It may seem ironic that my first piece of writing posted on a blog with “poetry” in the tagline is a short fiction piece, but most of my poems worth reading are currently being considered for publication. Nonetheless, I wanted to feature some actual creative writing on my blog devoted to creative writing, so here goes. The piece itself was originally written based on a prompt in my creative writing course. It is, in some ways, a revisionist conception of Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland, but my story is more concerned with the visceral than with the moral.
…And More Curiouser Still
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEPBEEP! BEEPBEEP! BEEP! BEEP!
The clock’s shrill song rang out from behind the closed shutters that were Alex’s eyelids. Beneath, his bloodshot eyes stirred, yet his head remained firm upon his pillow. He brought his hand down upon the clock, and then, exasperated, turned over.
With his eyes closed, Alex was no more than a tuft of black hair against the swaddling backdrop of his white bed sheets. He wrestled his way from the straits of linen and moved toward the bathroom door. Each morning that he found his reflection in the bathroom mirror was a surprise.
From inside the cabinet he produced two yellow bottles: 3-[4-(trifluoromethyl)phenoxy]pro—Cahuh! Plerck! Ptoo! The ejected phlegm was a sickly caterpillar inching towards the porcelain drain. He held the anxiety and anti-depressant bottles ahead of him, observing his bleached-tile bathroom through piss-coloured glasses.
Take ONE tablet 2-4 times daily, with food.
DIAZEPAM 50MG TABLETS
Dr. K. Pillar
You’d best take a fluoxetine tablet, once daily.
60 MG, and for goodness sakes, with food – you look dreadful.
All the Best,
Cringing, blinded by the pain in his forehead, Alex flushed the sink-dwelling insect before collapsing onto the floor. The lingering protests of the caterpillar were muffled by the gurgling torrent in the drain. In the pit of his stomach, Alex felt a similar tumult.
He rose to his feet and went to the kitchen, wary of the echo from the dripping faucet in the sink. Inside the fridge he found a carton of eggs, three months spoiled, but still full. He drew two eggs from the carton and placed them on top. He moved to the cupboard, found a frying pan and brought it back to the stove. He opened the full carton and placed two eggs on top. He then procured the butter and returned to the stove. He set the heat to medium, greased the pan and removed two eggs from the full carton.
—I say chap, you don’t really mean to toss me in with butter, do you?
—Oh Charles, you are ever so opulent. Leave the boy alone!
—Excuse me, Muriel, but I will not be made into some childish plate of scrambled eggs with that…that peasant-churned filth…I’m an acquaintance of the King, you know!
—Your father was an acquaintance of the King. And even then he was already quite scrambled.
Alex’s hand trembled. He placed the eggs on the counter and washed his face desperately in the sink. He turned the tap, grabbed a dry cloth and proceeded to wipe his fa—SMACK!
He turned to see an egg splattered on the floor, as if it had jumped to avoid the inevitable fate that waited on the stove. Alex stooped to clean the mess, glancing at the blue Lot data printed on the egg’s shell.
2013 – 12 – 27
“A Great Fall Comes Only From Great Heights”
Horrified, Alex stumbled out of the room. Panting, and sure only that his medication was empty, he hurried out the door toward the bus stop.
The bags beneath Alex’s eyes seemed to drag his chin towards his chest as he raced toward the stop location. His brisk pace was carefully mediated by the knowledge that his wait for the bus might not be alone, nor should his walk be, if taken too leisurely. Awaiting the bus Alex stood on the sidewalk, purposefully removed from the enclosed shelter that was occupied by the senseless babble of disposable acquaintances. He recognized the rhythmic hum of the bus before he could see it, punctuated by the screech of the brakes, forceful enough that his hair stood on end.
—Excuse me, Sir!
A man in a tattered jacket was walking towards him. An aura of cigarette smoke emanated from him, like the thick, matted hair above his head. His voice was ashen and heavy.
Alex greedily thumbed the coin in his pocket, averting his eyes from those of his assailant. The bus was on its way now, only one stop between it and Alex’s own stop. The engine growled: like a great beast the bus consumed the persons waiting and expelled those previously digested.
The vagrant was approaching: Alex could taste the ash that was exhaled with every breath.
Alex refused to look. He clenched his muscles—his foot began to tap sporadically. The bus was nearly upon him now. He could feel the ground trembling beneath him with the engine’s roar: feedback from his own muscular tremors.
His gaze was drawn low enough that he could see yellow marks, like huge cigarette filters, near his feet.
The bus horn quickly cleared the smoke obscuring Alex’s thoughts. He was in the street. He ran, stumbled, tripped and fell to the ground just beyond the sidewalk.
Lying prostrate in the residual brown and grey waste of another snowstorm, Alex opened his eyes. The bus had come and gone, and with it the tramp in the tattered overcoat. Alone, he made his way to the bench within the shelter to await the next bus.
The bus he chose was a reeking cesspool: the stench of body odour caused Alex’s stomach to churn. The seats were printed with speckled polyester, like hundreds of fruit flies upon a rotting mass of blueberries. He took a seat near the front of the bus and became subsumed amongst the fermentation.
His coat was deep blue, and as he slouched in his seat he was aware of the migration of fruit flies to his body. His hands remained tucked into his pockets in self-defence. He curled his shoulders forward and tucked his chin to his chest in subconscious effort to prevent his fearful tremors. Each drop of sweat down the back of his neck was a counter-offensive against the pests marching diligently towards his scalp. His back began to accumulate dripping perspiration, sticky and hot against the bus seat. He could feel himself wrinkled and soft within his outer shell. The rankled smell of day-old berries drifted up from his collar, beckoning to those fruit flies yet unaware of the newfound sustenance.
The bus doors opened at the next stop and garlic and onion were added to the compost heap of passengers. Alex sat in the middle of a bench seat; those to his left and his right were open and, sure enough, Garlic and Onion soon occupied them. Alex’s breathing became short and hurried as the tremendous gravity of these two hulking creatures drew his own atmosphere away from him. The planetesimal forms occupied an extra half seat each: Alex was that half seat.
—‘Thcuse Meh, Thir!
The Goliath moved its arm to scratch the putrid backside. Every movement sent an earthquake through Alex’s body. His atmosphere was quickly replaced by the smell of decay emanating from armpits and his head became heavier, drifting in orbit, sinking towards his knees.
Garlic seeped into Alex’s eye as the creature spoke and enormous flakes of dead skin, like potato chips, were scattered about Alex’s shoulders. As his oxygen was used up, and with noxious gas its only substitute, his eyes began to close. He perspired profusely, expediting his decomposition and exacerbating the zeal of the fruit flies. He swayed with the centrifugal weight of his head as the bus halted and then hurtled forward with each consecutive stop.
—Next stop, First Street
He felt the heat of the gargantuan forms beside him, their blubbery limbs overhanging his own. Hotter still were the gazes coming from the rest of the fruit on the bus. Still hotter, the wounds on his neck pulsed as the fruit flies indulged in the sickly sweet buffet of flesh.
—Next stop, Feast Street
Enormous bugs were now entering at each stop, receiving tickets from the driver.
Alex could hear the beasts’ gnashing pincers, clicking with hunger. Their saliva hissed as it dripped onto the seats.
FRUIT FEAST! ALL YOU CAN EAT! 2.75!
On the buffet table, a rotting apple in his mouth, Alex waited with his arms and legs pinned. The chef pulled the yellow rope that bound him, and the bus responded with an audible chime.
NEXT! MAIN COURSE!
The bus ground to a halt and Alex was thrown from the table. Groans of disappointment arose from the line of diners. Prone, he struggled to the door, aware that the sludge that coated him might quell the threatening appetites.
He stepped onto Main Street fairly certain he was only a few blocks from the pharmacy. He felt a faint tingle against his leg, like the phantom-limb pain of an appendage fallen asleep. Fearing an untended wound he walked on without looking, so as not to agitate his psyche with visual stimulation. The sensation continued, growing more forceful the faster he moved.
His foot came down upon the cat’s tail. Like a shade, it faded into the alleyway to Alex’s right as quickly as it had appeared. He caught the glint of green eyes waiting beneath a dumpster.
Alex ran to the pharmacy now, discarding any fickle notions of shame. As he approached the counter, he realized he had forgotten the empty pill bottles. He patted his pockets meaningfully. The clerk raised an eyebrow and gave a slight smirk.
—That’s all right, hand me your Health Card and we’ll look up your prescription information.
Alex reached into his back pocket and submerged his hand in icy excrement, unable to find his wallet. The clerk’s smirk morphed quickly into a large grin.
—Ah! A non-person here for a non-prescription eh?
Alex felt the tingling sensation resume near his ankle, spreading slowly to his foot and into his thigh.
—Come now, surely you can’t expect me to fill a non-prescription will real pills? Why, that’s just utter tomfoolery! How might a non-person even administer such tangible pills?
His grin and eyebrows inverted into a gaze of condescension.
—Why, I might as well leave these filled, real prescriptions here; they’re in no danger of being stolen by you…
The clerk turned his back and Alex reached out slowly. His oily hands trembled, spraying sweat upon the counter top. Each droplet crashed like a wave breaking over the shore. The gears of the second hand on the nearby clock ground together, squealing like the hull of a ship, shorn against the docks.
Alex seized the pill bottles between the webbed nets of his fingers. He thrust them into his pockets hurriedly. The pills rattled in protest. Alex struggled to haul in his catch, battling the great marlin, its tail slapping the sea caps. Alex kept his hands firmly in his pockets, the fish struggling in the muddy water contained within.
—Aha! So you’re not just a non-person, but also a non-thief!
The clerk’s brow furrowed and his grin returned, pleased with his own clever menace. He brought his hand down upon an enormous red button to the side of the counter.
The alarm began to sound. Alex struggled toward the door. His steps were heavy with the weight of the tides pulling at his pant legs. He lifted his feet over the tops of the waves with each pace, and lowered his head, bracing himself for each wave that overtook him.
BEEP! BEEP! BEEPBEEP! BEEP!
Alex felt the familiar tingle in his foot. The cat had returned, nipping at his heels, desperate to taste the fish flailing in his pocket.
The clerk was stranded on the shore. Alex trudged toward the glass panes ahead, dragging his limp, tingling foot behind him. The cat continued to harass him, mewing and hissing, weaving in between Alex’s legs.
With an emphatic hiss, the cat lunged for Alex’s still-functioning ankle. Alex felt the tingling sensation surge from both feet up to his pelvis and he crashed through the Pharmacy window, swept into the street by torrid water behind him.
As the water dissipated, so too did the blood leaking from his forearms. It faded to yellow as it mingled with the salt water before disappearing down the storm drain. The sight of blood had always made Alex queasy. He heard the police sirens approaching and the lights glowed red behind his sinking eyelids.
“Hi Alex, honey, I refilled your prescriptions today. I’ve been trying to get ahold of you all morning. I’m on my way over to drop them off… I… hope you’re not still in bed son. Please call me.” Beeeeep.
*ALTERNATE ENDING *
As the water dissipated, so too did the blood leaking from his forearms.
—Good Morning Mr. Little, it’s time for your morning doses. This will have you feeling ship-shape in no ti—DOCTOR!
It faded to yellow as it mingled with the salt water before disappearing down the storm drain.
—Someone, call an ambulance please! Mr. Little is bleeding! …Badly!
Alex’s form began to grow visible beneath his white bed sheets as they absorbed the blood leaking from his brachial and femoral arteries.
He heard the police sirens approaching and the lights glowed red behind his sinking eyelids.
The sight of blood had always made Alex queasy.
I began the story with a specific ending in mind, but as I began to work through it, I developed a new idea. Both have their benefits, but also their faults and I find it difficult to decide which should be triumph in the final draft of the work. I tend to feel that the final ending is more powerful, but much of that power might come as a result of the interplay between the two endings. The first ending has more subtlety, but might seem cheap depending on interpretation.
SPEAK YOUR MIND — Let me know what you think in the comments section below: Comments, criticism, suggestions, revulsion are all welcome.