It is the unbelievable stench that wakes the Infected One up. So this time the world has come to challenge him through his big nose, his proboscis. The Infected One likes his nose, not particularly because of its shape, which is average at best, somewhere between Caucasian and African but because of what it lets him remember: events that would have never actively come to mind, or perhaps, never should have – what it was like making X-mas cookies in childhood, what there was to be smelled of his first girlfriend between beginners’, clumsy kisses, the after-shower smell of a particular gym, in a particular city. The singular thing about remembering through the olfactory organ being how much you remember that did not at all seem relevant at the time, except that your nose thought differently. Years recollected in one deep nasal inhalation.
Now however, in the dark, the Infected One has to expand no particular effort on inhaling. The stench finds its way into his nose without outside assistance: it’s a proper invasion. Trying instinctively to either escape it or locate its source, the Infected One pushes himself into an upright position. His head feels immensely heavy, a thousand elephants or more. Did he stay up late last night? He cannot remember, he should have sniffed at his wrist before he went to sleep. What was the last thing he did? Yes, now he knows, this dreadful drug he cannot rid himself of: reading. The Infected One was reading, reading, reading like a madman and then at some point, intoxicated by too many narratives and theories, he must have passed out and…. How did he get here? No bed, just a crummy floor and a flimsy comforter.
The Infected One’s proliferating theories about bibliophilia are pretty simple but yet, at the same time, bad news and enabling. He has to keep them up to see if any of them has any truth value to it whatsoever. One of them holds that the magazines and novels and blogs which he keeps consuming are the intoxicant the world has made him addicted to, that the unending words are the viral Other that he keeps ingesting. A guy once said: the cause of the problem that offers itself at the escape from the problem. This means that as long he keeps his perusal up, however speciously enjoyable it might seem to him, then the world will keep afflicting his being and he will never recover from his condition. Poison in as far as it never lets him cultivate any kind of equilibrium or indifference, which The Infected One, on occasion, imagines as the appropriate habitus for a wise person.
Another one makes him think that it is exactly through reading ceaselessly that he can become cured of the physical reality, which stops at no moment or place to impose itself upon his consciousness. It begs to be understood immediately and thus misunderstood because The Infected One, or whoever happens to be the perceiver, will not be allowed to mediate all of this input through the knowledge and experience of those who have come before and suffered the same disease. Why else write? Or inhale through the nose for that matter?
At any rate. The smell is terribly foul and the Infected One wide awake under his thin cover, in the dark. The stench, the absence of the bed, the non-ring of the alarm clock all gives him to understand that, once again, he has woken up in a place that is not his home. The presence of his beating heart [and open-mouthed breathing] is immaterial in this regard. He slowly lets his right arm rove out and across the blanket, in search of the warmth of an anonymous female body. Such a body would constitute the beginning of an explanation of his whereabouts but there is none to be found. And what was The Infected One thinking anyway? This reek in the room of a woman he would consider lying down with? Not in anybody’s life.
Outside, in the night or dawn, he is not sure which, he can hear the loud noise of something like a helicopter but which is most definitely not a helicopter. The fabric where the window might be flutters fractionally. The Infected One tries to think of the best way to proceed. From his own experience, it has been a good idea to first take steps inside the mind and only then take them with his own two legs to see if he falls on his face or not.
For a fleeting moment the thought of a dead body disturbs his calm. There is a good chance that this fetor is issuing from something dead, the Infected One thinks. Nothing else besides a decomposing mass of organic material would seem powerful enough to aggravate the nose so violently.
“Patience young man” he mumbles to himself in the miasmatic gloom, making absolutely sure he breathes through his mouth. Even that aperture, so entirely adapted to a different purpose, picks up on some of the unpleasantness in the air, leaving an ephemeral coating on the tongue…something not even a well-trained doctor from China would be able to diagnose.
Behind him, in what The Infected One assumes to be the hallway of the place, he hears another disquieting sound: the scuttling of many legs, like naked feet across cardboard and very hurried. Damnit. He needs to find out right now what the blazes is going on. He stands up and gropes about for an elongated, hard object he could wield in self-defense but there is absolutely nothing. The room seems to be summed up by six walls, a curtain-like thing and a comforter-like thing.