This time Chuck Wendig gave us only one assignment: Write a flash fiction about disease.
It can be any disease, real or fictional. It just has to be a horror story.
Sounds right up my alley.
So here we go:
“You’re sick”, he says as he clicks the pen against the clipboard, presses the tip to his tongue, and then drops it back again. Click. “You just need to accept it.” He writes something down, the pen scratching from a nearly dry well. His eyes are half closed, and occasionally darting to my face. On the pad, the words “violent” are underlined, heavily. Satisfied, he steps back, and drops the pen back to its resting place. Click.
“After all, you don’t want everyone catching, do you?” he says.
I stare at him for a minute. Then start smiling, feeling my gums pull back further and further. It hurts, but my face is stretched to its full length, revealing the lines of black along the top. I relax for a minute, my lips closing in a scowl. Then, I open my mouth to a normal capacity. “Dr. Marx, I have told you before, I feel fine; right as rain-” he cuts me off with a deadpan stare, and I falter for a second. The truth is that I feel like my body is frying. Everything is warm, smothering.
“-I honestly think I might be cured.” I continue.
“Is that so? A month in there, and you think you’re well? Look…okay; this is the fifth time you have called me over, me specifically. Are you lonely? Is that the problem, Clint? Because I assure you, you’re still sick.”
“How are you so certain?” I said. My hands go behind my back.
He steps closer, his hand clicking the pen again, the other hand propped up against the glass shield between us. Click. A bubble, erected to keep things like me inside. Click.
“…humans do not smile like that.”
“Some of us do,” I respond. To prove my point, I pull my lips up again, ‘til my nose is raised by the pressure; just a normal, natural smile.
“Clint didn’t smile like that.” He said. Check-box meets pen, Click.
“Well, I just did…so, don’t I?”
“You’re not Clint. Nor will you ever be Clint. You….are just a parasite, and if we were not studying you, then you would be a pile of char on the immolation floor, like every other member of your race. Click.
“Just because I wasn’t Clint when I was born, doesn’t mean I’m not him now.” I say. The veins on the front of my arm are rising. I adjust so he can’t see.
“I think I know my own brother.” He said. His muscles rise up, and even through the glass, I swear I could taste the rage pheromones radiate off.
“Perhaps you don’t, perhaps you never did.” I say.
His fist slams down on his side of the glass, and my smile grows back to its old size. His breaths are ragged, but he refuses to talk to me. All he does is stare down, and click his pen in frustration. Click, click, and click.
He grabs a tube from his pant leg and takes a long pull from it. Breathe in, and then out. A soft white gas is visible, though just for a second, as he sucks it in.
Ah, asthma. This body remembers asthma. The lungs had to be reconstructed from almost nothing. Tar and gas siphoned up, and then spat out as a cloud when I had first arrived; arrived in Clint, that is.
He spends a few more minutes doing that, and I just enjoy the sight. The tendrils have managed to burst forth, and were currently wrapping itself around my wrist. If I were to look down it would resemble a pointed black needle at the tip of my finger.
The beeper on Marx’s belt goes off and he pants while he puts it up to his ear. “Marx? Marx? Are you okay to continue?” a female voice speaks. “It doesn’t have to be you…..” the voice trails off.
“I don’t….I don’t……..yeah, I’m alright. I’ll continue.” A look of reserve crosses his face as he rises. Click. The pen flies across the paper as he notes a few things down. Click. He puts the inhaler back in his pocket. Click.
“Stressed, Doctor Marx? What’s bothering you?” I say, leaning forward against the screen, pressing my nose up. I can feel my tendrils leaking through the tear ducts, scraping the surface of the glass. Another one pokes out of my open mouth. It’s bordering on forcing me to gag, but I pull through. Just to piss him off.
“It’s not me….is it?” I say feigning a look of hurt.
“No….it’s not you. It’s just the thing inside you.” He says, shaking his head.
“That is Clint now.” I said. “I’m Clint now.”
He just shakes his head again. “No, you’re not. Now, would you place the sample?” He beckons at the small flap on the side.
“Why? So you can cure me? Flush me out? I told you. I feel fine.”
Click. More notes on me. A red box filled in with a signature. Click.
“Would you just place the sample on the tray?”
“Sure. Anything for you, brother.” I take my finger to my mouth, find the nearest tendril, and pull. Small squirts of liquid dribbles down my chin, but I yank it out; a long thin cable, the color and surface similar to graphite. It tastes awful, but so does the body’s tongue. It’s dying, I can taste it. I place it on the platform, watching the liquid pool around it.
“Take a step back.” He says. I comply.
He steps forward, and thumbs in a code on the panel. It takes a few seconds, long code, but soon the glass slides open, and he leans forward to take out the sample. His hand coated in a mechanical glove, for extra protection.
His head is down, and I take my chance. My hand darts forward, the point sharp and durable. It smashes into the side of it, making a purchase. The tip of my feeler breaks, and it’s agony, but I’m through. The cord stretched out, spreading, feeling; about to rip right into my brother’s head.
Electricity meets it with resistance, violent resistance. It courses up Clint’s spine and into me. My mouth opens in a scream and I fall backwards. The pieces of my feelers turned to ash on the floor.
Marx stands back up straight, holding the sample in his hand. He places it into a container, and then removes the gloves. A final checkmark is applied on that damn clipboard. Click. I’m still on the ground, lying still, with smoke rising from my burnt clothing.
“You’re sick” he says, turning his back to me and walking away, carrying all his tools with him. “I just need to accept that.”
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