The next morning, around 8am, the doorbell rang, Jeremy was woken up and decided to just leave it. Madeline had a key, and anyone else could just leave a note if it was that important. But the doorbell kept ringing. Four times it rang, until Jeremy heard the door being opened. He sprang out of bed just wearing his boxer shorts and he burst onto the upstairs landing, to see Madeline walking in with her key in the door, followed by Dr Fobwell. “I’m so sorry about this, perhaps they are asleep,” Madeline said, as she shut the door behind them. “I’ll go up and see if they are awake.”
“Very well.” Dr Fobwell looked like he was from another time, fifty years ago, with a pointy mustache and waistcoat and monocle and stomach protruding at an almost offensive angle with an almost twitch-like cough that would sound every thirty seconds, like something was trying to escape his throat but he would not let it go.
Madeline left him waiting at the door and she walked upstairs to find Jeremy waiting, half-naked with a stern, cold look on his face that she had never seen before. She looked shocked for a moment, and then told him what was happening.
“Jeremy, I’m sorry but it is simply not right that Mary not take her medicine. I’ve brought Dr Fobwell along to tell her himself. She obviously paid no attention to me.”
“Send him away. I thought you said he was on holiday.”
“Yes but after I told him about all of this, he came straight back, said he would not allow a patient to go off their medicine without good reason.”
“But she was feeling better, is that not a good reason?” Jeremy replied.
“But she still has pain in her chest,” Madeline replied. “Up here, doctor Fobwell!” she called.
“Very well.” Jeremy heard the reply from downstairs, and he could then hear the creaks of the stairs as the man made his way up them.
“Please leave,” Jeremy said, as the man reached the landing.
“I’m afraid if you send me out, I will have to call for the police,” Dr Fobwell said with a slight sneer in the right corner of his mouth. He stood on his toes temporarily as if to gee himself up, and try to match Jeremy’s height a little more.
“You are surely aware it is an offence to not take one’s prescribed medicine,” the doctor said, brushing past Jeremy with an arrogance that made Jeremy feel slightly sick inside.
Jeremy made his way past the man and into the bedroom to open the windows. His wife was still half-asleep.
“What’s happening, Jerry?” she said as she slowly sat up and rubbed her eyes.
“The doctor is here, Madeline let him in,” he said as he opened windows, wondering how he could get Dr Fobwell to just leave.
“No, do not open those windows,” Dr Fobwell protested, as he shook his finger at Jeremy who continued to open them. Dr Fobwell began to close the windows, until he reached Jeremy who was standing in front of the two larger ones, and the way Jeremy was looking at Fobwell made Fobwell step back slightly.
“Please, just let me get dressed first then we can talk,” Mary said. Fobwell agreed and began to edge his way out of the room.
“Where’s that shirt I was wearing yesterday, Jerry?” she said, looking around. “I left it here on the chair by the bed, but now it’s gone…”
Jeremy was walking around, looking under the bed, on the floor, behind the chair, and as Fobwell was by the door, Michael walked in, holding a green t-shirt scrunched up in his hands.
“Michael,” Mary said, “is that my…where was it? Why is it all scrunched up?” Michael didn’t say anything. He walked up to the bed, and he looked nervous, like he was shaking a little bit, and as he gently placed the t-shirt on the bed, next to his mum, the room was full of a chattering sound, like he was carrying an insect in there. The t-shirt unfolded, and in its bright red and brilliant glory, was the Healybug.
Dr Fobwell looked like he had seen something petrifying, and he said the word “No,” as this red insect hovered into the air and did that same figure of eight dance that he had seen once before, in the lab, when they thought they were destroying the last one alive, and as it danced it suddenly bolted again straight into the middle of Mary’s chest, and it disappeared through her pyjama top and Mary screamed and tried to scratch at it, but it was burrowing into her chest making an even louder chattering noise, and Michael wondered what he had done by letting this thing into the house, if he should have really used the t-shirt as bait to capture it in the forest and bring it here, and Jeremy looked at Michael as if to ask him what on earth was going on, and after Mary screamed and shook and scratched for a few seconds, she began to gasp and smile and cry and look at Michael, and she said, “It’s going, that pain is going.”
Dr Fobwell was panicked, and didn’t know what to do. He wanted to run, so he turned and left the room, but then something in him changed and he turned and came back in, and he waddled past Madeline to the side of the bed opposite to Jeremy, and he leaned in to see what was going on, like he was peering into the hole where the bug had disappeared into, and he had his hands ready to catch it when it came out.
Mary was beginning to laugh, unaware of Fobwell, and Michael began to shout at Fobwell, saying, “No, don’t you try to catch him, you’ll just try to get rid of him,” and Michael began to push the man who was too heavy to budge. Jeremy walked round and pulled the man away, and Fobwell resisted, he just had to catch the little thing as it came back out and all would be fine. And as he temporarily broke free from Jeremy’s grip, he leaned in even closer to see what was happening inside Mary’s body, and has he leaned in he coughed, and as he coughed the Healybug flew out from Mary, leaving her free from all her pain, and it flew into Dr Fobwell’s mouth and into his throat. Fobwell stood up sharply and ran out of the door, trundling onto the landing and down the stairs, grasping at his throat and clambering into his car. He pulled away from the driveway in the swerving car and as he drove away, thinking he was being infected, he was only being healed, and the Healybug was enjoying a meal.
Dr Fobwell was racing back to the lab. He could feel the Healybug in his throat, eating away at something, and he was trying to cough it up, but it wasn’t doing anything. What if it was making his cough even worse as a punishment for what he had done? He would punch his throat sometimes as he drove, but the Healybug was nicely settled and protected inside, doing its job nicely. And then it became more uncomfortable, and the insect did something completely unexpected.
Dr Fobwell felt it rest for a moment, cease to move and eat and vibrate in his throat. It just sat there, as if it was tired, or as if it was stuck. Then it moved again, and as Fobwell was relieved to feel it coming out, up through the throat and into the back of the mouth, it flew upwards further, up into his sinuses, and then crawled through, up his sinuses and into his brain. The absolute lack of control that Fobwell had over it was the worst thing, plus the thoughts that came with it, all the terrible, fearful thoughts.
“What if it just lives in my brain? What if it just deposits all the illnesses it’s ever eaten into my brain, as another punishment? What if it eats through my brain and kills me?”
But then something clicked. Something cleared. He noticed he no longer had that itch in his throat that he was always coughing to try to get rid of. And in one moment, all of his fearful thoughts disappeared, and he realised that for years he had been living in darkness, around his brain and eyes, and now it was being lifted, lifted away from him so that he himself felt lighter, clearer, more sane than he ever had been.
The feeling of the Healybug began to turn into a pleasure, a soft, tickling sensation that was warming certain areas of his head, and he relaxed all of his resistance towards it. Then it really went to work, crawling around everywhere, to all different parts of his body, his arms, his legs, his groin, his neck, and he felt as if he was being gifted with a new body.
He pulled up at the laboratory, just as the insect flew out of his mouth again, and it landed on the windshield of his car, waiting to be released.
As Dr Fobwell pulled up outside, his boss, Dr Davids, a tall thin man with a permanent scowl, hurried out of the big wide grey doors of the building, ran down the steps to Fobwell’s car, and began tapping on the window.
Fobwell did not want to let the Healybug out of the car, so he quietly stepped out himself and closed the door behind him.
“Fobwell, what happened?” Dr Davids said, staring at him. “What happened to you? That holiday seems to have done you a world of good. You look like a new man.”
Fobwell took off his glasses, and realised that he could now see better without them.
“Yes, sir, I…”
“Just tell me what happened with that family today. Did she take her medicine? Did she close her windows?”
Fobwell, at that moment, realised that he was talking to a madman. A madman who wanted the windows closed so that the person received no fresh air from the forest, and minimised the chances of a possible stray Healybug flying into the room and doing its work. All so that the company he was working for could sell more drugs, which did little other that make symptoms even worse.
“Um, yes, yes, all is fine,” Dr Fobwell said. “She closed her windows, she took her medicine.”
Fobwell wanted to revive these insects, one of which he had in his car. He had thought for a moment they could re-breed them, right here where he worked. But he knew it was not possible.
“I still have a few days off sir, so if you don’t mind…”
“Yes, of course,” Dr Davids said, turning away. “Just remember you still have three more prescriptions to make by the end of this month and you’ve not got many more work days. You better get prescribing, even if they have achey muscles, or common colds, make sure you hit that quota.”
“Yes, sir,” Fobwell said, falling back into his car, starting the engine, and driving back to the forest.
The drive seemed short, and the Healybug was buzzing around the windows, trying to get out.
“Not long, not long now,” Dr Fobwell said. Thoughts were flashing in front of him, if he could do anything to help. Could there be another one out in the forest? Did it need to breed? Could it be asexual – have babies by itself? He didn’t know. All he knew was that they had thought they had destroyed them all, taking sick people into the forest to attract the insects, then bagging up the people and taking them back to the lab. But how could they have been sure they got them all? They could never be sure. Dr Fobwell felt there was hope, a hope that danced in his chest that told him he should set the insect free again. If there was one, surely there was another. He pulled up to the side of the forest in his car, and he opened the window. The Healybug felt the air rush in, and it followed it out of the window, buzzing as it went, and it flew quickly back into the forest.
The Healybug – A Note From Dr Bernard J. Hoothfellow
“The Healybug, as far as I’m aware, heals all ailments of the body. If it can detect someone or something with an illness, disease or injury, it will enter in to that body, heal the issue, and leave. I do not know how it works, but it seems to feed off of disease and trauma as if it is food, removing it from the host and taking it for itself. I have observed that when not in the presence of ailments, it will feed on the petals of certain flowers…”
Taken from the book: