I woke up standing in the middle of my bedroom, breathing heavily, sweating. My surroundings were black. Only the red light of the clock glowed a vibrant 2:00am.
“Where am I? This isn’t real. This can’t be real,” I thought.
I was trying to convince myself this was just a nightmare. I was terrified that the large patches of blisters covering my right arm and torso were just a figment from the recesses of my brain recalling some deep trauma or some thinly veiled reference to a deficiency in my waking life.
The blisters were pink at skin level, but glossy and white as they rose from the pus boiling just beneath the surface. Like oversized streaks of poison ivy, the large patches of tiny bumps stretched from my right elbow, over my biceps, triceps, and shoulder, and then spread down my back and across my left shoulder blade. I felt sick to my stomach. I couldn’t even bring myself to touch the skin on my body for fear it was real.
“This isn’t real. It isn’t real. Just a dream,” I spoke aloud.
But my words barely sputtered out. My tongue felt swollen, my words were muffled, something was inside my mouth.
“Not real. Not real,” I spit out.
I rushed to my bathroom and turned on the light. My reflection filled the mirror and tears spilled down my cheeks. My tongue was covered by a black fungus that resembled a field of tiny bean sprouts. They weren’t a foreign substance; they were composed of my own skin, growing out of my tongue and spreading all over the right side of my face and head. I could feel them on my body like coarse hair. They varied between one and three inches long and covered my face, neck, and head. I was terrified. This wasn’t a nightmare at all. I had contracted some sort of illness, a ghastly disease. I wept as the urge to vomit overtook me. I couldn’t stand. I couldn’t bring myself to touch my skin. I bent forward at the waist and braced myself on the edge of the bathroom sink with both hands. I coughed, I choked back the vomit, and I wept.
My life was over. I’d rather be dead than so horribly disfigured. I’d rather disappear from this earth than show my grotesque face to anyone in this world. Children would cower in fear. Friends would shiver at the sight of me. I would be truly alone.
“I can’t do this. I can’t live like this. I’m repulsive.”
I opened the cabinet under the sink. I hastily shoved containers and toilet paper aside until I put my hand on a bottle of aspirin, then a bottle of bleach. I knelt in front of the sink and emptied the bottle of aspirin into my mouth and began chewing. The tart taste filled my mouth and the powder swirled around the tiny spaces between the sprout-like shafts of deformation. I twisted the cap on the bottle of bleach, closed my eyes, and stood up to drink. I tipped the bottle up and took three hefty draughts of the stinging liquid.
“This will do. This will finish this mess.”
As I dropped the bottle to the floor, my vision began to swirl. The ceiling became water colored, the light flexed to and from darkness, the blackness started to take me. My stomach turned then stung sharply. I wouldn’t let my body unleash the poison. I held it in. I needed to die. I couldn’t live as such an abomination to nature. I keeled over and hit my head on the bathroom sink. As I fell to the floor, I reached out to stop my descent, but only succeeded in breaking the mirror. I hit the floor and couldn’t move.
A large piece of the broken mirror landed next to the toilet inches from my face. My vision hazy, but my reflection clear, I saw myself. It was me. No fungus. No blisters. No deformations.
I stared at my fear stricken face as the pain in my stomach overwhelmed me and the blackness took my vision. My face turned from the nightmarish disfiguration to ice cold white as my breath slowly evaporated from the shattered shard of mirror.