Be Careful What You Pick

Old habits die hard. Unless of course, they kill you first. S, was a logistics machine. She worked 3 jobs while studying at the tender age of 25. At any day of the week her roles ranged from entrepreneur to manager and consultant. She woke up on the 1st of March like any other day, full of life and hope. Her phone flashed 7:30 AM. Perfect. Boring. Boring was good. It was just like any other morning. And she needed that routine. After all, what were humans if not creatures of routine, secured amidst the storms of life?

As she stumbled to the bathroom, she was greeted by a pristine white glow. This was a rare occurrence. Just 2 years ago she had married one of those rare creatures capable of withstanding any living conditions either out of necessity or a blatant lack of self awareness. She thought it was probably the latter. But the glow this morning made up for it all including the hour she spent cleaning the toilet bowl, attacking it with every household tool imaginable, just to erase the brown skids from her memory. She shuddered just remembering it now. No, she had to put it out of her mind. Quickly brushing her teeth, if you could call it brushing (it had more similarities to nail filing), she downed an ironed polo shirt, jumped into her pressed tracksuit pants, grabbed a boiled egg (done just right at 80 degrees from the steamer) and in one fluid motion just like she rehearsed it countless times, she was out the door. Pure efficiency. S was a logistics machine.

At the nursing home, S caught up with her colleagues, ate lunch, organized assessments for the residents and caught up with some much needed paper work. It was a day just like any other. But she was itching to get home. The desire had been bothering her all day long and she needed some relief. She just couldn’t do it in front of all her colleagues. S after all, was a cold, rational, logistics machine, an example of no-nonsense leadership.

It was late when S got home. She threw her handbag onto the couch and proceeded to make dinner on the kitchen bench top. It was a marble top, with a silver sink next to it. Everything had a smooth sheen on it like the type of kitchens you only see in the movies. As she cut the cucumbers on the rustic chopping board, she would reach her finger towards her face. Dig, dig, dig. The finger penetrated the nostril, plowing through a thicket of nose hairs and then latching onto a soft, round ball of mucus. She picked it and then flicked it into the kitchen sink. Relief at last. This was the highlight of her day. She smiled to herself. If only her husband and colleagues could see her now. It would be her dirty little secret and no one would ever know. She continued to chop the cucumbers, each chop accompanied by picking and then a flick. By the end of the night, S had accumulated a warm, soft mound of mucus laying dormant and still in the middle of the kitchen sink. An unknowing bystander might mistake it to be a baseball as they had all melded into one. She ate a cucumber salad with grilled chicken, placed side by side on the plate and perfectly garnished. Finishing her meal, she proceeded to wash up but when she approached the sink, she discovered the mound of mucus had disappeared. Shrugging, she washed the dishes and thought no more about it. Things had a habit of cleaning up after themselves in her life. Except her husband. After he returned home, she greeted him and they both prepared for bed.

It was around 1 am when S felt a gentle nudging of her foot. It stopped and then started again a moment later. ’Not now,’ she whispered, thinking it was her husband’s attempt to either play a prank or be affectionate. But she wasn’t sure. Couldn’t he see that she was too tired to do anything? She rolled over. Her husband was fast asleep on his side, with his back facing her, amidst the occasional snore. Her foot was nudged again and she felt a sensation of warmth envelop her leg like shower water streaming down one’s leg. This time it felt soft yet there was something firm about it like play-dough. Unnerved, she shrugged her blankets off to see what was causing her foot to behave in such a strange way. A pale yellow and white mass lay at the foot of her bed, half of it on her ankle and the other half on the bed sheet. It pulsed with a steady rhythm and climbing steadily, snaked its way up her shin. S’s eyes widened and her pulse quickened. But she couldn’t speak. Perhaps she didn’t want to because it would mean what was happening really was happening. She knew she had to do something but she was frozen, in time and in fear.

The coagulated mass of white and yellow continued climb up her legs, leaving a dried sticky trail behind it. It was now on her hips. Now more than ever, was the time to act. She struggled to kick it off but her legs caught on the blankets, entangling them even further. She moaned in frustration. As she attempted to get up she realized the stickiness of the mucus around her legs had pinned her to the bed. She had one last resort. ‘Hel-‘. It was too late because at that point the pulsing mass, now resembling a melted baseball, had reached her face. Its tendrils enveloped her, muffling the last desperate gasp of a woman full of life. And then – silence.

The bedside clock read 1.00 AM. S laid at the head of her bed, her face blue. Her eyes were vacant. Her expression remained caught in the midst of surprise and fear. One of her legs stuck out of her blankets as it lay half draped over the bed and the floor. Her apartment lay as it did 30 minutes ago, before the last vestiges of life drained from her face, a silent observer to the life it had once housed. Silence filled the corridors. Beneath the blankets, her husband snored away and the white, yellow pulsating mass was nowhere to be found. It was just as it had always been. Perfect.