click the overgrown eyebrow curl to submit
When the man first came down with the fever, everything felt wrong. He had never been so thirsty. Clear water ran through his mind but real water, when he found it, looked foul. In his head there was a voice saying “No” to everything it saw. Birds took off from a bench and the voice said “No. Matter is too dense to lift.” Buses came and went, and the voice said “No. There is no route satisfactory to all of them.” Around him people kissed and slapped and cursed and the voice said, “No. People can’t do those things. It hurts too much.” When he told people he had a fever they told him not to worry, that it would be gone soon enough. Soon enough the fever was not gone. He ran into the same people and they said “Don’t worry, the fever will break at some point.” At some point the fever did not break. He got tired of fighting through it. He went home to sleep. He took time off of work and dimmed the lights and drank water, foul though it seemed, and tried to ignore the voice in his head saying “No.” The fever endured. One day he woke up early and decided that it was time to go on with his life. He put on his tie and took his fever to the office, thinking the voice would be too shy to follow him, but it wasn’t. It tagged along and said “No” to everything it saw. When they arrived at the office it looked around and said “No.” His co-workers approached him and asked where he’d been, what was wrong. “I have this fever,” he said. They assured him that the fever would be gone in no time. In no time the fever was still there and the voice in his head was saying “No” and his co-workers had gone back to ignoring him. He sat down at his desk and listened to the voice. Every time the voice said “No,” the man said “Why?” and paid attention to the reasons. The voice never ran out of reasons. The man began to make a list of them. Soon he had enough reasons to make a book. When the book was finished he called it No: The Book. Many people bought it and read it, including a rich producer who adapted the book into a movie. The movie was called No: The Motion Picture, and it earned the man money that allowed him to quit his job and take his fever home. He hired someone to look after the details of his life and sat on the porch to write down the voice’s reasons. More books followed, and then a hit sequel to No: The Motion Picture entitled No More. Soon he was the richest person in town and could afford any medical treatment he wanted, but the fever had been with him for quite some time and he didn’t remember what life was like without it. A prestigious doctor came to visit, poked the man’s body with instruments, and told him he could cure the fever in a fortnight. The man consulted the voice in his head and the voice said “No.” When the man asked why, the voice said, “The fever is me, and I am your voice.” The man declined the doctor’s offer and sent him away. Other doctors came to visit, offering him different and more detailed diagnoses, offering to ease the pain. They used terms he didn’t understand so he sent them away. When they came back and explained it to him in simpler language, he sent them away again for other reasons. Meanwhile, the No franchise continued to gain in popularity. There was The Son of No and No Way, No How and No Means No. They called him a writer, sometimes a seer, but he introduced himself as a stenographer. None of the words were his. All he did was listen to the voice and record. The reasons were prosaic (“No, it is too salty”), cautionary (“No, you will never get away with it”), mystic (“No, for the clearest way is hidden”). The man’s audience devoured the books and clamored for more. They had reasons not to eat a salad a day, now they wanted reasons not to wash their car. They had reasons not to feel guilty about their divorce, now they wanted reasons not to rejoice in the love of Christ. Every volume he released fulfilled certain needs and neglected others. He received fan mail demanding more reasons and worked through his fever to copy down everything the voice told him. No to peace because war is inevitable. No to war because it breeds bacteria. No to bacteria because it has no more right to live than anything else. No to x-rays because they are an invasion of nature’s privacy. No to chess because chess is war without the courage of guns. No to international cooperation because international tension is the driving force of history. All day long he copied and copied and copied until he became tired and his body was contained entirely within pain. He could barely hear the fever’s voice through the mist of nausea. A doctor was summoned, one of the men whose advice he’d rejected so long ago. The doctor tapped and poked and prodded the man and announced that he’d caught a second fever. In order to explain the man’s condition the doctor used a string of words the man didn’t understand. Keep it simple, said the man, I’m very sick. The doctor put it in pugilistic terms. The two fevers were having a fistfight. One of them would win, but the man himself would lose. “Long ago you spoke of a cure,” said the man. No, no, said the doctor, the chance is gone. So the man lingered in his bed, sweating and talking nonsense while No End, the final volume of his transcriptions, raced to the top of the bestseller lists, stayed there for a few days, and then went out of print for over a century. People were suddenly not interested in his reasons. People had stumbled upon other things, life-affirming things, various forms of exercise and methods for making contact with themselves. The man’s reasons were too dark for the new optimism. Soon he had faded from the public eye, sequestered from the media and, indeed, from all human contact, save for the three times a day when Vicious Q, his manservant, brought him concentrated protein shakes laced with morphine to dull the pain and prolong the mechanical functions of his body. It was the man’s will, for the fever that won him his fame had at long last broken through the wall of confusion and said “No” to life itself. When the man asked why the voice said, “Because it is too painful,” so the man decided to say “No” to the voice. For a few months he fought to keep his body alive, the voice of the fever saying “No, no, no” all day and all night, until it was impossible for the man to distinguish between day and night, between sleep and wakefulness. He didn’t know that his audience had dwindled to a handful of shunned old virgins muttering to themselves in public libraries, he wasn’t aware that Vicious Q had designed and constructed an automatic delivery system for the morphine shakes and moved to L.A. to pursue his dream of becoming a hip-hop mogul, he didn’t know that saying “Yes,” whether one meant it or not, was the new norm and that a revival of his reputation would have to wait for nearly a hundred fifty years, until the dark days after the Sino-Canadian war. He knew very little as he lay there connected to his machine, listening to the babbling of the voice and rooting for the new fever. In time there was a knock on the door and his head was clear again, clear enough to notice the vague something that walked into the room, tipped its hat and sat at the end of the bed. “Good evening,” said the vague something, “I’ve been dying to meet you.” And the fistfight was over.


Forever after at http://eyeshot.net/ullmannfever.html

Also on Eyeshot 
by the same author:


Variations on a Party

The Circus From Where I Stand

All about the site known as Eyeshot+We're once again reading electronic submissions+A selection from Eyeshot's way back when medieval period

click the cat for the complete eyeshot archive
the complete archive

Review our submission guidelines
if you're interested in 

eyeshot is really quite impressed with chris ware's recent work excerpts from the eyeshot e-mail crypt!


I'm a lumberjack and I'm ok

enter the resonance chamber