Sick Day

Caitlin Scarano | Crazyshorts!

When I wake up, the top of my forehead aches ferociously, like a little man is taking a ball-peen hammer to the corners of my skull from the inside. I touch the skin above my temples, both of which are swollen and tender. Sam is already awake. I turn my head towards the window. A crow swoops past black as an ink smear on a parchment page. After a few seconds, another crow follows it. His path between the trees, the curve and tempo of his wings, how he opens his mouth to cackle as he passes – it is all the exact same as the first.

In this distance a fire engine’s siren whines, gathering volume as the neighborhood dogs loosen their throats to howl in response. We live in neither city nor countryside, but the confused in-between type of community that so many people have come to accept.

“Sam?” His name croaks from my mouth. “My head—something is wrong.”

He appears in the doorway still in his boxers holding his mug close to his body.  I feel an old pang of tenderness for him but it quickly passes.

As I try to sit up, he and the entire room tip to the right. I retch and squeeze my eyes shut. He grabs the bathroom trash bin and places it by my side just in time for me to vomit into it.

I call in sick to work. When Sam leaves, I go the bathroom and inspect myself in the mirror. My face is drained of blood and my eyes flash like opals. My pupils are dilated and depthless. In them, I can see the mirror’s reflection and myself. Even through the pulsing pain of my forehead, I am pleased at this newfound intensity.

I stumble back to bed. When I wake up hours later, I’m overwhelmed by sound. I can hear all the light bulbs in the house humming. I can hear water dripping from the faucet in the kitchen. Children playing in the snow two blocks away. I raise my hands to cover my ears and my right hand snags on something hard and pointed. Blood drips from a deep cut in my palm.

I am so hungry. I feel ravished and lean. I eat all the lettuce, kale, and carrots in the house. Outside, I paw through the snow to find frozen, hard grass beneath it. I try to peel bark from the oak tree in our front yard with my bare hands.

What sort of animal I am becoming? I realize that these are antlers, not horns. The distinction seems significant, the change appropriate. When Sam comes home, he tells me about the pain in his jaw. He shows me his canine teeth beginning to yellow and lengthen. I touch the points with my finger, with my tongue, knowing he will hunt me. Knowing we are meant for each other now.