|Posted on August 9, 2010 at 1:04 PM|
This was on EditRed, but I thought I'd share it here too.
The howling wind made the tree by the bathroom window creak ominously, reminding Peter of the essay he had to write tonight. Only a few hundred words on the opening of Wuthering Heights, but still more than he wanted to do. Knowing that he’d be dealing with the damn book for the next six weeks didn’t help his motivation.
Examining his reflection, searching for the next target, he tried to think about what he’d write, the best way to paraphrase what had been taught in class without losing marks. Instead he found himself wondering if this storm was the one that would finally uproot the tree and bring it down on the house. It had been an acute fear when he was young and still made him a little nervous. He told himself that if it ever happened the tree would most likely to fall on his sister’s room.
No bad thing, if it did.
Finally deciding to extract the pimple near his left ear he positioned his index fingers carefully, trying to ensure as much pus was released as possible, and squeezed. This was the last extraction before he had to get to work and he wanted it to be a good one, to drain as much from his face as possible.
The spot exploded with little pain, the core bursting out like ripe sweetcorn. It travelled several inches and splattered against the mirror. Despite the noise of the storm outside Peter was sure he heard the soft sound as it landed. The remains looked like a little meteor crater, an almost perfect circle. Around it were several dirty yellow smears, drying evidence of the dozens of blackheads he’d removed from his nose and chin already. Wiping the mess from his fingernails on the glass he twisted his neck to get a better view at the offending area.
A small trail of blood oozed from the burst pimple but, probing with his fingers, he could feel a lump under his skin - a second, more solid core. Dabbing the blood and liquid pus away with toilet paper he repositioned his fingers, ready to really dig in this time. It was going to hurt and as he started to squeeze he gritted his teeth.
Peter definitely heard the pus hitting the mirror this time, even over the sound oft he storm and his own gasped curse at the pain. It was, however, definitely fully extracted – he only wished the rest of his body’s pus had drained away with the pimple.
“You look diseased,” his sister sneered when she saw the fresh scabs on his face at the dinner table. A fresh, juicy yellow-head had also ripened by his nostril in the two hours he’d spent doing his homework but he hadn’t discovered it yet.
“Lucy, be quiet,” his father mumbled.
“You shouldn’t pick at them, Peter,” his mother chimed in. “You’ll only make them worse. You know what the doctor said.”
“He does though,” Lucy kept on. “Even at school, in the toilets. Jon caught him. It’sembarrassing.”
“Lucy,” his father mumbled a little louder.
“You know what they call you at school?” she jeered at him, vindictive and spiteful, ignoring their father. “You do, don’t you?”
Peter chewed his food and ignored her, accidentally discovering the new blemish when he rubbed his nose. There was a sharp jab of pain as his fingernail grazed it and he carefully rubbed his nose again to check it hadn’t burst.
“Pizzaface!” Lucy gloated, starting a little sing-song until she caught the look in their mother’s eye.
Saying nothing Peter seethed, wishing she and the other shits at their school would die. It wasn’t even an original insult.
“I’m having a party,” Trevor announced on Monday morning. “My parents are going away.”
“I thought you weren’t allowed to anymore,” Peter’s heart leapt at the prospect. He’d met Amy at Trevor’s last party, almost six months ago. His face hadn’t been so bad then. She’d even given him her number, but he’d lost his phone on the way home. “After last time.”
“I’m not,” Trevor grinned, his mouth a mass of metal but his skin perfect, and threw horns with both hands. “Fuck it. They aint gonna know.”
“Cool,” Peter shrugged. “Who’s getting invited?”
The youngest of three Trevor was always trying to outdo his brothers, and had succeeded in most areas – breaking more bones skateboarding but landing better tricks, smashing every pane of their neighbour’s greenhouse when his eldest brother had decided one would do. Now Trevor was trying to outdo his brothers’ parties, this would be his third attempt. The last had, according to the brothers themselves, come pretty damn close.
Peter always thought that if Trevor’s parents had been poor the authorities would have intervened a long time ago – the frequency they left their children unsupervised had to count as neglect and any council estate kids acting like he and his brothers would have ASBOs and juvenile convictions coming out their arses. If Trevor had passed the entrance exam he’d have been at the local private school but he was a straight D student, even when he tried.
“Dunno yet. The lads,” Trevor swaggered as they walked down the road, achieving a passable imitation of the Gallagher brothers swagger. “Y’know, the usual suspects. I’m going to send Sarah a text at lunch.”
Sarah was Amy’s friend. They went to the girls’grammar, on the other side of the hill. Sarah was skinny with dyed black hair; Amy was blonde with a little extra flesh. Amy was the most beautiful girl in the world, and she’d given him a hand-job in the bathroom at Trevor’s last party. Losing his phone on the way home was one of the worst things that had ever happened to Peter, almost as bad as the acne he’d developed since.
“Cool. I’ll be there.”
All he had to do, the only thing that mattered, was to get his skin clear by the weekend.
In geography, the last lesson of the day, he discovered a huge growth on the back of his neck, right by the hairline. Unable to convince himself that it would be completely hidden by his shoulder-length hair, safe in the knowledge that his seat in the back corner would prevent anyone seeing, he subtly squeezed the offence. In the quiet of the classroom he was sure he heard the pop as it exploded, the juicy core smearing across his fingers, almost expected the other kids to react. They stayed silent, some working on the timed essay they’d been given, a few doodling and Trevor fast asleep. With the smallest gestures possible Peter extracted as much of the spot as he could, glad that it hadn’t bled too much, and wiped the mess away on the back of his tie.
That night he spent nearly an hour picking and cleaning his face, removing every spot he could find and nearly crying at the stinging pain applying the lotion caused –it wasn’t supposed to be used on broken skin but he knew it would prevent the extraction sites from refilling. The doctor said it wasn’t so when Peter told him but the results told a different story.
His sister, eager to perform one of her arcane hair rituals, barely paused to laugh at him when he finally emerged and, for once, her taunts didn’t bother him.
He could live with a few days of taunting, he was sure that if he stuck to the cleansing routine his skin would be clear by Friday, the scabs all healed and no fresh offences grown and then the little bitch would have to shut up – and Amy would have to give it up. If he washed his face several times a day, avoided food with too much fat or sugar, a dozen other little things, he knew he could look perfect by Friday.
The hardest part was keeping his hands still as he tried to get to sleep that night – the daydream of Amy started out innocently enough but quickly grew very, very dirty, the erection it gave him painful with the need for release. It was as ridiculous as expecting his palms to grow hairs or his eyesight to fail but once, when he was eleven, someone had told him masturbation causes spots and he didn’t want to take any chances.
Amy had to see him as he was, perfect and prettier than Johnny Depp.
On Wednesday morning Peter discovered that Amy would definitely be there – it seemed like serendipity after the wet dream he’d had about her that morning. The most vivid of its kind he’d ever had the resulting mess was so bad he’d snuck the stained boxer shorts out in his pocket and thrown them in a public bin rather than let his mother discover them in the wash. All through French and English he found it hard not to smile.
She was going to be there, a little fatter than before but still as pretty as ever and, if he allowed himself to believe Trevor’s encouragements, just as eager to start over. Even his skin seemed to agree, nothing worse than a blackhead had grown on his face since Monday’s mass extraction.
The plan was working; he wouldn’t need to feel awkward or ugly on Friday. The cleansing, so religious he was rinsing his face with cold water whenever he passed a sink, was working.
He’d found the motherload, worn it down and by Friday it would all be gone – he would be pus free!
Peter felt so good he willingly joined the discussion in English, gaining Miss Brown’s praise for his declaration that Heathcliff is a tragic hero, not a villain. It was hard to gain the wizened old woman’s praise – rumour had it that the bitter, highly religious spinster had been jilted at the alter and was still a virgin. After class she proved it by collaring him to impart the knowledge that, if he pushed himself harder, he’d gain even greater insights and – maybe, if he was very good – discover something that hadn’t been obvious since Ellis Bell first sent 'his' work to a publisher.
Peter didn’t care about the reference, although he understood it, or what the old cow said. At break, when Trevor asked if he’d been given an extra-special oral lesson by Miss Brown he replied that women are only good for tits and blow-jobs, even the old ones. Who cares what they think?
For less than an hour after that he felt truly good about himself, full of the misplaced bravado and confidence teenage boys are supposed to have. Briefly, he even thought, it wouldn’t be so bad if his acne was bad on Friday – he clearly had a brain he could use, he was better than okay – he was a god among men and all his friends laughed at his jokes.
Trevor said Amy had accepted that he had lost his phone all those months ago, according to him Sarah was sure her friend was eager to give it another go. That made him feel so good, so pumped he initiated a game of BritishBulldog, confident he would win. The resulting brawl was broken up by the headmaster with threats of expulsion and police involvement because of violence – the freshly minted word ASBO was used at least fifteen times. Peter was sure he would have one if he started the game again and was tempted to do just that.
Then he found the matching pimples on his back and chest as he was changing before gym, just after lunch. He was quick enough to get his t-shirt on to avoid anyone noticing but he knew they were there – evidence that he was still Pizzaface. The contagion was spreading down from his face, slowly consuming him whole.
One was by his sternum, the long loop of the ingrown chest hair that was the root almost visible through the shiny yellow pus. The other was between his shoulder blades, headless and massive. When he probed it later, pretending to scratch his back during Physics, pain lanced down his arms and legs, made his jaw clench so violently he almost bit his tongue. It was easy to imagine the tendrils emanating from the monstrosity, worming through his body to establish colonies everywhere. The thing on his chest, which he burst in the toilets during afternoon break, the hair at its core kinked into a zigzag even after it was released, was just the first.
His face wouldn’t be clean long, he knew that the split-second he discovered the obscenity on his back. The motherload had manifested; if he didn’t deal with it everything would be corrupted, everything would drown and corrode in pus. All his dreams, still waiting to be discovered, would die.
Time was limited if he was to save his chances and he ran most of the way home, frantic in his desire to deal with it.
He had found the motherload.
He could kill Pizzaface.
His sister’s renewed assault on the bathroom door was so abrupt it made him jump. Sharp pain lanced through his right shoulder as it tried to jerk whilst twisted behind his back, fingers straining for the motherload. At first he thought he had damaged something, torn a ligament or tendon, but after a few seconds stretching it he was sure he hadn’t. He could try again.
One last time.
“Shit,” he muttered at his reflection, ignoring his sister pounding at the door. “Nearly had it that time.”
Behind the streaks of pus and blood his smile looked grim, his face pale and ghastly. Half a dozen small trails of blood ran down his cheeks and forehead, his nose and chin were swollen and red. There were similar wounds scattered across his chest and shoulders, even a couple on his inner thighs – although he couldn’t see them since wrapping a towel around his waist. It was well over an hour since he’d finished his shower, scrubbing every inch of his body twice and using an entire bottle of exfoliating shower gel, but he was nearly finished.
The only pus left in him was between his shoulder blades, contained in the growth he had found that afternoon, easily two or three times the size of anything else he had ever grown. It was impossible for any other spot to have survived, he had been careful to squeeze the areas that looked clear and had felt sick at the number of tiny, squirming tendrils of yellow muck emerging from what looked like clean skin. The sight had made him think of tiny maggots, emissaries of the motherload preparing the ground, feasting on live flesh.
There was only the motherload itself left, the thing between his shoulders and he had been trying for ten minutes to position himself well enough to pinch and extract the monstrosity.
“I’ll get Mum!” his sister squealed, pausing in her hammering. “She already told you to let me in!”
Their mother was in her ‘studio’ at the bottom of the garden – a large shed that was equally split between her earnest, semi-professional painting and their father’s slightly more successful part-time carpentry (he made chairs when he wasn’t managing accounts for some faceless conglomerate). Her art class had an exhibition at the weekend and she hadn’t finished two of the three pieces she’d promised to contribute. Peter was sure the exhibition would be just as much of a non-event without an extra two quasi-cubist six foot square pieces by his mother but she disagreed and, in the year or so since she started swallowing handfuls of hormone replacement pills, interrupting her when she was at work was a guaranteed way to cause an explosion.
“I’ve been down there already, Peetza!” the insult was a mistake of pronunciation but she was maliciously delighted at her invention, laughing as she started a slow knock on the door, one knuckle rap after each syllable, a vicious metronome. “Pee-tza! Pee-tza! Pee-tza! I’ll set the crazy bitch on you! Pee-tza!”
“Fuck-off, I’m almost done,” he shouted at the door, glad his voice chose to go deep and not high.
“What? You having a wank you skanky shithead? I want to straighten my fucking hair – I can’t go to Hannah’s like this you selfish fucking cunt!”
Peter ignored her and, determined this would be the last time, wriggled his arm up his back, peering over his shoulder to see what he was doing in the mirror. This was going to be it, he would rid himself of the poison. He would be beautiful and perfect. They’d laugh at Depp as an ugly, wannabe fop.
Pizzaface, Pizzaboy, Peetza – they’d all die and he would be vindicated, he would get his own back and find some contentment.
“I’ll tell her you called me a whore!” she was banging on the door again. “Get out,Pee-tza! Stop being such a motherfucking selfish cunt!”
The motherload exploded with an airgun crack, although he felt it ripple through his entire body like a CGI nuclear explosion. The core hit the mirror and shattered it, the shards of falling glass cutting the backs of his legs to ribbons.
At first Peter was too shocked to scream, although the pain did make him twist and fall to his knees.
“You broke the mirror,” she taunted through the door, almost ecstatic at her chance to be the bearer of the bad news. “Mum’s going to kill you, Pee-tza!”
Then he started to scream, the pain was unbearable and still building.
It throbbed in the centre of his back, making him collapse fully on the floor as his body arched in an attempt to constrict the agony. He didn’t notice his head glancing of the toilet seat as he fell, the mild concussion lost against the twin thrusts of torture as the agony spread both ways along his spine. His balls felt like they were being squeezed by Heracles and a pneumatic drill was being taken to his lower face. He screamed again.
“Peter?” his sister sounded less sure of herself.
When he continued to scream – his innards were starting to liquefy and it felt like there were hot coals in his lungs – her tone changed as she started to worry. She was only thirteen, she loved him really. The skin over her knuckles split as she started to hammer on the bathroom door with fear rather than anger.
“Pete? Peter? What’s wrong?”
The second expulsion started as Peter was writhing beside the toilet, all but chewing on the pink, fluffy bathmat as he tried to escape his torment.
It started in his testicles, he felt them implode, felt the ooze force its way into his bloodstream, fighting against the flow in order to reach the motherload. Just a second later he felt the innards of his cock follow suit, leaving a sock of skin behind. Gritting his teeth against the pain he managed to half-rise from the floor, his last coherent thought telling him if he could get the door open his sister would be able to help.
Then his teeth, aided by the pressure of his clenched jaw, crumbled to dust. For a second or two, slumped on the bathroom mat again, his mouth was full of shattered enamel, the tiny shards surprisingly sharp in the mix of blood and tooth pulp. The whole mess started to dribble from his mouth and down his throat before it was caught by the pull of the motherload. He barely felt the pain as the mess forced itself back into his gums, rushing to join the foul mess pumping from the growing wound in his back – it was masked by his leg and arm bones contracting, eager to become fluid. His attempted scream was a gurgling whimper cut short as the soft flesh of his larynx and tongue succumbed to the pressure and were pulverised.
He saw the bathroom door fly open, torn of the top hinge as his sister’s fear induced adrenaline rush gave her the strength to break it down. He was even vaguely aware that her left shoulder was dangling unnaturally low as she froze in the doorway, too shocked to react to what she saw. It was only a small mercy that his brain joined the motherload rush as she finally reacted and turned to run for their mother - the agony was too great for him to find any relief in the final darkness.
By the time his mother arrived, barely a minute after his sister ran for help and nearly adding a fatal heart attack to the day’s tragedy, the process was finished.
There was no pus left in Peter. There was nothing else either.
Only his skin had survived the expulsion of the motherload, a floppy, flesh-coloured parody of Peter Pan’s severed shadow. When the authorities – everyone from the local police to the anti-terrorist branch of MI6 would eventually become involved – finally cleaned up they had to use shovels to scrape the solidified mess into bags. The bags were taken away and kept in storage for years, subjected to countless tests that yielded no answers.
Trevor’s party went ahead, a memorial gathering for Peter’s few friends and just another party for all the rest. The story told was that Peter died of an aneurysm, not even his family wanted the truth to be known.
When she heard Amy laughed and said she’d never really liked him anyway. Not even she, four stone overweight and slightly cross-eyed, would stoop to dating a boy like him. Within a few months almost everyone had forgotten he ever had a proper name and the joke was he’d died from too much masturbation.
A year after that his sister became the new Pizzaface, dreaming of finding her own motherload.