It’s that time of day again, unfortunately.
Ever since I came in contact with the crown, I have to. I need to know if I’m okay... Close to turning based on my vitals. It’s important... I feel funny when I wear it and it might cause some problems with my health.
I head into my lab, and take out the equipment I need. It’s pretty simple: oral thermometer and a stethoscope.
Collapsing down into my chair like I have weights attached to my shoulders, I begin taking off my top to begin a basic self-examination. I undo my tie... Take off my dress coat, unbutton my black vest and pull it off, then I do the same with my dress shirt: unbutton it and then take it off.
Leaves me bare chested.
First thing’s first of this procedure, I turn on the thermometer. It awakens with a series of three quick beeps, as if it’s like, “Reporting for duty Mr. Petrikov.”
And I kind of nod back, as if I’m saying, “sorry to make you do this again.”
But I slip it into my mouth, the metal part under my tongue. And I sit patiently. Let it detect what’s going on.
And I sit at my desk while waiting for my temperature to register with the thermometer, pressing my lips together tight so it doesn’t slip out. I rest my elbows on my desk, and my head in my hands. It takes a bit, but I just wait.
Stupid thermometer. This is supposed to be lab grade, but it takes a long time.
And then I get the shrill beeping from the thermometer. I take it out from my mouth and check on it.
Hmm... I’m at twenty-eight degrees Celsius. That’s my regular temperature. No shirt, so I’m not getting extra heat. Temp-regulated lab, so I’m not cold without the shirt. Twenty-eight is my core temperature.
Shit... It’s even lower than the last self-exam. I feel like now’s a good time to worry about the crown taking its toll on me.
Only one way to find out, I suppose. I still have to check my heartbeat.
Placing the thermometer back in its sleeve, I grab my stethoscope. I don’t normally use it... Mostly because I never thought I’d have a need for it.
I do now. Ever since the damned crown has started to mess with my mind.
Sighing heavily, I place the earpieces into my ears, then I place the chilly chest piece against my torso. Right on my upper chest, where my heart resides. Normally I’d jolt at how cold it is, but now it doesn’t even make me flinch. It’s as cold as my skin. As my insides.
If that’s not a reason to be worried, I don’t know what is.
Taking a breath, I fight back my conscious thoughts and sit up straight in my chair. Make sure everything’s nice and quiet... And then I start to listen to what’s going on in my chest.
And it’s just as I thought. My heart rate lines right up with my temperature.
It beats slow... Not in a rhythmic way at all.
I listen to my heart pumping out a drowsy beating, slower than any human heart should sound like, as far as I’m concerned. I hear a: pump... ... pump... ... pump...
Then it throws me for a loop every once in a while. My heart sounds like it’s going to start beating normally... Then falls right back into the slow progression I’ve been listening to.
It’s just as I thought... My temperature and heart rate are both declining rapidly.
Things don’t look so good for me.
Sighing heavily, I remove my stethoscope, placing it aside with the thermometer. Resting my head on the desk for a minute, I just try to take things in... Try to come to terms with it. The crown’s messing with you, Simon. Unfortunately there isn’t anything you can do except monitor it.
And with that, I sit back up. I pull my vest back on over my bare chest, at the very least, and stand up from my desk, bringing my medical equipment with me to put it back with the rest of my stuff.
And I head back to work, knowing there isn’t anything I can do for now.
~ ~ ~
My fiancée’s working in the lab with me tonight. My princess Betty.
I love her... That’s why I asked her to marry me.
And because I love her, I don’t want to scare her, or make her worry over me.
When I go to my own lab to do my self-exam, I try to go alone. Betty knows what’s going on and everything. But I don’t want to nail in the fact that I’m falling victim towards the crown any more than she already knows about.
As usual, I sneak into my lab. Stare at my medical equipment in the cabinet, and sigh heavily.
It’s just so tough. I don’t want to turn and snap on my Princess.
I grab what I need, per usual. Thermometer and stethoscope. Put them on my desk and start to derobe. Tie, vest, undershirt. The whole deal.
Unfortunately, I don’t get very far.
The door suddenly swings open, and I nearly jump in shock. I certainly wasn’t expecting anyone.
But I heard a voice behind me, and I relax.
“Time for your physical, huh, Simon?”
Betty. She knows. She always knows; I can’t hide from my Princess.
I sigh softly, unable to bring myself to look at her. “Yes. I’m so sorry, my Princess,” I whisper.
I hear her approach me from behind, and feel her hands on my bare shoulders. They’re not cold. They’re never cold; just warm and loving as always.
“What? Don’t be sorry, sweetie,” Betty says gently, leaning forward and kissing my jaw. “I just want to help you. I want to make sure you’re okay, too. Because I love you and I care about your well being, you know?”
I feel my face heat up with a soft blush, and I can’t help but grin. Turning my head, I lean back into her arms and kiss her neck in return. “Well... That’s quite sweet of you,” I say softly. “I just don’t want you to be worried about me or anything... This is pretty drastic.”
Betty just giggles. “I know. But I’m gonna be with you through this,” she says. “Here, sit over there. Let’s get you checked out.”
My heart swells at the notion of my Princess taking care of me... Especially because I don’t know how many more times she’ll be taking care of me. I do as she asked, and I sit down in the cot I have set up in my lab. I swing my legs around, but I stay sitting up for the time being.
After washing her hands at the sink, Betty slings my stethoscope around her neck, grabbing the thermometer from the desk and turning it on. Coming over to me, she smiles sweetly, and pushes me back to lie down against the cot. “Lie down and relax, sweetie,” she says.
As hard as it is, I try to do what she suggested and relax. I don’t know how she can stand to see the results when they’re worsening every time I examine myself.
But I don’t have much time to protest, not before Betty slides the thermometer into my mouth. Then I have to keep it shut so I don’t screw with the temperature.
“Under your tongue, Simon, baby,” Betty reminds me.
I make sure that metal part is nestled under my tongue. Feels in place to me.
While it’s detecting, Betty strokes my hair gently. I let her... It feels good. Lets me know that at the moment, everything’s okay. I’m in Betty’s very capable hands.
I hear the all-too familiar beep of the thermometer, and Betty takes it out of my mouth to check on it. As I feared, she frowns, and she finally seems to be unable to hide that she’s worried.
“Twenty-seven and a half Celsius,” Betty says softly. “Hm... Your temperature is dropping pretty quickly, isn’t it, sweetie?”
Looking down ashamedly, I nod. I can’t even manage to say anything.
Giving me sad eyes, Betty pockets the thermometer and puts the stethoscope in her ears. “Well, that’s okay. Let’s take a listen to your beautiful heart, hm?” she says softly.
As Betty places the chestpiece against my chest, I feel myself still not flinching. If that metal disc is cold, it certainly doesn’t feel cold. Even Betty seems to catch onto that. She starts to pick up the chestpiece to warm it up, but then realizes I didn’t think it was cold... Then goes back to listening to my heart.
I stay lying back... Knowing there’s no way Betty likes what she hears. With every beat of my slow heart, her face falls a little more. And at the same time, I hate myself for letting her check. There’s no reason to worry her, yet I am.
Wanting to keep things from feeling tense, I try to talk to her to take both of our minds off of it.
“What do you hear?” I ask her carefully.
Betty purses her lips. “Your heart’s very quiet and slow, dear,” she says softly. It sounds about right, sadly. “You don’t feel tired or anything?”
I shake my head. “Not unless there was a late night. I feel fine,” I insist.
Betty nods slowly, falling quiet to continue listening. She listens to my chest for a long time, longer than I would normally listen to my own heart. I think she’s just looking for some sort of proof that I’m okay. That the crown isn’t really affecting me and its magic is just rumored and I’ll be fine.
But I don’t think she hears what she wants. My heart’s slowing down real quick. Succumbing to how cold my body is.
Turning to ice...
Clearing her throat, Betty takes the stethoscope out of her ears, and puts it back around her neck. “Dear. Do you mind if I, um... Draw a little bit of blood?” she asks shyly. That’s a revelation. I’ve never thought to draw blood from myself... Mostly because I don’t think it would reveal anything new.
I think about telling her that. But I know she’s worried, and I feel like I need to reassure her that I’m going to be okay somehow. And who knows? Maybe she’ll end up finding something within my blood.
So I nod softly. “Of course, my Princess,” I agree. Betty gets everything she needs to take a blood sample from me. I stay lying down, and rest my left arm straight out on the armrest attached to the table. She does the whole prep on my arm for a blood test: ties the tourniquet I have around my arm, right above the inside of my elbow, and after she feels around the area for a good vein to stick, she gets the area cleaned up with a little bit of alcohol. Normally she’d be wearing gloves, but I don’t mind the odd intimacy of her checking without them. Besides, her hands are clean; she washed them.
I try not to look as she readies a needle for me. Of course, I’ve worked with needles enough times, I just don’t particularly like looking at it when I’m being stuck with one. Not many people would, I suppose.
“Alright, darling. You know the drill; just a quick scratch and then a sharp poke,” Betty reminds me.
I trust her, and it isn’t much worse than that. The needle scratching my skin to break it, followed by a sting as it enters my vein. It isn’t a horrendous pain, but it still makes me grunt softly with the discomfort.
“Does it hurt, Simon, darling?” she asks, seeing as my eyes are closed and I’m slightly wincing.
I shake my head. “Not really. Not more than it should,” I say. “You’re doing fine.”
Betty smiles warmly as she attaches the vials to the syringe. I don’t feel a thing as my blood is drawn up into each vial. Even when she’s hurting me, she’s very gentle.
As promised, Betty only takes a little bit of blood. Three vials, it looks like. When she has all she needs, she places a small square of gauze over the needle, and slides it carefully out of my arm. Then she uses a bandage to keep it in spot, cushioning the bleeding spot so it’ll scab over and heal.
I know something seems unusual when she doesn’t speak right away. When I open my eyes, I see her clutching onto the vials in her hand, and she looks like she’s going to cry.
A lump forms in my throat, and I ask her, “My Princess... What’s wrong, beautiful?”
She looks me dead in the eye, and I know I screwed up having her check on me. She’s scared.
“Your blood, Simon...” she whispers. “It’s lukewarm...”
Hearing it breaks me. My eyes water, and my chest becomes tight. Crossing my arms protectively over my bare chest, I look down at my lap so Betty won’t see the fear in my eyes. It’s happening. If my blood is going cold, then it’s almost impossible for me to recover. It’s only a matter of time before it starts to show.
Seeing me on the verge of tears, Betty sighs, placing the vials of blood aside. Taking me into her arms, she gives me a bunch of kisses all over my cheeks and neck. “Don’t worry, baby,” she whispers into my ear. “We’ll do something. One way or another you’re going to be okay.”
My eyes and nose quickly moisten, and a tear runs down my cheek. More than anything, I want to believe her. I want to believe that there is the option of undoing the curse. That this’ll be something that I can survive and live to publish in every research project.
But both Betty and I know there’s probably only one option. And that’s to spend as much time together as we can... Be prepared for my inevitable turn towards the crown.
~ ~ ~
It’s been a few years since I’ve carried the crown with me. And as I predicted, it happened. I’ve fallen victim so fast, there’s nothing that can be done. Even if my lab didn’t go down in the war, I couldn’t do a thing. I don’t even recognize myself. My hair grew out long... Gradually turned from dark, charcoal brown to platinum blonde... Then from blonde to wintry white. My body grew out a beard so fast, too. I tried to shave it, for I’ve only ever been used to a baby face. I was never even able to grow one very well anyways. But every time I try to shave it, it just grows back fully within a few days. Even my skin grew cold; it went from its natural olive, to a sickly, pale gray, until I became so cold that it’s just the blue tint of my slowly-freezing blood.
My dear princess Betty is gone. I had an episode... A really bad one. My mind had become enveloped by the crown’s power, and even if it was for a short bit, it was scary to see. She ran from me, and she got away. I haven’t seen her since. I don’t blame her for running, I just... I just miss her with every part of me that’s still intact.
Though, I did make a little friend who’s been keeping me company... Healing the hole in my heart.
Little Marceline. A girl who I found crying outside of a store, who was long separated from her parents. And just like I was, she was scared.
So I promised her that we’d stay together, and take care of each other. Can’t survive the war alone, can we?
After a really long day, Marcie and I find someplace safe to stay the night. It’s a literal rundown office building, but it’ll keep us from getting hunted down easily. It’s also warm down here; while it won’t make too much of a difference for me, it’ll at least keep little Marcie warm.
We settle down, put down bedrolls so the hard floor will be comfortable to sleep on. Then Marcie goes off to do her thing... Playing with Hambo, I think. The toy I gave her to make her feel better when she was crying. She stays close by enough that I can keep an eye on her.
I sit down on my makeshift bed, wrestling my backpack off my shoulders and unbuckling the crown from my belt, then set them both aside. Taking a deep breath, I realize it’s been awhile since I checked on myself... Seeing as the crown causes me to have episodes every time I have no choice but to use it. The equipment I need is the one thing I was able to save from my burning lab, considering I knew I was beginning to turn and I would need to gauge when it was going to happen.
Self-exams are even more important now than ever. With a small child in my hands, I have to know if I’m starting to get worse. Because if I barely have a handle on my sanity, there’s no way I’ll be able to take care of Marcie. I can’t take care of her if I can’t take care of myself. And when I begin to worsen, I need to find someplace safe to leave her. And even though it’s the last thing I want to do, something that’ll wither my broken heart to nothing, I’ll have no choice but to exit Marcie’s life. I don’t want her to see me at my worst and scar her for the rest of her life, and I definitely don’t want to lose her the same way I lost Betty... Especially because it’s my job to take care of her.
Only way to know how much longer I have is to examine myself.
I go through the front of my backpack, and I find my thermometer and my stethoscope. Taking in a deep sigh, I collapse backwards onto my bedroll... And just hope Marcie doesn’t see me and ask what I’m doing. I don’t want her to be afraid of me.
Picking up the thermometer first, I give the button a squeeze. Should probably make sure it still works; I’m not sure where in this Hell I’d find another working thermometer, and I’d really not rather walk into the hospital and become a scientific anomaly because of how low my temperature is.
Besides. They won’t get anywhere. I’ve been trying to figure out why the crown’s doing this to me for years and haven’t had any sort of explanation.
Thankfully, it springs to life with its three signature beeps, and I know that it’s working. I part my lips and slide it under my tongue and nestle it there. The usual... The normal thing I did to myself in my lab.
I tuck my arms behind my head and just lie back and relax. The one thought in my head lying here with the dumb thermometer in my mouth is Marcie. How do I tell her what’s going on with me by the time I’m about to turn? Who do I leave her with? I doubt anyone would know her as well as I’ve come to know her by now.
Hopefully it isn’t soon. If things go my way... It’ll happen long after she doesn’t need me anymore and she can take care of herself.
My thoughts are interrupted by the all-too-familiar beeping of the thermometer. I prop myself up on my forearm, and slide it back out of my mouth and peer at the small screen. I just sigh in defeat. It’s just what I expected. Twenty Celsius.
Placing the thermometer aside, I stay sitting up a bit. I reach over and unbutton my peacoat, sliding it from my shoulders, then the black button-up underneath it to expose my chest. Just looking down at my body makes my heart fall... I’ve lost so much weight. I always had a small frame to begin with... Betty used to be able to pick me up and hold me, I was so small. But I’m nothing but skin and bones now. I can see the spaces between my ribs.
I lie back down, grabbing the stethoscope and putting it in my ears. I place the chestpiece on my chest... And it’s not cold at all. It’s just a metal disc against my skin.
It takes me a minute to find my heart. It sounds odd, but... It’s hard to hear it. For the past few times I’ve checked, I had to listen hard because it’s getting slower and weaker. It’s a miracle it isn’t entirely frozen at this point.
But I find it. Just barely, anyways.
It’s a faint beating in the very depth of my chest. Almost like it’s an echo from miles and miles away. And with every occasional beat, I sometimes hear it. The ice. I hear my heart trying to break through the layer of ice beginning to form around my heart. There’s a crackle... Then a regular beat... Another regular beat... Then another crackle.
It’s scary to listen to. I can’t make myself do it anymore.
I pull the stethoscope off, tossing it aside, proceeding to stare at the ceiling. Glob, I never want to hear anything like that again. But unfortunately, I don’t have a choice. Not if I want Marcie to be safe.
In the middle of my panicking thoughts, lying here with my shirt open on my bedroll, Marcie crawls up to me. She looks worried... The poor girl. She’s just like Betty, she knows I’m not well. And she knows when the curse has me feeling unwell, like I am now.
I look at her, and try to grin reassuringly to let her know that I’m okay... She doesn’t have to worry. It’s a lie, but I don’t want her to know what’s wrong for real.
“Simon?” she asks, her innocent voice almost melting the ice for a moment. “What are you doing, Simon?” She lies down on her tummy next to me.
Moving so quick I nearly startle her, I grab her little hand in mine. Opening her palm, I place it against my chest, right where my frozen heart resides. And I try to let her innocence, and the way she cares so much when there’s so much going on warm my heart. Melt the ice. Just remind me that even when everything seems so cold and dark.
Still a little worried, Marcie looks at me with those puppy eyes that always get me. “S-Simon?”
I smile, trying to fight back the tears. “Nothing, Marcie. I’m okay.”
Knowing things are okay for the time, Marcie smiles, and snuggles into my shoulder.
With her face hidden, my composure breaks again. Pressing her palm even closer to my chest, I breathe deeply, and allow a tear to run down my cheek.
“Gunther! Gunther, did you eat my socks again?!”
He probably did. Gunther always eats my socks.
If he ate them, that means... I need to find the other ones. The blue ones, I mean.
Ugh, it’s probably in one of these boxes. They’ve always had a ton of stuff in them. I never really understood the purpose of any of it, really. But some of it must be someone’s, I guess, so I should probably keep it in the boxes.
I trip over one box trying to find the one that has the socks in it that I need. Aaaand I find myself landing face-first in one of them. A small box, but my face is still in the box.
There isn’t much in it. Um... Some glasses? Then there’s these other two things I couldn’t fathom the use of. One of those things that Doctor Princess wears, it looks like. The other thing is this weird lookin’ plastic... Oval? With a really long and thin edge that’s got a little metal part. There’s a tiny screen too... I don’t know how anything could fit on it!
Oh well. I don’t know what the purpose of any of these would be.
“Welp! These are pretty weird looking!” I exclaim to Gunther in the other room.
Grabbing them out of the box, I pace over to the window, and I drop both things out into the snow.
Maybe one of the penguins can use it.