It was light outside. Edward could see the faint crepuscular glow creeping up over the top of the curtain and down, under the pelmet. He blinked into waking, pushing aside the visions of dreams that were not running into the corners of his mind to hide as quickly as he could have wished, in either a waking or sleeping state. Things scurried, claws scraped, and corners of salivating, sore scabbed lips, drooled reluctantly, tardily away into his unconscious with an unspoken promise of return.

It was hot under the duvet but Ed shuddered underneath it as the creeping things let the last neural stones fall on top of their daytime slumber. He let his arm slide across the sheet. Nothing. He was alone. He knew he was but he never failed to check. A routine lest his other routines failed him.

There was the tall ominous figure in the doorway, but it was, as it had always been so far thank God, his dressing gown hanging on the back of the door. Cowled, visually menacing in the gloom of early morning, but impotent against anything more sinister than a cold front from the Atlantic.

His brain completing the transition from the world of dreams to what passed for reality in these trouble times, Ed slid a foot out from under the duvet to discover the ambient temperature of the room. Indeterminate he decided. He let his consciousness sink back into himself, retreating from engagement with the environment to determine his status. He was sure he was alive but there was a need for reassurance, for the responsibility of not assuming, for completing the battery of checks he had built up by observation and logic.

He was sure the movement he felt in his chest the throb in his neck below the ear was a pulse. But there was a suggestion the victim was not always sufficiently self aware to realise the changed state. How few of us are anyway he thought, living or dead? He felt for a pulse in his wrist. A surer test than imagining chest and head feelings.

He scrabbled for a moment, unable to feel anything among the tendons and bones. Had it happened? When had he been exposed? How was he so clear headed? Evidence available suggested it was unlikely such clear thoughts swam through the brains of those affected. And then; there it was, a strong if no longer steady pulse, thanks to the panic of doubt that surged through him.

He reached out for a drink from the water by his bedside. There was a definite coldness to the air he decided. But he would do the decent thing and put the pulse oximeter on his finger. The body and brain could fool themselves, but the machinery would tell him unequivocally if were still really alive or had unknowingly slipped during the night into the growing statistics of those who had succumbed.

The plastic peg snicked closed on his index finger and he pressed the on switch.

Now he’d know for sure.

He stared, waiting for the red led display to register his existence.


Photo credit: <a href=”″>Dani Rubio :)</a> on <a href=”″>Visual hunt</a> / <a href=””&gt; CC BY-NC-ND</a>

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