The first thing I remember is numb limbs. Suddenly stumbling, off-balance, unable to grip anything in my hands. Then I remember the writhing in my chest, like the swelling of an undiscovered organ just beneath my breast plate. The fever appeared shortly after. It didn't feel like an ordinary fever. No trembling or shivering, no beads of sweat collecting on my forehead. Just uncomfortable warmth.
It lasted days, weeks, months.
I gave myself time to recover. Added garlic and chilli to everything I ate. The numbness always went away, and occasionally the swelling in my chest would cease. But the fever was relentless. It didn’t respond to painkillers or bedrest, only got worse and worse until the warmth became so unbearable I was certain entire acres of me were on fire. My skin felt like the leather of a car seat left in the sun for too long –searing heat that burnt holes through my clothes, my bed sheets, my couch.
Now I can’t touch anything without doing it violence. The metal back of my phone warps from the heat of my fingers; every doorknob I handle becomes indented; the pages of my books grow pock-marked and sepia, almost unreadable.
Sometimes I feel like an offering, like something burnt at the stake too slowly to actually die. I haven't left my room in months. The paint on my walls has peeled from the heat. My skin, cracked and fissured as dry earth.
Every night the same fever-dream takes hold: me, alone in a barren field, no longer human – just a pillar of smoke.