Why I Don’t Hike Anymore

leaves

I don’t want to write about this. I’ll try to keep it short. My doctor suggested I put it down on paper, though, so he can have a better idea of how everything happened. He’d never seen such a thing in his 30 years of practicing medicine and he actually wants to talk about my case at an ENT conference next summer. So why am I posting the story here? Because if I have to suffer through writing it, you might as well suffer through reading it. Yeah, I’m a prick.

I’d always been an avid outdoorsman. Hiking was my thing. After my divorce, I did what I thought I had to do: quit my job and hike the whole Appalachian Trail. You know how your coaches always used to say “walk it off” after a bad hit? Well, after being sodomized by the vicious cock of alimony, I needed the longest walk I could think of. So off I went.

It was March when I started and I was pretty damn cold for a while, but I knew it’d warm up as the hike progressed. Contrary to the wishes of my friends, I’d insisted on going alone. I was an experienced hiker. No, I hadn’t gone such a great distance before, but I was definitely in good physical shape and knew quite a bit about outdoorsy stuff from spending time in the woods with my father before he died.

To be honest, the first six weeks bored the living shit out of me. Yes, the scenery was beautiful. Yes, the feeling of accomplishment I expected to experience at the end of it all would be memorable. Still, it sucked. I found myself walking faster and faster just hoping to finish a day or so earlier so I wouldn’t have to deal with it anymore.

On cue, when my boredom had reached its peak, I got an awful cold. It was a nightmare. It seemed like every ten steps I had to stop, pick up an old leaf, and blow a gallon of snot out of me. For those who are laughing at me right now and saying I’m stupid for not just blowing out snot rockets, hey – I’m glad I could give you something to laugh at. But the reality of the situation was that the shit up my nose was like rubber cement. The one time I tried to blow without a leaf, I got a trail of yellow slime going from my left nostril to my knee. So thanks for laughing, but fuck off.

Anyway, as the days went by and I’d Hansel-and-Gretel’ed the forest with mucousy leaves, I started to get concerned that my cold hadn’t gotten any better. Quite the contrary. My sinuses were packed with snot. And I mean packed; you know when you’re in bed and you put your head on one side and you can feel your sinuses drain a little and get some relief? There was no relief. And every few minutes, I was blowing progressively-thicker goo onto anything unfortunate enough to get within my reach.

There was one morning in early May, after I’d been sick for two straight weeks, that I knew I needed to hop off the trail and find a local clinic. I was fairly sure I had a sinus infection and it was severely affecting the amount of walking I wanted to do every day. I took a turn off the trail and in the general direction of a town.

The map indicated I’d be off the trail for almost a day. It wasn’t the ideal situation, but I really wanted to get some antibiotics. The way out was through. A few miles in, though, the pressure in my sinuses turned into blinding pain. I had to sit down and rest. There was no way I’d be able to get to town before dark at the rate I was going. I did my best to blow out the horrible contents of my nose, which was now dark yellow and as viscous as chewing gum.

I used my fingers to pull out as much as I could. There was almost no relief, though. Most of it was deep in my sinuses and no amount of picking or blowing was going to get it out. I wandered over to a small stream to wash my disgusting hands. As I pulled the slime off my fingers, I caught sight of something that caused me to gasp. I looked under my index fingernail. Buried inside the compacted dirt and snot was the unmistakable segmented body of a white worm.

Now I was really, really freaked out. I dragged the piece out from under my nail and inspected it. It wasn’t a whole worm. It looked like my fingernail had broken off either the front or back end of the thing. The pressure in my sinuses only intensified as my panic grew. I told myself the piece of worm had to have been under my nail before it I picked my nose. It was futile consolation. Every night for the last couple nights I’d heard what I thought was the moving and settling of my sinus contents. Now I knew. I’d heard them moving around. And that realization was where I lost it.

Rather than trying to blow out, I snorted the contents backward, trying to get them into my throat so I could spit them out. After a couple powerful snorts, I felt something hit the back of my throat. I spit it onto the ground. On the brown pine needles, a fat white worm half the size of my pinky wriggled in yellow snot. I screamed.

Over and over I tried to spit more of them out. Only one came. With the slightly diminished sinus pressure, I could feel them for what they were. This was the first time they’d been able to make any significant movement because they’d been so tightly packed together. But now, they wandered. I felt their thick bodies crawling around behind my nose and under my eyes. I started to hyperventilate when I felt one start to slither down into my nostril. I scratched and pulled at it with my fingers, but it wouldn’t budge. It just sat there, writhing.

The sensation was indescribably horrific and I needed the fucking thing out of me. I squeezed my nostrils together with my hand as hard as I could. I felt the worm burst inside and a torrent of gray sludge poured out of its destroyed body. Now deflated, I could pull its body all the way out. It was almost three inches long. It slapped on the forest floor like a used condom.

While the terror I felt was immeasurable, having expelled three worms from my sinuses gave me more relief from the pressure than I could have imagined. I still could feel others slithering inside me, though. But my breathing was much, much better. I started to run toward town. I didn’t stop until I got there.

There isn’t much else to say. I got to the main road and a kind soul let me hitch a ride to the clinic in the back of his pickup. The local doctor was pretty surprised, but he didn’t seem to think I was in any danger. He asked where I lived, did a little research, and found a highly-accomplished ear, nose, and throat specialist only a couple miles from my house. Later that night I was on a plane back home. The pressure change of the airplane wreaked havoc on my sinuses and it felt like the worms inside were throwing party, but I managed to stay somewhat composed. The guy next to me didn’t particularly like how I kept snorting up phlegm and spitting it into the puke bag.

The next morning, I met with the ENT guy. He did a whole bunch of stuff with small cameras that made me gag and he made a lot of sounds like he was absolutely fascinated by what was in me. After he pulled seven of the things out of me and warned that there are probably eggs inside that’ll need to get dealt with sooner or later, he tried to figure out how they’d gotten there. It only took about 20 minutes before he concluded I’d gotten their eggs in my nose from one of the leaves I’d used as a tissue when I first got the cold. Lovely.

So that’s that. Over the next couple weeks, he did some stuff to clean out my sinuses and gave me some pills he said would kill anything else that might be up there. Last week, he asked me to write this shit so he could share it with his ENT buddies who were really jealous he’d gotten to treat such a cool case. Well, hi guys. Every time I blow my nose I expect to see a fat worm looking up at me from the tissue asking why I evicted it from its home. Have a great conference.

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6 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Hike Anymore

  1. Wow… a rare instance where the storyteller survives and isn’t permanently altered in some unimaginably bizarre way! Terrific angry sense of humor on this guy, too. Why quit hiking though? Next time, just pack plenty of Kleenex 🙂

  2. You’re so great at getting into your characters voices, they all sound so different! Brilliantly done – and very, very gross so thanks for that haha.

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