His head felt under pressure, like he was deep underwater without a suit. No, like he was surrounded by balloons, which kept expanding into his space. His face tingled, felt pulled taut, stretched over his expanding skull. It was so sensitive he could feel each hair tugging on his inflamed skin.
Every swallow was an exercise in endurance, a test to see if this time he would choke on his swollen glands and die. Death was imminent, he knew. It would be in the papers. The obituary would read Prominent Recluse Found Dead of Wasting Disease; Few Mourn.
Wait. What if it didn’t? What if it read Unknown Dead of Plague, Town Safe Due to Lack of Friends? He scrabbled for his phone, digging through piles of crumpled tissues like so many snowdrifts. Calling the local newspaper, he forced words through his swollen throat. “Mr Abbot Brandt has died!” he said. “Who?” came the reply. Brandt hung up.
This wouldn’t do. He would be remembered when he died. He scrabbled for a pen and paper and, pushing thoughts through his fever like a train through thick fog, he wrote.
When he died seventeen years later, they knew who he was.