Pain. Short Story.

Steven tried to concentrate, but that deep, steady throbbing in the back of his head was making things fuzzy. He took a sip of water, then looked back at the board, just a little longer and he could get out of this warm, overly stuffy room and find somewhere nice, dark and quiet. A beam of light hit his eyes, Steven winced, someone was fucking around with their watch. He gritted his teeth and waited. A moment later the alarm started, his stomach turned as the high pitched notes drilled into his head, the professor used the same damn alarm every class. The professor kept talking as he ambled over to his desk and picked up his phone, he gestured once, twice, then finally turned the damn thing off. Everyone started to shuffle, gathering their things, Steven slid his notepad, page still blank, off the desk and into his bag, he stood, the pen he had been holding went into his pocket and he left the classroom, behind him he could hear people stopping to chat to the professor. Everything was so bright and loud, but he just had to make it a little longer. He got to the stairs and went to the third floor, it was empty. He walked through the silent corridors, thankful to be above the hustle and bustle of the lower floors. He stopped for a moment beside the bathrooms, hoping he wouldn’t throw up, when his stomach settled a little, he continued on. Close to the exit, he went down the stairs and out onto the concourse. Outside there was a cool breeze which made him feel a little better. He passed the group of smokers standing right outside the door and out beside the grass. People sat around, bathing in the sun, Steven hurried past it all, hoping no one he knew would spot him. If they did, he’d have to talk and he feared that if he tried, he’d end up throwing up, violently. The walk was short, only ten minutes in fairly secluded streets, only one car drove past him on the journey and he passed no one. He let himself into the house, his roommates wouldn’t be home for another few hours and, if he was lucky, they’d end up going to the pub and not coming back until late into the night. Steven hurried up the stairs and into his dark and blessedly cool room. He dropped his bag and collapsed onto the bed. After a few moments of luxuriating in the quiet, he began to move slowly. Finally his shoes were off and he crawled further onto the bed, curling into a ball.

 

At some point he had dozed off and when he woke, he felt a little better. His head still throbbed steadily, but it was a far away throb, like the rumble of distant traffic. He stood from the bed and swayed slightly as a wave of dizziness crashed over him. The house was silent, everyone was still out. He checked his phone, it was six, everyone would be back soon enough. There were no messages or missed calls. He left his room and started for the stairs before he turned and dashed to the bathroom. The nausea had finally caught up with him. He crouched over the toilet bowl and heaved, his stomach was empty, but that didn’t stop his its convulsions. He sat back from the toilet, resting against the bath, he used tissue to wipe away the thin mucousy gruel that he had been vomiting. He glanced at the tissue before throwing it into the toilet, at least there was no blood this time. He rubbed his eyes tiredly. When he finally stood he rinsed out his mouth with water. He had been told before he should swish something basic to neutralise the acid, but he could never remember what it was supposed to be. Once his mouth felt clean, he left the bathroom and went downstairs. He still felt vaguely nauseas but he knew from experience he needed to fight through it and eat something. If he didn’t he’d just start to feel worse again.

 

Steven threw a frozen pizza into the oven, he wasn’t up to cooking much of anything. While he waited for it to be done, he grabbed a slice of ham from the fridge and forced it down, when he finished the last bite he waited a moment, and much to his relief he started to feel better. He already knew there was no point in having painkillers, they wouldn’t touch the pain in his head, no matter how mild it became.

 

Steven ate some of the pizza in the kitchen, he threw the crusts into the bin and left the rest of the pizza in the oven, one of his roommates would eat it when they stumbled in, drunk. Steven filled a glass of water and went back to his room, despite the nap he had had earlier, he was still exhausted. He regretted going to class, he knew when he woke up it was going to be a bad day, he should have stayed in bed. But that would be admitting defeat, it would be giving in to the pain. He didn’t like doing that. It was his life, he controlled it, not the pain. He wanted to believe he did the right thing, but at times when he was sitting in class, trying to concentrate, trying not to throw up, he hated himself for getting out of bed and forcing himself to sit through an hour of hell.
He collapsed onto the bed and began to strip, once he was down to his boxers, he crawled under the covers and closed his eyes. The pain was almost completely gone by now, just a small little nagging in the back of his head, when the morning came that too would be gone. After a few moments, he fell asleep. When his roommates came back seven hours later he didn’t hear them come in, didn’t hear their drunken attempts to be quiet as they shouted and yelled and stomped around the house. He slept right through until the morning. When he woke he felt normal again. He got up and, after brushing his teeth thoroughly, he had a shower. He only had a few classes today but he’d breeze through them, after all the pain was gone. He grabbed his bag and left the house with a slice of toast and a broad grin. It was a sunny day, and he was able to enjoy it fully.

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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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