Saturday, June 7, 2008

Fiction Friday: Mercurial Madness

This week's Fiction Friday prompt is: Your character becomes obsessed with someone. Who? And Why?

The alarm went off, sending agonising pulses through her head. Maia reached out to hit snooze, to take another seven minutes to decide how the day would progress from here. When had she finally fallen asleep.

Was the light been seeping in from the Venetian blinds? Or was that yesterday? The day before that?

Laying back down into the warm pillows she forced herself to move beyond the headache to survey the rest of her body. Her arms and legs ached, no better or worse than yesterday, and like every morning, her bowels felt weak. She slowly moved her hands over her swollen abdomen and examined her puffy fingers. The movement left Maia exhausted.

She took the small diary from the bedside table and lying on her side, scribbled down the symptoms. Later on in the day she knew there would be more. Erratic mood swings, unusual sweating, cold feet and more so lately, fevers and sore glands. This little book was her testament to the truth – she was not imagining her illness, she was not a hypochondriac nor was she depressed. She was critically ill and no one believed her.

The alarm went off again.

Maia turned it off and reached for the telephone, her body protesting at the effort.
“Good morning Lizzie,” she greeted weakly.
“I’m guessing you’re ringing in sick – again.”
“I’m not feeling so good.”
“Of course you’re not,” her boss’s PA said, the sarcasm cutting her deeper than the obvious lack of empathy for her situation. “You will need to ring HR about applying for holidays. You’re all out of sick leave.”
“But my medical certificates.”
“Take it up with HR. Some of us around here have work to do,” and the line went dead in her ear.

It took a while for her to realise that the sound Maia could hear was her own weeping. More and more she was detaching herself from her bodily experience to cope. The doctor’s had ordered a plethora of tests which had all came back negative. She didn’t have the Epstein Bar virus so she wasn’t suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – which seemed to her the most obvious diagnosis given her symptoms. She wasn’t suffering from an auto immune disease or an obscure virus. According to all the tests she was a healthy young woman – who just happened to be chronically and painfully wasting away before everyone’s eyes.

Wont they just LISTEN to ME.

The latest diagnosis was depression and she’d been forced to see a psychiatrist. The collective agreement had been that her illness was psychosomatic – she was willing herself into illness.

Maia looked at the bottle of Zoloft. She’d taken one – felt intensely ill and left it at that. The Doctors swept away the skin irritations and the mysterious swelling as side effects of the Zoloft. Maia had never admitted that she was not taking the medication. She wasn’t depressed, what she felt was a consuming frustration with a medical system that was taking the moral high ground with her health, to her detriment. She was the one trapped inside a failing body and no one was listening to her.

There was no reason for Maia to want to make herself sick. Three months ago she had been in the prime of her life – she’d been partying, drinking and playing the field, celebrating being single again - which brought her thoughts back to Andrew as they often did now.

Over the past month Maia had been thinking a lot about her ex-boyfriend, reviewing their relationship and her decision to end it. It was inevitable she guessed, stuck in bed with nothing but her thoughts to keep her company. She could still hear his parting remark, as he’d left her apartment emotionally wounded by her decision to dump him.

“Nice guys always come last.”
And party girls get sick and no one cares.

Maia wished now that she had not been so harsh with Andrew – throwing it in his face that he bored her to death, that his chivalry and good manners were out of date. She’d been a bitch and had loved every minute of it – enjoying reducing Andrew down to a snivelling emotional mess. He’d been too good for her, too kind and considerate. She'd half expected him to be creepy about being dumped - it was always the quiet ones you had to be careful of, experience had taught her that. But Andrew had surprised her, taken it like a man. In hindsight she liked him for that.

She had a penchant for bad guys, who treated her like dirt, but now she wished Andrew was here. Circumstances had changed. Andrew would have changed her bedding so she had clean sheets to lie on, he would have juiced the box of organic fruit and veggies that her mother had arranged for her twice a week so she could regain her strength. She was too weak to use the expensive looking machine her mother had bought online from her new home in Hong Kong so it just sat there on the bench. It was her mother's contribution to getting her well again. Andrew would have moved the TV into her bedroom so she could watch it in bed, cleaned the diahorrea spattered toilet. Andrew really would have taken care of her and never complained about it.

I’m really was losing the plot.

Maia's mobile beeped – a reminder that she had a midday appointment with Dr Slovosky. Maia had three hours to get out of bed and on the train, into the city. It would be easier to cancel the appointment, but that would only incur the wrath of the good Doctor who would lecture her on partnerships in health and wellness. The irony of this was never lost on Maia – partnership implying that two parties were working together with equal power sharing towards a common goal. He took her money and left her feeling undermined. No one allowed her to be expert on this illness – after all she was the one suffering in a dysfunctional body – not them.

I’m the victim in all of this – can’t any of these medical and mental hypocrites see it?

It was the point of no return Maia realised. If she did not get up and leave the apartment, walk to the station and get on the train to the good Doctor’s office she would waste away. If she didn’t get up today and fight, then she was literally laying down to die. Would anyone care? Would anyone come looking for her? How bad would the smell of her decomposing body be before the neighbours called the real estate, or the police?

On weak, aching legs Maia got out of bed and went to the kitchen. She took out the box of wheatgrass that had arrived the day before and persevered to put it through the new juicer until she had a shot glass full of the dark green juice.

Down the hatch – thadda girl!

By 10:30am Maia had showered and dressed. She had made more juice and forced it down, and sealed some whole-wheat biscuits into a snap lock bag to eat on the train. The sky looked like rain which gave her an excuse to take an umbrella – it would double as a walking stick.

Slowly and carefully Maia locked her apartment door, crossed the small ground floor foyer and went out through the security door of the building. Did she go to work yesterday? She took the diary out of her bag – no, she’d been in bed sick all day yesterday as well. Her memory was shot … if she didn’t write it down it disappeared forever and she’d never be sure if it were fact or fiction.

“Hello love.”

Maia recognised the voice of her upstairs neighbour Mrs Smith, grey, shrivelled and adamant that she was not moving into a retirement home like her children wanted.
“Hi Mrs Smith.”
“My goodness young lady, you look terrible.”
“I’m just on the way to the doctor now.”
“Well it’s a good thing you’ve got that nice boyfriend of yours to take care of you.”
“That nice boyfriend of yours. I see him coming and going all the time. You’re lucky to have someone taking good care of you. My family are too busy to care what happens to me. Just want to bundle me up in one of those horrid retirement homes so they can forget about me ……”

Maia didn’t hear the rest. Andrew had been here.
“Excuse me Mrs Smith. I need to go back inside.”

The key shook in Maia’s hand as she tried to unlock the security door. Inside, by the telephone, she found another diary - her business diary. Flicking back three months she found the date that she’d given Andrew his marching orders. The following weekend she’d gone out dancing and drinking – picked up the tall blonde with the celtic tattoo down in the Valley somewhere. She’d woken up alone and sick on the Sunday morning – a hangover. But the hangover had lasted well into the week. She’d been briefly well the following week and the rest was written in the other diary in her bag.

She willed her body to pace across the lounge room, her thoughts tumbling incoherently over each other like psychotic puppies. Andrew had been here? Andrew had done something to her?

Andrew’s poisoning me.

The medical centre was on speed dial.
“I need an appointment today. It’s a matter of urgency. I’m being poisoned.”
“There’s no appointments for the next three days.”
“I could be dead before then.”

The sweating was beginning again.

“That’s a little melodramatic. What name is the appointment for.”
“Maia Reynolds.”

There was a perceivable sigh from the receptionist.
“Miss Reynolds …””I’m not crazy. Please make me an appointment.”
“You’ll need a referral back from Dr Slovosky – that’s the interim arrangement.”
“Thanks for fucking nothing!”

Maia knew she could not ring the good Doctor. She could imagine his slow and deliberate hand writing as she told him Andrew was poisoning her. Paranoid and delusional. Maia needed proof first. She was afraid they would commit her.

“Abby, it’s Maia.”
“Oh hello. How’ve you been?” Abby replied lukewarm.
“Sick – really sick.”
“What do you want?”
“I wondered if you could help me out. I need to get some food analysed.”
“I’m not crazy. Do you have a friend at uni whose doing molecular science or something like that - could get them to analyse some food for me – I’m being poisoned.”
“Look Maia I’ll be straight with you. The only time you ever ring me is when you want something.”
“No, it’s not. Look Abby I really need your help this time – I’m desperate”
“Sure you are Abby – it’s always an emergency when you call me, like the other hundred times you rang for something. My answer is NO. You need to get over yourself Maia.”

Was that why no one had called to see how she was, where she was? Was she so obsessed with herself that she had alienated any one who might possibly care about her. Tears stung her eyes. She was all alone. Her clothes clung to, absorbing the sweat that was seeping uncontrollably through her skin.

There was Andrew …

“I’m sorry Mr van Dooen is away on vacation in Europe until the 15th of next month,” the receptionist told her.

Maia struggled up the two flights of stairs to Mrs Smith’s door, sweat pouring off her thin, clammy skin.
“Hello again love. You do look dreadful.”
“Mrs Smith you said you’d seen my boyfriend.”
Exhaustion was threatening to consume her.
“Yes that lovely young man who brings you your box of veggies every week. Such a lovely young man.”
“That’s not my boyfriend Mrs Smith, he’s the delivery guy,” Maia snarled in disgust and walked away, fighting her body’s will to collapse on her.

Bed beckoned her, back to the ease and embrace of the doona, to crawl in and away from a horrible nasty world she was realising she’d created. She'd sleep this time - she was exhausted.

Maybe I have made myself ill – brought this all onto myself and I probably deserve it. I could apologise to Andrew .....

Maia lowered her pounding head onto the pillow. It smelt of stale sweat and something else. Metallic? She remembered Andrew bringing back a pillow saying she’d left it at his place. Did she? She couldn’t remember taking a pillow to his place? When did he bring it back?

Tired - so tired.

She’d try and figure it out when she woke up. But Maia never did.
© Jodi Cleghorn 2008

To read more takes on the prompt go to Write Anything's Mr Linky Page


Shelley said...

Hi! Here from Write Anything!

Wow, that was an awesome story! I was hooked the whole way through, wanting to know about her illness and what was causing it.

PI said...

Wow ! I didn't see that coming. I only called in to say hi - from Michele. Something to ponder.

Wild Iris said...

This is much closer to reality than any of us want to imagine. I recently had the story of a woman related to me, who had been committed and misdiagnosed as Paranoid Schizophrenic. She kept telling the doctors something was wrong, but they told her it was the paranoid aspect of the schizophrenia. As it turns out she had breast cancer that was deeply metastasized, and she died from it. There is more to how she ended up there, but I will share that with you another time.


What a wonderful, gripping story! So many great details like the diarhea on the sheets. I was so disgusted with her and her seemingly hypochondriac self-obsessiveness, until she died!

When are you starting your music meme?

Paul said...

OK, the disturbing person in me now has to know how it was done!

Metallic smell, the pillow, weakness & fatigue, swelling, vomiting.

Radiation poisoning slowly killing her?

Annie said...

fantastic story.. again... and even more spooky, chilling and horrific when Andrews story comes into play.