© Wanderer -- all rights reserved
I saw it.
It was just after I'd said my goodbyes to Mother's grave - after all, it was Mother's Day - and I was padding my way back to the street, that I saw it.
A child's funeral. The size of the casket, at least, left little doubt of that. Only a child, or a drastically changed SCABS sufferer, could have been buried in that tiny wooden box. The pink flowers I saw indicated a girl, and I thought instantly of Sarah, how fragile she'd seemed in the beginning, how durable she'd proven to be, how lucky I am to be her uncle. The sorrows of the gathered spoke audibly in the cries of a woman whose red eyes and medicated glaze indicated she was the child's mother, sedated for her own safety. Overcome, I stopped, bowing my head in sorrow.
I should not have stopped.
I should never have looked.
When my head rose from my breast, I saw the mother looking at me... looking at me with more hatred in her blurry gaze than I ever wish to see directed my way again, for all the rest of my life. They caught her as she started her dope-slowed lunge, screaming half-formed threats in my furry face before I backed and fled, chased by her gaze... and that of the man who was likely her husband...
... and the words. "Murderer! Go 'way! You... you can't have her! Not again! No! No..." As I let their eyes roast my retreating back, I already knew what the child had died from.
For all the medical community reminds the public, it's very hard for the average Joe Q. to understand. SCABS and Martian Flu, Martian Flu and SCABS: Just like thunder and lightning, they're related... one causes the other. Also like thunder and lightning, people don't always remember which comes first. As I hunched over my cola, thankfully (and momentarily) free from the pressures of my erstwhile pack of Lupine Boys, I could understand this.
It didn't make it any easier.
Once home, I'd scanned the obituaries, but I shouldn't have bothered. The press had long since dropped the words "Martian Flu" from their medical dictionaries. Strictly in the name of avoiding panic, naturally... and to stop reminding us of what we already knew. That this disease, like polio and bubonic plague before it, wasn't going to just disappear.
Three. There were three children's deaths recorded in the sheet of paper spread before me, all listed as "due to viral infection". Whether this was Martian Flu, a cold, or one of the meningitis forms, nobody would ever know. As payment, I whispered a soft prayer for all their mothers... they, alas, were far beyond this Earth, in a far better place.
Finally, I heaved a sigh, shoved my thoughts aside... and turned to the comics.
"You okay, Wand?"
I turned to see Jack, his broadly-asinine features mirroring concern. I put on a smile, feeling it stop short of my eyes, and answered. "Yeah", I said, not bothering with my British for the moment. "Just... you know."
We shared a nod.
And life went on.
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