My mother claimed something bit her a week ago.
She complained of difficulty breathing and said that she couldn't feel her left side from the midsection down. As evidence, she showed us her left thigh. Sure enough, there was a red, inflamed patch of flesh. It looked like the aftermath of a mosquito bite, except several times larger.
We thought that a spider must have got her while she slept, but since nearly a week had already passed and we weren't exactly rich, we decided against her seeing a doctor. We couldn't afford paying a medical bill for something that would probably clear up in a few days. We were sure it would clear up, as it was only a little bug bite, after all...
It was our mistake.
When we woke today, mother was crying. She said that the numbed sensation of her side had indeed gone, but it had only been replaced by a burning anguish. Her breath hitched and was obviously labored. We inspected her thigh and were startled to find that the large mosquito bite mark had erupted across her side. A single mark had turned into several sickly, inflamed mounds that peeled and erupted pus. She claimed it burned. We certainly believed her.
It was time to consult a doctor.
My father told us he would drive her to the nearest neighborhood clinic. For my part, I departed for my day's summer session classes. My mother's frightening condition danced somewhere in the back of my mind for the rest of the day, but I didn't dwell on it. Summer classes were coming to an end, final exams were a few days away, friends were planning a trip to the beach, and a small pain in my breaths nagged me. I hoped I wasn't developing a cold.
I was driving back home when I got the call.
It was my father. He was in hysterics. Apparently, the doctor at the clinic had taken one look at my mother's condition and urged her to head to an emergency room. So my father and mother had gone and waited, waited, and waited a little more. Finally, my mother was allowed to see a doctor. That's where it all went downhill. He took one look at her and left the room. My father and mother were left in that room, confused, when nurses entered.
Some drew blood from my heaving mother, others ushered my father out of the room, blowing aside his questions and asking him to wait in the waiting area. He did, but while he waited, he had time to see a dozen police officers rush into the hospital, past the waiting area, and into the direction of the room that held my mother. He told me this last part in a choking sob: he heard gun shots.
That's when I heard him scream.
That made me jump in the car seat, my hands taught and white against the steering wheel and my eyes bulging. I realized I wasn't breathing. On the other end of the line, I heard something clatter. It was probably the phone hitting the floor. Then there were arguing, yelling voices. Authoritarian voices. There was one weeping voice: my father. It was the only time I had ever heard him like that - blubbering something out. I'll be honest...I was disgusted. I wasn't used to such a weak father. I was used to the man of steel my old man had come to represent. I guess I was confused.
When I heard the gunshots on the other end, I guess it just didn't seem real.
I turned off the cell phone and continued the drive home. I was numb, confused, and disbelieving. I got home...only, by then, it wasn't really home anymore. I found the block closed off. Police cars cordoned off the streets. People in bio-hazard suits were coming in and out of my house. In my befuddled state, I thought it looked kind of like something off of the movies REC or Quarantine. It seemed pretty funny, to be honest. It was really funny...until I saw them wheel out a body under a tarp and realized from the single exposed shoe that it was my younger brother.
I drove on, then.
I drove until I was out of town, far out of town. I realized then that it might be stupid to keep on driving. Whatever was going on, I had escaped out of sheer luck. They tried to put up a net around us, but only I'd escaped because of my college schedule.
So, what is it? I've seen enough scary movies to guess. I'm infected, but who the fuck knows with what. My lungs are slowly burning and there's a strange bulge on my back. I haven't checked it yet, but I'd bet everything in my pockets (which comes out to about twenty-five bucks) that it's a red mark - a red mark that resembles a large mosquito bite. What is it? Am I going to die? Well, it was serious enough that they offed my mom and dad, and even my bro to boot. Whatever I've got, I figure it must be some serious shit. I wonder what it takes to infect others...a cough? A touch? A bite?
I'll find out tomorrow.
I walked until I could hitch a ride, then I walked some more. I stopped at a motel after dark and paid in cash. I tried to sleep, but I couldn't. I just kept seeing my brother's shoe sticking out from under that tarp...that shoe... So I opened my laptop and decided to type this out instead.
They took everything from me. I'm...going to die. They didn't have to do what they did. They could have just told us we were a danger to others. They didn't have to shoot my mother...my father... I'm going to take as much as I can before I go. Tomorrow, I'll spend my day shaking hands. I'll go into convenience stores and touch the food - maybe cough in it. I'll lick the public water fountains. I'll do whatever it takes to bring you with me. So, tomorrow...please. Shake my hand.
...and if someone bites you, then don't worry. It's nothing; it can't be worse than a bug bite.