's 2019 Horror Write-off:

You are what you perceive

Submitted by Lionel Collins

I was tired, a long day of classes over. I walked into my apartment disheveled and almost limping, my feet sore from the walk. I made a little circuit around my studio, watering my little plant, warming up some shitty taquitos and sitting on my bed to eat them. There wasn’t any  chairs. I desperately wanted a cat to keep me company, but I would never make a cat live in this shithole. Every time I turned on the microwave it made the whole room smell like cockroaches because of how many had died there. At least it was the weekend, so I had a few days of break. I scrolled through my phone for a few minutes before passing out asleep.

I woke up with my nose clogged and head foggy. Oh christ, I was getting sick wasn’t I?. And it was the weekend too, the worst time possible because I couldn’t properly savor the break. I got up, wavering slightly in place as my head pulsed, and went to go take my morning medications. I had to wait an hour before eating, so I figured I should go to the store in the interim. It was about a mile, with a small portion uphill. It was one of those weird, slightly hipster organic places, but it was the only one within walking distance so it was where I went. I cleared out my backpack and started walking. 

I purchased my goods (eggs, cheese, and spinach for omelettes) and started to walk back to my apartment. I considered buying a rotisserie chicken, but I think they were underseasoned today. I couldn’t smell them at all. Maybe my nose was too clogged, I dunno. 

On the way back I saw a cat. It was walking in a residential street, so I went to go chase it out of the road and possibly to pet it. It was a little black cat, just an adolescent. I walked up to it and it didn’t run, but when I went to let it sniff my hand, it tried and then pulled away. It wasn’t pleased. I don’t really know what that means, but at least it got out of the street.

I got back to my room without much incident, although the door jammed again. I needed to oil it or something, but I didn’t really know how to do that and I didn’t want to ask for help. I started to do some extremely boring studying for my classes for about an hour, got distracted, started playing some video games, got distracted from that too, and then finally remembered to eat and go to sleep.

The next day wasn’t really any better in terms of sickness. I woke up with my mouth dry and nose clogged once again. At least I didn’t have to do anything today. At most there was a bit of homework I was cursed to have. I got up, did basic functions, and not much else happened. Normally, I would go to the library to study, but I was something of a health hazard, and also I wasn’t really in the mood to leave.

The spinach I purchase always goes bad surprisingly quickly, so I opted to make an omelette for lunch. I hadn’t eaten breakfast but it probably still counted as lunch. The omelette was… oddly tasteless. I’m not saying I messed it up, because I messed it up in a way that would make it more flavorful--burning the shit out of the bottom of it. Again. It didn’t taste of anything. It was very strange. Normally, cheese comes through very clearly, which is the reason I add a fuckton of it. I dunno, maybe I was sick. I finished eating my omelette and got back to work on my geography homework. 

When I woke up the next day, not at all emotionally prepared to go to school, the sickness was even worse. I tried to get out of bed and failed miserably. I got my feet under me and then they quickly stopped being under me. My head was too foggy, I couldn’t keep balanced. Every time I tried the headache pounded harder, so eventually I stopped trying. I laid back down and emailed my professors that I was sick today. The angle to see my laptop and write on it was a little irritatinged, but I didn’t want to sit up, as that would only make my headache worse.

I didn’t do much that day, as anyone who has ever had a significant illness would know, they’re kinda hard to fight enough to actually do work. I did manage to drag myself slightly out of my bed in order to drink some water. Walking is much harder when you don’t have any sense of when you’re going to fall over. It takes a lot of delicate shuffling of feet. I managed to get to the sink and then I drank a metric ton of water. Afterwards, I grabbed an apple and went to go lay back down. When I was a few feet away, I tripped. I couldn’t get my arms out in front of me in time, it didn’t really feel like there was advance warning, just standing and then suddenly not standing. Luckily, I just hit my head on my bed. If I was just a few inches further back I might have injured myself pretty badly. I got back into bed and then promptly fell asleep once again. 

The next day, when I woke up, my head hurt even more somehow. I wasn’t even sure how that was possible, but apparently it was. At this point I was seriously considering going to the doctor, but, y’know, bills. I was probably going to be fine in a few days as long as I grit my teeth and bore it. I continued not doing much. I read a little bit, played a few games on my phone, etcetera. I didn’t notice it before, but when I started to watch some youtube videos I couldn’t hear any of them. In justification of why I didn’t notice before, I use subtitles on my games, and I figured my headache was fucking with my hearing. It only became noticeable on youtube because youtube is a pretty critically sound based. The auto generated captions were shitty, after all. Really I should have done something, but I wasn’t quite sure what to do. If I couldn’t go to the doctor I didn’t really have a lot of options.

I resolved not to worry about it. Nothing I could do about it, really, other than wait it out. Patience is a virtue, you know. Optimism!

I slept some more, only waking up briefly. I’m prone to sleeping a lot when I’m sick. It gets the sickness over with faster. When I woke up again, at probably around threeish in the morning, it was kinda hard to tell what was happening. I couldn’t see anything. At this point I got panicked enough that I decided to call 911 and get to a hospital. I grabbed my phone and tried to unlock it. I swiped my finger over and over again in the pattern. Did I forget to charge it overnight? It was on the charger! I flailed my fingers over the phone one more time before resolving to get out of my apartment. 

I kicked off my blankets and sort of slithered out of bed. I knew damn well I wasn’t going to be able to stand like this. I inched my way to where I knew the door was. I scraped my hands against all the random shit on my floor, but at least I knew where I was. I was having a hard time telling how far forward I was moving though, my legs just weren’t giving me much feedback on how far I was pushing myself forward. I managed to get myself to the door, and with laborious intent, pulled myself upward to open the door. The doorknob twisted slowly, but the door jammed. I pulled harder, and fell over again. Fucking door, such utter bullshit. I pulled myself up once again, and fell over once again. This time I fell forwards instead of backwards, and slammed my head against the wall. I got really disoriented, although less so than you may expect, as I was already too dizzy to get more dizzy. It hurt my head something fierce though, and I think I cut myself. I could feel liquid running down my face, but I had to keep trying. My throat was moving. I think I started screaming, but I couldn’t really tell.

After a while I just layed on the floor to catch my breath. I was trying to rest for a moment before trying again, but then I fell asleep once more. I woke up in dazed patches, barely registering the difference between dreams and waking. If anything, the dreams felt more real. 

I woke up again, maybe. It didn’t really feel like it. It didn’t really feel like anything. I couldn’t feel anything. Just an unending void of sensation. I knew I was awake only because I could tell my body was there. I could move it, sort of, but it barely felt like it was mine. I clapped my hands together, just to check, and felt nothing when they connected. 

I slept again.

Then there was nothing.