Rather than indulge in lovely Christmassy things – choccies, roast taters, nibbles, Bailey’s over ice to name but a few, my body decided it ought to conduct some much-needed research into what it would feel like to become a zombie.
As with a real zombie infection, I wasn’t given a choice. Nice huh?
A couple of days before Christmas, Christmas Eve’s eve, let’s call it Zombie Eve, I felt it coming. You know the feeling, right? That slight shift behind the eyes, a subtle body wobble that let’s you know there’s a cold in the post. It’s on the way, you just don’t know when it’ll arrive.
That’s okay. I don’t get ill. I’m a good person. I can shrug that off no problem and still scoff down roast turkey and all the trimmings.
Sick day…genuine horror.
For the first time in 3 and half years I had no choice but to call work and say I could barely walk to the toilet, let alone get to my car and go to work. I felt bad, as in guilty. I pride myself on my healthy work record. The second the phone call ended I slouched in bed, coughing and wincing as every fibre in body cried in agony.
I admit feeling sorry for myself. I didn’t want to admit it was the flu. I hear time and again people tell me: “I can’t work today, I’ve got the flu. I’ll be back tomorrow.” Which always makes me laugh.
I was 18 when I last had the flu. That was 20 years ago and I never wanted to experience it again.
Christmas Day memories are very floaty. I recall presents, laughs, smiles, wrapping paper everywhere and so on. But I wasn’t really there. I sipped water, took tablets, coughed and went to bed. Boxing Day was worse.
It was like slipping out of the world by a tiny fraction. Just enough to know I was still there, I was still me, but somehow different, disconnected, unthinking beyond the next cough, the next juddering wheeze that hurt every part of my body.
The pound coin.
On the carpet by my bed was a pound coin. I spent days focussing on this single object. After bunching pillows up so I could try to snatch some sleep, because lying down was a big no, I’d settle, try to breathe, then be caught in a retching cough so violent I had to sit on the edge of the bed and pray the breathing calmed down.
That was when the delirium set in.
With nothing to focus on but what was around me, I swapped my attention between the pound coin, bottles of Lucozade on my bedside table, the side of a box of Terry’s Chocolate Orange – unopened, and a few stray sheets of used tissue.
I’d shuffle to the living room on occasion, settle in the centre of the sofa so my head could rest between the cushions, and hope the breathing would be easier. There I focussed on new things – a Mickey Mouse bag: “The little guy with a big heart!” on the side, a scrap of Christmas wrapping paper stuck under the coffee table, a Frozen DVD case where the big eyes of Elsa seemed to mock me.
Everything was a pound coin. I’d catch myself staring at the same stuff, unable to change my environment because it hurt to blink, let alone move. But I had to move before I went mad.
Over the days I’d retreated into my own world, not through choice, but the virus had stolen my ability to be human.
That’s a weird one. Zombies moan and groan. They don’t talk. I did my share of groaning, and very little speaking. And when I did my voice sounded like someone else’s. Listless, weak, breathless.
I had to send a text to work, explaining my ongoing issues. That’s very frowned upon because it can be seen as a cop-out for those who aren’t ill and don’t actually want to talk to a manager.
But there was no way in hell I could speak over the phone.
By Saturday I began to worry there was something worse going on than flu, or becoming a zombie. I’d started to puke up some nasty stuff, even water wasn’t staying put. After calling NHS Direct, and waiting 6 hours for a call back, I was taken to hospital emergency care place.
That was a drive I’ll never forget. Imagine having every fibre of your body mutated into priceless crystal, fine tuned to ring out the word aaaaaAAAAggooooonneeeeeeyyYYYYY with every tiny bump in the road.
The doc asked me what was wrong.
I smiled. No joke. “Dude, isn’t it obvious? I’m a zombie.”
“Well you say that like it’s a new thing,” says Doc. “I’ve seen zombies before you, and I’ll see them again.”
I grabbed him by his neatly pressed purple V-neck sweater. “There’s got to be a cure. I can’t live like this.”
“You zombies are all the same,’ he said, swatting aside my feeble grip. “Me, me, me.”
I gurgled. “Help me!”
Then I blinked and realised he was waiting for me to speak. I sat there like a bag of bones in his consultation room, struggling to speak and breathe at the same time, as I explained the symptoms.
The doc said I’d contracted an aggressive chest infection, and my oxygen saturation levels were worryingly low.
“Thanks doc, it’s good to know I’m not an actual zombie, but seriously dude, aren’t you supposed to keep that shit to yourself?”
In my delirious state the doc seemed to shrug and kept a very wide berth as he opened the door for me to leave. “Just don’t touch me, and don’t touch anything or anyone else. Your kind aren’t welcome here.”
I’m pretty sure he didn’t say that.
Shuffle, car, pharmacy, people, bright lights, noise, confusion.
I didn’t care what I looked like. I’m pretty sure other folks were giving me funny looks as I shuffled through the supermarket trying to focus on recognisable objects. I was light-headed, close to passing out, wheezing, like a zombie.
Peach & Passion fruit Drench.
Sat waiting for my bag of magical antizombie pills, I clutched a bottle of Drench, flavoured water. I avoid that stuff as it’s full of sugar, and I don’t remember buying it either. Up to that point I’d been drinking water, and I couldn’t remember the last time I ate something, a few days probably.
Imagine a shot glass for mice. Picture the size? Cute right? That’s the amount of liquid I took from that bottle. Barely enough to register on my tongue.
I don’t know if I can describe that sensation that will even come close to how it felt. It was like having all my dead taste buds shocked alive in a millisecond. I was certain my saliva glands had produced enough liquid to fill a swimming pool.
At one point it actually hurt to have that level of intense flavour flood my mouth at the same time. Yet the weird thing is I was very aware that the rest of my body was still being strangled by grey lifeless mush.
Back home I choked down my first antizombie pill, took my new-found best drinkie pal to bed and hoped that the stuff I was coughing up (nasty stuff, dear blog reader, really gruesome horrendous stuff) would ease off for a whole so I could sleep.
The pound coin was still on the floor beside my feet throughout the night.
My deliriousness changed then, and began to picture a strange vision of what my salvation from zombiehood might look like.
You know those vivid dreams you get at times when you’re ill? They’re somehow stronger, more powerful, almost real in a sense, and sort of believable.
Mine came in bursts. I saw myself running a juice bar in town. Clean and white, shelves stocked with all manner of healthy juice drinks, from every day Evian water, to expensive imported stuff, to basic squash and rich mysterious tonics from far away places.
Customers would flock to my shop, keen to test out my latest product. I’d have samples ready, delivered through those squirt gun things that dispense Coke or lemonade.
“I see you’re interested in my new range?”
“They all look amazing. That’s a green one.”
“Yes, it’s from Asia, it’s got essence of Ginseng and Tea Tree, care to try?”
And I’d squirt a burst into a glass tumbler, let them savour the beautiful taste, smile then move to another sample before leaving my shop with a purchase. Word would spread of my marvellous new shop and people would come from far and wide.
With each iteration of the dream, The Fountain changed, the colourful lush sign outside became more beautiful and enticing, the stock of flavoured fruit juices and tonics increasingly varied and outlandish.
That was my go to place during my delirious antizombie phase.
That and the pound coin on the carpet.
I don’t recall when the fever broke as such, but I know I was persuaded to try to eat something. A simple bowl of pasta. Nothing too strenuous. I had four bits and set it to one side.
It was tasty. But the texture was the same as the stuff I was still coughing up.
I tried Heinz Cream of Tomato soup next. Yes. Yes. Very tasty. Soothing. Slipped down a treat. And stayed down, thank Christ. The antizombie pills were working. I could feel myself slipping back into the present, like the essence of me was starting to synch with the rest of my body.
I know it’s gross but I didn’t wash in that time. I couldn’t. Besides, zombies don’t wash, right? Well that’s my excuse.
I wasn’t prepared for how weak I was. Turning dials in the shower, squirting shower gel onto that scrunchy thing and moving my hands over my body…agony and revitalising at the same time. Drying myself off after, well, I know I came close to passing out. I’d exerted myself too much and I sat on the toilet seat, amazed at how little strength the zombie virus had left me with.
On a whim I weighed myself.
I’d lost 14 pounds.
That’s just stupid.
Here and now.
The antizombie pills have indeed worked. I have my voice back, and some of my appetite too.
I’m still coughing, though not as bad. I can walk around but still feel light-headed. As someone who never gets ill I am very shocked to have been hit so hard, yet glad I didn’t go full zombie.
It’s taken a day to write this, and though it’s not up to my usual level of positivity and humour, I do feel human just by making words appear on the screen.
I’m trying to think of a way to throw a positive vibe onto the ordeal. I guess I could say I survived. I got through it, but then what other choice was there? I was never going to become a zombie, though at times that’s what I felt like.
Today I ordered something off Amazon. A Magimix Smoothie Maker. I’ve wanted one for a long time, but never got around to doing anything about it. I guess it’s partly due to my delirious time spent at The Fountain and my desire to consume more than fizzy pop.
I don’t do New Years Resolutions as such, promises made just because it’s the start of a year seem hollow. I prefer to think of taking baby steps towards a different lifestyle, and if creating fresh drinks each day can help then I’m happy with that.
And so there you have it, dear blog reader, my first post in 2015.
Not exactly a cheery one to start with, but hey, at least the pound coin is no longer on the bedroom carpet.