FICTION (October 2018)
The Cure For the Caged Rabbit
by Michael D. Davis
IT started when the leaves were falling dead from the trees and the chill in the air stalked your skin.
The national news reported on it as just a strange occurrence and shrugged it off. The reporter didn’t even take it seriously. Amusement crossed her face as she said, “At a hospital in the town of Riddlebeck, Iowa there have been a large number of people suffering from the hiccups.”
The first casualty was an old man with a history of lung problems.
It overtook him fast, using his chest like a bass drum. Ripping through him forty times a minute until his body could no longer take it. As the illness spread from person to person it started picking off the weak, old and young. An infant who got the sickness early on turned blue in minutes before laying still in her crib. Only a day later an older sibling started to hiccup and fell to the same fate.
The second time it was reported on the national news most of the state was suffering from it. And there was a death toll of seven.
Soon there were people doing air tests, water tests, soil tests, all searching for the cause. No one could find any.
The sickness spread to other states.
Within days from coast to coast people suffered from it. The death toll rose slowly and steadily as no one could find how it was spreading.
The epidemic dominated most of the newscasts covering all types of stories vaguely related to the subject. One that was trending for a while was of Boo the Oxnard Clown. He was some gomer in California that played dress up in his Halloween costume and tried to cure people by jumping out from behind items yelling, “Boo!”
It didn’t cure anyone. But it got him his fifteen minutes of fame, even interviews on everything from the morning shows to the late shows. I saw him in costume talking to one of the late-night guys about how he was just trying to help. He didn’t help, nothing did.
The prevention tips on the news were useless. The sickness moved fast and strong and touched everyone it saw and, in its wake, left them in violent convulsions as the hiccups came. People walked around with paper masks over their face or even gas masks, trying to prevent catching it. My twelve-year-old boy Phillip and I kept ourselves indoors. I worked at Philip’s school and it was out due to illness, as the hiccups spread.
But it was useless.
No matter how many precautions I took or how many days I stayed inside. I still got it. The first hiccup I prayed was a cough, a burp, even just a fluke. Then there was a second one.
Going to the hospital would be useless – they knew nothing.
I lost sleep. I couldn’t eat. I tried every cure I could find on the web. Nothing worked. It was like a rabbit throwing itself against its cage in my chest.
People all over the country had rabbits in their chest like me. No one knew what caused it, how it spread or how to stop it. A man down south was arrested for killing his son because he choked him in hopes of cutting off the air and curing the hiccups. It worked in a way, his son is no longer suffering from them. So, I guess there is one cure for the rabbit.
A doctor talked on a morning show and said it was all mass hysteria, a psychogenic disorder. I say that’s bullshit and that guy doesn’t know what it’s like to have a rabbit in his chest. Or fear that your child will get it.
I listen to Phillip’s every breath morning and night
My chest heaves more violently as they come faster and faster every day. But Phillip, I’m thankful he doesn’t have it and fearful he’ll get it. Worst of all from me.
It has been a week since I first got the hiccups.
My skin has turned a cold, pale color except for the areas under my eyes that have become dark like frozen dirt. Every few times it happens there will be one really bad hiccup that sends blood into my mouth. I don’t know exactly where from.
In the garage I found an old mask that we got when we painted the house. It’s a grey rubber and plastic with two large round pink disks for filters. There is no use for me to wear it anymore so, I make Phillip wear it. He complains about it, saying its hot and itchy, but I still make him wear it. Especially when he goes outside. We had been staying in for weeks trying to isolate ourselves from this thing but it hasn’t worked. And sooner or later there comes a time when you must go outside.
We start making daily trips to the stores around town. Sometimes they are near vacant while at other times it’s like a Black Friday sale. I don’t want to bring Phillip out in it, but there’s no choice, I’m getting weak. I need him.
We stock up on everything we can think of and always leave the store with a full cart. It has overtaken the house: stacks of toilet paper fill the hall and my bed is covered with cases of water. The house is filled with everything Phillip might need. He won’t have to leave. He won’t be infected.
Before I send him off to bed I tell Phillip how much I love him, how proud I am and I hug him long and hard, while fighting not to cry. I write a note telling him why things have to be this way if he’s gonna be healthy and survive.
Then, I kick the wooden chair and drop, the rope holding my weight.
Right before everything goes away a shiver shakes my body as I hear from the other room… a hiccup.