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Part 2

By J. L. GreenPublished 2 months ago 9 min read
Photo by Arseny Togulev on Unsplash

Daddy's got me in the car with a towel held tightly to my throbbin' leg, drivin' like he's gearing up to win the Fortune 500.

The road we're on is familiar but it's not the one headin' into town where the hospital is. I can understand daddy wantin' to take back roads with how he's drivin'. But then he skids into the gravel driveway of Hughes Veterinary Clinic.

I check the backseat in confusion, looking for Gator, but he ain't there. The twistin' motion of my body pulls at the muscles in my leg in all the wrong ways and I sit back straight with a sharp grimace of pain.

"Why are we here?" I ask through clenched teeth.

He hushes me, throwin' the car into park, and runs to open my door.

"C'mon Georgia. Don't you say nothin', ya hear? Just let me do the talkin'."

"Okay." I am too confused and in pain to argue, plus I gotta focus on keepin' the towel on my leg while I limp inside.

The bell above the door jingles and we are met with a distant but loud, "Sorry, we're closed."

"Johnny! It's me," Daddy calls back.

There's the sound of metal scraping against the vinyl floor and then he appears. Unlike daddy, Uncle Johnny is a shorter and slender man, but don't be fooled, he's a strong one. He's gotta be to wrangle all sorts of animals throughout the day.

We seem to have caught him right as he was gettin' ready to lock up. He's got his thick denim jacket on and his hat in his hand. His face is painted with confusion.

"Bobby? Georgia? What's goin' on?"

"We need your help," Daddy says, placin' one hand on my shoulder to urge me hobbling forward, "The neighbors dog got her good."

Uncle Johnny is at attention now. He sets his hat down, runs from view into the back, then comes rushin' out to meet us while pullin' on a pair of thin medical gloves. He has me sit down on a chair in the waiting room.

"You really should take her to the hospital, Bobby. I'm not a human doctor, and just 'cause I deal with animal bites doesn't mean I know what to do for this," he chastises.

I wince and struggle to keep in a pained groan as he peels the towel away from my leg. Once he sees the damage, blood still falling thickly from the wound, he pauses to inspect it for a long minute. He places the towel back, leans back on his haunches, and looks right up at daddy.

"A dog got her, huh?"

"That's what I said." Daddy's tone is hard and even, darin' him to question it.

Uncle Johnny's still leaning away from me and he sighs, "Look, Bobby, this is out of my depth."

"I don't think it is. Just do what you'd do if she was a dog."


Daddy hisses at him. Literally. Like a cornered Copperhead, flared up to strike.

"You owe me, Johnny!" Uncle Johnny stares at daddy with squinted, hateful eyes (he don't take kindly to being yelled at). Daddy softens ever so slightly and his voice is low. "Please. She's my kid. I gotta try somethin'."

Uncle Johnny don't look happy about it, but he nods. He waves us to the back and helps me hop up on a tall table. It smells of cleaning chemicals and glistens a dull silver in the light.

Daddy stands beside me, his arms crossed, his eyes hard.

Uncle Johnny smiles without it reachin' his eyes and says, "What we're gonna do is numb you up, cut the infected skin and muscle off-"

"What?" I yelp. I am ignored.

"-I'll try to sew up and fix what I can." His gaze turns to daddy. "Then I'll give her some antibiotics. It's the best I can do."

He nods sagely. "Thanks Johnny, appreciate it."

Uncle Johnny gives me a weak, sad smile and says, "Sorry honey, this is not gonna be fun." He looks up to daddy again and tries to whisper, "It would be best if she was asleep."

I don't know how to feel when daddy does not hesitate to put me in a sleeper-hold. It's quick, and I don't have time to register pain or fear or anything before my world goes dark.


The world is spinnin'. Well...the darkness is spinnin'.

It's nauseating and I want to make it stop but I can't. I can barely open my eyes, and each time I try it's like a cement block comes hammerin' down on them. Plus my leg is throbbing with every frantic beat of my heart; the sharp jab sets a nerve aflame and sends a bolt of fire runnin' down to the heel of my foot.

"-Can't keep her here like this! Have you seen the news?"

That sounded like Uncle Johnny, but it's fuzzy and he's talkin' sort of quietly so I'm not 100% on that. I'm stuck in a half-asleep, half-awake purgatory, just trying to come back to my senses.

"Course I have!" (That's daddy for sure.) "Why'd you think I brought her here instead of to a hospital? They'd've took one look at her leg and probably taken her out back to give her the lame horse special."

There's a silence that hits harder than the soft-spoken yelling did.

"That's not funny, Bobby."

"I ain't laughin'."

Another stretch of silence. The darkness has finally decided to slow down and stand still. I think I'm lying down; it feels that way at least.

Uncle Johnny sounds defeated when he asks, "What do I do if she...changes?"

"Call me."

"But what if-"

"Just call me, Johnny. I can be here in ten minutes."

His boots click across the wooden floor and a door squeals shut. There's a clock tickin' somewhere, loud and rhythmic in the sudden silence.

My head has settled completely and I'm sure I'm lyin' on my side; my bad leg is not touchin' the ground at all, it is restin' atop my other one.

"Hey Peach, you awake?" Uncle Johnny asks.

"Unfortunately," I mumble. He chuckles but it’s not a happy sound. I groan, "My leg hurts pretty good."

"Yeah, I reckon it will. I can get you somethin' for it...You haven't opened your eyes yet, have you?"

Something in his tone makes me suspicious and I want to, but everything is still so heavy.

"No. Why?" I ask.

"Don't be mad."

Well my eyes are open now.

Dull silver stares at me from less than three feet away. I'm curled in a tight ball, tighter than I usually sleep, and when I try to flip over my feet get stuck in a corner. Then my back hits somethin' cold and I look over my shoulder to see a set of thin metal bars.

"Is...Am I in a cage?"

Uncle Johnny is kneelin' right outside looking guilty.

"It's for the best-"

"Why am I in a cage?" I shout.

"Just a precaution."

"For what?" My tone is verging on hysterical at the absurdity of this whole situation.

Uncle Johnny levels me with a heated glare and calmly says, "Quit your hollerin' and let me explain."

He goes and pulls a chair up, then sits doubled over so he can be eye-level with me. He's always been a calming presence, compared to daddy at least. He makes it easy to talk and listen, and I start to calm down despite the tickle of anger in my stomach.

"Georgia, we both know that wasn't no dog bite. And after everything that's been going on in town, Hell in the whole country, I wanted to be safe. For both of us."

"Okay...But why am I in a cage?"

One of his dark brows jumps up and he asks, "Honey, you been watchin' the news?"

I shake my head. I leave that to daddy. There's no point in watchin' people talk about what's going on, and only vaguely hidin' their opinion in the message.

He sighs from his belly, a deep rumbling sound that sets my nerves alight. He don't sigh like that for good news.

"Alright. I know how this will sound but you've got to just listen. There's a sickness going around, a virus, that's making people crazy. It's like their brain gets stripped down until there's nothing left but their basic instincts; eat, sleep, breathe.

"Now the problem is that there's no cure yet. This thing is too new and it's spreadin' too quickly; it's literally nothing we've seen before. And, far as we can tell, it's spread through bodily fluids. That's blood, saliva, and the such."

I blink slowly and allow his words to process a few times before I narrow my eyes distrustfully.

"Why does that sound like you're describing zombies?"

His look alone said it all. 'Because I am'.

I scoff and wiggle around. This cage really does suck and I'm gettin' tired of it.

"There ain't no such thing as a zombie virus. Dead is dead," I say.

"You're not wrong, Peach, but there's a hell of a lot of time between the first signs of this illness and dead. Picture this: you start to get sick; fevers, aches, sweat, the like. Then you throw everything up, but your stomach starts rumblin' and nothing but red meat makes you feel better. You're cravin' it more desperately than a smoker that's outta cigarettes. But you ate it all and you can't drive to the store to get it, or even know how to get it otherwise...what do you do?"

I think back to when the price of beef had doubled; daddy had been fuming but he'd pulled out a package of elk meat from the deep freeze. Every year he put in for a tag of some sort, and he'd always celebrate when he got drawn for elk. It meant we had meat for at least a year.

So what do you do?

I whisper, "You hunt."

"That's right." He nods. He glances purposefully down to my leg, and my heart kicks up pace. "You get what you can get from wherever you can. No matter the means."

My eyes are burnin' and I wipe furiously at the sudden tears.

"What, so you're sayin' that I'm...I'm infected or somethin'? That I'm goin' to turn into a fuckin' zombie?"

He tilts his head and holds up calmin' hands. "Honey, I need you to take some deep breaths-"

"No!" My stomach has turned in on itself and a wave of nausea comes crashin' over me. My crazy asshole neighbor bit me and now I'm locked in a cage with my leg torn to shit and Uncle Johnny is talkin' about zombies, but all I wanted to do was feed a dog!

Uncle Johnny is out of his chair and closing the gap between us, wrappin' his hands around the bars of the cage. He is workin' hard to stay soothing and it makes me cry harder.

"Georgia, you listen to me now. Your daddy got you here fast and we got your wound fixed up as good as we could. You haven't shown any signs of illness and I am givin' you every antibiotic I safely can. I promise that you are okay."

My breathing is uneven from cryin', but I manage a pathetic, " ca-age."

"I told you, it's just a precaution. I'll let you out after the weekend."

Wait. The weekend?

I am fully facing the bars in a matter of excruciating seconds havin' nearly mangled myself in my rush to flip over, and I throw my tremblin' hands over his.

"Please don't leave me!"

"Never," he says and gives me a squeeze. "I'm gonna stay right here to keep an eye on you."

"Okay. Th-Thank you." I lie there, tryin' to calm my breathing and steady my hands. I cast my eyes up to him and ask, "What about daddy?"

Uncle Johnny doesn't meet my eyes and he lets out a breath.

"He'll be back." He gently pulls his hands free and stands up. "I'll be right back. I'm gonna get you something for the pain and some water. Do you need anythin' else?"

To be out of this cage.

"No...Maybe a pillow and blanket."

He smiles at me and nods.

"Comin' right up. You just relax."

I snort angrily and toss him a dirty look. That makes him give a genuine chuckle and then he's gone.


About the Creator

J. L. Green

I've been writing for fun since I was a preteen and haven’t stopped since. I tend to favor the darker/angsty/thriller type of themes. Here’s to hoping readers enjoy my work, and those that don't find something they do.

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