-Hey, if anyone made it this far, let me know what you think! Also, thanks for just sticking it through, ya know? You guys are the real ones-
"Norman, sweetheart, do you have pink eye?"
Norman flinched as both the voice and the hand on his right arm awoke him from his nightmare. He tried to snap his eyes open, but could barely open them.
Nope... Not pink eye...
"I-" His throat hurt. It was raw. He could barely speak or even talk. This was all happening so fast.
"I'll go get a rag, see if we can clear that up some." Tanya replied softly. Perhaps that's why he loved her, she was soft when someone was in pain. "You've missed dinner, you know. I can make you something." She paused again. "Becker brought us dandelions and radishes. I can make a little more stew for you, if you're hungry."
"Go away." He snapped quickly, rubbing at his eyes with his hands. He needed her gone. This was all happening much faster than he had imagined. He didn't want her to watch.
As he rubbed his eyes, the tent filled with silence. Had she left? He didn't care at this point, he had more serious matters to tend to. Finally, he was able to pry his eyes all the way open. They burned.
"You look terrible. I've never seen you so pale and your eyes are so re- Oh! Your arm! It looks terrible! What's on it!"
Norman quickly looked at the bandages, fearing that they had somehow come off during his sleep.
"I'm fine..." he muttered, his throat still sore. He slowly sat up, his back beginning to burn lightly. The bumps must've spread onto his back, and maybe even his chest. "Leave."
Tanya stared at him for a while, then began to leave.
Tanya paused and looked back at him. "I... don't know." With that, she left, leaving Norman to himself.
He sat there for some time, silent.
Eventually, he stood up and moved slowly out of his tent. He could feel the infection beginning to take more and more of a toll on him.
He paused in his movement for a moment.
Why had he snapped at Tanya?
He had such little time left, and he decided to snap on her now, when she was being kind?
Norman sighed and rubbed his face. He felt like crying. What was the point, though? It would make his eyes worse, most likely. That's it. It wouldn't wash away the illness.
Norman pushed back the opening of the tent to reveal Becker just outside of it. Before he could even process the other man, Becker began to speak.
"We need to talk. Outside. I mean, out of the clearing. Now."
Norman knew what this was about. Becker would know. He knew he would be the first one. Becker had seen it so many times before.
"Here is fine."
"She's fine. She's not stupid, we can't hide this from her forever." Every word he spoke pained him, both emotionally and physically. His throat was still raw. The bumps may have even made their way to his throat and mouth, he couldn't see them.
"... Alright, do you understand th-"
Becker paused, staring at the other man in silence for a while. Minutes went by, or at least it felt like it.
"This is how she went."
"I know, let's not talk about her now."
Becker laughed, almost dryly. "Tanya called going to the City a big honor, but it seems as though anyone that goes there dies anymore."
"Tanya called cleaning Holden's ass an honor too."
Becker smiled at that, but didn't laugh. His eyes were filled with sympathy and pain. This had happened to Janis not to long ago.
"I'll leave. Jan-"
"Please don't say her name." Becker cut him off, glancing away.
Norman stood there, a little surprised, but nodded. Would Tanya want the same for him when he was gone? Would he be forever nameless?
"And I'll take care of them."
Norman nodded in silence, glancing around. He didn't want to leave, but he knew that if he didn't, Becker would make him. Becker made his own partner leave. Becker probably made his own mother and father leave. But would Becker leave if he fell ill?
Norman glanced back at his tent, then looked back at Becker before brushing past him.
"Holden?" He called out, his voice full of sadness, which oddly surprised him.
Holden poked his head out of his tent, not smiling, for once. It was as though the young boy knew this was no time to smile. Perhaps he heard the tone of Norman's voice.
"You look bad." No, that's why he wasn't smiling. He was scared. Norman saw it now. His own son was scared of him. He could guess why, after all, his eyes were probably bright red and he probably looked half dead.
"I know... Hey, I'm going away for a while, Uncle Becker will take care of you, okay?"
"Right." Holden replied, then quickly disappeared into his own tent.
Norman stood there. This was all so abrupt, so sudden. It was not at all what he had expected. Maybe he had never fully expected this.
"Tanya's out looking for Jacobi."
"When will they be back?" Norman turned and looked at Becker.
"Sometime after your gone, most likely. Goodbye, Norman. It's been a pleasure."
Norman hesitated. "You-"
"It's for the best, you know?" Becker replied, not meeting his eye. It was obvious he wanted Norman gone, but it didn't seem personal.
YOU ARE READING
A Traveler's BurdenScience Fiction
Several generations after the fall of society, the infection still runs through the human race. Those infected typically locate near the City, which is where the supplies are. When Norman goes to get supplies, he becomes infected. Now he must live w...