"Jacob! It's Mother!" My sister cries as I walk in the threshold of our barely-standing wooden house. Her hand clasps around mine before I can even take in register what's she's said. She pulls me don the hall into our mother's tiny but tidy bedroom. She lies on the bed, coughing into her hand. I swallow, denying what my eyes are telling me: She's sick.
"No." I whisper, not letting anyone here it. It might not mean death, people have gotten better, but only two that I know of. How could she possibly get that two out of two thousand chance of surviving?
"Jacob." She says in a hoarse voice rather than her usual soft tone. Tears well in my eyes when I see the pain in hers. She smiles, but quickly replaces it with a look of remorse. Emily's hand squeezes mine harder by the second. I feel the most for her. Only six, and already lost a father, now having to say home everyday and watch her mother waste away.
"What are we to do?" Emily asks as I turn out the candle in our room. I clean my throat, to stall, not knowing an answer.
"You are to come with me tomorrow. We'll call a doctor, if I can get the money." I don't mean to ever talk about our financial state with my sister; she's too young to really understand, but I have to tell someone, and now our mother is not an option.
"She may not die." Drops of water dribble from her eyes, and down to the floor, one after the other. I am not one for sympathy, but I wrap her in my arms anyway.
"Alright, time to sleep, Emily." I mumble. She lets go of my neck and wraps what little covers we share around her body. The cot wasn't designed for two, nor the quilt our mother only got halfway through before Father died and she couldn't knit for she had to sell her yarn. Tonight is one of many nights where we all go to bed hungry. I plan to go to the market after working, especially if it means Emily and I getting out of the house longer. Mother must understand that we can't be around her, she doesn't want to fail us anymore than she thinks she already has. If there is sickness inside her, we cannot be near it.
"You mustn't touch anything, or say anything, for that matter. Stay away from me, and the bodies." Emily only nods; probably only understanding half of what I've said.
"And, you'll have to sleep with another household, I'm taking over the night shift, to pay for a doctor." I have spoken with ten families in the past hour, while Emily was saying goodbye to mother- only one was willing to take her in for the night.
"Why do we have to stay do far from Mother?" The question itself pangs at my chest, and the voice speaking it is even more heart breaking.
"She may be sick. She may die, Emily." She doesn't say anything the rest of the trip to the fields.
I send Emily off to a tree at least a mile away from the bodies, but that's still too close for my liking. I grab my wheelbarrow and begin stocking it with bodies by pitchfork. I've learned not to watch as the sharp blades enter the dark, soft, rotting skin, just pretend they were demons and not innocent people.