(In 1952, polio reached its peak in the United States with 21,000 cases of paralytic polio. The first polio vaccine was introduced in 1955. By 1965, the total paralytic cases had fallen to 61. In this fictionalized history series, we will be experiencing the aftermath of polio, before the dramatic triumph of a vaccine. If you're just joining us, go back to Part 1.)
Julia whimpered in the dark.
"What's wrong honey? Did something happen?"
Julia shook her head.
"I don't feel good."
She tightened. "What's wrong?"
"I can't sleep. There's things in my head. They won't go away."
"Oh honey, come here."
Their skin touched, and she felt the heat.
An icy fear clove to her bones. "Do you have a fever?"
Julia sniffled. "I don't know. My throat hurts."
A cold. Just a cold.
Her thoughts slid back and forth in her head. She chased around images and tried to anchor them.
Aspirin. Cold compresses.
"Summer colds are miserable," she said.
"Mom?" The voice quivered.
Before she could respond, Julia heaved in her arms. Vomit hit her arm. Splashed all over her legs.
The girl gagged and coughed.
...not a cold not a cold not a cold.
"Take a deep breath," she said. "Relax."
Julia tried to pull her hair back and out of the way.
"Don't worry about that. Let's get this off you."
Her hands fiddled with Julia's nightgown. Gave up. Reached for a tissue. Dropped it.
"It's just something you ate," she said. "You got it out of your system now. You'll be okay."
She started for the bathroom. Turned around. Pulled at the bedspread. Looked at the mess dripping from her blouse.
The room sounded electric.
She wondered where the sound was coming from.
She tried to move.
But all she could do was watch her.
Go back to Part 2.