📅 Published on February 28, 2022


Written by N.M. Brown
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 10.00/10. From 3 votes.
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I’ve been walking around for the past five and a half weeks without feeling like I’m truly alive.  The positive test showed up first, and the symptoms came to plague me shortly after.  Our son was kind enough to agree to stay with us until we got back on our feet.  We were able to find an eldercare nurse willing to expose herself to the sickness to come and help out.

“Martin, where’s your mother?” I wheezed through burning lips.

His eyes shot skyward in annoyance.  It literally looked like he was counting internally to keep from snapping, just as he did as a child.  Some things never change…

“Dad, I told you.  Mom’s sleeping upstairs in the guest room.  You two have to keep apart so you both can get better.  Rosemary even said so.”

“B-but we both have the same damn thing!” I insisted.  “And yeah, that’s easy for her to say, exposing herself to hell all.  What the hell does it matter if we quarantine or not?  And in our own house, no less.”

“What if you start to get better, and then she reinfects you again or vice versa?  I dunno how that kinda shit works, Dad.”  My son was clearly agitated.  “Let me warm you up some dinner.  I made pot roast and vegetables,” he replied in a softer, practiced and more patient tone.

Pot roast.  Of all the things I’d grown to hate over this sickness, it’s those goddamned roasts.  That grey marbled meat glistened in a puddle of grease next to smushed vegetables.  It seemed to be all that idiot son of ours knew how to make. apparently.  Thank God I can’t taste or smell.  That seems to be the only positive I can find about that situation.

It seems callous, maybe even selfish, to complain about something so trivial while I was still healthy enough to be in the comforts of my home.  But you never realize how much you rely on your sense of taste and smell until it’s gone.  I missed the smell of my wife as she slept, a mix of perfume and shampoo with a hint of sweat.  I missed the taste of caramel corn.  Amy had just bought me a large container of it just before this shit hit.  The loss of senses was like the flick of a light switch.  I was driving in my car, smoking a cigarette.  One puff, the taste was there.  The next, nothing.  Which I guess wasn’t a bad thing, right?  Satisfying or not, cigarettes taste like flaming shit.

My suspicions were confirmed once I got to the gas station.  They have these new screens at the pumps that play little video clips while you pump your gas.  Well, sometimes the timing is off, or the video doesn’t work at all.  The wonders of technology, right?  Anyway, the video popped up loud as hell right while I pulled the nozzle from the lever at the pump.  It scared the holy hell out of me.  Sure as anything, my fingers tightened on the nozzle and sprayed the tips of my shoes in gasoline.  No smoking for me on the way home, I thought.  Then another thought entered in.  I could smell absolutely nothing.

Fever dreams plagued me throughout the entire night.  I alternated between feeling like I was on fire to freezing from my own bursts of sweat.  My body was exhausted by the constant failed attempts to regulate its own temperature.  So many visions of my wife sunken into the middle of our bed gasping for breath.  She became more withered and sallow in each one.  I dreamed of piles upon piles of grayed, salted meat.

And the fucking meat.

I saw Amy and me sitting at a lavish banquet table in one of them.  The glow of our recovery was still fresh on our faces as we sat in anticipation of food we could actually taste.  Martin came into the room with two shining silver trays with matching domes over the food.  His teeth were unnaturally elongated and sharpened as he smiled and set our trays down.  Despite his alarming appearance, our eyes still danced with excitement at what the covered plates would contain.

My lips curled in a sneer of horror as an ungarnished slab of gray meat was revealed, but Amy didn’t seem to mind.  I was surprised to see her pick the food up with her hands, completely abandoning the corresponding flatware beside it.  Her teeth morphed to resemble our son’s as she tore into the meat and began chewing ravenously.  I normally loved it when she ate; a gal needs some meat on her bones.  But seeing her then, I was almost to the point of gratuitous disgust.

I awoke with a mortified start, my throat aching with thirst.  I called out to the nurse multiple times and was relieved to hear footsteps coming down the hall.  However, when the door opened, Martin was on the other side.

“Did Rosemary leave?” I asked breathlessly.

“Oh, yeah, Dad,” he remarked flippantly.  “She left ages ago.”

“Damn it, I didn’t get to thank her or even say goodbye,”  I grumbled.  My train of thought was interrupted as something nagged at my periphery, a flash of key lime green.  The gold chain attached to the handle confirmed my suspicions.  “B-but she forgot her purse.”  My throat grew tight as I felt an oncoming fit of coughs flirt with my lungs.  “You need to go give it-”  My sentence was cut off by hacking sputters, but I managed to gesticulate the rest of the sentence.

“Shit,” Martin muttered.  “Yeah, sure, Dad.  I’ll get that over to her right now.  If I hurry, I may catch her around the same time she gets home.  I’d hate for her to worry.”

He turned out to be such a damn decent kid, not that I can let him know that too often of course.  The sweetest dish can be ruined by the slightest bit of salt, and I wanted my boys to keep grounded with their hearts protected.  It was sure as shit too late to help Clark.

Tears pricked the corners of my eyes the moment the name popped into my head.  Clark was our eldest son and the polar opposite of Martin.  No, see, Martin was born with a heavy sense of entitlement, something I’ve heard is common among youngest children.  However, he never grew out of it.  My son always thought life owed him more.  And he wasn’t willing to work for it either.  His mother always claimed that it was the one trait a human could possess that would destine them to a lifetime of disappointment.  But I, for one, feared much worse.

You see, people like Martin don’t hesitate as much during decision-making.  They don’t feel like they’re stealing anything that should already be theirs, whether it be a human being or otherwise.  Life’s game of being in the wrong place at the wrong time can kill even the most innocent of people, let alone someone who’s constantly making shit decisions.  I’ll admit that Amy and I spent more than a few nights teary-eyed in fear for his future.  We worried about both of our boys, just in different ways.  Amy always joked that we would need a college fund for Clark and a bail fund for Martin.  I know, I know…those types of statements are now recognized as psychologically damaging, but this was the 80s.  Everything was different then.

Clark oozed confidence.  After 12 hours of labor, he came into this world as a little man.  He was always the happiest child.  I’d never met anyone with a bigger heart, which is why I think the depression hit him so hard.  My firstborn took his life with a knotted rope, leaving his mother and me with a hole in our hearts that never healed.  Martin wasn’t the same after that.  It seemed to be a wake-up call of sorts to him.  He’d blossomed into the attentive son that Clark used to be.

Of course, these thoughts flew from my mind as soon as I saw what was for dinner that evening.  “Grey meat, always this grey fucking meat!” I spat.  You can either blame the fever or think that I’m a cranky old man, the hell if I care.  Just because I couldn’t taste anything didn’t mean I had to eat the same thing every damned day, did it?  I was so fed up at that moment that I was sure prisoners in jail ate better than I had in the past week.

Martin’s voice interrupted my thoughts.  “I’m sure that was rhetorical,” he commented smoothly.  “However, what you fail to realize is that ALL of your senses are weakened because of this thing.  What color is my shirt, Dad?”

“Blue?”  I answered though it came out resembling more of a question than a statement.  I looked him over, flabbergasted at his calm demeanor.

He shook his head in stern satisfaction.  “My shirt is green, Dad, green.  See?  What’d I tell ya?”  He plucked a piece of meat off of my plate before shoving it into his mouth contently.  “You have no idea how much the senses are all tied into each other.  But you live and learn, right?”  He rose to his feet, ruffling my hair condescendingly before entering his bedroom and closing the door.  He hadn’t even wiped his fuckin hands,’  I thought bitterly.  I pictured a sheen of multicolored oils left behind from his touch across my scalp and hairline.  I instantly wanted a shower.

Sadly, my balance was less than perfect even on the best of days, let alone with my equilibrium being disturbed from the virus.  The last thing anyone needed was for me to slip and fall in the tub.  One wrong step is all it takes.  And I sure as shit didn’t feel like having Martin watch over my naked body after the conversation we just had.  I remembered that Amy had Rosemary bring her over some dry shampoo since she was too weak to bathe herself.

The wheels in my head began to turn, and I decided to take action while I still had the wherewithal to do so.  I couldn’t help but form an impish smile as I imagined the thrill of sneaking into Amy’s room for a kiss.  She was my wife, after all.  I’m sure she missed me.  Sometimes one little act of love can be the best medicine that there is.  With love in my heart, I made my way towards her side of the house.

One foot trudged in front of the other until I’d reached most of the way there.  I took one final look around, summoning the spirit of forbidden love we’d retained in our youths and grabbed the doorknob.  Martin’s face popped through the other side of the door before I had a chance to turn the knob.  “Dad,” he chided.  “You know you aren’t supposed to be in here.  I was just coming to get you.”

“How did you get in here?  I just saw you enter your room?  Never mind me, I just want to see your mother.  I need some of that dry shampoo she has for my marinated scalp.  I probably smell like a rotten rib roast out for trash day.”  He guided me backward gently until we were both clear of the door and shut it behind him.

“Hey, everything’s fine.  The other day when I returned Rosemary’s purse, she gave me some warning signs to watch out for with Mom.  She said if I noticed any tucking around her lungs, it indicated struggling for breath.  She said any respiratory damage at your age could be catastrophic and to take her to the hospital right away.”

“Okay, and?”  I waved my hands impatiently, urging him to get to the point.

“And…I took her in yesterday.”

The adrenaline of anger rushed my veins for a brief moment before leaving me exhausted in its wake.  “You should…”  COUGH  “You should have come and gotten me. Damn it!” I wheezed.  “What the hell were you thinking?!”

Martin raised his hands in mock innocence.  “Well, I tried to wake you up before we left, Dad.  You wouldn’t rouse.  I was scared you were dead for a second, but then you coughed, and I knew you were alright.  Mom said she wanted you to get your rest.  She said you can’t go kicking ass with one foot in the grave.”

The comfort of recognition soothed my hammering heart instantly.  Amy had said those exact words to me every single time I’d been sick.  I used to scold her for being morbid.  But right then, I’d never heard anything that made me happier in all my life.  “Well…” I murmured apologetically, rubbing the back of my neck.  I winced from the pain of my stiffened joints, and the sharp, unexpected intake of breath induced a fresh round of rib-wracking coughs.

“Now, let’s get you back to bed.  I don’t want to take two trips to the hospital in a forty-eight-hour span,” he joked dryly.  He gingerly guided me by the shoulders, and I couldn’t help but recall the times when I had once helped him walk.  It seemed like at least two lifetimes ago.

“You really should see your mother, Marty.  She shouldn’t be in that hospital alone,” I protested.

“Regulations, Dad,” he reminded me.

We didn’t speak as he brought me my supper, not one word.  Trust me, I had plenty in reserves, though.  All I needed was one opportunity, one time of him mouthing off to lay into him.  But he didn’t so much as flinch.  I kept ruminating on Amy being alone in that hospital room, cold and terrified.  Those thoughts eventually haunted me into a fitful sleep.

A kaleidoscope of blue and red lights scattered across the blank wall of my bedroom, waking me from an already fitful sleep.  My fever had once again broken, drenching my bedsheets in a sickly sweat.  The slippers weren’t even on my feet all the way before I heard them break down the front door.

Officers swarmed the perimeter of my yard and were now making their way into my home.  They came in twos, a mass of head-to-toe black clothing and shiny black boots.  I heard one rattle fellow officer’s names off in alarm outside of my wife’s bedroom.  Goddammit, I thought bitterly.  The woman is SICK in the hospital, for Christ’s sake.  Now they want to rifle through her things?!  Haven’t we been through enough?

It had been hard for me to get out of bed even before the sickness crept its way into our home.  But now, between the fevers and inner ear imbalances as aforementioned, the task seemed momentous.  However, the last thing anyone needed was for me to fall in haste.  That’s all it takes is a fall, just one damn fall for authorities to deem you unfit to care for yourself.  I sure as fuck couldn’t care for Amelia right now.  What if they deemed her to be unfit?  Either way, I had to get them away from her.  My wife needed her rest.

They hadn’t gotten to my end of the house yet, and thankfully from what I could see, Martin’s door was still closed and locked.  He’s done so well taking care of us.  I’d hate for him to be disturbed for what had to be a misunderstanding, not to mention a blatant intrusion of privacy.  My eyes burned with fever as I shuffled out of bed and down the hallway.

Horror and anger raged through me as I spotted an officer dragging Martin from his bedroom in handcuffs.  His face was blank, the epitome of expressionlessness as they walked him out of the front door.  Two more officers followed behind him with evidence bags, telling me I wasn’t allowed in my own damn home because it was an active crime scene.  I recognized Rosemary’s bright green purse through one of the bags, but I still hadn’t put two together yet.  It wasn’t until I saw the gleam of surgical tools that the wheels started to move into place.  “Where’s my wife, Amy?!” I demanded through labored breaths.  No one answered.  They hardly so much as looked my way.

Two uniformed gentlemen, along with a woman I’d never seen before, entered the house with forensics badges.  Their hands flew to their noses as they sputtered in horror.  However, I failed to smell a damn thing as hard as I tried.

The unnamed woman approached me gently and guided me away from the room.  “Sir, we’re going to need you to come with us.  We’re taking you to a hospital.  How are you feeling?  Are you experiencing any abdominal pain?  Confusion or disorientation?  We need to check for Prion damage.  When is the last time you’ve eaten?  When was your last bowel movement?”

The questions multiplied and continued, the next coming long before I had a chance to answer the previous one.  I used what remaining strength I had to shrug her arm off and start for the room Amy was kept in before going to the hospital.  Swaths of light bathed the hallway from the open door.  Dark blackout curtains that I’d never bought consumed every window in the room.  I remember that being the first thing that caught my eye as I rounded the hallway.

Large patches of yellow and brown stains bled into the carpet at my feet.  I followed the trail of stains to their origin: the bed.  I gagged at the salted air wafting from the doorway, and I imagined the smell of copper must have been intense.  Even after all that I know, after being told what I’ve been told, I still can’t wrap my brain around what I saw on that bed.  My soul just can’t settle with it.  Whatever lay on top of it looked like an animal had mauled it.  Dark, almost pitch black veins ran through grotesquely discolored skin, the chunks left of it anyway.  I could hardly tell what was what.

As another coughing fit began, a fog of panic and confusion consumed my senses.  Waves of black invaded the corner of my vision with each hack, making my head pound from exertion.  The dark waves were replaced with a veil of white as I felt my knees give out from beneath me.  It was becoming increasingly more difficult to catch my breath.  It seemed to be robbed from me before the inhalation process restarted.

* * * * * *

My eyelids fluttered open as I was greeted with a pastel nightmare.  Mint greens, pale pinks and yellow curtains cradled plain white walls like a symphony of machinery beeped around me.  I was beyond exhausted but relieved that I could breathe.

I’d almost forgotten the past hour of my consciousness when a man in a business suit and badge walked in.  God, I was sick of seeing those.  If I never saw another badge in my life, I’d die a happy man.  I know that’s a pretty morbid thing to say, especially lying in a hospital bed.  I guess all the years with Amy had left their impression on my sense of humor.  Oh God, I thought.  Amy!

“Excuse me,” I grumbled, surprised at how much it hurt to speak.  “What room is my wife in?  Her name’s Amy Mallone.”

He stared down at his feet solemnly without an answer.

“What did you guys do with my son?  Why’d you take him like that?  He’s a good boy,” I pressed.

He began to explain what happened as I sat there, attempting to absorb every detail.  At best, Martin was on the hook for murder and the unlawful handling and tampering with a body at best.  Officers came out and found what they had done.  Police officers arrived after receiving a welfare call from Rosemary’s daughter.  Apparently, she’d been missing for some days, and our house was her last known whereabouts.  I’d been cohabitating with two dead, rotting bodies for days and hadn’t known it.  Amy wasn’t taken to the hospital.  She died the last day Rosemary showed up for her shift.

As far as Martin, well…he never was quite the same after we lost Clark.  But we had thought it was for the better.  They explained why I’d been asked so many questions why they were monitoring my digestion so thoroughly as well.  They explained why no food was found in the house, yet we’d never missed a meal.

Rating: 10.00/10. From 3 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by N.M. Brown
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

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Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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