The Dying Butterfly
It's been a long time since it all began. It started slow, a few people sick with some unknown disease back in China. The news would show the citizens there walking around in their makeshift or painters masks. You felt for them, but we couldn't help breathing a sigh of relief that it was them and not us. Eventually, as the illness spread ripping through their country, governments all over the globe began taking action in an effort to keep it from their borders. Here at home the effort was small at first. It was only recommended that if you were experiencing any ill symptoms you wore a mask. Signs at stores and clinics began popping up asking about travel history that nobody paid any attention to. Eventually screening at the borders and airports came in. The news only reported a few potential cases that never panned into anything, so you felt pretty safe; but we weren't safe. As cases began popping up in Europe, Australia, and a few in the U.S it became clear that whatever it was had broken free. Eventually, it was announced that there would be no more travel in or out of the country. Planes just stopped flying. If you were here and you wanted to go home it wasn't going to happen anytime soon. If you were out there and you wanted to come home it wasn't going to happen for you either. Everyone was just plain stuck where they were, so we thought, but people are rarely ever stuck. When we want something badly enough we figure out a way to get it. People began boating, swimming, driving, running, whatever it took. The people that smuggled themselves out or those that smuggled themselves in didn't have to make their destination in order to spread the virus. When the first case showed up in Canada that's when it seemed real for us. That's when we really started talking about it. It wasn't “Oh those unfortunate people in China”, or “Oh that poor child that lost her mother and father in Europe” we heard about on the news anymore. Now it was “What the hell are they going to do to keep us safe?” Suddenly it was a whole new kind of real, and we were scared. People began buying extra food, can goods, toiletries, batteries became near impossible to find; but even through our fear we believed they would somehow stop this. We began convincing ourselves that the prepping wasn't necessary. It was just a silly precaution. You did it only on the off chance that things didn't get better. Like most things in life that turn bad they usually get worse before they improve, so we knew it would, and we braced for it. I mean when does something bad not turn around to something good again? It always gets better... Right? It was coming for us, we were just too stupid to believe it. I'm trying to recall that first sign. You know, the one where you say there it is. That's the one. That's the thing telling us something is off here. The one that says everything is going to be different from here on, but I can't think of what it was; what it could have been. The world was always changing, and changing fast. We just missed it I guess. It could have been any number of things. Like maybe the inoculation for the flu, or maybe the H1N1. Maybe the bird flu started it all, or mad cow, or something in the making way back to the black plague. Who knows, it could have just been something in the air, or a simple bug bite that changed everything. I will tell you one thing for sure though. The T.V. ...The movies...they don't tell it like it really is. The way they glorify the world ending or something so dramatic happening that it changes the world in a way we no longer recognize it. Oh no. It is far different in real life. When the illness started popping up the top dogs in healthcare joined forces in an effort to learn what we were facing, and how to eradicate it. The illness was like... like Ebola meets rabies only on crack. You start off with a fever, nausea. Eventually you start haemorrhaging out your eyes, your nose. You can see the blood oozing through the surface of your skin. For some they are fortunate to not live past this stage, but for most the fever breaks, the haemorrhaging ends and the patient is alert and well again. Initially we thought that was it, they made it through as we watched this on the news in other parts of the world. We thought “huh...that's not so bad; low death rate...Not such a big deal’” but nope. We eventually learned that that was just the second phase of the virus. Turned out there was a third and final phase. The phase they tried to hide from us at first - what we now call the ‘dead phase’. The patient begins to hallucinate. They become agitated, confused and hyperactive. Now take all that and add sleep deprived. Yep, to make things that much prettier, they can't sleep. A normal person gets cranky when they don't sleep. These people, well...you have never seen pissed off before them. The health officials in the very beginning referred to it simply as the Rabid Virus. We knew it wasn't that simple, but no big deal we thought. The infected will get shots. If it was too late for them it would be unfortunate but the rest of us will get inoculated, and this will all be over, but that didn't happen. Eventually they changed its name saying that it wasn't rabies related, calling it something no one could pronounce. The name didn't matter though. What mattered was how to avoid catching it. Turned out it had to do with the saliva. Who cared if they sneezed? Inhale it all you want. It needed to get through the skin and into the bloodstream, and sadly they bite, and they won't stop. If you got bit you got this kind of rabies infection if you weren't fortunate enough to die. If bitten, with your heart pumping rapidly from your panic the virus is circulated through your body landing in every organ. It multiplies so rapidly that it only takes hours to start showing outward symptoms. In the very beginning the news about the growth of the disease was buried in with the weather and sports. Eventually it became a bigger portion of the news beating out who made what play off or the hurricane building along some coast. It flowed night after night. It crept into the afternoon news, and it was even the cause for some emergency broadcasts. Of course they hid from us what they didn't want us to know. You know the part that said we were doomed. Instead they gave us news that offered fictitious hope, promising they were closer to a vaccine. They told us that for some the body fought back developing a hyper coagulation condition. They said it was a physiological adaptive mechanism that took place. They said those individuals were receiving coagulation therapy and were doing fine. They even tried to tell us that the number of infected had been on the decline. All of that might have flown if we didn't see their eyes on the big screen. Eyes can't lie. As people figured out they were only telling us what we wanted to hear, the looting began. I expected, as many of us did, to find military making their way into our streets declaring martial law, but it never came. My Dad and Brad took it very seriously from the start. They began loading our garages with gasoline and food. I am sure Dad was the one personally responsible for the battery shortage. We had more flashlights and wind up radios than anyone would ever need, or be able to carry if it came down to lights out, but I knew when they started buying guns and ammo off the street that it was getting beyond serious. Still, I have to admit a part of me thought they were going a little overboard. At least I’d hoped they were. They started prepping the house putting boards by the windows ready to be hammered up to keep people out. They had us fill pillowcases with sand, stacking them at the base of the stairs in our home so if the front door flew open we had something to hide behind, on what I figured would be an off chance that they would be armed and shooting. Dad started filling every bottle he could get his hands on with water, loading them into the van, on the trailer parked in our garage, and in our pre-packed bags of personal necessities. Those necessities were mainly packages of dried food. We had two shirts, three pairs of underwear, three pairs of socks, a bottle of tablets to purify any water, and one thin jacket he bought at a Mountain Co-op that promised to be light, waterproof and warm. He bought us each one when he loaded up on that dried airtight food that hikers and mountain climbers take with them. I remember rolling my eyes at the thought of eating one, not to mention how ridiculous I thought he was being. I even went so far as to tell him that I thought he was being melodramatic, but the day came when I ate my words as I sat starving, grateful to have one of those packages to eat.