Kloipy’s Short Fiction: Itch
The itch started off in the morning as nothing more than a slight annoyance. Roger first felt the twinge when he stepped out of the shower. He scratched at the left side of his ample stomach, relieving the nuisance for a short time. As he dressed for work, his mind was consumed with the presentation he had to give today. Thoughts of dollar signs were replaced in his mind while visions of pink slips danced in his head. He was nervous and was starting to sweat already. He wiped himself off with a few paper towels and put on a second t-shirt in order to soak up any more beads that would show up to ruin his life today. Public speaking was not a strong point for Roger, and knowing he had to speak in front of the may be partners that day had resulted in him throwing up his dinner the previous night. A light breakfast was in order. Bagel, no cream cheese. Small coffee, maybe a banana. Skipping dairy would be a good idea.
As he sat down with his bagel (the banana was out of the question after seeing the skin that looked infected with liver spots) he got hit with another bout of the itch. Only this time it had come back stronger than before. He started scratching instinctively, but this time he felt a bump on his side. He pushed himself back from the table and un-tucked his shirt. On his side was a tiny red welt. ‘Spiders’ he thought I gotta get this place fumigated. He poked at it with his finger and when he touched it straight on, a quick; but jolting pain ran up his side. The welt seemed to pulsate now and with each throb, another ripple of pain would make its way through his body. His hands shook as he tried to gently tuck his shirt back in without touching the bump. He threw what was left of his bagel into the trash. His appetite was gone, but the itch was back. He tried to put it out of his mind but like an ambulance blaring behind him, he had to pay attention to it. He scratched, and to his relief, instead of the pain he felt the relief again. He stood scratching at his side for what felt like an eternity, in the throes of ecstasy as the itch subsided once again. He checked his watch and grabbed his coat, feeling a little bit better about the day ahead of him.
Flanked on both sides, he held his briefcase on his lap like a child on his subway ride. He stared at his feet like the rest of the passengers, trying to pretend he was alone. Someone close to him had farted moments before and it was now reaching him. His nose crinkled up and he started to breathe through his mouth hoping to pacify it. The man to his right shifted around and inadvertently knocked his briefcase down. Roger bent over to pick it up and he felt it. Like an urgent message his left side lit up again. His brain shouted at him to reach over and start up the healing regiment. It was so powerful that he didn’t notice that his hand had made its way over to start. He had to stop himself, knowing that the public didn’t want to see a fat man scratch himself. He held onto his case even tighter but his body felt like a foot that had fallen asleep. The tingling didn’t stop, it just grew worse. I need to scratch. I have to. If I don’t I’m going to lose my mind. I gotta do it. Do it. Do it. He looked out of his peripheral vision to check to see if anyone was watching him, as if they could hear his thoughts. The passengers looked like cattle in their uninterested gaze, he was safe. He slid his hand into his jacket and scratched. He couldn’t stop his eyes from closing as he felt his fingers run up and down the affected spot. His fingernails felt drawn to his skin like a magnet, they felt almost sentient on their own. He suddenly remembered where he was and opened his eyes again, looking up. A woman across from him was staring with a look of disgust on her face. He knew that disgust, he saw it every morning when he looked at himself. He saw it on the face of the waitress of the restaurant he frequented (only for her), who in his fantasy gave him her body willingly but who in real struggled to even look at his face as he ordered. He tried to force a smile hoping the woman on the train would read on his face that it was just an itch, but she just dropped her eyes from him as he was also used to.
By the time he got to the office, he was sweating again. It wasn’t just from the 4 blocks he just walked, he was feeling extremely hot as well. He felt feverish and his brain was darting back and forth like it was fighting off an infection. He knew his shirt was starting to soak through already and he headed straight for the bathroom. Just as he was reaching to open the men’s room door his boss stopped him.
“Roger, come over here a second.” He said
He stood with his hand still by the door for a moment hoping that his boss would just let him go, at least until he could remedy his problem. But the man stood there holding steady. Roger relented and walked over.
“So, today is the big one, eh? You ready for this?” he said, slapping Roger on the back.
“Ye-yes Sir. I ready to wow them.” Roger said timidly
“Good. Good. I’m glad; because you know how much this account means to us don’t you? We have a lot riding on this today and if things go well, they might just get better for you in the future. This company has a lot of perks if you know how to play ball. I can see and office with a nice view and a big desk, maybe even a tiny little thing with a nice mouth under it. Things could be much more comfortable for a guy like yourself.”
Roger knew ‘a guy like yourself’ was a less than sly meaning for ‘fatass’.
“Yes Sir, I would like that and I won’t let you… down.” The itch had come back and with such a force it took him by surprise. He almost turned to run but made his body stop twitching and glued his feet to the spot.
“Well, let’s just hope not, Roger. I personally have a lot of time, and money invested on these gentlemen coming in today. I’ve played a lot of bad golf, laughed at a lot of bad jokes, and spent a lot of my personal money to provide whatever these men need, and I don’t need someone to fuck this up for me. Hope I’m making myself clear.”
With that he walked away and Roger went for the bathroom. Curled between the tiled walls and the bright fluorescents he checked underneath each stall for feet. When he saw he was in the clear, he took off his suit coat and placed it on the sink. He was relieved to see that the sweat was not visible under his arms. His relief was short lived when he looked down to see that his shirt was protruding out in the spot of the welt. As if realizing that it was being looked at, it started to tingle. He felt compelled to look at it. The growth spurt it had was not good. Not good at all. He unbuttoned his shirt slowly and pulled his shirts from his pants. He didn’t want to see it, but he couldn’t stop himself.
What had been a tiny bump this morning was now the size of a baseball. The red had turned darker, and the skin at the top had started to crack and peel back and tiny beads of blood were forming in those cracks. He felt panicked at the idea of this getting on his pristine shirt. How would he explain blood stains to the client, let alone his boss? He grabbed at the paper towels and shoved them into his side. Pain exploded like fireworks and he slumped to the floor. Scratch it his brain told him. So he did. He scratched at it harder than he had before. And as he did, it grew. Even underneath his fingers he felt it growing. When he was able to pull himself up from the floor what had been the size of a baseball was now a small melon. The paper towels had already soaked through with blood and were now dripping on the floor. He looked at it again. Tiny black strands were poking through the wound now. He felt what little of breakfast he had coming up again, but he was able to push it down. He threw the used paper towels into the trash and grabbed as many more as he could, this time placing them gently over the welt.
He raced back to his cubical, ducking his coworkers. At his desk he sat trying to compose himself. His meeting was only a few minutes away and he couldn’t screw this up. He fumbled through his desk to find his cue cards to review. They weren’t in his drawer. His heart started pounding and the welt started it’s now familiar itch. He started tossing papers onto the floor in hopes that he had covered them. But they weren’t there either. He felt tears pressing on his eyes. His cube mate came over to him.
“Hey Rog, heard about the big presentation today. You ready for this?” he said with a smirk
Roger didn’t turn to look at him he continued to look for the cards.
“Rog-er, hey buddy, Earth to Roger, ha ha. What’s up your butt today?”
“Eric, I don’t have time for your bullshit today. Just go away”
“Woah, woah. Just calm down man! jesus.” Eric said walking back to his cube.
To his dismay his boss was standing just behind Eric. He had a scrunched look on his face. A look that had no time.
“Roger, the Michaels brothers are here. Go ahead to the conference room. I’ll meet you in there.” He said to him turning around. He looked over his shoulder before he left and glared.
Roger grabbed his briefcase and made his way to the conference room. He hurriedly set up his presentation. He was starting to feel lightheaded and the itch was getting worse. He started to scratch and could feel it growing even larger still. Tiny prints of red were starting to make their way through towels onto his shirt. No, please, don’t do this now. Do the power point first, the lights will be off, maybe, maybe they won’t notice.
With a fake laugh his boss came into the room with the two men. All in their thousand dollar suits, pressed and steamed. The Michaels were listening to the boss’s story of his latest trip to the Hamptons and they were nodding their approval at the thought of money. Roger could feel their apprehension when they looked at him. He saw them throwing up at the sight of his fat body, vomit rolling down their Gucci pants.
“Hello Mr. Michaels” he said shaking the first brothers hand “Mr. Michaels, pleasure to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you as well. Paul here has spoken very highly of you; we are looking forward to what you have for us.”
“That was very generous of him, and I think that you will like what we have to offer to you” Roger felt good, the initial shock was starting to fade and he felt just the slightest bit of confidence start to build. “Have a seat and if everyone is ready, I’ll begin.”
They were walking to their seats when the older Michaels looked at his shirt.
“Young man, it looks like you are bleeding. And what is that on your side?”
Roger felt his heart drop. His mind started to race trying to come up with something. Shaving? No, god, stupid, no. Oh no. Come on you stupid pig. Say something
“Well sir, to tell you the truth I was born with a genetic disorder that sometimes, uh, it creates these pockets, like you see here. But I assure you it is harmless and I am fine. I’m very sorry to concern you, but it is something that I cannot control.”
“Oh, well, I’m sorry to bring it up, but if you are alright you can continue”
Roger felt surprised he was able to contain himself. He started into his presentation. Things were going very well. The Brothers seemed impressed with his figures and what he could bring them, even in the current economy. He was mostly done with the presentation when the itch had started again, and it almost had a voice. He tried to stop himself but couldn’t. He started scratching again, starting slow but gaining speed and pressure. With each swipe of his hand the blood soaked through more and more. It had started to roll down his pant leg and drop onto the floor. He started to feel dizzy and the room was starting to blur.
“Sooo, in the thirrrd…quartoor. I knew we can save you ovverr 2 doll-ars.” He slurred his words and couldn’t catch his breath. The Brothers both looked at him and then each other. His boss looked furious. Then they noticed his side. Blood was now pouring from his side. Roger started to sway and then vomited bile onto the desk, which went spilling onto the projector and shorting it out. The other three men jumped back and cowered against the wall. Roger only saw part of this as he was starting to spin around. Without realizing it, he had ripped his shirt off. Eventually he was standing there bare-chested. The welt was enormous now and it was splitting further. The black strands were now a mass of a silky substance. Roger started to scratch more and more, digging into the wound. The others stood in horror as Roger spun and dug, spun and dug. The wound broke completely open and something dropped onto the floor. Roger fell dead face first into a pool of his own blood. The other men crept towards the thing on the floor. When they saw what it was, one brother started to scream, one fainted, and his boss started to vomit. Lying on the floor, with jet black hair, one eye, and a mass of gore, was Roger’s parasitic twin.