Breathing Uneasily

Kage Baker belonged to that school of thought that believes in metaphysical sensors and alarms.

You know, the ones that go off, usually in inanimate objects, as soon as a large sum of money comes one’s way. Tax returns, lottery prizes, royalty checks, the unexpected 20 bucks found in your jeans’ pocket – any of those wonderful landfalls that arrive, deliciously free of strings or obligations, out of the sympathetic blue. Memos from the Faerie Godmother department. The sixpence for cleanliness left in your shoe.

These gifts are all matched by the invisible and incredibly accurate alarms attached to your car, your roof, your computer system, your health. Because no sooner do you get an unexpected chunk of money, but something that cannot be ignored goes wrong. The advance on a novel arrives? It coincides with a hole in the roof and the arrival on an El Nino, and squirrels are soon swimming in the attic. Your brake lights come on when your tax return is delivered. Even the forgotten $20 can turn your toaster into an incinerator.

Twice, Kage was admiring an unexpected royalty check at her desk when her monitor went black. She considered this getting an undisguised middle finger from Fate, and proof of the general theorum.

One of the (many and absurd) reasons Kage eschewed doctor visits whenever possible, was that she was sure the Invisible Money Alarms also monitored one’s health. Seeing the doctor for something minor would inevitably inspire something major to break down: go for a cold, end up with bronchitis. Consent to a course of therapy for arthritis, and end up with osteoporosis. As soon as you cleared up your real heartburn, some actual cardiac condition would be revealed. I argued against this strenuously, but the fact of the matter was – it often did work that way for Kage.  And since she forgot nothing, ever, any instance was engraved in the accusing stone of her memory …

Not me, though. Until Kage died and my warranty apparently ran out, I had enjoyed pretty robust health. Since then … I hardly need the Invisible Alarms after my cash and my ass; medical disaster just follows me around like a depressed limpet, moping and clinging.

The last several months I have been grimly pursuing a solution to worsening sleeping disorders. What used to be simple, occasional insomnia has worsened into a revolving door of narcoleptic nap attacks and being awake for days on end. The unifying factors in this demonic do-si-do are constant shortness of breath and exhaustion. Even during that portion of the cycle where I sleep for 18 out of 24 hours, I wake up feeling as if I’ve been hiking up a mountain all that time.

I finally scored the sleep study ( diagnosis: sleep apnea and insomnia. Surprise! Not … ) and have been waiting for the Royal Tailor or whoever does it to fit me for my Magic Sleeping Princess Mask. And, absolutely true to Kage’s Theory of Invisible Sensors, my sleep arrhythmias have gotten extravagantly worse as I waited.

I now fall asleep while reading, writing, eating a sandwich.  I’ve been having dreams of running and climbing – badly, of course; I run (and lose) desperate races, often from ludicrous monsters and/or clutching baby animals … running from a stampede of giant sloths clutching ducklings to my heaving bosom? Really? I’m frantically climbing mountains to meet landing aliens or catch escaping spies; I’ve even dreamed of chasing the daylight terminator line across the plains of Mercury.

The one common denominator is that I cannot breathe while all this derring-do goes on. I pant, I gasp, I drool, I fall down and pound on my own chest to try and get my lungs working. They don’t. And then, over and over, I wake up crouched on the edge of my bed, drawing huge desperate breaths of what feels like tapioca into my lungs. Usually, there is a worried Corgi staring at me, and a tiny avian voice asking cautiously, “Hello? Hello?”

Animals can tell when a human is ill. They just can’t always do anything about it …

Anyway, as relief has gotten closer and closer on the horizon, my breathing has gotten worse and worse. Pulling up my pants has become an adventure in respiration: someone else’s adventure, with far too much luggage and big nasty hobnailed boots, straight down my bronchial tree. Kimberly, bless her, has found me slanted pillows on which to build a sort of pyramid in my bed – I can sleep almost sitting up, and so both breathe and rest a little. I am nonetheless mostly brain-dead during the day, but I am still breathing.

But now! Oh, chords of heavenly music, and waves of pearly light! The CPAP office has called and my appointment is tomorrow! I shall be fitted for my mask, learn all the secrets of hoses and generators and filters, and rejoin the ranks of people who can breathe at night! I shall also apparently become a source of noise, but we’re all hoping it’s a sort of white noise and others can sleep through it – it can’t be worse than the asthmatic drowning in oatmeal impression my unassisted breathing has become.

So now, only one big question is foremost in my mind, Dear Readers: do I go with the faux Bain mask? Or do I make one with the new black and silver scales I’ve just ordered?

I think it’s gonna be dragon scales. I think I can have good dreams behind a dragon mask.

I mean, who would not?




About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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10 Responses to Breathing Uneasily

  1. Neassa says:

    Oh, definitely dragon scales! So very glad this is moving forward.


  2. Lynn says:

    ARGGG. I find myself wanting to rail against the system that feels it’s better for you to not be able to breathe so they can bring a bunch of people together so they only have to say it once. The class I took at Kaiser was about 45 minutes and could have been skipped if I had a how-to book and the opportunity to ask questions for five minutes afterward. There are TWO masks and several sizes of the part that goes into your nostrils, if you have the type they gave me. There is no reason for you to have had these nightmares and breathe through oatmeal. It infuriates me!

    Having said that, I’m glad you’ll get your equipment tomorrow and that Kimberly was able to find you angled pillows. Thank you from all of us, Kimberly! I look forward to your next post being a Te Deum to mechanization and a decent night’s sleep


    • Kate says:

      Hey, we all have to fight against parts of the system – I am grateful this is working out at all. It’s a surprise problem, so from my viewpoint it’s getting solved pretty fast. I really appreciate all the good advice and details people have been giving me; I fell better prepared already. And I found the mask I used during the sleep study to be pretty comfy, so I’m going to demand one like that. Small is better for me.

      One more step toward being a cyborg!


  3. Tom says:

    I will be burning incense, bays and rosemary to the attending ghods, that you find immediate relief and sweet slumber. I must confess to being unsure of just who the god of oatmeal might be – someone named Angus, perhaps – but I’ll find something somewhere to please him or her (Angusette?).

    This all sounds horribly familiar. I am glad you are a good patient.


    • Kate says:

      Thank you, Tom. I am a firm believer in the efficaciousness of incense. If nothing else, the drifting smoke will let you know if there’s a leak in the life support systems.

      I’m not a good patient, though. I’m a ghastly patient,in fact, with a habit of hacking my bed controls and leave hospital without medical approval. However, I AM an informed patient, and I don’t ignore the details of my own care: so I am being as attentive to this as I possibly can. No negligence from me, I promise. I cannot guarantee I will refrain from noisemakers and decoration, but I will use the CPAP properly.


  4. pamela duncan says:

    Hope the CPAP works – and if you can spruce it up so it makes you smile to put it on…if that means dragon scales, go for it!!!


    • Kate says:

      I figure at least for travelling and visiting, I’ll need some cosmetic adjustments to the mask. If I’m gonna sound like Darth Vader, I’m gonna make me some cool armour to go with it.


  5. Miz Kizzle says:

    Scales. Definitely scales. And are you enjoying Mister Mercedes? If it doesn’t keep you awake, nothing will!


  6. Becky Miller says:

    I’ve got to get some dragon scales… yeah, add it to my collection of other cool projects I don’t have time for, but still, awesome idea.

    I find myself waiting anxiously for the outcome of the CPAP adventure. Keeping my fingers crossed! (hey, I can’t knit that way, darn it).


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