As I struggle with getting back on a day schedule I think I’ll cheat and repost another of my assignments from the Horror Writer Association’s online writing workshop. This assignment was to write “body horror,” a genre I’ve never explored.
Body horror is a subgenre of horror which intentionally showcases graphic or psychologically disturbing violations of the human body. It turned out to be a fun assignment. I’m not sure if it’s a genre I will visit again like this, but I enjoyed the trip.
Warning: It’s body horror. It’s gross.
Today just wasn’t my day.
It started at the apartment pool. I don’t go to splash around after a long day at work. I go to relax, float and drink. I have a tough job—I work at McDonald’s. After eight hours of listening to kids whine about their Happy Meal toys, I’m done. I need to decompress. Last thing I want to see is another kid, so I go after dark when the little crapheads are in bed.
I really needed to relax today—worst day ever. The headsets were acting up at work so every order I took was garbled with static. Of course, I got a bunch of the orders wrong. I can’t understand people over the stupid speakers on the best of days, which today wasn’t. Long story short, it was hours of “my fries are cold,” I’ve been waiting in line for 15 minutes,” and “that’s not the toy I wanted.” Whine, whine and frickin’ whine. By the time I clocked out, I was ready to stick some heads in the fryer. Instead, I went home, cracked a beer and changed into my swim trunks. Nothing is better than a soak in the pool to clean the stench of grease out of my pores. Usually.
I was only in there like ten minutes when the gate opened up and these two brats wandered in with their mom. She was chatting away on her phone, not even looking at her kids. She just plodded up to the closest chair and plonked herself down. The two brats made a beeline for the pool and cannon balled in. There’s a sign that clearly states No Running. If the brats could read, they didn’t care. They both did a running launch at once, sending a tidal wave over my peaceful float.
“Hey!” I yelled. The stupid mom didn’t even look up. Me and my beer were both doused. I wiped lukewarm chlorine water out of my eyes and glared at the nearest kid. He was dog paddling straight for me and clutched at the edge of my tube float.
“Can I use this?” He coughed water into my face and blinked through his dripping bangs.
“No,” I said. “This is my float and I carried with me. And you guys aren’t supposed to run in here. Shouldn’t you be in bed?”
The little kid struggled to stay afloat, still gripping the vinyl and making us both spin and tilt. I twisted in the tube to get a better position and stabilize my beer. His nose was damp and crusty looking with a snot bubble poking out of his left nostril.
“Kid, this is my float. This is grown up time. Go bug your brother.”
“But I don’t know how to swim. I need this.” He pulled harder, grabbed on with both hands and coughed in my face.
“Kid, go away. This is my float. I’m trying to relax.”
I looked up at the mom. She was oblivious to the drama in the pool. She was sitting sideways on the lounge, almost with her back to us, deep in conversation. I bet she fed her kids Happy Meals all the time.
I looked back to see the kid had gotten one of his scrawny little arms hooked through my tube. With the other hand he was pointing at his elbow. Hanging open was a nasty, waterlogged band aid. The edges were dark with kid grime and it looked like it had been stuck there awhile. Half of it had given up, the adhesive no match for whatever dirt the kid had subjected it to. It hung open, dark stained cotton pad exposed like a belly-up body. A large scab looked out at me, already turning mushy white from the soaking. He tugged at the band aid, loosening it more. My stomach lurched.
“No, take that away, kid. That’s disgusting.”
I tried to pry his arm off my float so I could paddle away. Pool time was over. He managed to pull the rest of the band aid free and held out out to me, resisting my efforts to get him off my float. The band aid dangled at me, just a few inches from my face. I turned back to get the mom’s help.
“Ma’am! Your kid needs you…” That’s what I started to say. Out of the corner of my eye I saw him flick his wrist up, tossing the nasty piece of plastic and gauze at my face. It hit my cheek and stuck like a germy, scabby leech. I didn’t react well.
I grabbed the kid’s arm and heaved him off my tube. The little shit kept his grip on my float and it tipped with him. All I could think of was the disease crusted thing that was stuck to my face. I threw my beer hand up for balance. The bottle slipped from my grip and I heard it break against the concrete. There’s actually a sign that says No Glass as well, but it wouldn’t have been a problem if the kid was in bed like he should have been.
Down we both went. I heard glubbing and felt his little limbs thrashing around next to me. My legs hit the bottom and I struggled to stand up, scraping one of my toes in the process. I must have opened my mouth to yell, or breathe in or maybe just in surprise and swallowed a mouthful of water. I splashed to the surface, swallowing pool. Something rushed in with the water and stuck in the back of my throat. I tasted rubber.
I hacked as soon as I hit air. Whatever was in my throat was stuck halfway. I think the kid was trying to cling to me but I shoved free and headed for poolside, still trying to clear my throat. My stomach was starting to heave as I realized I’d swallowed the kid’s band aid. That was too much. I hurled.
Digested fish filet, fries and light beer spewed out into the blue water, floating across the surface like oil. I tried to twist out of it, lost my footing and took in more water. The inside of my nose was on fire. I was thrashing like a crazy person to get out and I think I may have kicked the kid. I resurfaced to see his mom had finally dropped the phone and was lumbering towards us.
Bad luck for us all, my bottle had smashed against the side of the pool and gotten glass everywhere. She stepped right into it, shrieked in pain and then fell into the mess with us. It must have been a big piece of glass because I heard it crunch between the cement and her foot as she twisted and came down. By now I’d reached the wide stairs on the shallow end and was crawling up, still heaving. I could still feel something in my throat. I puked again, but this time at least I’d made it to the edge.
I turned halfway to look behind me. The kid that had bugged me was crying and dog paddling toward the deep end. His mom was flopping around like a spandex encased whale trying to reach her foot with one hand. She was cut bad because in the pool lights I could see a red cloud staining the water around her. The other kid was clutching the pool edge like a little crab and screaming. I crawled free of the mess and flopped onto the warm pavement.
“Lady, I’ll help you…” is what I was going to say, but I swear I tasted that band aid again. There was something on my tongue, probably just vomit, but the sensation and the flavor of scab and rubber was too much and my stomach decided to do another dump. I tried to get to my feet and at least get to the grass but I stepped on some of that damn glass myself. I felt the stab and looked down to see a thick shard of amber sticking up between my big and second toe. The blood just started bubbling out. I guess I scraped my toe on the bottom of the pool pretty bad too, because my big toenail was gone. There was a raw oval of open nail bed where a toenail should have been.
I just screamed and fell down on one knee to reach my foot. The piece of glass was from the bottom of the bottle and it was halfway through one toe. I swear I could feel it cutting into the bone. I tried to pull it out but my hands were shaking and it was slippery with blood. I know I tried to get up so I could hobble somewhere away, probably the hospital, but I stumbled and tripped. I crouched over my bleeding foot and just started crying.
My nose was stuffed up and I blew it out into my hand. Don’t judge me. It’s not like I had a tissue handy and I was already covered in more nasty than I’d ever seen. Whatever was stuck in there was lodged pretty good, so I plugged up one nose hole and blew it out, hard.
It finally flew free and I could breathe again. Through the tears I looked back down to see what I’d dislodged. There, on my poor mangled foot, was the band aid. I guess it had gotten stuck up in my nostril when I was vomiting and I blew it free, right over my missing toenail. I think I just took it all in for a few seconds, every grimy fiber of that used band aid imprinting in my mind. I think I even saw what looked like scab crumbs stuck to it with bile. I know I started screaming then…
…and that’s the last thing I remember, Your Honor, I swear.