Do you know how it feels to die? Have you thought about it? It's been something on my mind for a long while as I sat in this makeshift treatment facility. Actually it was more like a death facility because that's what people did here. They didn't get better; they died every day, multiple times a day. Instantly the bed then would be filled by more in the community because the sickness had spread that fast. Only just a couple weeks ago this room had been filled with life, all the individuals carrying out their lives normally including myself. Now this disease was supposedly nearing the end, the doctors and everyone else promised of a cure but I knew that it was too late for me. I knew that deep down I wasn't going to escape this, just as my father hadn't, my bit of training I had taken to become a nurse told me so.
My long bronze colored hair clung to the sides of my face, ratted and soaked with sweat. It was no use to try and clean it or bathe since it would only be an hour at best before it was back to its original state. Rearing up, I let loose another bout of coughing, moving over to my side as my aching body screamed out in pain; every muscle in my body sore from the illness. Immediately my mother was at my side holding me against her and whispering in a soothing voice. My coughing drowned her out mostly as the iron taste of blood filled my mouth, like it had been for the past two days. Quickly the nurses and then Dr. Cullen moved up, telling her to go back to her cot which was on the other side of my younger brother's. She might too, but as I fell back on the cot, the nurses wiping the blood from the corner of my mouth I could see through slatted, hazy vision the she wasn't at all relaxed as she sat looking over the two of us.
Turning my head slightly I could see the shallow but steady rise and fall of my brother's chest along with hear the raspy breaths that matched my own. By far my mother was in better condition than us, or was putting on a show worthy of the movies, and having always been a strong woman I was leaning towards the second option. Unable to think about the welfare of my family anymore I felt the mental and physical drain of the coughing fit taking hold, as it had many times before, and my eyes slipped closed.
When I awoke next it appeared to be about dawn meaning that I had been asleep almost a whole day since I went to sleep late morning yesterday. That wasn't really an abnormal thing though these days. What was abnormal was the fact that I didn't see my mother wiping my brow as she normally was or even Edwards as I looked over to the side. Instead she was in bed and like many, including myself was giving out rasping breaths as a nurse placed a cloth against her forehead, both of them exchanging quiet words, the nurse admonishingly so.
"Edward," I breathed out and he tipped his head over to me locking his green eyes with my identical ones. He looked like he was on the verge, something that I had begun to recognize after being in here. No longer was he that bright, brave boy that was my little brother who wanted to join the army and defend his country. Just one year away and this happened, draining him of this life that he wanted. "Mom?"
"She collapsed last night," He rasped out and my eyes moved to her. All of Dr. Cullen's warning had caught up and the sickness had moved in to take her. Laying back I tried to imagine what life would be like after death. Would there be a life after death? Is it possible? Every fiber of my being wanted to say that there was, I had been taught to all my life through going to church. I had a soul that would guarantee my passage into the everlasting life. But as more people died I found myself wondering if it was true.
"How are you feeling today?" Dr. Stark, the day doctor asked as he walked up from the person on my other side to me, talking from behind his mask. That was the thing that I liked about Dr. Cullen. He didn't treat his patients like the invalids that society had made us out to be. He never wore a mask around us and sat right down on the bed to check up on us, unlike Dr. Stark who did this weird bend in order to stay as far away as possible. Dr. Cullen attended to us all individually while with Dr. Stark I felt like an animal being taken care of before being shoveled off to the slaughter house.
Reaching up, he inserting the thermometer in my mouth while the nurse proceeded to take my blood pressure, then both numbers were recorded and by the looks on their faces I wasn't the prime example of healthy. I had long ago stopped asking what the numbers were; relying on my body to tell me, and it wasn't telling me it was good either.
With little else than a strained smile he moved onto Edward who, like me, didn't get a raspy breath out before he had moved on with the nurse trailing behind. Mistakenly I let out a sigh which forced my lungs to convulse into a cough. The nurse that had been taking my mother's blood pressure rushed over to my side helping me to sit up on my side in order to get rid of the stuff in my lungs. It was one of my worst yet, causing both my mother and Edward to move into slight sitting positions as the fit went uncontrolled, my body convulsing. Finally it ceased, leaving my head pounding and my hand which had been covering the cough, coated in blood. Gasping for air, the nurse lowered me back onto the pillow.
"Mrs. Masen, please stay in bed," I heard Dr. Stark almost beg and looked over.
"I'm fine, Mom," I whispered, unable to do much else with my throat burning from the fit. I heard her movements stop as I strained a close lipped smile over to her and she moved to lay back down, though I doubt for her. It was more for Edward and my benefits, reading us better than any other. It was a skill she had always possessed, the ability to read people and Edward inherited that skill he could probably look at over half the people in the room and tell their life stories. I, on the other hand, didn't seem to get that skill but more my father's ability to persuade a person to give over their last dollar if he wanted it. It was a skill which benefited him immensely in court and me here as I gave a reassuring smile and convinced mother to relax and let Dr. Stark take care of her.
Rolling onto my side I took in a ragged breath and I looked at the rest of my family. Edward, pale and clammy as he drifted off into a fitful sleep; never able to get comfortable enough to go into peaceful dreams. My mother wasn't able to even go to sleep. I had never seen her sleep, whenever I thought she might be and I moved up with a cringe as my muscles protested she would look over in worry. I suspected that she only allowed herself to sleep once she was sure we were both asleep, and then when we both woke with a cough or a startle of some sort her motherly instincts would kick in and she would wake with us.
Kicking into those instincts she looked over to me and gave a soft smile, silently telling me to rest and go to sleep. Taking in a breath I slowly slipped my eyes closed not knowing that those last few moments as she gave me that loving look would be the last few moments I got with her.
When I opened my eyes I saw that the bed beside Edward had been wheeled out the sign that the person had passed on. I wasn't able to do anything as I just stared at the space; I was numb to the effect. I couldn't cry, couldn't feel anything because the dread that I had been feeling in losing her had been spread out over these weeks. I had known that my family wasn't going to make it through this when father died. And as I looked to Edward I knew that he didn't have long before he also would leave me. I had been subconsciously been taking notice of his breathing and as I looked to him sleeping, I heard and saw the shallow, rasping breaths. There was a shine of a cold, feverish sweat on his skin that was soaking through the simple cotton pajamas, and no doubt if I had a stethoscope I could hear the fluid in his lung and rapid beat of his heart, he only had hours left, if that. How I knew this so well is because my aliment was identical and while my breathing might be an increment deeper I wasn't far behind. But the thing is that I would be the last Masen, I would have to live with seeing all my family die in front of me. With that resolute thought my numbness increased and I could only wait for the reaper to come for me.
Just then Dr. Cullen moved in through the doors and only then did I noticed that it was in fact nighttime. Instantly he started towards me, most likely to try and comfort me with my mother's recent death but as I looked to his face I could see that it was pity or sadness but more of a hesitant look. Maybe he didn't know what to say. Coming to my bed he laid his hand on my cheek and I saw this sort of decision being made in his eyes.
"I promised your mother I would save you," He spoke with so much confidence that he could that I believed him instantly.
"Edward first," I rasped out and looked over at my brother. He looked over at the shallow breathing of my seventeen year old brother and nodded.
"I'll be right back for you, pretend to sleep," He whispered and I nodded, trusting that this man would help us. He had no reason to deceive us, no reason to care but he did. I could tell that he had this compassion for all his patients, yet he always cared for us first and I trusted that he would take care of us. He would honor his promise.
I watched as he wheeled the cot out of the room, the doctors and nurses of the other parts of the floor barely glancing towards the pair; not catching the shallow breathing of Edward. So many were wheeled in and out of the room that the glance was more than enough attention to see that another had died, or seemingly so. The thought came to my mind, as I watched the minutes pass by in the constantly ticking clock just in sight of my slated eyes, that he might not come back for me. He had decided just to save Edward and I was perfectly fine with that even as I felt my life draining even more, but then he reappeared and hour later. Just as he had before he made an inconspicuous beeline straight for me and I closed my eyes fully just as he had instructed for me to. I worked to hide the shallow breaths as he started wheeling the cot and it was shockingly easy to do, it was almost as if I was stopping the work I had been putting in all this time. I knew that, that probably wasn't a good sign as I felt that I wasn't so much pretending now, but was truly drifting off.
"Hold on, Genevieve," Dr. Cullen voiced softly as I felt the cot come to a halt and cold hard arms pick me up. "Just a few more minutes, hold on," I heard him almost plead as the wind started to whip around me drying the cold sweat on my skin and hair. It felt almost as if I was flying and I relished in the thought as a wonderful last memory. But then as the wind stopped and I heard a door open and close the sound of muffled screams met my ears and I only got the moment to question why as I was laid on a hard surface before I found out.
I felt something sharp cut into my neck, and pain erupted. My eyes flew open and I took in nothing more than the normal ceiling as the pain began to spread, each time, on my neck and wrists, the sharp cut then the burning first. It was on the fourth time that I found out what it was as I saw the blonde hair of Dr. Cullen move up from my shoulder with blood coating his lips and teeth. He licked over his lips, clearing the blood as an animalistic glint moved over his eyes. Then as he took a step back with a pained look on his face, a look that seemed to match what I felt.
"I'm sorry," he almost cried as he looked me in the eye, and then I felt a lick of fire move over my body the first strong one that took over my body. Involuntarily I let out a blood curdling scream at the feeling of excruciating pain and he quickly reached forward and clamped a hand over my mouth. Not caring at all that he was muffling my screams I only seemed to be able concentrate on the fire in my veins as I gripped onto the side of what felt like a table. Digging my nails into the wood I locked my jaw in place and prepared to ride out this cure that he had for this sickness.
As time passed I began to connect what had been the muffled shouts in the other room to Edward and focused in on him. I heard the ragged breathing of his breaths to the rapid beats of his heart, willing him to get better. I could do little else to distract myself from my own suffering but concentrate on him and the footsteps that moved between our rooms: Dr. Cullen. Though while I could hear Edward's frantic beating heart I couldn't hear Dr. Cullens, all I could hear from him was the footsteps and the deep breaths.
I didn't dare to open my eyes or my mouth afraid of what might happen and so I just waited as the pain increased and then seemed to retreat from my extremities and focus in on my core slowly. Hoping to block out the feeling I focused in on Edward's heart. It was beating so fast that I thought that it might explode and then it just stopped as mine started to do the same. It beat faster and faster as the fire burned hotter and while I thought that Edward's heart might explode, I thought that mine might just turn to dust. Then with a last burst of fire I opened my eyes wide as I let out a muffled scream unable to do anything else. But, just as I felt the rhythm in my chest stop one lone steady beat continued to sound.