Oh God, why her?
All published excerpts from Apostate: Life after Death in Exile:
From Part 1, Episode 8: Oh God, why her?
Janice slept restlessly all night. As I suspected, I did not sleep at all. Between praying and worrying and jumping at the shadows caused by the oak tree outside the window, I was busy all night.
I finally got up just before dawn, showered as quietly as possible, and went downstairs to fix breakfast and do a little more research. I was not able to learn anything new, but I did re-read some of the posts from the previous night. Was my imagination running wild? Can I trust what these bloggers were saying? But, what about Wellers? I was on edge all morning just as I had been all night.
My wife finally woke up a little later than normal. I could hear her step out of the shower, then I didn’t hear anything for a long time. Finally, I walked upstairs to find her laying down across the bed.
“Are you okay,” I asked concerned, but trying my best not to show it.
“I’m still tired,” she replied. “I think I’m getting sick.”
Her eyes were closed, so she could not see my reaction. “What’s wrong?” I waited until I thought I could control my voice, but there was still too much worry evident in my tone.
She sat up, and looked at me. “Oh, I’m sure I’m okay. It’s probably all the excitement from yesterday, mixed with the pain medication.” With one hand, she reached across and rubbed the new bandage that she had just placed on the wound. “Are you ready for breakfast?” She stood and started walking for the door.
I joined her and walked downstairs right behind her. “Yes,” I replied. I was sure my voice sounded more confident. “I made pancakes… your recipe, of course.”
Together we cleaned up the breakfast dishes, and sat on the front porch for a few minutes enjoying the coolness of the morning and another cup of coffee. Eventually, Janice grabbed her purse and headed to the car. I waved at her from the porch as she backed down the driveway and drove towards town. My attention was again captured by the dark stain on the driveway, and I stood staring at it for a few minutes.
I went back inside and looked up our doctor’s telephone number on the computer. When the nurse answered, I asked to speak to the doctor. I don’t know what I was thinking. Of course, I would not be able to speak to the doctor. But, the nurse took my number and said that she would leave him a message.
Next, I called Mark Powell. He said he was doing fine. But, I finally got him to tell me the truth. He was not feeling well. Last night, his wound had opened up again, and started bleeding all over the bed. He and Sherry managed to slow the flow until they could get him back to the hospital. The E.R. doctors added a few more stitches and sent him home. Sherry let him sleep on their couch while she cleaned up the blood.
“And, how are you feeling now?” I asked.
“I don’t know. My shoulder is okay. They gave me some stronger pain meds. But, I think I must have the flu or something.” We made small talk for a few more minutes. Making small talk is usually very difficult for me; it was excruciatingly painful today.
Janice returned after only an hour. I knew that she would barely have had time to drive to Edna’s house and back. She walked in the door, flopped into a chair, and let her purse fall on the floor beside her. She was pale. Her eyes were sunk in her head with dark circles under them. Her hands were visibly shaking.
“I couldn’t stay at Edna’s very long. I really think I’m sick. I hope I didn’t give her something.”
She suddenly jumped up, ran to the downstairs bathroom, and vomited her entire breakfast. I quickly grabbed a cloth from the kitchen, soaked it with cool water, and rubbed in on her forehead. She was hot with fever.
“Yes, you’re sick,” I said. We stayed in the bathroom for a few minutes, then I helped her upstairs and into bed. I sat with her for several minutes while she again slept erratically. At some point, I fell asleep. I don’t know how I fell asleep, but I did.
I sprang up when I heard Janice screaming. She was sitting upright in bed, her eyes closed, and she was screaming as loud as she had screamed when Wellers bit her arm. When she stopped screaming, she lay back down and went back to sleep.
The rest of the morning, the afternoon, and the evening were much the same. She couldn’t eat lunch. I was able to give her a little soup for dinner, which she promptly threw up. I tried to keep her hydrated by giving her as much water as she could take.
Sometime in the afternoon, the doctor called me back. Yes, he agreed, it sounded like Janice had the flu. He recommended giving her fluids and getting her to eat as much as possible. He said the flu was only dangerous if she became dehydrated.
“Have you seen more flu cases lately?” I asked, again trying to keep my voice calm.
“Well, yes, we have,” he answered. “The number of cases had dropped off, but we’ve been seeing more and more the last few days.”
I knew what was happening to Janice and apparently to others around town. I knew that the doctor was wrong. Hydrating Janice would not help her recuperate from this virus. This was something different. It was a new strain. Perhaps it wasn’t a virus at all, at least, not the Bangkok virus.
We didn’t talk much during that time. Her voice, when she spoke, became raspy as if she had had a cough for the last week. Occasionally, she would look up at me and ask what time it was. I would never know, but I would look at the clock and tell her. A few times, she whispered, “I love you.”
Somehow, the next day, Janice grew even worse. There were times when she would be able to get out of bed, but these were rare. She would get a burst of energy, sit up and talk for a just a few minutes, then go back to sleep or lay back down.
I called the doctor and the hospital the next day. Both receptionists told me the same thing, “Even if you bring her, we would not be able to see her.” The doctor’s appointment book and waiting room were full. Every bed in the hospital was full. We were on our own.
When I headed back upstairs, I was surprised to see Janice sitting at the top of the stairs. “What’s happening to me?” she asked.
“What do you mean? You’ve probably got the flu,” I tried to sound confident again. I am not good at this.
“There’s something you’re not telling me; I can see it in your face,” she said matter-of-factly.
I looked away, then stared into her eyes for a long time. “Let me help you back to bed, and I’ll explain everything.” And I did.
In the evening, I simply sat on the bed with her head on my chest. I placed a cup of water near me for those times when she could drink. Most of the time, I caressed her hair and prayed, either silently or so that she could here. I told her that I was with her, and that I would never leave her.
I watched as her skin became even paler. Her eyes, when they were opened, were glassy and did not seem to focus on anything. She could barely sit up, much less walk. She was dying. I was not afraid of her death. I was afraid of what would happen after her death.
Janice’s breathing became shallower. Her heartbeat, which I could feel against my own chest, became fainter. I prayed harder, not realizing that that were even possible. “Oh, God, why her?” But God seemed distant. He was not answering. Many of the Psalms suddenly came to life, “How long, oh Lord!”
Suddenly, I felt every muscle in Janice’s body tighten. In a release that I did not think was possible, she released everything and screamed like never before. She collapsed back on my chest.
As I was rubbing my wife’s hair, her head turned to one side, her face pointing toward mine. Her eyes flittered open and tried to focus. For a moment, there was a spark in her eyes, and they looked right into mine. Her lips parted, and she tried to form a sound. Nothing happened.
She took a deep breath, deeper than she had taken in a long time. Again, she moved her lips and hissed. I did not understand her at first. I did not want to understand her. But her words echoed through the darkness and loneliness and emptiness of our room.
All published excerpts from Apostate: Life after Death in Exile: