Authors: Deirdre Gould
“Me? Well my name is Diane if that’s what you mean. I lived here. My family brought me years ago.”
Father Preston sat up slowly.
“Careful,” said Diane, “The stitches might come out.”
“Stitches?” He looked down at the scratchy skin on his stomach. A line of tiny black crosses crossed it in a jagged line.
,” he spat. “Where is she?”
Diane shrugged. “There were lots of people here. All over the building. They’ve all been asleep, but they woke up yesterday. Like Sleeping Beauty’s castle.” Diane smiled. “Most of them are gone now. Except us. We couldn’t leave you like this. Not knowing what we’d done.”
“What happened?” asked Father Preston, confused.
“It’s a little fuzzy. I remember the door to my cell being open and I was hungry. So hungry. I heard noise as some men came in to the hospital and I— I raced to them thinking they must have food. I wasn’t the only one. We chased them upstairs. We were so hungry. You were sick once, you understand.”
Father Preston nodded, not really wanting to hear the rest.
“There wasn’t enough to go around. So we started fighting with each other. Someone was in the upstairs bedroom near us, we could hear them whispering. We finally got through the door and I leapt onto a box, but then someone—
, yelled from the staircase. We found you. We bit you. I’m sorry. We don’t remember anything after that.”
Father Preston looked around at the half dozen creatures who were trying to remember how to be human. “None of you remember after that?”
They shook their heads.
“It was like a spell, or, or a miracle,” exclaimed Diane, “it was as if as soon as we bit into your flesh we began waking up, began remembering who we were. But that’s hardly possible is it?”
Father Preston’s pulse began to speed up.
A man nearby said slowly, “Well, he did say he was sick and recovered. What if whatever cured him is still inside him? What if
cured us, because we ate his blood?”
Ruth’s voice echoed in Father Preston’s head.
That’s not how it works,
You aren’t special
, is what she’d meant. But God had proved otherwise,
was his miracle.
He noticed a man sitting on a bench in a corner. The man leaned forward into the sunlight and picked up a slim tube from the floor. He rolled it between his fingers and looked up at Father Preston, waiting to see what he would say. It was Gray.
Gray stood up and pocketed the tube before anyone but Father Preston noticed it. “We owe this man our lives, our sanity,” he said in a slow, thunderous voice, “He was saved from Affliction by God, and now he heals others through his own flesh.”
The others helped Father Preston gently up. He felt light, strong, unwavering. Holy. He smiled at Gray. Gray made a low bow and smiled his greasy grin back. But Father Preston had no room for doubt in his miracle and the sly wink of the other man went unnoticed.
“What should we do, Father Preston?” asked Diane, trembling slightly with awe.
“There are other Afflicted out there,” said Father Preston, “We can leave them to suffer no longer.”
“But where do we start?” asked another.
“South,” said Gray with a slight smile.
“Yes,” said Father Preston, “We must first find the Congregation.”
It was a few weeks before Father Preston heard rumors of another city, one where a medical cure had been found. But now the city was in crisis, gripped by a resurgence of the plague. Only a miracle could cure it now.
Only I can cure it,
he thought. He wandered toward it with his band of miracle Cured and his faithful flock. They came to a large settlement on a warm morning in mid July. The people were building walls and planting crops far too late. A lanky man with an unlit cigarette hanging from the side of his mouth stopped them on the road.
“Whoa,” he said, spitting tiny bits of stale tobacco onto the road. “We already have too many. Look, we don’t like turning anyone away, but unless you brought your own tools and seeds—”
“We’re here to help,” said Father Preston.
The man snorted. “That’s what you all say. We needed help a year ago. We needed the cure, but nobody ventured out of the City to help us then.”
“These people were just cured themselves, a few weeks ago.”
The man squinted at Father Preston in the shadowy burlap cowl he wore to cover his scars. “We were the last ones, the governor said.”
“We’ve come a long way,” said Father Preston, “A long way to help.”
The man tapped his cigarette against his palm as if he could tamp the loose remains of tobacco tighter. “You better go see Henry then,” he said at last. “But just one of you. The rest can wait here until there’s a decision.”
“I’ll take care of them Father,” said Gray, “and maybe make some trades with—”
“Rickey,” the man offered. “What have you got?”
Gray grinned. Rickey pointed Father Preston up the road to a large barn. He heard two men talking as he approached the door.
“Did you hear about the Plague?”
“Yes, Melissa told me this morning.” The man’s voice sounded familiar to Father Preston. Sort of exotic. As if it had been many places. Sad, as if it had seen too many things.
“Are you in favor of closing our gates too?” asked the first man. Father Preston opened the door and slid inside, unnoticed.
“What choice do we have? If we don’t protect the people that are already here, there will be no safe place for anyone.” The speaker was grayer than Father Preston remembered. A little stooped.
“Marnie is out there somewhere.”
The older man put a hand on his comrade’s shoulder. “And you did what you said that you would for her. You went back as you promised her mother you’d do. You offered her shelter and help as you promised you would do. And you didn’t follow her as you promised not to do. You’ve made other promises, Henry. To the people here. To your friends. These people trust you to do what’s right for them.”
“Isn’t there some other way?”
“I believe there is,” said Father Preston. Both men turned to look at him. Father Preston recognized the other priest. He waited at the end of the barn to be recognized. The morning light filled with dust motes and floated around him like a halo.
“I’m sorry,” said Henry, “I don’t believe we’ve met. I’m Henry. Who are you?”
“The savior,” Father Preston replied. The priest stepped forward, side by side with Henry.
“What is it you want?” asked Henry.
“To give you another way.”
“And what way is that?” asked the priest, his hand closing over the shovel that leaned against a nearby barn beam.
“Why, Brother Vincent, Transubstantiation of course.” Father Preston pushed the cowl from his scarred face and Brother Vincent gasped and dropped the shovel.
Just a Note
Whether you picked up Krìsis without ever hearing about After the Cure or this is the third time you are experiencing the world, thank you for reading! I hope that it has entertained you, made you think, or just moved you in some way. I hope that you loved it, but maybe you’d rather throw the kindle at me instead. But I’d recommend against it, those things are pricey! Instead, drop me a line and tell me how you feel, I’d love to hear from you, whether you are railing against me or just want to know what the weather in Maine is at the moment. You can always find me at [email protected] while I can’t promise to answer
question you ask (wouldn’t want to spoil the ending after all!) I will do my best to answer what I can or just say hello and make a new friend in zombie- er,
and post apocalyptic appreciation. Or you can pop in to the After the Cure facebook page to see how the series is progressing (or to find out about other awesome science fiction and horror books that I’ve run across and want to share):
Of course, I always appreciate sharing how you feel with the rest of the reading world too, and if you felt sad, angry, happy, satisfied, frustrated or excited for more, I hope you’ll leave a review for this, and
book you read. Finding out someone loved or loathed a book is usually how I find my next read!
Thank you for traveling through this dark novel with me, and I hope you are looking forward to reading the next few books in the series as much as I am truly looking forward to writing them!
In the After the Cure Series:
After the Cure (Book 1)
The Cured (Book 2)
Coming Spring 2015: “Igor” in The Z Chronicles
The Robot Chronicles
The Jade Seed
The Moon Polisher’s Apprentice