Luka shivered, breath coming in ragged gasps as she tried to ignore the pain. Everything hurt her; her joints felt like they were frozen in place, her skin raw and sore – it felt like she had taken a bath in a vat of acid. And on top of all of that, she was freezing.
She knew there was no chance of coming out of this alive.
Luka coughed, listening in to her dad’s conversation. He was talking in a hurry – too fast for her to process what he was saying – but she knew it was about her. It was always about her. She waited until he hung up, no doubt going to tell her the horrible news, and finally end her misery.
Euthanasia wasn’t always a cowardly death – especially if there was no way she was going to fight this thing off. At least not without the help of medical cocktails and injections.
She winced when her dad placed his hand over her own, running small circles over the back of it and whispering soothing phrases under his breath. Whimpering softly, Luka opened her eyes, praying that his face held some sort of hope. Something she could hold on to until emergency arrived.
His eyes were cast downward, tears clinging to his eyelashes as he stared at his feet. He mumbled something under his breath, clenching a rosary in his free hand – no doubt a prayer that his daughter would survive.
Or a prayer that she would die peacefully.
There were creases around his eyes and on his forehead. His brow was furrowed, his foot tapping in time with her heartbeat. Worry; one of the things he was famous for.
It was never a good sign when he was worried. That she had always been sure of.
“Dad,” her voice came out hoarse – barely audible. She cleared her throat, gritting her teeth at the pain, but pressed on. “Dad, I’m really cold. Could you get me a blanket?”
He raised his head, brown eyes meeting her identical ones and shook his head. “Sweetheart, a blanket will just make it worse.” He gently touched the back of her forehead with his hand, retracting it almost immediately. “Luka, you’re burning up.”
“But I’m cold.” She coughed, swallowing hard. “Please, daddy?”
He attempted a smile, brushing some of the hair stuck to her forehead off and shook his head again. “That’s the fever, hon.”
She watched as he returned to staring at his feet, mumbling the Lord’s Prayer under his breath and reached out to take her hand. With a deep breath she moved a little closer to him, ignoring the burning pain in her joints. “Dad, it’ll be alright.”
He shook his head, taking deep, heavy breaths, a sob escaping once in a while. She watched as the man she looked up to, the man she knew and loved was reduced to a broken, sobbing mess.
And it was all because of her.
“Dad, I’ll be okay.” She tried to grab his hand, whimpering when the pain escalated.
He lifted his head, looking her in the eyes and gently kissed her forehead, getting up off the floor and returning to pacing. She saw him take out his phone, dialing the number in again, the worry replaced with sadness.
Luka knew it would be a miracle if she got out of this alive. Fevers usually resulted in death if they were higher than forty degrees.
And hers was forty-five.
She sighed, tilting her head to look at her father, swallowing hard. He was still pacing, circling her desk and rubbing his beard. He was calling them again – and not long after the last time either. Annoying the medics was not something she wanted him to do. All she wanted was for him to spend her last moments beside her bed, resting and comforting her.
But it seemed like he had other plans.
She knew it took far too long to get to their house; half an hour at least, but with the fallen tree in the road, it could take twice as long. The backroads could be an option, but the two didn’t even know their way around where they lived. They didn’t even have a car, Luka taking the bus and her dad carpooling with the neighbors.
Who were conveniently on vacation.
‘What do you mean an hour? My baby –“
Luka closed her eyes, ignoring what he was saying and focused on taking deep, steady breaths. She ignored the pain, her dad and the fear, thinking about her family instead – happy thoughts. Anything that would take her mind off of what was currently happening.
She smiled as the memories came back to her, all her favourite family moments. She forgot the pain and worry, focussing all her energy on remembering. All that mattered now was keeping calm and staying in charge.
The first time she had seen it snow, she was hurling snowballs at her dad and building castles.
A night in with her dad, watching superhero movies and wishing she could be more like them.
The first time she watched her dad at his job, standing up for a man who was wrongfully accused. That was the first time she had seen him as the true hero he was meant to be.
And his face when he won, how the two of them had gone out for ice cream afterwards. His smile when she had stood up and announced that she wanted to become a lawyer – just like him.
The hours she had spent studying for her CTS tests and the nights her dad stayed up with her, explaining what was wrong and why. Giving her a deeper look into the criminal code and life of a lawyer.
How he had stayed up all night with her when she had first caught the illness, making sure she was okay. How he took his vacation early so he could stay beside her.
She opened her eyes, looking over at her dad and sighed. He was still pacing – pacing and praying. And now she was ready to pray too, ready to pray that it would end quickly. The pain was getting to be too much for her to bear; she couldn’t see much anymore. Everything was blurry with large, flashing spots of light.
It was all too much for her. It was just like when she had snuck into Flux; all she could see afterwards was the strobe lights. It had hurt for days.
She closed her eyes and retreated into her mind, waiting. Soon her dad would be back at the side of her bed, holding her hand with tears in his eyes. Soon she would give up the fight and let everything go. Soon her dad would be left alone.
And that was what shook her out of her trance.
It wouldn’t be fair to him. Her mother had died ages ago, something that was left unexplained, and something that still hurt her dad. If she left now, all that they did together, how close they were – it would all be meaningless. It would only hurt him even more.
He would probably go back to being an alcoholic, quit his job and end up living on the streets. And from there on, get into something shady. Then he would die. All alone.
And Luka couldn’t have that. Her death would be meaningless – cruel and meaningless.
She opened her eyes, watching as her dad shouted into the receiver, tears dripping down his face. There would be no way he could bounce back if she died, she had to hang on.
For her dad.
She closed her eye and imagined the snow – the ice. She imagined the cold seeping into her bones, cooling her from the inside out. Not this unbearable cold that was driving her to the brink of insanity, but something peaceful and soft. Something friendly.
She imaged the feeling of bliss as the pain ebbed away. – she imagined the look on her dad’s face as he realised that she was safe.
She imaged that the fever was gone, that she could wrap herself up in a blanket by the fire, a cup of hot cocoa in hand and her dad by her side.
She smiled, shifting a little on her bed. Soon the ambulance would arrive and she’d be on her way to the hospital. Soon she would be able to go back to her normal relationship with her father – soon everything would be just the way it was meant to be.
But something didn’t feel right. Luka frowned, clearing her throat and licked her lips. “Dad, could you come here?”
He came running in to her room in record time, leaning over her in her bed. She opened her eyes, noticing his shocked expression and held her hands up to her face.
Frost. Tiny tendrils of ice made their way across her hand and up her arms. She sat up, noting that most of the pain had disappeared and threw off her shirt, seeing the same pattern creeping its way along her stomach and chest. She stared at them, eyes wide and mouth gaping.
It had to be a dream. A fever induced dream.
She jumped when she felt the thermometer close to her ear, but tilted her head so that her dad could check. She heard it click, and then a gasp from her father.
Luka looked over at him as he held the phone up to his ear, still staring at her.
“Don’t bother coming, we’ve got it all sorted out. We’ll be there tomorrow.” He waited for a second before continuing on, his voice getting shaky. “Can you see if Doctor Wu is available?” Another pause and he nodded, taking a deep breath. “Yes, we can be there at ten. Thank you.” He hung up the phone, tossing it to the side and leaned in a bit closer to his daughter, a small smile on his lips.
“Dad, am I going to be okay?”
He went to take her hand, pulling away halfway to it and settled for smiling instead. “Yes, you’re going to be just fine. Stay in bed and get some rest, Doctor Wu will explain it to you tomorrow.” He stood up, walking over to the door before Luka spoke again.
“Can I have a blanket now? I’m really cold.”
“Sure thing, sweetie.” He walked over to her closet, grabbing a thick quilt and laid it over her. She smiled, moving towards him for a quick hug until he backed away.
“Goodnight Luka, we’ll sort this out in the morning. I promise.” And with that he turned off her light, closing the door gently behind him.
Luka snuggled into the blanket and tried not to cry. He didn’t act like this ever – he always made sure to give her a hug and kiss before she went to bed. It was tradition and showed how much he cared.
She stared at her hands, remembering the patterns of frost that had been on them moments before and frowned, wiping her eyes.
Maybe it would have been easier if she had just died; there was no sense in living if the one reason you put up a fight didn’t want to be around you anymore. Maybe it would have been a little easier on him, knowing that his daughter died. At least a freak wouldn’t have risen from the depths of the fever.
She sighed, turning over to stare at her wall, choking back a sob. It definitely would have been easier, considering she was a freak. And nothing could ever change that.