A little treat for Halloween
Please don’t eat before you read
Ed felt awful. It was going to be another bad day. He just knew it. He burped, and felt bile rise in his throat. He groaned.
Ed Warsop was not having a good life. He’d been feeling bad for a few days now, feeling genuinely ill as opposed to just sick of work. When he thought about it now, he’d been feeling this way for a long time. He couldn’t remember how long at first, but when he thought about it properly, about the timeline of episodes and events, it was more like months than weeks. Maybe as far back as the day Cassie left, when they got back from their last ever holiday together.
Haiti was supposed to be the new beginning, the one where they got back to what they were when they first met. It was a beautiful place, full of Caribbean sunshine and nice people, lots of good food and plenty to drink. They were going to be good to each other, kind and thoughtful and caring, and when they got back, things would be different. They would be okay again, happy, looking forward to making a proper life together. That was the plan.
If only he hadn’t met Pierre in the hotel bar. If only he had said no to that drink, that one cocktail. I mean, who doesn’t have a Zombie in Haiti? That’s what Ed had said to Cassie, when he tried to explain to her. The next day, when she came to collect him from the hospital, that was what he’d said. Who doesn’t have a Zombie in Haiti?
It hadn’t helped. Not at all.
I remember having one cocktail, he told her. Maybe two. While I was waiting, when you were having your hair done. A couple of cocktails, tops. But the doctor said he’d been told I’d gone into town with Pierre. He said I’d got drunk and ended up in a bar that turned out to be some kind of bad spot. Said I’d insulted someone called Madame Dents, a local Vodouisant woman, and that there was a scene and bish-bash, here I was. But that’s not right. It can’t be. I’m not like that, am I? I wouldn’t insult a woman. Someone must have spiked my drink or something. Pierre, maybe. He’d disappeared by then. He must have had something to do with it. Don’t you think? Cassie?
Cassie had just looked at him. She never said a word until they got home. And all she’d said then was, “Goodbye.” Her hair looked good, though.
He rolled over and pulled the duvet up and tried to hide in the bed. There was a damp patch on the bedsheet. He’d been leaking sweat during the night again. The patch was cold and clammy and he’d rolled right on top of it. The wet sheets clung to his bare skin. It felt disgusting. He threw the duvet down the bed and sat up.
A headache of the monstrous kind gripped his skull. Sitting up brought on a swirl of nausea. He had to pause and wait for the dizzy sickening feeling to subside. Ed breathed, in and out, slowly and deliberately, trying to get his body back under control. He needed the bathroom. Soon he need the bathroom more than he needed to stop feeling dizzy. He got up off the bed and padded towards the door. As he passed the wardrobe, he looked at himself in the mirrored doors. He regretted looking, and stopped to wallow in the regret.
How did I get so thin? he thought. A man with skinny legs and a small pot belly stood there, looking back at him. Ribs showed through plain white skin. The man slouched. He had a few days growth of beard and tired eyes. Ed didn’t recognise this man.
He looked closer, and then he swore, loud and ugly.
There was a big, fat, yellow spot on his cheek.
“Oh, the day gets better,” he muttered. “I’m going to have to face that nasty little woman with a zit the size of a football on my face.”
He had to do something about it. Ed moved closer to the mirror. He touched the surface of the spot. It felt tender but not painful. He pressed it. Again, not too painful. When he turned his head from side to side, he could see just how big it really was. The thing looked like a juicy sweetcorn segment.
He squeezed it. Some thick, icky yellow stuff popped out. It shot out of his skin and landed on the mirror. The pus just sat there, yellow and shiny and sickening. He stared at it. A gurgle from his stomach warned him that he might vomit. Looking away from the splat, he caught sight of his face in the mirror.
“Unbelieveable” he said.
The spot was now a hole. There was a big, round hole in his face. This was the face she would see, Martha. When they sat down for his appraisal today, this was what she would be looking at. Martha, his line manager, who hated his guts and knew that he hated her right back. Martha, who couldn’t tell a strategy from a Tic-Tac, whose idea of good management was to make sure she drew the first blood, who had a desperate need to prove she had bigger cojones than any man in the company. That Martha. Ed had a feeling she was going to enjoy his discomfort.
He prodded the hole. It was almost neat. A good, clean cut, like the aftermath of a biopsy. And there was hardly any blood. Ed prodded again. The skin was soft. He pressed his little finger at the edge of the wound. It gave. The finger sank in to his face. Ed pulled it out. It made a slick, wet, sucking sound. He began to tremble. But he couldn’t stop himself. He looked again.
He could see into the hole. Sick fascination had gripped Ed now. He moved close to the mirror again. He probed the hole a little more, widening it as he worked his finger into it. When he withdrew this time, the edges stayed apart. The hole was as big as a coin. He could see inside himself. His stomach made a roaring sound, and Ed knew that there was no way to stop it now. And as he looked, he saw something in there. He saw something move. Saw it wriggle.
The last thing Ed ever saw in this life was a pair of eyes and some sharp, shiny, teeth.