Drabblecast 358 – DoubleHeader: Rachael K. Jones



Sunday, May 3rd, 2015

Cover for Drabblecast episode Rachael K Jones Doubleheader by Spencer Bingham10. _Influenza siderius_ begins as a general malaise. That is always the first symptom. Perhaps you wish to doze on the sofa, but your husband suggests a little fresh air instead. You do feel better after the walk, but by the next morning the listlessness has returned tenfold. Your husband complains when you order takeout instead of making the pot roast, but you feel too tired to care.

 

Ten Wretched Things About Influenza Siderius
by Rachael K. Jones

 

10. _Influenza siderius_ begins as a general malaise. That is always
the first symptom. Perhaps you wish to doze on the sofa, but your
husband suggests a little fresh air instead.

You do feel better after the walk, but by the next morning the
listlessness has returned tenfold. Your husband complains when you
order takeout instead of making the pot roast, but you feel too tired
to care.
9. Next you feel pinprick pain all around the eye sockets. The ache
radiates downward along your spine as the disease spreads through your
nervous system. If you lie very still, the pain goes away. The
soreness coupled with the lethargy will cause you to doze throughout
the day, first briefly and then at length as the illness progresses.
8. Over-the-counter cold and flu medicines fail to relieve the
symptoms. You buy little red pseudoephedrine pills and chase them down
with grape-flavored phenylephrine syrup. When those don’t work, you
try a nasal spray with oxymetazoline. For the aches you take two
aspirin, then four, then eight, then sixteen, then finish the whole
bottle, but nothing changes.
7. Next goes your sense of balance. Vertigo makes housekeeping and
yard work impossible, and your husband snaps at you when you forget to
iron his shirts for his court date in the morning. You stumble out of
bed at 5 A.M. to starch the collars, stopping every few moments to
steady yourself against the wall.
6. Once your balance is shot, nausea sets in. Your stomach cramps up
like you are about to retch, but somehow you never do, even when you
kneel over the toilet and stick a finger down your throat. You think
if you could just vomit, you would feel like yourself again.
5. Doctors cannot treat your flu. When you make an appointment with
the doctor, and arrive in the waiting room after an expensive cab ride
(for you no longer trust yourself to drive, and your husband refuses
to take time off from work)–when you are finally in that horrid paper
gown, seated on the cold steel examination table, and you’ve finished
explaining your illness, the doctor throws back his head and roars.

“Is this some kind of joke?” he asks between gasps. You do not know
how to answer a question like that, so you swallow back your tears and
say no, this is not a joke, that your illness has gone on for two
weeks now, and you need some relief.

He wipes his flushed cheeks and tells you that you have _influenza
siderius,_ the iron flu, and that you need to see a specialist
immediately. He scribbles down an address and dismisses you. You are
not completely out of earshot when he dissolves into cackles again.
4. The specialist’s clinic is not like most doctor’s offices. Instead
of antiseptic, it smells of rust and gasoline. Instead of an
examination table, there is a greasy workbench piled with tangled
wires and bent screws. Instead of the paper gown, you are given
nakedness to wear. You cover yourself with your hands as best you can
when the specialist opens the door. She draws a cruel, pointed awl
from the pocket of her oil-spattered coveralls and covers her eyes
with magnifying goggles. “Let’s unscrew your head and take a look
inside, shall we?”

“No,” you cry out, horrified, “no, don’t touch me!” You snatch up your
clothes and shove past her into the hallway, choking back sobs as you
flee down a corridor crowded with decapitated mannequins and false
human limbs arranged like bouquets in buckets. And when you round the
corner, you see your own grinning face on a poster peeling off the
back of the exit door. The slogan reads, _Android Housewives, Next Gen
Series. Get A Gal Who’s Always On!_

The shock brings you to your knees. Then slowly, because you don’t
want to believe it, you place your hands on either side of your head
and twist it like a jar lid, just to see how far it will go.
3. Your husband will never catch the flu from you. Your flu is not
contagious. He will never suffer in sympathy alongside you. You will
not nurse him back to health.

When you confront him about the poster, he turns deep red and punches
some numbers into his cell phone. You hear your husband arguing with
your manufacturers. He calls you defective. He calls you cheap Chinese
shit. He demands to return you, to exchange you. Whatever they tell
him only makes him redder.

When he hangs up, he ignores you for a full hour despite your pleas.
You promise him you will be a good wife. You promise to iron his
shirts. You promise to cook and clean every day despite the nausea.
You promise to give him spectacular sex despite the vertigo. You
promise to rub his feet and sing to him and perform limber
stripteases, even though every motion hurts. You promise you won’t
complain anymore. He tells you to hush, and to demonstrate your
obedience, you do.

In the silence that follows, you look up from your perfect hands into
the eyes of the man you can’t help but love. “You’re out of warranty,”
he says at last. “I can’t return you. I guess we’d better talk.”

That’s when you realize he is not your husband anymore. He is your owner.
2. You cannot cure your flu. You can only endure it. A return trip to

the mechanic confirms that you are permanently broken.
Surprisingly, your husband treats you more gently now. Sometimes he
finishes the ironing while you sleep in. When you struggle up the
stairs to bed, he coaxes you with soft encouragements: “C’mon, Baby,
you can do it. Don’t give up on me.”

One day when you are riding together in his secondhand sedan, the
engine struggles to turn over, and you hear him repeat the same words
to the car.
1. Before you fell ill, no one told you you were an android. Now they
never let you forget it. You are a machine. A broken, defective
machine.

At night, you long for silence, but you can’t fall asleep. Your
husband snores beside you, loud and arrhythmic. You close your eyes,
straining your ears to catch your own heartbeat. Instead you hear the
metallic drone of thousands of tiny gears churning inside your chest.

You realize you are waiting for them to stop.

Play
Spencer Bingham's new comic: Homebound
Ten Wretched Things About Influenza Siderius first appeared in Daily Science Fiction July 2014.
Mamihlapinatapei first appeared in Crossed Genres August 2014.

Episode Art:  Spencer Bingham

Twabble:  “We watched the animals. They watched us back. Who will move first, we asked? Whoever has the most to gain, they answered. ”  by  DrewDidThis


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