The needle slowly poked into my right arm with a blunt sting that was as cold as the metal table that my left hand leaned against. As I watched the barrel fill with my glossy blood, I ponder on how strange it is that we can always feel the needle go in, but never feel the blood come out. I’m kind of glad about that though. I can’t imagine feeling thick goo forcibly accelerating through a tiny hole to be a very pleasant experience.

“Alright, Mr… Cucinotta, is it?”

“Please, doctor, call me Tony.”

“Tony. To be perfectly honest with you, I’m really not sure why your chest infection hasn’t gone away yet. Three weeks is a very long time for symptoms not to at least start easing. Having said that, I should have these test results back to you by tomorrow morning, and I’ll be able to tell what your problem is then. In the mean time, I’m going to prescribe you some Amoxicillin which will at least ease the symptoms, and may keep you on this prescription depending on the results I get tomorrow. I’ll email the Vista pharmacy now. Do you know how to get there?”

“Yeah. Out the front, take a left, take another left, 30 seconds down the road, on your right.”

“Yeah that’s it. Lily should be at the counter. Tell her your name, your prescription, and that Dr. Morgan prescribed it to you.”

“Is there anything else I should do, doctor?” I relieved myself of a hacking cough I could feel culminating in my chest.

“Not that I can think of. You could cut down on the cigarettes a little, and maybe try to get around 40 minutes of walking every evening.”

“Thank you, doctor.” I coughed once more.

“No problem, have a good day Tony.”

The chest infection was getting worse by the day, but I knew the Antibiotics would clear it away. At that moment in time, it was actually the least of my worries. Yesterday, while I was in work, I nearly collapsed because I was so tired from a lack of sleep caused by Sammy’s non-stop, all night barking. I managed to finally ignore it by around 4 AM, but before it even felt like I had blinked, the alarm clock was blaring the sound of the Hertz and Koolkat Early Bird Special radio show, indicating it was 5:30 AM and that I needed to drag my ass out of bed before the early-morning rush hour.

Sammy had been behaving very strangely recently. Every night for nearly two weeks now, he has been very hesitant to sleep in the kitchen where he always does. I’ve had him for just over three years now and this is the first time that he’s ever acted out like this. He’s a Golden Retriever, and is a very obedient, well-trained dog that always come running towards me at the first mention of his name.

Every night before I go to bed, I usually stay in the sitting room watching whatever is on Comedy Central till about 10 PM before heading up to my bedroom. Sammy nearly always sprawls across the unoccupied part of the couch, lying beside me and planting his head onto my lap. Before I go to bed, I let out a whistle, and Sammy follows me to the kitchen, before he happily runs to his basket, swinging his tail left-to-right. I close the door, and he sleeps there soundly until he hears me wake up again the next morning.

But recently, when I whistle, he just stays seated on the couch and gives me his adorable, impossible-to-hate puppy eyes. I’d have to lift him up and put him in the kitchen, but he would quickly try to escape, so I end up adding to my guilt by slamming the door in his face before he has the opportunity to do so. Up until last night, it really wasn’t much of a problem for me more than it was a general annoyance. He’s still a great dog; he won’t try to fight, growl, bite, or struggle with me, but his behaviour was just really concerning me. I had just told myself repeatedly that this was a temporary phase and that it will eventually pass.

That was of course until last night, when his incessant barking nearly cost me a day at work. That was something which I really couldn’t spare at the moment. My rent to the landlord was tight at the moment because my boiler had recently broken, and I had to fork out four figures to get it replaced. I had also installed it with a DIY job, so I could save some much-needed cash for myself.

It’s difficult enough having to manage a group of young construction workers with a forehead like a radiator, and while you’re spluttering bits of saliva all over them, but the combined lack-of-sleep had caused a simple chest infection to almost completely overwhelm me. I thought I could try combating my weariness by frequenting the coffee machine to nearly bone dry, but by the time the 3 o’clock crash had inevitably come around, I had been reduced to nothing more than a minimal-functioning empty shell.

The worst part about this was I had no idea why this was happening. I was sticking to my reason that this still was just a phase, but there was no way that I was going to let his barking become a habit.

After I had picked up my medication from the pharmacy, I drove further down the town to pick up two C batteries for my video camera at home. I had decided that that night I was going to set it up in night vision in the kitchen before I go to bed. My thinking was to place it high and angle it low so I could get a shot of the whole kitchen. With that, maybe I could finally figure out what was causing him to act like this. I had decided that if I could find no logical reason for his strange behaviour that I needed to take him to a vet.

That night, Sammy had his head slumped on my lap like he usually does. He was deeply relaxed, slowly opening his rheum-filled eyes occasionally before closing them again. His eyes were extremely bloodshot; it was like looking at tens of red snakes slithering through a snowy field from high up in the sky. His tail was repeatedly hitting the couch with a slow, rhythmic thud. I noticed that his breathing was much heavier than it usually was. This concerned me greatly. It now appeared I had to take him to the vet, no matter the outcome of the recording.

I wasn’t feeling so wonderful myself. My temperature had sharply risen further in the last couple of hours. There were small beads of sweat pooling just below my hairline, and I was having frequent hot flushes across my chest, and in my arms and just under my armpits. I could barely get a steady grip on the TV remote because my hands were so slippery from all the sweat. I figured that I was still a little sleep deprived from the day before. That combined with the chest infection and the stress of my minor financial concerns was definitely proving to be all too much for me.

I lifted Sammy’s head from my lap and walked to the door. I tried once more to face him from the frame of the door and whistle, but once again I was met with a watery pair of brown puppy eyes. So again, I had to lift him up and bring him to the kitchen. Either Sammy had put on an extra 20 pounds in the last day or all the strength had just been drained from me. I thought that maybe the blood sample for my tests could have weakened me, because I am a pretty small guy, but just one needle still wouldn’t have that affect on me.

I closed the door before he could run out again, and set up the camera. Sammy sat by the door, looking up at me and waiting for me to finish. I flipped the preview monitor on the camera around ever-so-gently, so as to not disturb the set-up, so I could check what the shot looked like. The angle was still a little too high, so I then adjusted the set-up slightly, and checked it again. Perfect. I flicked on night-vision, flicked the kitchen light off and exited the room, but not before having to close the door quickly one more time, as Sammy tried to escape again.

I trudged up the stairs, my steps slow and heavy, my head as light as a drizzle at dawn. I was more exhausted than I ever imagined possible. It felt like every muscle in my body was failing me. The thought of resting up and recovering in my comfy, cosy bed was the only thing that kept me going. Otherwise, I would have happily collapsed right there and then.

I opened my bedroom door, stumbled in, and fell onto my bed, the quilt covers drinking the sweat from my forehead. As I was thinking about how lethargic this infection was making me feel, I instantly remembered that I had completely forgotten to take my antibiotics, which were still in the glove compartment of my jeep. I pushed myself up, slipped my shoes back on, and trudged back downstairs. As I did that, Sammy started barking again.

The brisk, fresh breeze was instantly felt when I stepped outside of the house and out to the top of my driveway. The sweat on my body quickly cooled and the hot flushes across my chest and arms instantly turned to goosebumps. The hairs on my arms all flicked up, even under my long-sleeved shirt. My teeth clattered off of each other from all my shaking. I opened the jeep, retrieved my medication, and walked back inside.

During those few seconds that I was outside, and for no apparent reason, the light that I left on in the hallway all of a sudden seemed so much brighter. I held my hand to my forehand to block it out, as my eyes were watering from it irritating my peripheral vision. I slowly dragged my feet towards the stairs, every progressing step I made becoming a greater struggle. My entire body was shaking, all of my muscles were like drying cement, and my forehead like the base of a pan just removed from a used stove. I looked around again, and through the blindingly bright light, the hallway of my house seemed fake, unfamiliar, and dream-like. I knew this was still my house, but I had this odd, unexplained feeling that made my surroundings feel foreign. If I had the energy, I probably would have panicked.

I felt a dull pain cloud up just behind my eyes because of how hard I was squinting. I opened the capsule of my antibiotics on my third attempt, my hands unable to get a proper grip on my first two. I popped it open and the lid fell onto the ground, but I was too weary to even bother picking it up. I tried walking up the stairs again, and found my steps to be even slower and heavier than they were before. The light in my peripheral vision was becoming unbearable, almost like staring directly into the sun. Nausea had consumed me, but I gathered all my remaining strength and shakily lifted my right foot onto the 7th step of my stairs. I slowly creaked my stiff neck back, as I lifted the two antibiotics that were weakly pressed between my thumb and index finger up to my mouth.

I stumbled backwards, loosening my fingers and sending the two tablets gliding in opposite directions. I watched while falling as the whole world spun around me and spread itself out in all different directions and dimensions. I felt a sharp thud jolt right into the middle of my back, and right into the middle of the back of my head. I heard the sound of the capsule hitting the carpet on the stairs, and the sound of the tablets inside rattling around and spilling out. Then, the last thing I remembered was the sound of Sammy barking, and what felt like blinds being pulled over my eyes as everything faded to black.


The sound of my landline phone ringing in the hallway faded in louder and louder as I gradually regained consciousness. I sorely lifted my head, which was resting uncomfortably balanced on the tip of the skirting board. I looked at the scattered tablets at the bottom of the stairs, confused at first, but little details, one-by-one, gradually reoccurring to me. I reached into my pocket to fish out my mobile phone, but it had run out of battery. I was still feeling very frail and exhausted, but at least my fever and chills had disappeared. I got to the landline in time and answered.


“Hello, Tony? It’s Dr. Morgan, I need you to listen to me very carefully.”

“Dr. Morgan…” I whispered over the phone to myself “…Peter. Yeah, no, sorry, Dr. Morgan, yeah, sorry, continue.”

“Tony, how are you feeling? You sound very disoriented.”

Something didn’t feel quite right, but I continued talking. “Yes, sorry, I’m fine, I just, sorry, I had an accident last night, I’m just, sorry, I just feel a little out of it, I guess. Sorry.”

“I called your work phone-“ the realisation struck me. “-but it went straight to voicemail so I rang your landline.” My focus now somewhat returned.

“Doctor, what time is it?” I interrupted before he could continue.

“What? It’s nearly half ten.” He sighed slightly. “Tony, I have something very important that I need to tell you.”

“Fuck, work. Sorry, continue.” Every sentence from Dr. Morgan felt like a bullet in my gut.

“Tony, I have the results of your blood test. I’m afraid that you have acute carbon monoxide poisoning.” I kept the phone pressed against my ear, but I was now too numb to focus on anything. My thoughts raced through my mind faster than I could process them.

“I suggest you immediately open all the windows in your house, and seek medical attention at once.” Sammy was still in the kitchen, but I didn’t hear him barking.

“Have you any vents in your house that are blocked, or any fuel-burning electronics that are old and may be in need of service?” The boiler. Realisation again. Sammy refused to sleep in kitchen shortly after the new boiler was installed.

“Tony?” I installed the new boiler myself to save money.

“Tony?” I dropped the phone and sprinted into the kitchen. I called out my dog’s name repeatedly. I looked around the kitchen desperately.

“Sammy. Sammy.”

Through the dizzying speed of my searching eyes, they naturally fixed on Sammy when I detected him. His body was sprawled out like it would be on the couch, in the corner opposite of his basket. He was hauntingly still. I ran over to him and placed his head onto my lap, tapping his face lightly. I rubbed the side of his limp body. It was like touching the hardened magma of a dormant volcano.

“Sammy. Sammy.” I cried out to him. Why didn’t I call the vet in the first place.

His body was cold, stiff, and still. He wasn’t breathing. I tried to move his paw, but tears formed in my eyes when it felt like a branch from a tree that would snap if I bent it any further. I kneeled down, sobbing uncontrollably, my tears moistening Sammy’s brittle, cold coat.

Written by CrashingCymbal
Content is available under CC-BY-SA