††††††††††† The headache began as Ben walked up the stairs towards his floor. It was a light headache located behind his right eye and that meant trouble. Sure, it was nothing now, but he knew that it meant trouble to come. It would start as a small headache and slowly blossom into a full blown migraine that would force him to spend the whole day lying in his dark bedroom.

††††††††††† Just what I need he thought as he got to his landing. First that fucking quack tells me thereís nothing wrong and now I get a migraine. He looked down the hall towards his door and sighed. Itís so dusty in here, how many times do I need to complain to the super, not only do I have to deal with migraines but my damn allergies too. He shuffled his bag to his right hand, which was already holding the manila envelope, pulled out a small painters mask from his pocket and managed to get it over his mouth and nose. Maybe I should just demand that the super refund me for these things, if heís not going to make sure this place stays clean, he should at least pay for my health needs.

††††††††††† He made his way down the hall and shuffled his bag and the envelope to his left hand so he could get his keys. It was as he reached into his right pocket for his keys that he noticed the drop of blood.

††††††††††† Just a small circle of blood on the manila envelope. He paused, his keys half way to the door and stared. Where the hell did that come from?

††††††††††† He scanned his arms, saw nothing, reached up and patted around his forehead and cheeks, nothing. Did I scratch a bug bite? Is it even mine? Did I walk past some bum coughing, oh my god, I did walk past a bum. I bet he has tuberculosis or aids. . . oh my god what if thereís some on me.

††††††††††† Panicking now, he quickly unlocked the door, stepped in and only took the time necessary to lock the deadbolt before he dropped his bag and the envelope, tore off his shirt, snagging the face mask in the process, and started yanking off his pants so he could shower. As he pulled the pants to his ankles he became aware that he had forgotten to remove his shoes. God damn fucking shoes, if I wore Velcro this wouldnít be a problem.

††††††††††† He sat to untie his shoes and glanced at the face mask, stopping his hands in mid untying. There was a splotch of blood in the mask, just under the nose, slowly spreading across the white material. Oh fuck. His hand moved without thought up to his nose, gingerly patting his nostrils. Willing himself to look down at his hand he saw a small spot of blood.

††††††††††† Itís just a small bit of blood, nothing to worry about. Just a little nose bleed, definitely not a sign of some tumor pushing itís way through my brain, crushing gray matter and synapses, working its way through my skull . . .or maybe itís some sort of aneurysm, blood vessels are bursting through my head, Iím going to bleed to death or just fall over dead. Maybe even brain parasites I picked up from living in this city, right now little worms are crawling through my brain and that idiot missed them in the x-ray. That would show that quack, not two hours after he tells me I need to see a shrink, not two hours after he accuses me of being a hypochondriac, I fall over dead from the tumor he said I didnít have.

††††††††††† He finished untying his shoes and pulled back up his pants. A nose bleed, no matter what horrible problem it might have been a symptom of, was not as scary as dirty bum germs. Cotton balls in the bathroom, under the sink. At the sink he wet his hands, lightly wiped off the under side of his nose and washed his hands. He took out a few cotton balls and placed one in each nostril. He checked in the mirror. No blood showing, Iím probably fine for now but I should give him a call tomorrow and let him know.

††††††††††† He walked back over to his door and took the extra time necessary to lock the extra deadbolt, the door lock, the safety chain and put up the intruder prevention bar. Then he got the folder and went over to his little filing cabinet. The first small group of files was his taxes. Donít need that. The next small group of files was his school records and resumes. Nope. The final foot of the filing cabinet was dedicated to medical records. In here he put all the medical records for the myriad of syndromes and diseases that he had suffered from, might have suffered from or still suspected he was suffering from.

††††††††††† Letís see, should this be filed under brain Ė x-rays or x- rays Ė brain. Maybe tumors or cancer. He leafed through the files while thinking. He started in the front. Definitely not in the advanced accelerated aids file, not in the blood parasite file, maybe the cancer file. His fingers moved across the cancer files; colon, kidney, lung, prostate, testicular (one file for each of them), thyroid and spinal. Well thereís no proof yet that its cancer. He moved on past Carpal tunnel, Diphtheria, Emphysema, fractures, Hyperthyroidism, Hypothyroidism, Joculups syndrome, Laryngitis Ė chronic, leukemia, Little Donnie Syndrome, Lou Gehrigs disease, Lycanthropy, Lyme disease, Melanoma Ė acute, organ failure Ė appendix/heart/kidney/lung, Panner Disease, Smith-Magenis Syndrome, Salpingitis, Wilsonís Disease, finally to the largest file labeled Yet Unknown.

††††††††††† Yet unknown sounds right, since after all I donít know what this is yet. He labeled the envelope ?brain problems? and slid it in between ?amputated 6th finger? and ?Possible Vasectomy?.

††††††††††† Why am I so sick. What did I do to have suffered from so many diseases and why does no one believe me.

††††††††††† As he slid the drawer closed one of the cotton balls fell out, soaked through, and hit the floor. Ben just stared at it and saw a small drop of blood fall through his vision and land next to the cotton ball, a moment later he saw another. Thatís not normal, thatís not right. Another drop.

††††††††††† He started walking for the telephone. Maybe it really is some sort of aneurysm, Iím still not in any pain . . . As he walked the occasional drop of blood would fall and land on the floor or his pants. Iíll call Doctor Murphy, see what he says, it will probably just be something about using a cold compress or some shit, he wonít believe that my health is seriously in jeopardy, but at least I should call to rub it in his face later when someone figures out whatís wrong with me.

††††††††††† Before he was even within arms length of the phone it rang and he stopped, still too confused to deal with it, and decided to wait for the machine to pick up.

††††††††††† ďHi this is Ben. Iím currently indisposed and unable to answer your call. Please leave a message.Ē

Drip. Maybe I should just hang up on whoever and call 911. Drip.

††††††††††† ďBen? Itís Mommy, honey, I know youíre home. Your doctorís appointment was at four,Ē dripďyouíre bound to be home by now. You know how I hate when you screen my calls,Ē drip ďit makes me worry.Ē

††††††††††† ďI donít have time for this right now, Mom,Ē he said quietly to himself. A drop hit his hand and he watched it roll down his thumb leaving a small red trail.

††††††††††† ďWell honey, call me back soon and let me know what the doctor said about your headaches, youíll be in my prayers, love you.Ē

††††††††††† As she was hanging up the apartment became quiet again except for the small dripping sound of blood hitting the floor. He looking down, not even thinking of the mess, to see the small spots of blood hit the wood flooring, hearing the small noises. Itís speeding up, getting quicker, but what an interesting pattern theyíre making. Wow I bet I could sell that to an art gallery, nose drip paintings by Ben Phillips. Icould have been an artist. He shook himself back into reality, sending droplets back and forth and listened more carefully. It was most definitely speeding up.

††††††††††† He took the last step for the phone, this time intent on calling 911 when the truth of the situation hit.

††††††††††† Iím dying. For the first time ever Iím actually dying. He started laughing, he couldnít help it, this was truly funny. For the first and only time, Iím actually dying. The laughing sent little droplets flying around landing on the phone and counter. After all those years of testing and fear I actually have something wrong with me and now here I am dying with almost no pain. This is amazing, nothing like the agonizing ďI told you soĒ death I always imagined.

††††††††††† He reached for the phone again, to call 911, but stopped himself. Somewhere deep inside, Ben understood that this was true, this was his death. Nothing anyone can do could stop it. No ambulance will save me, no doctor could have seen this, hell every doctor Iíve seen in the past 27 years of my life has tried to see something wrong with me and always said I was fine. If they couldnít stop it then, they canít stop it now.

††††††††††† He looked around his small apartment, wow this place is trashed, how long has it been since Iíve cleaned. I can just see mom walking in here to get her dead sonís stuff ready and having to deal with this mess, the dishes, the dirty clothes all over place and well now the little trails of blood . . . . but I canít do anything about that. Oh shit my porn.

††††††††††† He quickly went over to his closet and pulled out a box full of porno magazines and a few videos. Poor woman doesnít need to be cleaning up after her dead son to find his porn collection. He reached into the nightstand and added his condoms and the lube into the box. When Ben got to his front door he undid all the bolts, decided that the breathing mask was unnecessary and went to throw the box down the garbage chute. He only locked the dead bolt on his way back in.

††††††††††† I wonder how long I have left, what do I have time to do. I should change, definitely, maybe clean the dishes out of the sink . . . no Iíd just get blood on them, oh I should write a note to mom, I guess it would be better to call for an ambulance to find me than have the neighbors or mom discover me a week from now. First things first.

††††††††††† He went back to his closet and took off his dirty clothes. First he set aside his favorite ďniceĒ suit, being careful to keep it clean, and laid it out on the bed, and then he got out his favorite day to day outfit. Just a nice pair of cargo pants, silk boxers, and a very comfortable shirt. Might as well die comfy. He put on the comfortable clothes and wrote a small note on legal pad from his dresser ďFor burial.Ē Drip, drip.

††††††††††† I canít believe that Iím not afraid.

††††††††††† Then he wrote a note for his mother, angling the paper so that no blood would fall on it.


††††††††††† Mom,

I wanted to let you know how much I love you. Thank you for always being there for me and Iím sorry that I wonít be there for you later. I think now that I am actually going to die, that I may have misused some of my time, but I still cherish my life.

††††††††††† Love,

††††††††††† Ben


He felt an odd detachment from what he was doing. My head still hurts, Iím still dying, but I donít really care, its life right. The blood had reached a constant drip, itís like a water faucet, except that itís just my life.

He moved on into the kitchen and tried to clean up a little and only got blood on the floor. This is pointless, Iím getting blood all over these things. Maybe the paramedics would like cookies . . . yeah cookies. . . . wait . . . cookies?

He shrugged and carefully placed instant bake cookies onto a cookie sheet and started the oven. While he waited he sat down at the table and started writing another note.


Dear Paramedics,

Thank you for trying to save me, but alas I realized that there was nothing you could do to help. I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.

Thank you,

Ben Phillips

P.S. Please enjoy these cookies, I made sure not to get any blood on them.


††††††††††† The oven dinged so he popped the cookies in, noticing without any sense of dismay that the blood was actually running in a slow steady stream now.

††††††††††† He picked up the phone and dialed 911. When the operator picked up he said ďHello, I hope youíre having a good day. My name is Ben Phillips. I live at 154 Oakdale Avenue in apartment 3 C. Iím dying and thought you should know.Ē Then he hung up.

††††††††††† I wonder what information they need about me.

††††††††††† He got up to get his wallet and as he walked past the door unlocked it, to make it easier for the paramedics. Then he sat back down and took out his driverís license, insurance card and his emergency information card that said how to get in touch with his mom for emergencies. He put them all down next to the note for the paramedics.

††††††††††† I hope they like the cookies.

††††††††††† The oven dinged again and he carefully got the cookies out of the oven and put the trey next to the note on the table and sat back down, he felt tired.

††††††††††† Not much longer now, it is a bit sad. I wish I had gone out more, seen some more of the world, maybe visited some exotic places. Snow boarding and kayaking looked like fun. I probably would have dated more if I hadnít spent so much time talking about my diseases. That was just silly too, even if I had been sick, itís not that bad, I should have tried to have more fun. Well maybe next time IíllÖ


††††††††††† Ben Phillips was found dead and bloody by the paramedics. They enjoyed the cookies.