I awoke from a fever dream. In this dream, a dozen bodies writhed, their silken skin lit by flickering candlelight. The smell of incense and wine and sweat and sex were everywhere, overpowering. These faceless bodies rutted like animals. The air was full of their sounds, the slapping of flesh on flesh, moans, and whimpers, and wordless cries.
When my eyes opened, I gasped, only to find myself in my bed chambers, alone.
I was comforted by the familiarity of my home, my bed, my books against my wall. I rang for the maid who soon arrived and tended to me, placing a cool rag on my brow.
She placed her soft palm on my cheek and then my forehead. I looked at her round pretty wholesome face. Her cheeks were always red, even without rouge. Her dark curly hair was put up behind her bonnet.
“Your fever is breaking, finally. A week you’ve been in bed, sweating out your poisons,” she whispered.
I felt weak, but somehow better. She brought a glass to my lips and the cold water was like an elixir. I couldn’t get enough of it. She laughed at my thirst and gave me all I wanted.
She was Gretta, the young buxom daughter of the woman who was my nanny as a child. She was only a few years younger than me. As I drank, my eyes were drawn to her milky skin, peppered with freckles, and the cleavage framed by the collar of her white ruffled blouse.
Vaguely I remember being a boy and ogling her mother’s bosom the same way. There was a strange mixture of perversion and comforting nostalgia.
As she washed my face with her rag and bowl of water I laid back. Had it been a week? A week of mad dreams and endless tossing and turning. A week of nothing but my bed chamber.
“You’re so kind to me, Gretta,” I sighed.
“Ey, well you be good to me and eat all the soup I bring up to you in a bit. Then in the morning, we’ll get you out of this bed,” she said in a motherly tone.
I groaned my eyes on her breasts again, my hunger for more than soup. She saw where my gaze lay and laughed, putting down her rag.
“You’re feeling more yourself, I can tell. The randy lord we all know so well,” she said, getting up and shaking her head with a smile.
With another sigh, I promptly fell back to sleep, this time without dreams.
I ate the soup, I rested, and in the morning, I took a long hot bath and shaved a week’s beard off. It was satisfying, seeing the man in the mirror, looking like a shipwrecked urchin, transform into the handsome gentleman that I knew and loved.
In my study, I took coffee and fruit. My hand fell on Gretta’s and she smiled at me.
“My savior,” I whispered.
When I removed my hand she found a small pile of coins. It was equal to perhaps a month of what my family paid her. Her eyes opened wide and she kissed my forehead, then she looked down and smiled as she slipped the coins into the lush valley of her cleavage, making a show of it for me.
That day I felt full of energy. The fever was gone and my wits returned, I set upon my work, but somehow something had changed in me, some subtle switch. In the days that followed I would realize I had transformed on some soul level.