Smell the Coffee: Spending New Year’s under the influenza

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I write this while under the influence of influenza. On New Year's Eve, while others were imbibing, my alcohol came via Nyquil. What says "This new year will be better than last!" louder than spending the start of it flat on your back?With a cat on your chest, a dog on each side and one at your feet.And a growing mountain of tissues on the nightstand.My daughter was away with friends and my husband occupied with a large rush edit job, so I stacked reading material and animals around me and decided I'd simply make the best of it. Wasn't a weekend stuck in bed exactly what I'd been wishing for?Except I couldn't focus well enough to read and was too fevered to tolerate hot animals against me. Normally, I try to sleep bugs away, but this particular bug came with persistent tickling cough and a side order of insomnia that even Nyquil couldn't conquer.And so, to entertain myself during these many long days, I've been watching shows on Netflix streaming. Not just any shows, though. Mine have a theme.The plague.It started rather simply, with me watching "The Stand," the miniseries adapted from Stephen King's novel about the U.S. after the super-flu. There was something oddly comforting about watching a movie featuring people who looked even worse than me.
With Netflix, once you've watched something, you're offered suggestions of similar titles. "If you liked this, you might also like this."I chose to take Netflix up on its suggestion to watch "Outbreak," a 1995 movie starring Dustin Hoffman about a global biological meltdown in the form of a killer virus. After that came "Survivors," a British series about a group that lives through a worldwide flu outbreak. An excellent show, it took me all the way through to Monday.Between episodes -- and often during -- I'd drift in and out of fevered sleep, my dreams mixing with the shows, leaving me not entirely sure what I'd seen and what my drugged mind created. It was surreal, yet I couldn't help but feel triumphant. Time and again, the flu virus was killing the world, yet I was still standing. Well, not technically standing, but you get the point.As I stood wobblingly before the bathroom mirror on Monday, feeling as though the meat was boiling off my bones, with circles under my eyes even the most seasoned Hollywood makeup artist couldn't replicate, I realized finding another show with people who looked worse than me wasn't going to be easy.But Netflix came through.It recommended "The Walking Dead."Although I'd already watched the first season once before, it bore watching again. This time, I felt an odd sort of kinship with the zombies. I'm not proud to admit it, but on more than one occasion, I was rooting for them.
Reach Karin Fuller via email at
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