I didn’t cry.
Let me rephrase that. I couldn’t cry. My entire family was dead. God knows I wanted to cry—that I needed to cry—but I couldn’t. I had to be strong.
Looking at my family, I felt more pain than I could have ever imagined, but I held it inside.
I walked to my dad and held his calloused hand in mine. How could you do this to me? I screamed in my head. My eyes watered, but I didn’t let the tears fall. You left me when I needed you the most! How COULD you?!
Zeke chose that moment to walk through the doorway. All I saw was the limp object Zeke had in his arms.
“Well?” Ben sounded hopeful.
“I got there too late,” Zeke replied, shaking his head. “Gone, just like the others.”
I watched as Zeke placed my little brother on the cot next to Katie. Looking up, I noticed that Doc’s eyes had welled up with tears; Zeke was trying to comfort him, his hand on Ben’s shoulder. I probably should have felt angry—or jealous—that Zeke was comforting Ben rather than me, but I didn’t. My mind only processed that Ben was taking their death almost as hard as I was.
“Don’t worry, Ben,” Zeke said soothingly. “There’s always next time.” He turned to me. “Nicole, are you okay? You’ve been weirdly quiet all this time.”
“They’re all dead.” I whispered. I didn’t have the strength to say it any louder.
Sighing, Zeke ran his fingers through his hair. “Yeah, we’ve been trying to figure out how to get the parasites out of the bodies for a while now. It all keeps going to shit, though.”
I walked over to the cot Sarah was lying on. Stroking her blonde curls I sighed. “Why did you do this to me?” I whispered to her, though I knew she couldn’t hear me. “Oh, Sarah…” Holding the pain inside became even harder.
“Nicole,” Zeke started carefully. “Did you…did you know them?”
I looked into his eyes. When I spoke, it was barely a whisper. “All gone. They’re all gone. My whole family…just…gone.”
I couldn’t name the expression on Zeke’s face. It was a mixture of probably a dozen emotions. Sadness, anger, and pity were all a fraction of his expression.
I needed to do something before I completely broke down. Normally, in a fight or flight situation, I choose fight. But, how could I fight this? How could I fight my family being dead? I really only had one option.
After running for a few minutes, I realized that I actually didn’t know where I was headed. I turned down one of the darker hallways to catch my breath and decide what my next move would be.
I knew that I needed to be alone; I couldn’t face people right now—especially not Zeke. I don’t think there even is somewhere in these caves where I can go to be alone, I thought. I could always go outside—I shuddered. Even now, there was no way I was leaving the safety of the caves by myself.
Quicker than a blink, I saw—in my mind’s eye—where I could go. I briefly checked to make sure that the coast was clear, and then, I was off again.
As I sat, hiding, I was determined not to cry. I would be strong. However, I couldn’t do anything about the memories that bombarded me. At least no one would come looking for me in the middle of the cornfield…I hoped.
Struggling against the nearly overwhelming tears, I let the memories envelop me; they were all I had left of my family.