Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Patience - original short fiction

by Alli Kirkham

It's dangerous to go outside these days, what with the spiders in the sky and all.

You've been asleep so long. I've been sitting here, waiting for you to wake up for so many months. But I can tell you at least some of what happened. For all I know you may have been one of the first; maybe that's why you woke up when so many others won't.

You know those freak stories you used to laugh at on the news? Rainstorms full of falling fish or frogs - that's kind of how it happened. You went out into the rain, you didn't take your umbrella because you loved the storms. But that day tiny spiders fell with the water and one fell inside your coat and bit you. You fell down in the driveway. I was so worried. I rushed out to you and pulled you back into the house. I called an ambulance and they said there would be no ambulances today - everything was too crazy, it was the end of the world. The operator told me to take off your clothes and put you in a warm shower, to check you carefully for bites and bugs. And she told me to stay inside, to keep everyone inside, no matter what.

The bite was enormous - your poor neck, you still have a scar. There was a spider in your hair - no bigger than the end of your little finger - it was as clear as glass and scuttling. I crushed it with my thumb and it burned me, but it didn't have time to bite.

Oh, god, I'm so glad you're awake.

I washed you and kept an eye out for spiders. I washed the bite on your neck and cried at how angry it looked. Baby, I was so scared. I dried you off and put you in bed.

The news was full of crazy stories. I tried to call the doctor, tried to call another ambulance and all I got were busy signals. I tried to call your mom but cellphones didn't work for weeks.

On the news they said that people were collapsing all over town, hell all over the country, wherever it was raining. They said to stay indoors and bring pets indoors and close up all the windows. They said to kill every spider you saw. That night the news shows were giving instructions on how to make blowtorches out of hairspray, and how to put out small fires. A lot of people got killed by fires, actually, but the only upside to the rain has been that they don't spread.

I raised the bed, with you in it, off the ground as high as I could. I sealed the windows with caulk. I kept a fire going all the time to keep the chimney clear. They kept saying it would stop when the rain stopped, but no one knew for sure and it just kept raining.

The next spider I saw was clear and blue - you know that jar you keep pasta in? It was just like that. Pretty. It came in on Jake's fur when I let him out onto the patio - I didn't realize they had gotten blown in past the glass. It didn't bite Jakey, and I killed it. Jake goes on pads in the kitchen now and I throw them out when he's done, so I'm sorry if it's a little stinky down there. I know you like me to keep it tidy, and Honey, I've been trying. And poor Jake - he misses the outside, but he likes to come in here with you.

By two weeks in there were reports on what to do with people who got bit. Almost everyone went into a coma, though some people died outright. The weird ones were people who seemed okay, maybe a little feverish and headachey, but would start having seizures and die a couple of days later. People didn't know what to do with their dead. Some people just left them in their beds to rot, some wrapped them up and blankets and put them by the street, like garbage men would come for them or something. There have been some pretty bad infections because of all of it. Really bad. Eventually the news started giving instructions on how to build a pyre.

They figured out suits pretty quick - internet stayed up, some people managed to keep making it in to work, and the word spread on how to make them. The National Guard was deployed to Wal-Mart - I thought you'd get a kick out of that. Anyway, they put together these suit packages; duct tape and thick vinyl sheeting and box cutters and circles cut out of screen doors and handed them out to anyone who pulled into the parking lot, along with a cheap booklet on fire safety and a sack of freeze-dried food. It's pretty safe to go outside now if you're suited up, but we don't have a proper decontamination unit here yet. I set up a big bucket and a hose and a couple of shower curtains right inside the front door, but you have to be really careful to shake anything off of you and kill it even after you've sprayed off. I've been making it in to work okay most days so I think in a couple of weeks I can get a good decon set up on the front porch for us.

There's a doctor that comes around. He's an old guy, and he made it out the first week you were down. I think I could kiss him. He just told me "I'm old, who cares if I die? I may as well help while I can," when he came over the first time. He had one of the first suits that I saw - this great homebrew of a rainsuit with dishwashing gloves and galoshes duct-taped to it; he wore a beekeeper's hat tucked into the collar. I had him take a look at you, and I'm sorry, I would have asked first if I could have. But I made sure you were in your good PJs and your hair was brushed nicely. He told me that your breathing and pulse-ox were normal, told me how I should feed you, and gave me some pretty strict warnings about bedsores. He gave me a special mattress pad and a bedpan to go in it. Sorry, Babe. I've gotten to know you better than either of us expected I guess. Mostly he told me that you would probably be okay. He's been by about once a month since, and always says that you're a model patient. Before he left that first time he put some gunk on your bite and gave me a jar of the stuff to keep putting on each day until I ran out. I don't know if it was an antibiotic or marshmallow fluff or whatever, but I was glad to have it and it made the swelling go down. I called him when you started to move around last night. He should be here tomorrow, and maybe he can tell you more about some stuff than I can, but probably he'll mainly tell you to eat.

Mostly I've been here. It took me about a month before I had enough of a setup to get into the office a couple times a week, but they've let me start running a lot of support from here. Mrs. McKinnister comes by when I'm out and keeps an eye on you. She's been reading to you a lot. Says she's glad that someone will listen to her. The neighbors have all been great. We have a phone tree, we all call and check on each other every night. The rain comes and goes - sometimes there's a week between storms but it's not enough time to kill all the spiders so we still suit up. They're getting bigger, too. And I've seen them in all sorts of colors now - green and black and purple and white, but always clear like glass. Nobody knows where they're coming from, nobody even knows if they're really alive because if they're clear we should be able to see some organs, you know? So there are no real answers yet. They don't seem to like the cold too much, so some people are holding out hope that winter will knock them out, at least up here, but I dunno.

I'm just...

Baby, it's just so good to see you again.

I love you, you know?

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