The Odd Case of Mr. Morel

©2022 Mel Reynes do not re-publish without permission


Name: Jason Morel    |    Age: 32   |   Sex: Male   |   Address: Redacted

Emergency contact: Julia Morel   |   Relationship: Mom

Insurance: MedHealth Bronze Care 

Health concerns/symptoms: Patient is experiencing extreme jaundice. Patient self admitted and describes themselves as fine. Patient also self-reports recently injecting a substance they bought on the online that they believe was psilocybin from mushrooms. 

Tom took a few deep breaths of the stale circulated air through his medical mask before stepping out of the bathroom and back into the busy urgent care clinic. The bathroom’s acrid, old-urine smell was still the stink of free time. It was his only break in the last ten hours and he was going to make the most of it. He wasn’t in his 20s anymore and these 12 hour shifts were really starting to wear on him. It was great to have three to five days off in a row, but lately he was wondering if he should slow down and find work somewhere else. Or at least stop doing the Tuesday shift. Tuesdays were always so busy and had the weirdest walk-ins. 

He washed his hands for a second time in the prep sink and grabbed the next chart off the wall. His heart sank as he scanned it. Tom had been hoping for something easy. The clinic tracked your success by how many patients (re: customers) you could process every hour. Sprains, breaks, stitches, x-rays, coughs, and earaches were all easy. These “overdosed with something from the internet” were a time suck. Most of the time they’d just taken crushed up antacids and would be fine once the panic attack wore off. But a very small amount of the time it was something way worse–like too much aspirin, weed killer, or even fentanyl. Then you had to get the big hospital involved and it ate up the whole shift. 

Tom thought about how humans and mushrooms mixed in curious ways. Sure, there were edible and downright tasty mushrooms, but half the time they caused diarrhea, death, and even hallucinations. It was weird that we ate them at all. He’d read a theory somewhere that humans might have evolved because of mushrooms. That it wasn’t just an omnivorous diet, but that mushrooms had given us that little boost we needed to level up to spoken language and exploring the world. Maybe even that mushrooms were farming us, if you could believe it.

Tom stepped behind the curtain to greet Mr. Jason Morel, 32, supposedly experiencing a severe case of jaundice after taking mushroom drugs from the internet. 

“Severe” didn’t cover it. Jason Morel was orange. His skin looked more like the interior of a sweet potato than human skin. Tom had never seen anything like it. Jaundice was more of a yellow color, especially in the whites of the eyes. But Jason Morel’s skin was definitely orange while his eyes were surprisingly bright and white. He sat there casually, draped in a loose windbreaker–no shirt underneath. His visible chest skin was mottled with dark and light spots, but they didn’t correspond to any vascular systems Tom recognized. He wore gym shorts and rubber flip flops. Jason Morel looked like he was ready for a day at the lake–not an urgent care patient. 

“Um, high Mr. Morel. I’m Tom, how are we feeling today?” Tom sat down in the chair opposite Jason Morel. Tom preferred to use his first name if possible, only the doctors went by their last name. He wasn’t really sure where to start, this wasn’t like anything he’d seen in med school. He hurriedly looked at the chart to see if there was a symptom he could start on. Something other than “vigorously orange.”

“Hey there Tom, sure thing! I’m actually feeling pretty good. Sorry to take up your time,” Jason responded. 

“So, what brings you in today?” Tom threw the ball back in Jason’s court, buying some time to figure out how to deal with this orange man. 

“Well, besides the obvious,” he chuckled and pointed at his body, “I’m doing pretty well. Feeling a little too warm and I think I’m sorta dehydrated. I figured I’d come in and get checked out, just in case anything is really wrong.” 

As Jason Morel described his symptoms, Tom tried to take his pulse. But he couldn’t find the tick-tick in any part of his wrist. Morel’s skin felt weird, soft, and leathery. It was also far too…soft. Up close he could smell Jason Morel. He had a mildewy smell, like after it rained and the earth was warm. He quickly dropped Morel’s wrist and reached for his stethoscope. 

“Mind if I take a listen to your heart?” Tom resisted the urge to wipe his hands on his scrubs, he didn’t want to make Morel feel worse than he probably already did. He put his stethoscope up to Morel’s chest and instead of the familiar firmness of breast bone, his hand sunk into too-soft flesh. Tom tried not to pull back and listened for a heartbeat. 

He could hear a woosh of sorts, but nothing like standard breathing. No heartbeat either. If this hadn’t been a human body, the continuous white noise of Morel’s inner workings might have been a little soothing. Tom took the stethoscope away from Morel’s spongy chest. 

Tom tried to fill the awkwardness, “Well, we’re glad you came in.” He wrote in the chart ‘no heartbeat detected in wrist or chest’ and underlined ‘no’ so the next technician was primed for this bizarre case. First test decided, get this guy an EKG. 

“Can you tell me more about this substance you took? No judgment, just trying to make sure we know what we’re looking for,” Tom found it was best if you made it clear to these illegal substance patients that you were on their side. Best to get them to tell you as much as possible so you weren’t dancing around the problem. Could be the guy had just eaten too many carrots. 

“Yeah, so, I got these ‘magic mushrooms’ off the internet. I’ve done weed and stuff before, but I was looking for something a little stronger. I’d heard you could get that kind of thing online in pill form and I found a pretty reputable looking site,” Jason paused and ran his hand through his hair nervously. No one likes to admit they did something so obviously stupid. 

“And I got these brown pills, like five of them. And I took one but I didn’t feel anything. So then I broke one open and mixed it with some water. I injected it using one of my insulin needles. Don’t worry, I used a clean one.” 

Tom wasn’t sure a clean needle would matter when injecting brown powder found on the internet. People made the weirdest decisions. 

“Hmmmmm,” Tom responded. He was racing to think what could be brown and cause such a severe reaction. “And what happened then?” he asked.

“Well, I felt pretty good. Not quite like high or anything, but not bad. At first I thought I might be itchy or having an allergic reaction, but then I got warm all over. I turned down my A/C and felt better. After that I just, like, vibed on the couch. Ate some old pasta leftovers and I felt pretty good.” Tom started prepping to draw blood. He should probably do a full workup because they could run those tests while Morel was getting every scan imaginable. He’d need to go to the big hospital. 

“Thanks for letting me know all that, Jason, mind if I take some blood so we can figure some of this out for you?” Tom applied the labels with Morel’s code onto the various vials as he spoke.

“Sure thing man, do what you gotta do.” Jason removed his windbreaker and Tom could see the spots faded off as they reached his limbs. Morel was truly orange all over, whatever this was had covered up any tan lines, freckles, or other blemishes he might have had. Tom tied the elastic around Morel’s bicep tightly and started tapping the veins to raise them for drawing blood. Amazingly, Jason Morel did seem to have a vascular system that responded normally. A dark, thick vein sprang up ready for injection. Tom inserted the syringe that fed an assortment of vials.

But nothing about Jason Morel stayed routine for very long. Instead of a deep, red, liquid, a small amount of a brownish secretion oozed out and quickly stopped. Tom suppressed his disgusted reaction. 

Tom removed the syringe and tapped the vial.  Whatever was in the vial was all he was going to get. The liquid was very thin and watery with brown particles suspended in it. Morel’s arm had also been very soft, almost like there were no bones in those muscular, carrot-colored, arms.  The clinic’s old air system kicked in and the semi-cool air blew down his back, Tom shivered a little. 

“Alright, thanks,” Tom stalled for time. Even a non-medical person would know lack of blood wasn’t common, but he had to remain calm to keep Morel at ease. “How have you been feeling? Any tiredness? Hallucinations? Anything that doesn’t seem typical for you?” 

Jason paused before answering, “Well, fine for the most part. I crave a lot of starches, pasta mostly.” Tom felt a non-truth in that explanation but waited him out. “And I’m kinda just wanting to hang on the couch and not do much.” 

“Well, that doesn’t sound too bad. I’m going to try the other arm. Sometimes one arm is better than the other for drawing blood, it’s normal,” but Tom didn’t have much hope this one would work either. He’d make sure to put this in the chart too, with the red pen. He reached back to Morel’s pulpy arms, bracing himself for the unpleasant sensation. 

As he suspected, there was no blood in the other arm. Just a little bit of brown, runny liquid. He’d send what he could to the lab, best to get this guy away from urgent care and to a hospital ASAP. 

“Looks like we’re having trouble getting a sample, but with all your symptoms I think we should get you checked out by the big hospital. Just in case.” Tom was trying to keep calm, knowing that Morel would be lucky if he ever got out of the hospital. This guy would probably end up being studied for the rest of his life. That was if he lived. He pulled up his wifi medical tablet to start the code that would get Jason Morel a medical transport immediately. 

Jason took that moment to stand up and said, “Cools, well, thanks for seeing me, but actually I’ll probably just go home and wait this out.” Thankfully Morel didn’t reach out his hand to shake, Tom wasn’t sure he could stand touching him again. Tom just sat and looked dumbly up at him. 

Jason Morel put his loose windbreak back on, but didn’t do anything to cover up his weird splotchy chest. “You know, I hate to lie to you man. Truth is, I didn’t come in because I was worried. It’s hard to explain, but I feel like something told me to come here. It’s not like talking or anything. I don’t think I’m hearing voices,” he laughed at that, as if that would have been the worst of his symptoms. “Just a vibe I got. That I wanted to go somewhere and see some folks.” Jason looked away at this, like he knew he’d done something wrong. “Yeah, so now that’s done and I’ll just go home and rest.”

And with that he turned and left the urgent care screening area. Tom knew he should stop him, restrain him somehow. This man was clearly in a major health crisis and it would be on his ass because the patient was allowed to discharge themselves. But that meant restraining–touching–Jason Morel and Tom really didn’t want to do that again. So he let Jason Morel walk out of the clinic and out into the rest of the world.

After Jason Morel was gone, Tom filed the chart but didn’t call the big hospital. There really wasn’t a lot he could do if the patient left on their own. That night, when he got home from his double shift, he scrubbed extra hard in the shower. He could still feel Jason Morel’s mushy skin on his fingertips. He could still smell his musty, earthy smell in his nostrils. 

Sitting in front of the tv with some cold chinese food, Tom was finally able to relax a little. The A/C blew cool air and dried his skin from the shower. In fact, he started to feel pretty good, a little warm all over. Like little fingers were spreading from deep inside of him, they were warm and tickled his skin. It was really nice sitting on the couch, chilling out. He was just working too hard and should take the day off tomorrow. Go somewhere and hang out. Maybe the mall or somewhere with lots of people.