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Friday short story time: "A Man You Don't Meet Every Day"

I wasn’t entirely sure I was going to manage a story this week, but then I got a cold and decided there was no way I was doing another audio recording when my voice sounded like a broken robot. So I mustered up all my inspirational powers and wrote a short one about… a man being sick.

Yes, the creativity was on fire this week. It’s named after this Pogues song, which I was listening to extensively when I wrote it but has little to do with the actual plot. As ever, more stories are available.

A Man You Don’t Meet Every Day

By Nick Bryan

If Jack’s bed was spinning, his head was still. If his head was spinning, he was probably sick. He knew which one was more likely, but right then he still wasn’t sure which it was. The room flew by, his sweat dribbled across his temple, and he waited for it to stop.

Earlier in the day, he’d experimented with walking around, medication and even considered getting drunk, but no. That wouldn’t work. He had a massive double bed, complete with mirrored wardrobe at the end to get a good view of his own feverish visage whenever he sat up.

Best to stay there, really. The toilet was only a few hop-steps away, and aside from that, what cause did he have to go anywhere?

And, for several hours, that was the sum content of Jack’s brain. Because, after all, when you’re sick, what else is there to think about other than how ill you are and how unfair it is?

It was the early evening when Jack woke up. Nothing was spinning, in fact all was strangely quiet and dead in his bedroom. Maybe it was finally safe to get up?

‘Evening, Jack.’

He shoved himself up on one elbow. ‘Yeah?’

‘How’re we feeling down there, then? Any pain?’

Jack squinted, but there was light reflecting back from the mirrors, and all he could see was a vague shape, perched at the end of his bed and looking down. ‘You ain’t the grim reaper, are you?’

‘No, Jack. I’m not the grim reaper.’

‘Thank Christ for that.’

Satisfied that this visitor was not the spectre of death, since obviously a creature from the dark side would never tell a lie, Jack let himself crash down again. He may not be whirling in circles anymore, but was still as weak as a kitten.

‘So who are you? You’re not a friend of my wife’s are you?’

‘Maybe. It’s nearly seven PM after all, you’d think she’d be back from work by now. Maybe she sent me to check on you.’

‘What the fuck are you talking about? Speak English.’

‘Sorry. Can you see the ceiling yet?’

He squinted harder for a few moments, but it stubbornly refused to come into focus. It was a white mass, hint of speckled pattern, blurred light fitting in the middle. Nothing was solid, though.

‘Ahh.’ Jack punched the bed and his fist sunk into it, bouncing back a few imperceptible millimetres. The whole gesture had felt very impotent to even him. He considered trying to reach out and take a swing at the bedside table, but he didn’t think he could stand the humiliation of missing it.

The guy at the end of the bed didn’t move a muscle through the whole tantrum, or if he did, he could do so without causing a single vibration in the mattress.

‘Is there a problem, Jack?’

‘I never get sick. Never.

‘And your wife isn’t back yet?’

‘You’re her friend, you tell me.’

Jack had his arm lying back over his eyes, as if he somehow couldn’t stand to look at the outside world. The sweating was getting worse. He really wished this idiot would stop talking at him.

‘Not that kind of friend. You seem very sensitive about this.’

‘Fuck off.’

‘Does she have a lot of special friends?’

Jack didn’t answer, in the hope he would take the hint and go away. In truth, he was starting to want to reach up and crush that guy’s windpipe, but he dreaded to think what embarrassment would ensue if he attempted such a complex motion.

And, after he stupidly didn’t say anything for a moment, the other man just picked up where he left off.

‘Okay. Next you’ll be telling me she’s poisoned you so she can run off with one of these special friends you’re so panicked about.’

Another silence, broken only by a growl rising up from Jack’s throat, before the man at the end of the bed laughed at him. ‘Oh, sorry, you do think that?’

‘How many times have I gotta tell you to get lost before you get the point?’ Jack’s eyes were widening exponentially, his brow sweating more than ever before. ‘I mean, am I talking to myself here?’

‘Ha.’ And some sort of small chuckle. ‘Well, that’s a cue to leave if ever there was one.’

Once again, there was no rustle, no footsteps or shift in the mattress, but Jack couldn’t see anything when he looked up. He curled up into a ball, knees almost up to his eyes, and tried to get back to sleep. Hopefully his wife would be back when he woke up.

Copyright Nick Bryan 2011, please don’t steal, please send Lemsip and tissues also. Email me to discuss fair use elsewhere or how exactly you’ll send me my cold supplies.


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