Chuck shifted slightly, the hospital bed creaking softly as he moved. If he’d wanted to spend the night in another bug-infested room, he could’ve stayed back in West Africa, rather than returning home only to be quarantined under similar conditions. Now insects were crawling on his skin, pricking his neck like over-sized mosquitoes, their wings fluttering against his cheek. He expected more from an acclaimed New York City hospital. Chuck lifted his hand and swatted it back down beneath his chin, an unfamiliar, bulbous shape smacking against his palm. He felt no pain; the drugs were surprisingly strong.
Chuck’s neck didn’t normally talk, the majority of that came from his throat and mouth. The most his neck did was occasionally crack when he turned his head too quickly. Tonight, however, after smacking and purging it of mosquitoes, it let out an audible groan, followed by a soft ouch. It was peculiar, yes, but he reminded himself that he was suffering from a severe virus, and that he was also under the effects of a remarkably vast cocktail of drugs and medicines. Still, out of an abundance of caution, he made the executive decision to quickly open his eyes and ensure the mosquitoes were no longer enjoying a picnic upon his skin, their silly-straw snouts spiraling down through his flesh and into his bloodstream.
Chuck glanced down at his neck, blinking in the darkness to assist his eyes in focusing. A shockingly pale— almost anemic—face was pressed against his skin, its black hair softly rubbing against his cheek.
“What the fuck,” Chuck shouted, quickly climbing backwards in his bed so that his back was against the cold, concrete wall. The man remained attached to his neck, like a couple after a romantic evening alone. This, however, seemed less than romantic, but not because the person around his neck was a man. Chuck comfortably identified as bisexual, and, under other circumstances, may have even entertained the notion of having someone tenderly suction themselves to his neck. Doing so uninvited, though, was simply out of the question.
Chuck lifted his hands and began smacking them feebly down upon the man’s head, his body still weak from the virus.
“Vhat ze hell, stop it,” the man mumbled in a thick accent, his voice slightly muffled by the skin of Chuck’s neck.
“You stop it,” Chuck shouted. “Get off my neck!” He shoved at the man’s head, his hair oily against his fingers. His flesh was cold to the touch. “No means no.”
The man released Chuck’s neck, his mouth soaked in a red liquid that he genuinely hoped was simply Roarin’ Raspberry Kool-Aid. He, himself, had drank a lot of that in his youth, his mouth often turning a shade of red after finishing a glass. It never left a residue quite as thick as what was surrounding the lips of the man, though. It looked more like the blood he had been spewing from almost every orifice over the past week.
“Vell?” said the man, staring up at Chuck as if what he had been doing was completely normal. “Can I help you?”
“What do you mean ‘can I help you?’” Chuck shouted, pushing his back further up against the concrete wall behind him. “What the fuck are you doing!”
The man shrugged, his tongue slowly licking the Kool-Aid off his lips, a frostbitten purple hue taking its place.
“You can’t just come in here and start kissing my neck,” Chuck said. He reached for the button beside his bed that alerted the nurses and pressed it with his thumb. It usually took them a while to get suited up.
“I vasn’t kissing your neck,” said the man. His voice was deep, his accent unfamiliar to Chuck. If anything, it seemed like something straight out of a cartoon, his “w’s” sounding more like “v’s”. Perhaps it was Russian?
“You were clearly kissing my neck,” Chuck said, lifting his hand and rubbing it just beneath his chin. It was slippery to the touch, almost slimy. A shiver of disgust ran down his back. “How did you even get in here? I’m supposed to be quarantined.”
“Vhat?” the man said, his eyes growing wide. “Quarantined?”
“Yeah,” Chuck said, repeatedly pressing his thumb down on the “nurse assistance” button. They told him to just press it once, but he figured this constituted a bit of an emergency. Having a strange man in his quarantined hospital bed, who had just finished forcibly making out with his neck—uninvited—seemed like something he shouldn’t handle alone in his current state.
“Vhat, vhy?” said the man. He wiped the rest of the Kool-Aid off on the sleeve of his long, dark robe.
“I just got back from Africa,” Chuck said, slowly shaking his head.
“I see,” the man said, “zhat’s okay. I am not a racist.” He plunged his head forward and resumed tenderly kissing Chuck’s neck, this time slightly more aggressively. Chuck could hardly feel a thing through the drugs they’d given him.
“Get off,” Chuck said, again pushing at the man’s head.
“Vat are you doing,” he said, detaching from Chuck’s neck. “Zhat is very rude.”
“Stop kissing me, for fuck’s sake,” Chuck said. He glanced over at the heavy, metal door to the room. He could see the silhouette of figures putting on contamination suits through the small window near its top.
“Vhy,” said the man, his voice growing more agitated. “Vhat is the matter vith me? Vhy do you people always struggle so much? Zis is very natural.”
“First of all, it’s nothing to do with you,” Chuck said. He wanted to make it clear he had no ill-intent against the man. As far as he was concerned, he was likely a wonderful human being. “It’s just that I find all of this very uncomfortable. You can’t just go up to someone and start making out with their necks while they’re asleep. I’m fairly confident that’s some sort of sexual harassment.”
“No,” the man argued. “I’ve been doing zis for millennia, it’s cool. You vill live for millennia too, now.”
“What?” Chuck said, raising his eyebrow. The man clearly had no understanding of how long a millennia was . “Look, regardless, it’s not cool with me. Secondly—and perhaps more importantly—I have Ebola. You absolutely should not be kissing me.”
“Vat?” the man said, his eyes again growing wide. “Ebola?”
“Yes,” Chuck said.
“Vhy vhould you not lead vith zhat?” the man said, gagging violently as he backed away.
“With Ebola? I figured you knew, considering you walked into my hospital room and started kissing my neck. It’s not like you just randomly flew in through the vents.”
“Hospital? Isn’t zis the Comfort Inn on 39th and 8th?” the man said, glancing up at the ceiling vents in the far corner of the room.
“No,” Chuck said. “This is Bellevue Hospital.” He nodded toward the name embroidered on the breast of his gown.
“Oh my god,” the man said. “I vas vondering vhy you vere covered in blood. Zis is not good. Do I have Ebola?”
“Probably,” Chuck said. “I’d say there is a fairly high chance.”
“No! I can’t get sick, I have plans this veek,” the man shouted, stomping his feet on the tiled floor.
The door beside Chuck opened up, a beam of light spilling into the room. Three figures in over-sized, yellow suits wandered in, strips of tape wrapped around their arms, legs, neck, and various other would-be-exposed areas. Their heads were encased in half-clear helmets, the backs of which a similar type of yellow material.
“What’s wrong,” said one of the figures.
“This guy just came in here and started kissing my neck,” Chuck said, pointing below his chin. It was still damp to the touch. The majority of the slobber was opposite the figures, just out of their view.
“What?” said another figure.
“Yeah,” Chuck said, turning to his right. “He’s over—” he paused. The room was empty, save for a few dozen bats clinging onto the vent in the corner of the room, which he was pretty confident had not been there before.
“Sorry?” said the third figure.
Chuck slowly lifted his hand to his neck, running it down his moistened flesh and coming to a stop at two deep, oozing holes. He turned and stared at the three suited figures, his eyes wide.
“Hypothetical question,” Chuck said. “If Dracula got Ebola and continued sucking people’s blood, do you think that would be bad for containment?”
“Yes,” said the middle figure. “Hypothetically, of course.”
“Vell, shit,” whispered a heavily accented voice from the shadows, followed by the unmistakable sound of bats frantically crashing their way back through a hospital ventilation system.
Best apt tale I’ve read today.