Amelia laid in bed. Her nose scraped clean and raw by repeated attacks of Kleenex, she huddled under the blankets on her bed. At six she didn't understand why the normal method of breathing wouldn't just sort itself out and come back to her. When she opened her mouth to get air, she could hear the rattle and gurgle of fluids in her chest. The sound of liquid bubbling around where it oughtn't be distracted her from sleep. Lack of sleep made the already irritable child positively miserable and she began to softly whimper to herself as she lay.
The sound of Amelia's cries drew her older sister, Therese, into the room. She peered intently at the girl. Her hands were clasped behind her back and she stared at her little sister like she was a museum exhibit. "What's the matter with you", she said abruptly. "'m sick", Amelia muttered. "And I'm cold even though I'm under all these blankets!" "Well, that's probably the fever. You're all red and sweaty", Therese glanced sidelong at her. "Mom's says it's the best thing for you, really. It'll burn the virus out."
"But, I don't want to get burned!" declared Amelia. She'd had a sunburn once. It had been painful, but then had led to several days of peeling skin. She reconsidered, "Will I get to peel stuff off my arms again?" "No", replied Therese. "But, on the upside, you probably won't die. That's something."
"I don't want to die!" Amelia's tired little brain knew about death. Death is what happens to your goldfish when they leap out of their bowls and fuse to the bureau while you're at school all day. She wanted no part of that.
Therese contemplated this. "Wait just a second", she said. She left the room. Amelia thought about taking this opportunity to see if she could get Mom to bring her one of those frozen Pedialyte things to suck on, but she was more distracted by the idea of death. Would she begin by rotting away at the tip of her already chaffed nose? What would it feel like to be stuck to the bed? She began crying anew.
Her sister came back into the room holding a dilapidated stuffed bunny. "Here", she said, holding the bunny out to Amelia. "What's this", she asked. "This," said Therese, "is Plague Bunny. You sleep with Plague Bunny at night and while you're sleeping Plague Bunny takes your sickness away every time you roll over and he falls out of the bed and onto the floor. Eventually he gets it all and you get better." "But, what if he doesn't fall out of bed while I'm sleeping", Amelia inquired suspiciously. "Then what?"
"Well, then", her sister replied. "That just means that God hates you."
But Amelia hadn't heard her. She had already fallen asleep.