It started with the birds. They began appearing on roads, sidewalks, roofs of houses. Cars would swerve to miss the corpses of crows, red wing blackbirds, stiff wings on highway roads. The CDC released a statement that promised the unknown deadly virus was limited to ornithurae and wasn’t a threat to humans.
That was two months ago.
Cars don’t swerve to miss bodies anymore. No one drives anywhere. After the first story of a nine year old girl in Tennessee dying with self-inflicted lacerations on her body and a half-eaten small intestine, people panicked. Scientists wanted to know what had eaten her intestine, how it had gotten in her body, and how to stop it from spreading. The first answer was simple: parasite. An almost clear-like substance that moved similar to water, its carnivorous appetite not satisfied with the many greens being consumed by little Alice Thurman. The other two questions were harder to find. Alice had not been drinking contaminated water, she had not consumed a bird previously carrying the parasite, and she didn’t exhibit any symptoms other than sleep paralysis and nausea.
Two months and still no one has an answer.
It isn’t as if the WHO wasn’t making progress, they recommended staying indoors and eating as much red meat as possible if symptoms arise. But it wasn’t enough. People were scared. Soon, a story stopped everyone in their tracks. Six friends in their twenties were all found dead in a New York apartment-- cuts all around their abdomen and terror etched in their faces. It was thought that the parasite, people began calling it Nephthys after the Egyptian goddess of suffering, would feed on whatever meat was consumed by the host first, and then when it went a second too long without being fed, it attacked the only other meat it could find-- the meat of its host. This meant people had a choice-- they could either stay indoors and hope the seemingly airborne Nephthys didn’t reach them, or they could loot every food supply they could find for any kind of meat.
My mother decided to get groceries. Twelve days ago. She never came back. I’ve been acting as the parent of the house since then, reading books to my sister where the only things spreading were love and happily ever afters. I didn’t have time to grieve my mother. I told my sister she didn’t have to worry. I told her we were safe. I didn’t know what else to say. Most nights I laid with her until her breathing evened and until last night I didn’t sleep at all. But last night, she came down the hall and sat across from me at the table in the kitchen. I had my face in my hands. I wasn’t even crying anymore. There wasn’t anything left in me to give up. I just remember shaking. Shivering as if I was out in the cold. She didn’t say anything about the future. Neither of us knew what that looked like. Instead, she said, “The last time you shook like that was when it snowed five inches in October. You were so mad.” She was right. I was mad. It seems silly now, being angry at something so natural. “I don’t like being cold.” I said.
“You’re telling me,” she said. “You’re the one that stole every single blanket on that one hotel bed--”
“In Lansing? That was not my fault! I was asleep!”
It went on. We talked about the past until we got to the past we didn’t remember. After that night, I fell asleep once I felt her breathing slow next to me.
But now I can’t sleep again.
Not when after the fifteenth day of surviving on canned vegetables, I awoke to my sister screaming at 4:33 am. Sleep paralysis. She contracted the parasite. Nephthys had now invaded my sister and was going to take her away from me. I don’t think I can take this. This thing has taken everyone and everything away from me to see if I could survive on barely anything. And I did. I was malnourished but alive. But not anymore. My sister was the only thing left in this world I had to care for, to look after. She isn’t supposed to die before I do. It isn’t fair. She hasn’t had her heart broken or her first speeding ticket or her first hangover and it seems odd that I’m thinking of negative things that her future used to hold but those meant that at least she had a life ahead of her. And now she doesn’t. She was supposed to grow up and be embarrassed by our mom and hate high school and learn about life and change the world and she was supposed to see me die but be okay with it because she knew I had a good life with her in it. But now I won’t. She’s leaving me too early and I’m just not strong enough to handle it. I never was because I never thought I would have to.
The death toll is at 600 million. Twice the population of California. A little under a tenth of the population. My sister was one of those six hundred million. So was my mother. I won’t be though.
Because I created Nephthys.
I didn’t think it would kill so many people. But it did. I’m the reason six hundred million people are dead but I am also the reason the Earth and humanity will survive a little longer. But I didn’t think it would cost my sister. I didn’t think it would cost my mom. I didn’t think it would cost me as much as it has. And now you know, whoever is reading this. The plague of 2046 that killed my family was by my own doing. And as so much blood is already on my hands, I see no reason not to add mine to the stream.