How Herbert Beat The Flu

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
I've been sick. This is what came out. You have been warned.

Submitted: August 22, 2012

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Submitted: August 22, 2012



How Herbert Beat The Flu

by: 1122



Herbert tried to take care of himself, he really did. He avoided McDonald’s until the cravings turned to  madness, he forced down at least two bananas a day, took vitamins when he remembered to, slept well, walked often, and ate yoghurt at least once a week. But the flu doesn’t really care how many defenses you put up. If it wants a way in, it’ll find one.

Herbert knew the moment he woke up that the flu had found a way in. He could feel the tightness in his chest, percolating.  His head was still fine, his nose still dry, but he knew that come the following day he was going to be fevered, phlegmy, bed-ridden and miserable.

He ate yoghurt for breakfast that morning in a last ditch attempt to stave off his forthcoming misery, even though he already had his yoghurt for the week, but by noon his chest felt like it contained small pebbles, and the first slimy drip slithered down out of his nose and perched on his upper lip.

Herbert was no fool. He considered himself quite astute, thank you very much. So, abandoning what false hopes he placed in yoghurt, Herbert went to the local supermarket and filled his trolley with all the necessary weapons he would need.

Having armed himself with syrups and pills and lemony-tasting powders that you dissolved in hot water, fortified behind a stockade of tissues and vaporizers, Herbert crawled into bed that evening fully prepared for the virus’s first sucker-punch. It hit him around two in the morning.

While Herbert was sleeping, the small pebbles in his lungs turned into rocks.  He woke up and made his first attempt to expel them by hacking over the waste basket he had put by the side of his bed. The rocks only settled deeper. He plunged his face into the whispering mist of the vaporizer on his bedside table, inhaling deeply, and could hear the flu wheezing in his breath. His right nostril was effectively plugged, and no amount of lung pressure – rocks or no rocks – could unseal it.  He tried to drift back to sleep, but he was now too aware of his condition and could find no comfort.

Herbert called in sick to work the following day, determined to let the flu have its phlegmy way with him so it would move on and leave him alone. He bundled up on the couch and watched old movies with mugs of hot lemony medicine water. He tried working at his plugged right nostril by honking as hard as he could into tissues, but the plug would simply shift to the other nostril, leaving Herbert’s face as a red as a beetroot from the exertion. He could feel his chest bubbling like a viscous witch’s cauldron of thick green stew, and warm thunderheads of cotton were forming just behind the bone of his forehead. He sipped chicken soup and ate Saltines, knowing that the flu hated chicken soup more than anything.

That night, Herbert had more of a headache from watching movies all day long than he did from the flu. His chest felt like it was full of concrete, and his nostril had since unplugged and become a flowing creek. He tried stuffing cotton balls up his nose to dam the flow, but the build-up of fluid only caused him to sneeze and fire the wet cotton balls across the room. He took a hot shower and stood in it until the hot water ran out because at least in the shower everything felt wet and not just his upper lip. He drank more lemony water, took some pills, drank some syrups, and wheezed himself into an uneasy sleep.

The flu was merciful, and allowed Herbert three hours of halfway decent sleep before it extended its feather-tipped flagellum and started tickling the inside of his lungs. 

Herbert was just leaning in to kiss a certain gorgeous blond actress that he had a crush on when the flu yanked him rudely out of his dream. He spluttered and burbled awake, flipping on to his side to aim for the waste basket. He drew in a slow, deep and gurgling breath, then started hacking.  The flu jiggled and vibrated inside his lungs, laughing and tickling him more. Spittle dripped from Herbert’s lips as he gasped to try and draw air, but the flu was insidious in its cruelty, and barely let him get a breath in. His chest spontaneously combusted into searing throbs of crackling fire, burning his throat every time he coughed, and the flu laughed harder still. It wasn’t until Herbert was in eminent danger of suffocating that the flu retracted its tentacles and settle back down into the bottom of his chest, chuckling.

It woke him up every hour after that, just to remind him that it hadn’t gone anywhere, and that to try and beat it was futile.

The next day, exhausted from lack of sleep, Herbert took his syrups and pills like a junkie. His chest felt like it was full of molten lava. His nose was a gushing torrent. The flu had sprouted its roots deep, and no amount of chicken soup was going to unearth it from the bottom his lungs. But, being no fool, Herbert had formulated a plan.

When bedtime came Herbert was already in bed, where he had spent most of his day reading dusty books from his bookshelf. The flu had slept most of the day, saving its energy for when Herbert closed his eyes to seek out his favorite actress.  But before he did that, he cautiously leaned over the side of his bed and rested his head on the carpet, taking slow, shallow breaths so as not to arouse the still sleeping flu. He could feel it gently peeling away from the bottom of his lungs, rolling along the tissue like a tacky lump of warm tar towards his throat. When Herbert felt confident the flu was in place where he wanted it, he guardedly raised himself back up, grabbed the ziplock baggie that he had prepared earlier, drew in a long, slow breath, and hacked as hard as he could.

The flu ripped from his lungs like ball of Velcro and lodged in his thorax. Startled awake, it tried desperately to flail its cilia but it was already too late. Herbert had caught it off guard. He sucked in another mighty gust of air and hacked again, and the flu glumped up into his throat, wedging there and causing him to gag. Nearly the size of a tennis ball, it was lodged securely in Herbert’s windpipe, cutting off his air. It squirmed like a bullfrog in algae-covered hands, trying to free itself and plunge back into his chest cavity where it had found a home, and Herbert fought with all his might the instinctive, reactionary urge to swallow. The glob was close to his nasal passage and he could smell its sickly, diseased hospital odor in the back of his nose, causing his stomach to roil and froth like steamed sour milk. He forced himself to remain calm as the flu wiggled and writhed against his adam’s apple, inhaled what air he could through his unplugged nostril, brought the plastic baggie to his mouth, and hacked the gigantic blob of flu into it.

The flu immediately tried to lurch out of the bag, flattening itself like a dropped rubber ball against the plastic and springing upwards towards the opening, but Herbert zipped it closed just in time. He threw the bag onto the carpet in disgust and watched it flop and bounce on the floor as it tried to escape from its plastic prison. It rolled under the bed and Herbert could hear it crinkling and flopping under there. He jumped out of the  covers and peered under the bed and the baggie came shooting out towards his mouth. Herbert clamped his teeth shut just in time, and the baggie hit his teeth and flumped to the carpet.

It started rolling around in wobbly, drunken circles, and a putrid green vapor started filling the baggie like a swamp gas. The plastic slowly inflated like a blow-up beach toy as the slimy, yellow-green glob of phlegm bubbled and boiled in the mentholated eucalyptus rub that Herbert had smeared all over the inside of the bag. He heard tiny mouse squeaks as the gelatinous blob slowly melted into a puddle, and at the very last minute, in its very last throe of death, Herbert swore he heard a word within the squeaking:


Herbert zipped the baggie up into another baggie just to be safe, then disposed of it in the rubbish barrel outside. He went back to his bedroom and drew in several deep, strong, breaths of air. It felt good to be able to breathe cleanly again. The riverbed in his nose was already drying up, and the thunderheads behind his brow were rapidly dissipating. And as Herbert slithered under his cool sheets and rested his clear head onto his pillow, he vowed to try eat more yoghurt in a week.

That night Herbert had a horrible nightmare. He was alone in the dark, and all he could hear was a thunderous, deep and gurgling voice grumbling: “My child… where is my child… my child…”

Herbert awoke the following morning with a slight wheeze in his breath, and an angry tightness in his chest, percolating.

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