I am terrified to open my eyes. I don’t even know if I will be able to open my eyes. My entire body is numb, but I feel cold somehow.
Slowly feeling starts to come back to me, starting at my fingertips and toes. I find the strength to be able to open my eyes, debating whether or not it’s beneficial for me or not. I’d rather have uninformed bliss than utter terror. There is no way of knowing whether or not the sight I open my eyes to will be awfully terrifying, so it’s a risk I’m willing to take.
Keeping my right eye closed, I open my left slightly, scrunching my face up. I am surprised to see a wooden wall in front of me.
I then open both of my eyes halfway, scanning around me. Then Cody’s face is suspended above mine.
Tensing, I gasp a bit, which hurts my chest. My entire body is freezing and I’m extremely weak, but I try to sit up and get away, as an instinct.
“What happened?” I try to say, the words catching in my throat and scratching their way up. It hurts to talk, to breathe, to move, and I know that I made a mistake in heading out.
“I found you outside. It took a while to find you but no creatures had found you, as far as I could tell.” Cody explains. “You passed out, but I don’t know what happened. Can you remember what you were doing? Why were you out? How were you out?”
Shaking my head, I rub my face with my hands, trying my best to remember. It’s foggy in my mind, but I can remember what I was doing and why.
“I wanted to get out, get some air. I wanted a taste of freedom. When you fell asleep, I snuck out. It took me a while, but you were like a log, nothing woke you up. I kind of wish it did, now, actually.” I start to explain. “The forest was so dark and foggy, and there was a-a thing there, a creature. I tried to get away, tried to run, and I was safe. I thought I was safe, and then I-I blacked out.”
He sighs. “You have to heal,” he tells me in a disappointed tone. “Are you going to stay here until you’re ready, now?”
Nodding, I look down. I am in pain, and my body is cold - I must’ve been out for a while before he found me.
Cody sees me shivering, looking at me with a concerned glance, and grabs me a blanket. It immediately starts to warm me up and I am grateful, thanking him profusely.
“I don’t know why I wanted to go out. I was thinking about my family, before the epidemic, and I think seeing one of the creatures made me realize that the three of them were once these creatures, these monsters. It scared me, but I wanted to find out more. I almost touched it but ran away, and I was so tired. I had to sit down, I slid down a tree, and here I am. It was terrifying.”
Cody is nodding. This time, when I talk, he isn’t scribbling into his notebook or doing chemistry or anything else. He is listening to me, attentively, and I can see in his face that he is engaged in our conversation.
After a little while of silence, Cody pipes up. “My dad turned, too. I was there, I got to experiment on him a bit. Nothing inhumane, and it was difficult, but I started my studies. Eventually it got to be too challenging. His face was so different, so contorted - it didn’t even look like him.
“When he died, it finally hit me. I nearly passed out, like you did. I know how difficult it can be to lose a family member like that.”
Cody is quiet, and I am afraid he is crying, but he’s just smiling to himself. No doubt thinking about life before the epidemic.
“My sister, my older sister - you would’ve liked her. She was so smart, like you, but she was popular too, and beautiful. She always acted like I was just an annoying little brother when I was around her friends, but she was so nice and caring. She would tutor me and help me and play with me. I miss her.” I ramble, getting quieter with every word.
Cody is nodding, staring down. “I always wanted a sister. My mom was great, but she died in a car crash when I was young. She wasn’t even doing anything out of the ordinary, just heading to the grocery store. I wish I’d have known that she wasn’t coming back. I might’ve been able to say goodbye, that’s one of the regrets I have.
“My dad always wanted me to become a doctor or a lawyer, but that didn’t interest me. Science didn’t really ever interest me either. I liked engineering, but that was it. I was set on becoming an engineer, not a chemist or doctor. I’ve got to admit, though, this is kind of interesting. I’d like learning about this disease and everything. You know, if people weren’t dying.”
I chuckle just a little. The thing about the past that probably makes me the most uneasy is that it doesn’t make people upset anymore. We can talk about death and it just goes right under the radar - nobody thinks much of it. Sure, it stings still, but it’s so common that the topic of death is the most common topic. That frightens me.
Then the girl pops into my head again, that girl that I saw back at the school. Ebony, and her dad and brother - I knew them. I should tell Cody.
“I saw someone,” I tell him, but he looks a bit frightened. “By the school, someone alive. I used to know her, before this whole thing went down.”
“Oh,” he responds, followed by silence. I don’t know if he’s thinking the same as me.
“We can find her.” I offer seriously. “She’s strong. And she has a family. They can come with us. They can help us.”
Cody shakes his head. “It’s too risky. More people means more food. More energy wasted. We can’t do it.”
I prop myself up in irritation. “We have to! The survivors have to stick together! Cody, there’s a person out there. Not a creature, a Bloody, it’s a person, with other people. Who have survived. They’ve made it this far, so they have to be strong. They can help us.”
My entreaty must have planted a seed in his mind, because he had to think for a little while.
“Only if we can find her soon,” he responds after a while. “I’m not wasting time and energy on this family. But we have to go after you are healthy and okay. I don’t want you passing out again.”
I nod, happy. She has to be close to here - you don’t go far in short amounts of time in this epidemic. Making many little camps is key, and I know Ebony knows this - she wouldn’t have survived if she didn’t.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The day finally comes when we decide to pick it up and go out to find Ebony. We had to. It had been 3 days since I woke up, and I still don’t know how long I was out for.
I had gained enough strength to stand again, and Cody would be able to prop me up and help me if I needed it. Of course, I’d resist if I could, being the stubborn boy I am.
It took a little while to clean everything up and get ready to go. We had to pack everything up in the cabin and there was a chemical spill, but Cody and I cleaned it up after a couple minutes of wondering whether or not it could be touched with bare skin. Eventually he said no, so he gave me some gloves to clean it, but I thought I could feel it burning a hole in one of them.
I was a bit sad to go, seeing this old wood house crumble away, gain dust. It wasn’t the greatest house, but it gave us just enough shelter and saved my life. At least I still have Cody.
Cody is going to keep me alive, and I know it. He’s saved my life so many times, and I can only hope that I can do the same for him. I don’t know if I’ve given him what he needs, his research, or saved his life at all, but I hope I have. I want to impact him almost as much as he’s impacted me.
He’s my biggest advocate, and in the long run I know I will owe him.
I don’t know where to find Ebony, and I hope she’s closeby. I want to find her, get to know her, help her. I want Cody to see that I was right about her - she’ll help us. Ebony was always so strong. She stuck up for herself no matter what, and I only wish I had her plight.
I want to find her.
I have to find her.
I will find her.