Previously on Caterpillar Series
It’s been two years since my last post. But I need to continue my story, while I still can.
I’m dying, and Azzy, my demon-fairy wife, is pissed. At least that’s what people are saying. As I lay in a hospital bed for my latest round of chemotherapy, I watch my beautiful wife on television. Azzy is still on the city council, working towards making Beloit, Wisconsin a better place.
I couldn’t be more proud of her. Her success was what I clung to, as I vomited into a bedpan for the third time in an hour. That had to be God’s plan, for me to inspire her to greatness.
I was in the final month of my pediatric residency when I passed out for the first time. I had been tired, but I assumed it was stress. I was working twelve hour days, coming home just long enough to kiss my son goodnight before passing out.
Now I get to have all the rest I could ever want. and in less then a year I’ll have all the sleep I could ever ask for. I tried to calm down, to take deep breaths as I laid my head on the pillow. the IV was almost complete. My father died of leukemia, he always said that he stopped treatment so that he could avoid leaving me and my sister with a mountain of medical debt (the way our mother’s death had.) But now I knew the truth; chemo just sucked. This was not worth the extra few weeks of life. It was all I could do to not rip the iv out of my arm. I won’t live to see forty, I won’t live to see my son graduate high school or even kindergarten.
“Papa!” Lucas, my little boy ran into my room.
He was followed by Remy, my wife’s gay BFF, and our nanny. Technically he was also Lucas’s biological father but that was a story for another day (or a previous chapter.) “Hey, Johnny,” Remy said as he lifted Lucas on to the bed.
Remy took a seat. His long surfer hair flowed past his shoulders and his face was covered in a hipster beard appropriate to his new position as a freelance muralist. “You’re looking good.”
Lucas pressed his soft cheek against my chest. “I miss you, Papa.”
I took a breath, choking back tears. “I miss you too.”
“Remy taught me how to paint with a paintbrush!”
Remy nodded, unable to look me in the eye. “Yeah, the little guy is really talented.” He reached his arms out for Lucas. “Why don’t you go show your dad, your painting?”
Lucas happily jumped off the bed, landing on his knees. “I left it with the nurse.” He ran off without the slightest hint of pain or discomfort.
When we were alone I turned to Remy. “What’s wrong with Azzy?”
Remy sighed. “Is it that obvious?”
“I haven’t seen my wife in three days but I know she’s been in the room.” I motioned to the pillow next to my head. It was stained with her makeup; she had been sneaking into sleep by my side but leaving before I awoke (which wouldn’t be difficult since the chemo had taken all of my energy and I didn’t awaken much before noon.)
“She wants power.”
“Power to do what?”
Remy shook his head. “You know what I mean. Azzy knows she can’t save you and it’s pissing her off.”
“What is she planning?”
Remy crossed his arms and leaned forward as if he was about to vomit. “She won’t tell me.”
“I know she told you something.”
It was then Lucas scampered back into the room, holding a large sketch pad. “Mommy’s taking a trip.”
“Really?” I forced myself to sit up, glaring at Remy.
“Mommy has a lot of friends. She’s telling people to come to Wisconsin,” he said as he opened his notebook to a photo of the White House- as in where the president of the United States lived. He moved the photo to reveal his watercolor painting, complete with a stick figure with long black hair standing on the roof.
“Is that Mommy?” I asked.
Lucas nodded. “It’s Mommy’s castle. She said we’re going to live there; you, me, and all of Mommy’s friends.”
“Mommy wants to run for president?” I asked Lucas, looking at Remy.
Remy sighed. “People like Azzy don’t run for office, they gather an army.”
After their visit, I went back to sleep. When I awoke it was night, the moon was shining brightly through my window. The light glowing over a form that lay in my bed. “Hi, Johnny,” my wife said in a whisper.
“Hi Azzy,” I tried to hold back tears but it was no use. My body was in pain, I was so tired all the time, but worse, I was so alone. I was going to die alone in this hospital bed. “I missed you.”
“I miss you too, baby,” she said with a kissed to my cheek. “Lucas asked me to make sure you woke up the next time I visited.”
“Did you go to Washington DC?”
“Yeah,” she said as she rested her head on my chest, holding my hand.
“Are you going on a trip?”
“Yeah,” Azzy replied in a whisper. “I’m headed to New York.” She closed her eyes and when she opened them they were no longer blue but black as holes. She blinked a few times causing black ink to flow down her cheeks. “I-I want you to come with me.”
“Azzy?” This had to be a nightmare.
“I want to show you what I’ve done, the future I’ve created.” Her voice crackled like a cartoon witch speaking into a voice recorder.
“I don’t know if I can,” that was all I could think of to say. Despite how weak my legs were, I had a sinking feeling it wouldn’t matter.
Azzy left the bed. She was shorter than me but easily lifted my body. “I can save you. I found a way to save you.”
I watched as all my IVs, and monitors disintegrated giving the illusion of my vitals flatlining. Alarms went off, in a matter of moments nurses would be rushing in to respond to the code blue. I watched as Azzy punched the air, ripping open a portal in the fabric of reality.
I must have lost consciousness because I awoke in a colorfully lit cave, like an underground rave or music festival. I can hear music; dance music sang in a foreign language, possibly French. And I smell food.
Chemo had destroyed my appetite but the strong smells were intoxicating. If someone told me a months ago that I would be craving Indian food I would have laughed in their face as I vomited on their shoes.
Azzy returned to me with a tray of food. Her eyes were still black. “You’re awake!”
I reached out my hand, touching her cheek. “Azzy?”
“Yes, baby?” She smiled and as she did, her eyes returned to their normal, beautiful blue. “Here, try this.”
I ate a bite of the spinach stew served over rice. It tasted amazing;
Suddenly I felt a sharp pain in my side. I expected to feel nausea but that wasn’t it. A shiny black tentacle was growing out of my navel. I put down the bowl, my hands trembling. “Azzy, what is that?”
“It’s the cure.” I struggled to my feet, leaning against the wall.
Azzy put my arm around her shoulder. “Let’s go outside. I’ve waited so long to show you my kingdom.”
Looking around, the cave had a music festival feel but I knew exactly where we were. I could see lights and lcd screens for miles.
At first, I was a little self-conscious to be walking around wearing a hospital gown and much much else, but this place was filled with scantily clad people. All of them were showing off large black tattoos. Some looked like lace other were bold tribal-style lines.
But something was missing. “Where’s the caterpillar?”
“Huh?” Azzy turned back to me.
“Where is the giant mass of living body parts that lives in this cave?”
Her eyes glanced at the black mark on my stomach that was now moving up my chest, towards a scar over my heart.
Strange, I never noticed I had a scar there. “What have you done?”
“I saved the world,” she said with a nervous smile. “I-I’ll show you.”
Azzy led me down a set of unlit stairs to a much lower part of the cave system. “Watch your step.”
I took a breath as the air began to get noticeably colder. the room was dark but my eyes quickly adjusted. This was where she was keeping the caterpillar. The creature was as tall as a two-story house and seemed to stretch for miles. But most noticeably it was now chained up by large pieces of metal.
Azzy’s wing took hold of my hand and brushed it against a pipe. “This is where the magic happens.”
As I touched the pipe I could hear screaming. Looking up I could see a pipe system going up through the ceiling. Something was being piped into the caterpillar, processed and then extracted. Whatever it was, it was hurting the creature. “What is that?”
“Sin,” Azzy replied in a whisper.
“Sin?” I asked. I could see the dark, shadowy fluid pumping through the pale human limbs. “You found a way to harvest sin?”
Azzy smiled, she blinked her eyes turning them black. In the darkness of the cave, it looked like her eyes had vanished, leaving behind gaping holes.
“How? When did this start?”
“Six months ago,” she said as she walked to one of the spouts. “It’s everywhere, in the air we breathe. All I had to do was find a way to filter it out into its physical form.”
The black oil-like substance was being forced out of each metal port, in a seemly endless supply. Being near it caused me to shiver in pain like I was being locked in a freezer. But at the same time, I saw other young people, covered in black tattoos moving the liquid. Some took portions upstairs, others took small sips of the liquid fresh from the gruesome taps.
“For most people, it’s like hard liquor, others day it’s like a narcotic. All I know is I wanted to end my life, but it saved me.”
“You don’t remember, do you? The surgery?” Azzy pursed her lips and closed her dark eyes. “They needed to remove an infection near your spine. You had a seizure on the operating table. At least that’s what they told me. You were put into a medically induced coma.” Azzy waved her hand and opened a portal. “I’m sorry I need some air.”
I dove through after her, landing hard on my shoulder. I was now even colder than before. “Are we in New York?” I shouted over the roar of the wind. We were on a rooftop, and in the distance, I could see the statue of liberty.
Azzy was sitting on the edge of the roof with her knees pulled to her chest. “I’m sorry, let me take you someplace warmer.”
I put my arms around Azzy, holding her close. “I’m fine. All I need is you.”
My words caused her to sob even harder. “I couldn’t lose you. I didn’t want to live without you.”
As I felt her warm hands on my stomach the memory filled my mind. It was like some kind of virtual reality movie: I was seeing the moment through Azzy’s eyes. Her hands held me close as her tears fell upon my face. She took out a small flask from her purse. She took a long swig of the warm, sweet liquid, a few of the black drops falling on to her fingertips.
She stroked my unconscious face, moving my breathing tube to the side just enough to pour the black liquid into my mouth. I watch my body start to convulse. Azzy holds me, it’s clear her intention was for us to die together. But within moments my heart rate and oxygen levels stabilized. Azzy screamed as she moved away from the bed. She fell to her knees in tears. I was breathing on my own.
I opened my eyes, back on the rooftop with my loving wife in my arms. “Is that what happened? You wanted us to die together?”
“But it cured you. It saved you. That’s why whenever I visited you I would feed you in your sleep.”
“For the past six months?” I had been in the worst pain of my life for the past six months, enduring day after day of chemo that seemed to not be making any improvement. Was there some kind of correlation? “Let’s go home.”
Azzy nodded. “Where do you want to go? I sold the house and I’ve been living in the caves.”
“You sold the house? Where has our son been living?”
“With Remy and Jamie.”
Remy had been bringing Lucas to visit once a day. “Remind me to kick Remy’s ass.”
“I told him to keep my secret,” Azzy said with a smile as she opened a portal back to the comfortable area of the cave. “I wanted everything to be perfect when I finally brought you here.” We laid together on the mattress looking up at the Christmas lights that adorned the ceiling of our cave suite. “I love you.”
I held my wife close, placing a soft kiss upon her lips. “I love you too.”
I tried to sleep but all I could feel was darkness and pain. The cancer was eating my brain, and the ‘cure’ would eventually devour my soul.
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