My girlfriend bought the eggs. It was at a big supermarket chain but I rather not say which one. She brought them home on Friday evening and Saturday morning I wanted to make crèpe for us. Crèpe, not pancakes, that’s been our Saturday morning ritual since Christmas.
I pulled the pack of eggs from the fridge. I opened it on the counter and took three eggs out. The first one was fine, or at least it looked fine, and went straight in the mixing bowl.
The second one felt much lighter but I didn’t think about that. I cracked it open on the side of the bowl like the first. The shell shattered into a lot of tiny pieces. It was empty.
It was a bit surprised but I figured that could happen somehow. Maybe the chicken was sick or something. I felt a bit disgusted but I didn’t think much about it.
I fished the shell out of the bowl and took the third one. It felt normal again. I bumped it carefully against the side of the bowl and had to try it four or five times until it finally cracked. The white and yolk flowed out perfectly normal. I examined it to make sure, but there was nothing wrong about it, there wasn’t even a fetus like you sometimes get with organic eggs.
But I needed three eggs. Without much thought I took another one from the carton and instantly froze. It was too light. I felt the shell give in under my fingers.
I rolled it on my hand and more cracks developed in the shell. Then I saw the small hole. There was a small hole at the bottom, narrower than the tip of a cheap chopstick. When I used my other hand to roll it over the egg cracked and the shell fell into pieces like the one before.
I wasn’t alarmed. I was just curious. I actually thought it was a bit funny.
One after the other I took all the other eggs from the carton and weighed them in my hand. Five of the six felt normal. Then I picked up the last and I nearly jumped from excitement. It was light. Really light. Light like the weight of maybe just the shell.
I carefully picked it out of the carton and placed it in a glass bowl. I admired it from all sides until I found another tiny hole right in the center of the big end of the egg.
Then I took another egg and made crèpe.
After breakfast I showed my new trophy to Karina. She was disgusted and angry that I hadn’t told her before breakfast. She said she would never have eaten “eggs like that.” Karina thought it looked like a hole that a bug or worm would have dug. I just laughed and told her that it must be either a practical joke or some sort of factory accident. I figured it was an accident with the stamp machine that prints the sell-by-date on the egg. A broken piece punched a hole in the egg and the liquid contents ran somewhere in the machine but nobody noticed until the packs were on the truck.
I even went online to check whether there were some reports on it, or maybe even some sort of contest for the “lucky finders.” Nothing.
For lunch we had bread with cheese.
For dinner she had salad and I had leftover lasagna.
Sunday we got up late. Then we did some fun stuff. Then we had breakfast and went out for a walk. For lunch we ate sandwiches from a street stall.
Around 3pm Karina said she didn’t feel so good. We blamed it on the sandwiches.
At 4:30pm Karina had stomach cramps. Ten minutes later she was vomiting. Another five minutes later she was vomiting blood.
The ambulance took her straight away. They did a lot of tests but didn’t find a thing. They guessed on food poisoning. I begged a friend to go to the street stall and buy up all their leftover food so that we could get it checked. He did.
By the time my friend arrived at the hospital Karina was completely pale and fading in and out of consciousness. She only seemed to regain consciousness whenever the next flood of clotted blood was in her stomach and ready to be ejected from her body.
By 11pm she just stayed unconscious. The doctors even cut her open to check her stomach. Nothing. Nothing at all. They sent me home to try and find something, anything at all that could have made her sick.
I came home. The doctors said Karina must have ingested either some bad food or some chemical. The first thing I did was to open the fridge. I saw the eggs and instantly remembered the glass bowl with the empty egg on the dinner table. I knew I had to take it. I knew it could be something.
I just wanted to make sure that there wasn’t anything else that could have been the cause. I rummaged through the fruit bowl and then again the fridge. Finally I saw the vegetable drawer and it hit me like a train.
Salad washed with only cold water.
I pulled the drawer open. I must have screamed like a baby.
A worm sat on top of the salad. It was tiny, maybe the size of a paper clip, but it had an odd, pink-yellowish color.
I wrapped a plastic bag around my hand, grabbed the worm and reversed the bag around it. Then I used a second, bigger plastic bag to grab the rest of the salad and a third bag for the zucchini and the lonely two tomatoes.
On the way back to the hospital at least two speed traps caught me.
First I got off on the wrong floor. Why do they all look the same?
When I finally managed to find the right ward one of the nurses ran straight towrads me.
“We couldn’t reach you,” she said. “She’s in the OR.”
No missed calls. I don’t think they even tried to reach me.
They found a mass in her brain. That’s why they wanted to operate straight away.
For two hours I sat on a white plastic chair and stared at the door to the neurosurgery section. Hundreds of thoughts ran through my head – how I would live without her. How our life would be if she would be handicapped. How it was probably all my fault.
I forgot about my bagged vegetables. I forgot about it until one of the nurses came through the swinging door. I remember how the doors fell shut behind her without any noise.
“It’s gonna be a while,” she said. “It seems the tumor has somehow moved.”
That’s when I remembered my bags.
I must have sounded crazy. Somehow I must have squeezed in less than ten seconds the information that she ate salad and that there were spoiled eggs and that I found a strange worm on the salad.
I pulled the plastic bags out of my backpack. I threw the salad and zucchini aside and grabbed the small bag.
There was a hole in the bag.
I emptied my backpack. I tried my best to describe it – the pink-yellowish color, how it had felt really hard and had wriggled in the bag.
The nurse rushed back in the surgery section.
I sat on that white chair and played the worst mobile games in the history of manking on my phone. I felt sick from exhaustion and sick from worry.
Every time someone stepped through the silently swinging doors I jumped up and asked them whether they knew anything about the operation. Nobody did.
It was nearly noon when the nurse woke me up. I don’t know when I fell asleep, but I do know that I had lain half on one and half on the other chair. My sides and neck were hurting, but the worst was my leg.
The doctor came a few minutes after the nurse. There was sweat all over his face and neck and dried blood all over his arms.
He said that they found it. They found a worm in her head. They said it was nearly the size of a finger.
He said that he wasn’t sure whether Karina would ever speak again.
He said that the worm must have dug its way from the stomach up to the brain.
I wanted to ask questions but I didn’t hear much. I just nodded and he must have thought I was stupid.
I should have said something. I should have said that I felt dizzy.
The doctor told me that she needed to rest. I would only be able to see her in the evening, also because Karina was still being monitored and they wanted to keep her close to the OR.
I made my way to the canteen. I thought all I needed was food and caffeine. I limped on the way because my leg hurt so badly. Then my hip started to ache too.
I chose a cheese sandwich and a coke. At the counter I pulled my wallet out of my pocket.
There was no warning, no feeling of “now I’m going to throw up.” From one moment to the next the vomit just shot through my throat. It was all over the cashier. She screamed, I know that, but I didn’t see or hear anything else.
All I felt was pain. Pain and the urge to vomit more.
I remember delirious moments. There was a white wall and there were people in front of it that asked me questions about my body. And there was pain in my leg and stomach and chest and back.
My body seemed to have an endless supply of red and black bulges. They fell into one metal bowl after the other.
Then there was a loud white machine around me. Someone kept screaming at me to stay still.
In that machine the other type of vomiting began. I felt like I was drowning. I coughed and the coughing seemed to last longer and was deeper than any cough I ever felt. The cough turned into gagging and the gagging into more coughing. There was a lot of lumpy red liquid on the inside wall of the white machine.
The next thing I remember is that somebody pushed a piece of plastic over my mouth. I saw my primary school teacher teaching me how to count from 1 to 10.
I kept counting, probably three or four times, from 1 to 10, until somebody else screamed “dosage.” My primary school teacher looked upset.
Then everything turned black.
They caught it just before it reached my heart. They said it was nearly the length of a hand and thicker than a hot dog.
I likely won’t ever be able to do sports again. It had dug two times through my lungs.
They shut down the egg farms while I was still in the hospital. At least they set Karina and me up in the same room. It was strange to be the only one speaking and her hands were still too weak to write. Still I was happy just to have her there. And just to be there for her.
I read on some blog that they burned most of the chickens alive. They used flamethrowers to empty the stables and then men in hazard suits collected the chickens in bags and threw them in an incinerator. I’m not sure what happened with the buildings.
The same friend that had bought the sandwich stall leftovers volunteered to bring us fresh clothes from home.
I was wondering what took him so long. He came six hours late. He said that we likely wouldn’t see anything from our apartment ever again. He said he tried to save some of our photo albums but after the firefighters and then the men in hazard suits arrived they took them away from him. They even made him undress and disinfected his body. He had to stay in the hospital for two days until he was declared safe.
He said that when he entered our apartment there was a dead cat right in the middle of the living room. And there were several worms about the size of a fly around the cat.
I must have left one of the windows open. It was on the first floor but still, somehow, the cat had gotten inside.
When the hazard team arrived they found three more dead cats and a few birds on top of the garage.
They spread pesticides all over the area. One of the neighbors told me that they were asked to leave for a whole week and had to hand over the keys to their apartment. Most of the pets were killed. They paid hunters to kill off local birds. In the news they said it was because of an outbreak of bird flu and that those were just “safety measures.” They said no humans could be affected.
I know that one of my neighbors died. She was a kind older lady that everyone knew for her charity cake sales. She called the ambulance herself but died on the way to the hospital.
Officially it was a heart attack. I mean, it’s possible. But I also doubt it. I saw her a few times when she was feeding strays.
All that was barely two months ago, the older lady’s death just about six weeks.
We are now back in our apartment. Karina is slowly learning to make consonants again. She’s already good with vowels.
It still depresses me that I can’t hear any birdsong outside anymore. It’s something that you don’t notice until it’s gone. Last Sunday I saw a bird in the evening and I called the special number they gave us. There were some men with rifles on the street afterwards, but I didn’t hear them shoot.
Anyway. That’s what I wanted to tell. That’s why they shut down the egg farms, not some bird flu outbreak. Occasionally I find notes in the newspaper about other egg farms or poultry farms that are closed down and I wonder whether it’s really because of bird flu or whether it’s something else.
They didn’t make me sign any keep-it-secret deal or anything, so I hope it’s okay when I tell this here. Nobody really told us what the story behind those worms is. I just wanted to say that you should watch out for those eggs from caged hens. And if you find a very light or hollow egg you should probably very quickly call somebody and take a shower.