Welcome to the fourth and final installment of the Drake and the Fliers prequel/serial. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the posts as much as I enjoyed writing them.
If you missed the earlier posts and want to start at the beginning, click here.
Before the Flight – Part 4
Drake held Kelsey’s fevered hand as she slept on the couch. In the candle-lit interior office, she simply looked tired. He imagined this was the case, offering a brief moment of hope.
Kelsey had wanted to stay in the corner office, where she could see over the city through the large windows. But since the power went out and the heat stopped, surviving the elements became their first priority. The windows couldn’t keep out the nights’ chill. When Kelsey started feeling sick two weeks ago, Drake moved her to the most interior room he could find.
She moaned and shifted, then opened her eyes. “Hey,” she said with a cracked voice before violently coughing.
Her hair stuck to her forehead, but she didn’t try to move it. He brushed it aside while he tried to keep from imagining what was happening inside her body. Her lungs were filling with fluid. Her brain was swelling. Her organs were failing. She wouldn’t survive through the night.
He blinked, and tears escaped. Of all the deaths he’d seen until now, Kelsey’s was the hardest to take. He’d believed they were both immune. Now, he would be completely alone.
“Don’t worry about stealing,” she said. “Make sure you have enough to eat.”
He nodded, finally conceding to her side of their only fight since their mother’s death. She’d wanted to take whatever they needed from the abandoned grocery stores. He struggled with it at first and left money by the register until he noticed someone following him to take it. After that, he reluctantly took only what he thought they needed, which for Kelsey was never enough. She’d wanted to stockpile.
He squeezed her hand. “What am I supposed to do without you?”
She coughed and closed her eyes as she endured a violent shiver. “You survive. You were spared. Go find the other survivors and figure out why.”
“It’s a coincidence. There’s nothing special about me.” He wiped his face with the back of his hand.
“All of the survivors are young, Drake. I haven’t seen one over twenty.” She coughed several times. “There must be a reason for it.”
Drake swallowed as he racked his mind for a memory of older survivors. He couldn’t think of a single one.
“I’m tired. I’d like to go to sleep.” She closed her eyes. “Promise me you’ll find the others. Please.”
He nodded, then remembered she couldn’t see him. “Okay.”
“Say it. Say you promise.”
She exhaled, and Drake listened for her next breath – a breath that didn’t occur.
He clenched his jaw and shook as he squeezed her hand. “No. Please. Breathe.”
He put his fingers on the inside of her wrist. After failing to find a pulse, he set her arm against her side as his jaw shook.
“Dammit!” He jumped to his feet and kicked whatever he could see in the dim light. The desk. A chair. A file cabinet. He leaned over the desk and watched her, willing her to start breathing again. Eventually, he collapsed into a heap under the desk.
The next morning, he carried her body downstairs, hoping the ground was warm enough to dig.
Unlike most other victims of the virus, Kelsey would have a proper burial. He took her to a park near their building and placed her on the ground while he dug a hole near a small aspen grove. Before he placed her into it, he reached into her hoodie’s pocket and removed her dead iPhone, protected by the orange butterfly case.
She’d kept it for months, not caring that it didn’t work. It was probably a way to feel connected to her old life. Now, he’d keep it as a way to stay connected to her.
Her body embraced by earth, Drake said a prayer he’d heard several times since the virus appeared, one about a valley and not fearing evil. He didn’t know if it did anything, but it felt like the right thing to say.
After several long minutes, he looked up from the grave and out at the desolate city.
There were other survivors here. He’d seen them dart between the buildings and into the stores. But they never talked to him. Instead, they avoided him, as if they didn’t know who to trust.
He’d promised Kelsey he would find them, join them, figure out why they survived.
But not today, and maybe not tomorrow. Right now, he didn’t want to do anything.
The day was warm, the beginning of spring. He lay on the ground, put Kelsey’s phone on his chest, and stared at the blue sky.
A bird flew high overhead, weaving through the air. It seemed to scan the city as it glided. Drake watched it until it disappeared behind the buildings, appreciating the sign of life.
Gripping the phone, he closed his eyes as the sun’s warmth enveloped him.
That’s the end of the prequel/serial! Drake’s story picks up in the book about a month after this scene. If you enjoyed these short pieces and want to continue on Drake’s journey, you can read the sample pages and/or purchase the book here. Thanks for reading!