On Saturday, December 17 I woke up around 6 a.m.. I knew immediately that I didn’t feel well because the taste of bile kept creeping up to the back of my tongue. I sat up in bed with purpose, determined not to lose the contents of my stomach. This was the morning of the VanderStarre Christmas party, and I desperately did not want to miss the food and family and celebration. I snuck out of the bedroom and paced for a while, trying to let my stomach settle. The morning was dark. I stood at the window and looked down at the street.

Whenever I wake up in the middle of the night, my mind goes to empty and distant places. The dream world and the real world meld in a way that might be fascinating if I didn’t feel so miserable. Shapes move oddly and the light throws shadows that alter each corner of the room. It makes sense to me in these moments that Scrooge blamed his ghostly visitations on a piece of food not sitting well in his stomach.

I remember one night vividly. I woke up with my stomach in knots and ran to the bathroom. My mind, though, convinced me that I was caught up in a contest where the less time I spent in the bathroom equaled less destruction for the town where I had lived my whole life. The town was in the throes of a dragon attack, and its only hope rested on how I managed a sore stomach. This went on for hours, with me in a half-awake dream state, doubled over in pain, trying to rescue the town I love.

This time, my brain imagined the stomach virus inhabiting my body as an implant put there by a serious enemy. On one level, I knew this was ridiculous: I had the stomach flu and my only battle was against my own insides. But on another plane, and one that in the moment was no less real, I was up against an evil that was dead set on getting me to throw up. I lost. Evil won the day.

As I lay on the bathroom floor waiting for the next wave, I had a strangely comforting thought: “I am sick, but I am well.” The same cannot be said for so many for so many different reasons. But I hope—I hope—that as another reality on another plane presses in on this world, the visions we all see are not of evil or destruction, but of light.

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