The End: Story Two
The Sickness

By: David K. Montoya

We found a beautiful spot to bury my sister, about fifty miles outside of Las Vegas in the Nevada desert. The Professor helped me wrap her body in a sheet and lower her down into the plot that was already dug, but I had to refill it myself. Michael was tending to his sister because she seemed to be getting sicker. Renee remained inside the SUV; she said that being around during all of this would just put her in everyone's way. And Rose, she was a complete wreck. I would not have dared to ask for her help. With her mental state being in jeopardy, it could have pushed her over the edge. As for Richard, well everyone, including myself, thought that he would be joining up with Tina sooner, rather than later.

So, the Professor was the only one available. We placed her body under a Joshua tree. The burial spot looked completely out of place. It was the only splash of color in a seemingly black and white world. The tree itself appeared to be the only one in the entire wasteland. I felt like it was a nice resting spot for her.

Each one of us said a word or two about Tina, on how she had affected our lives one way or another. I mentioned how she had a soft spoken voice, but a brave and mighty heart. Without her, none of us would have been able to escape from Palace City. It was because of her sacrifice that we could all move onward to Haven.

After the small service, each of us passed by the grave site and placed a desert rose on her grave. It wasn't much, but I knew Tina would have liked it. I was unable to make her a proper headstone, so I cut the bark away from the tree with one of my long daggers and engraved her name, along with the date of her birth and death.

As we all loaded back into the SUV, I noticed that Rose was still at the grave site. I walked back over to her and told her it was time for us to go. She didn't answer me, but remained standing there as the tears ran down her face. I grabbed her arm, trying to bring her back into the present and our pressing need to get moving. She pulled her arm away from me, screaming that she was not going to leave. I tried to reason with her, but that did no good as Rose was too frantic. She wasn't ready to let go! I told Rose that I understood her pain; Tina was my sister as well. But, there was no time available to us to grieve like this. I gently took her by the hand and tried to walk her back to the SUV, but once again she refused to go, saying that I did not understand and that they were as close as twins—Tina was only ten months older than her. I told her that we were family and I would never leave her alone. My attempts to reason with her were unsuccessful; she continued to resist. Michael finally came from the car and helped me to physically drag her back to the vehicle. Rose fought us all the way, kicking and screaming, even when we got inside the SUV.

Some miles up the road I had to pull over because my daughter Maria had become violently ill. Once the SUV came to a complete stop, she jumped from the vehicle and ran off, looking for a place of privacy. Some of us got out of the SUV, taking the opportunity to stretch our muscles and walk around for a while. At first I stayed inside with Richard, but he was fast asleep. So, I made sure that he would be all right for a few minutes alone. He had already survived the unsurvivable, I was sure he would be okay.

As I stepped out, I noticed that Renee was standing next to the SUV looking up into the gray skies with a very perplexed look on her face. I stood there next to here for some time without speaking, trying to get a handle on what was going on, I guess. After a good five minutes or so, Renee moved away from the vehicle to stand in front of me. She asked me why I didn't seem to be upset by Tina's death. I was a bit startled by her question, and was unable to answer her right away, as I got lost in her gentle blue eyes. They were filled with so much emotion. I knew some basic facts about her, but what did I really know about her past? What was she like before all of this? Was she a soft spoken, mild mannered lady, or was she the complete opposite? It was hard for me to picture her as a rude and argumentative person. Then, in mid thought, I realized that I had not answered her question! I explained to her that it had not completely hit me yet; I knew that Tina was gone, but right now I wasn't ready to accept it. I loved my sister dearly, and she would be missed, but right now our journey was the most important thing on my mind and my sister would agree with me if she were still alive. Renee stood there examining my answer. It must have set well with her, judging by the way she looked over at me. I told her that I wished there were something more inside of me, but there wasn't anything;

No sorrow, no nothing. And that scared the hell out of me.

Just as the young woman was getting ready to speak, Michael ran up to me. He tried to talk but he was out of breath. I told him to calm down and breath. Renee had him sit down in order to compose himself. (It seemed that our conversation was over for now.) Finally, Michael said that the Professor had sent him to get me. It was Maria, and she was getting worse. I asked Michael which way they had gone. He pointed to the east. The three of us got back into the SUV and headed out toward the others.

As we pulled up I could see that the Professor and Rose were kneeling next to my daughter who was lying on the ground. I threw the vehicle into park and jumped out and ran over to Maria. The Professor met me half way. He was quick to stop my advance toward Maria. He said that she was very sick and it might not be a good idea for me to go over there. I was unable to grasp what the old man was saying. I pushed him out of my way to get to my little girl.

He was right; I was not ready for what I was about to see. Running up to her, I could see that she was having seizures; her arms and legs were convulsing in all directions. Rose was trying to hold her arms down so she would not hurt herself, even though I could see that there were already lacerations on her hands and forearms. Foamy spittle shot from her mouth as she tried to cough. Her nose started to bleed intensely, with each convulsion of her body. I finally reached her and asked the Professor what I could do for her. I couldn't just stand by helplessly, watching my little girl's body convulse, while her eyes rolled back into her head. The Professor directed Michael to go help with Maria, and then he took me by the arm and walked me back to the SUV. As he rubbed a hand over his eyes, he asked me if Maria had ever had seizures before. "No." I answered. She had always been a healthy girl. I asked him if he knew what was wrong with Maria. The Professor wouldn't meet my eyes. I told him that he had better tell me the truth if he didn't want to be left stranded out here in this desert wasteland. The Professor looked me in the eye and told me that I already knew what was wrong with Maria. He said that I had seen it a thousand times over. It was then that I realized what he was talking about. It was so obvious! But not her! Not Maria! She was still only a baby, with a full life to live! How could this be happening to her? After all of these years that I had protected her, how could she have contracted it now?

I rested my head on the steering wheel and began to cry. The Professor tried to console me but that was useless, now that my youngest child was dying from the "sickness".

I didn't know what to think at that point; there was no way of saving her from the illness. She appeared to be in the late stages of the "sickness;" Maria must have had contracted the virus before we even left Appleton. No one had any type of clue about what was happening, not even her!

Staring out the windshield, I could see the others attending to Maria; they stopped and looked down at her with such sorrow. For a moment I could not tell if she was still alive or not? My daughter's convulsions had stopped, and I focused on her abdomen, trying to see if she were still breathing.

Finally, much to my relief, I saw Maria's stomach rise and fall; even though her breaths were shallow, my baby was still breathing.

My attention was brought back inside; Richard was tossing around in the back of the SUV, while he groaned in discomfort. He looked more like an unlucky now; Rich was changing at a rapid rate!

By the next day, I knew he would have converted completely into one of those blood lusting demons. His eyes were orange with yellow irises', and the pupil had completely clouded over with a white mucous. I knew that I would have to tend to him sooner or later, even if I liked it or not.

I turned my attention back to the Professor, because of what I had thought the old man said. I told him that I did not hear him correctly and told him to say it again.

The Professor smiled and said that I heard him correctly, that he had created a cure for the sickness. That was why the Emperor held him captive for all of those years. He intended to save the entire planet with it, with one condition.

He wanted to be made the RULER of the world! But the Professor refused to give up the secret mixture that composed the antidote, and without that he would never gain full control. So the Emperor locked him away in the lower-levels of Palace City.

I asked him if he had ever tested it, the older man grinned and he replied that it had been tested on one person who had contracted the "Sickness."

Himself.

He removed a small vile that was hanging around his neck, and told me that it had to be injected into the blood stream. I told him that we had syringes that I had gathered before leaving Airepseh—they were located in the back.

After a few minutes of fumbling through some stuff, I found the box that contained the syringes. I pulled out one and handed it to the Professor, who inserted the needle into the vile and quickly transferred the fluid from one tube to the other.

He walked over to Maria, pulling a handkerchief from his back pocket. As the Professor knelt down beside her, the older man tied the rag around my daughter's arm, to allow him the choice of the best vein to use.

Just as he was about to inject the antidote into Maria, the Professor was attacked from behind by Richard! His movements were a mirror image to an Unlucky's. I ran over and kicked Rich off of him.

Once my brother was in open view, I pulled out my hand gun and aimed directly for his head. But I was unable to fire, because of what he held up in front of him: the antidote! If I were to fire, I would have destroyed the small vile as well.

As I lowered the gun down to my side, I tried to reason with him. I pleaded for him to please hand over the syringe, so that my little girl could live. He stared at me dead on, though he appeared to be an Unlucky, it was still Richard that was looking back at me.

He cracked an evil smile, and I knew that all hope had been lost. Richard slammed the needle into his arm, injecting the cure into his own body! I ran and tackled Rich. Once on top of him, I wrapped my hands around his neck and started to squeeze the life from him.

There was a rush of power and hatred that came over me, as I strangled my younger brother. I could hear my heart race in excitement at the thought of taking another life; I wanted to kill him with my bare hands! Looking down at him, he was returning to normal appearance, which made me clinch his throat tighter, completely cutting the blood flow from to brain, which caused him to fall unconscious.

The only thing that caused me to let go was that I head Maria hacking and gasping for air. I got up from him and walked back over to the Professor, who was lying close to my daughter. I checked him to make sure he was all right.

I asked him if he had another vile for Maria. The old man softly apologized; that was the only one. He had memorized the ingredients, but none of them could have been found in the middle of the desert. If we were to reach Haven in time, he could put together another mixture in no time at all.

I went over and sat next to my daughter; she was deathly white and I could tell that she had lost control over her bodily functions. Maria was getting ready to leave us, and join her aunt Tina.

Her body started trembling, which quickly turned into a full on seizure. I stopped Michael just as he was about to hold her down. My son did not say anything to me. He just looked at me. His eyes started to well with tears and he tried to hold them back, but my son was unable to as he began to cry.

I walked over to Michael and embraced him, as he wept. I tried to comfort him and morn Maria at the same time. I noticed that my own tears were rolling down my face.

Finally after a few minutes the seizures had stopped and the professor came over and checked for a pulse. He shook his head; that there was no life left in her.

Rose came over and wrapped her arms around us and wept as well. We all mourned there next to her for sometime. I recall asking why; why did my little girl have to die?

#

I buried my daughter there in that desert. We marked her grave with an old guardian angle lamp that used to sit next to her crib, when she was a baby. I stood there fixed on that thing for some time. When I looked around, everyone was already in the SUV, waiting for me.

I told Maria that I loved her and that we would make it to Haven, so that I could honor her memory, somehow. I didn't know what it would be, but I would honor her.

Looking away, I saw that Richard was tied to the hood of the vehicle. He was screaming and cursing. He was lucky that I didn't put a bullet in his brain. Turning my attention to Maria's grave, I reached into my pocket, and pulled out a rose. It was one that I took from Tina's burial place.

I placed it down over where her heart would have been. I thought to myself that she deserved more of a funeral, but that was all I could do for her. Maria was a good girl; smart, kind, and humble.

For the last time I told my little girl that I loved her.

I walked to the SUV and got back into the driver's seat; we all had a long journey ahead of us—as we prepare to travel through Corpseland!

To be continued…

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