I woke up and nearly suffocated. The incisively grey sky has blinded me and I shrank in loud spasms of my body – echoes of a nightmare I cannot escape. I drown myself in a duvet to relieve the drumming shiver. Unable to have a single clear thought, I am fighting the rusting fracture sprawling somewhere very deep inside.

First birds start to sing with a streamlet of pre-dawn melodies – a friendly invitation to cheer up. They do not know about me, they cannot possibly know about a helpless lump of a human being refusing to step into the new day. I want to sing with them and then be free…of morning chills, of sore, swollen eyes – the trophy after sleepless madness where in absolute agony silent cry transforms into hoarse praying.

Flashbacks from last night are spinning and engulfing my aching head. I see me on the floor, I hear my non-stop, hysterical sobbing and an empty “sorry” – the bullet coming from the other end of the phone. Those minutes of chaotic drama have devoured a hurting body, and it became hardly noticeable in a large room where the walls ricochet an ugly screaming that returns as toxic arrows of embarrassment right into my bent silhouette.

You were always immune to my pain and my struggle. You could safely stay around for a long, long time seeing how my sickness progressed with every day; Did you take notes on this curious case? You observed some inevitable processes that the virus I called chronic sadness has been causing. It must have been terrifying to witness it swiftly spreading and intoxicating my entire consciousness. Before you could fully realize, this dark contagion became as if almost inherent.

This monstrous disease of mine was sinking in invisibly until it became a solid verdict. So when not much could be done, when the person I once were was on the brim of their existence, you knew very well – to save me meant to share and accept the infectious part of a decaying soul. You would choose to be trapped in my forever tragedy play and eventually obtain all the symptoms – numerous forms of low mood, dismal anxiety, gruelling sleep deprivation. Too much for one to sacrifice…

So here I am, alive more than ever but incurable to you. Breathing stiffly, I go back to sleep.

Diana Novikova studies Mathematics at University College London.

This piece is a runner-up in the Oxford Scientist’s Creative Competition for Trinity Term 2020, theme ‘viral’. The judging panel consisted of the senior editorial team at the time of the competition.