It started out slowly, quietly as epidemics usually do. But this was no epidemic. This was no virus that the medical community could study or solved. This was something else. Something that could only be dreamt up in the darkest recesses of the mind.
It was a curse. A curse set upon us by a madwoman bent on either ruling the world or destroying it.
I know what you are thinking, curses aren't real. They are a silly made up superstition given to us to help explain things that aren't rational. Well, tell that to those who have succumbed to it, because I'm not sure they know just yet. I want you to tell that to all those who are weeping in grief because this thing took their family from them.
But I'm getting ahead of myself, let me take you back to when it all started-
I slammed my head against the wheel as hard as I could, realizing I had gone through this parking lot for the fifth time.
"Damn it, how the hell do I get lost in my own city?" I cried to the bobblehead dog on the dash.
This damn strip mall had just been built and the streets they had put around it to make driving more 'convenient' and 'safe' was enough to make a person go insane just by looking at it. A roundabout? How the hell is a roundabout supposed to help people do anything but literally go in circles?
I ran my hand through my dark blond hair and looked around once again trying to figure out this maze before I screamed.
"Mommy, I'm hungry," whined my five-year-old from the back seat.
"I know, little buddy. We just have to go get your brother and then we'll head home, ok?" I tried to reassure him.
"I wanna go now!" he screeched.
I winced at the high-pitched sound he made and took another deep, calming breath before stopping my truck to look at him through the rearview mirror.
"I know, Johnny. Daddy's home sick right now so I wanna hurry as well. But we have to get Marcus. We can't just leave him at school, can we?" I asked jokingly trying to lighten the mood.
He pouted but finally kept quiet. A part of me wanted to reach back and ruffle the mop of light brown hair on his head, but I refrained knowing that it would just cause him to get angrier.
Out of the corner of my eye, a figure that I recognized caught my attention and I quickly moved the truck to intercept him.
"Hey, Billy," I called to my cousin.
He stopped walking and turned to me as I pulled up. There were dark bags under his eyes and his normally jolly face looked pale and gaunt.
"Are you sick?" I asked him concerned.
As if on cue a cough racked his stout body and pulled his coat tighter around himself to stifle the shivering.
"Yeah, I've got that damn cold everyone else has. It's a b***h to get rid of," he said gruffly.
I nodded sympathetically. "Darren's got the same stuff as well. We're heading to pick up my son from school, you want a ride home?"
Billy shook his head. "I'm not going home. I'm going to get a gun."
He had said it so casually you would have thought it was an everyday occurrence. I blinked at him a few times trying to make sure I had heard him correctly. My cousin was the black sheep of the family, having never owned or fired a gun in his life. At least not to my knowledge anyway. I was the only i***t that had let herself be talked into learning how to handle and fire a gun; against my will I might add. So, the fact that he was willingly going to go purchase one blew me away.
"I'm going to go get a gun. There's something weird going on, Vicki. Can't you see it? Haven't you been watching the news?" he asked stepping closer to my truck until he was almost standing on my side rail.
I shook my head at him. "You're just imagining things, cuz."
"No, I'm not," he snapped. "I saw one today."
"Saw what? God, Billy now you're sounding like a crazy person," I snapped back at him.
"I'M NOT CRAZY!!" he screamed backing away. "THEY ARE COMING THIS WAY, VICTORIA!"
He pointed to a spot behind me with a look of absolute terror etched on his face. I quickly turned my head around trying to find who he was afraid of. But other than a group of homeless people were watching us like hawks from over by the riverbed, there was no one else around. I turned back to Billy so I could try and convince him that this was all a paranoid trip, most likely brought on by an extremely high fever. But by the time I had turned around, he was gone.
"Mommy! I am hungry!" cried Johnathan from the back seat again.
"I know baby, I know," I murmured still trying to spot my cousin.
"Mommy!" he screamed suddenly.
I jerked around and looked into his hazel eyes that were flashing with anger. From the way that he screamed, I had thought he had gotten seriously injured somehow.
"Johnathan Andrews, you do not scream like that unless something or someone is hurting you, do you understand?" I snapped back at him.
Crocodile tears welled up in his wide eyes and he began to cry loudly. I made a frustrated sound and pulled out of the lot again, hopefully, to go in the right direction this time.
We made it to Marcus' school without a second to spare. I hopped out and grab a still crying Johnny then raced into the school to pick Marcus up at the principal's office. They gave me a scornful look for being late, but I ignored them. Their judgmental accusations meant little to nothing to me as I ushered my two children back into the truck and left just as quickly.
When I got home, Darren was sleeping peacefully in our bedroom so other than checking on him, I didn't disturb him. I finally found a snack for the boys and then set Marcus up with his homework. Johnathan eventually grabbed a book or two to look through, which I was extremely grateful for because it kept him busy and not bugging his brother every five seconds.
Having found a second to breathe, I found myself once again concerned about my cousin's behavior. I called phone several times before trying his wife's where I also got no answer. I slammed my phone down in its cradle with several harsh curse words.
"Mommy, my throat feels funny," said Johnathan from behind me.
I turned around and all worries for Billy flew out of my head once I caught sight of his pale face. His voice was hoarse and with a gentle kiss on his forehead, I knew he was running a fever. He had obviously caught the same damn virus that everyone else had. I gave him a cup of warm tea and honey then sent him back to his room before calling his doctor.
"It's all right Mrs. Andrews, the cold season has been difficult this year. Just keep an eye on his temperature and if it doesn't come down bring him in," said the nurse on the phone.
Relieved, I expressed my gratitude and hung up with the promise that I would call them back if he got worse. I heard my bedroom door open and was happy to find Darren standing there.
"How are you feeling, honey?" I asked.
"Like death warmed over," he groaned with a little shiver. "Or froze over, my body can't decide which."
His dark hair was drenched in sweat and plastered to his head. I reached over and pressed a hand to his forehead and found he was still running an extremely high temperature. His cheeks were flushed, and his hazel eyes held a glassy quality to them. Worried, I made a mental note to make him his own doctor's appointment tomorrow after I got home from Johnathan's.
"You need to go back to bed, babe," I told him firmly.
"But- but-," he began to protest weakly.
"No buts. Back to bed with you. I got this."
I pointed back to the bedroom then made shooing motions with my hands until he was laying back in bed. The minute his head hit the pillow he was dead to the world again and I breathed a sigh of relief.
The evening flew by quietly with Johnathan and Darren staying in bed for the most part. My worry didn't diminish overnight either because they both seemed to just get worst. on top of all that, when I woke up my throat was sore and scratchy as well. I wanted to whine, cry, or throw something because it's not fair for Mom's to get sick.
Instead, I ambled out of bed so I could force Darren to call into work again. Then ended up having to call in for him again because his boss couldn't understand the gibberish he was spouting. I called Johnathan's school to let them know he wouldn't be in today and then his doctor to make an appointment for him as I had promised.
I dropped a complaining Marcus off at school. Steadfastly ignoring his whining about how unfair it was that he had to go to school and his brother didn't. Then rushed to work with my youngest in tow so I could explain to my boss why I needed to jet out early.
My job was rather lenient on children in the workplace; mainly because they would rather have you working than at home where they weren't making any money off you. So, when I walked in with Johnathan my coworkers immediately went about making a comfortable bed out of one of the couches and set him up so he could watch cartoons. Then proceeded to baby him until I was sure he was going to start faking sick so that he could get the same treatment all the time.