Ethan, George, Joe, and Amy embark on their supply run to Millridge. I am stuck here with Eileen. I still don’t know how she is sick, and how bad the sickness is. She mainly just lies on the couch and thumbs through a Better Homes magazine, a 2007 issue.
I am still sitting at the table, staring into empty space. Is this all there is to this new world? Emptiness? Everyone has a blank face, everyone’s heart is hollow. Even I.
Eileen yawns. I look at the middle-aged woman sprawled out on the couch. She seems absolutely fine. What could possibly be wrong with her? Why couldn’t I go along with Ethan and Amy?
They just didn’t want you to tag along, the dark side of my mind torments.
I shake my head and squeeze my eyes shut. This new world is messing with me. Of course Amy still cares about me. Right? I don’t know if Ethan cares about me or not, but I surely do care for him.
“Would you get me a glass of water?” Eileen says casually as she stifles another yawn.
“You seem fine. Why don’t you get it yourself?”
Immediately as the words leave my mouth, I regret them. I was never a rude person, in fact, I was a pushover.
Eileen lifts her eyebrows at me and purses her lips. She is truly a bitter woman. Now I know where Ethan gets it from.
I lift my eyes to meet hers and stare as forcefully as I could manage. Then, her face falls in defeat.
“I can’t. It hurts too much,” she says defensively.
“Where does it hurt?”
“That’s none of your concern, Jocelyn,” she hisses, nervously looking at the carpet.
“Where does it hurt?” I repeat, flexing my jaw for a livid flair. When she doesn’t answer, I finally realize. Eileen isn’t just sick. She’s dying.
After a few silent beats, Eileen watches me for my reaction with soft, watery eyes. I look into her dark eyes and frown.
“When were you bit?” I whisper.
She lifts her nightdress and reveals a gruesome mark on her thigh. The blood has dried. It’s not that deep. But it is still strong enough to spread through her body and slowly make her die.
“I was only scratched,” she says, looking down at the wound, “It was fast. I was climbing over one of them recently, thinking he couldn’t do any harm. I was wrong.”
She has no idea. Her entire life is deteriorating as we speak.
“Oh, Eileen,” I gasp, gaping at the “scratch.” Although it is only the size of a quarter, I know that the result will be much bigger.
“Do they know?” I ask in a sympathetic tone. Much to my surprise, she is composed.
She nods calmly. This family, the ones who stuck it out, the ones who survived, doesn’t know the full effect of a Turner-induced injury: Death.
I know from experience.
My dad brought home a limping man before he left me. The Turner bite was on his foot, making it impossible for him to walk without screaming in agony. We tried to help him, but he was leaving us within minutes. We tried to fix him, but he was gone by the time we could do anything else. He died, in our living room. Dad hauled him over his shoulder and brought him outside. After a few minutes, he came back into the house with a bloody knife.
“Jocelyn, what’s wrong?” she asks, noticing my blank stare.
You’re going to die.
“Don’t lie to me, girl,” she growls, pulling down her dress, “What’s wrong?”
“How long have you been sick, Eileen?” I ask slowly.
“A few days, maybe?” she shrugged, as if this was not a dire situation.
She will die soon. Eileen will die soon. As horrible as I feel, I can’t help but think about my own security. They will think it’s my fault and kick me out, sending me back to my previous, risky living conditions. It’s so much more stable here. Plus, Amy is here. She will either come with me or stay here. And I know, deep inside, that she will pick the latter. Friendship doesn’t always apply.
And of course there’s Ethan. I’ve only known the boy a couple of days, and he’s the one I trust the most. Now, I realize that Amy is different now. She seems like she doesn’t care about our former bond as much as I do; she cares more about survival. And that frightens me.
We all get scared. Never in my life have I heard such an applicable statement.
“Jocelyn?” Eileen cries. I shake my head to clear my thoughts.
“Rest, Eileen. Everything will be okay. Perhaps the scratch will heal,” I coo. Her worried face turns mild. She’s so vulnerable, so naïve. I thought I had it bad. She lies back down and stares at the low ceiling. She remains silent.
“Do you think I’m going to die, Jocelyn?” she whispers, her throaty voice wavering. I’m surprised. I guess there’s no use in lying to the woman.
“Yes, I do.”
“Me too. Don’t you think I’m denying it, girl. I don’t want to worry anyone. I’m lying to my husband, and I’m lying to my son. I know how it is. I mean I lost Jim like this…” her voice trails off into sobs.