It was just a cold, no need to blow it out of proportion. Sick days weren’t for this kind of thing; they were for serious stuff, like last-minute family reunions or wanting the day off to watch TV in bed. She was fine, she told herself. Just 9 hours of walking around the office, doing odd-jobs and pushing files about on her desk then she could curl up at home and recover. Her nose ran like a tap throughout the day. A little snot had dribbled into Philip’s lunch when she was sneaking a bite from the fridge. Never mind, he’d never notice. She’d probably be better tomorrow anyway so there was no point going home early.
Tomorrow came and she still wasn’t better, but those precious sick days were still too scarce to spend. Two weeks of paid extracurricular activity was too sweet-a-prospect to sacrifice for mere bodily weakness. She went to work, though it was harder than the day before. When she looked in the mirror her eyes were dark and sunken, her skin was pale, and her hair seemed lifeless and dry. Perhaps the shampoo bottle which promised ‘frizz-free’ hair had lied to her. Must be some kind of flu she supposed. That day at work she had coughed a few droplets of blood onto Janice from accounting. Janice hadn’t noticed, and her blushes were spared. Tomorrow would be better.
The next day was not better, quite the contrary. Movement made her body throb with pain and her persistent migraine was so intense that she could barely see. Luckily vision was not a prerequisite of the kind of work she did, all that was required was her attendance. So, she laboured on, no need to make a fuss. Just 9 hours and then she could lie on the sofa and drift in and out of fitful, shivering sleep. Vomiting blood into the cubicle had been a little startling, but she felt a little better for getting it out, and everyone was coming down with it now which made her feel a little more normal. Philip was in a far worse state than her, the boss had actually called an ambulance for him! Typical case of ‘man-flu’.
The days wore on and she felt no better, though an almost pleasant numbness set in. Her complexion had been blighted by lesions which covered her skin, nothing a little foundation couldn’t cover. The thick blood which oozed from her armpits and ears was concerning but she mopped herself up and soldiered on. Her co-workers were dropping like flies, the big babies! She suspected some had taken the opportunity to jump on the ‘sickness’ bandwagon and have a few ‘me-days’. Bloody skivers, sitting at home, watching Netflix and getting stoned. She’d take a holiday soon and she’d need those sick-days for some wiggle-room. Struggle on for now.
But the others in the office didn’t come back. And soon the streets became empty too. Her morning commute of Costa Coffee and hacking up black globules from the depths of her lungs became a lonely one. Even the men who occasionally patrolled the streets in hazmat suits didn’t bother her anymore. When they first appeared, they had stopped her to take some samples, she was so set in her routine she had barely even noticed them draw the thick fluids from her weeping wounds. They were welcome to the skin that sloughed from her bones and slapped onto the pavement behind her, someone had to clear up that flipping mess!
All this fuss over a silly little cold. She was smart though, save those sick-days for what they’re actually for. No need to waste them on something so trivial as a touch of the sniffles.