The state of medical care at Fort Dean is revealed in this tale of Mrs. Olivia Turner.
At the fort, we had a physician for my dear twin. She was pronounced to have the deading fever. She had been in a terrible way for two weeks, and we had given her medicine and brandy, and it hadn’t helped. The doctor gave her something awful tasting, but it didn’t seem to do her any good. No, it didn’t do her any good; that I knew. We have bond as twins, and I could feel her pains like they were my own.
She couldn’t say a word those two weeks, but I knew. She couldn’t sleep; any time she laid down her gut would boil up a storm.
I couldn’t sleep. My gut boiled.
She couldn’t keep anything down. I rarely could.
She sat up night and day, and in times past, back East, when one of us was ill, the other could pull her through. We gave strength to each other; we borrowed from each other.
But this was the fever.
She died in a fit, reaching for me. Said her only words to me: “Sleep now, Liv.” So calm, so calm.
Her suffering was over; mine only stayed on.
My husband and hers, they thought they would lose us both. But I remembered her words and did my best to sleep. Between the fever and aches and hollowness, I closed my eyes and heard her voice. “Sleep now, Liv.”
But I couldn’t; I just couldn’t because she couldn’t. I know it is weird to talk of the dead sleeping. But I have a theory the undead are just stuck in some nightmare, some waking nightmare. They aren’t meant to be awake. They don’t want to be awake. The Eastward-sending rites are just tonics, soporifics. It just puts them back to bed in the afterworld. That’s what I think.
I said something like that on my deathbed to my husband, and the next day, against the doctor’s advice, they moved us on. Us both. Not far, just off the fort.
Fort Dean was one of those built on the edge of a ruin, the one that is massive gates and old, broken down walls. As soon as we removed her body from that dreadful area, I felt her pass on, leave, go to her true home. They laid her beneath a bountiful tree, and they set me down beside it, and I put my hand on the fresh turned dirt, and said squeezed it like she squeezed my hand when she went. “Sleep now, Jes.”
And that was it: she went on, back East. I felt her go.
I felt her sleep.
And then so could I. So could I.
Author Note: This is part of Jodi Ralston’s Zombie West world. This series is not set in our world but is inspired by 1800s-early 1900s America, because she loves that time period. It has zombies because everything is better with zombies.
If you like this, feel free to leave a comment. If you really like it or similar pieces, please “feed the writer” by leaving a Paypal tip.