The first time I saw it, I just thought it was cat hair. Sometimes I brush my cat and tufts and tufts of fur come out of her coat. I didn’t think about the fact that I hadn’t been brushing my cat lately, but then again there were a lot of things I wasn’t thinking about.
And the next few days were just like any other. Cereal for breakfast, reading the news hunched over my laptop nearly curled up in a ball. Working at my desk, trying my best to focus. Peanut butter and jelly for lunch, microwave dinners. I spent the nights hunched over my laptop trying to do the work I was supposed to have done that day, but that somehow had evaded me. Finally I’d crash in bed, downing a pill with a water from a plastic cup, trying to minimize the time between shutting my laptop and unconciousness.
So of course I didn’t notice. There were a lot of things I wasn’t noticing.
It was 12:43pm and I’d finally gotten through the stack of documents I said I’d have reviewed the previous day. The grumble of my stomach told me that I’d forgotten dinner. I wanted to just crash then and there, but my body wasn’t having it. I dragged myself to the kitchen and pulled a box from the freezer. Ready in just 3 minutes read a graphic on the box. I placed its contents in the microwave and reached for the garbage can.
I reeled back when I felt it. A hair pushing up out of the trash. What the fuck? I turned the overhead lights on and studied the scene in more detail. 5 or 6 strands of long grey hair reached nearly to the floor, the hair was kinked and withered.
I reached out slowly for the lid of the trash can. Gently if lifted it up. The inside was filled with hair matted and tangled over itself and, oh god, there were teeth growing up from twisted knots soaked with some liquid.
I slammed the lit shut, my heart was racing. What the fuck could I do? I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep. Darkness stared in at me from the windows. I’d have to take the trash out. I’d just pick up the can, run to the dumpster, throw it over. Easy, right?
I reached out slowly wrapping my hands around the plastic tube, one of the hairs brushed up against the skin on my arm. My heart pounded so loud in my ears. I kicked the front door open and bolted down the concrete steps. Whatever was inside the garbage can sloshed back and forth. A cold breeze hit me and I realized that the thing I was holding was incredibly warm. For a moment I thought about what it might be, but I pushed those thoughts down. The dumpster stood just steps away illuminated by an orange street lamp.
I walked forward.
Flies buzzed around the dumpster and around the street lamp. I was breathing hard now. The thing in my arms felt like it was fighting me sloshing violently with every footfall. Almost there. Almost there. The buzzing of the flies droned in my ear against the beat of my pounding heart.
The opening to the dumpster was inconveniently high. I had to hoist the trash can. A hair broke against the metal of the dumpster and wafted away in the breeze. I lifted and lifted and then. BOOM the trash can hit the bottom of the empty dumpster.
I turned and fled. I ran as hard as I could across the parking lot, up the concrete steps I shoved open my apartment door and slammed it closed behind me with a bang. I locked the door handle, the deadbolt, chain lock. I fought with my curtains till they covered my front window. I collapsed on my mattress. My mind running wild with visions of hands and feet emerging from the dumpster. I brushed at my clothes and pushed a tiny bit of fuzz shed from my sweater.
I breathed. My heart slowed. I cried. But then to my surprise I slept.
I woke up late the next day, to the bleeping sound of my 3rd alarm. I rolled from my bed. Did I dream it? I dragged myself to the kitchen and pulled a plastic cup of cereal from the pantry. By some miracle I still had milk that hadn’t gone bad. I twisted the cap and broke the seal. I laughed a little at the thought that cereal with milk had become a delicacy. I turned my eyes slowly to the corner. My trash can was gone.
Shit I was late. I downed the cereal and pulled my laptop open on my desk. I fought with sign on pages and tried to run my hands through my hair. 15 minutes late isn’t too bad I thought to myself. The day was filled with video calls and reading and writing. I piled my empty dinner boxes in a corner. I pushed the thoughts down, and the next few days were just like any others.
I paid no attention to my cough, but then again there were a lot of things I wasn’t paying attention to.
It was 4:10pm. I’d forgotten what the meeting was even about. Faces droned on and on about some plan or deliverable. An itch grew in the back of my throat, slowly gaining strength growing up from inside of me. I nearly keeled over coughing. I coughed and coughed but whatever it was just wouldn’t come out. “Are you okay?” A voice in my earbud from the call. I wretched, and again. I felt a matt of hair in my mouth. There was screaming in my ear as I pulled the mass of long grey hairs from my throat. They wove beneath my teeth like floss leaving behind a thick sludge behind on my gums, and as I pulled the coil in front of me grew and grew. Finally I felt the ends of the stands clicking up my throat. I spat out gobs of thick red and brown.
I looked up to see that the meeting had been disconnected. It was dark outside but I couldn’t understand why? I couldn’t get my eyes to focus on my watch. I felt tired. So tired. I should call someone, but who? Who could I call about something like this? I scrolled through my phone’s contact list trying to decide, but I couldn’t hold my head straight.
I fell, I crawled to my mattress, and I barely had the energy to move. Darkness enveloped me.
I woke to matted fuzz in my mouth. Grey hairs sprung up from all around. My head pounded. I could feel something crawling, scratching behind my eyes I tried to scream but only wet and matted tufts came out.
When I came to again there were strange lights in my face. I could hear what sounded like heavy breathing. Figures clad in white lifted me from my bed. Light shone all around. I slipped back into the darkness.
The next thing I knew I was wide awake, aggressively awake. A white room surrounded me, two people were talking.
“No, never before in my life” A woman’s voice.
“Where am I?” My voice was horse, but the words came out.
“You’re in the hospital” She said, and I noticed things about her, her short black hair and white lab coat. Her badge, Dr. Amelia Torres.
“Am…I going to be okay?” I shook a little
“Yeah,” she said “you’ll be okay.” And I believed her.