Paul lived in a world of silence. He had been born deaf so he had never known the joy of listening to the birds sing and the waves crash on the shore. Patsy, his older sister was his other half, his soulmate and companion. They were as close as close could be and Paul relied on her to help him through the hard parts of his life.
Home was a nice house in Riverleigh, a plush suburb on the edge of the city and they had a good life there. With a mother who was always home and a father who was a bank manager, Patsy and Paul wanted for nothing.
They had their own bedrooms as did their older sister Penny and they shared their home with a golden Labrador, Bob.
The local school was small but well staffed and Patsy and Paul were good students although Paul was one to get into mischief more often than not! This was due to the fact that he had to vent the frustrations that he felt at not being able to hear anything.
Patsy and Paul had many friends and spent idyllic summer days at the river enjoying picnics and kite flying, fishing and swimming.
They were close to both their parents and to Penny and the family often went away to their holiday home in the mountain village of Nemes to spend some quality time together. Patsy and Paul were wonderful skiers but they also loved their time at Nemes in the summer when they could run around in the meadows and Zorb down the hills.
It was in Nemes that Penny first noticed that she had developed a really bad skin rash and her mother thought that it was a reaction to the wild flowers that were dotted all around them. After several days Penny’s rash covered her body and the itching was unbearable so she was sent to the local doctors who diagnosed a virus. He thought that the fresh air would do Penny some good and that the virus would clear up in a day or so.
Patsy and Paul continued enjoying their time in the mountains and spent long hot days climbing trees and playing hide and seek. They would sit on Penny’s bed in the evening to keep her company and Patsy would tell her all about the mischief that Paul had got up to that day. Penny would laugh but her fingers were so stiff from the rash that she couldn’t form the shapes that would let her communicate with Paul through sign language. Patsy had to do all the talking, both verbally and through sign and got pretty tired!
After another week in the mountains Andrew had to return to work and he thought that it would probably be better for Penny to seek medical treatment in the city, see a specialist as the rash was getting worse and Penny was getting some other strange symptoms.
Andrew convinced Patsy and Paul that they should stay and enjoy the rest of their holiday and that he and Penny would come back the following weekend to spend another few days of the summer holidays together in Nemes. Penny was due to leave for University soon and Patsy and Paul would be starting back to school the next week.
Martha was worried about her oldest daughter but she agreed with Andrew that there was no point in taking the twins back to the city needlessly and that Penny would probably get better once she had seen a skin specialist. Teenage hormones and all that!
Patsy had collected some wildflowers for Penny to take back to Riverleigh but Martha thought that they might irritate the rash on the journey back in the hot car and took them to put in a vase.
As Patsy and Paul said goodbye to their sister and she waved weakly back, Bob chased behind the car barking excitedly.
Martha stood at the kitchen window and laughed at the sight. She put the wildflowers in a vase in the dining room and thought to herself how lucky she was to have such a loving and complete family.
upper was a fondue that night, Paul’s favourite. He loved dipping the bread and meat into the thick gloopy cheese sauce. Martha was in a good mood. Andrew had phoned earlier to say that he and Penny had arrived home safely and that Penny had perked up a bit on the drive. Martha was glad – she just wanted to enjoy her time with her younger children.
Time went by so quickly and she couldn’t believe that her first born was ready to fly the nest already and go to University!
The phone rang in the kitchen. As Martha got up to answer it she deftly grabbed the vase of wildflowers that Patsy had collected earlier that day for Penny. It was a bit too close to Paul and his over-excited hand movements as he signed to Patsy a story that he had made up about a bear and a rabbit. Martha smiled to herself; she was lucky to have such expressive and joyful children.
Paul was getting right into his story when a smash tore Patsy’s attention away from him. Martha had dropped the vase and the phone as she slumped to the floor in a heap.
The funeral was beautiful. All of Penny’s friends attended and Patsy covered the coffin in wildflowers that she had brought back from the mountains. The sight of it all as Paul signed Penny’s favourite song, “Always There” whilst the coffin disappeared behind the curtains brought tears to everyone’s eyes.
The family was torn apart. None of the doctors had an answer as to why a healthy 18-year-old like Penny could suddenly be taken from them with a rash and muscle stiffness. Andrew spent more and more time at work. He couldn’t face coming home to the heartache and he started to sleep at the office.
Martha was put on anti-depressants by the GP and concerned neighbours looked after Patsy and Paul. Paul stopped signing and retreated into his silent world whilst Patsy tried to pretend that life hadn’t changed, that Penny was still there and that she would wake up and find that all this had been a terrible dream.
Andrew didn’t come home for a week. Martha, stabilised by her medication, went along to his bank on the Sunday to try to get through to Andrew, to tell him that she and Patsy and Paul needed him, that Penny wouldn’t have wanted this. She found him on the couch in his office. He was covered in boils and frothing at the mouth. He looked at her with soulless eyes and Martha knew then that although she called the paramedics straight away, nothing would save her husband.
Patsy and Paul went to live with foster parents and Martha was admitted to the psychiatric ward of the Bellevue Private Hospital. Life had been turned upside down and inside out.
As the months passed, more and more children came to live with the foster family as adults all over the city perished due to this Virus that had taken hold of the world.
Word got to Patsy and Paul that Martha had passed away in her sleep and mercifully had been too tranquillised to notice the horrifying affects that the Virus had had on her in her last days.
Patsy clung to her dog Bob for comfort. He was the only friend she had and was the link between her and her silent brother Paul. Only when they were with Bob was Paul able to sign. He was comforted by the warm breath of the dog and felt at ease enough to communicate with his sister.
The last day at the foster home was a sad one. Jessie had passed away a fortnight ago and now Darla had been taken to hospital. Without foster parents and with no adults able to take over the running of the home things started to go crazy.
Groups of scary looking kids came and took away all the electrical items from the house and others vandalised the place. Food was stolen and clothing was taken. The other kids that lived there were older than Patsy and Paul and had long gone.
Eventually Patsy and Paul had to face facts – they weren’t safe in this part of the city and had to find somewhere that they could hide.
Thankfully they had Bob to protect them as they stepped out into a world without adults, a world of chaos.