The first clue that I had it was paranoia.
Well. One could make an argument that the first clue was being fucking stabbed, but the second symptom is paranoia, and I happened to be drunk for the first symptom. And obviously, if I get drunk, then stumble back saying I got stabbed, it must just be an early manifestation of the paranoia. Which, y'know, hadn't actually manifested yet. But who's counting?
The second symptom was paranoia. Then mood swings, which were dismissed as part of the paranoia--they might well have been, though I've been told mood swings can manifest first. I'm not entirely sure why they bothered telling me this. I'm sure it could have waited.
Waited until after what, Kissinger? I'm glad you asked. And mildly surprised you know my name.
You remember the "fucking stabbed" part? Yeah. It was half-stabbing, half-injection, though it felt for all the world like a slick knife. And it's this weird chemical thing that has been explained as "magic" when I asked, which isn't actually any more of an explanation than, "science", but apparently explaining the thing I asked about was less important than talking about the theory of the manifestations of various symptoms.
I'm above a tray. They gave me some local anesthetic, which is good since they sliced straight from skin to heart, but any drug that would put me under would kill me with this "magic" in my system, so I happen to be wide awake. They gave me my computer when I made the point that a paranoid whose heart was being drained was not going to fall asleep. The doctor didn't seem entirely used to the idea of a functioning paranoid. I thought that they might kill me, not that they'd be stupid enough to do it when I'm in screaming distance of this many people. Or something. Admittedly, my justification for this is growing fuzzier as the magic wears off.
The first inch or so in the dish was this green stuff. It didn't smell like anything, but it looked deadly. Apparently that's an instinctive reaction, which is impressive if you ask me. Humans have instinctive reactions to smells and sensations--rotting human flesh, for instance, or fire--but that sort of reaction to a thing I just saw? That's rare. We have to learn that fire is hot, for heaven's sake. Sight just doesn't link up to instincts that often.
They sliced between two ribs, by the way. Apparently all the slime will drain out on its own, once we give my body a way to push it out. I'm not supposed to touch it, though they didn't need to tell me. Like I said--this green slime looks like death. I don't want to know what it feels like.
After a while, the slime started thickening up--like exposed blood, moving more sluggishly. Someone came in with a really small hose, like a dentist tool, and turned it on high power into the slit. The goop came out in chunks in the bubbly-white stream of water, then stopped coming altogether. The doctor sprayed for a bit, then, ah...
Apparently the local anesthetic doesn't effect visceral pain. Or something. I dunno. It wasn't pain, really, it was more my entire body deciding that nothing was important except using my sensory system to say STOP. Apparently that's normal.
She took out this really smooth blade. There were two sharp edges, the flat of the blade bowed outward, and the whole thing looked like a chunk of graphite. Whatever it was, it wasn't as soft as graphite, since it didn't come off on her gloves.
There were two more. One was actually grown into my heart, so she had to twist it like a loose tooth hanging on by that last thread of gum. Which, you may remember from childhood, hurts like hell. Again, no sharp pain--just the visceral THIS IS BAD from every part of my body, strong enough to unfocus my vision.
The hose again, this time in the incision, to dislodge the last bits of diamond-graphite-whatever. Visceral pain. I'm probably boring you by now. Honestly it bored me; the visceral pain was still the whole-body NO of the first two times, but when I got my wits back I thought it was sort of boring of the disease to be reduced from paranoia and other psychological difficulties to just some random spasms of pain.
The shiny grey bits landed in the tray. One hit the tray itself and went ting, a few hit the goop and didn't make a sound beyond a very quiet plop, and one hit another chunk of the stuff and made a quieter tapping noise.
The hose water cleared up, though I hadn't noticed that it'd been a little gray until that moment. Then it added another color, and I got one more boring split-second of visceral pain before she took the hose out and I recognized the shade: the peculiar orange of blood in water.
"Almost done," she murmured soothingly. It got pretty boring. A needle that I couldn't feel, a tiny thread stitching the hole together through the blood. She might as well have been sewing up a hole in my shirt.
"That will smart a bit when the anesthetic wears off," she said. "And you'll get a small bruise that should fade two weeks. The"--she used a word that had four syllables and sounded Greek--"was transferring the physical pain into psychological pain, so if you've got any scrapes, you'll start to notice them, and we'll be keeping you overnight for observation. Change the bandage according to the instructions on the packet and don't sleep on your stomach and you'll be fine. Only use the bandages we provide, because..."
I nodded, eyes dipping drowsily. It was more information than I felt like processing, but it boiled down to not disturbing the bandages and following the instructions on the paper I'd be given. That was intuitive enough.