Lisa, I’m hungry!” Tabithi whined loudly, as I grabbed an armful of chips and tin foods from each shelf, and loaded them into the shopping cart as quietly as I could.
“Shhh pancake.” I scolded her softly “...you know what getting upset does, just stay calm, I’m almost through.” I said, reminding myself to maintain steady breathing and a clear mind. We made our way to the cold section where I scooped loads of juices, fruits and popsicles into the trolley. They landed with a muffled crash, on top of the other products I had loaded beforehand.
“See, all done,” I said smiling at her pouted face. “Now let’s go get the others and go home before these popsicles melt. She nodded eagerly stretching her hands up to me so that I would put her into the cart.
“You know I can’t pancake...” I began and her round face grew even rounder with sadness her eyes gathering tears “...just this once. If you promise not to tell,” I said quickly. She nodded quickly and I sighed grasping her gingerly so that our skins wouldn’t have much contact as I placed her into the cart.
One of the shelves crashed to the ground suddenly making us both jump, and without thinking twice I gripped the trolley wheeling it down the aisle and towards the exit. Halfway to the door, I slowed down after realising that I had to focus on not exerting too much energy. The thorns had faded, but that only meant that I was that much closer to the final stage.
I walked calmly through the door hoping that no one had spotted us and made our way to the van, where Catherine and Ada waited quietly soaking up the air conditioner. Ada, who sat at the front reached over to the driver’s area to open the trunk. I loaded the groceries in and Tabithi hoped out of the cart placing a finger to her lips with a sweet smile and hopped over into the back seat, I smiled at her and winked knowingly.
“Could we please hurry it up I’m starving Lisa” Catherine whined in the back seat, and I rolled my eyes at her taking deep breaths.
“Come on you guys you need to control yourselves you want to survive this don’t you?” I asked rhetorically pausing to look at them.
“Will we, though?” Catherine asked sounding feisty. I looked at her worriedly she was still in the thorn stage.
“I promise we will.” I said softly looking her deep in the eyes, but I often wondered that myself. She sighed and turned away from me. I closed the trunk trying to keep my mind clear as I made my way to the front of the van. I got in and relaxed for a bit soaking up the refreshing feel of the air conditioner.
The throbbing in my head had soothed a bit, but my body temperature was dangerously high as expected in this stage of the plague. It had been two weeks since the Flame plague unexpectedly appeared out of nowhere. One moment we were all fine, and then days later persons had begun to experience weird symptoms, that they had now categorized into stages.
The ‘Thorns’, it was exactly how it sounded, a feeling of unbearable pain that felt as if it was sprouting throughout the chest, but then the pain would fade and so came the ‘Sweats’, a high fever and increased irritability against anyone and anything so we all tried to keep our heads, even if we hadn’t reached that stage, no one wanted to die.
‘Spotting’ was said to be the worst, the skin became inflamed at any form of contact and would sometimes catch fire, in minimum areas of heat and there was no need to categorize what happened next, it was just more unbearable pain and then you would burst into flames, like torches and that would be the end of it.
“Damn! I forgot the gas” I said sitting up quickly. I drove up to the fuel dispensers which were right in front of the store I had just been in.
“I’ll go” Ada vouched.
“No it’s ok,” I said quickly opening the door and hopping out of the van. We hadn’t known each other long except for Ada and me, who were once childhood friends until the age of seven, then I never saw her again.
The others I had found trying to survive just like I was. I wanted for them so badly to survive this, even if it was almost too late for me. I eyed the stores entrance nervously as I grabbed the gas nozzle and awkwardly walked to the other side of the van to pump the gas in.
I relaxed as the van filled, the smell of gasoline burning my nostrils. I walked back to replace the nozzle when my heart leapt into my chest, my whole body seemed to catch fire, a scream bubbled up into my throat, but I held it in, stepping back in fear.
I dropped the nozzle, covering my mouth as I bumped into the van and it was as if I couldn’t get around it I just couldn’t get away. A dark haired boy curled up against the side of the van, his body against the fuel dispenser and his head bent as if he were dead. He then looked up then at the sound of my shuffling his face worn, his mouth half open breathing heavily as he struggled to look up at me.