Raising Tom Chambers
She made her way into the kitchen, as thirsty as she’d felt in all of her days. She drank a glass of water, then two more.
After a time she fixed a salad and tried to eat it, only it hurt when she opened her mouth. That night, she lay in bed, her muscles like high-tension cords beneath her skin. She took her temperature and found that she, too, was on fire with fever.
She fell in and out of a fitful sleep before finally mustering the strength to drag herself into the kitchen, where the assortment of medications sat in a pile on the table. She clutched the bottles in hands that worked haltingly.
Dolophin. Cozaar. Enbrel. Vancomycin.
A violent seizure coursed through her; her muscles knotted and her curved spine jerked straight. She fell to the floor with a cry, clutching at the tablecloth as she fell. A torrent of prescription bottles cascaded from the table down onto her.
Blindly, she scooped up the nearest and spun the cap.
Hands shaking, she extracted a tablet and brought it to her mouth, a fresh series of seizures coursing through her. She clamped her eyes shut and opened her mouth to receive the medicine.
Only, the thing didn’t work.
Her brain signaled her jaw to open, but the hinge refused. She snatched air in panicked gusts through two flared nostrils, suddenly aware of the throbbing ache of her teeth. She strained to push the tablet into her mouth, but it was just no use.
She pulled herself up, using the back of the chair where she had taken so many happy meals with Tom Chambers, and she stumbled out into the night, the wind and rain buffeting her, soaking her nightgown. She stumbled into the clearing behind the garden, where the parasite that had relied on her so completely now rested in the soil.
Penny Crump fell to her knees, the pain in her joints and jaw a searing, living heat.
“Chhhoooommmm,” she wailed, the word a small thing swallowed up in the wind and rain. She collapsed, her arm draped across his grave, and closed her eyes. On a fundamental level, she knew that there would be no second miracle—no second awakening.
The knowledge comforted her and, in almost no time at all, she was asleep. There, in her dreams, she and Tom Chambers tended the garden together.
Daniel Powell teaches a variety of writing courses at a small college in Northeast Florida. He is an avid outdoorsman and long-distance runner, and he enjoys fishing the waters of Duval County from atop his kayak. Daniel shares a small house near the Intracoastal Waterway with his wife, Jeanne, and his daughter, Lyla. The Byproduct is his online journal about speculative storytelling. Daniel has an essay in World Literature Today that examines issues from his story with us.