Grueberfest 09 R.3 - InkSubmitted by Ducky at 2009-10-21 02:24:43 EDT
Rating: 1.85 on 60 ratings (60 reviews) (Review this item) (V)
Crack bugs. If you ask an addict if they understand that there are actually no bugs or worms crawling on their skin, they will tell you definitively that of course they know that. Their experiences are simply tactile hallucinations, but it doesn’t make a lick of difference in terms of the actions they play out to remove these fictitious things they can feel worming through their skin. I saw a woman a few years ago, kneeling on the sidewalk on a side street in the downtown core. She was repeating the process of standing and collapsing down to her knees. As I approached her I could see that in one red hand she was clutching a screwdriver. Blood was gushing from the side of her head – she was digging the goddamned thing into her ear because they were in there, those bugs, and she had to get them out…had to kill them. With each dig her legs would give out just a bit and she would swoon towards the pavement. No tears, she just needed to get them out.
Me? No…I’ve never experienced these foul little bugs. These little insects that will make you rip your skin off to see if they’re really lurking in there, because you know they aren’t but you swear that they are. The closest thing I’ve come to that is watching it in others, watching depictions of it in movies like “A Scanner Darkly”, watching people’s expressions while they tell me what it’s like. I suppose I’m a voyeur in that sense. I like to watch, or more accurately, I feel compelled to.
I moved here about three weeks ago, to this little hick town, in this little backwoods area up north. There’s nothing around for miles, and there’s something nice about that you know, when you can affect everything and everyone there and keep it contained and separated from the rest of the world. It’s almost like moving into your own theater, and that’s why I came here after all.
On a beautiful fall morning in this little hick town, on a quiet street, leaves fell onto the ground and were gently coaxed into mingling with one another by the breeze. It was quite lovely really, that gentle persuasion. The sun had crested over the hills less than half an hour prior, and the way its light played through the water particles in the air gave the town of Lansmith a gossamer-like beauty. The chickadees and finches were just waking up, and within the hour the air would resonate with their beautiful calls.
On this quiet street, this very quiet street, there were a number of houses. Miriam lived in a little white A-Frame with a red door on the corner of Sanford and Cox. 7 months pregnant, she ran a child care facility out of her house to bring in extra income. A young couple used to live in the green rancher next door, and the other houses had been populated with middle-aged, middle-class working families just trying to eke out some sort of middle of the road existence. The lawns had always been maintained and the banter had always been courteous. It’s amazing how much grass can grow in three weeks.
Then it happened. Like clockwork.
Miriam burst through the door, streaking the mailbox attached to the side of the house a scarlet red as the painted wood smashed up against it. Batting at the air, she ran down the street, breaking the lazy morning silence on Sanford Street with her screams. She rounded the corner, heading towards the ravine. Eyes bulging out of her head, she fought with the air around her – punching and kicking and swatting at it, trying to get it out of her way…trying to remove it completely. Her throat was swollen and discoloured, bearing a large indentation in the side of it that matched up perfectly with the wedding ring on her left hand.
Approaching the edge of the ravine, her pace quickened, and with an animalistic howl she and her unborn child tore over the edge. A 30 foot freefall ended in her landing belly down on a rock, and from there she tumbled down the steep grade to her resting place on the banks of the muddy river below.
I sat on the edge of the ravine and watched. It’s what I do…I watch. Miriam had been an aerophobe…not just afraid of air, but afraid of all the things in it. This is something that she’d been able to control before she saw me. What can I say? I tend to bring out the worst in people. I picture what Miriam was going through, and try to conceptualize it for myself. I think of those 3D pictures you have to stare at forever before your eyes adjust to the image. I think of explaining to people what they need to do to see these pictures. It’s like looking at a windshield with bugs on it. You can focus on the bugs and lose sight of the road in front of you, or you can look past the bugs and keep from careening off the edge. Miriam…all she could see were those bugs. Instead of looking through the air, she saw all of the things in the air…all of the different molecules floating around, larger than life, and she could feel them choking her as she swallowed them. Her organs twisted and her lungs were coated with this poisonous film. She was forced by the biological imperative to breathe this ‘air’ into her body, to feed it to her child. Tactile hallucinations at their finest – just one of the many services I provide.
The band had stopped playing. The stings, the horns - even the percussion had fallen silent. Miriam had been the crescendo in my finest work…my opus.
I’ll be moving tomorrow.
There’s something you should probably know about me. I used to be a pretty decent person. Paid my taxes, donated to breast cancer if the checkout girl who asked me to was hot, worked 9-5 for years and years…I even wore a suit. I was a mid-level manager at an agri-supply company – it was all smiles and spreadsheets and bullshit. I was never any good with white collar crime so I stole pens; it was something to do more than anything…sometimes I’d take boxes at a time. I don’t like pencil. It’s wishy-washy and has no balls. Pen is there – it’s in your face and it’s permanent and there’s no getting around it. Even if you try to cover it up, the paper will still have that telltale white scar running over it – a testament that something is hiding underneath.
In my 35th year I found myself doing something I felt so natural about I wondered why I hadn’t done it ages ago. It wasn’t planned…I was just walking down the street one day, saw the shop and went in. The guy working there didn’t look well…sickly with sallow skin and sunken eyes, but the canvas of colours on the walls made me feel comfortable. He took one look at me and asked me why I hadn’t shown up sooner; he said that he had been waiting for me. Strange I know, but these types of people are usually strange so I left it alone. He told me that he had something really special. Something just for me – something that I would just love.
When shit started to get freaky for me, I found myself retracing my steps back to that shop. I paced up and down the street, each pass with more urgency than the one before. A wave of panic overtook me…nausea, spins, that sickness that punches you in the gut so hard it can double you over. A spray of vomit painted the gutter when the realization struck. Looking up, wiping my face, I shook my head in disbelief. It was gone.
It was like it had never been there.
The same buildings that had flanked the rundown two-story shop now stood on either side of a vacant lot with a large hole in the middle of it. It was as if some giant dentist had reached down with his forceps and ripped it out of the ground like a rotten tooth. I asked the business owners on the block what had happened to the missing building, but they all maintained that the lot had been sitting like that for at least 5 years. “Liars,” I had spat at them. They asked me to leave and I did but not before taking the pen sitting on the registration desk.
At first I didn’t think it was me. Why would I? When I realized that it must be me, that there were no other reasonable explanations, I lost it. I lost it just like I had lost everyone I knew, a couple of people who I didn’t know that well, and some others who I just happened to come into contact with.
I was scared. I holed up in my place for over a month because of it. Not that I’ve never been afraid before, but never of myself. But it’s funny you know, because over that month something inside me changed, and I started to want people to see it, just to see what would happen. It was different every time, and curiosity began to rear its ugly head. I started to need people to see it. When I looked at it I didn’t see anything. It wouldn’t have been a big deal to keep it covered, but it was like something was in my head…something was in my head and it was growing and pulsing and egging me on. That sickly little man put it there while he was putting this thing on me, and it was festering.
The first time I showed someone…showed them on purpose I mean, was in a little coffee shop the next town over. I sat at the bar, ordered a cup of joe, and sipped it while I watched patrons come and go. There was one young man, would have been early twenties, sitting at a table with his laptop and school books out. He’d been there for over half an hour and I’m not sure what he was studying but I didn’t really care. I rolled up my sleeve and walked over to that man and asked him if he liked what he saw. Well I’m not sure he did because he left his laptop and books sitting right there on that table, and upturned the chair he’d been sitting on as he left. Sometimes it takes a day or two, sometimes a week or more, but they always end up succumbing to it. As sure as the sun rises, it gets to them.
It’s different for everyone, but regardless of how obscure yours may be, I’ll manifest it for you. You’ll see it, and more importantly, you’ll believe it. You’ll take it until you can’t take anymore and that’s where things end. Isolophobia, chionophobia, anthropophobia…the list goes on and on. Show me your poison and I’ll serve it to you. Soon enough you’ll be looking for release.
That young man from the coffee shop died a little over a week later. It went unnoticed for a while longer than usual. When the police entered the apartment, they found it immaculately clean…too clean. There were cleaning products everywhere. They found him in the bathroom. His hands, hanging over the side of the tub, had been washed and scrubbed until the skin had been washed clean off. His body, blanched of colour, lay in a pool of bleach. Mysophobia – what a bitch.
From then on in things became easy for me. I started to like it and then over time I started to love it. Like being forced to eat your least favourite food for every meal…it just sort of grows on you, and one day you wake up to find that you’ve developed a taste for it.
I’ve lost track of the number of people whose lives I’ve touched. Some people are afraid of growing old, others of being alone. Clowns, birds, philosophy…people are afraid of the craziest shit and the list really is endless. There are no repeats; there are similar fears but they always play out differently depending on who’s experiencing them. Some of the fears…well some of them I’d never even heard of before. One girl, she was peladophobic - afraid of bald people if you can imagine. Whatever it was, I would make you see and feel things that will overwhelm your senses. Say goodbye to sleeping soundly at night. Say goodbye to sleeping at all. And you know what? After 10 years, I still enjoyed it immensely.
Me? Well I had a good sleep in Lanford that night. It was incredibly peaceful.
En route to my next destination, I found myself passing through my old city. I’d spent most of my life there, and out of nostalgia I decided to drive around for a while and see what had changed. I wasn’t even 5 minutes into my tour before I found myself on a familiar street - the street I had painstakingly walked up and down, scoured, for hours.
I slammed on the brakes.
There, in the same place it had been over a decade before, stood that little two story shop. I walked in and the owner…that same sickly little man with the sallow skin and sunken eyes…he came over to me and told me that he had been expecting me. Reaching into his pocket, he handed me the keys to the shop.
“You’ll know him when you see him.” The man began to pack up his bag.
“What? How can you be so sure?”
“You’ll know him as sure as I knew you” he replied. “Now that you’ve got the shop, I want you to show me that tattoo of yours.”
“What? You’ve seen it…you put it on me…why…”
“Show me your arm,” he said flatly.
“But I don’t see the sense in…”
“This is how it’s done. It has to be this way. Now show me” he said with finality.
I rolled up my sleeve and held out my arm. I felt a tugging at my skin as the ink began to twist and gnarl and grow into something. Something special. Something just for him. Eyes widening, his skin became paler than it already was, and without uttering another word he grabbed his bag and ran out of his shop.