Ceaseless by Joe Haward
“You look well,” the fly said as it headbutted the window.
“But I can’t get out of bed,” I countered, unsure my Calliphora friend understood the extremities of pain that weaved their way through my body with every passing moment.
“It must be in your mind,” she said as her wings snagged on the spider’s web delicately poised upon the window frame.
“Have you tried altering the way you think about your illness?” asked the spider as she wrapped the fly in silk, dressing her ready for breakfast.
“But it’s not in my mind,” I said, my muscles burning with pain as I sat up.
“I knew someone who changed her diet,” the spider began, dragging the fly into the centre of her web. “She cut out artificial sugar and meat. Cured her completely.”
“What illness did she have?”
“I don’t remember,” the spider replied with a muffled voice, enjoying her breakfast.
Perhaps they’re right.
I swing my legs out of bed, the sweet sharpness of fresh orange juice whispering its healing call to me, finding its way through the jagged terrain of my perpetual migraine. As I stand Lazarus bends his knee, his face shining with joy as his brother takes a stride towards the light beyond the darkness of the tomb.
Evidence of a sustainable atmosphere has echoed back, and I leave a trail of burnt energy behind me as I make my way towards the kitchen. Time and space converge together, warping and bending in the pull of this event horizon, and I lose my grip on where I am, when I am, who I am.
“What are you doing?” my wife asks, searching for intelligent life as I stand at the bottom of the stairs.
“I need to get out of bed and try to get better.”
The words tumble out, no longer constrained by reason and sound judgement.
Her face radiates with understanding, every line and pore a musical note that plays the symphony of her endless compassion. The music rises high in the space between us, and, for a moment we dance, captivated, bound together in the story we share of loss and hope.
“You don’t look very well,” she says, the only one who ever really sees me.
I notice a picture on the floor. I gaze down upon it like an archaeologist, excited at first, then, as I study the pink and purple cats sketched in crayon, it becomes an excavated remnant reminding me of moments I have missed. The dust of my disease buries me once again in regret.
“Perhaps I can sit in the kitchen, have breakfast together?”
“You look well,” the cat remarks as he walks past.
I sit next to my daughter, her tiny hand holding mine, helping me to grip my spoon.
“Daddy poorly,” she says, reaching up and stroking my head. Cooling balm flows from her fingers, coating my burning brain.
We eat together.
The orange juice stings my throat.
The air has got thin as I make my way further up the mountain.
“You look well,” says the mountain goat.
“I can’t breathe though,” I reply, unable to see the world around me from this height, the clouds obscuring my view.
“Maybe you should try cold showers,” he says, skipping off into the snow.
“You need to go to bed.” My wife is standing beside me, holding out her hand.
“Bye, Daddy.” My daughter kisses me and runs off to play with the fairies she’s found.
Like newlyweds my wife and I make our way to the bedroom, arm in arm.
“What did the Dr say to you yesterday?” she asks as she helps me into bed.
“He told me I looked well,” I reply, and drift off into a painful sleep.
Joe Haward (he/him) is an eighth generation oyster fisherman, turned writer. The author of two published books, his work can also be found in the national news site, Byline Times. Diagnosed with ME, raising awareness about the disease has become a passion. Find him over on Twitter @RevJoeHaward.