Side Effects. Short Story.

Harvey’s hand shook as he brought his cup to his lips, splashing some coffee down his t-shirt, he sighed and started blotting at it with a napkin.

“Did you take your pill today?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
“Well did you or didn’t you?”
Harvey paused, “No, I definitely took it.”
Sharon shook her head, “You need to keep better track of it. It’s dangerous to miss doses.”
“I Know, I know. Usually I’m not bad at remembering but I’ve been feeling a bit fuzzy lately. I don’t know. They said that it could be a side effect.”
“Yeah, but you’ve been on them for what? Six months or so? If it was going to be a side effect wouldn’t it have happened before?”
“Maybe. They didn’t say how long it would take for them to occur. I kind of got the impression it could happen at any time.”
“Well, that’s a little scary.”
“Yeah, but what can you do? Just have to deal with it.”
“True. Did you hear about Kelly and Jack?”
“No? What happened?”
“Well…”
Harvey listened as Sharon regaled him with the tale, tuning in and out. He didn’t really care what happened with Kelly and Jack, what ever it was all would be forgiven in time for next week, when something else would happen. It was always the same with those two, he never got why they stayed together. They just seemed to make each other miserable half the time and the other half was spent with them proclaiming their eternal love to each other all over social media. Harvey found the entire thing too tiring, besides it’s not like he was really friends with them, he only saw the pair every few months anyway.

“And then he said he’d kill her.”
“What?”
“Yeah, I know!”
Harvey tried to remember what Sharon had said a few seconds ago, but he was drawing a blank, “Why?”
“Because he’s a psycho. Like ok, what she did was bad, but not bad enough to warrant death threats. It’s not like he even liked that damn poster to begin with.”
“Do you think he was being serious? Or was it just like a bad joke? You know how Kelly can be.”
“No, it sounded serious, Kelly is staying with her mom for a few days, she said they’re through, completely.”
“Kelly says that at least once a month.”
“She means it this time though. She took a few things with her and asked for a police escort to get the rest of her stuff, to make sure Jack behaves.”
“Did he apologise?”
“No, he thinks he’s completely in the right. It’s so weird. I talked to him and he was still mad about the whole thing, ranting and raving. It was actually kind of scary. I don’t think I’ll be seeing him for awhile if I can help it.”
“Did she tell the police about the threats?”
“No, she didn’t want to make a fuss or anything. She doesn’t think he’ll actually do it I think.”
“Still, with everything that’s been happening in the news lately.”
“Yeah, I told her to say it to someone, but she doesn’t want to ruin his life. You’ve heard what those accusations will do.”
Harvey shook his head, “Better safe than sorry really.”
“Yeah, maybe you’re right, I’ll try again.”
“If he didn’t want trouble he shouldn’t be making those kind of threats.”
Sharon took a sip of her coffee, “I better get going, are you free tomorrow? We’re going for drinks in The Crone.”
“I’m not sure, I might swing by.”
“Cool, we’ll be there from six or so.”
he stood and they hugged, “I’ll talk to you later!”

Harvey sipped his own coffee, he was in no rush and he was enjoying it. Something nagged him about the Jack and Kelly thing, he berated himself for not paying more attention. He pushed the thoughts away, it didn’t concern him, he didn’t even really know them properly anyway. So what if Jack had it, it wouldn’t be a shock, every weekend he was out taking god knows what from god knows who. Still, it was a little unnerving, personality changes were the first sign. Either way he wouldn’t be going anywhere near Jack, not for the foreseeable future. It wouldn’t be good for him to get mixed up in something like that. Even with the pills he was still susceptible to shit like that, as it was he was just getting over his cold, the fifth one this year.

Harvey was watching the news, someone had snapped. He had half expected to see Jack in the footage they were showing, but it was some short guy, Jack was at least six foot. More and more cases seemed to be popping up every day, though the government kept reassuring people that everything was fine, Harvey didn’t really believe it. He was just thankful it didn’t turn out to be the zombie apocalypse as so many internet sites predicted. The parasite was spread person to person, through bodily fluids, which wouldn’t be too bad, if it didn’t cross the blood brain barrier and start messing around in there. Some people were turned to vegetables, others became enraged, screaming, shouting, fighting at the slightest provocation. There were no symptoms before hand, not that anyone would notice anyway, and there were no tests to find out if you had it, at least not ones you could survive. Harvey turned off the TV and took a deep breath, he was ok and he would be. Still, sometimes he worried that the side effects weren’t because of the medication, what if there was something in his brain right now? Burrowing ever deeper? He stood from his couch, walked through the kitchen and stepped outside into the back garden. Slow, steady breaths, like they had told him until the fear had passed.

When he calmed himself he went back inside, ignoring the faint trembling of his hands and the large sweat patches that had appeared on his t-shirt, clinging to his body as he moved. It was the medication, that was all, it wasn’t him, the thoughts weren’t real. But were they? After all if Jack really was infected god only knew how long before the symptoms had become noticeable. How much time had Harvey spent around him? Had they shared any glasses? He didn’t think so, but then how could you be sure? All it took was a single mistake, a mix up over whose glass was whose and he was doomed. He felt the nausea rising and raced to the sink, he looked down at the moulded chrome, focusing on not throwing up. His mouth flooded with saliva, then the nausea receded. He was starting to panic himself, get too worked up. That was all. He filled a glass with water and took a small sip. His phone buzzed, he picked it up and looked at the text, it was from Mike, telling him they were going out tomorrow. Harvey sent a quick reply, “Sorry, not able to make it, have fun!” he felt a twinge of guilt, but he couldn’t do it, he couldn’t be around people and pretend that everything was ok. Things were starting to fall apart, he knew it on some level, he didn’t go out as much, he avoided people, the side effects were getting worse. He had spoken to his doctor about it, but he was just brushed off. Oh sure the doctor probably thought he was being reassuring, but it wasn’t, not at all. What was the point in taking those stupid tablets when the results were worse than the disease. Sure he’d get to live, but what was the point of life now? He had spent an hour today convincing himself to go out, his finger hovering over the send button to a text cancelling coffee. His workplace had been understanding at first but now they were getting frustrated, wanting to know when he’d be well enough to return. He couldn’t face all those people, what if one of them were sick?

He sat on the couch, staring into space. He took slow, deep breaths, they were helpful. He had done it, he had thrown them all down the sink, every last one. People would notice soon enough, but what did that matter? He wasn’t really living either way.

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 24 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.
This entry was posted in Drama, Short Stories and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Side Effects. Short Story.

  1. Nice Story. I liked the way it unravels.

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