A No Dialogue Contest Entry
|It came on fast … so fast. No one was ready for it. Not the government, nor the health organizations, not even the doomsday prepper people you see on television. While the television stations were still broadcasting, they had varied ideas about where it originated, and how it spread. They didn’t last very long, though. The sign off was surreal, almost like you see in movies. The network people felt ill and wanted to be home with family. Of course, there was nowhere to go BUT home. It was clear that there was no cure for whatever deadly disease had fallen upon us. People were running amok in the streets, looting, and fighting over supplies. In doing so, they just made it spread faster. We could hear it from behind our steel door and barred windows, but it died down as the sickness took hold. I did everything the CDC had said should be done. I used duct tape and plastic bags to seal off the house. We took high doses of the vitamins we had on hand. It was good we had just shopped the week before, even filling our prescriptions. Even though the water system would function until the big municipal tanks ran dry, I filled the bathtub and containers. Maybe, just maybe, we could ride this thing out. I was wrong.
My wife of thirty years came down with it first, but I knew it was just a matter of time. Since I was still asymptomatic, it was my duty to make her as comfortable as possible. She decided to lay down on the day bed in the living room, and I put on an old movie. Our DVD player still worked. Later, the electricity would quit and we’d use candles and propane, but by that time she couldn’t focus anyway. I’d been making her soups and teas, but she didn’t want that for long. Her fever spiked, and nothing I gave her did the least bit of good. I was also past the initial symptoms, and I felt the fever, chills, and fatigue. Soon the rash would appear, along with vomiting and intense joint pain. It was time to prepare by putting water and whatever juice we had left by the bed. It would have been nice to lay next to my wife, but there was no room where she was, and moving her would cause horrible pain. If I could even manage it. At least she would never know I wasn’t there. The worst of it came on as quickly as I’d seen it in her, and I retched the water I had drunk. It was pink with blood. I staggered to the bedroom, holding on to whatever was on the way to keep upright. The term “deathbed” had never been so apropos.
I awoke to pounding, both in my head and on my door. The sun coming through the window hit my crusted eyes like a battering ram. By the angle of the rays, the time of day was apparent, but which day was unclear. It was simply unimaginable that I was alive, yet it seemed to be true. Trying to get up was a level of hell no one would want to experience. Every bone felt as if it had been broken, dried blood was all over me, and my head felt like a stuffed pillow. Still, I managed to get to my feet after downing all the water I had laid out. It felt like I had eaten sand. The pounding at the door became more frantic, then stopped. Instead, it became something else. Someone was determined to gain entry and soon did. Who they were and what they wanted was unclear, but I suspected looters. Their boots thudded on the wood floors, then stopped when I racked my pistol. They yelled about helping survivors, and entered slowly, hands out at their sides. It was just luck, people would say. Less than three percent of the population had survived. I didn’t feel lucky in the least. It was a whole new world, and I was facing it alone.
(WC - 686)