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The South Thrip River.

Dear Sister,

I am giving up my practice here, it is too hard, it is impossible, no Feeling Doctor can work effectively around the South Thrip, I am quite certain of it. This is a horrible, cold, dark river; it makes peoples' teeth shiver, it makes their bones shake, it makes the blood clatter through their veins like pebbles down a chute with the result that when I try to touch their illnesses all I feel is this terrible banging! They are indigenously sick! Even the fish grow fur to ward off the cold.

Well, I am told that it is simply a skin condition, but it looks like fur to me.

No, this is not at all like the River Fly. It is strange, they both come from the same high mountains, they both consist of melted snow, but the nature of this river is not what you will find in the Fly. This is a slim river with a black bottom. It is more changeable than the Fly, it floods in the hottest weather and shrinks in the coolest weather, and it forms puddles, my dear, pools of stagnant water scattered along its banks, which are occasionally refreshed with fresh water when the river rises, but more often than not, are left to bake and stink and breed insects. Oh, how the people love their insects! There are plants here, as there are in Gum Gooloo Gum Jublet, but I do swear that the people see them as little more than convenient homes for their beloved moths, caterpillars, grasshoppers, flies, wasps, beetles and every other creepy-crawly under the sun. I went bathing with my friends at the stone bathhouse in Rest yesterday, and do you know what one of the carvings consists of? A flight of tiny stairs leading to a hole in the ceiling, and these stairs are trodden by minute stone effigies of hundreds of insects! A local bather informed us that the stairs had been carved for the benefit of insects who might become trapped in the bathhouse and not know how to get out. Really, this is going too far.

Rest is the only real village on the river. It sits down by the coast where the weather is marginally warmer than it is near the mountains. After practicing fruitlessly in the shadow of the Two Shows (in most cases people were living in the coldest mountain cottages you could imagine) I came down here to find patients who might at least show some natural willingness to adopt the symptoms our profession has laid out for them, such as trembling within like an agitated drum only when one is suffering from, oh, let us say, an outbreak of the Plume. I find those mountain folk are either unnaturally shaky or unnaturally still, under all circumstances, whether sickness assails them or not.

In any case yes: Rest. Rest is even worse. Nature dictates that the blood of the people here ought to be calm, because as I was taught, the sight of a river emerging from its long earth-bound captivity into the freedom of the sea is a sight calculated to put one's body happily at ease, and the village is close to the seashore, but the blood of the Restians rings too fiercely in their veins. As you know, the South Thrip is our last point of civilisation before the great mountains run away toward the vast nothingness of the country from which we will one day be invaded by Them, the great They of legend, and my dear, the people here live like nothing you have seen before. Oh, how they drink! They drink and they idolise their insects, and that is all there is to the place. It is fear that stimulates them, fear that stirs their bodies to these displays of inner trembling (and they will not believe me when I tell them that they tremble: I had a man the other day slap his bicep at me and claim that it was, "hard as a rock!" Yes, dear boy, but I am talking about an inner ringing, not an outer one. I measure the mood of your blood, which you cannot see. Heedless of my words, he thought I was insulting him.)

No, it is simply too awful, I shall travel back to Ex as soon as possible. You may expect me to arrive soon after this letter.

Yours with love,
Fareshteh C.