Jason Fullerton woke up in pain.
It was Saturday morning, a day home from work and he had made sure to switch off his alarm the night before. Usually he awoke shortly after 7:30 am anyhow, but those few extra moments of sleep were bliss. This morning, however, “bliss” was not the word he would have conjured to mind.
Lying on his stomach, face down into his pillow, Jason hurt. Groaning loudly, he turned his head to seek his clock and almost screamed out. His head felt heavy, his neck muscles tight and unnatural. Something was obscuring his full view of the digital numbers, his sight blurring. Trying to reach up and brush away whatever offending item lie by his face, he felt the same painful and peculiar sensation throughout his left side.
His hand touched his face and Jason screamed.
Something was wrong. His hand felt like it had a glove on it, his face like it was covered in a heavy latex mask. Jason moved to get out of bed and pain erupted throughout his body. Areas of it were dull, a hollow pulsing sensation, while other parts of him felt like needles were being applied directly into his flesh. Holding back a shriek, he stumbled to his feet, a mildly wet feeling tingling up his legs.
He looked down at his body in horror to discover he was covered in blistered and large bulbous growths. Most of them were various shades of white, from pale green to pink. Some as small as pimples and others as large as a fist, they covered him everywhere. He poked at a few, testing them, only to find myriad reactions. Some hurt terribly when he pressed on them, some he felt not at all. Some gave as surely as a water balloon while others were more solid. One of the larger ones burst open upon his inspection and emitted a putrid discharge. It looked like a mixture of peas mashed up with ketchup and Jason almost retched from the foul odor that wavered up from the now festering wound.
He shambled over to his dresser to get his cell phone. Each step was agony, but he was determined to call 911 and get a hold of help. As he took the last pace towards his goal, a blister on his toe split open and the pus that squirted out caused him to slide forward. Without thinking, he put his hands out to stop his fall, gripping the edge of the dresser hard. Jason screamed as all the growths exploded on his palms and fingers.
Falling to one knee elicited another gush of substance from his leg, but he managed to stay steady. Sobbing, he tried to think what could have caused this. What could he have done to even deserve this onslaught? Then, to make things worse, he looked down at his injured hands.
As the pus leaked across them, new blisters grew, bigger and more filled.
His terror growing, he shifted his arm to where he had first popped a sore. There, previously unnoticed, a large mound of fleshy bulbs grew. His knee was already twice its normal size as the diseased fluid rapidly infected his skin.
With as much caution as he could gather, Jason rose to his feet. He fumbled for the cell phone, but his fingers had grown so thick and uncontrollable that it was useless. The infection that was carried in the fleshy bags spread almost instantly, its intensity doubling on new contact.
Hobbling towards the bathroom, Jason formulated a plan. If only he could get the water running.
Purposely avoiding the mirror, he headed straight to the shower. It took some time and care, but he got the hot water streaming down and the curtain in place. He wanted all the sickness, what ever it was, going right down the drain. Grinding his teeth, he stepped under the shower.
Immediately the pain came as the water struck against the fragile blisters. Jason took a deep breath, then started beating himself all about his torso. Bloody pus sprayed and leaked all throughout the stall, but it was quickly washed away. Jason crushed and clawed at all of his flesh, the pain almost causing him to pass out. Thick, vomit-like sludge swirled around the other end of the stall and Jason began to realize that it was working.
Then, empowered by what seemed like success, he attacked his head.
The pain was worse, more intimate than any thing he had previously felt. Without thinking, Jason screamed. As he screamed, with his mouth wide open, the pus ran in rivulets right in across his tongue and down his throat. Choking, he thought of how gritty it was, how bitter it tasted. And yet, there was something else, something he could quite put his finger on and it...
* * *
“Have we figured out what the hell happened here yet?” the detective asked the Deputy Coroner.
The Coroner glanced over at the Forensic Photographer who was talking to the M.E. right outside the bathroom and sighed. “We’re still not sure. Looks like some kind of acid may have been used. Whoever it is, they’re a fucking mess. Never seen anything like it.”
“All right,” said the detective sidestepping a CSI and accidentally brushing his coat sleeve against the front of the infected, gore-splattered dresser, “I’ll be talking to some of the neighbors.”
(from the collection, “Fragments Of Ruin”)
© BRIAN FATAH STEELE, 2010