Excerpt for Waiting to Die The Coming Unstoppable Pandemic by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Waiting to Die

(The coming, unstoppable, pandemic.)


James W. Nelson

Copyright 2012 by James W. Nelson

Smashwords Edition

Dedicated to everyone who has lost a loved one.

Since the 1918-1919 influenza that killed over 50 million people, humankind has feared return of the pandemic, an extraordinarily mutated virus. It’s here. As before, with the Spanish Flu, mostly healthy young adults are dying, so many that hospitals can no longer provide for them. Derek Whitfield, 25-year Army vet, has volunteered for end-of-life hospice care. He sees nothing but darkness waiting on The Other Side, until he meets Susannah Brite, his forty-second client.

Table of Contents






Chapter Waiting to Die

“She’s resting quietly,” the kind-looking, white-haired lady said, “For a while I thought she might be in pain, but, well, she usually claims to have no pain." She pointed, "First door on your left.”

Derek Whitfield nodded but didn’t smile. He had not had a female client yet, and did not look forward to this one with too much happiness. He stopped outside the hospice room and stared at the patient’s name. Susannah Brite, just black letters scribbled on white cardboard and taped to the wall. The patients were no longer getting top notch care. Basic care, yes. Food. Water. Bathing…sometimes.

The care-giving lady who answered his knock at this house seemed very nice, and probably was giving excellent care. Not the case with most of his clients, least not excellent care. There were just too many sick people, and the victims were the age-group who should have been providing the care. Twenties and thirties, nineteen being the youngest yet to die, thirty-nine the oldest, with the most by far being between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-five. People over forty—it was reasoned—had maybe experienced enough viruses in their lives that they simply had built up a natural immunity. At least it was hoped that reasoning was true, and that simple.

The possibility remained, of course, that, like the Spanish Flu, the virus was killing through a cytokine storm, the overreaction of the body's immune system. Derek didn’t pay much attention to scientific words and theories, but he did read short articles that appeared in his newspaper. He understood that with the storm the strong immune system reactions of young adults ravaged the body, whereas the weaker immune systems of children were resulting in no deaths, yet, and middle-aged adults were resulting in far fewer deaths. Research worldwide was moving at a blinding pace, but the virus continued to mutate, quickly, sometimes changing from victim to victim, and continued to attack the brightest of the bright young minds. Why the very young people weren’t dying the scientific community continued to have no clue.

But even with the shortage of professionals there was one stage of the sickness that got the best of care: The end of life, which usually lasted just one day, sometimes only hours. The signal of the end was the beginning of a lowering blood-pressure and a slight rise in body temperature: Shallow respirations, officially. Another term Derek had come to know. End-of-life care could be given by just about anyone, so the word went out for volunteers: Age fourteen and above, no particular qualifications. Medical establishments soon had a list—though not a large one—of local volunteers. So when shallow respirations began, volunteers were usually called in the order their names appeared on the lists.

Derek Whitfield, age sixty-four, twenty-five-year Army veteran, qualified. It took him a long time to volunteer, seven months into the world-wide outbreak, long after the experts had deemed the face masks useless. Most volunteers kept wearing them anyway, but Derek refused. He considered the masks an insult to the victims. “Just be there for their end…,” he was told. Somehow that seemed…useless. What difference could it make? They were dying. Most, after their week or so of suffering, probably just wanted to get it over with. His attitude wasn’t great, but he did think that what he was doing was important. And he did think most of his clients appreciated his presence.


Susannah Brite would be his forty-second client. Derek had requested only young men, and—until then—had gotten only young men. He had thought they would be easier. They weren’t. Some went out like men of honor: Stoic and at attention. Most went out not quite like that. Some even went out crying. Dying was dying, and nobody actually knew what waited on The Other Side, if anything. Derek was pretty sure nothing but blackness waited, but of course he never suggested that to anyone. “Just hold their hand,” he was also told, “Kiss their forehead, or their cheek, if you want, if you think they want,” and, most importantly, “Have a soothing voice.”

That all had seemed easy enough. He hoped this woman would be that easy, and just one more number to him.

He raised his hand to knock. Usually nobody answered. The patient was usually alone when he arrived. Quite often not even family was available. In the new millennium families often were separated by thousands of miles, and often even lived on different continents. Very likely, when some young person got sick they didn’t even have time to get home. And as more and more people died the travel industry soon became…less then efficient.

But at least everybody usually got a private room. When the hospitals filled, and the patient was determined to have that specific killer virus, he or she was immediately shipped to a private home. Large homes, once housing mostly university students, were used first, but they soon filled too. So any private home and even business places came to be used, if the owner could guarantee even the minimum basic care.

His eyes closed. He released a breath, his fists tightened. He had about reached his limit for this unhappy business, he wasn’t sure he could even face this young woman. He didn’t know why he had finally agreed to even see a woman. A twenty-nine-year-old woman who should be in the absolute prime of her life, but instead was dying of a disease that science had yet been unable to control. Except for pain. Painkillers still worked, and the victims nearly always died before their body built up a tolerance to the painkilling drug. Even though bedridden and very weak, the victims spent their last days in somewhat a state of euphoria.

A good thing—if anything about the disease could be called good—there was no disfiguring at the end, no oozing of sores or bleeding like in the movies, just organ failure, of all the major organs. So once that started the end came quickly.

His hand still raised to knock, he pulled it back to his forehead and squeezed his temples, and let out another breath. It was the sort of uncontrollable shallow breathing that he had experienced so many times in his life, always just before some dangerous activity, like waiting his turn to parachute, or waiting for a deadly storm to run its course, or drawing that first bead on an approaching enemy soldier, a man he was soon to kill, if the man didn’t kill him first.

But approaching these sick people was not dangerous. Breathing should have been normal. Physically, of course, they couldn’t hurt him, but they always tried to break his heart. None did, but they all tried.

Very gently, he knocked, and released yet another very shallow breath.

No answer. The door was already open about a foot. He pushed it open further and, with one step, crossed that gaping chasm. And saw her, and released one last breath.

Her eyes were closed. Her face was pale. He imagined her cheeks being usually rosy, blending with the tiny freckles gracing both sides of her face and disappearing into that rich-looking, dark brunette hair…that appeared to be freshly washed and curled. She must be getting really good hospice care here. At least three pillows propped her up. Hospital beds for everyone were out-of-the-question, but pillows were cheap.

She lay a bit outstretched, her right arm straight and close to her body, her left arm bent at the elbow and kind of reaching, has she been in pain? He wondered.

He took three quiet steps to her bedside. Her eyes opened. Her mouth, slightly open, opened, slightly more. She licked her lips, once on the upper lip, once on the lower, but no words came. Her eyes closed again.

“Susannah, I’m Derek.” He waited, “I’m here to spend some time with you…, if you would like that….”

Her eyes opened again. Her left hand raised, slightly, and toward him, “Yes, I would,” she said. He barely heard but he knew what she had said. They all said the same thing, and he always said the same thing. He put his left hand under her left hand, and felt her grip him with a strength that surprised him. The strength though, was short-lived, but the grip itself remained. Without even thinking about it, he lifted her hand and leaned down, and pressed her hand against his cheek.

For a few seconds she gripped his hand tighter again, “Thank you, Derek.”

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