09 September 2012

I've been reading...

"He settled in on that Sunday morning, and quickly began to feel better, and his fever almost went away. Even so, the nuns forbade him to leave the room, not even to use the bathroom, though it was directly across the hall. They made him use a bedpan, and they emptied it for him, and he washed himself at the sink in his room. The steam radiator under the window hissed and banged, and it made his room feel stuffy. He wanted a cigarette. He slid open one of the room’s windows just a crack, got out his cigarettes, and lit one. The nuns were not happy with that, and ordered him to keep his window closed.
That Sunday, Father Kunibert, a Benedictine priest, made rounds through the hospital, offering holy communion to the sick. He was an older man, not strong on his legs, and he worked his way down through the building, so that he wouldn’t have to climb stairs. Finally, on the first floor at the end of the corridor, he put his head in Room 151 and asked the patient if he wished to receive communion. The young man was not interested. The medical report informs us that he “refused communion” and that “the priest was advised that his services were not desired.”
When the nuns weren’t looking, Peter would get out of bed and slide up his window a crack, and cold air would pour in, filling the room with a brisk scent of the outdoors mixed with chirps of sparrows, and he would smoke another cigarette.
The tetracycline wasn’t working, and the doctors started him on chloramphenicol. He had a sense of creeping malaise, a feeling that things weren’t right, and the drugs weren’t working on his typhoid. He took out his colors and his brushes and began to paint. When he became tired of that, he took out a pencil and made sketches. There wasn’t much to see out his window–a nursing sister in a white habit, hurrying down a walkway, patches of snow, branches of bare beech trees crisscrossing a sky of cobalt blue.
Monday and Tuesday passed. Every now and then a nun would come in and collect his bedpan. His throat was red, and he had a cough, which was getting worse. The back of his throat developed a raw feeling, and he sketched restlessly. At night he may have suffered from dreadful, hallucinatory dreams. The inflamed area in his throat was no bigger than a postage stamp, but in a biological sense it was hotter than the surface of the sun. Particles of smallpox virus were streaming out of oozy spots in the back of his mouth, and were mixing with his saliva. When he spoke or coughed, microscopic infective droplets mixed with smallpox particles were being released, forming an invisible cloud that floated in the air around him. Viruses are the smallest forms of life. They are parasites that multiply inside the cells of their hosts, and they cannot multiply except anywhere else. A virus is not strictly alive, but it is certainly not dead. It is described as a life form. There was a cloud of amplified virus hanging in his room, and it was moving through the hospital. On Wednesday, January 14th, Peter’s face and forearms began to turn red."

The Demon in the Freezer, by Richard Preston (non-fiction)

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Bix , the fanatic cook.