Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Ventilation, Part 3 (fictionalized history)

(In 1952, polio reached its peak in the United States with 21,000 cases of paralytic polio. The first polio vaccine was introduced in 1955. By 1965, the total paralytic cases had fallen to 61. In this fictionalized history series, we will be experiencing the aftermath of polio, before the dramatic triumph of a vaccine. If you're just joining us, go back to Part 1.)

Julia whimpered in the dark.

"What's wrong honey? Did something happen?"

Julia shook her head.

"A nightmare?"

"I don't feel good."

She tightened. "What's wrong?"

"I can't sleep. There's things in my head. They won't go away."

"Oh honey, come here."

Their skin touched, and she felt the heat.

An icy fear clove to her bones. "Do you have a fever?"

Julia sniffled. "I don't know. My throat hurts."

A cold. Just a cold.

Her thoughts slid back and forth in her head. She chased around images and tried to anchor them.

Aspirin. Cold compresses.

"Summer colds are miserable," she said.

"Mom?" The voice quivered.

Before she could respond, Julia heaved in her arms. Vomit hit her arm. Splashed all over her legs.

The girl gagged and coughed.

"Oh honey."

...not a cold not a cold not a cold.

"Take a deep breath," she said. "Relax."

Julia tried to pull her hair back and out of the way.

"Don't worry about that. Let's get this off you."

Her hands fiddled with Julia's nightgown. Gave up. Reached for a tissue. Dropped it.

"It's just something you ate," she said. "You got it out of your system now. You'll be okay."

She started for the bathroom. Turned around. Pulled at the bedspread. Looked at the mess dripping from her blouse.

The room sounded electric.

She wondered where the sound was coming from.

Julia cried.

She tried to move.

But all she could do was watch her.

Go back to Part 2.


SzélsőFa said...

One can learn a lot just from reading this, Jason.

Sarah Hina said...

The horror of this clings. And panic definitely has a buzz.

The child-parent bond is overwhelming in this one. As Julia's body is overcome, so is her mother's. Total paralysis...

Is that muscle fiber in the photograph?

beth♥ said...

"The room sounded electric."
Simple sentence, and yet ... powerful.

Vesper said...

I can recognise some of a mother's feelings at the sight of her sick child: fear, helplessness...
Very well written, Jason.

Scott said...

Hard to read... such a nightmare.

Mansi Trivedi said...

You are a great great writer

Miladysa said...

Absolutely chilling!

JaneyV said...

Between having a broken phone line, course-work and Hubby being away I've been a bad blogger recently. What a delight it is to find you're doing another serialisation. Each part has been short but loaded with suspense. Poor Julia - every parent's nightmare.

In 1950's and 60's Ireland TB was epidemic. Both my father and my older sister got it and they were sent to sanatoriums to recover. My sister was only 3. She was so traumatised she didn't speak for the 3 months she was hospitalised. She was 25 miles from home. With no public transport or car, my parents were only able to visit her once. These epidemics didn't just destroy physical health.

This is a fantastic idea Jason - very emotional and yet evenly handled. Looking forward to the next one.

The Electric Orchid Hunter said...

Oh dear. Visceral. Hurry up with the next part - don't leave us with these fever dreams. This makes me once again grateful for not being a parent.

Ello said...

Write faster please! I'm biting my nails off and they are short enough as it is!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone! I will respond individually as always, but I'm running a bit behind at the moment. I'll catch up tomorrow!

Anonymous said...

Szelsofa, what a nice thing to say! Thanks!

Sarah, this one was done very quickly, and I was nervous about it. After doing a first draft, I realized I was attempting a very delicate thing. The emotion I was going for was a sort this-can't-be-happening shut down. A horrible feeling I've thankfully not faced (and hard to show). As for the picture, you're exactly right...regarding my intent. I thought it looked like muscle also. However, the truth is that it is the water surface of the Chesapeake Bay. I applied some effects to product that result. Cool, eh?

Beth, I liked that description too. Buzzing-in-the-ears sort of thing.

Vesper, it's a hard thing to imagine. I'm glad what I portrayed seemed realistic.

Scott, on the one hand, I'm sorry about dredging up such an unpleasant emotion, but on the other, I feel good about creating a response from my vision of a thing I've never actually experienced.

Mansi, it's rare to have a new visitor hit me in the gut like that. If only a fraction of your compliment is true, I'm an extremely happy guy. Thanks for confidence builder!!

Miladysa, what a horrible experience this sort of thing must have been for families.

Janey, my God, what an experience for someone so young!! I'm very sorry she had to go through that. I hope everyone fully recovered. As for Julia and other polio victims, similar traumas laid in store for them.

EOH, yes, parenthood brings with it fear and potential loss. I trust the positive gifts far outweigh them, though. It has been true for our 8 years into it.

Ello, when you're impatient, I know I'm on to something!!! Thanks, my friend.

The Anti-Wife said...

Hi, Jason! Very well done so far.

paisley said...

continued excellence.. i love the sparseness of this piece...

Anonymous said...

Anti-Wife, hi! Thanks for the encouragement. :)

Paisley, I think that in the hardest moments, the most we can hold onto is pieces. Too much is crashing down on us to take in the whole experience.

ChrisEldin said...

You've 'shown' that feeling very well. Every parent's worst nightmare.
This is really, really good.