Halloween special – when auspicious happenings converge

Brushes with death, confrontations with our mortality if you will, may be like a slow train coming. We see the ominous locomotive in the distance belching out it’s acrid smoke, the Grim Reaper at the helm with the throttle half open. He’s in no hurry. He knows that you know he’s coming and he likes to build up the drama gradually. I guess having terminal cancer must be like that, or some sort of degenerative disease. Along with your relatives, you think of ways to distract you from the inevitable. But when you look up – The Reaper’s still there, only closer – close enough to see he’s smiling.

Alternatively, these life events may be more akin to a gin trap or broken glass on a beach. You’re going through your daily routine, wishing you could be spared the hum-drum rituals of coffee, breakfast, empty the dishwasher, feed the animals etc. when suddenly you find a cruel, serrated metal vice has snapped shut on your leg, or a tetanus-laden shard of glass has jammed itself in the arch of your foot.

It’s not like you have a choice in these things but you can’t help wonder if there really is a celestial timetable that predicts these events. Especially if they fall at the time of Halloween.

It was the latter scenario that fell upon me like a sanguine ambush yesterday. Here’s the story:

 

I was just about to pick up my toothbrush when the itching in my nose announced that it could no longer wait to be relieved. I was in the recovery stages of a recent cold that had developed into a chest infection, so it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. I reached for a tissue and blew my nose. It’s a normal reaction of mine, which may draw cries of too much information, but I studied the contents of said tissue prior to throwing it in the toilet and saw a small mass of congealed blood. Again, nothing out of the ordinary for a patient who has been wiping their nose perpetually over the last few days, as if the act might increase the share price in Kleenex.

On with the teeth-cleaning ritual – or so I thought. I felt a trickle of something on my upper lip then watched as a bright red drop splotch on the porcelain of the sink. A second later it was joined by a companion, so I reached for a wad of toilet roll to dab at what I thought was a temporary inconvenience.

Now here’s the thing. I had a TIA or mini-stroke about ten years ago. I was a week in hospital but, thankfully, made a full recovery. Ever since that time, I’ve been taking 75mg of aspirin a day as a preventative measure – just in case a pesky thrombin chain reaction might choose again to draw platelets unto itself and stubbornly lodge in a major blood vessel in my brain.

I had just taken my daily dose and aspirin acts quickly, thinning the blood to prevent the aforementioned thrombosis. The down-side of this is, if you cut yourself shaving or suffer any minor cut, you bleed like the proverbial stuck-pig. So what I thought might be a couple of drops, within seconds had become a gushing Niagara, splotting over the bathroom floor and on to my pyjama front.

I kept pushing wad after wad of TR up my nostrils, only to have it soaked within ten seconds. It wasn’t stopping. I tried remembering my first aid and sat down, head between legs and nose pinched. This cued the next level of panic. The blood was now flowing down the back of my nasal cavity and into my throat, causing me to choke. I bet Dracula never had this problem.

Should I call an ambulance? Would I even be able to make myself heard while spitting out great gobbets of blood?  It would be typical if the ambulance arrived and there I would be, blood flow staunched and sheepishly holding my tissues in hand. After all, they’ve got real emergencies to attend to. But I had to do something. I was already through one toilet roll and my hooter was looking like it had been stoved in by Mohammed Ali.

I thought of one more thing I could try. Staggering across the landing, I knocked on my seventeen year old son’s door. Thankfully, he was awake and listening to his iPod.

“Will,” I said. “Emergency – go and get John from next door, I’ve got a nose bleed that just won’t quit.” John is a retired doctor and one half of a couple who happen to be the best neighbours we’ve ever had. I really, really hoped he was in.

Minutes later I heard his shuffling footsteps coming up the stairs. I was sat on the chair again and must have looked quite a sight; still in my pyjamas, long hair held up in a clip and a face looking like Cujo after he’d just ripped apart a rabbit.

John was able to give me the best advice and told me not to keep replacing the wads of tissue as it wasn’t giving the blood time to clot. I kept adding to the wadge under my nose while he waited patiently and folded new pads for me.

It still wasn’t stopping, and I’d swallowed a lot of my own metallic tasting fluid. Whether it was this, or just the hypo-volemic shock from the blood loss, I felt the hot prickle of a fainting spell looming. I also thought I was going to be sick.

By now, I was lying on the bed, head in a bucket and spitting blood rather than swallowing it. I pity poor old John having to witness such a spectacle, but, bless him, he stuck it out. Slowly but surely, the nausea subsided and I felt the river of blood slowing to a trickle. It took about an hour and a half to stop completely, but the relief was immense.

Brush with death? May be a bit exaggerated looking back at it now, but it sure as hell felt like it at the time. When my wife returned home, she advised me to clean myself up.

Looking at my reflection in the mirror, I thought – at least I don’t need a costume and makeup for Halloween!

 

That wasn’t fiction – it really happened. Maybe it’ll provide some material for a future story. I like to think that every dog turd has its silver … No – I’m going to have to work on that metaphor.

 

            My other Halloween experience has been much more pleasant. I was asked by Jim Knowes, moderator of the horror group at Scribophile, to be a judge in the Halloween short story competition. I jumped at the chance as I’d never been extended such an offer. Little did I know that it would involve reading through fifty six entries, totalling some 110,000 words. But you know what? It was a real pleasure. There were some great story plots and a host of creepy descriptions that could have easily fallen out of Stephen King or Edgar Allen Poe’s pen.

            The winner is going to be announced on the Scribophile forum tomorrow. Now, speaking of Scribophile, if you’re a budding writer I couldn’t think of a better online community to join. It’s a must for any author wanting to receive and give constructive criticism on anything from a short story to a novel. If you want to know more, then an online friend of mine, Joanne Roye has just published an excellent three blogs all about it. You can find them at this link

            The direct link to Scribophile is here if you’d like to visit.

 

Final bit: last week I gave you three story starts to choose from. The most popular one grabbing your attention was #1 – this opens with the MC studying the back of his hand in a rather surreal way. So this is the basis of a new story – one which I said I’d got to finish by next Friday. So – I’d better make a start now.

 

Please leave a comment at the bottom. I’d be genuinely delighted to hear your responses to this post. The only reason I do this is to connect with you, my Connoisseurs of Chaos.

Excelsior!

Tom

2 Comments

  1. Kevin says:

    Glad it was nothing too serious. I used to get spontaneous nose bleeds when I was a kid (7 or 8 years old). It stopped when I got older though. So I can relate to your experience, although mine weren’t as bad as your own. Although I would wake up with bloodstains on my pillow.

    1. Tom says:

      Apparently, nose bleeds run in my family – so my mother tells me. She remembers her Dad sitting in his rocking chair, his nose pouring forth blood into a bucket. Maybe I should count myself lucky!

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