The Mark
Gregory Howard

Certain patients in cases such as these will, at times, speak a mark or series of marks, what may be called a rash, or, since preconclusive and therefore unresolved diagnosis is not suggested, equally a sensitivity of some kind, an irritation, a blemish, a kind of bite, a sore, a lesion, an x where x equals a diagnosis yet to be named, an infection, an infection? hardly seems likely, Crebisher will say, is worth looking into, Schrieber will add (though by the quality of the expression you might not be wrong in thinking a little disinterestedly) though rare, might just be the thing, Hebers will enthuse, on account of its rarity. Placement is of no help in this regard. Of course, some will say the middle of the back, others the neck. Some have even complained of the thigh. This is unavoidable and, admittedly, difficult to verify. Due to its singular location, the mark, consensus will call it, can only be seen in mirrors, at odd angles, by twisting the neck and torso, with the dim bathroom light, with the night's thoughts caroming about in your skull, and also in the day. Schrieber is happy to look into it and readies his happy scalpel to do so, but in vain. For when it comes time there is no mark, or none at least observable by anyone of consequence. It's right there, the patients will say. Here? Schrieber will say. How about here? What about the coloring? Hebers will say, beginning to pace in tightly described circles, circles that Crebisher will remember later as slightly wobbly and haphazard. Certainly there must be something there. Was it pink, red, purple, blue, black, blackish, orange? Orange? Though it is difficult it may be helpful to remember the plague of Athens, which was not a plague, and the plague of London, which was. The days of fevers are over, Schrieber will remember Crebisher intoning, as if in a dream. Not to mention the nights. But roll out the welcome mats for foreign agents, in the blood, in the lymph, traveling with impunity, nibbling as they go. If there was swelling, Briers will finally say, but softly from the corner where he has been sitting, away from the proceedings, in the half-light. But there is no swelling, no hardening of any kind, though later, of course, there will be swelling.