This illness started out as a bite that I (and nobody I asked for that matter) could identify. The first day it burned. An ever present distraction to the work I tried to do. In the midst of that burning, I received several rejections and critiques that felt the same. A day of discomfort, of distracting pain.
I got nothing done but feeling sorry for myself. Check, depression accomplished.
The next day, the bite/swelling progressed into a soreness that I was concerned might become necrotic. But check after check revealed the same mild irritation and lots of nothing. Not even a true lump to speak of. A slightly reddish area on the hard-to-see back of my elbow. Somewhere my fingers and mind can barely get to.
I had to resolve to let it ride. Either that or the walk in clinic, and I’ve had enough experiences in my life with “It’s nothing. Go home and put ice on it.” that cost upwards of all my tip money. So, I chose let it ride.
After the soreness set it, it kept on. Only the next progression had nothing to do with the bite/swelling/sting. It was the brewings of a sore throat I know well because I’ve had sore throats consistently my whole life. Some stretches, it was once a month. Almost on the dot. More regular than most femmes’ menstrual cycle. I got so used to it that I eventually stopped thinking of sore throats as being “ill”. It was just the day-to-day.
So, this sore throat started up on day three as a sort of noticeable discomfort right where the tubes to my ears connect. I know it well because it always starts there. My left ear itcheed off and on all day. I went to sleep knowing that without fail, tomorrow I will be sick.
Sure enough. Full blown throat-nearly-swollen-closed sick. It took me years to realize I had a hard time swallowing because my tonsils were pressing into the back of my throat. That was the situation in the mirror. And my epiglottis was huge and red, hanging limp like a numb limb. I couldn’t raise or lower it. It just flapped around against my tongue. Luckily, I don’t really have a gag reflex so I didn’t want to throw up. Probably because of the repetition of this very issue.
So, I had a sinus infection. No big surprise.
But what unnerved me was this: that bug bite. Were the two connected? Was I dying?
Life imitates art, or vice versa. Actually, both.
And the strangest thing is that one of the rejections that had sent me crashing into the dumps was in response to a story where this exact kind of thing happens.
Someone gets a rash. It’s nothing. It’s gotta be nothing.
This is the future and people don’t die of disease or illness. But then, people don’t get rashes either. So, that’s just fucking weird. Ignore it.
Said someone ignores it and it turns into a real tried and true sickness. Said person dies on the news. It’s huge. Then, everyone around starts getting that same weird rash. And it turns out that it’s a genetically modified disease meant to lower the population of the poorest sectors of a refugee camp. These kids figure that out when they go outside the fence to ask someone named Grim who doesn’t live in the refugee camps. A sort of info gathering outlier.
Grim says everyone with the rash is gonna die. But hey, you already-rashed-up kids can help us try to find a way to stop it. I mean, since you have it already. What do you lose? You’re going to die. Might as well be an experiment. Am I right?
One kid goes for it. Sounds cushy. But Protag thinks — no. I’d rather help my friends who we left behind.
Now, the thing is that I don’t think the story is so clear. Hence the rejection that threw me into a tailspin. And I think now I’m on the other side of exactly that experience (I mean, minus Grim and the dying and killing my friends inadvertently part) – I might have just been given the opportunity to sit with this story in a way I hadn’t anticipated. But, in a way that might just fix it.
I am going to go talk to Grim…