I think COVID is making me crazy. Not the quarantine part – the virus itself, what it’s doing to my mind. As I write this, I picture the microscopic COVID critters crawling through the cracks in my brain mass like spiders, weaving intricate webs of madness. Fatigue and dizziness are about to take me, so I will recall what I can with what energy I can spare. I suddenly feel like HP Lovecraft’s unnamed narrator in “Dagon,” scrambling to put my deranged thoughts into writing before the creatures of the deep come for me.
You may not believe me, but here it goes.
I’m four days into quarantine, and I’ve seen and heard strange things. Three days ago, I thought I heard rain. I’d left the window open for fresh air, the silence of the upstairs bedroom where I’m isolated already seeming smaller than it was the day before. The rain woke me from a mid-morning nap. Before I opened my eyes, I smelled it – that earthy, musky freshness, pinging against the neighbor’s tin shed. I lifted my head from the pillow and looked outside, only there was no rain. The sounds of an oncoming storm continued – even a low, distant rumble of thunder – but I had to shield my eyes against soul-piercing sunshine. Not a cloud in the sky.
Two days ago, I saw shadows under the door. No one was home, of course, at least that I was aware. My wife was at work and the kids at school. As I pushed through the latest diabolical wave of aches and pains, a figure seemed to shift back and forth, back and forth, outside the door. The shadow moved from the right side of the gap beneath the door to the left. Right and left.
Then it was gone.
My doctor said the virus wreaks havoc on the nerves in the eardrums. I wonder if that’s happening to me. I came down with a sickening dizziness that has kept me bedridden since this morning. Maybe that explains the shadows, too. Maybe COVID can get into the eyes.
Yesterday, my wife brought me dinner three times.
She knocked. “Dinner is outside the door, babe.”
“Thanks,” I said, and, like a zombie, hobbled to the door through the aches and pains in my joints. Outside the door was a plate of pizza and wings from our local favorite. I’m so thankful I still have my taste, smell, and appetite. I picked up the plate and sat down at the desk to eat.
KNOCK. KNOCK. “Dinner is outside the door, babe.”
I was about to reply, but as I looked back to my plate from the door, the plate was gone. The desk was empty. No pizza. No wings.
“Uh, thanks, babe,” I reply, my voice worn and dry. Dizziness makes the room shift as a go back to the door for a second time. Opening the door, there’s the pizza and wings again. Same spot it was before. I turn back to the room, but I notice the window – normally on the opposite wall from the door – was on instead on the adjacent wall. I blink. Then it’s back where it should be, opposite from me. My God, is this the COVID? I sit back down at the desk. I wait, breathing, suddenly worried the dizziness won’t let me keep the pizza and wings down.
KNOCK. KNOCK. “Dinner is outside the door, babe.”
What is going on?
I proceeded through the same sequence of events again for a third cycle: hobbling to the door, seeing the plate, the window shifting from one wall to another, then sitting at the desk. “Yes, the one thing to actually drive a person insane is doing the same thing over and over, hoping for different results.” Where had I heard that?
It didn’t happen again.
This morning, I woke to tickling on my right big toe. I sat up in bed, seeing the scab on the knuckle from a previous blister. In my sick stupor, I just stared at it, wondering when the symptoms will go away.
Then the scab moved.
I thought my eyesight blurred. COVID can get into the eyes, I remember thinking. As I watched the scab, it seemed to elongate. A tiny, worm-like head rose from the black, discolored splotch, surveying the landscape of my feet. I kicked my feet, terrified, yet the scab-turned-beetle-worm was resilient. The head rose higher and the scab grew legs. It began to crawl up my foot. I don’t remember everything, but I know that in my panic, no matter what I did, the thing made it onto my leg and inside my sweatpants. The tiny legs scuttered up onto my stomach, then my chest. I was too horrified to actually touch it, but needed to get it off me. No matter how much I swat at it, it was just out of reach. It seemed to know where I was going next, like a fly that always buzzes away just before the swatter gets it. I slapped my own neck and face as it neared by mouth. I brushed it away, but it held, forcing its way into my mouth. I spit and coughed, trying to scoop it out with my fingers. It left a taste in my mouth like spoiled milk as the tiny legs flicked against my teeth on the way down. I coughed again. Harder. Shrieking. Spasming at the body horror I was experiencing.
Then finally I hacked it free, the loogie of the century. Only it landed nowhere. Gone. The nauseating tickling sensation in my esophagus gone.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, this is where my recent hysteria begins.
I sat on the edge of the bed, wondering if I was actually losing my mind. I’ll just lie down, I thought. I’ll just try to lay down. I suddenly got confused. Do I lie down? Or do I lay down? Is laying down the same as standing horizontally? Same thing. Lay down, or lie down. It became a weird song in my head. Lay lie, lay lie.
I laid down on my back, looking at the ceiling, breathing slowly, trying to get a mental grip.
There, there, a voice said. I thought it was in my head. There, there.
The sun disappeared outside and it was suddenly night. I felt myself pulled into the covers by an unseen force. Lightning cracked across the sky, so palpable it seemed to be in the room. In the light, I saw something shifting at the end of the bed.
There, there. The voice again.
The darkness shifted, as if it had an awareness, that it only wanted me to see what was at the end of the bed. Everything beyond that dissipated into black ether, yet there was just enough light to see a mound of squirming appendages rising above the bed. A crawling mass of human arms. The fin of a fish. A dog’s leg. A bear’s claw. A tentacle. As it rose, there were humanoid arms and legs mixed in. Even robotic arms, completely mechanical with parts I could not describe with impossible shapes and connections. Alien, all of them reaching over one another, trying to grab me and pull me into the slithering mucous mass. The sound was like locusts tearing across the desert. I tried to cry out, but I was frozen with terror.
There, there, the voice said. Now just listen, and everything will be alright. Fear’s slimy fingers reached up from the dark hidden netherworld beneath the bed, holding my limbs. Just listen. Listen.
“Lay lie lay lie, my boy, lay lie lay lie,” the mass says. The voice was inhuman, a moist void of hallow clicks and clacks like a broken machine. I tried to free myself, but the more I fought it, the harder I was pulled into the bed.
“You can’t decide, lay lie lay lie.”
Just listen. There, there. The slimy fingers of madness suddenly remind me of salamanders. As if under the covers I’m laying atop a squirming pile of them. Behold, the Man with a Thousand Hands.
“Laying lying, lay lie lay lie.”
The appendages parted, the mass turning inside out as it hovered halfway between the bed and the ceiling. A dark opening emerged where crimson yellow eyes gleamed like a ferocious, alien hunger – a beast that hadn’t eaten for centuries and I was the first meal it had come across. Behind those eyes waited the frightening entirety of the unknown cosmos.
Then, the clicking and clacking stopped.
The mass suddenly came for me. I screamed. It grew, everything disappearing behind the conglomeration of crooked, sliming and shifting appendages. And just as I think I’m about to end…
It’s gone. Just like the beetle. Like the shadows outside the door. The window. There. Then gone.
That was just moments ago. I feel like a soaked sponge being squeezed, the sanity dripping out of me into the drain. I should call my doctor again. “Doctor, I’m seeing things.” What sort of things? The conversation ends there. (Chuckle.) That’s why I’m writing all this down. What could happen next? Don’t think I want to know. Perhaps I’ll have a COVID’s Chronicles of Horror drafted by the time I’m done.
For now, I’ll get back to bed. It’s late. Just need to lay down.
Lay lie lay lie.