Riza's Meningitis - The End of the Old Order - Part 16

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The End of the Old Order

 

Part 16:
Riza's Meningitis

Avir stands up as the Mantis barrels down a bumpy road. She balances herself on both feet and examines the control panel. She kneels down and places both hands on the control panel. She pulls as hard as she can. “Stop,” I yell. But before I can get to her, she has loosened the panel enough to stick her hand behind it and yank out some wires. She must have done something right because the Mantis slows to a halt. She reaches for the emergency handle and opens the side hatch. She jumps out and Trina and I follow. We are still in the desert, but up the road is a small settlement, probably an outer suburb of Yerusalom. We start walking towards it.
 
“That wasn’t smart, Avir,” I say. “I had a plan.” The King will soon realize that the Mantis has stopped and we’re not in it. I tell Avir and Trina that we need to walk quickly, but I don’t want them running. They can’t run very far in this heat. “You know I promised the prince I would look out for you. But I can’t protect you if you go rogue on me. You’re going to have to trust me.”
 
“You mean like how you trust me?” Avir stops walking. She taps me on the shoulder so that I stop too. “You’re not going to listen to me unless I explain to you why I was with another man, right?”
 
“That’s right.”
 
“Well, you have no right to know, but I guess you need me to explain myself.”
 
Trina glares at me. “Kade Wyles, don’t you dare.” She then turns to Avir. “Please Avir, you have absolutely nothing to explain. My husband is being an ass. Please don’t say anything.”
 
“It’s okay, Trina,” Avir says. “Your husband is a man. We can’t change that. So, let me just get it over with.” Avir swallows hard and takes a deep breath before beginning. “As you know, my son Daveem, blessed be he, has Riza’s Syndrome. The challenges in caring for him put a severe strain on my relationship with the prince. We fought a great deal and our marriage suffered. There were times when if it weren’t for the children, I would have left him.”
 
Sweat forms above Avir’s upper lip. She breathes heavily from walking while telling her story.

“Riza’s Syndrome is similar to autism, but unlike most other forms of autism, it can lead to a rare, life-threatening form of meningitis called Riza’s Meningitis. When Daveem was diagnosed with Riza’s Meningitis and given only two weeks to live, the prince and I went into a deep tailspin. We were barely communicating, other than to discuss treatment options. We went to every doctor in the kingdom and beyond. We were told by all of them that Daveem would die in a matter of weeks. I would lie next to Daveem every night as he shook from the fever. The prince and I would take turns bathing him in cold alcohol baths. It was our darkest hour. But then what seemed like a miracle came our way. The King’s Minister of Health forwarded our case to medical experts in Anglica. This was against Royal Erabian law, but the King made an exception for us. The Minister of Health eventually introduced us to an Assistant Professor of Experimental Medicine at an Anglican military hospital. His name was Dr. Jules Tarry. Working with software engineers at Prescient Labs, Dr. Tarry had mapped a new genetic immunotherapy that was possibly capable of saving Daveem.”
 
Avir looks down at the ground. Some slow-moving insect crawls across her path. She could easily avoid it, but she doesn’t. She stomps the life out of it. “The prince and I immediately flew to the hospital to meet with this man, Dr. Tarry. He was young and charming and quite handsome, just as Equis said. But he was also dying of cancer. That’s why he was so interested in his research around experimental therapies. He seemed like a lonely young man who was scared of dying. After our meeting at the hospital, he invited us to dinner at his home. We couldn’t refuse. He made sure that we understood that he did not believe in God. He believed men simply followed their interests and he made sure we understood that he was just like any other man. He poured us wine, served us first-class Erabian fare, and politely told us how he would save Daveem through a newly discovered genetic immunotherapy that targeted the infection in the meninges. When the prince raised the issue of cost, Dr. Tarry smiled and said he had absolutely no need for money. He reminded us that he would soon be dead. He stared at the prince and spoke bluntly. “I will administer the first treatment for free and you will see immediate results. After that, in exchange for each additional round of treatment, I will need to fuck your wife.”
 
“Oh my God,” Trina blurts out. “That’s the most awful thing I’ve ever heard. The prince must have killed him.”
 
“The prince did nothing. He slowly stood up from the table, took my hand, and said we would consider the offer. We went back to the hotel where Daveem was being cared for by our medics. The prince and I went on a walk that night. We walked silently for a while and then the prince said it. “We have no choice in the matter.” I initially refused, but the prince said I must do it. As Daveem grew sicker, and the prince’s pleas more desperate, I succumbed. There were four additional treatments. After each, I was required to spend the night at Dr. Tarry’s house. He was very polite. Although I was sick to my stomach each time, I drank the wine he offered me and ate the food he served. He wanted it to seem like a proper date. But then he would take me upstairs to his bedroom and do things that were perverse. I pretended to enjoy our encounters, even the vilest acts. I even went one step further and led Dr. Tarry to believe I was falling for him. I wanted this dying, lonely doctor to believe I was interested in him so that he would be fully invested in my son’s care. If I was going to suffer those indignities in his bedroom, I was going to make sure it was worth it.”
 
Avir begins to cry. Trina puts her arm around her and they walk together for a while. “Daveem was saved by the treatments. But there was more to the story—we were set up. It turned out that Jules Tarry wasn’t a real doctor. He was just a paid actor. Daveem was treated by a different doctor, an actual expert on immunotherapy from one of the Erabian territories.” Avir’s tears flow. “As you know, my nights with this actor were filmed.” Avir tries to stop herself from crying, but it’s no use. “I’ve always suspected that the King was somehow behind this. He always feared the prince as a potential rival to his power. He saw Daveem’s sickness as an opportunity to exploit and one of his advisors probably came up with a plan to blackmail us. That’s also probably why the prince was offered up as a sacrificial lamb to Equis or Mother Suri or whoever is responsible for The War Show. I’m certain it was the King who gave the tapes of me with the actor to Equis.”
 
Avir slows down. She’s exhausted. She wipes away the tears and sweat. “It’s so sad. The prince thought he was strong enough to let me be with another man. But he wasn’t. He was weak and insecure. He couldn’t accept me being with another man even though it was his idea and it was to save our son.”
 
I feel horrible for the way I’ve treated Avir. “I am so sorry I questioned you, Princess. I had no right. Please forgive me.”
 
“You should ask Trina for forgiveness … not me. She is the one who has to be married to you.” Avir smiles. She has let me off easy. By the look on Trina’s face, I’m not so sure she is as forgiving.
 
“I am a bad person, Avir.”
 
“You’re not bad, Colonel. You’re just weak and insecure. Like the prince, you’re just a weak and insecure man.

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