Inky darkness swirled outside the murky window. An owl hooted softly in the distance as the moon rose overhead. I wrung the wet cloth out in the flickering lamplight.
Drip, drip, drip.
The water dribbling into the wash basin was louder than I was expecting. I placed the wet cloth on my young nephew Luca’s forehead. Steam from his fever swirled into the air.
No one had ever properly taken care of him when he was sick. He shifted awkwardly. Several hours passed since I forced him to lie down and accept my doting. Now he was breathing in and out—short, shallow breaths. His voice couldn’t come out right, almost as though his throat had swollen shut. Pity for him pounded in my chest as he looked up at me through half-closed eyes. He was exhausted.
If I had it my way, he’d be wrapped up in a blanket on the way to the ER, but there aren’t even hospitals here, much less emergency rooms. The best I could do was change the cloth on his forehead and try to soothe him. I spoke softly, hoping my inner turmoil wouldn’t show on my face.
“Luca? Hang in there just a bit longer. As soon as the sun rises, I’ll go get some medicine,” I said.
“Medicine? Yeah, right. We can’t afford that. I’m fine,” he said while coughing.
“I’ve got something tucked away. I told you not to worry about money. You’re too young,” I said.
It hurt to see such a tiny little boy worrying about our livelihood, especially when he was deathly ill, but it felt even worse to think his worries were founded—we really didn’t have any money.
I couldn’t afford any medicine, but if I went out at dawn and gathered herbs, then begged and pleaded for a good price, I’d be able to make up the difference. Luca watched as I did the mental calculations, and his face darkened, as though he’d misunderstood my serious expression.
“You can go to the May Festival if you want. I know you’re looking forward to it,” he said.
As he said it, his eyes rolled around as if to check my reaction. Like he wouldn’t be disappointed if I really did go. Who does he think he’s trying to read?
I huffed out a chuckle. “Who wants to go to the May Festival? Stop wasting your breath and focus on getting better.”
He tried telling me it was fine again, unconvinced. He kept it up for some time, but eventually, he drifted off to sleep and his breath became a steady rhythm. As he dozed, a single word slipped from his lips with a soft moan.
Of course. He must miss his mother. I felt a twinge of sympathy and patted his little hand, which had slipped out from underneath the blanket. His fingers wriggled, then squeezed my hand tightly. He gripped it with desperate strength like he’d never let go.
I needed to change the cloth on his forehead. I smiled stiffly. I didn’t want to pull my hand away.
Okay. Let’s let him have his way for a moment. I sat there by his side, dozing off and jerking awake, taking care of him through the night. Right before the sun rose, running on just a few winks of sleep, I slipped from the bedside. There were dark circles under my eyes and I was in a daze from lack of sleep, but I shook my head to try and get ahold of myself.
I could really use some coffee. This body obviously didn’t have my old caffeine addiction, but somehow the memory of coffee still shimmered before my eyes every morning. I smacked my lips softly to clear the tired taste from my mouth as I left the house. I quickened my pace to make it to the forest and back before the apothecary opened.
I was lucky this body’s memory allowed me to distinguish between the herbs. If I didn’t have that memory there would truly be nothing for me to do in this world. Perhaps you have guessed that this isn’t my body. I was reincarnated into the body of this woman—Judith Maibaum.
It’s the most cliche story: I was hit by a car on my way home after having a few drinks. When I woke up, I was in a different world. The worst part is that the car definitely slammed on the brakes as it came around the corner and it was just a little Mini!
I don’t even remember dying before I woke up in some stranger’s body. You can imagine my surprise. At first, I thought it was a dream. This pale blonde hair, this lithesome figure. A cool beauty with faint, lavender eyes—what a dream!
She looked like she might have an attitude, but I was delighted to be such a beauty. I had no idea then that I was stuck this way for life. When I realized, I sobbed and tugged at the pale blonde hair hanging over my shoulders.
If I had to be reincarnated, why couldn’t I be a young lady from a noble family? There aren’t even any servants here! And I had a young mouth to feed as well. Judith, the owner of this body, lived in a rural village alone with her nephew Luca. The rest of their family had all either died of unfortunate accidents or disease, and Luca and I weren’t exactly affectionate as aunt and nephew. To put it bluntly, Judith had hated Luca. She did little else other than torment and abuse him. How could she hate her tiny nephew so much?
As I picked through her memory trying to find a reason, a realization hit me. The other world I’d fallen into was a story from a novel—and a revenge story at that. Have you ever heard a revenge story full of pleasant hopes and dreams? I haven’t.
The hero suffers all sorts of horrible cruelties before they get their revenge and complete their spectacular life. And that’s the nice version. Sometimes the hero gets their revenge, but it eats away at them until their life is a waste, or they reap what they sow, and their actions make them the target of someone else’s revenge later on.
Thankfully, the novel I was reincarnated into was the former. It has hopes and dreams. It even has a happy ending, though, from Judith Maibaum’s perspective, there isn’t anything happy about it. In this world, I’m one of the villains who set the hero on his quest for vengeance.
To put it simply, I die at the end.