's 2018 Horror Write-off:


Submitted by Jasper Belknap

I’ve always had cravings. Oranges, vinegar, whole, raw tomatoes, anything sour or tangy. I needed the taste on my tongue, the sweet contradiction in my throat, in my gut - I would empty whole jars of pickles every day after getting home, and bask in the luxury of being able to drink the juice. It would slide down, lighting up my taste buds, passing by gas bubbles on their way up my esophagus. Spurred into being by the liquid’s entry, they gave my mouth an orchestra to accompany my indulgence.

It was the only solace in my strenuous life. Every night I’d wake up in the early hours, feeling something inexplicable and wrong, something small and heavy sitting in my chest and air inflating my brain. I’d imagine pressure was building in my skull, oozing from some overworked boiler pipe until my eyes would pop out, or I’d be crushed like a can of soda but inside out in the vacuum of space that existed inside my body, guts streaming into the air. I daydreamed of a sort of trepanation. Every corner of my school’s outdoor corridors had sharp stone angles of new brick buildings, and I wanted nothing more than to dash my head against them with all my strength and let my brains go spilling out across the sidewalk, sizzling as they released all their heat and life, joyous as my body hit the pavement, a spectacle in front of everyone. Finally free.

But I’d smile and sigh, knowing the fantasy out of my reach, and crawl out of bed to get myself a cup of coffee. The extra went in a thermos for sipping in my shitty classes, coping with my shitty teachers, and keeping myself occupied as I sat alone at lunch. The school food sat well with me, and I didn’t want to waste time talking. Their rotating menu wasn’t fancy, but it sure hit my shit. Hard sausage disks, nacho bars, orange sherbert cups, tubs full of pickle chips, dumpster-level philly cheesesteak sandwiches every thursday. Fucking heaven. The only thing good about that place.

This day is a thursday, and I’m drinking my coffee as I wait for the lunchlady to finish my philly, tapping my foot to an angsty song stuck in my head. I reach across the person next to me and pick a navel orange from a displaced metal buffet tub. I hold it to my nose and breathe in deeply, my brain prickling with sensation and my throat gurgling in excitement.

I grab my sandwich, load my flimsy tray with pickle chips, pay my exorbitant fee, and head on my way.

I sit at a sticky table and lose myself, not even putting down my backpack. Everything goes down my throat in an instant. It’s so good. It’s so fucking good. The almost metallic taste, the prickling at the sides of my tongue, the satisfying chunkiness of it going down almost whole. The gas coming back up allowing me to revisit it. Coming up in chains. One, two, three, four, short staccato notes like they taught me in band. I breathe deep, feeling the air force its way past more bubbles, sending them the rest of the way up culminating in a silent euphoria.

I exhale a hot, heavy breath.

I go home later that day, and the weird feeling is back, like it’s two a.m. after three hours of sleep. It’s been happening more and more in the daytime, but it feels different; a hot pressure burning at my heart, something with long sharp red-hot fingers snaking through each and every one of my veins and arteries. Something squatting in my lungs and breathing fire, tearing at the flesh as it paces restlessly. Oh, how I want so badly to crack open my ribcage, to ply it open with deft fingers like I’m about to suck the yolk out of an egg. To let it all spill, to let the fire and oil mix with the earth and burn outside of my body on top of my disembodied guts as I watch. A morbid kid, lighting an ant on fire just to see what happens. Burning myself from the inside out. Leaking smoke from my ears and melting into a puddle of acid, spreading, spreading, until I destroy everything around me.

I begin to burp in staccato again, that lovely chain, the beautiful melody, as something moves in my throat. A pressure begins to build all throughout me, and I think of brick walls as knives claw their way up my gullet, tearing tissue into shreds, poking needle-like out at the front of the neck like icepicks in a silk sheet. I collapse. And it moves, slithering its bulk up, choking me as my throat bulges outward, making a sickening noise in the mucus and saliva, burning as it coats my esophagus with acid, burning as the acid leaks out around the icepicks onto my zelda shirt. The smell of vomit fills the room as the liquid coats the carpet beneath me, as the claws tear slits in my throat and more begins to spill, as the mass rakes its way up in stages, further and further, the head forcing its way into the opening of my mouth. And then, all at once, it is out. It is out and I am free, leaking and coughing blood and bile and vomit onto the floor - I see bits of philly cheesesteak. And the mass, it is burning into the carpet, it is looking at the vomit, and now it is licking it with an impossibly wide tongue, offcolor and riddled with white sores; the acid is pooling in the sores, and the mass is eating the carpet I’ve ruined, and now it is going for the source, and now it is tearing out my throat, and now it is pulling my stomach out in bits, and with icepicks and disregard it dashes my head against a windowsill. It is not a brick wall, but it is enough, it is wonderfully enough. My skull opens, and the contents spill for it to consume, and it rejoices with quick, shuddering breaths, one, two, three, four. My acid spills across the carpet and splashes on the mass, and it begins to tear the marinated meat from its own flank with teeth so thin they look like bristles, with claws so sharp they are needles. It burns and it consumes and it is roiling, it is growing, it is breathing so loud and so deep, making noises of gluttony and staccato. But I am still. I am floating in a pool of tranquility. I am finally, completely, blissfully, empty.