May 30th 2014

Hello. I'm not exactly sure who I'm writing this to, but that's not important right now—no, no, Shawn would want me to be polite... yes polite. My name is Carmen, and I live in Georgia with my mother and two sisters, along with my older brother, Shawn. That's really about all I can say except for that my father died when I was six because of diabetes—I don't... don't really wanna talk about that—and I guess you can say I've never been the same since.

Depression has always been a problem in my family: anxiety, oh, don't get me started on that—jitters, cold sweats, fear. You can't imagine what I go through! Everyday is a struggle for me. Sometimes I don't even want to get out of bed because of all the stress! Headaches, cramps... just unbearable pain all the time—constantly I tell you! Suffering. I wish it would stop!

But that's not why I'm writing this. No. No. My life isn't important: I'm a mess, disaster, useless, you don't want to be associated with me. No. What is important however is that I talk to you about my brother. Remember? I mentioned him already. Shawn. He's been sick lately. Very sick: throwing up, high fevers, swelling in the throat! It scares me... so much. At night while I was in bed I would hear the cries of my brother in the next room, my mamma rushing through the door, her voice groveling in terror as she screamed: “Shawn! Shawn! What's wrong?”

“My head hurts mamma! Please, make it stop! Please, mamma... mamma.” Was all I would hear before covering my ears with my pillow, but even then Shawn's screams would torture me to a near breaking point. I'd wake up the next morning with tear stains all over my pillows, and looking at myself in the bathroom mirror, my eyes would be bloodshot. Then I would find Shawn laying on the living room couch emotionless, Mamma on the phone with my nanny talking about going to see the doctor, and I would sit right across from him on a rocking chair, staring straight into those soulless gray eyes; and there he would lay, undisturbed, not saying a word to me or my sisters as they sat around eating at the kitchen table... only laying there. What I once saw in my older brother: youthfulness, spirit, compassion; was ripped away from him by the age of sixteen, blemished with the paleness of whatever this illness was.

June 8th 2014

I still see him—like a shadow that lingers. Every time I close my eyes the face of Shawn is there, looking at me, smiling like he used to when we were younger. I miss him. Please, forgive me if what I'm saying doesn't make any sense, but I need to allow my heart to relieve its pain—there's just so much of it since Shawn... It's been a week since Shawn's death. We buried him on the sixth, and mamma has yet to return from her “night out.” I've been sitting here at home all night long, watching over my little sisters. Their names aren't important.

The doctors told us Shawn had caught H5N1, Avian Flu, or, commonly referred to as Bird Flu. It's a real disease. A frighteningly deadly disease, a death rate of 60% or more; and Shawn caught it. Never stood a chance. The doctor said that it spreads through handling birds, and asked if Shawn had been around any. Ma said that he had been helping our uncle work the chicken farms every weekend up in White County, but he'd never showed any symptoms until recently; but she also added that Uncle Tom had complained to her about a lot of the chickens dying, and he didn't know why. The doctor explained that H5N1 is similar to Swine Flu in which it originates from many different strains of influenza viruses that have adapted to a specific host—in this case: Birds—and that Shawn had caught it from handling them in the chicken farm.

The next few days we spent hours in emergency rooms, doing tests, and stuff I'm not really sure of. Many of the doctors were frantic, saying how the possibility of a H5N1 pandemic has greatly increased over the past century; and that half the population could die if it occurred. I'm not really sure. That's a scary thought though. I can't even begin to imagine what that would be like. Poor Shawn. Seeing him there in the hospital bed, his face so pale like a ghost; I cried. Mamma cried. My sisters weren't allowed to come. They were too young. We didn't want them to see their brother like this.

Shawn was so strong. He fought through it until that final beat, and he died with a smile on his face. I wept for hours at his bedside. Ma stormed out of the room, my tears kept me from hearing everything she said, but I knew most of it was curses. She cursed at all the doctors for not doing enough, slapped a nurse because she tried to calm her down, and ended up getting us removed from the hospital. I never saw Shawn again. Ma refused to have an open casket ceremony, and only invited five of our closest family members to come to his funeral.

I have nothing left to say.

Bird flu

This story is based around true events in which people have died. The Bird Flu (H5N1) is an actual disease, and has a mortality rate of 60% in its victims. It is said if a pandemic of this disease was to spread, it would be more devastating than the 1918 Flu Pandemic. This disease is not a fantasy. It does exist. And all we can do is hope that it does not spread.