There really was no point in going back now. The damage had been done. Cora stood on the ship watching as chaos consumed the city she so loved, the city she had been born in. The night sky was lit up with the massive fires that stretched throughout the lower east side. Many lives had been lost already though the flames continued to grow, climbing buildings, consuming everything in its path, but it was somewhat contained for now, to the lower east-the slums- so extinguishing it just yet wasn’t a priority.
They had begun to evacuate the more important citizens while they took what precautions they could to keep the fire from spreading to the more prominent end of the city. The impoverished had been trapped behind bags of sand and rock, screaming to be allowed out but their screams fell on deaf ears. It was a risk that the city officials would not take lest the horrible “affliction” that devastated the shantytown infect the rest of the population. Soldiers were posted at various points throughout the city’s blighted areas and told to shoot whomever crossed the barricade.
So much pointless loss as healthy men, women, and children were made to perish with those who had been infected. Soon an entire population of people would be eradicated just because they were born in squalor. It was genocide at its best.
Cora looked away as the screams of the innocent pervaded the night air. The screams of those people, especially the children, would haunt her for the rest of her life.
As she ran from her apartment loft to the dock she heard a pitiful cry as a young child lay on the ground whimpering as she clutched a blood soaked teddy bear. Cora went to her and looked down at the child, tears staining her face. The child reached up and took hold of the hem of Cora’s skirt, begging her for help. Cora pulled away from the child, she could do nothing to save her; the child was burned horrible. Her blood pooled around her and she was gasping for air.
A solider emerged from the smoke and shadows, bellowing orders for everyone to move swiftly to the loading dock, the ship was getting ready to depart. He took one look at the child, raised the sword in his hand, and severed her head from her neck. A spray of blood hit Cora in the face and she wiped at it furiously with her gloved hand, staining the grey lace crimson.
“Move along miss!” The Solider hissed at her as he grabbed her by the arm and began to pull her towards the dock.
“Unhand me!” Cora snapped. “I can walk on my own sir!”
The solider nodded and released her. “Quickly,” He told her, a slight smirk stretched across his hardened features, “I’d hate to see a pretty little thing such as yourself lose her head.”
A spark of anger rose up in Cora suddenly as she stared at the smug look on the soldiers face. How she would have loved to strike the look from his face, but there wasn’t time for such things, the boat would not wait. She turned quickly, pulling the hem of her skirts off the pavement and ran as quickly as she could through the streets.
“Last Call!” The Seamen yelled from the boat. They were already pulling up the ramp by the time Cora reached the ship.
“Wait!” She cried out, “Please, wait for me!”
The Seamen Stepped to the end of the ramp, one foot on the dock and held out his hand to her. His face was kind and full of concern, “Best hurry Miss.” He said, “Captain won’t wait for any soul, no man, woman, nor child.”
Cora placed her hand in his and he pulled her up onto the ramp with ease. “My gratitude sir.”
“Do you have family on board?” He asked her.
Cora shook her head. “I’m traveling alone I’m afraid.”
“You’d be safer traveling with a companion.” The sailor scratched his head as he looked around to the people gathered on the deck. “Plenty of married women aboard who could use a companion; I could point a few out to you.”
“Thank you sir,” Cora smiled to the youth, “But not necessary. I can take care of myself.”
“As you wish miss.” The young sailor bowed to Cora then left her.
A group of travelers had gathered on deck to watch the devastation. Cora joined them, standing near the edge of the ship, watching the city burn as the ship departed. The outbreak had started rather abruptly. The first people who began to disappear were vagrants, prostitutes, criminals, and all other lower class individuals that wouldn’t be missed. Next the children began to vanish. Grief stricken mothers crowded the local chapel as they prayed for the safe return of their young. When a group of young children were spotted near the cemetery, their parents rejoiced, but they’re happiness was short lived. The children began to attack their parents, as well as anyone who attempted to subdue them. That’s when the city officials realized that the children had been afflicted by some strange illness. The disease spread like wild fire, infecting all who had been attacked. As the body count rose, people began talking about a city wide epidemic. Streets were closed off. The afflicted were quarantined. Those who lived in poverty were closed off from the rest of the world and condemned to death, sick or not.
The upper class thought that they were safe. Obviously no dignified, blue-blood could contract such a horrible condition. Life went on pretty much as it always had for the upper crust of society though they were careful to avoid any contact with those who had been forsaken.
It wasn’t until mid October- just days away from the fall festival- that a young man born from a very prestigious family, and heir to veritable fortune, became one of the afflicted.
Cora remembered well the night that he stumbled into the banquet hall; His skin pale white, his eyes glassy, dull, and empty. His mouth dripped with blood staining the white blouse he was wearing. The music stopped and a chorus of gasps echoed throughout the suddenly silent room. Cora took a few short, unsteady steps towards him. “Darcy?” Cora whispered the name. The young man turned to look at her but there was no recognition in his eyes for the disease had turned him mad. Cora backed away slowly realizing the danger she was in. The man that stood before her was a monster; nothing of the boy she had known in her youth remained.
Cora, like so many others, ran from the banquet hall when the attacks started. Darcy moved through crowds of people who were once good friends, even family, ripping them to pieces as if they ere nothing more than animals. The blood bath at Barkridge manor is a tale that will be told for generations to come. Few made it out alive; those who weren’t as lucky joined the ranks of the afflicted. Within days of Barkridge, the city had been lost and the fires began.
Cora stood alone now on the deck of that ship. Her family had been murdered before her eyes, her friends were gone, they were either dead or they had escaped as she had, perhaps to another ship, but it didn’t matter to her now. The city was ravaged by the flames as well as the afflicted and soon they too would be destroyed.
An elderly woman standing a few feet from Cora was staring at her oddly. Cora remembered the child in the street, the way her blood had splattered Cora’s face and gown. She took out her handkerchief and wiped her face once more, hoping to get any blood that remained. The blood of the afflicted was putrid, sickening, nothing like the blood of the living. Cora pulled the color of her cape up around her neck, the burning pain of the bite was still there but beginning to fade now. She looked to the old woman and smiled sweetly, the woman looked away quickly.
There was plenty of fresh blood on the ship to get Cora to where she was going; Fresh blood and a fresh start. She was bound for America; a new land filled with wonderful potential and people, ripe with…possibilities.
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