Friday, April 11, 2014

A to Z Challenge: H is for Haemorrhagic

That conference in Kigali almost killed me. I have never been so exhausted in my life. Four lectures a day plus networking in the evenings? Never again. 8,593 miles from Kigali to Denver and I am finally home. Well... if you can call it a home. I don't have much in the way of furniture except for a fold out chair and mattress on the floor.

I drop my bags just inside the door and go to the kitchen. For some reason, a vague sliver of hope rests in that moment before opening the fridge door. As if kitchen fairies might have filled it to the brim with healthful, tasty food. I sigh, staring at the lone bottle of wine and a case of diet soda. I really need to go grocery shopping. For a moment, I just stare into the fridge, enjoying the coolness on my skin. My face feels stretched taut - like the heat of Africa followed me home. I grab the wine and slam the door.

If only my colleagues could get a look at me now. Whenever they see me it's in five star hotels, Prada, Louis Vuitton. I must be quite the picture, sitting on a mattress on the floor drinking wine out of the bottle. It's not even good wine. I laugh to myself and kick off my shoes. God, that feels good. I stretch my toes, arching my foot and stretching it back out. The wine makes me feel warm.

All this jet lag must be finally catching up to me. Or maybe it's the wine. I stretch my whole body this time, feeling the twinges and stiffness of a 30+ hour flight. At least have two days to myself before I fly out again. I'm feeling light headed. I glance at the wine, but I've only had a couple of gulps. Another wave of dizziness hits me and I fall back against the mattress. The wine bottle rolls off the bed. I manage to turn my head and watch as the red wine soaks into the tastefully off-white carpet. I try to care, but exhaustion overwhelms me.

I open my eyes sometime later. It's dark outside. My clock glows dimly showing 9:42 p.m. But I didn't get home until after ten. How long did I sleep? My arms and legs are covered with red starbursts. I must have spilled the wine on myself. I lick a finger and try to rub the red out, but it doesn't wash off. I trace the pattern again. I must be dreaming. I try to sit up, but I feel so heavy. I lay back and watch the headlights flare and fade on the ceiling. The light bends and hits me. I flinch back, covering my eyes with my arms. I must have the flu or something. Maybe a migraine. My head hurts. My  whole body hurts.

Damn those airplanes! Such a small closed space packed in with who knows who? Wasn't there an old man coughing a couple of seats behind me? At the thought, my throat tickles. I try to hold it back, but I can't. I roll onto my stomach and cough. Something splatters into my hand. It looks black, but I can't really tell. It's so dark in here. I wipe it off on a pillow I'm not using and throw it away from me. I should go to the doctor, but the only thing open right now is the ER. I try to sit up again, but fall back on the mattress. There's no way I can drive myself, but surely it's not bad enough to call an ambulance. It's probably just the flu. I should have gotten my shot weeks ago.

I close my eyes and drift off. Or try to. Someone opens the front door and light pours in. I try to cover my eyes, but I cough and cough. The carpet is stained with the black stuff or maybe it was the wine. I'm surrounded. Hands press against my skin, hot and heavy. I try to push them away, but I'm falling. I land against my mattress and start crying. Crying and coughing. My tears are thick. Too thick. I wipe my cheek and my hand comes away red. I scream, scrubbing my face, but I'm still coughing hard. I feel something rising and I vomit, throwing the black something over the carpet and bed, covering the wine stains.

It's a nightmare. A fever dream. I try to find my phone to call 911. My hands scrabble around the bed but the only thing I can get a hold of is the empty wine bottle. It must be in my purse. My purse is across the room with my luggage. I crawl off the bed through the black vomit and wine. Why does my apartment feel so freaking huge? My body is too heavy. The hands press against me, stopping my movement. I scream, but nothing changes. I need to get to the door.

Why do I need to go there? I can't remember. It's so far and I'm so tired. I'm crying steadily, great sobs that wrack my body until I can't breathe. My nails break, digging into the hard concrete under the carpet. I collapse, barely able to move my head.

Something inside me tears. A violent ripping shudders through me, but I relax. My muscles don't have the strength to clench. The pain is numbing. Bright white light washes through my mind and I close my eyes.

My hand lands on the wine bottle. The glass is cool against my skin. I sigh, because now I understand. I'm dying. It wasn't even a good vintage.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, that's an excellent piece! I didn't catch on that it was fiction until about half-way through. A very timely, frightening story.