Silver - By Kailin Gow


Summer 1865 - Wicked, Massachusetts

Blood spattered the pil ow as the mayor’s daughter entered a coughing fit that convulsed her sixteen-year-old frame. The wooden wal s of the bedroom echoed with the sound as her parents looked on, her mother tearful, her father doing a better job of hiding his worry. Even in a town as smal as Wicked, you did not get to hold onto public office by letting people see what you real y felt, and the mayor, a big man in his fifties, stood stoical y. Only the slight disarray of his house coat, the slight lack of care for his beard, suggested that he wasn’t as calm as he appeared.

For his part, the town’s doctor looked grave. Even in his shirtsleeves, he was warm, the fire in the grate was built up so much, and yet the girl was as cold as if they had left her outside at midwinter. He had taken her temperature, observed her symptoms, and spent much of the last five minutes simply staring as she lay on the bed, the disease burning through her.

Time to cal in a priest. The doctor knew death when he saw it. This was not something that was going to pass.

Tonight, or tomorrow night, it would leach away the last strength that the girl possessed, and the mayor of Wicked would find himself preparing for a funeral. He would probably start looking for a new doctor too. The mayor was not a forgiving man.

As if on cue, the big man cleared his throat. “Wel ?

We cannot have Amelia sick much longer. She is to be married next month.”

The doctor shook his head. “I fear that there is little to be done, sir.”

The mayor took a step towards him. “That is not acceptable. Find a better answer if you want to earn your fee, man.”

The doctor shrugged. He had known that he would be making a loss on the day almost as soon as he saw the condition of the man’s daughter. Powerful men paid only for successes. It was simply the way things were.

“If there were something I could do, do you not think I would be doing it?” he asked.

“If there is nothing you can do,” the mayor countered,

“you do not need to be here.”

“You’l send him away?” his wife demanded, speaking for the first time that evening. She was a smal , fragile looking woman, who always looked slightly out of place beside her husband and always slightly frightened by the world. The doctor was always reminded a little of a mouse when he saw her. She looked over at him with pleading eyes. “There must be something that can help my Amelia.”

The doctor was not a young man anymore, being almost thirty now, and he had seen more than his share of death. You became hardened to it quickly, in a world where so many died young. Even so, there was something about the grief in the woman’s voice that touched him.

“Ma’am, I’l give it some more thought, but I can make no promises.”

For the doctor, seeing the hope in her face was like watching an axe being raised above him. That one phrase had bought him time, because there was no way the mayor’s wife would let her husband eject him now, but it had done little else. What could he do? Why had he been stupid enough to say it?

The doctor tried to remember some scrap of knowledge that might be useful. He recal ed reading a paper about Mon. Pasteur’s work on the transmission of disease through bacteria just recently, yet it had suggested nothing about how to deal with them. It had even seemed fanciful to him at the time.

Maybe it was the idea of fanciful things that triggered the memory, but the doctor found himself remembering back to when he had been a child in the town.

For a nurse, he had an elderly Danish woman who had lived there most of her life, and who had loved to tel him stories about the place’s history when the settlers first settled in Wicked. She had told him about Wicked’s first inhabitants, the Wickhams, and their role in founding the town when they arrived on the Mayflower with the first settlers.

The Wickhams were upstanding people… leaders who seemed to genuinely care for the people of Wicked.

They were from the long line of Wickhams from England, an aristocratic lineage, who brought with them an old world charm. However, they were also mysterious,