I was feeling rotten. I often felt that way in this sort of heavy maths lecture, as if my brains were being slowly cooked from too much thinking. This time was different though. I felt physically unwell, and I hoped it wasn't something serious. As I tried to focus on the task at hand, I reflexively pushed my glasses back up my nose, and tried to ignore my headache.
Thirty dreary minutes later when the lesson was over, my headache was worse than ever. I packed my things up and headed out, following my friend Natalie.
Though we were both 19 years old, Nat was everything I wasn't. She was a gorgeous sexy blond with a killer figure. I was the lank haired, brunette, bespectacled girl, with a bad complexion and the figure of a twelve year old, the ugly shy nerd girl to her blond bombshell.
Despite appearances Nat was far from a dumb bimbo, like me she was in the first year of studying for a four year masters engineering degree, which has some fairly tough entry criteria. Since we were on the same course and there were relatively few girls. we were roommate Initially it seemed we were poorly matched, but somehow we had hit it off and became best friends.
Since then we'd done a lot together, and Nat was always trying to help me be more sociable. I found going out with her could be depressing, as the only reason guys would talk to me was to get to her. They seemed to be operating under the assumption that if they could befriend the ugly roommate they had a better crack at my sexy friend. Once we'd tried double dating. The guy her date brought took one look at me and then ignored me, he just sat there drinking for the rest of the evening. He got so drunk he called me an ugly troll and threw up on me. I cried myself to sleep that night and refused to go out like that again. That experience had recently put me off going out on dates at all, even without Nat there stealing all the attention. It seemed none of the people I dated understood me, plus I couldn't seem to find any spark of attraction for any of them. I was resigning myself to becoming a crazy old spinster lady. I figured I might have to get myself a pet cat to be my only love to complete the image.
Despite all that, I liked Nat, I had been relatively shy at school and had few friends. Nat was a good friend to me and someone I could open up to. She also got all the techie stuff that made people think I was a geek. She was probably one of the brighter people in the course. Most of the guys thought she was sleeping with someone to stay on, or using me to get by. Truth was she probably helped me more than I ever helped her and she could go toe to toe with any bloke on geek stuff. Mostly she played the ditz, but every now and then she would completely take some smart arse apart with her fairly formidable intellect.
"So straight off to Dr Smith's electromagnetics course? Or you wanna grab a quick coffee first?" Nat asked.
"I think I might just skip this lecture," I said.
"That's not like you Em, bunking off." Then she took a good look at me, "Hey you feeling alright?" She was suddenly looking at me worriedly. She always seemed to know how I was feeling. She told me once she was just really good at reading body language, but even so, it was uncanny.
"Feeling a bit off, headache and such," I replied.
"Well in that case you head off home. You can borrow my notes later. Go get yourself wrapped up warm, and have a lie down."
"You gonna be OK to head back to hall? I can come with if you like?"
"No I'm OK."
"Right ho, well I'll see you a bit later babe," she said. giving me a hug. She suddenly stiffened, "Uh oh! Don't look now, but your stalker is here."
While I had trouble finding guys that took an interest in me, there was one who wouldn't leave me alone. Mark Bishop had become obsessed with me. He was a bit of a weirdo, even more of an outsider than me, an odd quiet guy who sat at the back of a room on his own. He kept following me around and used to stand across the street from our house in the mornings, waiting for me to come out. That was till Nat threatened to call the cops on him.
He was a royal pain in the arse. It had started innocently enough. I went on a date with him after he asked me out at a hall of residence event. He had seemed nice enough, a little shy maybe, but I wasn't one to judge on that score. The date had been OK, but I found I just didn't like the guy, and had very few interests in common. It wasn't anyone's fault; I just didn't think we were likely to be friends. I explained this and, as far as I was concerned, we'd gone our separate ways amicably, except he wouldn't accept it was over. He kept turning up, trying to call me, and sending me little gifts. It was annoying and a bit scary.
"Don't worry we'll pull a fast one on him. You know the ladies in the maths block with the two exits?" I nodded, "You go in one and head out the other. I'll wait outside so he thinks I'm waiting for you," Nat said.
"Thanks Nat, last thing I need is him following me home when I'm ill."
"No problem, Emily. What else are friends for if not to deflect creepy stalkers? You really should speak with someone about him, he's getting weirder."
"I know Nat, maybe once I'm feeling better, K."
"Right ho, time for some subterfuge," she said with a big grin.
We made our way to the ladies, with Mark in tow. As we got there, Nat said, "OK I'll wait for you here don't take too long," in a fairly loud voice
I nodded and she gave me a sly wink, I swiftly dodged through to the other door and off into the building, exiting the other side away from where Nat was distracting Mark. I made my way home reassured that I was not being followed. I was feeling increasingly lousy, as by now, my head was pounding, and my muscles were aching. I staggered back to in St. George Hall, which consists of a main hall building, with a canteen a student bar and various other facilities. It had grown to include a few houses along the street next to it. These were separate from the main block and had their own feel. Nat and I lived in one of these houses. It was an older redbrick house dating from early in the university's existence, called Lilyvale. There was a small kitchen downstairs and maybe a dozen rooms, each with two people in them. There was a roughly equal mix of boys to girls. I used my key and staggered up to our room, number six, on the first floor.
I opened the door shuffled in, slammed it behind me, then collapsed on the bed, strewing my stuff at random across the room on the path to bed. I crashed there fully clothed, clutching my throbbing head.
I lay there for a short while and managed to get some sleep for a bit. I woke up a while later my head still pounding, my muscles aching, suddenly nauseous. I bolted out of the room for the bathroom, managing to get to the toilet where I threw up voluminously for quite a while.
After I was done, I sat there for a bit recovering. I heard a voice behind me, "Dude, you been drinking vodka again?"
It was Tom Winters an art student in the room across the way from us. He and his roommate were always out drinking late into the night and never seemed to go to lectures. I wasn't sure how he managed to stay on his course. He was a reasonably nice guy though, unlike his roommate who sober, was a right tosser, and worse when he was drunk.
"No Tom, I haven't," I replied.
"Right, I jus remember that party back ... when was it ... you were wasted back then, can't hold your vodka ... anyway gonna get me some breakfast," Tom said as he shuffled off.
It was 3:30 in the afternoon, a bit early for him and a bit late for breakfast. He was right about me and vodka though. I had been so sick that time, the very thought of it made my stomach clench and I was sick a few more times. When I seemed to have stopped throwing up, I flushed the toilet and washed my face. The pale sickly looking girl I saw in the mirror looked awful. I staggered back to bed and wrapped myself up warm, trying and fight the shakes.
I slept a bit more feeling totally worn out and woke once again to throw up, the same cycle repeated several times till I had nothing left to throw up, ending up retching painfully. I was in quite a state when Nat's key in the door woke me from my delirious slumber.
"Dude," I heard Tom say, "Em's been chucking up loads, it almost put me off my breakfast. She been at the booze again?"
"I don't think so, Tom she was feeling a bit sick earlier," Nat told him. My head felt all fuzzy like everything was far away.
"Well she's in pretty bad shape then, I haven't seen anyone that sick since Brown challenged me to that turbo cider drinking contest and he ended up in casualty."
"Thanks, Tom. I'll see if she's OK, maybe get her to the med centre."
She wandered in and was soon over by my bed side. She was just a fuzzy shape without my glasses and I was pretty sick. My perceptions were way off.
"You OK Em?" She put her hand on my forehead. "Oh, honey you're burning up. Come on, let's take you over to the student med centre."
She helped me out of bed, I was pretty far gone by this point shaking and fading in and out of consciousness. Nat put one of my arms around her when it became apparent that I could barely walk by myself. I could have sworn she lifted me up all by herself, but it must have been the sickness as I heard her call for some help. "Tom!"
"What is it?" he was just a fuzzy figure by the door.
"Oh for goodness sake, put some trousers on around the house, will you? Anyway, I need you to help me get Em to the doctor's. She's in a bad way."
I faded out a bit and, next thing I knew, we were outside. I was being more or less carried between Nat and Tom. I tried to say something, but it came out as a series of unintelligible moans.
"Hold on, sweetie, we are getting you to the doctor's," Nat said.
I faded in and out from time to time, getting a snapshot of our trip to the universities medical centre. My periods awake became less and less frequent and even then I was only barely conscious. One of my last conscious periods I was in a bed somewhere.
Two shapes were talking. One was Nat and I assumed the other was a doctor.
" ... in a very serious condition, I've not seen many cases with as severe a reaction as this," said the doctor.
"Will she be OK?" Nat said.
"Too early to say, we'll hook her up to an energy I.V. and keep her sedated. It's the safest course of action," the Doctor said.
I faded out and this time I was out for the count.
I came to some time later. I didn't know how long I had been out, but I no longer felt ill. I did feel a little strange. I as a matter of habit, I tried to reach for my glasses and found I was restrained. I blinked my eyes to clear them a bit and the room came into focus, sharp focus.
"That's odd," I thought, "I shouldn't be able to see without my glasses. What's going on."
I glanced around and saw I was secured to a bed with a sheet and duvet over me so I couldn't see myself. I could see various bits of medical equipment around me. The room looked too well equipped to be the med centre. I seemed to be in a hospital room somewhere.
I was glancing around when Nat walked into the room slurping away on a drink. "Hey, look who's up! They said you would be coming out of it today, typical that you should wake up when I'm off getting a drink," she said.
"What happened? Why can I see without my glasses? why am I tied up?" The questions just poured out.
"OK, now keep calm, sweetie. They had to restrain you so you wouldn't hurt yourself. You had some pretty bad episodes where you were thrashing about," Nat said, "As to the eyes, well, now stay calm. You've had MORFS, been out of it for a week. It was a pretty bad case, they didn't think you were going to make it at one point and had to airlift you to the local intensive care ward for a bit. They tried to get your parents here, but there was some sort of mix up with the computers and your records. Anyway, your eyes must be part of your changes."
"Part of my changes! What else? Let me up!" I was panicking a bit, making the heart rate machine bleep faster and faster. I had thought I was past the time that MORFS would be a risk for me. At 19, I was at the far end of the possible age group. Now, just when I had begun to think I was safe, it had got me.
"Now calm down, there is no need to panic. You are going to be fine. Take some deep breaths and try to relax."
I did my best to calm down, it wasn't easy but eventually my heart rate returned to normal and the bleeping slowed.
"Good girl I'll call the doctor so they can talk you through it." She stepped out the room for a bit and returned a few minutes later with an earnest looking man in a white coat.
He examined me a bit, shining a light in my eyes, and listening to my heart and so on, as he asked me a few questions and eventually started to lift back the sheet covering my body.
"Remember, stay calm, Em," Nat told me. Her repeated encouragement to stay calm was not helping any more. That she wanted me to remain calm seemed to indicate that my not needing glasses anymore was the least of my problems, and that I had a lot to be not calm about. All sorts of horrific images of what I would see flashed through my mind.
Maybe I was a giant slug from the waist down, or half donkey, or a man!
My heart started to speed up a bit as the doc drew back the sheet and then the duvet. I looked slowly down my body, the first thing I noticed were breasts. Not huge ones, but for someone who previously, as one unpleasant boy had put it, had a chest like two aspirins on an ironing board, they were something of a surprise. I continued looking down and saw my hands tied up below my new bosom, I continued down, below them was another set of hands!
"That can't be right!" I thought to myself.
Below that set was another, I seemed to have 6 hands, and presumably, arms as well by the looks of it. I continued looking down and saw nothing else of note. I returned to staring at the extra pairs of hand.
"You're taking this very well," said the Doctor, at which point I let out a scream that probably rattled windows on the other side of the hospital, then passed out. Yeah, all things considered, I think I took it well, too.