Friday, 31 August 2012

The Night Time Spider

The Night-time Spider

Being in hospital is bad. Being hounded by a large black spider is bad. Combine the two situations and what you have isn't something bad.
It's a living nightmare.
I won't bore you with the details of the illness that took me into hospital. Some of you might be squeamish. Suffice it to say that when it was over and the general anaesthetic wore off, I came awake to the strains of Rod Stewart's excellent song 'I am sailing.' Someone later explained that this is what the nurses do; when it is time for you to regain consciousness they put on some loud music to give you that little extra nudge into wakefulness. Sure beats being shaken by the shoulder!
Somewhere underneath the sheets I had endured a 5 inch gash to my tummy. A canula from a drip was embedded in the crook of my left elbow. A catheter had been inserted into a most tender part of me, all the way up into my bladder, because it was going to be some while before I could move enough to use a 'bottle'. Well, that's what the nurses called it. Quite appropriate. Anything that is designed to receive and safely contain a quantity of liquid has to be called a bottle, hasn't it? Sorry, I promised not to go into my illness and here I am going on about it like a right old drama queen!
The nurses were like the ones we usually encounter in big hospitals. There are good ones. There are bad ones. It depends very much on your luck as to how many of each you encounter. There was a highly dedicated young male nurse called Pramot. Always smiling, always helpful, very capable. And an English nurse called Christina who clip-clopped up and down in her high heels all night long, entirely oblivious of the fact that the noise was keeping sick people awake. Now, it's better not to complain about such things as then they put an asterisk against your name on the board at the nurses' station, and from then on you are labelled a troublemaker and treated accordingly. It's not very pleasant, as I quickly learned.
There was an elderly nurse called Alice who mumbled and fumbled and got things so wrong that it was all I could do not to scream out in frustration. There was angelic Angelina, a wispy and pale nurse with a voice like a softly-played harp. I decided I wouldn't have minded going to heaven right there and then if it were peopled by ethereal beings like her.
But this is about my living nightmare. A recurring one. The terror of it had been driving me insane. Even the weak morning sunshine through the tinted windows could not dispel it.
I am a light sleeper. Which is why the tiniest sound brings me awake. And this is what would happen........
Coming awake with my head all fuzzy, I would sense a presence on the floor, just a few feet away. Out of the corner of my eye I would detect a massive black spider. It would inch purposefully towards me where I helplessly lay, unable to defend myself. Closer and closer it would come. All I could do was wait. I hate spiders. Now, it's not so bad when you can actually see one from a distance. But believe me, it's a steady descent into gibbering insanity when you are lying helplessly and it begins inching closer. And closer.... and closer....and then simply disappears under your bed. And you lie there, heart pounding, mouth dry, every never jangling, waiting for it to appear over the side of the bed to enfold you in its hairy embrace. The agony I went through!
Until one night I decided I'd had enough, I couldn't take it any more. Somehow I was going to stay awake. Somewhere deep down I was convinced that the spider would stay away if I was wide awake. In other words it was all a dream. Sorry, a nightmare.
Well, my mind had almost completely gone (more than half way to Timbuktu, I imagine). But enough of my brain was functioning to enable a simple exercise in cunning.
I waited until Pramot appeared to administer the customary sleeping pill that I had been prescribed. Even as he watched me with a wide and friendly (and quite unnecessary) smile, I hid the fact that I hadn't swallowed it. If I didn't fall asleep then the spider couldn't get me, right?
Now, one fact I clearly remember; it always happened at around the same time. About 12 o'clock. I knew this because it was the time that I would hear the faintest scraping sound. My eyes would snap open, my body convulsing, and there I would lie helplessly, drenched in the sweat of mortal fear, waiting for the spider to start crawling towards me.
So now 12 o'clock arrived. Nothing happened. I watched the dimly lit face of the clock on the wall opposite as the second-hand ticked away. Yay! No spider tonight! It couldn't happen after 12 o'clock. It had never done so in the past, therefore it surely stood to reason that it couldn't happen now. I made up my mind that I would train myself to stay awake until 12 o'clock every night. Goodbye, hairy black giant spider!
I was still congratulating myself on this significant victory, so at first I did not notice the familiar looming shape out of the corner of my eye. When I did my breath caught in my throat as my eyes bugged out. It couldn't happen. Not now. It was 12:05! I was wide awake, I had to be. Look, there was nurse Alice, mumbling and spilling multi-coloured pills across the counter as usual. There strode Christina, heels clip-clopping as she sailed past with her nose in the air. There was Angelina--- well--- just floating around looking fantastic as usual.
 And then there was the spider. In the semidarkness, still advancing towards my bed.
This was not a nightmare. The spider was real! It was finished. I'd gone crazy. A shriek of utter desolation burst from my lips.........
Lights went on. Patients started yelling. Everyone was staring at me. Something touched my left arm.
I jerked my head sideways to look.....
It was only a hand, small and chubby. Pramot's smooth and beautifully sun-tanned hand.
'I'm sorry, John. Did I startle you? So sorry, I didn't mean to.'
Pramot, super efficient and calm. The best nurse on the ward.
Pramot, my night-time spider.
I felt such a fool when he explained.
He had only been doing his job. At 12 o'clock every night he would squat down on his haunches from a distance of 6 feet away. It was the only way he could get a proper look underneath my bed. Vaguely, in the gloom, he could then make out the silhouette of what he had come for--- the bottle into which had drained the liquid contents of my bladder. He needed to empty the bottle. Obviously! And he would approach me in crablike fashion, across the floor. Squinting in the dark with his head twisted sideways. Doing his best to keep in view the bottle so it would be easy for his questing hands to locate when he reached underneath my bed.
Well, you know what everyone called poor Pramot from that day onwards, don't you?
A superhero, was Pramot. I, of course, had never doubted that!

Hi, my name is John. This is my eighth weekly blogpost. The previous posts can be reached by scrolling down. The next one will be posted next Friday, 7 September. It will continue in a lighter vein.
      The ducklings are all still fine. Maybe it is time I started calling them ducks now, for verily they have grown to such a size that today I had trouble distinguishing their mother from among them! They seem in no hurry to fly the nest---sorry, fly the pond where they have been born and have thrived. Maybe they will become our residents ducks now. After all, so many humans never venture much outside their home-town and seem to be perfectly happy. Isn't there a famous story where a young man goes off to search the world for the perfect wife, but eventually returns to marry the girl next door! They will not let me pet them, which is a very good sign, though. Actually I hope they will fly away, for we only live once and I think we should try and see as much of the world as possible and never fear the unknown----even though I will miss them terribly. Well, at least I haven't got to the stage when I have started giving them individual names (which is also a good sign!).
         For those of you late to this blog, you can click on the July posts in the white box at the top on the right to see the post called Tragedy At The Duck Pond (and subsequent updates like this one) to appreciate the background to the duckling saga (Thursday 19 July post).
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