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Last updateTue, 06 Aug 2013 2am

Back You are here: Home Stories Words for the People Short Stories Blotches
Monday, 26 August 2013 20:30

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My friend Dylan, his new thing is what he calls “camming.”

            It’s my third day in a row staying home sick from school, so bad my mom says I need to go see a doctor when she gets off work, and he texts me, Dude u gotta come over here.

            Instead of messaging him back, I just hit send and call him.

            In the middle of the second ring, I hear a faint click, and he says, “Breayn Dexter’s on fucking ZeeChat, man. No joke.”

            “Who the hell’s she?” I ask, pretending to care.

            He’s either gasping or laughing on the other end, maybe a little of both. “Only the single hottest girl at East Central. Tits like a porn star, swear to God.”

            I nod, swallow, and wince at the knifing sensation in my throat. “Definitely sounds hot.”

            “You should get your ass over here. She looks way better in person than all pixelated on this little webcam screen, but fifty bucks says I get her to show me those sweet friggin’ knockers before the night’s over.”

            “Doubt it,” I say. “Besides, my mom’s taking me to the goddamn clinic after work. Says I need medicine. For real, strep throat sucks big ones. I’d rather die of AIDS.”

            “Don’t worry,” Dylan says, “I’m sure you’ll meet a nice guy someday who’s more than happy to share his butt-AIDS with you.”

            I cough into the phone, and it’s like a mouthful of nails are lodged in my chest. There’s a half-empty glass of water still on my night stand. A lukewarm swig just tastes like lumpy mucus going down. “Whatever, man. I better get off here, try and get some sleep.”

            “You seriously have no idea what you’re missing.”

            I say, “I’m sure. But honestly, I’m like gonna die of total misery. The last thing on my mind is titties.”

            “Suit yourself. Truth be told though, one time during lunch this Breayn chick gave some dude from my study hall head right in the parking lot. Came back to class with blotches of sploodge on her dress and everything. It was nuts.”

            “Bullshit,” I tell him.

            “Oh-okay. Believe what you want.”

            I clear my throat, feel the dull familiar stabbing back behind my tongue, all the while tasting phlegm and maybe a dab of blood.

            “You should go to the doctor like your mom says . . . but then when you get home, slip out the back and ride your bike over here. If she thinks your napping she’ll never even notice.”

            After a pause I say, “I’ll think about it,” and hang up.

_____________________

            My mom’s got a cigarette dangling from her lips, trailing secondhand smoke that’s filling the van and coating the inside of my mouth in yet another membrane of noxious filth, and she’s telling me how I need to be sure and follow the doctor’s instructions to the letter if I ever want to be healthy again.

            “Yeah, yeah,” I grumble.

            “She said once every six hours, so that means you need to take one right when we get home, with water and a snack. Then another before bedtime.”

            I nod slowly, morosely, and let go a held breath. The aching in my bones makes me shudder.

            She says, “Seriously, strep stroat ain’t nothing you want to mess with. Shit killed Mozart.”

            We hit a pothole right as I’m taking a bite of salty, soggy Big Mac, and my thoughts begin to drift further and further into the realm of imagination. Of adolescent breasts and what I might do with them, given the chance.

            “You know I just care about you. You’ll be glad you listened once you’re feeling better. When it doesn’t hurt to swallow, and you can get a good night’s rest again.”

            Suddenly everything hurts. I just sigh, and roll my eyes.

_____________________

            The Cefalexin tastes a little like acrylic paint, and a lot like shit. If not for the strep throat, it’d probably be like swallowing a dead bumblebee or a kid’s Flintstones vitamin. Instead it feels like a pretty good-sized rock going down, and I shiver at the battery-acid aftertaste.

            “I’ll wake you up around ten or so, when it’s time to take another and get some dinner in you. You’ll feel better after a good nap.”

            “Okay,” I sigh, and take a sip of water that tastes mostly like the pill. “Night.”

            After I moved my bedroom down into the basement, a number of unforeseen advantages came to light. Least of all was the newfound easy access to the outdoors thanks to a carpeted staircase that led into the kitchen, where the back door was.

            So all I have to do is get that ancient inner door open without making too big a ruckus with the deadbolt, and I’m home free. That is, away from home.

            Listening to the thumps and creaks in the floorboards overhead, I wait for my mom to get clear of the kitchen, preferably even upstairs to the bathroom or her own bed. The silence comes soon enough, and not longer afterward I hear the muffled sounds of a conversation between her and my sister coming from the second floor.

            I throw my bedclothes aside, then tiptoe upstairs and through the kitchen, rolling up my sleeves and grabbing a fistful of cough drops on the way out.

            The sun’s already nearing the horizon, and there’s a chill breeze that follows me into the garage.

            With a slow kick my bike wheels out onto the blacktop, and I pedal fast as I can in my condition, headed for the nearest street corner. Once there, I turn left and speed on down the road toward Dylan’s place seven blocks east.

            Just over halfway there, I start to feel a slow rising in the depths of my throat. Soft, lumpy flesh growing outward . . . walling in my airway one quick, panicked breath at a time.

            My chest wall burns with a sudden pressure, like someone’s gently lowered a massive block of stone on top of my ribcage.

            “Shit,” I whisper, then suck in a gasp of cool air.

            I think, I can’t fucking breathe.

            At first it isn’t entirely true. I can breathe, but only in a series of harsh, increasingly shallow breaths. The gasps grow hot and painful, and I feel my head grow dizzy, lurching in the evening air.

            Bright indigo blotches of false light play across my vision, appearing one by one and then growing redder and redder with each numb blink of the eyes, and I feel the earth shift beneath the tires, the distant scrape of gravel against flesh as the bike falls out from below. Moist grass at my fingertips as I go to take another breath and no air gets in.

            I reach up to clutch my throat, as if to pry my airway back open from the outside. There’s a tug on my shirt, and I look in the hope that someone’s come to my rescue . . . but it’s just the rubber grip of my bicycle handlebars, so I roll over on my back and gaze up at the darkening milky-pink sky.

            Maybe this is what being drunk feels like. Or dying.

            My chest manages one final heave, and then there’s nothing. Nothing to exhale. Nothing to feel, to see.

            I feel myself rise—not physically, but in terms of my sense of orientation relative to the ground. My head reels, and I notice the sickening warmth of urine spread in my pants.

            My fingernails draw blood from my neck. But the pain’s all moved to the fire deep in my chest.

            There’s a gentle slap that strikes my cheek.

            And another, twice as hard this time.

            I try to ignore the insistent stabbing sensation behind my eyes long enough to claw them open and glimpse whomever the hand that struck my face belongs to.

            A mouth gapes in horror, baring teeth white and small and perfect. Eyes enormous and blue as the wide world itself look into me, searching for life, for signs of hope.

            The shrill, distant screaming isn’t exactly reassuring.

            Nor are the flashes of red that wink, brilliant and monotonous, at the corners of my dimming eyesight.

_____________________

            The blotches of indigo and white still linger, if faintly, when the nurse slips a long sharp needle into my arm, then pats my shoulder to check if I’m awake.

            Air fills my lungs effortlessly, unexpected and glorious.

            “Breathe,” another nearby voice says. “That’s good.”

            Clenching in anticipation of the pain I force a harsh cough, and feel the familiar pinprick in the back of my throat. Then I recognize the voice as my doctor’s.

            I watch as she steps closer, nodding. Visibly relieved.

            “You’re very lucky to be alive, young man.”

            My face must register total shock, because she just stands there a moment, studying me as all kinds of new emotions tug at my lips, push against my tired, achy ribs.

            “Guess so,” I say, my voice no more than a whisper.

            Mom’s in the room, I notice, shaky fingers interlaced in front of her. She’s sitting in a chair across the room.

            I tell her, “I was going to Dylan’s.”

            “To Dylan’s,” she echoes, and then lowers her head. “Stupid. Just stupid. You could’ve—could’ve been . . .”

            “I know,” I say. We both know, as I stare past the blotches.

            That the same goddamn horse pills meant to heal my miserable throat very nearly strangled me to death.

_____________________

            “It’s Breayn,” she says, then giggles.

            An involuntary smile twists my face, and I say, “They tell me you saved my life.”

            “Well,” she says, staring at her shoes as they dangle off the side of her bed, “you were just lying there in the middle of the road, not moving or anything. Scared the hell out of me. . . . Plus, you were in my dog’s way. Interrupted our walk.”

            I can only laugh at her sense of humor; it’s a carbon copy of my own.

            “Said it was an allergic reaction,” I tell her, “to that damn medicine they put me on. Not unheard of, but I guess it’s been known to kill people who aren’t as lucky as I was.”

            “Or stupid,” she suggests, trying to hold a straight face.

            I feel myself lean in closer to her, smelling the rosewater scent of her perfume. Those enormous blue eyes of hers turn to meet mine. I say, “You know, a friend of mine—Dylan, from school?—he told me about you. Just yesterday. It’s the weirdest thing.”

            “Oh, yeah.” She nods, smiling, and then wrinkles her nose. “He’s always bugging me on ZeeChat. I think he might have a webcam addiction. Or fetish. Seems nice, though.”

            I say, “He’s a decent guy, sure. Bit of a horndog.” Then laugh, embarrassed to have used that word with any stranger, much less a girl my age who’s gorgeous beyond question.

            “You talked to him yet?”

            “About what?” I ask.

            “Bike accident, dummy,” she says. “How you almost suffocated to death.”

            “Nah. I’ll tell him the story tomorrow. He’ll just get a kick out of it, then forget the whole thing five minutes later.”

            She says, “Maybe we should get online and vidchat with him real quick.”

            Just then my phone buzzes in my shorts pocket, and I get a text that says, Ur mom says u got invited to Breayns for dinner.

            And before I can key a reply, there’s another: Lucky asshole.




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Last modified on Monday, 26 August 2013 20:35
Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a writer whose work has appeared in Futuredaze: An Anthology of YA Science Fiction, Digital Science Fiction, and Foundation, among other places. He lives in the small college town of Monmouth, Illinois, where he earned a B.A. in English, and was recently named a finalist in the international Writers of the Future contest. Visit him online at www.alexkanefiction.com.

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