Author's note: If someone comes up with a better story about ICU Delirium, I'll gladly give up this title. That said, by author request, this story is not protected by copyright. This means you may freely repost the work without crediting the author.
I remember they took me to the hospital two months ago without my permission. I could see them looking at me with hunger, like they wanted to eat me. I couldn't move even as they sent a tube into my nose, even as I felt a worm fall into the slit in my abdomen. They piped poison into my mouth through the tube. They said it was supposed to kill the worm, but they were wrong.
I remember knowing the worm was crawling inside my gut, though I couldn't feel it due to the way the ventilator squeezed my body in and out. Once, I regained the ability to speak, and I screamed at the doctors to help me. It was only when they refused to acknowledge me that I fully admitted I was probably going to die in the hospital.
Doctors are wrong sometimes, and I would forgive them, if they had been doctors. But I remember seeing the huge, simian teeth in their mouths when they talked, rubbing against their masks. They were going to eat me. I was sure of it. Over the following days, they slowly revealed more of their forms to me. They were hairy, disgusting creatures with the heads of cats and deer, and they only aped the form of benevolent doctors whenever people came to see me. I tried to warn them about it, but no matter how much I screamed, they couldn't hear me.
I remember them putting me in an oven. I remember them explicitly saying they were putting me in an oven. I remember my legs and my arms beneath the elbow being sawed off and replaced with plastic implants. I remember one of the doctors saying, in the middle of all the medical jargon, that they had to put an IV drip in my upper forearm, because my lower forearm wasn't there.
Everyone who was there right after I recovered tells me I was completely delirious for two days afterwards. I said we could take a helicopter home. I threatened to sue the doctors for trying to eat me. I begged my friends and family to take my place or take me with them even when I could barely even walk. I screamed about how there was a worm wriggling around my intestines, and how I had been hospitalized for no reason.
In reality, I was there because of an accident which had left me almost unable to breathe, which I completely accept to be true. Nothing that I thought happened there was real. No matter how many times I check my stomach, I can't find any signs of an incision. Any time I mention the worm, I have to admit that I've never even felt it, only had a sneaking suspicion that it was there. I remember it so clearly, but my memories are nothing more than strings of hallucinations.
Apparently, those hallucinations were caused by what the doctors call "ICU delirium". It's something that happens to people who are sedated and put on ventilators for long periods of time with little to no outside stimuli. One could think of it like a terrible nightmare that lasts for weeks on end.
A week after I was discharged, I came back to the hospital with my wife to try and shake away these false memories. It was a normal room in a normal hospital with normal doctors. Still, I felt uneasy, and I kept counting the seconds until I could get out. My wife asked me if I was okay, but I denied that anything was wrong.
For a while, I could continue being in denial. When I forgot what I was doing, I was just being forgetful. When I had terrible nightmares about the time I'd spent in the hospital, I could tell myself that they would stop eventually. When I heard voices from the faucet or the air conditioner, I could ignore them and pretend nothing was wrong. After all, if I didn't tell anyone else what was happening, I wouldn't need to go back to the hospital.
Two days ago, I went from my living room right back to the hospital. Then I started panicking. I couldn't stop hyperventilating, and it took my exiting the hospital building for me to fully calm down. My wife said I had collapsed on the living room floor, and when she had asked me where I lived, my sister's name, and other questions like that, I hadn't been able to answer any of them.
The doctor, who had kindly followed my wife and me outside, told me it could take up to two weeks for this to stop happening. She said that the night terrors I had been experiencing, the feeling of dissociation, my forgetting what time it was or where I was, all of those things had been happening because of ICU delirium.
If anybody actually asks me what happened, I skip my actual memories of the hospital and merely say, "I was on a ventilator. I survived." It's been two months since I went in and one month since I escaped, but I'm still affected by my stay in the hospital. I can barely focus, I can't keep a job, and I'm still utterly terrified of stark white rooms and small spaces. I came out of that hospital a changed person, and I don't know when, or if, any of those changes will go away.
Written by Squidmanescape