"Haley? Sweetie, are you alright?"
I felt a warm hand press against my forehead. Battling against my weariness, I opened my eyes, squinting in an attempt to see through the dark.
"Mom?" The shadow standing over my bed shifted.
"Yes, honey? How are you feeling?" I didn't need a light to know that she was making a feeble attempt at a smile. That was Mom. Always worried. Always trying to fix things.
"I'm... I'm doing fine." Although she couldn't see me, I pasted a smile on my face. I'd rather lie to her instead of giving her another load of worry. Everyone in the family was sick except for Mom, and she was struggling under having to take care of three sick people. Dying people. Her sick, dying family. "I'm feeling better... M-maybe I can help? How's Diana?" I heard a weak cough come from the room next to mine.
"She's doing fine... just fine..." Her voice trailed off, and I knew that none of us were getting any better. "I'm going to check on her, m'kay? Get some sleep." She gently squeezed my shoulder then left, leaving me alone in my bedroom. Leaving me alone to die.
The virus had started to spread one month ago, and it was taking peoples' lives by the thousands every day, showing no mercy. Doctors were stumped. At least, until they died from the virus themselves. I let out a short, dry chuckle. You can't ponder over something when you're dead, can you?
My entire body ached. I could feel a pile of worn, old stuffed animals at my feet, a monument my little sister had put together before the Infection had hit her. I heard more coughs, then a patting sound as my mother tried to sooth my younger sister.. She's too young. She shouldn't have to suffer. I felt my stomach clench at the thought of what would happen next. The idea of the outcome of the Infection scrolled through my head as if I were watching a game show.
Hey, hey, hey, ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to "Guess That Infection!" Our contestants, 90% of the human race, are going to show us what will eventually happen at the end of this sick epidemic! Whoops! There goes another bunch, off to an eternal afterlife! Buh-bye! Looks like our younger folk are dying even quicker! Poor little Johnny, he had a great life ahead of him! Well... Adios! Stay tuned 'til after the break, when we get to predict the outcome of another 2,000 people!
I shivered as a chill shot through my body. I felt my stomach lurch, and I shot up in bed. My stomach contents of medicine and cold cereal subsided, and I sat for a few seconds, absorbing the quiet night. Not a single sound came from the rest of the house. Did everyone fall asleep? Lying back down, I closed my eyes and attempted to fall asleep myself. After a few minutes of an uncomfortable rest, I finally drifted off into unconsciousness.
I woke up what appeared to be the next morning to the sound of choked sobs. My limbs felt like solid lead, and I barely had the strength to open my eyes. I drifted in and out of a fuzzy world, catching bits and pieces of a gut-wrenching conversation.
"Oh, m-my Haley... my sweet... Haley! Oh Haley..."
"I'm so sorry ma'am. Is your family at home?"
"Ah-ah... t-they're all sick. Haley... my Haley..."
Why was she crying? I wasn't dead! Had someone else died? I tried to scream, to sit up or even open my eyes, but I couldn't.
"Ma'am... Please, try to stay with me here. How many members are in your family?"
"M-my... my little girl... She was getting better..."
I heard another round of chocked sobs, and I desperately tried to open my eyes. Why was I paralyzed? Was I dead? Couldn't they hear my heart beat? Millions of questions pushed and shoved themselves into my thoughts. I heard a shuffling of feet, and a man's voice rang out, slightly annoyed.
"Sir, we can't seem to get her to think straight. She's too traumatized."
Traumatized? I was her daughter, she thinks I'm dead!
"Well... More bodies are coming in by the dozen. Get a name and an address, then move on!"
I heard the man walk away, and my mother exploded into another round of sobs.
"Ma'am... Could you please give me your daughter's name? An address, too?"
"H-Haley... My little Haley..."
"We need an address, ma'am. Please."
"Haley Mitchell... We named her Haley... She looks just like her grandmother..."
My mother's voice trailed off. She needed to pull herself together! Diana was dying, who was watching her at home? What about Dad? I wanted to stand up and scream at her. Scream at anyone, anything. I just wanted to scream.
"Okay. Uh... We're required by law to transport her to a separate area along with the other... Infected... Ah... well..."
Separate area? Infected? I heard my mother sniff, then stand up. I felt a hand caress my cheek, and she broke down into another round of wails. They must have lead her away, because I felt myself being rolled on a gurney into another "area". Someone picked up my body and threw me onto the... floor? What was this? A pile of... bodies? No! I desperately tried to move, but my efforts were useless. I was just another Infected, a rag-doll, a shell of what used to be a person. I drifted into another sleep, a part of me still hoping that this was just a nightmare.