Stranded Hope Born Into This Business
By Blake Caliguiri
I was born long after the original infection. My father was Marshall Graham. He fought valiantly throughout my life on behalf of people everywhere. He would often tell me things like, “sleep surrounded by walls, never near the window” and “if I begin to turn, don’t hesitate.” I never understood where his rules came from. I listened to him though and slept against the wall and always knew where the nearest weapon was.
He took me out on one of his “trips” on my 16th birthday. I don’t recall much of the day’s events except coming home and scrubbing my hands and hair. There was quite a bit of blood in my ponytail after that day.
After I got out of the shower, I began to ask my father, as I did on a regular basis, “Why are you so serious about stopping this infection?” He would never answer. He would always say something like, “because it’s the right thing to do.” I wouldn’t let him off the hook that easily on that night.
Before the whole question could be asked, my father’s eyes began to well up. “You don’t have to tell me, I’m sorry for asking,” I commented. He smiled at me through his tears. Then he took a deep breath and began telling me what happened 16 years earlier.
Thirty years before that night, my parents met in high school. They fell in love, they went to different colleges, dated other people, but in the end, were in love and got back together. Twenty-five years before that night, they got married. They traveled the world together; my parents were in love on six continents. Then the outbreak hit and they brought a little girl into this horrible world. I never asked if it was a mistake or an accident. I just assumed it was.
It was two weeks before I was due to be born and my parents were on their way to the doctor. Three blocks from the office: one of those spitting, thrashing, piles of former flesh leapt out from an alley and bit my mother. It happened before my father could stop him. He got my mother to the doctor and they tried to stop the change but it was simply moving too quick through her bloodstream, through my bloodstream. They performed an emergency C-section. I was pulled out of my mother two weeks early. They left me in an incubator for about three weeks. During which time, my mother turned, was killed, burned and her ashes were buried in a government-run cemetery. It was then that my father decided to fight this horrible epidemic.
My father dried his eyes as I sobbed. He held me and told me that my mother’s goodness protected me from infection. He held me in his arms until I fell asleep that night. A week after that he went out to get supplies for the house and was bitten. He came home bleeding profusely. He was coughing and looking me square in the eye. “Your promise,” he told me. I stood there in my pajamas, fuzzy slippers on my feet, pistol in hand. I was shaking so hard the gun was rattling. I didn’t hesitate. In a way this is the only world I’ve ever known. Nothing ever changed.
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Published November 19, 2009
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