It started as an itch.
Just above his appendectomy scar.
A niggle akin to a tickle, then a full-fledged insistence.
Powerless to control the urge, Scott raked his jagged fingernails like scythes over the spot.
The more he scratched, the more persistent the urge became. Like an addict, he continued to collect his epithelials underneath his unkempt nails.
The night was endless with the constant itch in his side. He continued to dig deeper into his flesh, hoping to scrape out the source. Rubbed raw within the first hour, he knew that it would only take longer to heal. Yet, he continued to serve his annoying master. Too lazy to get out of bed to check his corpulent flesh, he resigned himself to the fate of a potential scar. Even in his restless sleep, his fingers sought out the now tender spot of raw skin.
In the morning, Scott awoke feeling groggy and thick-headed after a night spent tossing and turning. Taking his time getting out of bed, he absentmindedly scraped at his side. Feeling a stickiness, he pulled his hand away from his side and tried to focus on the tips of his fingers. Red. Blood? Had he really scratched that hard?
Coming to the full realization that he’d done some damage through the night, he made his way into the bathroom to stand before the mirror over the porcelain sink. Looking at his expansive belly in the reflection, he was aghast at what he saw.
Slowly oozing red blood and a viscous, unctuous clear fluid, the patch on his abdomen was larger than he had first imaged. Had he really scratched a hole in the side of his body? It was incomprehensible to Scott that he could have done this much damage overnight. Something had to be wrong; there must be an explanation…
After placing a quick call to work, he dressed and left for the hospital, silently praying that whatever he’d done to himself could be undone.
Alone in the stark cubicle, replete with pale blue dotted gown that wouldn’t close over his ample ass, Scott sat on the uncomfortable hospital bed, wishing that his side didn’t hurt. The admitting nurse had taken one quick look at his stomach and immediately set him up in a room with the inadequate gown. Upon her exit, she added that the doctor would be with him shortly and promptly shut him off from the hustle and bustle by swinging round the pale green curtain.
Not wanting to admit it, the fear was all that he could think about. What the heck was wrong with him? Scenes from the past few days played over and over in his head. He ran through the multitude of people he’d encountered; his co-workers, the pizza guy, the pretty check-out girl at the supermarket, even the woman he visited once a week to satiate his desires. He raked his mind for clues as he raked his flesh; could one of them have infected him?
The more he thought about it, the more his mind dwelt upon the possibilities.
The more he dwelt on the possibilities, the deeper he scratched.
The only thing that broke his reverie was the middle-aged, balding doctor that pulled back the curtain. He strode in with purpose and a level of cool aloof. Not glancing up from the chart in his hand, he stopped by the edge of the bed.
“What seems to be the problem, Mr. Harris?”
“Well doc, I have this itch on my side –“
“An itch, Mr. Harris? You came to the ER for an itch?” With that said, he finally looked up, turned and muttered, “You came to the hospital for an itch… You’ve got to be kidding me!”
“What?! You’re leaving? You haven’t even seen –“
“Seen what? Some patch of skin that has you scratching? Let me see it then; just be quick about it!”
The doctor turned on him so quickly that Scott didn’t really know how to react. He stupidly fumbled with the side of the gown, trying desperately to pull the corner of it from under his thick thigh. Finally extricating the worn fabric, he lifted the edge to reveal his swollen belly, the rawness of his skin quite apparent.
For a moment, it looked as if the doctor might apologize for his outburst. Instead, he placed the chart on the bed beside Scott and bent forward for a closer look.
Just as quickly, his head jerked back, surprise covering his face. Turning to the small desk, he opened a drawer and pulled out a skinny metal probe about the length of a pen.
“I’m just going to apply a little pressure, Mr. Harris. Nothing to fear, just need to take a better look…” His words trailed off as he advanced the probe at Scott’s stomach.
Scott felt a tiny bit of pressure deep inside his stomach and then a fluttering. It was a strange feeling and one he couldn’t remember ever having experienced before. Not painful, but uncomfortable.
The doctor’s hand retreated almost immediately, searching for something. He found it by the wall next to the desk and promptly threw up into it. Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, the doctor turned to look at him, fear and revulsion painting a picture of horror across his face.
“What is it Doctor? Am I going to die?” The fear in the room was palpable. Scott, afraid for his life; the doctor afraid of his patient.
“You’ll have to wait here a moment, I need a second opinion.” Almost breaking into a run, the doctor left the cramped cubicle, leaving behind the stench of vomit and burnt coffee.
Within moments he had returned, a pretty young blonde haired doctor in tow. She smiled warily at Scott and introduced herself. “Hello, Mr. Harris. I’m Dr. Campbell. Would it be alright if I had a look at your side, please?” She asked with a politeness that almost made up for the way that the other doctor had behaved.
“Sure…” he answered, “Just tell me I’m going be okay and I’ll show you anything.” The comment was a bit off colour, but Scott was a warm blooded male; even in sickness, he’d do what he could to score. Not that she would ever have looked at him, but it never hurt to try…
Bending down, she stared at the spot on his side, intently trying to make out what she was looking at. Her head jerked back up, her hands coming straight up to her face.
“Oh. My. God.”
“What? What is it?”
“See? I told you…”
“But that’s impossible. There’s no way that –“
“No way that what? Could someone please tell me what’s going on?”
Again, Scott felt the stirring within his stomach. Reflexively, he placed his hand on his side and rubbed. Only this time he could feel something else.
Smooth. Hard. Tiny. Square. Plus now there was a definite hole.
“Mr. Harris, you may want to move your hand—”
The pain was excruciating. His fingers were on fire. He brought them up to his face to have a look and was shocked to see what he could only interpret as teeth marks marring the surface. Teeth? Was that what he had felt?
Remembering the tiny bathroom he’d passed on his way to the cubicle, Scott moved faster than he’d ever moved before. With the edges of the gown flapping behind him, he threw the light switch and ripped the fabric across his stomach to get a better look. The sight astounded him.
He had a mouth on the side of his abdomen. A fully formed mouth with teeth, lips and a tongue. Looking more closely, he could see the faint swell that had started to form above the mouth, along with the twin semi-circular arches of coarse black hairs exuding from his skin above that.
Feeling sick, he turned to the doctors who had followed him down the hallway, anguish and confusion written all over his face.
“That’s a mouth right? A fucking mouth on my side?”
“Yes, Mr. Harris. We believe that’s what it is”
“How the fuck did it get there?”
“We have no idea, Mr. Harris. But that could be the least of your problems –“
“The least of my problems? I have a fucking mouth – with teeth – on my stomach. What the fuck could be worse?”
The two doctors shared a glance, “Well, it doesn’t appear that it’s just a mouth –“
As soon as the words were out of her mouth, Scott’s world went dark and he crashed to the ground.
Waking up in the hospital was an eerie feeling; part of his brain remembered the horror that had felled him, while the other maintained that it was just a bad dream. Trying to move, Scott realized that he couldn’t. Panicking, he fought to move, believing that he was paralyzed with that thing on his stomach. Turning his head to the left, he saw that a restraint covered his wrist. He strained against it, testing it, knowing that it would be effective regardless of his hope.
Looking to the right, he saw that his other wrist was also locked in a restraint. Recognizing the futility of struggling, he laid he head back down on the pillow. Breathing deeply for a moment, he began to take stock of everything. His left leg hurt, as did his left shoulder. His head was pounding but Scott put that to the fall he knew he had taken. His attention turned to the one thing he had hoped he could avoid.
The mouth. With all of its little white pearlescent teeth.
Shuddering, he strained his head upwards, attempting to see the side of his abdomen. Letting his head fall back down in defeat, he started to cry. Scott had no idea what was going on and it scared him. Had the doctor really stated that there was a face forming on his stomach?
The wait for someone to come felt interminable. Once the doctor arrived, he opened his mouth to talk but no sound came out. The terror of that moment radiated from Scott.
“Mr. Harris, you need to calm down. Getting yourself all worked up isn’t going to help you at all.”
Again, Scott tried to speak; his mouth opening and closing with each attempt. Frustrated, he began to sob.
“Mr. Harris, it will be all right. We have you scheduled for surgery later today. Once we remove the tumor, everything should go back to normal. These types of things happen all the time. One of the unique things about the cells within our body is that they have the ability to develop into any of the body’s structures. It’s simply an anomaly, however unfortunate it may be.” With a reassuring hand on his arm, the doctor gave a small squeeze before leaving the room.
Resigned to accept the fate that odd things sometimes happen, he tried to put his mind at rest. At least the itch was gone. And soon the growth would be as well. Closing his eyes, he thought about the glorious void of sleep, hoping to drift into a world unlike the hell he was currently living.
As he nodded off, a small gravelled voice spoke aloud, “But I’m not a tumor…”
Copyright © 2012 Julianne Snow