I'm Special (short story intro)
"Honey, what are you doing? Come back here."
"Hey, don't go over there! Do you hear me? You'll get sick!"
"Savie, sweetheart, you have to come back. You can't go there. Don't go in there!"
I heard them all. They kept calling, but I didn't listen. They mean well, but they don't understand. If any of them were to walk into this house and see what I see, they would get sick. They would die. But I won't get sick. I won't die.
'Cause I'm special.
Nobody's sure where the disease came from. Nobody knows who got it first. Right now, all we want to know is how to stop it. They've tried everything. Doctors, scientists from all around the world have been in constant communication. They set up a place for them to all work together, hoping to find a cure for the disease. So far, no luck. Sometimes it seems like they've found something. One of the people they test it on will get better for a while. Then just when they're about to announce it to the world, the person dies. Horribly, tragically, with more complications that the scientists can't explain.
I know all about it because I was there. I wasn't there because I was sick, I was there because I was better. My body is completely free from any contamination. The scientists and doctors are baffled by me. They don't understand. They say I'm "immune" but I know better. I'm special.
The door is locked, but it doesn't stop me. I insert my picks and hear a click in a few seconds. In the background people are still shouting at me. Most of them will shake their heads and hurry back inside their houses when I shut the door again. Sandra will pace up and down the street until I reappear. She seems to think it's her job to look after the lost ones. Someone does have to make sure they eat and have a place to sleep I suppose, what else are kids with no family left gonna do? I'm not lost like them, but Sandra will still wait for me anyway.
Inside, the stench might make someone not used to it faint. I've been around it since the beginning, so although I cough a little in the thick air, I don't notice the particular rotting quality to it. The woman has only been dead since yesterday. Already her face has begun to sag because her bones are basically melting into her tissue. Soon she'll just be a limp heap, a bag of skin, and that will disappear after another couple weeks. I've seen all the stages. Sure, it creeps me out, but I have to face it if I'm gonna get anything good from this house.
Maybe it's grave robbing, since no one will ever get to bury her. I consider it a necessity. This woman's house will contain many things useful to the survival of others in a town where it's every man for himself. Since no on else can venture into a sick or dead person's house without getting infected, the task is up to me.
I find lots of bottles of vinegar. Silly, silly. She'd tried to sterilize things even after she'd gotten sick. I take all the unopened bottles and stuff them in the backpack I brought. Oh, this backpack is unique too. In the beginning of it, I carried a sick baby in it to the hidden labs so she might be tested and treated. When the scientists said she wasn't sick, I could only blame the pack. No one I've ever touched has gotten better just from skin contact. Anyway, whatever I stick in the bag is safe; it won't be contaminated, and if it was, it'll get uncontaminated.
Soup cans and rice I found in the pantry, paper-wrapped beef in the freezer, which surprised me. Meat is scarcer every day and the prices rise on everything. I stuffed it all into my backpack, knowing nothing ever filled it. When my search of the upstairs yielded only a few clothing items, I zipped my bag and headed toward the door again. A second glance of the body brought a grimace to an already grim face, and I whispered a goodbye as if to excuse my presence in her death house. Not that I needed a dead person's or anyone's acceptance, right? After all, I'm special.