A man seeks the high that will help him escape the pain, chasing the bug no matter what the cost, in this Morbidly Beautiful exclusive short horror story.
An original “Blood on the Digital Page” story by Kourtnea Hogan
Luke picked a scab off his face and wiped the blood and pus off as it crept out of the center of the wound. He flipped the visor up and slammed his back into the shredded leather seat and gripped the steering wheel.
Shouldn’t they be done by now? It doesn’t take that long. It’s a carrier house, not a fucking brothel.
Finally, the door opened and a dark figure hustled back to the car beside him and peeled out, sending bits of gravel flying. A few pieces pinged off his car. Oh, well. It was a piece of shit anyway.
His eyes remained fixed eagerly on the house. Waiting for the signal.
But he was jittery, and after what seemed like hours, but was only minutes, he began to pick at his skin again. There was always an underlying itch, like little legs grazing against the flesh.
She flipped the blinds up and down, rays of dim light peeking through, illuminating the high grass.
He wiped his bloody hands on his pants and trudged up the stone path to the porch. Sweat rolled down his face and stung his open wounds.
He lifted a fist to knock, but pushed the door open himself instead.
The Gift-Giver stood in the middle of the room. Her eyes were a little sunken in, held up by deep purple lines beneath her eyes. Her long blonde hair was pulled back into a tight high ponytail and it swept across her shoulders with every little movement of her head.
It made his skin itch.
She smiled at him, and in the jumping candlelight he could see that she had dimples. A pretty girl. An asymptomatic carrier. A damaged girl in a white tank top and pink lace panties. He didn’t know why she bothered to put clothes back on. He was ready to get the fix and go.
He pulled the wad of cash from his pocket and dropped it to the coffee table that separated them.
She looked from him to the mound of wet bills, the picked them up daintily, one by one, with her fingertips.
It’s all there, he thought. All five hundred.
She looked him up and down again. Then stepped to the side and gestured to the couch. “Have a seat.”
The orange velvet couch sunk beneath his weight and he wondered if his butt was touching the floor. It felt like it. He put his hands out, facedown, like he’d been taught at the strip clubs. No touching. He assumed the rules were the same.
His finger grazed something crusty. A cigarette burn. One of many. He couldn’t imagine what this thing must look like in the light.
“I assume you know what you’re asking for.” She was tucked in the shadows, a calculated distance away from him.
“Can you tell me?” She crossed her arms and looked him up and down. God only knew how many times she’d asked that question.
“Why, to receive the gift. Aren’t you the gift giver?”
She dug her fingernails into her arm and clenched her jaw at the phrase. Even he could see her body tense in the dim lit room.
She slipped her panties off, folded them, and left them on the corner of the coffee table. She began to lift up her shirt, revealing creamy white skin, but he held up his hands. She took a few steps back at the movement.
“You don’t have to do that.” He placed his hands palm down on the couch again.
Her posture relaxed and she took in a deep breath before straddling him. He understood the situation. This was business, pure and simple. He was looking for the high, not to cum in some girl.
Her breath tickled his ear as she rode him, and he moved his head to the side to avoid further contact. He was concentrating on not feeling this. He didn’t want it. It just happened to be the only way he could get the bug.
He watched the minute hand creep up the clock. He’d read somewhere that the bug was transferred almost instantly. Once was enough. So five minutes should be enough.
He patted her thigh and began to slide her off.
Her nose scrunched. She was caught somewhere between being offended and confused. But she slid off of him, resting on the couch beside him.
He reached out to shake her hand, and she flinched again, looking from him to the door. He buttoned his pants and saw himself out.
She was behind him in a flash, locking all three locks on the door. She crept to the front window and watched him through a break in the blinds until his taillights disappeared down the dark country road.
His headlights were busted. The road was barely illuminated by his fog lights. But he was comfortable in the country, and in the dark, and he sped through the winding roads anyway. He could have used the money to fix his car, he supposed, but it wouldn’t matter soon.
Besides, he knew that he would have just blown the money on heroin if not this. That had gotten old quicker than he had expected. The first high was as good as they’d said. It made him weightless. But, just like with everything else, he needed more and more to get high each time. His veins still ached for a needle, but he knew this would quash that.
Maybe he could mix it? Chase the dragon while he chased the bug.
No. He wanted the full effect.
He shoved the front door open and waded through empty pizza boxes, dirty dishes, and old newspapers to his room. He tossed his paraphernalia into the drawer of his nightstand and tossed the dirty clothes onto the floor, before stripping down and sliding beneath the covers.
Sweat soaked his sheets, but he shivered and yanked the covers up to his chin. If he moved he would be sick. He could feel his pulse hammer against his skull. He pressed his palms into his eyes until it hurt enough to relieve the pressure in his head. He put all his concentration into regulating his breathing.
In and out. In and out.
And then it hit. His muscles relaxed, arms slumping over to the side of his head. It was a struggle to move them down, like he was fighting gravity, no, like he was on one of the carnival rides. But every movement felt delicious.
All connection to reality was fading. He was no longer bothered by his lifestyle, no longer haunted by thoughts of what his life could have been, of how he’d hurt his family to get here.
He sank deeper into the bed, every slight turn sending a shiver of pleasure throughout his body. His toes curled and his body tensed. He came before falling into a deep sleep.
The smell woke him up. It was worse than how the trailer usually smelled, he had gotten used to that smell a long time ago. He gagged and tossed his head to the side just in case he actually vomited.
But he barely moved and pain radiated deep into his bones at the tug. He blinked in the dark, hoping that some light would infiltrate the room somewhere and he could see.
He reached up for the light but his arm pulled against him. He whimpered and began to slowly wiggle his other arm back and forth. Small bites of pain nipped his skin, but it wasn’t nearly as painful as when he’d tried to move his head.
The sheets lifted with every movement. He almost cried when he completely freed his forearm. But the victory was short lived when he realized he would have to also pull the top portion free.
He bit his bottom lip as he concentrated. His body tingled, like it had before he’d dozed off. He used this moment to dig his hand into the bed and push up as hard as he could, freeing his upper arm and shoulder in one good shove.
The pain hadn’t reached yet, so he flung his other arm and pulled until it popped free with a sickening sound. He used the momentum to reach out and turn on the bedside lamp.
He tried to scream but the skin on his face and neck pulled against him, so it came out as a strangled moan.
His skin was rotten. Black, green, and purple, with white liquid oozing out of the places where his skin had cracked. Tears rolled down his face. He pulled his head forward and the pillow came with him, though he didn’t get far before the pain in his back stopped him.
He breathed through his mouth to avoid the smell as much as he could as he ripped his head from the pillow. Chunks of hair and scalp stayed with it as it fell and warm liquid leaked down his neck.
He let the liquid spread down and lubricate his shoulders and back a bit.
There was no way for him to know how long it took to free his body. Only that by the time he was ripping his last foot from the sheets rays of sunlight were peeking through the blinds.
He groaned and gritted his teeth with every movement. It wasn’t supposed to be this bad. He’d heard the high was worth the pain, but it wasn’t.
High. That’s what he needed. If he could get a good buzz he could make it out. Make it to the hospital. He reached for the heroin and syringe in the drawer. A loose needle stuck in one his fingertips. It sank into his flesh and when he tried to pull it out it snapped, leaving the tip buried just beneath the skin like a splinter.
Fuck it. He didn’t have time to worry about it.
The needle in the syringe was dirty, used a few nights before by him and his dealer. But he didn’t care. Nothing was dirtier than he was now.
He didn’t have enough strength to tie a tourniquet. He took a few deep breaths and gagged on the smell that emanated from him. He shoved the needle into the ditch of his arm and administered the drug.
He felt it slosh through his veins and relaxed a little. Soon the pain would be more bearable.
The needle snapped in his arm as he pulled back the syringe, stuck in the soft tissue. But the heroin seemed to awaken the high of the bug again and he pulled it free without much pain.
Black liquid sprayed the wall. A chunk of flesh had come off with the needle.
But he didn’t feel it anymore. Didn’t feel the pain. Or the rush of blood that was running down his arm and back.
Just a weightlessness.
Even when his jaw dislodged and hung onto his chest and chunks of his rotten skin slapped against the floor.
Just a weightlessness.