Chapter 19: The Plague Hits Home
“Look, you guys don’t have to do this. After all, you’ve hardly known us that long, and you’ve only known Frank for a couple of days,” Billy said, as he and Adrian carried Frank’s body out of the trailer. Adrian had to stop to better his grip and David offered once again to help. Billy had insisted that they be the only ones to handle the body, not wanting to risk exposing anyone else. David had tried to argue with him about it, but they’d both insisted, so now David kept his objections to himself. This was important to them, the same way the burial was important to the girls.
“We’re not doing it strictly for Frank,” David explained. “It’s what he represents. We welcomed you into our house, so we can’t turn our back on you when you get sick, and we’re not going to do it now that he’s gone. After all, he represents all those who have died alone in strange circumstances, separated from family and friends with no one by their sides when it happened, and no one knowing that they’ve passed. Everyone here can see themselves in the same situation and they don’t like what it represents. No one here wants to be forgotten, and by honoring you, they honor all those who’ve died in isolation, and they’re expressing their hopes that they’ll receive a similar honor.”
“Still, you’re each risking more than is necessary by doing this,” Adrian argued.
“We face the risk of death every single day, just like everyone does. We face the same risk just by breathing the air or talking to each other. We can’t cut the risk by being unreasonable, and taking care of each other is not only reasonable, it’s essential. It’s what makes us human. If we live by isolating ourselves, then would we still be as human when we eventually climb out of our cave after the danger has passed, after having ignored everyone we care about as they lay suffering?”
They said this, despite the sores that Billy was now showing. They weren’t open and oozing, like Bobby’s were, but it was obvious he was getting sick. So far Adrian remained symptom free, but there was no telling how long that reprieve might last.
The conversation halted when Bobby walked out of the house holding a bag of supplies and started walking towards where he imagined the trailer was. He changed his direction once he heard the ongoing discussion. Caitlyn and Erica trailed after him, obviously worried about him, but he seemed determined to do whatever he was doing himself.
“It’s final, and I’m doing it. What’s more, I can do it on my own if you won’t help. Just get out of my way,” he argued.
Caitlyn looked at David pleadingly.
“What’s going on?” David asked.
“I’m moving out of the house and into the trailer with Billy and Adrian,” Bob informed him. “I’m infected, and I’m not going to put everyone in jeopardy simply for my convenience.”
“He needs someone to look after him,” Erica pleaded. “The last thing he needs is to be sleeping out in the cold, in the damp, and exposed to the elements.”
“I can take care of myself, what’s more I’ve got Billy and Adrian to look out for me. I’ve been taking care of myself for decades, and I can continue to do so for the rest of my life.”
“Look, let’s stop with this martyr business,” David cautioned. “It’s counterproductive, it’s not helpful, and i—”
“That’s a bunch of bull,” Bobby countered. “I’ve got a death sentence over my head now. I’ll be dead in only a few days and we all know it, even if you are afraid of admitting it. What’s more, I’m not afraid of it. Frankly, I’m ready to join Ma. I couldn’t see myself continuing without her, and now she and God have taken the choice out of my hands. As much as I respect all of you, and want to help, the best way to help now is to move out.”
“We tried to talk him down,” Caitlyn explained, “but he wouldn’t listen to us. He collected his stuff, told us who gets which of his things, and insisted we wipe down everything he touched.”
“I’ve exposed you enough as it is. I don’t want my contaminated sweat and blood to contaminate the rest of you.”
“Billy, I think you’ll have to put Frank down until we get this worked out,” David said before turning to Bobby. “The trailer is over this way. Now, are you sure this is really what you want?”
“Yes, absolutely. I know I’m going to get sicker quickly, and I want to make the move while I’m able to. It’s better for everyone this way.”
“I can see it being OK with you, since Billy and Adrian can help you manage, but will it help them?” David asked, trying a different tact.
“Hell, I’ve nursed others plenty of times. I know how to take care of someone who’s ill. I’ve wiped shit, sweat and vomit before, and I can do it again. What’s more, care isn’t a visual medium. I’ll be better off, the boys will do better with someone who can take care of them, and the rest of you will be safer without my making you sick.”
David just shrugged, acknowledging he couldn’t think of any other arguments to counter his position.
“We’ve been disease free for so long, it makes you wonder why we’re suddenly starting to get sick now,” Linda said.
“Ha, that’s obvious,” Adrian replied. “We brought it, we exposed you, and now we’ve threatened all of you. We never should have come here. We should have stayed at the campus. We were hoping to escape the disease, but we’ve only brought it here.”
“I don’t think so,” Ellen said. “Everyone agrees that the plague is airborne, and it seems evident that it was started by the asteroid shower. Thus the germs that caused this started out as airborne contaminants, and that means we’ve been exposed simply by breathing.”
“If that’s the case, then why haven’t any of us gotten sick yet?” Maggie asked.
“Actually, I’ve been considering that,” Alice said. “I don’t think you’ve noticed it, not having spent as long here as I have, but you’ll notice that it’s always windy here. The air sweeps down the mountainside and blows off into the valley below us. While you’re right that the original contaminant started off in the upper atmosphere, it apparently took time until it adapted to the human physiology, and now that it has, the airborne contaminants have settled closer to the ground.
“The air that blows through here comes from higher up, and I don’t think it brings the virus with it. However, as time goes by, more and more of the contaminants are moving higher and higher up into the atmosphere. Thus it was only a limited amount of time until we were all eventually exposed,” she finished with a note of finality.
Linda mumbled something under her breath, and since no one could hear it, David turned and glanced at her. Seeing their interest, she spoke up. “I said, I don’t think it’s that simple. I think you’ve got a good point, that the air stream theory explains why we’ve escaped getting sick for so long, but Billy told us about how they got into a fight with Frank that first night. How the fight carried them out into the yard as Frank physically resisted their removing his clothes and revealing that he was sick. Then, if you’ll remember, the next day Bob gets the bright idea of walking around barefoot outside and cuts his foot. I think there’s a simpler case of cross contamination. Frank must have spread some bodily fluids on the grass, and when Bobby cut himself, he gave it an easy access to his system.”
“That actually makes a lot of sense,” Maggie observed.
“So Adrian is right, but not in the way he thought,” Billy commented.
“Not really,” Maggie corrected him. “It was Frank that exposed all of us, and it was only because he was trying to hide his exposure. If he’d been forthcoming, none of us would have been exposed. As it is, it looks like only the three of you have been exposed so far.”
“And I was sure to have the girls wipe everything I touched with antiseptic wipes,” Bobby insisted.
“There’s no evidence yet that they can kill the bugs we’re dealing with,” Ellen reminded him. “It makes sense to try to protect ourselves, but we don’t know how best to do it.”
“Look, these are all interesting theories, but it doesn’t address how we’re going to go on from here,” David reminded everyone. “Bobby, as much as I hate to say it, I think your idea to move out here is probably a valid choice, although I’m troubled by your assumption that you’re willing to die. We need everyone fighting to survive, that’s the only way we’ll manage to beat this sickness.”
“Face it, David, it doesn’t look like anyone is surviving this,” Adrian pointed out. “We know we’re going to die. We’ve picked out different ways of dealing with it, but we’re already ‘walking dead’. We’re just waiting to fall over to complete the process”
“OK, look, enough with the morbid thoughts,” David countered. “We’re not ready to give up on anyone here. What’s more, we’ll fight with each of you to keep you alive whether you want to or not, but it would be much easier on each of us if you didn’t fight us. We need to work together to survive this, and any of you deciding you don’t want to live makes survival more difficult on the rest of us.”
“I’m not risking anyone else, and I’ve already taught the girls everything I was doing for you. I think I’ve already done my part,” Bobby argued.
“But it’s not that simple,” Ellen countered. “Watching you give up and stop fighting makes everyone else give up hope as well. In order to help everyone, it helps if everyone works as hard as they can to survive. It’s no guarantee it’ll help you live any longer, but it’s a better overall survival mechanism.”
Bobby grumbled, but didn’t have any arguments against that.
“OK, put Bobby’s stuff in the trailer for him. Once you’re done, we’ll finish with the burial detail,” David concluded, tiring of the pointless arguments.
“We take this moment to remember our good friends, Frank Morre, Reggie Sinclair and Mary Lind. They each worked hard, both for us as a newly formed family, for themselves, but also for the community at large, and as such they’ll be missed, not only for what they did for us, but also for what they meant to us,” David said, as he extemporized a memorial service for them.
“I’d ask God to watch over both them and us, but I’m not sure what we’re facing is God’s responsibility. I think, as he typically does, God has no part in what we face. Just as he has never stopped or promoted natural disasters, I suspect he’s leaving our survival in our own hands, so we’ll have to work hand in hand to pull through this, and that means we’ll have to do everything we can to bolster each other. That said, I hope that God will at least watch out for the recently departed, and save us a seat beside them for when we join them, even if we chose to wait a while before we do so.
“I’d also like to say something personal. While I never got a chance to get to know Frank that well, I was impressed how he turned his attitude around, moving from hiding his illness to trying to become a better, more responsible person before he died.
“Reggie has been a friend of mine for several years, and we shared a lot. We both respected each other, and what’s more we respected each other enough to give us our own space. But when we were threatened, he chose me to look out for the love of his life, and I’d like to honor him by doing just that. I like to think that he’d be proud of how we’ve welcomed her into our home, and how we’ve dedicated ourselves to helping each member of our new family, even those who have been with us less than the others have.
“And Mary, whom we all affectionately called Ma, was a dear soul. She dedicated herself to helping others. She cared for Bobby, but she also gave her life trying to help identify the plague that ultimately caused her death, and helped identify what was happening, prompting a nationwide search for a solution. We owe her a great deal. She needn’t have exposed herself, but she chose to do so knowing it would be better for everyone that she did. What’s more, I suspect she also chose to not return home during this period for fear that she may expose us. I admire that sacrifice on her part, as I realize it must have been difficult to have had to die so far from home, her husband, and us, her newest family.”
With that David stood aside as Maggie stepped up.
“I’d like to say something about my husband, Reggie Sinclair. He was a good man who dedicated himself to helping people, choosing to serve the people here in a fairly remote community by taking over his father’s business rather than moving to the city where he could have made a lot more money. I loved that dedication, and I loved how much he cared for those he served. What’s more, I loved the freedom it gave us. It allowed us to live close to the city, but also to enjoy this remote community, where we learned to stand on our own and to express our individuality. That resilience is what now carries us forward. While other cities and communities have fallen apart, unable to deal with what’s happened, this one has pulled together, working hard to help each other, and to help anyone who happened to find themselves here.
“I include those who represent that same spirit, like David, Ellen and the rest of you who have made yourselves at home here, and who have worked tirelessly to help everyone, issuing the first warnings of the dangers we all face, and broadcasting suggestions on how we can survive what we all face. Clearly, not everyone in this county felt the same way, as others have tried to punish those that never chose to become sick, and those that risk other’s lives only to steal what doesn’t belong to them, in an attempt to take what they want after their owners have died. But it’s people like these here that represent what’s good about humanity, and like David said, if we forget a single person among us, we surrender our own humanity. The survivalists we fought yesterday represent the worst of humanity, while David and my dear Reggie represent the best of it.”
David had to help Maggie as she hurriedly moved away, tears streaming down her face. Caitlyn was about to lead Bobby forward, but Adrian motioned her back as he took Bobby’s arm and moved him before the makeshift cross they’d crafted for the memorial site.
“As much as I love the rest of you, Ma held a special place in my heart, and one that’s not easily replaced. Before she came along I was a tough old bird, a lonely blind man boldly making his way in the world in defiance of those who told me I couldn’t. But she brought the humanity the rest of you talk of to my world. She taught me how to love and how to forgive, and what’s more, how to care for others. It’s because of her that I first met David, although they’d both deny that. And it’s because of David and the rest of you that I’ve survived this long, that much I’m sure of. But I also know that she’s calling my name, and there’s only so long I can ignore her siren’s call. Know this, Ma, I love you, and I count the days until I’ll join you again.”
When Bobby fell silent, Adrian helped him move off to the side. When everyone else looked at Billy, he realized it was his turn, so he stepped up and offered what he could.
“Although we never really got to know Frank terribly well, I know that he was a proud man, and he was desperate to survive, and more than simply surviving, he wanted his life to mean something in the end. Once he was assured he’d have a chance at surviving, a chance given him by David, he chose to make up for his duplicity by working up until the end of his short life by helping others, and taking care of those who fell victim before he did, ever mindful that those lifeless bodies staring up at him represented what would soon become of him.
“I can respect that position, and it’s one that I’d like to emulate. I want to help everyone that I can, not because it will help them, but because it will help me. Hopefully it will define me, declare me to be more than the things I’ve accumulated during my life, show me to be more than what I’d hoped to eventually accomplish. Now I have a short time to prove what I might have been, and like David says, I want people, hell, virtually anyone, to remember me, but more than that, I want these people around me, who I respect and admire so much, to remember me fondly. That, more than anything else, will give meaning to my life.”
Billy too broke down at that point, shedding quiet tears, so David took a shovel and threw the first shovel full of dirt onto Frank’s prone body in the grave below. The girls, one by one, followed suit, adding their own shovels as their last memorial. David had insisted that the grave be dug extra wide and deep, and insisted that they only cover him partially, using a tarp to cover the grave afterwards. He knew that there would be more people that would need burials in the days and weeks to follow, and he didn’t want to burden others with having to work this hard to bury him if anything happened to him as well.
After they’d paid their respects, they stood around as Bobby and Maggie continued to mourn their spouses, but once they seemed to have reached their limit, they helped them back, the two groups moving to their respective spaces, with Bobby moving to the more limited and less comfortable temporary accommodations of the trailer. It may not be his home for long, but he still felt welcomed there, and he was proud to call it home.
Having finished the memorial, everyone had lunch and got busy with their daily tasks. Ellen and Linda borrowed some of the girls to finish setting up the cages for the animals. They were also careful to examine each one to ensure they weren’t showing signs of being ill, knowing they’d have to separate and potentially put them down as soon as they showed any symptoms. Despite their fears, they didn’t find any diseased animals, which seemed to validate Alice’s theory for why they hadn’t become sick yet.
Several of the girls also worked gathering data for the day’s broadcasts, the girls gossiping with Alice and Amy about the shootout as they did. Billy and Adrian insisted on heading out again, despite their sickness. David tried to dissuade them, but they insisted they wanted to be productive as long as they could, and David knew this was important to them as Billy had explained in his eulogy, so he didn’t pursue it.
When David asked whether Bobby wanted his spare radio hooked up in the trailer, he waved the suggestion off.
“Nah, there’s no point. I taught the girls everything they need to know, and my contributing now will just undermine what they’re doing, making them doubt whether they can do it as well as I can. It’s better if I don’t. I have a music player and my book reader as well as chargers for both, so I should be set. Although, frankly, I don’t really plan to use either.”
“I still think it would help you to stay connected,” David pointed out.
“And I keep telling you it’s not going to make much difference. I’d rather spend my time remembering the good points in my life and reflect on the differences I made, but anything I’d do now would just take away from what the girls are doing.”
David wasn’t fond of this attitude of Bobby’s, but he couldn’t very well change his thinking, so he was forced to leave Bobby on his own.
Having nothing more pressing to do, David took Ellen, Sara and Julie with him as he left to stop in and check up on certain people nearby that he was concerned with and that he wanted to keep track of. These people either owned farms, or had other resources he knew he’d need access to in the coming months, and he wanted to make sure he could act to prevent those resources from being lost if they fell ill and died. If nothing else, stopping to visit them would help cement their relationships, at the worst, he could help them potentially live a little longer, or help the healthy members avoid becoming infected by their sick relatives.
When they returned they found dinner ready and everyone finished with their tasks, except for the two men. They didn’t show up for a while, and when they did, David and Ellen went out to check on them. They found that both men were dragging. Although Billy’s sores were visibly worse, Adrian’s skin remained clear, but both were obviously having trouble. A quick check revealed that both had fevers, so they tried to assist them into the trailer despite the pair’s objections. Observing what was happening, Bobby assured them he’d take care of them, and sent David and Ellen to look after the others in the safety of their house.
The news from the girls wasn’t very reassuring, but there wasn’t much new. The death rates continued to mount, and there appeared to be even fewer people still able to do any research. Many of the hospitals they’d been communicating with had gone off the air, and few others joined the discussions. What’s more, the hospitals had largely given up hope of actually doing anything more than easing their patients’ passing, and more and more of the hospital staff were dying as well.
Everyone discussed the situation and how they saw it turning out. David, Ellen and Linda encouraged everyone to keep their hopes up, but the girls were not entirely convinced. Maggie didn’t really offer much of an opinion, and David knew it was because she was more aware of the limits of medicine. While the girls knew the dangers, they were still a little young to be able to grasp the extent of the devastation the country had already suffered from.
Realized that everyone needed to contemplate where they stood on their own, rather than debating it in public, David finally called it a night. He also knew that, when any of them had a specific problem, they’d come to either him or Ellen, so he felt comfortable letting them handle things on their own for the night. He checked up on Bobby, Adrian and Billy, but Bobby warned him away, telling him they were sick and not to bother coming in, as he had everything well in hand. It once again amazed David how Bobby could handle treating two sick individuals in a trailer he’d just moved into without being able to see a thing, but then Bobby had always been a pretty amazing individual.
When he came back in, Ellen met him at the door and they locked up and headed upstairs together. Once they climbed into bed, however, rather than sleep, cuddle or talk, they started getting amorous again. It had been a while since they’d done anything, and while the circumstances seemed wrong, it suddenly seemed to be all they could think of. As much as the recent deaths were a distraction, they were also a siren call for them both to grab onto life with both hands, and what better way to grab onto life than grabbing someone you love and making wild passionate love with them. They were getting pretty hot and heavy into it, and David was just getting into position to press into Ellen when there was a timid knock on the door.
Given all that had happened, they could hardly ignore it. Sighing, David called out, “Yeah?”
The door opened slightly, they’d given up locking it since they knew the girls wouldn’t interrupt them, and they’d often come in after they were done anyway, so it really didn’t make sense locking the door, and Maggie stuck her head it.
“I need some of your time,” she stated plaintively.
David rolled off of Ellen, trying to will his rampant erection down as Ellen replied “Of course, come on in.”
She got about four steps in when she realized their state of undress.
“Were you guys busy?”
“We were about to start, but it’s OK,” David assured her. “You’re more important. We can always steal some time later.”
“Look, I’m really sorry, and I’m not here to crash your party or anything, but I just don’t want to be alone right now, and I could really use a hug.”
“Sure, honey. Slip in right here between us,” Ellen told her. “Everything is going to be OK.”
David considered trying to find his bedclothes, but he knew that was an impossible option at that point, and he hoped Maggie wouldn’t take offense to his having an erection during her time of need, but she didn’t seem to notice their nakedness as she climbed into the bed and snuggled between them.
“I’m still not sure I’m really ready to grieve, but it suddenly hit me that I’m never going to see him again. I’ll never hear his snore, I’ll never hear him gargle while he’s brushing his teeth, and I’ll never even see him pick his teeth either. He’s really gone,” she said as a tear slid down her cheek, glistening in the dim bedside nightlight.
David lay out on his back and she snuggled into him while Ellen cuddled her from behind. Despite his unease about exposing himself to her, she held him tight, pressing herself against him and his erection. David also knew that there was no way that Ellen could disguise her erect nipples from her either, but Maggie had no time to be concerned with such things.
“That’s OK, let it out,” David stupidly responded, not knowing how to address such a sentiment, and knowing if he said anything more he’d try to start finding a solution to her problem, which he realized was the last thing she wanted.
“That’s expected,” Ellen cooed from the side, snuggling against her. “He was a big part of your life, and you’re bound to miss him, especially at night when you’d usually be cuddled up against him. You’re likely to have many little moments like these, and whenever you do, know that we’re here for you.”
“There’s just this giant hole in my heart and in my soul, knowing that he won’t be there for me, and… and knowing that I wasn’t there for him either.”
“Now that’s just not true,” David said, not able to keep himself from trying to correct things. “You’d been seeing him pretty regularly. You kept running to your store to check in on him and shepherd supplies back and forth.”
“That’s just it,” she sniffled into his chest, “The last time I went to see him he wouldn’t talk to me. He said he had some orders to get out for several people, which I should have recognized wasn’t like him. But I just said ‘OK’ and let him get back to work. When I walked out, I thought maybe he was angry at me, that maybe he was upset that I’d been here for so long and had been abandoning him. Having fun while he worked alone.”
“You did nothing of the ki—” David started to say before he was stopped by a swift kick in the shin.
“He didn’t mean it,” Ellen argued. “I’m sure he was trying to protect you. He probably knew that he was sick and didn’t want you to worry if you couldn’t do anything about it. He was concerned about you.”
David didn’t say anything this time, just holding her as she cried against his shoulder, her hair spreading out all over as he tried to will his erection away, something it just wasn’t willing to do. He may have been concerned about her emotional well being, but his dick had an agenda all its own, and going down wasn’t on it.
He was also aware of her dress as well. Although she had a night shirt on, an extra long T-shirt, he could feel her breasts and nipples pressing into his side, and he found it hard to think of anything besides them. Them, and doing something with that erection of his.
“But I should have known. I should have recognized it was out of character. I should have known he needed me. You would have understood if I had to go back to him, you wouldn’t have minded. I should have been there for him.”
“Nonsense,” Ellen insisted. “He wanted you safe. More than anything else, he loved you, and he’d rather you be safe and secure here rather than being exposed trying vainly to take care of him.”
“He apparently worked on, even knowing he was sick,” Maggie continued. “They say he wore his mask all the time, and his gloves too, so he felt he could continue to take care of people without exposing them to what he had, but he couldn’t turn his back on his customers. They needed him, and he wanted to be there for them up until the very end.”
“It was important to him. He certainly wasn’t doing it for the money, after all, no one had any more.”
Maggie lifted her head at that, looking at David instead of back at Ellen who’d made the comment. “That’s not true. He told me no one could pay anymore, but he’d set up a series of payments. He knew that people felt guilty accepting handouts, so they’d bring in things for him. They’d either bring in food or treats, but usually they’d work out an arrangement. He had a whole string of notes of what everyone had promised him.”
When she said that, Maggie suddenly sat up somewhat, looking pensive. “We need to get those, and the medical supplies he had there.”
“I think we have plenty of medical supplies here,” David tried to assure her.
“No, you don’t understand. We’ve got the liquid antibiotics, the various creams and whatnot, but he’s got all the tablets. Those will be important to whoever survives, and we’ll need them. I don’t want to leave them to some thug who decides to break in, looking for whatever they can steal.”
“I don’t think anyone is going to be stealing anything. I think most people are hunkered down, trying to wait out the illness,” David said, trying to assure her it wasn’t as important as she thought it was.
“Don’t worry, David will take you in the morning and you can get whatever you need,” Ellen said, somehow knowing just what needed to be said without having to struggle with it. But then again, she didn’t have a crying woman rubbing against her erection, one that was demanding some attention, and that was misinterpreting the sensations it was getting.
“Thank you,” Maggie replied, leaning up and kissing him for what Ellen had promised her. As she did, he felt her breasts rub against his chest, her nipples grazing against him through her thin covering. He couldn’t help it, he gave a little groan and pressed his cock a little more firmly against her. But instead of reacting to the offensive behavior, she actually stopped crying long enough to giggle.
“I guess I really stopped you in the middle, huh? I swear, I think David is about ready to pop.”
“Yeah, we were, uh, getting pretty intense there,” Ellen told her.
“You know, it might be the wrong thing to think about when I’m mourning my husband, but now that I’m here, I’m feeling more secure, more comfortable, and as I’m relaxing, I’m actually starting to feel a little sexy myself.”
David’s ears perked up at that, as his dick took control of his senses to remind his head that it might stand a good chance of getting some. David tried to talk it down, but his head wasn’t entirely convinced either, as it was suddenly filled with images of what Maggie looked like naked, and how much he wanted to….
Just then there was another knock on the door, this one another tepid attempt, as if afraid of waking them.
Shaking his mind clear momentarily, David rolled over towards the door, pressing both himself and his cock further against Maggie as he did.
“Yeah? Is this important, we kind of—”
At his response, the door opened and Alice poked her head in.
“Yeah, it is Dad. Amy and I have been trying to sleep, but we can’t keep the thoughts out of our heads.”
David sighed again, rolled away from Maggie while also reaching down to hold himself, as if to physically restrain his aching cock.
“Come on in. You don’t mind an interruption in our… discussion, do you?” he asked Maggie.
“No, not at all,” she assured him as they made room for the two girls.
“Thanks. Although we thought we were doing well, we had visions that were very disturbing,” Alice said as they both climbed onto the bed, both girls more interested in being comforted by David rather than either of the two women.
“Uh, you should be aware that we’re naked here,” he advised them both.
“Relax,” Alice told him. “I won’t have a cow if I realize you’ve got a penis that might poke me occasionally.” With that, they climbed in on either side of him. They were both wearing a standard t-shirt, hopefully with panties, and this time his penis did in fact go down substantially, but still not completely. As the two girls snuggled in against him the other women pressed against them as well, making for a very full sandwich. Kind of a ‘Dagwood’ human sandwich. David tried to arrange himself so he wasn’t pressing too blatantly against either girl, but he wasn’t completely successful.
“Tell us what the problem is,” Ellen suggested.
“We’d both keep falling asleep, and as we did we’d see those people trying to shoot you and Maggie, and then their faces would change and they’d look like Flora’s parents, or like Frank did this morning. And then I saw you, Maggie and Mom all looking the same way, with those dead unseeing eyes looking up at us.”
“I thought we were doing well,” Amy added, “but I was terrified of falling asleep, and I couldn’t keep from doing it either.”
“Look, don’t worry about it, OK? Both Maggie and I are fine,” David said as he pulled the two girls against him in a big bear hug. They pressed even tighter against him, but there’s just something about doing such a thing with a daughter and someone who felt very much like a daughter. Suddenly his dick had lost all its insistence. It was still slowly deflating, but it was no longer demanding attention. Instead he was simply interested in taking care of his girls.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” Maggie assured them.
“Hey, Maggie,” Alice said. “You having a hard time too, or you here for some hanky panky?”
“Hey, no teasing, at least not now. You’re here for some serious cuddling, so let’s not get distracted,” Ellen insisted.
“Yes, Mom,” Alice teased. They let the comment pass until Alice leaned up in order to regard her father. “Have any of you seen Mom?”
“No, she didn’t join us. In fact I haven’t seen much of her tonight,” Ellen observed. With that, David tried to remember when he’d last seen her.
“We figured you might be busy, and we really didn’t want to interrupt until you had a chance to finish,” Amy explained. “So we went downstairs to see if we could find Linda. But we couldn’t find her. She wasn’t in her usual spot. We didn’t know where she was.”
“Look, let’s worry less about your mother and more about these dreams of yours. Now tell me more about them,” David told them.
“Like I said, I’d see those people gunning for you, trying to sneak up on you, and then their eyes would turn into those of dead people, and then I’d see you, Maggie and Mom, and your eyes would look like that too.”
“In my case, I saw people shooting at you, and when I went to help I found you all lying in an open grave, just like the one we buried Frank in today,” Amy said.
“Maybe exposing you to that service wasn’t the best thing in the world?” David suggested.
“Nonsense,” Alice argued. “There’s death everywhere now. We’re going to be seeing it everywhere. We’ll be OK, but you told us to come see you when the emotions got to be too much for us. Well, that time is now. So less yapping and more hugging,” she insisted.
So David did just that. He simply hugged them to himself, and let Ellen and Maggie conduct the conversation after that, while he simply smelled the two girls’ hair and tried to imagine a simpler time when he wasn’t exposing his two girls to widespread death and disease. But the discussion seemed to settle the girls, and what’s more, talking them through their own troubles seemed to settle Maggie as well. The girls talked themselves out over the next hour, being gently guided by the two women, but soon the exhaustion they’d complained of proved too much for them and they started falling asleep. Once they did, though, David found himself following along behind them, the sounds of their relaxed breathing filling him with a relieved sense of well being and comfort that everyone was safe. He had the most important people in his life in his arms at that moment, and while it wasn’t everyone, he felt safe in the knowledge that they were safe and that he’d, no they’d, managed to protect them once again.
But as comforted as he felt for having taken care of his girls, his sleep wasn’t quite as easy, as the images the girls had mentioned seemed to take over his own dreams. However, in his there was no gun fight, no conflicts, and no bad guys. Instead he found himself wandering the darkened house after the power had gone out, the only light being that cast from the moon outside. As he’d enter each room, and for some reason he’d keep getting lost, finding one new room after another, he’d find another of his girls lying on the floor, looking at him with the lifeless eyes that Alice had so accurately described. Seeing each girl and knowing she was lost, he’d hurry on to check on the others, always being more concerned with the next one than the one he’d just found, but each girl he found was the same, only they never seemed to end. And so the dream continued on as he fidgeted and moaned, and the two girls cuddled him tighter, trying to both reassure and quiet him so they too, could find the sweet release of sleep.
Waking up early, David tried to get out of bed quickly, hoping to escape and get dressed unnoticed.
“Hey, Dad, nice ass,” Alice called out, showing he wasn’t as early as he’d hoped. Both she and Amy broke out giggling. Clearly he might be able to beat most of the girls out of bed, but not these two.
David ignored them, assuming he didn’t really have a choice, and dug through his drawers, pulling out his clothes and dressing, facing away from them, not that it really hid that much from anyone watching him.
“He does have a nice ass, doesn’t he?” Maggie asked.
“You bet he does, it’s my sixth or seventh favorite thing about him,” Ellen commented.
“When you guys are finished punishing me, I’ll be downstairs getting breakfast ready,” he told them before slipping out the door. The sound of laughter followed him down the hall.
David was busy getting the coffee started and orange juice poured, since he knew everyone would be down soon, when Linda walked in from the entrance hall.
“Oh, good morning. Where were you? I’d expected to see you coming from the other direction.”
“Oh, I was out enjoying the morning air.”
“Well, just don’t pull a Bobby on us. Please keep your shoes on and don’t go rolling naked in the grass too near where the guys might have been wandering. And the outdoors isn’t quite as ‘healthy’ as it used to be. With these viruses being airborne, the longer you spend outdoors the greater your risk of potential infection. What’s more, there’s been a distinct lack of sunshine, and it’s at least a good five to ten degrees cooler now than it should be for this time of year.”
“Don’t worry, I’m not about to go exposing myself. I’m not interested in threatening the health of everyone here. I just felt like taking a walk by myself for a change.”
“Ah, considering life?” David asked, appreciating the sentiment. He’d love to wander through his own property and contemplate life and its meanings, especially given everything that had been occurring, but he’d been so preoccupied with watching out for so many people, he hardly had any time for himself any more. Everyone was either looking for him for assistance, or expecting him to lead. Quiet contemplation was something he could no longer afford.
“Something like that, but I think I know what I want out of life, and right now I have everything I desire. I have my family, I have lots of close friends, each of which would sacrifice much more for me than any of my so called ‘social’ friends from back in my previous life.”
David smiled at that, given the big change between how she’d been before and how she’d been since joining them. He kind of expected her to come for a hug, since the statement seemed to be one of those that would lead to one, but she instead headed to the orange juice, so David just kept working on breakfast.
“Did you see the boys?” David asked.
“I didn’t speak to them, but what I overheard didn’t sound very good.”
“Yeah, I need to get out there and speak to them. I just hope that no one died overnight. Alice had a bad reaction to recent events last night. I think she dealt with the funeral service yesterday worse than she did the gun fight.”
“Really?” Linda asked, sounding concerned. When David turned to consider her, she seemed conflicted, looking like she wanted to run to comfort her daughter, but also not wanting to overwhelm her, giving Alice her own space to discover the world on her own, the classic dilemma of most parents of teens and pre-teens.
“Don’t worry, we talked them through it, and she and Amy seemed to be doing better. I think it was the combination of events. She wasn’t ready to talk about it sooner because it was too fresh in her mind. Now that things have calmed down, and with the infusion of new events, all the details were getting jumbled up in her head.”
“Well, it’s a good thing she has you and Ellen to help her sort things out,” Linda observed, looking a bit wistful.
“No, she has a whole house full of supportive people who love and care for her. If I had to do this on my own I’d be lost. I’m only doing so well because of the support of people like you, Ellen, Maggie and the others. Everyone helps, and together we’re able to weather most of what we’ve encountered.”
However the discussion ended as Ellen, Maggie and the girls trooped down together. The chaos kept the talk more superficial and David concentrated on getting breakfast ready as quickly as possible. There was a lot to take care of that day, like most days.
“Hey guys? Anyone in any condition to eat?” David called out as he and Ellen carried plates of food out for the guys in the trailer, having no idea what to expect.
“I’m kind of busy at the moment, give me a minute,” Bobby called out, sounding tired.
“You’d better set that down and get some coffee, it sounds like he needs some,” David suggested. Ellen nodded and headed inside after putting the food down for David to watch over. She returned with a couple of cups and the coffee pot before anyone exited the camper.
“Last night was rough,” Bobby said as he appeared in the doorway. “Both Billy and Adrian are very sick, and they’ve been suffering all night.”
“That’s too bad. I take it neither one is likely to be hungry, but we brought juice to help keep them hydrated and give them a little fuel to help them keep going. See if you can get them to drink it. Do you want us to come in and help? You must be exhausted?”
“No, you stay out here. I can take care of this. You and Ellen are essential to this whole organization. Everyone here depends on you, and you depend on Ellen. Your roles are too valuable to risk trying to make yourselves feel better by trying to take care of those of us who are sick. Besides, it’s good for me. When I’m dealing with life or death issues I can’t wallow in my own self pity. But it’s a mess in here. I’ve been working hard to keep it clean, but there’s a lot of blood, piss and shit, and I’m afraid for you to casually wander through if I can’t see what I may have missed.”
“We hate abandoning you to this. It seems like something we should all be involved with,” Ellen argued.
“It’s fine for now,” Bobby told them, after David moved the food a short distance from him and told him where to find it. Bobby gave them time to back away before approaching it. He seemed to really appreciate the coffee, as he’d always been a heavy coffee drinker, however he only picked at the food.
“So how do you think the guys are doing? How long do you think they might have?” David asked, not sure how to approach such a question without reminding Bobby of his own uncertain future.
“It’s hard to tell. I figure they could go at any time, but then again, I didn’t think they’d survive the night and here we are. Personally, I’m not sure which is best. As much as I’d hate to see them pass, I also hate to see them suffering so much.”
“Believe me, living is always preferable,” David pointed out. “You don’t get a do over to reconsider the choice you can’t take it anymore, and what we need more than anything else is enough people to survive this illness to offer some collective resistance to it.”
“That’s if there is any resistance to it,” Bobby pointed out. “What are the girls saying about the survival rates?”
“It’s not very good. The hospitals are now considering it a lost cause. They’re functioning only as a holding area to separate the living from the soon to be dead, and that’s taking a toll on the few health care professionals remaining.”
“I hate to suggest it, but maybe it’s better that Ma didn’t survive to experience that. It’s got to be terribly disconcerting.”
“Just be sure you don’t encounter the same thing,” Ellen cautioned. “If it gets to be too much for you, be sure to ask for some help. We don’t want to overwhelm you, and there are plenty of people more than glad to help.”
“I’ll keep that in mind, but if you don’t object, I think I hear Adrian getting sick again.” With that Bobby left the food sitting outside the camper as he headed back inside, and David and Ellen headed back to the house, feeling pretty discouraged themselves.
“David, I think we’ve got a problem,” Sara told them as soon as they walked inside.
“Oh? What’s gone wrong now?” David asked as he tried to prepare himself for more bad news.
“It’s Erica. She’s showing signs of the infection. She’s got marks all over her chest and legs,” she explained.
“Shit! That’s the last thing I wanted to hear.”
“How is she doing? Is she feeling sick yet?” Ellen asked.
“No, she’s feeling fine so far, but the other thing is that she was sleeping with both Julie and me last night, so that means we’re all been exposed now. Caitlyn is upstairs as we speak, trying to disinfect everything we might have touched last night.”
“Well, tell her we’ll deal with that later. Right now we need to address this as a group,” David told her.
“I’ll go up and help her clean up, then we’ll all come down for a group discussion,” Ellen suggested as she headed upstairs. David simply leaned against the counter and considered the best approach to take to this newest problem.
“We need to discuss what’s happening to us. We’re entering a new phase now. As more and more of us get sick, we have to decide how we’re going to handle this. Are we going to continue to shove everyone who’s sick outside to face this alone, or are we going to care for those of us who are sick as valuable family members, and help to nurse them through this?” David asked the group of people, each looking on as he got the discussion underway.
Erica, Julie and Sara, while not remaining in isolation, were each careful to sit on plastic bags and to wear gloves and face masks, even though the others continued to avoid them inside the house.
“There are a couple of issues here,” Maggie said as she publicly debated the issue with herself. “On the one hand, each of the people infected risks each of us, on the other, it’s kind of inhumane to simply turn anyone who’s sick out on their own.”
“It’s hardly on their own,” Ellen pointed out. “The only reason we aren’t out there with the Adrian and Billy right now is that Bobby won’t let us. We need to be cautious, not uncaring.”
“Still, speaking as one who’s probably been contaminated, I vote for continued isolation,” Sara said, taking the more mature position. “After all, I wouldn’t want to be responsible for anyone else getting sick if I could avoid it. While it may not be as comfortable outside as it is here, I don’t think Billy and Adrian’s first concern at the moment is their comfort.”
“But it’s like David said at the funeral yesterday,” Julie pointed out, “turning our backs on you hurts us, who you’re trying to protect. Not taking care of those who are suffering removes our humanity, and cuts us off from our very reason for living. It would feel like a personal betrayal to those who we’ve grown to love so much.”
“I think I agree with Julie,” Erica said, standing up and speaking with conviction. “It’s scary thinking what this means, that I might not be around in only a couple of days, and that much of that time I’ll be in severe pain and will mostly be out of it, semi-coherent at best, but I don’t think it will make much sense exposing the rest of you. After all, there’s nothing you can really do for us besides clean us up and keep us hydrated. We’ll either survive or we won’t, and anything else you try to do will only be to make yourselves feel better. Besides, if I’m going to be in that much pain, I’m not sure I’m going to want to have to worry about being on my best behavior, worrying about how I’m going to be affecting the rest of you. If the infected are taking care of the sick, they’ll know what to expect and what they’re experiencing. I think we need to keep those exposed separate.”
“I’m conflicted myself,” David said, thinking it was important that he weigh in on the matter. “I’m all for taking care of everyone, possibly turning the living room here into a sick room. After all, it’s not much of a ‘living room’ if all your friends are outside dying, and I doubt it will get much use otherwise in such a context, but then again, Julie and Erica make a pretty convincing argument. But I’m willing to go with a group decision on this. Personally, I vote for keeping the girls inside. How do the rest of you vote?”
Everyone quickly put their hands up, with only Linda and Maggie hesitating. Ellen, Alice and Julie followed David’s lead, while the rest voted to keep to the current system. Linda eventually voted for their ouster, while Maggie came down for their inclusion.
“Well, even though you voted to be moved out of the house, I hate to do it. The rest of you, remember to wear your masks when you visit them, as I know you’ll do. And please, don’t use the walkie-talkies to talk to them with, as I want to use those only for emergency communications with those in the trailer. Ellen, maybe you should help them collect their sleeping bags and anything else they might want to make themselves comfortable outside.”
“Don’t worry, we’ll be fine,” Julie told him. “Well, maybe not fine, but we know what this involves. And Sara and I will keep separated using your original understanding, so that if we prove to be unaffected in a week’s time we can return back here.”
“Try to find a spot near the door where the air should be fresher, or if it’s warm enough, you can even sleep outside using your sleeping bags. I’d hate to think I might be infecting you by moving you outside if you haven’t been infected yet.”
Everyone huddled around the girls, expressing their sympathy and support for them, though none of them went as far as to hug them goodbye for fear of getting any possible contaminants on their clothing. They might care deeply for the girls, but they each knew the risk, and what the cost of getting careless was.
Join Crumbly Writer’s Discussion Group to ask questions, make suggestions or offer critiques.