When Donovan woke up it was morning and the sun hurt his eyes. He shielded his face with his hand as he sat up, every muscle in his body aching. His sickness had progressed throughout the evening and now he needed to wrap a discarded blanket around his shoulders to try and stop shivering.
“I’ll get you something better,” Jasper said as he wrapped his arms around Donovan. “Even though you feel like an oven.”
“It’s happening to me,” Donovan whispered into Jasper’s ear when the man swooped in close enough. “You have to kill me.”
“I would never do anything to harm you. Ever.” Jasper’s eyes told Donovan that the man at least believed himself to be telling the truth. “You’ll be okay.”
Donovan took a deep breath and looked down at the bloody bandage that Jasper had wrapped around his arm. “I hope you’re right, although I can’t figure out why you would be. This is the end, it has to be.”
Jasper just smiled as he stood up. “You’ll be okay,” He repeated and made his way downstairs. As soon as he was gone, Donovan saw Vicky come slinking toward him.
“You’ve been crying,” Donovan said.
“Yeah, well, the world is ending...so...” She stood over Donovan, casting her long shadow over him. “Look, those things are still gathering out there in front of your house, all that racket out there and they never moved on. Why do you think that is?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, what ever it is, I’m not waiting around here any more, I gotta go home.”
“Yeah I get that, just wait for Jasper and we’ll figure out our next move.”
“I didn’t say you could come with me!” Vicky’s sudden anger was such an escape from the sad demeanour she’d approached him with that it frightened Donovan.
“What? Why not? It’s my home too, even if I haven’t been around. And it’s gonna be safer traveling in numbers.”
“Not when one of those numbers is a ticking time bomb.”
“Your arm, you didn’t cut yourself with Jasper’s knife did you? I just talked to my mom again, my dad was bit. She says he got sick just like you before he turned! That’s why you locked us out of Heather’s room, that’s why you won’t let Noah look at your arm!” Vicky’s face was growing red. “You were bitten, just like my dad, just like those people out there. You’re gonna turn and I don’t plan on being here when it happens.”
“No, really, I’m fine!” Donovan coughed. He tried to speak but coughed again and again.
Vicky covered her mouth as she backed away from him. “Yeah, you really sound fine.”
“Please, Vicky, just stay. I need you.”
“And what about when I needed you?”
Donovan saw Noah listening in the corner now. He was wearing a grave expression. “Whatta you mean?” Donovan asked, despite the look of warning on his friend’s face.
“Two years ago? I was in town, I called you?”
“Yeah, I remember.” Donovan scoffed and his eyes rolled towards the ceiling. “I think about it all the time! I mean, so I didn’t come see you in the hospital, I was busy! Then you completely cut me off?”
“I needed you there and you couldn’t even make half an hour for me.”
“It was an appendectomy! A useless little lump of your body got inflamed and they cut it out. What could you possibly have needed me for?” Before he’d even finished speaking Donovan noticed Noah cringing. His head started shaking as he signalled for Donovan to stop.
Vicky swallowed. Donovan could see a vein bulging in her neck. “You’re right.” She sucked her teeth and turned to the window. With one foot out on the roof she turned back and said, “It was just a useless lump they had to rip out of me. Noah are you coming?”
Donovan frowned. “You too?”
“I gotta go home.” Noah moved towards the window. “We still have family there. We all do. If you’re fine like you say you are, if you don’t turn... come after us.”
“Are you coming or not?” Vicky snapped in at Noah and he shrugged back at Donovan before climbing out after her. There was a silence like the black smoke of the distant burning fire that filled the attic in the absence of Vicky and Noah. Donovan sat dumbfounded, staring wide-eyed at the window for what seemed like an eternity.
Finally he heard the creaking of the attic stairs as Jasper returned with a blanket and some food. “They’re really piling up down there, I’m afraid they’ll be able to climb over each other and reach the second floor,” he said. Donovan wasn’t surprised to see that he hadn’t realized the others were gone yet.
“I’m so glad you convinced me to invite her over,” Donovan said to Jasper without looking at him. “I’ll probably never see her again and now, instead of a stupid, pointless fight from years ago my last memory of her will be this pointless stupid fight.”
Jasper glanced around the attic, but he didn’t look shocked or even upset that their group had lost two members. “Well you’ve still got me,” he said.
“Just leave me alone.” There was a long moment of silence, one that Donovan wasn’t sure he was willing to end but when it eventually became clear that neither of them wanted to be the one to disturb the quiet, Donovan was the first to give in. “What do we do now?”
“We wait I suppose, when ever you’re feeling better we’re outta here.”
“What ever.” Donovan turned away from Jasper, feeling the weight of his sickness pressing down against him like an oppressive lead blanket.
“What’s all this stuff anyway?” Jasper asked as he inspected the boxes that littered the room.
Donovan hesitated before speaking. He stared at Jasper and knitted his eyebrows tightly together. He could see that Jasper was growing hot with emotion, but couldn’t tell if it was anger or shame. “I don’t know,” he said. His tone was hushed and full of melancholy. “My landlord uses this attic for storage, so it’s mostly his stuff. He’s got too much time and too much money, takes up a lot of hobbies but they’re pretty short lived. Then his supplies end up in here.”
“Well, let’s look through it. Maybe there’s something we could use.” Jasper opened a box and sifted through the contents. He pulled out some camping gear and put it aside then turned to another box, sorting the finds as he came across useful gear. The camping supplies, an old hunting rifle and some rusted tools.
“Oh look at this!” He finally said as he made his way to the back of the pile of boxes. Sitting on the floor were three used cans of paint and a couple stiff rollers. “This is perfect. We can paint an SOS or something. Let’s go.” Jasper said as he grabbed the paint cans and rollers and headed for the window.
“Are you coming?” Jasper asked when Donovan didn’t get up to follow him. Without responding, Donovan turned over in the dust and closed his eyes. He could feel the fever rising. Beads of sweat clung to his flesh while chills spread down his spine. Jasper just sighed and stepped outside to get to work.
Donovan wasn’t quite sure of how much time was passing as he lay pitying himself in the dust, but with every minute he seemed to feel worse. When Jasper took a break from painting his sign he took one long look at Donovan before going downstairs to collect some food. He also brought up some cushions to make Donovan more comfortable, which made it difficult for Donovan to stay angry with him.
“What did it look like down there?” He asked through a fit of coughing.
Jasper sounded uneasy. “We might be able to stay here a couple more days if we have to. I mean, if they manage to make it into your flat they still gotta get up the stairs to the attic and... well let’s just say coordination isn’t their strong suit.”
Donovan coughed again and pulled the edges of his blanket tighter around his body. Frustrated, he then cast it off only a moment later as he began to sweat. “What’s happening to me?” he said as he doubled over, grasping his stomach. He had been so uncomfortable he hadn’t even noticed the cramps starting.
“Just let it run its course.” Jasper finally spoke, standing over his partner now. “You’ll feel better soon enough.”
“I just--” Donovan started to speak but stopped when his body heaved forward. “Oh God, I’m gonna... I’m gonna--” Without another word Donovan vomited all over the floor and himself. He rolled onto his back and clutched his stomach. His skin began to feel tight and dry and his vision blurred as he threw up again.
“You just need to let it run its course,” Jasper said again, just as calm as before. He covered Donovan back up with the blanket and rubbed his back while the vomiting continued. “There shouldn’t be much left now.”
Donovan heard Jasper’s words, but they sounded like they were coming from a block away as he settled into an exhausted, fitful sleep.