The pain from the disease hit Jeff in the chest just before three in the afternoon. It was a sharp pain somewhat near his chest but a bit lower that caused him to gasp and black out for a moment. He fell out of his chair and onto the rough corporate carpet.
His supervisor noticed the slumping body and walked over. “Well now! What do we have here? Napping on the job?” None of Jeff's coworkers turned to look; each was intent on their task of dialing their phones looking for someone who had enough money to spend upon the luxury of planning for more money. They were three weeks into a two week temporary assignment. Jeff struggled to open his eyes and bring the supervisor's running shoes into focus. He groaned.
“Are you alright?” The supervisor asked. “Should I call someone? An ambulance maybe?” Jeff tried to shake his head no and stand up but the pain was too intense. He grasped at his chair and took quick, panting breaths, his mind desperately trying to rationalize and compartmentalize his pain as he had been doing for weeks but it was no use. The wheels of the chair rolled and Jeff was back on the ground. The supervisor lost his jolly demeanor. “I think an ambulance is in order.”
Jeff passed out again and only awoke as the gurney wheeled him by the supervisor's desk. “Yes, an ambulance was called,” his supervisor said, “but it wasn't related to any accident here so it won't be at our expense.” A pause, then “I called the ambulance at 2:51.” Another pause, then “I think he stopped working around 2:45.”
The ambulance took Jeff to the closest hospital, a large modern affair run by a religious order as a way for them to have a hand in the grace of God. They pumped Jeff full of chemicals to ease his pain while they examined him and realized that he was going to die. They didn't tell anyone this because they felt it was known that everyone dies except some people cause suffering before they die and some afterwords. Their treatment worked and it allowed Jeff to return to lucid thought when he opened his eyes. There he saw his wife Rebecca who was by his side instead of at work and and he realized that they were totally fucked.
Of course they didn't start out that way. Jeff met Rebecca back when they were both in college. There they had studied all aspects of modern life and took classes they thought would give them tools for success. They both had to pay for their education by borrowing money but it was a given that the value of what they were getting would far exceed their debt.
At first this was true and upon leaving school they both quickly found work at large companies, work that was intangible due to it's supportive nature yet instrumental in each company's success. They went to work each day and banked savings while paying down their debt.
But then the economy crashed. It wasn't something that was brutal but clean and merciful—it was just a case of things disappearing. First it was the perks at the office—no more donuts in the morning or free coffee all day. Then other perks fell—the free insurance and health club membership. Then cheap fuel disappeared and it began to cost real money to pay for the commute to the office.
Then the chief executives of the company disappeared and the mood in the office grew dark. And soon after that Jeff's job disappeared. He and Rebecca were able to keep things going for a while. Jeff was able to find something to replace his income but it took more then six months and some of that money they had saved was gone.
But they still had a home and were happy and even thinking of starting a family when the executives at Rebecca's job disappeared. She as able to find work quickly but the new company didn't pay as much s what she was doing before, a somewhat demotion she took to make sure she could still pay the bills.
Then the stock market crashed and with it went their savings and a little bit more hope. Soon Jeff faced unemployment again as his new company cut back by eliminating those without seniority and he took work as a temporary employee—someone who would and could do anything, just not always well. Rebecca's new job was transitioned into contract status and with it the last shred of insurance—their only option a snake of a plan that would suck their finances dry. So they passed.
“Now we face a greater challenge,” Jeff said, his eyes welling up with tears of love for his wife. “But we shall persevere.” Just then the machine behind him emitted a loud beep and his heart stopped and he died.
Rebecca woke up from her dream with a fast beating heart and a cold sweat. The darkness washed over her, gave her peace. She could hear Jeff's even breathing, not labored as it was before. They wouldn't have to go to the hospital now because and the fever had broke.