Charlie’s Room: Feeling Sick

Isaac had the day off work. They were fumigating the office after a swarm of tiny blue beetles had flown in through the window and perched on every surface. The office manager had offered to smash them all, but several people pointed out that there were just too many and that would make an awful mess. They sent everyone home.

Charlie and Marianne were at the swimming pool, but Isaac wasn’t feeling well so he’d stayed home to do some laundry. He wasn’t feeling sick in the normal sense. He didn’t have a headache or a stomachache or funny spots. He wasn’t tired or sad or anxious.

He just had a weird sort of tickle on the soles of his feet and the feeling that something wasn’t quite right. It was the sort of feeling you get when you know that someone is looking at you, even though you can’t see them. Isaac knew it was important to pay attention to those feelings.

So, here he was, matching socks. He finished folding the load of laundry and packed everything back in the basket. First, he put all of Marianne’s things in a pile on her dresser. She liked to put them in her drawers herself. Next, he sorted his clothes into piles and put them into the correct drawers.

Now, all that was left were the things for Charlie’s room. Isaac picked up the basket and took it down the hall.   His steps slowed as the strange feeling grew. He opened the door and crossed the room. And then, it happened.

Isaac tripped over a pair of shoes. He dropped the basket and it fell on its side, clothes spilling out and unfolding themselves. For a moment it looked like they’d come alive and were leaping out of the basket.

At the same time, Isaac held out his arms to catch himself. He landed on his arms and his legs flew up, and somehow he was flipped upside-down and falling up. He looked up in time to see the clothes settle and stop moving.

He looked down, at the ceiling. That wasn’t quite right. Was the house upside-down? He looked out the window. The tree was growing the wrong way. Did that mean the house was upside-down? Or was he the one upside-down? His head felt full of cotton wool. His thoughts moved slowly.   The soles of his feet started to itch.

Isaac sat on the ceiling and pulled a shoe off. He set it beside him and it fell up to the floor and landed next to the shoes he’d tripped over. He could probably reach them if he jumped. Isaac looked back down and pulled off his sock. He almost set it down, but decided to put it in his pocket at the last moment. He started to shove the sock into his pocket, and realized that he could feel his cell phone already there in his pocket.

He could probably call someone for help. He pulled out his phone while glancing at his feet. The bottom of his foot had little blue spots that looked like spirals. How strange. He let go of the sock so that he could use his phone.   The sock fell up, brushing his cheek as it fell.

Who should he call? He scrolled through his contacts, not quite able to focus on any of the names. In the end, he called Great-Aunt Bethyl.   “Hello, it’s Isaac,” he said when she answered the phone. “I’m stuck on the ceiling. I don’t feel very good.”

“We’ve had some problems with gravity sickness in your area. Have you checked your feet?” she asked.

“I have blue spirals on my feet,” he said.

“Did you see any blue bugs today?” she asked.

“They filled up my office this morning,” Isaac said.

“Oh dear,” Great-Aunt Bethyl said. “I’ll have to check on your co-workers too. Hopefully none of them went outside.”

“It’s a beautiful day today,” Isaac said. He looked out the window. “It’s me that’s upside-down, not the house,” he said.

“That’s right. Isaac, I need you to stay inside. Marianne gave me a set of spare keys for your house. I’ll come and let myself in. Where are you?”

Isaac looked around. “I’m in Charlie’s room. Upside-down.”

“Stay there,” Great-Aunt Bethyl said.

She hung up. Isaac looked at his phone. He let go.   It fell up. Or was it down? He looked up at the floor. His phone had landed on the laundry. He took off his other shoe and managed to drop it right next to the first.

Just as he dropped his other sock right over his phone, Great-Aunt Bethyl stepped into the room. “Isaac,” she said. “I need you to stand up and reach up.”

Isaac stood up and reached for the floor. Great-Aunt Bethyl grabbed his wrist and poked him in the arm with a needle.   Where did that come from? He tried to pull his arm away, but she held on.   Then, she gave a sharp tug and he somehow floated towards the floor, like a very slow fall. He landed on his shoes.

He stood up on shaky feet. His head still felt somewhat full of cotton wool. “Great-Aunt Bethyl?” he said.

“Show me your feet, Isaac,” she said. He lifted up one foot. The spirals were gone. “Very good,” she said.

She helped him into his bed and pulled up the covers. “I’ll just call Marianne,” she said.

“My phone is in the laundry,” Isaac said.

“That’s all right, I’ll just use mine,” she said. “You go to sleep. I think you’ll be missing work tomorrow too.”

“That’s nice. I hope it’s a nice day tomorrow,” Isaac said.

“I hope so, too,” Great-Aunt Bethyl said. “I’ll come check on you later. For now, just sleep, Isaac.” Isaac slept.