I took a deep breath in and knocked on the door. We waited.
Before long, the door creaked open. “Leroy, what have I told you about-” The man caught sight of us. “Oh, uh, hi.”
“Erm, hi. My name is Damian and this is my-er-friend Dora. Are you Lazio?”
“Yeah, that’s me. What can I do for you?”
I glanced at Dora. “Can we come in?”
“Now, what you’re looking for is kind of tricky,” Lazio said. “Restoring the mind can be a very dangerous process and there’s a large chance it could go wrong.”
“How wrong?” I asked, my foot tapping rapidly against the stone floor.
“There’s a chance that she could lose all of her memory instead of regaining it.”
“Well, that’s going to happen anyways if I can’t get this cure,” I said. “Let’s give it a shot.”
“Okay. Now, you said that you’re her son?”
“Okay, so, the process that you’ll be going through is very painful, so-”
“Wait, hold up,” Dora said. “What process does he need to go through?”
“Well, I can’t just give him a potion and say, ‘Alright, you’re good to go.’ That’s not the way that magic works,” he said. “I’ll need to extract some of his mind so I can artificially create a replacement.”
“Won’t that hurt him?”
“In the long run, not too much. But the process will be excruciating.”
Dora looked me in the eye. “Damian, don’t do this. We can find another way.”
“I have to,” I said.
“No you don’t!” she said. “There has to-”
“Dora,” I said, grabbing her shoulders. “Look at me.” She lifted her head and looked me in the eyes. “If there was something like this you could do for your mother, would you even hesitate?”
Dora glanced down. “No.”
“Exactly,” I said. “I have to do this.” I let go of her shoulders and looked back up at Lazio. “Let’s get started. I’m ready.”
A few minutes later, I sat in a plain room, sitting down in a chair. Dora stood in the corner and Lazio stood in front of me. “Are you sure you want to do this?” he asked.
“I’m sure,” I said. I gave Dora a small smile, my heart hammering in my chest. “Let’s get started.”
“Okay, I’m going to need you to try to keep your mind completely blank throughout this process. The blanker you keep it, the less damage will be done. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Good. Now, close your eyes.”
I did as he said. I felt his hand press to my temples. Suddenly, there was an intense, blinding, white pain filling my mind. I let out a scream, but the pain only got worse. I think someone called my name...it’s hard to remember.
The pain went on forever. It got to the point where I could no longer scream, just clench my jaw and beg for it to stop. But it didn’t. It never did.
Eventually, what seemed like an eternity later, the pain in my mind decreased until it was just an aching throb. Someone shook my shoulders. “Damian? Damian?! Damian are you okay?! Can you hear me?? Damian, wake up! Wake up!!”
My eyes shot open. Dora was in front of me sobbing hysterically. When she saw me, she gasped and fell into my arms, still sobbing. “Where am I?” I groaned.
“How are you feeling, Damian?” Lazio asked.
“Like hell,” I coughed. “How long was that?”
“15 minutes? We lost you a bit at the end.”
“Only 15 minutes?” I asked, astonished. “It felt like forever.”
“I-I didn’t-” Dora heaved.
“Hey, it’s okay,” I set, gently placing an arm around her. “I’m alright. Look at me, I’m alright.” I held onto her until her breathing slowed into its normal pace.
“I’m sorry,” she said, so quietly I could barely hear it. “You just went through so much and now you have to comfort me.”
“I don’t have to,” I said. “It’s okay, it’s really okay.” We sat there, holding each other, until Lazio returned with a small bottle.
“Is that it?” I asked.
“This is it,” Lazio said, handing me the bottle. I put it into my bag. “Give half of it to your mother as soon as you get back, and the other half over the course of a week.”
“Thank you, thank you so much,” I said.
“It is my pleasure,” Lazio said. “Your mother was a magnificent queen and an even better human being; I sincerely hope it works.”
“Me too,” I said. “I guess I’ll be going then.”
Lazio said, “I wish you luck on your journey.”
“Thank you,” I said, and he headed inside.
I turned back to Dora, who was standing now. She was gazing down at the ground. “So...I guess this is it then?” she asked.
“Yeah, I guess,” I said. I crossed my arms. All I wanted was to run to her and hold her and stay there forever, but I knew I could not. “Thank you...for everything.”
“Of course,” Dora said. “Uh, good luck with your mom.”
“You too,” I said. I waited for her to say something else, but she didn’t. “Goodbye, Dora.”
I sighed and walked a few steps away, where I pried the amulet out from under my shirt. “Detrahet me in domum suam,” I said. The portal appeared. I glanced one last time over my shoulder at Dora, gave her a smile, and jumped through the portal.
I was back in my mom’s room. It was light outside. It felt like years since I've been here, but it couldn’t have been more than a few days. Aunt Lillith would be wondering where I’ve been, so I headed to her house first.
When the door opened, Aunt Lillith gasped and pulled me into a hug. “Where have you been?! You just disappeared!”
“I’m sorry that I was gone for so long, but I swear that I’ve been useful. Look,” I said, pulling out a small bottle. “I found a cure for mom. I know it won’t make sense but I did it. I…” I trailed off. “What is it? Why are you looking at me like that?”
“Your mother passed away last night.”
It was like someone had punched me. Or thrown a boulder at me. Everything in me sank to the ground. She couldn’t be dead...she couldn’t be…not after all of this…
“She said this as she was passing.” Lillith handed me a note. Numbly, I opened it up and read:
Where is Damian? He should be here. Oh, well tell him that I love him.
The tears came now, covering my face. My entire body shook with my sobs. “She didn’t forget about you, even when she forgot how to breathe,” Lillith said.
“I should’ve been here. I-”
“Oh Damian,” Lillith said, hugging me. “You were doing what you could. Rani loved you so much, she wouldn’t want this.”
I had a million different replies I could say, but instead I wept. I went up to my room and cried until there were no tears left in my body. Then, I laid on my bed, hugging my knees to my chest.
She was gone...my mom, my life-the only thing that tied me to this world was gone. I couldn’t go back to this life, everything would remind me of her.
I thought back on Dora. She’d understand my pain. She’d understand me. I wish I could be with her…
For a moment, I allowed myself to picture being with her. We could go back to Desiderae and find her mom. Everything would be perfect...well, not perfect, but better.
Hours passed. I couldn’t get the vision out of my head until, finally, I had enough. I grabbed a piece of paper from my desk and hastily wrote:
I’m sorry. I had to go. It’s just too hard here. Don’t come looking for me, I promise you that I’m safe. Thank you. For everything.
I set the letter on my bed, and sighed. I couldn’t believe I was doing this. But really, what choice did I have? I had no life in this world, not anymore. But I had a life there. I had a father, I would be a prince. But more than that, I had friends.
The amulet was still around my neck. I took a breath and said, “Detrahet me in domum suam,” and jumped through the portal.
I appeared back in the field. Dora was still outside, sitting in the chair although it was still dark. She looked up as I appeared and gasped. “Damian! You’re back!”
“I am,” I said, catching her as she ran to me.
“But your mother…” I looked to the ground, shaking my head slowly. “Oh Damian…”
“It’s okay,” I said. “She’s better now. She’s happier. And now I can be here to do what I need to.”
“And what’s that?”
I smiled. “It’s time for me to return the favor. I’m going to help you find your mom.”
“You don’t have to stay here,” Dora said. “You have a life, you-”
“This is my life,” I said. “I’d never really feel right living there. It’d be too hard living such a mundane life when there’s so much else that I know. It destroyed my mom to do that-I can tell. I want to stay here. With you.”
Dora looked me up and down and pressed her lips to mine. I kissed her back, hard. “That was long overdue,” she gasped when I pulled away. “C’mon, let’s get going.”
“I don’t know, to wherever the world decides to take us, I guess,” she said. She grabbed my hand and led me to the horses. “You ready?”
I grinned. “Of course.”
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