March 6, 2017

     It was a spider. Silent, but it snaked around catching those who were not immune. It slowly killed people little by little. My town used to be the most cheerful, positive and happiest place of all. Now there is nobody except my family.

     It all started when my friend Kylie and I were playing tag at the annual summer cookout. Kylie and I were the last two people still in the game. All of our other friends were cheering. We were running in circles, laughing so hard our legs felt like jelly. I was happy, everything was perfect. Except for this feeling in my stomach. It was a bad feeling, and I knew something bad was going to happen. I stopped in my tracks. I turned around to see Kylie running, looking unusually pale.

     “Kylie! Let’s give it a break. We can finish the game later!” I screamed.

     Kylie must not have heard me because she kept running. Once she got closer to me, she slowed down. She was three feet away from me, and collapsed on the perfectly mowed green grass. I ran up to her to see if she was okay. I reached her feet and froze. She was so still, so pale. Her eyes were closed with darkness in them. I couldn’t believe this was my best friend lying there in front of me. My other friends looked over to me and happily sprinted over to me. They were still cheering, thinking Kylie was acting hurt to stall. This was not the case. My friends came over. Their cheers turned into screams. The adults looked over and saw what was going on. My mother and Kylie’s mom, Sasha ran over to us. When Sasha saw Kylie, her face turned to stone. I had no clue what was going on except that my best friend was on the ground, possibly dead. The terrible feeling in my gut was worsening. The next thing I knew, I was in my house alone. All my friends had gone home too. My parents had gone to the hospital with Kylie and her parents. I pleaded to go, but mom said I was too young. The only thing I could do now is to pray everything would be okay, and so I did.

     Later that night, I woke to a door unlocking. I heard quiet whispers from my parents and Kylie’s. I sprang to my feet to go see them. I met my parents in the kitchen.

     “Where are Kylie’s parents?” I asked my mother’s tear- stained face.

Why was she crying? My mom never cries.

     “Mom, is everything okay?” My mother swooped me up in my arms. I didn’t know what was wrong.
     “Oh Honey,” she cried through sobs. I felt a silent tear slide down my cheek.

     “ Mom, where is Kylie?” I whispered in her ear. I barely opened my eye and my dad and Kylie’s parents were coming in for a hug.

     “Honey, Kylie…she’s… she’s gone.” I couldn’t believe this. My best friend was dead.
     “No!” I cried. I couldn’t do this.

     Kylie and I had planned out our whole life. The day we graduated we were going to go to Paris for a week, be each other's bridesmaids, babysit each other’s kids, and every Wednesday we could go out for coffee. Everything was planned, now it was gone. I ran up to my room and slammed the door.

This was not happening, I told myself. I never even got the chance to say goodbye!

      I looked up to see a picture of Kylie and I. Tears poured from my eyes, and down my cheek. I already miss her. Whenever I was sad, I would talk to Kylie. Now she was not here. I had nobody to talk to, except the giant teddy bear Kylie had gotten for me last month for my birthday. She used all of her allowance money to get it for me. Kylie was so sweet, funny and kind. I am crazy, funny and caring. Our two personalities made us best friends. We were like two peas in a pod, always together.

     For the next couple days, I mourned Kylie. This felt like the other half of my heart was missing. I was out of place, like an Apple in an Orange tree. I never knew that once you lose someone, you miss their presence, their voice, their laugh. Their...everything. I also realized how we both took our friendship for granted, and never imagined something like this would happen.

       At Kylie’s funeral, I gave a eulogy. I spoke about our eleven year friendship. We had known each other since we were born, our mothers best friends. I told the audience about our best memories, and how much she meant to me. I apologized to Kylie’s parents, telling them no girl should lose a life this young, but also that no parent should ever endure this.

     Once Kylie was buried, I spoke to her. I told her how much I missed her, and how much she meant to me. I told her I was sorry this happened and I wish could change it. Finally, I told her to have fun in heaven, dancing with her passed ancestors, other friends, and God. I told her I would see her soon, and that I loved her. Saying goodbyes are always so hard, especially to your best friend who you did everything with.

     Within the next couple months, the disease spread like a yawn. One person after another. Many of the local hospitals were full. So many people were dying, so many mourning. Those who mourned would then get sick and pass on. The cycle continued, and never stopped. In the the local newspaper, The Oregon Times, most of the articles were about the disease. Nobody knew what it was, the cause or the cure. There were many obituaries as well. My whole town was dying and there was nothing I could do. I wish I could help and change this. Every night, I would pray to God, ask him to watch over my town, my family and friends. I asked for advice of what to do and how I could help. One thing I knew was to never lose hope. God had a plan, and it was going to be good. Although I had to go through the dark times to see light and learn my lesson.

     It had been three months since Kylie’s death. More and more people kept dying. My family had gone to many funerals and went to help and pray for the sick. Now the only people who were not sick were the people in my neighborhood. Mr. and Mrs. Smith, a faithful older couple who always gave every kid on the block five dollars for Christmas and their birthday. There was also the Hughes who owned the local market downtown, Kylie’s parents Sasha and Mike Carter, and my family. It was weird only having your block as your town. I felt so sad. Almost everyone I knew had been infected and passed on.

     One thing my block didn’t understand was why we had not been infected. Everyone in our town had the disease but us. We had all treated every day like a normal one. We went to the store, the bank and local restaurants and had not yet been infected.  We were not hiding from the disease, but we also did not expose ourselves. Were we immune? If so, it makes no sense. Unless we all had a special blood type that made us immune. This prediction was not correct because Kylie died. She had a mix of her parent’s blood type and her parents were still alive. This all made no sense. What was happening?

     It was now the beginning of November. My block was mostly healthy except Kylie’s father Mike and Mr. and Mrs. Smith. They were showing symptoms of what others and Kylie had endured.  All of the Hugh family has died as well. We cherished our time with them, all of us knowing they were going to die. I was so depressed by what had happened in the last couple months. My life had truly changed drastically.

     In mid-November, Kylie’s father, Mike and Mr. and Mrs. Smith died. It was a very glum day. My parents and Sasha and I had checked on Mike. My older sister stayed home with my younger brother. Mike was getting worse everyday. There were black around his eyes. He looked so tired and exasperated. He was so frail. We gave him tea and some soup with bread, leaving him to eat while we all went to go check on Mr. and Mrs. Smith across the street.

     When we got inside, the house was silent. They were probably sleeping. When we got upstairs, we saw their bedroom door open. We walked in and went to the bed. They were both in bed. Both were so pale, so still, so cold. My mother walked over to Mrs. Smith and brought her head closer to her chest to listen for a heartbeat and breath. There was no heartbeat, no breath.  She was dead. With this grief, we all went to the other side of the bed to Mr. Smith. He was also pale and still, just like Mrs. Smith. I leaned towards Mr. Smith for a heartbeat and breath. There was nothing.  Sasha had lifted the covers to find them holding hands. They had passed on together. This moment was bitter-sweet. They had such a faithful marriage and a good life. With the couple alone, we left to go check on Mike. 

When we walked in the door, we heard the tv on. All of us went up the stairs to go to Sasha and Mike’s bedroom. I was the first to reach the door, not finding Mike in bed.

     “Guys, Mike isn’t in the bedroom!” I yelled down the stairs.

     “ He may be in the bathroom,” Sasha told me from the main floor.

     “Alright, I’ll go check,” I exclaimed. I walked over to the closed bathroom door and slightly knocked. There was no answer. I knocked again, harder. No answer. I put my ear up to the door. Crash! I knew something was wrong. I had to get in there.

     “Mom, Dad, Sasha! Come upstairs! Hurry!” I yelled, frightened.

     I then heard loud steps from Mom, Dad and Sasha rushing up the stairs as I opened the door. Sure enough, Sasha was right. Mike was sprawled out on the bathroom floor wearing his favorite pair of red sweatpants and a navy blue t-shirt. He looked sweaty but pale. The black around his eyes had turned to an even darker shade of black, almost an ebony color. I welcomed my family into the bathroom, allowing Sasha to listen for a heartbeat or breath. As she listened, her eyes began to swell with tears. Mike was dead.


      My parents and I hugged Shasha, all of us crying, and told her everything would be okay. Sasha was bawling. She had lost her daughter, her whole town and now her husband. I had never seen a sight like this before. I was sad, and scared. Mike was like my other dad. Now he was gone like Kylie. Like Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Like my town. I was so depressed. I hated the state I was in. Why can’t my life be how it used to be? Normal. I wanted to kick and scream. I was done with this. I wanted this to be over. When will this be over?
     Later that day, my parents, my sister, and brother, Sasha and I buried Mike and Mr. and Mrs. Smith. This day was so terribly depressing. I hated this. I wanted my old life back. I was losing faith, and I could not see where God was in this moment. I knew he had a plan, but this was the lesson to see what something new. A new opportunity. Although I knew I had to keep faith.

     It was now December. Sasha was getting sick, showing symptoms of what Mike had shown. Sasha mourned for her family. I did not like seeing her like this. Although, Sasha knew she was going to die. She knew she would see Kylie and Mike in heaven. She was excited to see them, but also scared to leave my family alone.
      “Sasha, we will be fine. You don’t have to keep fighting this virus. You are my best friend and you want to see your family. That is what you want. I want what is best for you. Go see them, and I will see you someday. We will reunite in heaven,” My mother told Sasha.

     Being stubborn Sasha, she never gave up. We were proud of her, but what she really needed was her family. Sasha gave up and stopped fighting the virus. Sasha passed away. This was depressing news to find. My mom and Sasha had been best friends ever since preschool, just like Kylie and I. My family was also happy for Sasha, but mourned her. She was with her family now. She was in heaven with everything she needed.
     With all of my friends and town gone. There was now just my family. My dad, my mom, my older sister, my younger brother and my dog and I. It had been three months since Kylie’s death.  One this my family didn’t  understand was how none of my family members had shown any signs or symptoms of the virus. We were all okay, acting normal besides our depressed hearts.  We had all been around the virus, not trying to avoid it.
How could we not be sick?

      None of this made sense. Maybe our immune systems are stronger. Or my family could have an inherited mineral in our blood that keeps us from not having the virus. With these ideas, I climbed into my bed with the blanket Kylie had given me for my birthday.

The next morning at breakfast, I was thinking about how my family was not sick and could be immune to the virus.
Without thinking, I blurted, “Mom, why are we not sick?”

     “I don’t know, honey,” My mother replied.

     “Maybe all of our immune systems are stronger than the whole town’s,” I suggested.

     “Sophie, I don’t think you understand that the virus is much stronger than any immune system so that’s not the case. I like your thinking though.”

     “Well if it’s not our immune systems then it must be our blood. We could have an inherited mineral in our blood that keeps us immune to the disease!” I exclaimed more confident in this idea.

     “That could be possible, but the last time I got my blood checked, my blood was normal.” said my mom.
     “I want to be a person who finds cures to viruses and diseases when I grow up,”

     “With your determination and heart, I’m sure you’d be a great Medical Scientist.” my mom replied.
     “Thanks, mom.” I told her.


     “Your welcome, honey.” my mom told me as she walked out of the kitchen, leaving me alone.


     I really had gotten thinking about this disease and how to cure it. Nobody should have to go through what my family has. We lost our whole town.

For the next week, I had been mostly up in my room researching about blood and diseases. I had a lot of notes on what I had found out. I was not giving up on this. I had to find a cure and a cause. I was going to do this for Kylie. For Sasha and Mike. For Mr. and Mrs. Smith. For my town. For my family. For the future. My mind was non-stop thinking about this. My family wanted to play board games or go to the store with me, but I refused, staying in my room to research.

     I was getting hungry, and it was almost dinnertime. Luckily, my mom yelled up the stairs.

      “Dinner is ready!”

     With that, I heard my sibling’s feet pounding like a herd of rhinos down the stairs to get to the food first. I don’t understand Carl and Ann. They always are competing in everything. It’s so annoying. They really need to grow up. I was hungry so I rushed out my door too to get my food too. I reached the bottom of the stairs and I smelled something delicious. I think it was lasagna. I walked to the kitchen to find out, and sure enough! I was right. My mom’s lasagna is to die for. I rushed over to get my food, and I dat down to take a bit. I have never tasted something so heavenly. I felt like Garfield with his lasagna, hoarding it so nobody else could eat any.

     At dinner, my family announced that we are moving to Rochester, New York. My parents told us to pack up and only pack sentimental items and to be ready by Friday.

     The next four days went by fast. My family got packed, and said our goodbyes to our passed friends. As we headed to the airport, I realized that I was really going to miss my old life, but I was also looking forward to my new one. I knew this was a good change, and that God was blessing me everyday. I had my family, and new friends and opportunities to come. All I had to do was be positive and faithful.

     When my family got to Rochester, we met our family in the food court. It was so amazing seeing my family I rarely see. Then, I realized I get to see them everyday! I was so excited to see a new beginning, but sad to let go of and end. At this moment, I knew my parents had made the right decision. I loved them for this even more at this moment. I was thankful for what I have had and what I have to come. 

     It had been a couple months in Rochester, and I had started school. My school was really nice. The kids were too. I now have a new friend named Clara Martin. She is so much like Kylie. Caring, kind, smart, pretty and funny. Our personalities click together like magnets. I remember on the first day of school in my first class, Clara sat next to me. She would talk to me, and I would respond back. For the rest of the day, even lunch we sat next to each other. In a couple days we were friends, then a couple weeks good friends, and another month best friends. My parents have also found some jobs they really like. What's really cool is that Clara's mom and my mom work together. We were all so thrilled when we found out. I was liking my new life here in Rochester. It was peaceful. Every Saturday my family goes to the downtown market. We get fruits and sweets. I always choose donuts and coffee. It's such a great combination! I am thankful for everything I have. I love my family, friends, my life. Everything seems so perfect. In the last year my life has changed dramatically. I never imagined how much everything could change. This change has taught me that life may have its ups and downs, but you just need your friends, family and faith to get you through.

       I now look back to when I was eleven years old. I had faced so much tragedy that year. Once I moved to Rochester, everything changed and I’m so thankful that I had my family and faith. Meeting Clara was a blessing. We still talk every night. I now live in Northern Rochester as a Medical Scientist. Ever since that morning with my mother at breakfast when I told her I wanted to find cures for diseases, I have been motivated to find the cause and cure for the disease that hit my hometown when I was eleven years old. I have not found anything yet, but I know I am close. Clara has her own book and candy store. It’s called Sweet Reads. One side of the store is a library, while the other is a candy store. She is in love with that store, and I’m quite proud of her for it. She lives across the city in southern Rochester. Every Saturday we hang out at the mall. I wish we could see each other more often, but we aren’t eleven anymore. We are twenty-five year old women who have jobs across the city. At least we can FaceTime and call. It’s better than not seeing each other ever again, like Kylie.

     Clara sometimes asks me that if I could change my past. I honestly wouldn’t. Without the tragedy of the virus, I would have not been changed and motivated to do what I do today. I also wouldn’t have met an amazing friend like Clara. Although, I think about Kylie and her family everyday. I miss them, and I know I will see them someday. For right now, I need to focus on the present. Not the past. If you focus on the past, you can’t live in the present and see the future coming. Right now my life is wonderful. I have my family, friends and faith. That is all I need.

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