by far the best one
As Cassie watched the world blur behind the tinted window that her friend’s wife drove. She felt her eye lids grow heavy. She did not felt sleepy, just, exhausted. Tired. Her body needed rest. Cassie let her eyes close.
Cassie let her mind drift. She remembered her parents. Her Mom. With her silky blond hair and denim blue eyes. She always told Cassie, from a young age, that she’d grow to be a special young lady. Not just special to someone as in love or special as in only one of a kind but someone that would change the world.
A bump in the road caused Cassie to awakened. She realized she has been dozing lightly. She wipe a trail of drool from the corner of her mouth. They were still out in the middle of nowhere. Between cities.
Sam slept with his head against the passenger window. His arms throbbed with each heartbeat. He had went beyond feeling pain, to trying to bear it. As he slept he was graced with happy memories. Of pleasure and love. His first love. With Cassie. He could remember first seeing her. So young and innocent. Playing with her siblings. Keeping them from straying to far from their mother’s resting form. He later found out Cassie’s Mom was sick. That first time he saw her as a little girl he was caught. Her presence was healing for him. The grief that consumed him from his own loss vanished like fog meeting the dawn. It was something in her that he was drawn to. That alone kept him away for fear of doing something indecent with a small child. He wasn’t attracted to her physically but he felt connected.
For 10 years he watched her. In town when she shopped with her Mom for herbs and plants. When she would come to the Library for studies. At the county fair and town events. He wanted to talk to her hear her voice up close. Here her laugh at his jokes and smile when he said a kind word.
Finally the day of her high school graduation came. He nearly vibrated with excitement. He held the flowers behind him as he nervously walked over to Cassie. She was talking with a young man that parted company before Sam walked up to her. Her amused gaze landed on him and she looked confused for a moment. “Hi. These are for you. Congratulations.” She grasped the plastic wrapped lilacs and carnations. Still she stared. “I heard you like red and purple.” A soft tinkle of laughter escaped her lips. A hot zip of pleasure raced through Sam. He made her laugh.
“This one,” Cassie caressed the petal of the lilac means you love me. And this one,” Cassie moved her fingertip to the red fringed carnation blossom, “means your heart aches for me.” Sam couldn’t speak. Cassie didn’t throw the flowers back at him or turn and run. She stepped into his personal space. Her sweet scent mingled with the fresh cut flowers. He saw her eyes zero in on his lips. She wanted to kiss him. Oh man. He was going to embarrass himself if she so much as touched him right now. Her breath was warm against his chin and lips when she spoke again. “I love you too.”
Taylor rolled her neck in an attempt to relief the stress and tension gathering. She knew the history Cassie and Sam had but still did not feel she had a choice when calling her. She did not want to go to town and risk being near other people. Yet and still The Creeper got her Bubba. She grew up in Platts Station, TX. The small desert town was nothing more than a stop between the larger cities on I-20. Her being older than Sam sometimes made her insecure, but he had to love her. He married her. She heard Cassie inhale deeply. “The cottage is still a few hours away.” Taylor waited for a reply.
“Ummm.” Cassie murmured.
“We have to stop at the hospital first, then the store on the way out of town.” To Cassie Taylor sounded exhausted.
“If you need me to drive let me know.”
“I’m sorry about Bubba. Are you OK?” Taylor’s lip trembled. Until able to conceive, she was sure Sam would leave her. He lost his young daughter and she knew he’d want kids. When they got Bubba he smiled gently at the rescued pup and said he’d do just fine. Her shoulders shook as she suppressed a sob. First her dog was attacked by The Creeper, then her husband.
They reached the hospital parking lot before the tears blinded her sight. Taylor parked and Sam was awakened by the sudden stop. The Sala leaves hardened to seal his wounds. He looked over at Taylor. “Babe, what’s wrong?” He rested his hand on her thigh. Cassie felt the warmth of love radiate between Taylor and Sam, even through their fragile emotional state.
“God I hope this works.” Taylor unlocked the door and pulled the driver seat forward allowing Cassie to get out. Taylor went around to Sam’s side to help him out. He had limited mobility and the truck required the use of hand grips to step out of the raised cab.
“Hey, I can help.” Cassie offered and stepped up next to Sam. Sam had his body turned so his legs rested on the runner. “Two-person lift?” Cassie asked looking at Taylor. Speaking in nursing terms was easy since they both had experience. Taylor braced Sam’s left side, Cassie on the right. Cassie’s slim frame had to be flush with Sam to bear his upper body while he stepped down from the truck.
Sam was instructed to cross his arms across his chest. Though the women were slight , Sam was an average weight male and easy to brace. Creating a ‘human belt’ Taylor and Cassie locked hands to forearms. When Sam leaned forward his face brushed Cassie’s and she turned her head. That brief bare skin contact sent a jolt through her, and she faulted. “You got me?” Sam teased. Cassie only wished.
After they got Sam checked in Cassie went to find out were she could donate. “Hi, I need to speak with a Dr. or someone in charge of blood donation?” The nurse looked up, grabbed a clipboard with paper, and a pen.
“Fill these out please.” The nurse returned to her charting. Cassie to the nearest chair. The lobby was full. As far as she could tell everyone was stressed and tired looked. Side effects of being Creeper infected? Cassie shivered at the thought and tried focusing on the paperwork. The clipboard would take a few minutes.
“Hello.” The soft soled clogs accounted for why she did not hear the person approaching on the white tiled floor. He was clothed in scrubs and wore a white lab coat.
“Art!” Cassie jumped up and threw her arms around Art’s neck. “What are you doing here?” Cassie always thought Art was too handsome for his own good. His question snapped her out of staring at him open mouthed
“The scrubs and lab coat aren’t a dead giveaway?” Art took a stethoscope out of his oversized pocket and hung it around his neck, “how ‘bout now?” He waggled his brows. Cassie chuckled. “Imma technician working towards-. Well, wait a minute. Your not,” Art lowered his voice, “infected are you.” He looked her up and down. Cassie swore he inhaled her scent too.
“Well, I, um. You might remember my friend Sam. He was attacked by a Creeper. We saw one on the way here and Dave was infected too.” Art’s million watt smile dimmed but he still seemed genuine when he said:
“Oh, I am so sorry to hear that.” Art placed a concerned hand on Cassie’s shoulder. “Are you OK?” Cassie sighed.
“Yeah. I just need to donate. Have my blood checked.” Cassie started to say.
“We can go somewhere more-” Cassie interrupted before Art could explain further.
“It’s OK. Leave it.” Art took her to a door and entered a code. He lead her down a hallway and past several doors. None of them looked like patient rooms.
“Where are you taking me Art?” Cassie was lead to another coded door. “Answer me.” Cassie asked firmly. Art turned. His smile vanished. Red lines appeared to wriggle and quake under his pale skin. “Oh my God. What are you?”
“The next evolution!” Cassie was shoved through a door and slammed to the floor when her feet tangled with a mop bucket. She was locked in a janitor’s closet. She shivered. The Red Creeper seemed to know who she was, and wanted her dead.
“He will require additional grafting surgeries. The Sala leaves seemed to have also diminished the effects the of the Red Creeper, as you call it. Our results won’t be back for a few hours but a visual inspection is clear.” The doctor closed the chart, and stood up. “You look dog tired Miss. You need to rest. Your husband’s got a couple hours’ to recover from the anesthesia.” With a small nod the doctor turned and left. Taylor looked down at Sam. His healthy glow dulled to a gray sick color. Taylor wanted to cry again but she swallowed her tears. She couldn’t hold his hand. She leaned over him and let her mouth brush his. Taylor pressed her lips to her husband’s. His lips were dry as she pressed a kiss deeply on his mouth.
His arms wrapped around her and she was shocked at the strength of his hold. She was now pressed against her husband with a bruising force. She gagged as her nostrils were filled with the smell of rotting meat soaked in ammonia. The Red Creeper slid past her lips, acid slime burning her throat. More bloody tendrils filled her mouth and Taylor began to choke as her melted skin bubbled and liquefied. She felt chunks of her mouth and lips pouring down her chin and slopping on her husband. She could not yell or break free from the horrible pain that was killing her.
Sam’s eyes snapped open.
Taylor jerked awake and locked eyes with Sam. A hand touched her mouth. Fear clouded Sam’s glare.
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