I could feel it in some corner of my mind, like an itch I couldn’t scratch. It happened every night at exactly 9:37 PM. I can’t say for how long it had been going on, exactly – maybe a month, but my log only goes back three weeks. It has become a ritual in itself, this itch. I anticipate it. I wait for it. I sit on my couch, turn the lights out, and wait. At 9:35 PM I get anxious. At 9:36 PM my body tenses and I wait, counting the seconds. And at 9:37 PM I feel it, this faintest, tiniest scratch. Or maybe a pinprick. It doesn’t hurt, but I know and understand that it could hurt, and that’s why I started keeping logs. The sensation hasn’t changed in three weeks. It lasts exactly one minute, then it’s gone. I’ve considered speaking to a neurologist – maybe Nora on the 8th floor of our building – but I’m worried as to what her reaction might be. Is it a tumor? Is it nothing? The former is a worrisome thought; the latter is a terrifying one.
I haven’t been eating. Not for any particular reason, as far as I’m aware. I just haven’t been hungry when I know I should be. My friends are worried about me. Jacob says that I should take a week off to collect myself. Maybe he’s right. The notebook in my bag weighs heavily on my mind. I’m on day thirty-seven of my nightly irritations. I haven’t confided in anyone, and I intend to keep it that way. I’ve begun to record my dreams, which have been vivid and highly irregular. In them I see a window, and I hear a tapping on the glass. But when I open the window, there is nothing. I can’t see or hear a thing. It’s not quite black – something deeper, perhaps. An absence, if you will. But I’m trying not to think about it too much given my condition as of late. I’m so exhausted.
Entry 67: August 27th, 2013.
Itching sensation replaced with excruciating pain in skull and possible seizure symptoms. Lost consciousness in living room at 9:37 PM, woke up in front entryway at 9:52 PM. Possibly relevant: Woke up with intense thirst, drank 10 large cups of water without stopping.
Jacob commented on my eye today. The sclera is turning red. I suspect internal bleeding of some sort, but it doesn’t hurt, and I can see just fine. My MRI revealed nothing, and my bruising has mostly healed. The nightly itches have been just that – itches. I hope they stay that way. Something unusual happened while speaking with Jacob: the moment he mentioned my eye, I felt an intense pressure on the right side of my back. It felt as though it were coming from behind the rib cage. It didn’t hurt, but for a moment – the tiniest fraction of a second – I wanted to hit Jacob. I wanted to hit him as hard as I could. I can recall the sensation perfectly. It passed, but I had to excuse myself from the conversation and get water. I’m thirsty all the time. I drink so much water – far more than eight cups a day, or whatever the correct number is supposed to be. I don’t know what my body is doing with all of this water.
I had another episode last night. It’s been exactly five months and thirteen days since I began recording the itching sensation. Last night I blacked out for fifteen minutes, again. I was thirsty when I woke up, and the sclera of both eyes has turned a deep shade of red. I look monstrous, but I feel sick. I feel weak, and I have to force myself to eat. What is wrong with me? What is happening? I haven’t checked the tapes. I’m terrified to check the tapes.
Entry 138: February 29th, 2014.
Drank three full gallons of water while waiting for 9:37 PM. Blacked out on the dot, woke up 15 minutes later standing upright in dormitory hall. Bruising on right side of chest and right shoulder blade. Strange buzzing in ears – can’t hear much now. Having a hard time thinking straight since waking up, thoughts feel sluggish.
I’m in Nora’s office, and she’s talking to me. I can see her mouth moving, and she looks concerned. But I can’t hear her. The buzzing is too loud. I can’t hear her, but I know what she’s saying. Something is telling me, but it doesn’t know English – it isn’t telling me using words. It gives me impressions, but they’re delayed. Nora moves her mouth, and there’s a pause, and then I understand what she’s saying. But I can’t hear her. And when I try to respond, nothing happens – not immediately. I know what I want to say, but my mouth won’t move. And then it does, and I can feel my lips and tongue forming the words. Not the ones I want to use, but close enough.
I try to ask Nora for help, but nothing comes out. There’s a longer pause. Whatever thing is using my body to communicate decides not to ask for help. I try again. My jaw is straining – it’s holding my mouth closed. My teeth are grinding together, and I feel a crown come loose. Nora is staring at me. I try to stand up, but I can’t. My vocal cords are tearing in my throat, but I don’t know if Sydney can hear me screaming through clenched teeth. She picks up the phone, and I feel my arms relax. I try to reach for her – I need her to help me – but she screams and falls backward in her chair.
There’s someone speaking on the other line of the discarded phone. I can’t hear it, but the thing inside of me can. I feel my left eye roll backwards into my skull, and I know it’s looking at the doorknob behind me. My body kneels awkwardly and my right hand picks up the phone. The thing uses my mouth to say something into the mouthpiece, something like, “it is okay, thank you but we’re not needing help right now.” Almost right, but a little off. Nora is screaming. My left eye is still watching the door. My right hand opens and drops the phone. My body bends backward at the waist, and my left arm extends to secure the lock.
Both of my eyes roll forward to look at Nora. I try to scream at her – try to tell her to grab a weapon, anything. My legs extend one after the other in some strange imitation of tip-toeing. Nora is screaming. I’m screaming, but I can’t hear myself. My body moves around the desk, and my right eye rolls towards the door as the first knock comes. Someone outside is yelling. I can’t hear it, but the thing inside my head can, and for the first time I feel an impression from it. Not quite an emotion – something more instinctive: haste. It needs to hurry.
My body contorts forward, and my fingers wrap around Nora’s throat. I can feel the vibrations of her screams. My left eye rolls down to look at her – my right still watching the door. I see something moving beneath my shirt, which is rapidly turning red. It rips. One rib on the right side, two on the left. Human ribs look like pig ribs – no different. I can see every single one – all twenty-four, each covered in blood. She’s screaming. I can feel movement where my heart and lungs should be. Nora’s eyes are wide – she’s looking at something, but I can’t see what. Her screams cut off. I can hear a high-pitched whirring noise, and my vision is fading.
The door opens.
I’m lying on the floor. I can smell blood, but it’s not mine. Hands are pulling me to my feet – hands that I know. They’re asking what happened, if I’m okay, if he hurt me. I don’t understand. I’m so thirsty. I look down at my hands. My nails are a deep shade of red – I had them done yesterday, right before my date with Debbie. I ask for water. Someone is calling an ambulance, but I feel fine. There’s so much yelling. They lead me from the office – my office. I look down again, but not at my hands. My blouse is red. There’s so much blood, but it’s not my blood. What happened, I ask. They don’t know. I’m so thirsty.
They sit me down on a bench. I look up – it’s Jacob. He’s asking me what happened to Walden. I can see his mouth moving, but I can’t hear him. There’s a buzzing. I know what he’s saying, but I can’t hear him. I try to tell him, but the words won’t come out. I try to ask him for a glass of water, but I can’t. And then my mouth moves, and he nods and turns to walk away. I try to tell him there’s something wrong.
I try to tell him there’s an itch.