AUTHOR'S NOTE: This flash fiction piece was written for Three Word Wednesday. It's a prequel and it contains no spoilers. Be sure to drop by Three Word Wednesday for more fun.
"Yeah, Mom, I'm coming." Julilla got off the couch where she had been flipping through an entertainment magazine. It was several months old and the articles didn't interest her, but any distraction from the pandemic was welcome. She went into the bedroom. "What do you need?"
Her mother didn't answer. She clutched the covers, her body drenched in sweat.
"I know you called me in here for a reason." Julilla poured a glass of water from a gallon jug she had looted from a convenience store. It wasn't Julilla's habit to steal, but the city's pumping plants were failing and the tap water was questionable. "Drink." She held the glass to her mother's lips.
The woman shook her head and little rivulets of blood escaped the corners of her eyes.
"You can do it. Try."
Julilla eased her onto the pillow.
"I'm sorry, you know."
Julilla sucked in her breath. There was a time when she would've made Aztec blood sacrifices to hear these words, but now...
"You're so good, so talented. Smart at everything. I let you down."
Although Julilla wanted to say, "Yes, you did," she instead pointed out that she had always had Aunt Veegee.
"Thank God for my sister. Is she...?"
Julilla hesitated. Aunt Veegee, who exercised, ate organics, and never touched drugs or alcohol was one of the first to go. How was it that her mother, who survived on meth and french fries, was still among the living? "She's always with me," Julilla said. It was true, in a way.
Her mother frowned as if she suspected the truth, but let the matter go. "You'll be alone."
"I'm used to it."
Their eyes met, and Julilla silently cursed herself. This was no time to be pointing out her mother's many failings. Julilla couldn't muster forgiveness, but she could at least feel pity. The pandemic virus, Telo, was a nasty way to die.
Hours later, the coughing began. Julilla paced the other room as her mother choked on the blood filling her diseased lungs. Even if telephones still worked, there would've been no point in calling for an ambulance. Fuel deliveries had stopped weeks ago, and the overcrowded hospitals could do nothing, anyway. There was a local gang that would shoot your loved one for you and end their suffering quickly, but Julilla couldn't bring herself to such a measure.
When the coughing resolved into a rasping wheeze, she went into the bedroom. The brain bleeding had begun and her mother had ceased to be aware of her surroundings. A small blessing. She pulled a chair to the side of the bed, picked up her mother's hand, dark and puffy from the vessels breaking beneath the skin, and waited.
When the last of her mother's body heat had left, she sank to her knees and wept.
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