BY AXEL-NATHANIEL ROSE
He can feel it in his fingers first. ‘I can’t lose my hands,’ he says to his mother, ‘I’m too young’. The doctor thinks he’s faking, he knows it. But he can feel the trickle of it up his arm from where he touches the doctor’s desk, where lots of people had touched the doctor’s desk, and surely they must have felt the same.
It crawls up his arm. viral viral viral
He can’t touch his own jittering leg in class, lest it catch it. viral viral viral
He can’t feel his fingers – his hand crawling with jittering phantom germs viral viral viral viral
The infection seeps into his elbow, and whether or not the doctor knows, he knows. He knows that the burning in his temples and the shaking of his hands mean just one thing, and he’s so scared he can barely breathe. He knows he’s going to lose his hands. And he doesn’t understand why, why it had to be him or how it was him or–
Sepsis. Maybe it was sepsis. Or that day he didn’t get out of the bath until the water got too cold and looked like dust. Meningococcal meningitis–
He doesn’t touch his siblings anymore. He’ll kick them under the table, bump their hips as they pass one another in the doorway. But not touch. Not proper touch, not a hand in the hair, no fingers digging into the wrist. Not a hug.
His sleeves fall down past his fingertips and he’s still scared that they’ll transmit the sickness. He starts doing all his own washing, else he’ll get Mum sick.
He can feel it up his arm and ‘round his elbow. It digs into the crook, the vein. It penetrates his bloodstream. Father says he looks ill, and that’s really saying something. viral viral viral in his bedroom alone because if he spreads the bacteria the sickness will go viral viral viral. His heart-rate is escalating day by day, beat by beat. It’s viral, too. He can feel it in his toes and his thighs, and his elbows and collarbones, in his eyeballs. His hands are so dirty from the inside that he can’t feel anything properly on the outside. His dirt contaminates everyone he talks to, let alone touches. he can see it, all sick and red, congealing, twisting blood. The way his breath gets sticky, like tar, in his lungs. He can see the way they look at him and he knows that it’s his fault he’s sent this viral viral viral
He knows amputation’s an option, because he’s seen it on TV. He’s seen people get healthy on TV and they just don’t have their whole body anymore but that’s okay they’re not viral anymore, their bodies aren’t going viral. The virus was incubated, born from his body and it could end in his body because they weren’t all sick, not yet. Anti-virals, steroids, NSAIDs – those were all words he’d heard and why wouldn’t they work?
Why would no-one talk to him about it?
Why didn’t they earlier before he turned viral viral vi
If he amputated it would just be to his wrist
no to the freckle on his right forearm and the hair on his left one
no that spot where the nurses go in for blood where the blue is a stronger hue but only on the right because it’s creeping up the left to his muscl–
no to his shoulder
If he ate he’d throw it up and if he threw it up he’d spread the virus so he just didn’t try and he’d already given it to so many people. He did his best to pull back, to be selfless just once, but he hadn’t and now they gave him that look which said they knew the truth. He’d killed them.
Still, it was strongest in him, he was the source of the sickness. He could feel the strength of it, ready to pour out the sides. It itched. It burned him and he wished someone would talk about it, because they must feel it just the same. But nobody spoke. He certainly didn’t, curled up on the floor of the shower. Sickly water, boiling hot, never quite cutting the virus away. Hot, stinging tears dripped down his nose and his nasolabial creases, and were washed away.
viral viral viral
viral viral viral