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I work as a barista at the Starbucks down the street. I usually worked the morning shifts just because it was the beginning of the day, which brought more customers and meant more tips, if any.
One morning when I was walking toward the Starbucks a couple blocks from my apartment, I noticed a man sitting on the sidewalk in front of the door. At first I assumed that it was just someone in desperate need for a coffee, but as I got closer, the dirty, tattered clothing gave it away that he was, in fact, a homeless person.
We got a lot of them, being close to the city and all, and they would always loiter in front of the shop since they had nowhere else to go, especially in the morning. So, we simply just shoo them away from the shop.
As I prepared to approach him and tell him to leave “or else I’ll call the cops” I noticed that this man was rubbing the bottom of his forearms against the concrete. I didn’t really think anything of it at first, but when he noticed me, he gasped and grabbed for the door handles and pulled himself up. It was dark, and his movements were quick, but I caught a quick glimpse of his face. It seemed deformed, his facial features swollen and lumpy. Scared, he quickly scurried away before I could even say one word to him. I walked up to the door and looked down at the spot where he was rubbing his forearms.
The concrete was stained a dark red. Blood. Not much, but it was enough to suddenly concern me about the well being of this guy, but when I looked, he was nowhere in sight. I figured I’d wash it off with some hot water before opening the shop, so I quickly brushed it off, chocking his weird behavior as a result of some kind of drug.
As I unlocked the door, I grabbed the handle and yanked the door open, only to immediately pull my hand away. Some kind of wet substance covered the handle, its consistency similar to some type of cooking spray. I’m not really much of a germaphobe, but you all have to agree with me that wet door handles are fucking gross, especially if they’re bathroom door handles, or, in my case, door handles that had just been used by a cracked out, crazy homeless person. I quickly wiped my hand on my pants and went inside, and washed my hands with hot water and lathered them in soap a little longer than I usually do.
After getting as much of the blood off of the sidewalk as possible, and sanitizing the door handle of the hobo grease, I opened the shop and prepared for the morning rush.
That night was when my Hell started.
After work, I was sitting at my computer searching for jobs, though more pointless things like Facebook and other sites were mostly distracting me. While typing at my computer, I looked down at my arms and noticed some light, red dots on my skin, similar to mosquito bites. They weren’t big, or a deep red, just tiny spots, no bigger than the head of a pencil eraser. No itching or burning, they were just there. I hadn’t been outside at all that day, so it couldn’t have been mosquito bites, and I didn’t eat anything that could’ve caused an allergic reaction of some kind. My next thought was maybe fleas or bed bugs, but neither my neighbors nor I owned any animals, and our apartment complex hadn’t had any issues with bed bugs as far as I knew. After examining them for a bit, I ignored them. Whatever it was that was causing it would fix itself.
The next morning, I woke up and walked into the bathroom. When I looked in the mirror, I was taken aback when I noticed more of the red spots speckled all over my body. Not only were my arms covered in them, but so was my chest, stomach, back and shoulders, and even my legs and feet. My neck was clustered with them, but thankfully my face was spared as only a couple marked my forehead, cheeks, and nose.
I’ll admit, this did freak me out quite a bit, more so from how unexpected it was waking up to a sight like that, but when I noticed that these spots still didn’t itch, burn, or bother me in the slightest, I decided to not worry about them, got dressed, and headed to work. Worrying about them would only make it worse, right?
Throughout the day, I worked through the stares and double-takes people were giving me as I took and made their orders. I’d noticed that the red dots started to get bigger and blotchier. To make matters worse, they also started to itch. I tried my best not to scratch them, at least not in front of the customers. I knew that they wouldn’t find it attractive to see the person handling their drinks scratching at some weird skin condition.
After I got off work, I went home and immediately started doing some research on what the hell was happening to me. I researched hives, poison ivy and oak, skin allergies, skin conditions, psoriasis, everything. From what I gathered, what I had was the result of possible hives, which are caused by pretty much everything: stress, weather, food allergies, chemicals (clothing detergent, body soap, etc.), plants, animals…Reading about this started to worry me more than I was when this all started. I decided to schedule an appointment the next day with my doctor just to get a professional opinion instead of advice from the Internet.
Night came around and I decided to go to bed early. The itching was still a nuisance, but nothing too bothersome, so I didn’t bother buying anti-itch cream for the developing rash that my body was suddenly going through.
The next morning, I woke up and walked to the bathroom. When I looked in the mirror, you guessed it, the rash had only gotten worse. My skin was extremely puffy and blotchy. Several areas were a deep red and felt bumpy to the touch, but the worst part was how itchy the infected areas had become. I scratched all over, which brought much relief but left dark scratch marks in the areas that I had scraped with my fingernails. This sounds narcissistic, but I was happy to see that my face wasn’t as badly affected by this reaction. My cheeks were pretty flushed, and my nose was puffy as well as my forehead, but I still looked like a normal human being.
Luckily I didn’t have to work this morning, but I did have my doctor’s appointment in an hour, so I got dressed, ate a quick bowl of cereal, and booked it out of my complex to the clinic a couple miles away.
The doctor looked over my body, asked me several questions, such as the foods I had eaten, the detergent I had washed my clothes with, the animals I had come in contact with, everything that was mentioned in the research I had done the day before. All of the answers I’d given him had him conclude that what I had was simply a bad case of hives, and gave me some steroid shots to help bring the reaction down and patch everything up.
I picked up some anti-itch cream on the way home and went to bed for a nap. I had work that evening and decided to get some rest beforehand.
When I woke up, I immediately noticed that the itching had gotten worse. I looked at my arms, which were even more swollen than they were this morning. All of my skin had become the deep red that plagued only parts of my body this morning. The bumpy texture was more prominent than before, and as I looked in the mirror I saw that most of my body was covered in the puffy, bumpy skin rash. My fingers were even swollen. My face was very red, as if it were sunburned, and my nose even started to blister and peel. What the fuck was happening to me?
I called my work and told them that I couldn’t make it tonight, but they told me that another coworker whom was also working tonight had already called in sick, and that there was nobody else to cover me. I told them my condition, but they told me that there was nothing they could do and needed me to come in. After a few cuss words from under my breath, I figured that I would push through the night shift and just get it over with. I asked if I could take off work the next day, in which they replied with, “We’ll see what we can do.”
After slathering some anti-itch cream on my entire body, I got to work. There, the itching got increasingly worse. I tried my best to scratch only when none of the customers were looking. Some even asked if I was okay, and I told them that it was just an allergic reaction so as to not gross them out as I made their drinks.
I itched. I scratched. It felt like tiny bugs with spiky legs were crawling underneath my clothes, and I would rub my arms against the counter in an attempt to secretly scratch them. When behind the coffee machine, I would scratch furiously at my clothes before coming back out with a smile on my face and calling for the customer to pick up their drink.
When there weren’t any customers in the shop, I would run to the bathroom and scratch my arms and legs, chest and stomach, shoulders and back, and scrub my hands as much as possible. After a few hours, I went to the bathroom and I noticed that I was bleeding, with scratch marks all over my arms and chest and stomach.
The bumpy texture grew worse as well. The bumps had formed into clusters and clumps of yellow, bubbly pustules that shimmered in the poorly lit bathroom. I looked at my face. The skin on my nose flaked away as I scratched at it. The blisters grew into tiny bubbles that felt like bubble wrap. I noticed more blisters forming on my forehead, and even a few on my cheeks. While touching the blisters, I noticed that I had dried blood and puss stuck beneath my fingernails. How long had that been there? Was that there when I was handling customers’ food and drinks?
I left the bathroom after I washed my hands for what was probably ten minutes and returned to a line of customers who weren’t exactly happy that they had waited to be served. As I took their orders, I rushed to get every drink finished. I was sweating, from rushing back and forth and from the anxiety of what was happening to my body. I noticed blisters forming on my arms and fingers while preparing the drinks.
The heat from the coffee makers made me perspire from my arms and hands as well, which began to irritate the blisters that were beginning to form. I began to feel delirious. I’ve never fainted or passed out before, but I felt like I was going to. I began to feel light-headed.
“This isn’t a grande iced caramel macchiato,” a customer said.
I looked over and saw her standing at the customer pick-up counter. “Excuse me?”
“This is a tall. I asked for a grande!”
With a couple of customers in line, I asked them for hold on for just a minute and walked over to her and said that I would make her a grande and give her a refund. I wasn’t up for any argument from a customer and took the easy way out.
“No, you know what? Forget it. Every time I’ve come here, I’ve received horrible customer service. This is ridiculous,” she exclaimed. I apologized, but she wouldn’t accept it and pushed the drink back. “I don’t want it anymore. Just give me my money back so I can leave.”
The blisters on my face tingled and burned. For a moment, I thought I even felt them pulsing and bubbling, as if they moved on their own. The customer and I must’ve been no less than two feet away from each other, but it was enough distance for her to be the target of the sudden *pop* and projectile squirt of puss and other juices that resided within the blisters on my nose. As a spray of yellow landed on her face, she flinched back a bit, unsure of what exactly just hit her.
But when she opened her eyes, and saw me patting my nose with my fingers, and saw the loose string of yellowish-white, coagulated waste stretching from the broken blister bubbles to the tip of my left index and middle fingers, she was well aware of the sudden health violation that she had now been involved in.
That night, I was fired. The shop closed early. My manager told me that I’d be lucky if the lady didn’t press charges.
When I returned home, I took a hot shower. Very hot. Scalding hot. It burned like hell but at the same time, it brought some kind of satisfaction to my blistering skin. I could feel my skin shriveling at the heat, and when I looked down, I saw blood rush down my body and down the drain. Every blister had popped due to the hot water, and thick, bloody puss gently squirted from each deflated bubble. I must’ve stood in that hot shower for at least an hour.
I dried myself up and went to bed naked. My whole body burned and I was very hot. I turned my A/C as low as possible and turned my fan on ‘high’ in hopes that it would soothe the pain, but it didn’t do much. I could feel my skin throb, tightening up and swelling as the rash took over. I itched horribly, and I scratched all night long. I must’ve passed out from exhaustion, only to wake up the next morning in searing pain.
I couldn’t see. My eyes were swollen shut. They burned, as well as the rest of my body. I felt like I had fire ants crawling all over my body, and I could feel them crawling all over me, biting me, stinging me constantly as every inch burned beyond belief. I stumbled to the bathroom and struggled for the light switch. Even the touch to the wall brought immense pain to my fingertips. Once I turned the lights on, I forced my left eyelid open. It took me a second to pry it open as the dry puss from the blisters on my eyelid crumpled apart. What I saw was horrifying.
My entire body was covered in blisters and bubbles. Huge ones. Blisters bubbling on top of other blisters, giant puss-filled sacks that looked ready to pop at any second. I’m sure you’ve seen those photos of third-degree burns that people get when they spill boiling water or grease on them. That’s what these looked like. I managed to keep my left eye open and I felt these blisters. They jiggled at the slightest touch, and sent a huge surge of pain throughout my body. I doubled over, which only created more ripples of pain that almost brought me to my knees.
The areas around these blisters itched and I attempted to relieve it by lightly scratching around the bubbles, which helped a little, but it felt like the itching came from beneath my skin. I rubbed my eyes, as the eyelids were the only area of my body that didn’t seem to erupt in pain when I touched them.
I rubbed and rubbed and scratched and scratched, scraping off chunks of dry puss and pulling at my eyelashes, which slid out of their pores easily, follicles still intact. I had trouble opening my right eye. I pried it open with my fingers. That’s when I realized that I was blind in that eye, no matter how wide I pulled my eyelids apart. Upon closer inspection, I noticed tiny blisters growing on my eyeball.
The itching grew worse. As I looked in the mirror, my form twisted and grew even more and more grotesque. I could feel the itching inside my head; I shoved my finger into my right ear and dug deep, scratching all around and scraping what I could only imagine being more blisters that developed inside of my ear canal. When I pulled my finger out, it was covered in blood.
It wasn’t enough. I grabbed a Q-tip and shoved it inside of my ear and scraped it around. A huge sense of relief washed over my body, and I almost collapsed in the amount of pleasure that came with the scraping of the cotton tip against my blistered ear canal. I didn’t even hear the loud *pop* and the ringing that followed as the Q-tip busted through my eardrum, which only exasperated the pain that my body was only feeling.
I yanked the Q-tip out and screamed in pain. Blood leaked out of my ear, mixed with puss and slivers of blistered skin. I grew extremely dizzy; the ringing in my ear disappeared, my vision blurred and grew black, and I passed out on the bathroom floor.
I need help.
I’m sitting at my computer typing all of this out for you to read because I honestly don’t know where else to post it or who else to tell. I can’t see out of my right eye, and my left eye is almost swollen shut now, with one large blister slowly growing larger on my eyelid. By tomorrow, the blister will probably grow over my eyelid and completely engulf my eye. Every part of my body is covered in these blisters, and they’re starting to pop on their own. My sheets are soaked in puss and blood. I can barely move without coming close to passing out from the pain, so I’ve decided to stay at my computer desk. I’ve tried calling my doctor, but the receptionist said that he didn’t come into work today, and that he too was developing some kind of serious skin condition.
My hair has fallen out and sits in clumps on my desk as it falls in front of me, and my teeth are starting to fall out too. The blisters are beginning to form inside of my mouth, and my tongue and throat are beginning to swell, too. Breathing is getting harder and it’s really scaring me. My theory about that itching from beneath the skin is coming true: I think it’s the rash growing in my body cavity, and all over my organs.
I now understand why that homeless man was scraping his forearms on the sidewalk. He was trying to relieve the itch. It goes deeper than just the skin. Just earlier this evening, out of complete delusion and loss of mind, I took my cheese grater and used it to scratch my legs since all of my fingernails have fallen off. While it created an immense amount of pain as the metal grates sliced through my skin and muscle, and popped every pustule bubble filled with bloody, yellow goop, the relief I got from the itch made me oblivious to how much I had used the grater on my leg. When I looked down, a good chunk was already gone.
And before I actually realized it, I was doing the same thing to my other leg. Until each hole in the grate was too clogged with flesh and puss.
I’ve been seeing recent reports on the local news about increasing numbers of patients in hospitals going in because of a skin rash they’ve developed, and that we should all take precautions in our diets and avoid contact with anything that can cause allergic reactions in the skin. I don’t know what that homeless man had, but whatever it was infected him, and then he gave it to me. I feel horribly guilty for anyone who has come into contact with me and became infected as well.
Whatever this is, it’s one of the worst things a person could get, and I hope to God, if he or any exist, that scientists can come up with a cure for it before it becomes global. Who knows how many people have it, and where else in the world that this skin condition, or fungus, or bacteria exists.
The pain is unbearable.
The itching is unbearable.
I think tonight I’m going to end it all.
At least the itching will go away.