“Would you kill me if I needed you to?” I let the question loose and busied myself with the generator. I was pretty sure the carburetor was gummed up but I wouldn’t be sure until I took it apart. I didn’t want to look up and meet her eyes because I was a little afraid of what I would see. I needed to know but wasn’t sure if I was ready for the answer. Her broom became silent as she realized what I had asked.
“Are you serious?”
“Yes. Of course I am.”
“I don’t want to talk about this.” I heard her broom resume its shuffle on the floor. I wasn’t sure if I should push the issue but I had to know.
“I’d kill you.” I said it simply, with a matter of fact tone that came out a little too casually, like it was something I had been contemplating. The fact was, though, I had. In this day and age, these simple mercies were something we might have to deal with. It wasn’t like we were in the teens anymore, when we had so little to worry about.
“I SAID, I don’t want to talk about it!” Her tone was sharp but there was also a hint of sadness as well. Last week we stood by and watched as Nelson had to put down his sister. I didn’t think he was going to be able to do it, and had started to step forward when he pulled the trigger. We all watched in silence as the shot echoed away, her body collapsing in such a way it looked like a curtsy, and Nelson just stood there, gun still extended like she was going to stand up and have to be shot again. Afterwards, while we were downing shots of whiskey, he told me it was much easier to kill someone you didn’t love. I didn’t press him on what he meant but there was a faraway look in his eyes that reminded me of my Grandfather when he talked about the Great War.
“Hon, I know you don’t want to talk about it, but it’s a very real possibility.” I looked up from my tinkering to see she had her back turned to me, her head was down and shoulders slumped. She was holding onto the broom like it was her lifeline. I knew she was crying and I tried to sound soft and compassionate but I was a little angry. We had avoided this discussion for a long time now but we were losing people by the week. Soon, there might not be any one else left to do it. “We don’t know why this is happening or who will be immune to it. Even though its been four years and we were just as exposed, if not more, than everyone else, we still could get it.”
She wiped her nose with the back of her hand, sniffling away the grief. “I know,” she said,” Don’t you think its something I thought of?” She brushed her hair from her eyes, and stood a little straighter, anger, frustration and grief giving her strength. “I lost my children, John; Watched as this disease took them away from me, turning them into monsters!”
I could feel tears in my eyes, something I haven’t felt since I watched the Mercy Team drag our daughter to the Cleaning Fields as she clawed and scratched at her bindings, the rope digging deep enough into her skin to weep blood. I met her eyes before they closed the door on our life and I like to think I saw relief and understanding in them; that somewhere deep down she knew her nightmare would be over the only way it could be. Two years before that, our son had been killed by Father Papa when he had attacked the group of children he was playing with. The Change hadn’t affected his body so much as his mind. He was the first one to be effected that way. Since then, we had seen about 7 others taken the same way.
Not hiding my tears, I walked over to my wife. “I lost my children too,” I sobbed, and I gathered her in my arms. In the eight months since the death of our daughter, we never consoled one another, taking refuge inside ourselves, pushing the pain deep. For us, it was the only way to survive, but it was no way to live.
We stood there holding each other tight, our tears soaking into our clothes, for a long time. After a while, we leaned away from each other and wiped away the others tears, leaving the only clean streaks on our faces.
“Why, John, I do think you need a bath,” my wife chuckled.
“As do you, my dear, as do you”, I said with a small smile on my face. “ Lets say we help each other get clean.”
Forgetting the broom and the generator, my wife and I walked hand in hand to the baths.
“I would, you know,” my wife said, sniffing away the last of her tears, “if I had to.”
I just squeezed her hand a little tighter.