Although the world seemed to be exploding around them, the young
couple barely noticed. They sat on their cream-colored hand-me down
couch, listening to the wind roar outside their lone window.
Michael Gale and his wife Claire watched as one of the largest Hurricanes
in Houston’s history raged on. Even with the curtains closed, the
nearly constant lightning bolts illuminated the small apartment like a
dance floor. The large window shook and rattled and seemed ready to
explode, but neither of them cared. The storm would carry on through
the night and cause record amounts of damage, but all the couple could
think of was the virus that was wreaking havoc on Michael’s twenty-one year-
old body. It had been only five hours since they’d received the news
that would upend their lives.
Over the last six months, the former pillar of perfect health had begun
to fade and crumble. It started with Michael’s thick, dark hair beginning
to fall out, followed by the paling of his skin and rapid weight loss.
His energy level held out for longer, but eventually he began to slow and
tire easily. Michael, who stood over six feet tall, had begun to look much
shorter, as if he were shrinking and would eventually disappear into nothing.
As he lost what little weight he had, his skin was pulled tightly over
the bones of his face.
Claire, his wife of two years, had noticed the very early signs. Instantly
she had begun to worry but kept it to herself. Michael had noticed the
problems early also, but he too didn’t want to bring it up to his spouse.
They both felt addressing the problem meant the problem would become
real and their perfect lives would be derailed. It was killing both of them
that they never spoke about this life-changing problem. Each of them
had separately searched Houstonnet for answers but came up with nothing
that matched Michael’s symptoms. Finally, the couple was forced to
acknowledge the growing problem when Michael collapsed on his walk
home from work.
When they finally discussed it, the bottled-up emotions flooded out.
Each feared the worst, but they both spent their time trying to convince
the other that everything would be okay. They had scheduled an appointment
for Michael to be seen, but since there weren’t enough hospitals in
Mega-City Houston, they were forced to wait more than a month. It would
have been longer, but Claire worked at a hospital in the medical records
section and was able to move Michael’s appointment up by three weeks.
During their wait for the appointment, neither Claire nor Michael
could focus on anything. It seemed a dark cloud followed them everywhere
they went. Michael held a job as a welder and used to climb to
the top of large buildings that were under construction, but since his
illness, he had been remanded to a small office and dealt with ordering
equipment. Claire liked the fact that he was on the ground, but Michael
hated his new position and worried that if he did get better, soon he
would be fired.
As the appointment approached, neither of them mentioned it. They
each felt it somehow would be bad luck to talk about the date. Inside their
heads, each of them had separated their calendars to “before the appointment”
and “after,” knowing the doctor’s visit would be life changing.
When the day finally arrived, everyone seemed to be talking of nothing
but the incoming hurricane. All the news stations covered its arrival
and cautioned all citizens to board up their apartments and prepare to
hunker down. Claire secretly felt the approaching storm occurring on the
same day as Michael’s appointment was an ominous sign.