“I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: like butter that has been scraped over too much bread.”
— Bilbo Baggins
“Wake up, wake up, friend, or I will twist the sword again.” I opened my eyes. The Mouth of Sauron loomed above, his blackened blade pinning me to the bed. “No rest for the weary, not tonight.”
He gave the sword a shake to let me know it was still there. I cried out in agony, “Why?”
“This is not for you to know,” said the Lieutenant of Barad-dûr. “We play our part and trust that the All-Seeing Eye knows best, yes?”
“Am I going insane?” I grabbed my ruined guts. “Please, just let me sleep.”
“You are gazing into the mouth of madness, but this is nothing special, even children create imaginary friends.”
“You aren’t my friend.”
“Come, come, no need to be rude! How would you pass the lonely night if I was not here to talk to? You cry out to your sickness, commanding it to leave. I have merely given shape to the nameless foe inside.” Shelob watched from a dark corner, her eight eyes gleaming fire. “But this is not true madness, not yet, you have suffered for many days but your mind is not yet broken, it will be, soon enough. My advice? Enjoy these moments while they are still yours to control, while the pain is still real and not buried under miles of pills suffering.”
“What do you want?”
“To give life to my master. You will want this too, eventually.”
I lay there staring at the ceiling. For almost seven days these creatures had played with me, thwarting my every move. “Kill me, please, just kill me.”
I awoke to my own screams. I was in more agony than I thought possible. Maybe the shower could bring small comfort. I hobbled into my bathroom and closed the curtain then turned on the water with one toe. The solace I sought did not wash over me. The joy of life’s kiss had grown distant. Water soaked through skin was thin gruel indeed. I could no longer rub gurgles, my intestines were too sore. I lay there in agony. Twenty minutes passed. I turned off the water and opened the curtain.
I struggled painfully to my feet, and hobbled into the kitchen. MP poured a mug’s worth of water into a pan. I put it on the stove then lit the burner. I opened my refrigerator and stared at the cleanly glow. My mom had done a great job. Inside were two 64 oz jugs of juice, a bottle of Pepto drained exactly to the bulge, some condiments and a pot of soup. Everything else had been thrown away. I grabbed the pot of soup and ladled out a bowl of broth. I put a small piece of chicken in with a few onions and hoped it wouldn’t make me throw up. I popped the thing into the microwave and set the timer. Then I got out a bag of chamomile and some honey.
“You sure look pitiful,” MP clicked his teeth.
“I am pitiful,” I said.
The water began to boil. I shut the burner off and poured the steaming concoction into my mug. I added honey and a teabag, and then bounced the string up and down, hoping it would steep faster. The honey was so old it had turned dark and thick. I’d bought it when I moved into the apartment four years prior but didn’t have much use for it. If I needed to sweeten my cereal, I added sugar.
“You gonna go to the doctor?” asked MP.
“I don’t know, my mom said they couldn’t help.”
“That’s how Gus’s mom felt too.”
“You knew Gus’s mom?” How old was my filter?
“Sure, sweet old thing, that one. Talked more than her son, if you can believe it.”
The microwave beeped. My broth was done. I took the bowl and my mug into my bedroom and sat down at my computer. I put on a draft video and sat there slowly sipping. I took a bite of chicken, hoping I wouldn’t pay for it later. The Mouth of Sauron watched me from the shadows. When I was finished I climbed back into bed.
The dark figure unsheathed his sword and shoved it through me. I tried to fight back, but I was too weak. I had never felt so weak.
“You shouldn’t have eaten the chicken,” said the Mouth of Sauron. “Your body was not ready.” With a cruel thrust he cut me open. I lurched and cried out. What was going on? The hiccups had left but the pain of their wake was more agonizing than anything that had come before.
Night turned to day and my phone rang. It was cousin Mary. “Hello, Mary.”
“How are you today?” She asked in the practiced voice of the physician.
“Did you go to the urgent care facility?”
“No.” How could I explain to a doctor that my mom told me I shouldn’t go to the doctor? “I’m waiting to see if the chiropractor’s adjustment takes hold. My mom said it might take a few days.”
She paused to consider this. “Are feeling better?”
As if on cue, a stabbing pain sent spasms through my body. “I…” my teeth clenched, my guts twisted, I tried to lie, but I couldn’t, “no.”
“Are you in pain?”
The spasm eased. My guts throbbed, I could almost think, “Off and on.”
“Your mother is a good woman,” said cousin Mary, “but I really think you should get into Swedish.”
“I will.” I said, “If the pain doesn’t let up, I will.”
“Do you want me to come down to Denver? I have Monday off.”
“No. I can have a friend drive me.”
There was a long pause as she tried to think of a way to convince me to see a doctor. “OK, Nathan. I’ll be praying for you. Call to let me know how you’re doing.”
“I will. Thanks.”
I hung up the phone. “The pain will not abate,” said The Mouth of Sauron, his hand resting on the hilt of the sword, “I promise you that.”
I stared at him. There was nothing to say.
Day turned to night. In agony, I waited for morning.
to be continued
When I moved to L.A. I was a depressed mess. I hated that town. I was living with this couple. One day I was helping her paint their bedroom and I was talking about being sad all the time. She didn’t understand. She thought it was easy to make oneself happy. If I could have a super power that would be it, instant happy, all the time, forever.