The disease shook me, it woke me from my dream. I opened my eyes and stared into pitch darkness. I couldn’t tell how long I’d been asleep for but I could tell it had been a long time. I sat up, my body groggy and still feeling feverish. I could have stayed in the infirmary but I preferred to stay in my quarters.
Everything was quiet and still as it always was. The only noise I could hear was a gentle pacing in the room next to me. It was Michael, our engineer and navigator. The poor genius was probably busy with some trajectory calculations in his head or some other thing that I would never understand. I was a mere botanist, the lowest form of life on any interplanetary exploration mission.
I wondered what everybody else was up to. Most of them would be up and about doing daily reports. The captain at the bridge checking on our progress. We had been traveling through the emptiness of space for eleven months, our journey now half done.
I felt around for the light switch and turned it on. The light hurt my eyes and I shut them instinctively. I waited for them to adjust and opened them slightly and took a short look around the room I was in; although calling it a room was a bit generous, capsule was more like it. It was grey and way too small for a person to do anything more than sleep in; there being only enough floor space to put in a cot and a narrow space on the side.
I looked at my watch; it was 5:00 PM by earth time. No one else on the ship had a watch. They all thought me silly and sentimental for keeping it. It really had no meaning here, where there was no day or night, just constant dark stillness. I brought it because it reminded me of home and it kept me grounded.
I walked slowly out of my tiny room, my legs slightly shaking. I stumbled straight to the medical quarters. She was there as I hoped she would be, still running tests on the samples she had taken from me. She was the medical officer, co-pilot and cook; her name was Jess. She saw me walk in and said.
“Hello Mamud,” I liked how she pronounced my name, with the last syllable drawn out, “how are we feeling?”
“Same as before.” I answered, my voice shaky.
“I ran some more tests on your blood.”
“Nothing so far. I’m beginning to think it may me psychosomatic,” she paused and looked at me after saying this, then continued, “I want to rule out a few more things so I’m going to try something different.”
“Whatever you think is best, I’m really starting to miss the routine around here. Being stuck in my cot is starting to get to me.”
“You know the drill, get on the table.”
Some strange ailment had overtaken me a week earlier. It had come upon me suddenly one night as I slept. I had woken up with a bizarre fever that was accompanied by shivers.
It was strange because before we left earth, the ship had been completely sterilized. The entire crew has also been inoculated against every sort of disease possible. In the entire trip so far there had been no major ailments except for the usual headaches, fatigue and effects of the ship’s artificial gravity which did funny things to the body.
Mine was a strange disorder. The medical quarters being fully equipped as it was, Jess was able to test me for almost anything but had come up short. No one knew what was wrong with me, a fact that worried me to no end.
I got up on the examining table and she did all the routine tests; temperature, blood pressure and all that. The results were the same as before. Temperature elevated, blood pressure elevated, nothing else was off. I wasn’t getting worse but I wasn’t getting better either.
Jess hadn’t given me any medication apart from painkillers so far. Her “something different” was to give me a dose of antibiotics to see if there would be any changes. She got out a pack that said “trimitracin” and connected the drip to my arm.
“This will take around half an hour so lie still and wait. I’m going to the bridge to update the captain. I’ll be back before it’s done.” Saying that she walked out, leaving me alone in the room.
I lay there and watched as the clear liquid ran down the transparent tube and seeped into my blood. At first I felt nothing different but after about ten minutes my body suddenly went numb. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t breathe. A few seconds which felt like hours passed then slowly my body began to convulse. I tried to cry out but my jaws felt like they were wired shut.
I felt something terrifying, it felt like my blood had stopped moving the right way through my veins and started moving the opposite direction. It felt like every blood carrying vessel in my body was being turned inside out.
A feeling came over my skin like sweat but when I managed to peek down on my hand I saw that it wasn’t the usual clear liquid coming through my skin. It was a pitch black gooish substance forming drops on my skin. The drops rolled down all over my body as I lay there and collected in a pool underneath me.
The more the “sweat” came out of my skin, the less severe the seizure became till finally it stopped. I was afraid to move, not knowing what was under me. I made a quick movement and at once I was off the table and on my feet. I looked back at the table but the black goo was gone. There was no trace of it anywhere. I thought perhaps I had hallucinated but when I looked at my clothes I saw that they had turned completely black.