Chapter 1: If goodbye is not betrayal
It seems like yesterday that he is with me; standing beside me, our fingers laced with each other as we looked up to the blue skies above our heads. Gabriel and I promised to look at each sunrise and sunsets for the rest of our lives. He promised that we will be together until the final breaths of our lives, but just two days ago, Gabriel began to feel so distant with me. I never see him at school, I don't get calls from him at nights or even texts in the morning just to wake me up from my deep slumber or night visits just before I could turn off my lampshade at every past two in the morning. It was just this morning when I finally learned the truth.
Gabriel has acquired the viral illness that is now killing innocent people day after day.
The viral illness had grown rampant in our city for almost a weak now. It started with just a flu considered to be treatable by the doctors but when the scientists made experiments and observations about the virus, they learned that it cannot be treated by any medicine; both antibiotics or anti-viral medications. It was an uncontrollable strain of virus undetected and deadly when consumed. It seems to be airborne, thus the government decided to quarantine the whole city before it goes out to spread in neighboring cities around the country.
I held unto my phone with a firm tight. Just minutes ago, Gabriel's sister Anika called me. At first I did not believed what she is telling me. I know Anika used to tell rumors about his brother just to piss Gabriel off, but after hearing Anika's weary voice with hints of sobs, I began to feel anxious.
"Where is he now?" I asked Anika.
Anika breathed out, her huffing apparent to the other side of the call. "He's at the main station. The government officials seem to be taking them into a facility to be quarantined."
I narrowed my eyes. "Did they just say there are no treatments for that kind of illness? What are they planning to do to them?"
"I don't know, Lyra. But Gabriel wasn't forced to go to the main station to be quarantined. He decided it on his own. He didn't even tell mom and dad about his illness. He only told me the truth when I saw him walking out of the house with a backpack. He has been acting distant these past few days. You know that, right?"
I nodded my head. "Yes he has been acting distant to me. Do you know when the train will leave the station?"
Anika hiccupped. "He didn't say anything."
"Don't worry! I'll bring him back!" I began to sound frantic. But before I could hang up the call, Anika stopped me.
"Lyrica? What if there is really no cure for that illness? What are we going to do? What are you going to do?"
Anika's words caught me by surprise and I held unto the edge of my table with support. My legs are getting wobbly just by thinking I will never see Gabriel again. I began to think otherwise. What will I do if he doesn't get a cure for that? Will I just let him die? A part of them still doesn't want to think like that.
"There must be a cure for that! What does the government want from them otherwise? Quarantine cannot heal them!" I hang up the phone. I know talking with Anika will not get me anywhere.
Acquiring the virus is like winning a game out of thousands of competitors. It's good luck for those whose body has acquired temporary immunity to the virus, but to those who have already acquired them, what odds are against them to acquire such illness?
It's like having the black plaque all over again. It's like repeating history.
As I stepped into the streets, I did not mind whether I can fool the illness from defeating my immunity. What matters most at that moment is to reach Gabriel and offer him some help even if I am already at a vulnerable state at that moment or even if I too myself is defenseless against the viral illness. I just want to see him for the last time, even if it will be the last.
That's how much I love him.
When I reached the front of the main station, I saw a huge crowd before me. I saw people crying as they hold unto their loved ones. There are children being forced into the train as their parents hold unto them. The whole city is in chaos with the illness spreading like cancer. The doctors in their white coats as well as the scientists, government officials and military are already high geared with their masks, coats, and gloves.
I pushed my way to the crowd and from the distance where I was, I could see the puff of smoke from the chimney of the train. I could hear the gears and the engines of the vehicle coming into life as more screams and wails enveloped the whole place like it is in a brim of war. I turned to look pass my shoulder where I saw an old woman touching my shoulder, her eyes begging me to help her. She must have contacted the illness and wanted to go inside the train to be treated. But I just stared into her eyes as if telling her that every ounce of look she gives me is useless. She cannot be treated. The media said so days ago.
It could not be possible that these doctors and scientists have found its cure. If they did found it, why would they quarantine the ones who have contacted them when in the very first place they could have treated them by now and everyone would be back to normal?
No, there is something going on with this illness and I am not here to stand and find out.
"Please let me through!" I shouted as I push away from the crowd. Just like seeing a light at the end of a tunnel, my body eased when I finally found myself a few meters from the doors of the train.
And just like mere fate, I found my eyes locked into those familiar black hair, brown eyes under that thin rimmed spectacles and that long black coat that I have twice worn in my whole life.
Gabriel stood at the corner of the train's door talking to a large man with balding gray hair in a blue suit. Gabriel looked tired and exhausted but still a flicker of hope lingered in his eyes as he talked to the older man.
I shoved my way from a couple holding hands together. It was very rude, but if I hadn't pushed my way from them, I wouldn't have a chance to call unto Gabriel.
"Gabriel!" I shouted, but unfortunately my voice was swallowed by the loud engine roar. I looked at the train with widened eyes as it began to move. I looked in front of me, seeing that I am almost at the doors. I pushed my way roughly from the crowd, not minding the curses and shrieks of the people I harassed just to get into the train.
"Gabriel!" I shouted and this time my voice finally found its way to his ears. It caught his attention and he turned to look at the crowd before him. He scanned the whole vicinity for me until he found me pushing my way from the crowd.
We stared into each other eyes for a moment but when I smiled at him, his eyes looked away and the melancholic expression on his face returned once more. The man beside him turned to me and he looked into my eyes with much refinement that I needed to downcast my head. When I looked up again, Gabriel began to move towards the open doors and as I was just inches from the door, it closed out on me.
My hands traced the glass surface of the doors until I found the courage to bang heavily on it. I pounded at the door, ignoring the loud whistles from the guards coming towards me. I heard people shouting for me but I ignored them all. I just wanted to get Gabriel's attention. His back was still turned to me. Even if I pound at the door with much effort, it seems he doesn't want me to get his attention.
"Gabriel! Wait! Don't go!" I screamed when two guards pulled me out from the train now chugging at the railway. The guards pulled me away from the crowd and I could feel being dragged far away from the protesting crowd.
"Miss! Stop resisting!" one of the guards with a black bruise on his forehead shouted at me.
I finally stopped flinging my arms at them when the train began to disappear into my vision. It was at that brim of the moment when my eyes began to get cloudy and tears came pouring down my eyes like endless waters. The guards released their hold on me as they proceeded to controlling the crowd getting berserk in front of me.
I couldn't fathom what I have just seen before my eyes. It's like I am a nobody to him at that moment; like I am a complete stranger he hasn't known. The more I repeated the images in my head, the more my heart aches with each shed of tears.
It was at that moment when I told myself that I should have acquired the illness and it was him trying to reach out for me. And maybe, just maybe, the fear and sadness in my heart could have been lessened.