I was sharply woken that night by a noise and a sensation. It took only a moment to recognise the sound of someone vomiting, and only another moment to realise that someone was me. I was crouched over the toilet in our bathroom and had managed the dash in the couple of second’s warning my body had been kind enough to give me through my fitful sleep.
I had spent half the night drifting in and out of a sweating, restless drowsiness that seemed to sweep from a cramping, fidgeting state of wakefulness to a confused and troubled light sleep. My pounding head was filled with bizarre, uncontrollable thoughts that rolled and shifted of their own accord, following no conscious pattern other than what my mind was creating. I wasn’t manipulating the visually vivid train of thought that danced in front of my eyelids and spilled out against the black shadows of our hotel room, but I was experiencing it nonetheless. Thus, sleep and wakefulness merged into an agonising, surreal state of limbo existence; between consciousness and unconsciousness, between lucidity and ambiguity, between evening and morning.
I have no idea how much I slept that night. I dashed back and forth from the bathroom a number of times, even attempting to sleep in the bathroom at one point. For once, the call to prayer from the mosque next door was music to my ears because it meant morning was approaching. Once the comforting light of day began to glow through the window and from under the door, I knew I was on my way to sanity again. The night had been quiet, cold, lonely and full of strange shapes and images in the darkness. But as Alec and the rest of the town stirred and went about their day, I was back in the world of the living.
By mid afternoon, I had summoned the strength to venture out into the world and buy what I needed to sort myself out. Where some cases of food poising give stomach cramps, vomiting, headaches and diarrhoea, others can give more of the same but in much more dramatic form. The variation in how bad the sufferer feels tends to be in the amount of vital biological ingredients the body loses with all the fluids that leave your body; namely electrolytes, essential salts, enzymes and other little tiny stuff that make us tick. Without electrolytes, the brain patterns are interfered and not very rational, sending the owner on an unpleasant and delirious trip away with the faeries. Salts and other minerals are more of a biological component that helps our muscles, kidneys, respiratory systems and other such internal biology. Without them we stop being able to respirate very well, if at all, which is why diarrhoea is so dangerous and lethal for physically weak sufferers and such a killer in places with prevalent malnourishment and bad water supplies such as Africa, where it kills most. Enzymes serve a similar function to the essential salts but are as important because they would enable us to break down food and gain strength from them if they were all present and correct. In cases where they are not, this does not happen. In some particularly nasty cases of gut infection, the entire biological systems within our digestive system get rejected in case of infection and the body throws everything out that isn’t nailed down, if you excuse the saying.
All of this is largely secondary to the dehydration that is the main problem with this sort of illness and by and large the basic cause of death in those cases where diarrhoea strikes the weak and old. It is probably the thing that will make you feel worst and the thing that needs to be remedied first; not so easy when the body throws it all back up straight away.
Little did I know it at the time, but I had been lucky. Later on in the trip I would become sick again and again in much worse fashion, and we had only lost 24 hours of time due to my being bedridden. Of course, my 7 hours in the ill, delirious, darkness of limbo lasted a lifetime and I felt like I had been reborn as the sky grew lighter that morning.