Moe’s Mouth

Things don’t happen to me. I wake up, I go to work, I come home, I go to sleep. That’s it. Life is normal and uneventful and I’m happy with it staying that way. Until I found the mouth.

It started with an itch. A tickling on the edge of my elbow and then there was the tooth. White and edged sticking out the side of my arm. I tried not to worry about it too much at first, it would go away if I ignored it, as most things do. That’s what I thought anyway. And then, 

another tooth

the curve of lips 

a tongue. 

I wore long sleeve shirts outside, if I left the house at all. Spit leaked down my arm through my clothes and stained my sheets. I kept pretending it wasn’t there. Friends would ask and I would lie and then they would ask again and then I wouldn’t see them anymore. I stuck to the shadows in my home, keeping my back against the wall and avoiding mirrors. 

I didn’t want to know about it. It would go away I was sure of it. I don’t have health insurance and the doctor scares me. It was my only hope that it would just go away. 

And then last night it spoke to me.

When it woke me up I thought it was just the wind. My window was closed but there was this whispering floating around the room. And then the whispers became words.

I tried not to listen. I covered it with blankets and pillows but the mouth just got louder. It rang around the room and bounced back into my body. Soon the voice sounded like it was coming from inside my head and then there was no ignoring it.

It spoke to me about things I had forgotten about.

Words soft played memories back for me, projecting them against the back of my eyes and making me remember. Things.

Like in school when Tim tried to lift up my skirt in the playground so I put a stick in his eye. I got a week’s detention and he had to go to hospital. He didn’t talk to me after that and had a patch over his eye for the rest of the year.

Or the last time I saw my mother cry. I had just got home from the late shift at Pizza Hut and found that one of our dogs had killed a possum and left it on the back porch. It smelt sweet, like the bottom of a vegetable crisper. I didn’t know what to do so I woke mum up and watched her stumble outside in her pyjamas and try to scrape the possum up with a shovel. It was so soft and heavy that it kept falling off the shovel as she walked it to the bin, forcing her to scrape it up off the ground over and over again. When she finally dumped it in the green bin she went straight to bed without saying a word. The stains on the pavement are still there.

And in winter when it is cold enough that you could see your own breath I used to stand outside in a t-shirt and wait until my fingers went numb. Then I’d run inside and jump into the shower, turning the water up as hot as it would go so the shock of the heat would make my skin feel like I was melting. Not in a bad or painful way, just melting like an ice block against fingers, or cream on a cake. I’d then run back in and out of the house until mum would scream at me about the drought and water restrictions and pneumonia. I used to love that.

Everything the mouth said was so far away but right next to me. I couldn’t believe how much I had forgotten. Like dreams my own life played out in front of me until the sun rose against my bedroom wall and the mouth’s words faded away.

Anyway I spoke to my GP this morning. We’re getting it removed next Tuesday. I told you things just aren’t meant to happen to me and I’m happy with it staying that way.

Peter/Susan

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Adelaide, Australia. 2018.

Into the mirror of his mother’s downstairs bathroom Peter stared. Susan stared right back. Peter on one side of aluminium, glass and paint, and Susan reflected perfectly back on the other. They stared,
at the pimple pulsing in the centre of Peter’s forehead.

Peter raised two hands, shaking as he placed a finger on either side of the thudding skin spot. Susan watched, her arms pressed tight on either side of her body. Her hands are fists and her fingers are cramping.

Peter shuts his eyes,
and squeezes.

Pressure builds from the base of the spot, forcing pus and blood to the surface of the skin. For a moment the thin tissue holding Peter’s face together remains strong. Peter’s grip tightens and his skin relents.
Blood, pus, and oil tears through his forehead, bursting outwards into the air. In one solid line the grotesque rainbow arcs from Peter’s face and towards the mirror. When hitting surface, instead of splattering as physics would allow, the mess continues through the mirror. Through wall, through reality, until coming to rest.

On Susan’s top lip.

Susan’s lips part and she breathes out. Her lungs flutter and she shuts her eyes. Her tongue snakes from her mouth, pushing upwards and meeting the blood, pus and oil. She runs her tongue up from one side of her mouth, to the other, then back again. Her tongue returns to her mouth and her eyes open.

The ragged hole left in Peter’s head is expanding. Red raw edges and black centre are growing. Soon the wound goes from being just the centre of Peter’s forehead to his entire forehead. The wound becomes eyes, becomes cheeks, becomes mouth. Soon Peter’s face is all but gone, replaced with a hole, still dripping from the edge with yellow and red and in the centre black. Impossibly deep.

Red lines spin from the outside of Peter’s head inwards to the black, becoming a spinning sinking spiral that disappears into nothing. Susan’s eyes roll back in her head and her feet leave the ground. Behind the mirror Susan begins to float forward.
Susan’s body moves through the air as if weightless and when she too meets glass she does not stop. Instead she continues on as if there was nothing there at all. With no resistance or signs of fear Susan flies head first into the hole that was once Peter’s head.

Susan is consumed.

After she disappears into darkness the hole seals itself shut. Peter’s face does not return, replaced now with a solid blank wall of flesh. The mirror reflects nothing and for a moment

there is silence.

Peter’s body twists. An arm jerks and there is a snap as ribs break. Peter’s shoulders convulse, his spin arcs backwards and the sound of fists against meat thumps from inside his stomach. Peter’s body falls.

A hand grips basin
and pulls itself up.

Into the mirror of Peter’s mother’s downstairs bathroom Susan stared. Peter stared right back.

(who)le

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Adelaide, Australia. 2018.

There’s a hole in my head and everyone is looking at it. Looking through it from one side of my mind to the other.
The hole is growing. Stretching. Across my forehead meeting tear duct
nostril
then mouth.

Everyone is looking at me.

The hole in my head spreads down my body to the floor. I consume the room.
I consume my friends
the music we listen to
the roof above our eyes
the night sky

falls in.

No one is looking at me anymore.

Anything You Want, You Can Have.

I check the cable ties again and frown. He’s sweating and keeps moving about so much I’m worried he’ll get loose. I’ve always trusted rope more than these stupid bits of plastic but the company won’t fork out for anything these days. ‘Superfluous and unreliable’. Idiots. I use a second tie around both his wrists and ankles. How’s that for superfluous.
He woke up about twenty minutes ago and he hasn’t stopped screaming. I can tell because spit and blood keeps dripping out from underneath the duct tape across his mouth. I’m listening to an old ‘Pavement’ record and can’t hear anything he’s trying to say.
I double check the chair he’s strapped to, kneeling down and running my fingers over the bolts connecting it to the floor. No bends or movement. Good. He’s thrashing pretty badly but the second lot of cable ties are doing the trick despite my misgivings. His head is flopping around something chronic so I loop a final length of plastic around his neck and pull it tight against the back of the chair. His chest is heaving but he’s not moving any more.
I pull a checklist up on my phone and make sure I haven’t missed anything. In my head I tick things off. Towels in the corner are fresh. Three separate drains are clear. I walk around the small five by five metre space we are in and run my fingers along the padded foam walls. No cracks. No gaps. Perfect.
I take a pack of cigarettes from my pocket and place one unlit in my mouth. I stand in front of the chair and for a moment, take him in. His eyes are wild and red-stained and snot is hanging out both nostrils. He hasn’t stopped crying since he woke up. Pathetic. I’ve left him in only his underwear and he’s shiny with sweat.
I think about letting him have a cigarette and think of the irony of giving him a final gift. Instead I step forward and punch him across the jaw. What a piece of shit.
I open the roller door and step outside. It shuts again behind me.
I light the cigarette in my mouth and take a long drag before closing my eyes, letting my body lean against the wall of the storage container. It’s cool out here. It’s hitting the low twenties now that the sun is down and the wind against my face is a dream.
The screaming behind me is dull which means the soundproofing is working. I make another tick.
It’s a beautiful night.
Headlights enter the storage yard and I watch them cut in and out of gaps in containers before turning down the lane where I’m standing. I wave them in and put out my cigarette as the van pulls up in front of me. I can see pink cursive lettering written across the side but can’t make out what it says in the dark.
I replace the cigarette with gum as a woman in a red jumpsuit steps out of the driver’s side. We nod to each other and I open the side of the van. Already out of her seat, Clara steps towards me. She puts a hand on each of my shoulders and I grab her waist, helping her down onto the bitumen.
Tall for her age, but thinner than she should be, Clara takes a moment to breathe in before looking to me. Her head has been shaved since I last saw her and there’s a clear tube running from her nose and across her cheeks, underlining her eyes. Sunken into her skull they are two pits of fire, a contradiction to the fragile frame around them.
I smile at her when I see she’s wearing the yellow dress that she got for her thirteenth birthday. Clara doesn’t smile back.
“You’ve been smoking.” Her voice is faint and she’s breathing rapidly.
“Sorry.”
“Is he here?”
My heart thumps uncharacteristically and I nod before stepping aside. Clara walks towards the storage container and stops. Her thin fingers are fists and they’re shaking.
Gently I take one of her fists in my hand. It melts and loosens in my grip. I pull out a hammer from my back pocket and place it in her now open hand. There’s hesitation before the fist closes shut again.
I hold my hand under hers for a moment.
“Are you ready?”
I can see trepidation run across her face, closely followed by steely determination. She adjusts her grip around the hammer and nods. I nod back and let her go.
I hit a button besides the door and watch light grow up from the bottom of the roller door. It travels up Clara’s legs, chest and finally her face. There’s a moment of quiet. A muffled recognition. And then screaming that fades as I drop the shutter back down with Clara on the other side.
I sit on the ground, back against the corrugated steel of the container and the woman in red sits down beside me. I light another cigarette and pass it to her. The orange glow as she inhales lights the embroidered pink logo on her breast.
‘The Make-A-Wish Foundation: Dreams come true.’