A Pill A Day. Short Story.

I hope everyone had a good Patricks day, I went out to a bar with some friends, got drunk, drunker than I expected but it was fun enough. Didn’t feel great on sunday though, felt kinda sick. I think my days of drinking without hangovers are coming to an end. First time I felt pretty crappy after drinking. Normally I’m tired but thats it. Seems to be the end of an era. Still I had fun seeing friends and all that. If the hangovers increase in severity I may give up drinking. I don’t think it’d be worth it to be quite honest. I suppose I’ll worry about that another day.

I’m getting closer to the end of college, two months left. Thats it. Two months and I will have finished my exams (and assuming I pass) I will have a degree. Yay? Hopefully after that I’ll be starting a masters degree in Creative Writing. After that year, I have no idea what I’ll do. I always said I’d get a hdip, then teach, but I don’t know if I want to teach as a stop gap job. I suppose there is no rush or worry there. There’s still over a year to go so no use panicking. So much can happen in a few moments, never mind a year.

Speaking of years, it’s one month to the one year anniversary of this blog. I’ll have to plan something for it. Do something awesome.

Anyway, on with the show!


A Pill A Day.

He counted out the pills, checking and double checking. It was important to get the dosage right. Once he was sure he had exactly twenty, he began taking them. First the five dark blue, then the three red, then the four light blue, two pinks and finally, the last 6 yellows. He washed each grouping down with a gulp of water. Once they were consumed, he began packing away the boxes. It was an annoying daily ritual, but an important one. Once the pills were put away, he took out his vitamins, only three of those at least, grouped together to form massive doses. He didn’t have to take them, but he figured it couldn’t hurt. It was almost ten years now that he was taking those pills, and every day he counted them out carefully, just to be sure. First individually according to colour, then in total. It hadn’t steered him wrong yet. His nieces and nephews, they were more cavalier about the whole thing, their parents gave them their pills. He wondered if, when they were old enough to count them themselves, would they be as careful? The advertisements showcasing the dangers of miscounting, of taking one less or one more had pretty much stopped. Occasionally you would spy a poster, faded and worn from the sun and rain but still clinging to the wall it was glued to. The television didn’t show pictures of the deaths, the overdoses, the diseases, not anymore. He never really understood why the order was so important, they were going in on an empty stomach, before breakfast, so surely they would all just jumble up together in his stomach. But it didn’t matter that he didn’t understand it, it only mattered that he followed it.

With the pills taken and cleared away, he began to make breakfast, just a cereal, drenched in cold milk. He ate slowly, enjoying the food. He liked living alone, the solitude it afforded him. His parents were getting antsy, as were his siblings, he should find someone, settle down. He wasn’t worried though, he was still young, only twenty eight. Sure he’d had relationships and enjoyed them, but it was nice, having some time for yourself. His housemates had been moved elsewhere, job relocation so he had the place to himself until new ones moved in, probably only another week or so. Even when the house was full, he enjoyed being alone in his room, it was relaxing. He picked up his bowl and drank the dregs of milk, draining them from the bowl,. His mother always gave out to him for doing it as a child, but it never seemed to stop him. He put the empty bowl in the sink, a benefit of being alone, no one to nag you about the dishes, then began to get ready for work.

He enjoyed working, it was pleasant enough work and there were worse jobs. Though there were better jobs out there, he didn’t mind too much, after all, he was a cog and every cog needed to be working or the entire machine could grind to a halt. He knew he wasn’t that important, but it could be nice to pretend.

The work day went by pretty fast and he was feeling pleasantly tired when he left for the day. He still had to do his hourly workout, so on the way home, he stopped into the gym, registering his name on the way in and out, logging what exercises he did. He was tired, more tired than normal, but he pushed himself harder to complete the run. He preferred running outside, but they were putting a stop to that now. Apparently people had been lying about their exercise times, about how much they did. When people checked into the gym they couldn’t lie. He still ran outside occasionally, but he didn’t need to log it, it went into his extra activity file.

His life was mundane, but he enjoyed it. He never wanted to travel or see the world. He was happy with his family and friends. Why would he need to travel? Exotic foods were interesting distractions, but he did not need to leave the country to sample them, everything was available here for him. He met many interesting and different people all the time, he was constantly exposed to other cultures. Everything he could ever want was at his finger tips and he was happy. Sure there were bad days, but everyone had those. Days where things were dull and boring and pointless, but they faded away, they always did. The truth was he was happy and so was everyone else.

When he got home, he was too tired to do much of anything so he decided to go to bed. He wanted to sleep, but felt a little guilty for it, so instead, he dozed and watched the television. It was nice, peaceful, the gentle lull of sounds in the background, the warm, comfortable bed.

He jerked awake, the TV was suddenly louder, it was dark outside, the room was bathed in red light from the TV screen. An urgent bulletin. The music was loud, too loud. It made his head hurt, the light made his eyes ache. He picked up the remote and tried to turn it off. Nothing. He looked at the clock, its blue numbers glowing faintly. It was half nine. This wasn’t the news. He felt faint stirrings of panic rising. Something big must have happened. Another terrorist attack? That was usually the case, though he could only recall one other urgent bulletin. He had been seven, five nearby towns had been bombed, they had been warned to stay indoors but he and his family went outside to look anyway and all around them they could see thick plumes of smoke. People they had known and cared about, killed while working, while shopping, while visiting relatives. The music reached it’s crescendo, then the screen switched to a reporter. She was pretty, maybe twenty five, her eyes were wide and shining with fear. Her long black hair framed her face, pouring down over her shoulders. She was wearing make up but it couldn’t hide how pale she looked. He sat up in bed, fighting with the duvet to get it off him, he was too hot. She began to speak, he squinted at the screen, there was no sound, someone had cut it off. Someone must have said something to her off screen, she looked to her left, then shook her head Writing started scrolling across the bottom. He tried to make it out, his eyes were tired, sore.

Words jumped out at him, pills, poison, sabotage. It took a few moments for his brain to kick in, to sort out the jumble. They were saying the pills had been sabotaged. That they had been poisoned. Her voice clicked in suddenly, filling the room, making him jump, “-Terrorists have issued a statement, alleging that they have sabotaged shipments of Health Pills. The statement is unconfirmed but state health agencies are encouraging people to dispose of their pills at the nearest Centre for Health and collect new dosages. Again, they are asking people not to panic at this unconfirmed statement. They have made no demands.” His heart was thudding heavily, she was frightened, so was he, no one knew much about the terrorists, only that they wanted to destroy the new way of life.

He tried to calm himself but it wasn’t working, urgent bulletins were only used in dire situations. He had been sheltered from most of them, his parents told him when they were children were was usually one at least once a week. He threw his legs over the side of the bed, he was sore all over. He stood, then fall back into bed, his legs cramping uncontrollably. He grit his teeth, face screwing up, trying not to scream in agony. Somewhere he could hear a phone ringing. Sweat poured down his face, soaking his pyjamas, his sheets. The cramps eventually subsided, leaving him lying on the bed, gasping for breath. The phone was ringing again, he looked at it, it seemed so far away. Cramps wracked his body again, he gave in and begun to scream.

About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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