Back cover description:
Immunity is a funny word. It gives you the impression that there are absolutely no effects on those who have it. Being immune doesn't mean freedom, though. It doesn't mean you can't be hurt.
Immunity. That’s a funny word. It gives the impression that there are absolutely no effects on those who have it, those who have been handpicked by fortune and nature. It didn’t take me long, though, to realize being immune doesn’t mean freedom. It doesn’t mean impunity.
It doesn’t mean you can’t be hurt.
I stand up from the plot of grass where I’m kneeling beside my sister’s gravestone and wipe the tears from my eyes. A chill runs through my body as a breeze hits me, a bitter gust laced with the hints of a snowstorm brewing in the distance. I push my wild hair out of my eyes back behind my ear and look down the line of grave markers; there are my two brothers beside my sister, my mother beside them, my grandparents in another area of the graveyard.
My six month old daughter.
I didn’t even have enough money for a proper casket for her.
The anger surges through my veins, turning my blood to ice and making the cold November air even more intolerable. Didn’t they say children were safe? Wasn’t the plague supposed to pass by the innocent? How could my whole family be so susceptible, so ravaged by this disease, and I be so unaffected?
The doctors called it some sort of superbug, something that’s evolved far beyond our current capacity to understand. Then they studied me, and they called me an unholy incubator for the next generation of human-borne viruses. They tried to quarantine me and force me to stay in some padded, plastic bubble room, but I couldn’t let them do that. They told me I’m a danger to the public and to the people I come in contact with.
Well, that much I’m counting on.
I turn from the gravestone marked Lillian Mitchell: March 23rd, 2020 - September 17th, 2020 and make my way slowly back to my car. Well, not my car. I’m...borrowing it. The owners wouldn’t want it back anyways, not if they knew the Angel of Death had occupied it. I’m doing them a favor by keeping it.
I had to sell my own car a while ago; with all the hospital payments I was making, I had to sell pretty much everything that wasn’t nailed down, and even then I didn’t have enough money to pay the rent. My landlord ignored my pleas to wait for the life insurance money to come in, and kicked he kicked me out. Wouldn’t even give me my deposit back.
Didn’t matter anyways—the insurance money never came. The agent said there was nothing they could do because it was an Act of God, whatever the hell that means. There’s no way this disease is an act of any god I know. If infecting people and getting them killed mere days later is god-like, then I’m about to become a deity.
I step into the property management offices of my old complex and make my way to the office of Mr. Nate Euler. He’s sitting behind a nice looking desk decorated by an arsenal of degrees, licenses, and training certificates—the prideful sack of crap. It’s not like he’s a university professor or anything.
He turns around when I come in and rushes to put on a mask. The mask has crudely designed comic characters printed all over it; it looks like he cut out his pajamas or something to make it. I laugh internally. The fabric won’t stop anything—it didn’t with my family.
“Ms. Mitchell, I didn’t realize you’d be here. If your looking for the garbage you left behind in your apartment, I had to toss it—”
“Oh no,” I say with the most fraudulent smile I can muster. “I appreciate you taking care of that for me. I’m sorry I’ve been such a pain recently.”
“Yeah, no kidding,” he says with a scornful chuckle, though I sense him lowering his defenses. Good.
“Well,” I say, brushing my hair back with a sideways smile, a smile hidden by my own mask, of course, “I know you have a rough job and it’s been hard dealing with all the crazy cases this year. I’m sure it’s been wearing on you.”
He shrugs and sits back in his seat, his ego apparent in the way he moves.
“Yeah, for sure. It’s not as easy as you think, all the idiots I have to deal with. Whole world is going down the crapper, if you ask me. It’s probably better that your family isn’t here to see it.”
I suppress the fury that’s beating against my chest and force my eyes to maintain their indifferent look. It almost makes me throw-up to continue with what I have to say next.
“Anyways, I just wanted to say thanks for helping me through the moving-out process. If you’re free Friday next week, I’d like to take you to dinner.”
Mr. Euler widens his eyes in surprise and rolls himself in his seat closer to me.
“Well I can’t say no to that, can I?”
I grin, hoping my eyes portray benevolence rather than the burning spitefulness that’s consuming every cell of my body.
“I should hope you wouldn’t,” I say, leaning forward so close that I can see the individual blackheads on his nose. I pull my mask down and place a gentle kiss on the round, exposed part of his upper cheek, then take a flower from my bag and leave it on his desk. He doesn’t know it yet, but he won’t even make it to next week. I’ve given him much more than just that flower, a million-strong army that’s just invaded his body.
I turn to leave the room but give his desk one last look, at the pinkish flower resting by one of his trophies. It’s a shame to leave something so beautiful so close to this disgusting man. He definitely doesn’t deserve it, but I want it to be the last thing he sees before he dies. I want him to remember what brought him to Hell’s gates.
It’s a lily.
I’ve got a dozen more in my car.