The result that I’ve finally come to is uplifting. It makes me want to cry, or hug someone, because it means that Teddy will be find.
He just has the flu.
This form of the flu, while uncomfortable, is safe and I will be able to treat it easily. I run to go tell his family, clamoring down the stairs loudly. They all look up eagerly at me and jump to their feet, rushing towards me.
“What is it, Cody?” Ebony asks me. Even though she seems excited, her voice is small, barely a whisper, and light.
“It’s the flu,” I tell them breathlessly. “It’s just a form of the flu. We have the medicine to treat it. He might be uncomfortable for a little while, but he’ll be fine in a few days.”
Everyone in the room, even the hospital itself, seems to sigh in relief. The tension that is usually everywhere has relaxed, and the moment is incredible. Yes, he’s sick, but that’s a small price to pay for safety. It might not be for too long, and we might all be gone, just fighting to perish, but until we are staring death in the face, we will continue to push.
The testing took a few hours to complete, and that was a few hours without checking up on Teddy. Miles stands and heads in with me to check up on him.
When we walk through the door, he is asleep, and we keep quiet, not wanting to wake him.
However, Teddy’s little eyes flutter open and a grin is plastered on his chapped, red lips. He looks extremely sickly, but he’s obviously getting better slowly.
“Hey, buddy,” Miles states upon our entry.
“Hey,” Teddy wheezes, coughing afterwards. “Any news?”
“Yes, actually,” I state. “It’s the flu. You’re going to be fine.”
He lights up a bit, trying to sit up excitedly. He’s exhausted and we walk over to his bedside smiling.
“We have the medicine that we need to be able to treat you. It should clear up in a few days.” I explain to him enthusiastically.
He nods weakly, still grinning, and Miles pats him on the head before we both turn to leave the room.
“He looks good,” Miles comments when the door shuts behind us. As soon as we leave, his head hits the pillow and his little eyes close again. The poor little boy is exhausted.
“I only hope that he’ll feel better soon. Teddy looks so tired…” My voice trails off and we both pause for a bit, slowing down and thinking about Teddy.
Both of us snap out of it, however, and we walk down the stairs quickly. MIke and Ebony are still by the couches, but they’re standing now and talking to each other, no doubt trying to calm each other down and reassure one another. I hear a thud and we all turn towards the front entrance, seeing a small crowd of the creatures outside.
“I don’t think we should stay here for much longer,” Ebony proposes, and I see everyone else in the room nod.
“There might be a hospital towards the west, down the highway. If we get there, I’ll absolutely be able to finish my research.” I add.
“Teddy’s supposed to feel better soon,” Mike brings up. “He’s a trooper. If we tell him our plan, he’ll want to leave right away. Should we tell him?”
We all ponder the thought for a minute, debating if Teddy is alright to travel. Finally, Miles speaks up.
“He should be feeling better in a couple hours,” he states happily. “If he feels up for it, we can help him, move slowly.”
I look over to Mike and Ebony. It’s their call, considering this is their family. Neither of them are moving, and both of them have their eyes closed, deep in thought, still wondering what to do.
“We might as well,” Mike tells Ebony, and she reluctantly agrees.
“But if he says he needs to stop,” she starts, “we stop. Got it?”
Ebony glares menacingly at all of the faces in the room, and Miles and I put up our hands in surrender. “Good,” she finishes, crossing her arms and leaning back on the nearby wall. She and Mike share a glance and they both walk towards the staircase, ready to go tell Teddy their plan.
As Ebony reaches the bottom of the stairs, she turns back and jerks her head at the staircase, indicating for us to follow her. We do, jogging over to the steps and running upstairs.
I don’t know if my mind was playing tricks on me or Teddy legitimately healed in that short time, but he looked significantly better. Color was returning to his face, and he was sitting up. He didn’t look as exhausted as before - even his smile was brighter.
“Ted, you feeling any better?” Ebony asks sympathetically. She walks next to her brother’s bed, standing over him. Ebony puts out her hand to hold Teddy’s, but draws back, realizing that she could become sick. Ebony apologizes to her brother, her voice breaking a bit, but Teddy just continues to beam.
“Actually, I am,” he answers in his scratchy, high voice. His throat still seems to be hurting him, but his words are fuller, with more personality etched into them. A pang of hope, happiness, rings in my chest.
“You sound awesome,” Miles acknowledges and they both chuckle.
“Alright, Teddy. This is what we’re thinking.” Mike proposes, and he sits sideways on the end of Teddy’s bed. “Cody is a scientists, remember? And he thinks that there’s a hospital somewhere down the highway. It can’t hurt to try. We want to try to head down there and possibly find the hospital. He can try to cure the disease. What do you say, bud?”
Teddy thinks about it for a bit, then coughs a few times. “I think we should do it,” he responds finally. “It’s a chance that’s worth taking.”
“You sure, Teddy? If you don’t feel up for it, we don’t have to.” Miles tells him.
“I’m sure,” he states. “I feel a lot better, and if we start to go, I’ll probably feel even better as we keep going. When are we leaving?”
All of the others in the room share a glance, including me, turning our heads from left to right. We didn’t decide on a time or date, but the sooner, the better.
“We just want to go as soon as we can,” I tell him. “But we don’t want you to be uncomfortable.”
Teddy looks down, deep in thought again. “I’d rather be uncomfortable for a little while and have the world be saved. It’s better than everyone else having to suffer.”
Once again, Teddy surprises me in ways that I never thought a nine-year-old would.
Ebony jumps up and claps, and we all look around excitedly.
“Miles, want to help me start packing?” I ask, and he nods eagerly, ready to help me. We walk down the stairs, ready to start getting all of our belongings together. We don’t have much, but we do a sweep of the site to make sure.
We also check out the elevator one more time, and I’m helped down the shaft by Ebony and Miles. There’s nothing there but the rope, which we are able to take. Rope can be important.
Once the three of us are ready, we walk back up the stairs one final time, signaling to Mike and Teddy that we’re ready to go. Both of them stand, Mike helping Ted onto his wobbly feet. We do a final sweep of the room and pack a few other belongings.
“Good?” Ebony asks, finally breaking the silence.
“Ready,” I respond.
“Ready,” Miles states.
And like that, we’re good to go, finally ready to leave this place. We haven’t been here long, but we’ve done so much hopping from place to place, I’m almost nostalgic to see it being left behind, no longer useful at all.
Teddy takes a little while to descend the stairs, as he’s still weak, but he reaches the bottom. Everyone else is waiting down there for him, applauding him when he gets to the landing. He’s well enough to be walking, ready to go back into the world that has done this to him with an open mind and heart. He deserves the applause.
Ebony, Miles, and I head outside to get rid of the creatures outside the building. Teddy and Mike turn away, not wanting to watch the killing that takes place. Once they’re all gone, we call to Mike and Teddy, giving them the all-clear. They come out of the building happy, but with a hint of unease.
Like that, we’re ready to head off to the hospital. Save the day, if we can. I doubt it.
And I don’t want to tell them this. I don’t want to plant doubt in their minds as well, but I’m scared. I’m not even a real scientist - I’m just a boy with a microscope and a lab coat. Which terrifies me.
There’s almost no point to heading to the hospital, especially if it’s already been fully looted. If the chemical I need isn’t there, there isn’t another hospital nearby for miles according to the maps I have. We don’t have the energy or equipment to travel for miles, just for another possible let-down again.
But I can try. I’ve often thought of running away in the middle of the night, or telling them of my doubt. Seeing Teddy getting up today gave me the motivation and hope I needed to continue on. Teddy always give me incredible energy, motivation, strength. It’s almost as if his strength, energy, motivation is contagious, because when he’s around, everybody in our group is happier.
Teddy is a role model. I’m glad I am experiencing this monstrosity with this amazing little boy. It makes me wish that I was - am - like him, somehow.