CREATIVE Rebecca Casson

NWR Issue 116

Infirmarian

Compline: Night-time

Novice Master Gregory was not dead and I was glad. Simon and I had often talked about killing him in our novice days. For Simon, it had been a highly intellectual exercise, a hypothetical balancing act between the unlawful taking of life and the justified slaughter of a monster; my approach was much more practical. How could I kill him so no one would ever find out, which herbs would I use, what part of his bloated body would I dissect first? I had made a solemn promise to Brother Herbert that I would never tell anybody about the dissections and I had kept my word, not even telling Simon, with whom I had shared almost everything else. So, cutting was off limits, but the choice of poison was not. I had weighed up several in my mind and, with Simon, considered the merits and drawbacks of each, the difficulty of procurement, the symptoms, the taste, the mode of administration, without ever really coming to a single choice. I seem to recall foxglove, the death cap mushroom and crushed yew berries being given the most serious consideration. Foxglove flowers grew in abundance round the beehives but, after asking Brother Herbert a series of questions spread over a few days to limit suspicion, it seemed that finding the correct dose would be a great challenge, especially in so large a man. Too little and he might survive, too much and it would just make him sick. Likewise, yew berries, again abundant in supply, had such a bitter taste they were likely to be spat out immediately. The death-cap mushroom was very promising as such a small quantity was needed and, apparently, it took a very long time to cause death. But despite many, many months wandering in the forest, I never found one. It was very unlikely he would have eaten anything that had been anywhere near me in any case. On the whole, I preferred to listen to Simon talk. He took it so seriously. I often wondered what he would have said if I had just gone ahead and done it without his knowledge. Would he have praised my decisiveness? Or would he – and I thought this more likely – have stared at me in horror and then turned his beautiful eyes away from me for good?

Rebecca Casson is originally from North Yorkshire but travelled widely as a child with her army family. Graduating from Liverpool University in 2010 with an MA in Classics, she qualified as a teacher and now teaches Latin, Classical Civilisation and Ancient Greek at a girls’ school in Chester. Rebecca currently lives in Holywell, Flintshire, with her husband and enjoys writing fiction in her free time. ‘Infirmarian’, from which this is an extract, was highly commended earlier this year in the New Welsh Writing Awards 2017: AmeriCymru Prize for the Novella. This is Rebecca’s debut publication.

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