A flu pandemic has wiped out most of the adult population, leaving communities across the world fighting for food and survival. A new regime has risen from the hysteria, known as SG16. Their militia have their objectives: to find a cure for the new world and arrest all vagrants outside the safety zones. The only way to do that is to find a survivor who holds the gene that can fight against the flu virus; an infected survivor with the right antibodies. James, Chelsea and their baby might just hold the cure that everyone is looking for. But there are no guarantees on their survival under SG16’s rule. Can they stay hidden long enough to find an escape? It all depends on the cure!
Previously on The Cure:
Beth reminisced over their initial meeting and Chelsea’s labour. The fear of being caught had held them all in a state of tension under the hot summer sun. Beth’s skills as a young midwife only extended far enough to help her friend deliver the baby safely.
James watched in awe as his baby entered their chaotic world. He was only sixteen and felt like a child himself, but circumstances had made him grow up quick. With only a third of the world’s population left alive and most of them children, it meant as soon as you hit your teenage years, you were considered a man.
The flu pandemic that had swept from one nation to another favoured children as its killer messenger and made sure every family received a visit. Adults had no immunity to the new strain and most died, only a few remaining to tell the tale. The government had tried to vaccinate everyone with little to no effect on the virus. Those scientists left to investigate new vaccines were quickly quarantined in a safe location. Everyone else was left vulnerable. It was almost laughable to think that the third world war had come in the form of sickness. Large nations had been left bereft of power and food supplies as their workers dropped like flies.
Beth, acting as midwife, pulled at the remaining delivery from Chelsea’s body, watching carefully for excess bleeding and checking the blob of placenta and tubes were all there. She grimly poked and prodded Chelsea’s abdomen for signs of hardness and grunted in satisfaction, turning her attention to the small squiggling body lying on her lap wrapped in a semi-clean blue cardigan. She was beautiful and the midwife sighed in appreciation for new life. Her young face had severe lines and scars from previous battles fought for survival. She knew what hell lay in store for this little girl lying so innocently in her arms and enjoyed the moment of pure innocence in front of her.
James cleared his throat and tried to speak but the tears fell freely down his grimy face and his big blue eyes watched his daughter and her mother. The world pressed down on him as the sun bore into his skull through his long, greasy blonde hair. He held his hands out to the Beth, the teenage midwife, hoping she wouldn’t refuse to give him his child. Past memories of asking for something and being hit flashed through his mind and he automatically put his hands down again as though already chastised.
The baby hiccupped ad started bawling her eyes out, giving both youths a fright. They looked at each other and the tenseness in their faces disappeared for an instant, laughter gurgling up and breaking out into the silence of the day. Beth gently handed her over to James, smiling and giggling in response to his laughing smile. They had done it. They had brought this little child into the world. It might not be a perfect world, but at least it was theirs for the time being.
As soon as he held her James could feel her cuddling into his warmth and she starting sucking her little fingers, hoping for nourishment.
“What are we going to do for food Beth?” he asked. “Is it safe to wake Chels up to feed the baby? Will she be able to feed her?”
“I don’t think we should leave here just yet. Not while Chelsea is recovering. We’d better find shelter though. This sun is shit -hot and I’m burning. Chelsea looks like she’s tanning in Poole” she giggled, looking down at her friend.
Her smile slipped as she fumbled to find a pulse. She frowned and put her hand on Chelsea’s ankle. The pulse was there, but it was thready. Suddenly, a deep sigh escaped from the sleeping form, allaying any further fears the two might have had about her well being. Aching from her cramped position, Beth got up and stretched her back, exposing her flat torso and long brown legs covered by a pair of tattered shorts and converse shoes that had seen better days. Once stretched out, her blouse back in place over her tummy, she looked down once again at her friend and made a decision.
“Jamie, you have to find somewhere safe for us tonight to light a fire. Food is a bonus, but safety first yeah?”
James nodded his head twice and gently placed the baby back down on the mattress next to her sleeping mother. Beth gingerly picked up the bowl of entrails left from the birth and thought of how some cultures ate them for good health. She cringed inside and thought of digging a hole so as not to attract any wild animals to them. Decision made, she put the bowl and blood soaked rags to one side, whilst she shook out the only blanket they had that didn’t smell like shit and dust. Gently, she covered mother and child and went off to the right, crossed the road and found a patch of ground that looked soft and easy to dig. Finding an old broken off bumper helped her dig the hole faster and in no time the rags, bowl and entrails were buried. She shifted the dirt until the area looked undisturbed and scampered back across the road to find Chelsea groaning and waking up.
“Hey, how are you?” she said, kneeling next to her friend, wiping away the damp hair stuck to her face.
“Hmm, thirsty” croaked Chelsea. She glanced to her right and saw the baby dozing off in the sun, still sucking her little fingers contentedly. “How long have I been out? Is she ok Bee?”
“Yeah, all’s well. You haven’t been out for long but we are going to have to move soon or else you’re both going to faint in this sun.” She handed Chelsea her bottle of water. “Here. Drink this.”
Chelsea drank deep and long and gasped at the end, like a swimmer after a race. She smiled and reached over to hug her friend as tight as she could. “Thank you Bee. I know how dangerous this is for you. I promise, once we are set up, you can go back okay?”
“Do you see me complaining girl?” Beth asked, all her attitude showing as she put her hands on her hips and swayed her head like a cobra. She giggled and kissed Chelsea on the head. “Don’t you want to hold her Chels?” She glanced at the baby.
The peaceful afternoon was punctured by a gut curdling scream and two shots fired soon after. Both girls’ searched around to see how close the danger was and instinct took over. Chelsea lifted her child close, making sure not to disturb her sleep. Any noise would alert whoever was out there and their lives would be over. Beth grabbed the blanket and bags lying close to the dirty mattress, ready to go in an instant. She helped her small, frail friend up and together they quietly made their way to the left, to some outlying buildings that joined onto the garages at the front.
Only the noise of the incessant buzzing flies and squawking magpies, disturbed by the shots could be heard. The air felt still, as though the hunters were waiting for them to make a wrong move. The buildings were battered and ruined but some still had rooms with doors and a roof or ceiling. Beth and Chelsea made their way over rubble and general debri blocking their safe passage and making a silent escape almost impossible.
Once in the corner of one of the remaining rooms which looked as if it might have been an office with its flat carpeting and littered desks, they sat and watched for signs of movement outside. The baby stirred and started whimpering. Beth frowned and growled at Chelsea to whip out her breast and start feeding her. Chelsea blushed deeply but didn’t argue, slowly lifting her red floral blouse and putting the baby against her soft, warm skin. Without hesitation the baby searched out the areola and suckled happily, grabbing as much skin around the breast as she could hold.
Chelsea wanted to giggle and cry at the same time but knew better than to utter a sound that might give them away. Her blood went cold. Footsteps crunched outside. Closer. They came, voices drifting incoherently. The crunching stopped and someone swore loudly, slapping the person next to them who yelped and swore back. They sounded young but both girls knew how dangerous the younger ones could be. Youth was not something that stopped the darkness that had enveloped their world. Ten year olds, even eight year olds were not above raping and murdering, just for entertainment.
The crunching steps sounded again and moved on past the buildings and back towards the garages and main road. It must have been a hunting party. There were many in the area as it was considered no man’s land – the area between quarantine zones and ORCs (Orphans Relocation Camps). Both held terrors for children and families left behind, but no man’s land was treacherous for hunting parties looking for food and nik-naks that could be sold on the black market. Any living soul found wandering would either be killed by hunting parties thinking they were competition or would be captured and sent to the zones.
The girls heard a car revving its engine and screeching its tyres as it headed off down the road, probably leaving a cloud of dust to filter down as a remnant of their departure. Sighs of relief escaped their compressed lips and each turned to smile at the other.
“There you are!” a voice boomed.
They screamed with fright, struggling to stand to fight for survival.