Don Yarber Don Yarber
Recommendations: 42

In punctuation "Nice rash there," The comma goes inside the quote when writing dialogue.

Don Yarber Don Yarber
Recommendations: 42

He didn't have a mirror hand(y)

Deborah Boydston Deborah Boydston
Recommendations: 45

or "where your comming from"

Don Yarber Don Yarber
Recommendations: 42

better yet, "Neither do I," Rupert said.....

Don Yarber Don Yarber
Recommendations: 42

??? Is this a typo? If it is used as a break in the story, it is not needed. Continuity flows OK with the next paragraph.

Harley Bailey Harley Bailey
Recommendations: 29

"(one of those extra-absorbent ones, thank goodness)"... take this out as it just disrupts the flow of the story.

Don Yarber Don Yarber
Recommendations: 42

You could leave this in the story but delete "thank goodness" and do away with the parenthesis marks. It does lend credence to the fact that the rash is very bloody and nasty.

Don Yarber Don Yarber
Recommendations: 42

he swore he "saw" something....

Harley Bailey Harley Bailey
Recommendations: 29

And again I would remove the text in brackets because it's kind of distracting.

Don Yarber Don Yarber
Recommendations: 42

I agree with Harley here.

Don Yarber Don Yarber
Recommendations: 42

??? Is this a typo? If it is used as a break in the story, it is not needed. Continuity flows OK with the next paragraph.

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Jason Dookeran Jason Dookeran
Recommendations: 12

Rash Decisions

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For Fools

There was no post date on the letter, no stamp of any sort. It was in a plain, white envelope; no identifying marks of any kind. He wasn't expecting any mail, and it was not the day he usually got bills. This didn't seem like a bill though. He scratched his head.
Outside the sun had sunk low in the sky, hanging as if from some gossamer thread at the end of the day, just short of disappearing behind the horizon. He sighed and tossed the letter into the discard pile. He usually didn't open letters that didn't have a sender's name on it. It was probably junk anyway. Later that morning as he dashed out for work, he grabbed the blank envelope and tossed it unceremoniously into the pile of letters on the coffee table.
“Nice rash there”, the girl from office supplies called to him. 1 comment

He ran his hands under his eye and felt a slight bump there. He didn't have a mirror hand so there's nothing he could do about looking at it. They even replaced the old CRT monitors they had in the workplace so he had nothing to use as a makeshift even. He had a spoon, but he figured the distortion wouldn't help him much. Still, he held it up and in the curved reflection he could make out a bright red line along the ridge of his cheekbone. How did that get there? He walked over to Rupert in Accounting to discuss it. 1 comment

“It’s a rash”, he said, stating the obvious.

“I can see that, but shouldn't you be discussing this with a doctor?” Rupert countered.

“I guess”, he said. “I don't like doctors much.”

“I know where you've coming from”, Rupert said, nodding his head. “But what if its cancer?” 3 comments

“You ever heard of bliss in ignorance?” he asked.

“This is one of those times where it might not be such a good idea.” Rupert scratched his head. “At the very least, get a rash lotion or something.”

He made a mental note to pick some up after work as the discussion moved to more mundane things and he promptly forgot about the rash on his face.

* 1 comment

Days passed and the rash faded into the fabric of his face until one morning he woke up to a terrible itching happening just under his eye. Immediately his mind ran on the rash he dismissed. It's back, he thought as he scratched at the spot, his nails clawing deeper and deeper into his flesh, drawing blood now. Yet the itch still happened. He felt the warm blood course down his cheek as he scratched at the spot more, now getting up and running to the bathroom mirror.

He stared at his face, a small gash running under his eye where the rash was, an almost perfectly outlined oval hole in his face. Now that he could see it he stopped scratching the spot, dropping his hands as he peered into the bloody orifice that had developed in his face. He took a paper towel (one of those extra-absorbent ones, thank goodness) and dried up the blood, which had already caked on the edges of the gash, making it look like some horrid bloody eye. 2 comments

As he cleaned, he swore he something move inside the hole, but as he moved more and more of the caked blood away from the hole, cleaning it up, he thought it was just his mind playing tricks on him. 1 comment

He called in sick (because what else could it be, he had to be sick, right?) and decided he ought to actually see a doctor this time. All the way to the office he kept his hand over the cut in his face, rubbing the edges and wincing at the pain. At least he still had feeling in the area, so it wasn't anything leading to paralysis. The waiting was torture and patients around the waiting room kept their distance from him. He scoffed silently to himself as he picked up a magazine. 2 comments

His number came up and he put down the magazine, his hand going to his face again, touching the swollen edges of the wound. His eyes widened; it felt like the wound had gotten bigger, but his logical mind told him it just couldn't be. He walked into the examining room, his legs now feeling as though they were made of some jello-like substance.

* 1 comment

“Doesn't look life threatening”, the doctor said. “Rubbed anything on the spot to cause it to itch like that?”

“Nope”, he said. “I haven't put anything on it at all.”

The doctor shrugged and closed his notebook. “I can't find anything that could have caused it. From my examination it looks as though you unzipped your cheekbone by mistake. Probably while tossing and turning in the night.”

“But what about the rash?” he asked pointedly.

“As far as I can tell, and from the test results, it doesn't seem as though you ever had a rash”, the doctor said.

“There was definitely a rash”, he said, rubbing the clotted tissue again.

“Not as far as I can see, aside from some middling cholesterol, you seem to be in the pink of health.” The doctor made a show of checking his watch. “Now if you will excuse me...”

Tossed unceremoniously out of the doctor's office, he found himself considering what could possibly be the cause of the rash.

“Señor”, a grizzled old man shuffled towards him.

“I don't have any money”, he said at once, the conditioned response.

“I was not looking for money señor” he said. “I was trying to give you advice.”

He turned up his nose at the old man. “What advice could you have for me?”

“All I can tell you señor is 'The Chain will keep you together'” the old man cryptically replied. “Find the señorita you have wronged or else.”

“Or else what?” he asked. “Are you threatening me?”

“Not I hombre, but something is”, the man said as he shuffled off.

The cryptic words of the old man echoed in his ears all the way home, as he turned into his driveway. On the way to his door he started feeling another itch, this time over the cheekbone on the other side of his face, running all the way to his temple. He cursed as he ran into the house, leaving the door open all the way to the mirror.
This time, the bright red line stretched across his face, leaving spidery trails all under his other eye, along his cheeks, spidering to his mouth and down to his neck. He could feel the redness and itching spreading, like some slow-moving ice-sheet. He started to panic, the itching washing over him in waves, he was tempted to scratch but he knew that if he did start, he wouldn't be able to stop.

“The Chain will keep us Together”, echoed in his head, the voice of the old man penetrating his thoughts. But what chain? He never wore jewelry. He didn't even own a chain. He remembered what the man said about the woman who he wronged. Woman? he hadn't had a date since high school.

In the midst of his itching, a moment of clarity dawned on him. For the high school graduation dance he found himself taking a girl. Her name was Abigail and she was pretty. Maybe not as pretty as the other women around, but pretty enough. He had his sights set on another girl, one he thought was prettier, but Abigail had agreed to go with him. He had taken her, but hadn't paid her much attention. He didn't remember the details of the night as it wore on; the only thing he remembered clearly was waking up with a hangover in his room the next day, still semi-dressed. He had never even thought about it till now.

The itch turned into a deep burning sensation as it worked its way deeper into his skin. Whatever he did to her that night he had to find out and quickly. He dashed to his dresser, the burning coming in waves now, making him feel sick to the core. He felt the spidery tentacles of the itch reach its way down his thighs and his upper leg started burning. He reached out to scratch his arm but he knew if he did he would be lost. No he couldn't scratch or else he would never want to stop until all his insides were outsides.

He flipped through the old notebook with all his buddies from high school, their names and addresses written in small, neat handwriting. His mother had made him this book before he left the hometown in case he ever had to contact any of the guys he used to hang out with. Silently, he thanked his mother as he leafed through the book. Who would have known what happened that night? Who would have possibly been there to see what he did? He didn't hang out with anyone in particular; he was somewhat of an outcast. He thought back and figured that if anyone could tell him it would be Julien Minchin, the school newspaper editor.

"Hey man, long time no hear", Julien started out in his slow, hippie-like tone.

"I don't have time", he said. "You remember what happened in prom with me and Abigail?"
"Whoa, hey man, of course I remember, it was the talk of the school for an entire week", Julien said.

"What was it?" he asked anxiously, the itch starting to prickle his skin again.

"You made out with Amanda Mueller and she left in a huff", Julien said and he could hear the former editor's smirk through the phone. "She was pretty pissed."

"You have any idea where Abigail is now?" he asked.

"You didn't hear? She got killed in an accident last year", Julien said. "Damn drunk drivers."

He felt a cold shiver sweep up his back. How was he supposed to make it up to a dead woman? "Julien, does the phrase 'The Chain will keep us together' mean anything to you?"

"Funny you should mention that", Julien said. "It’s on Abigail's tombstone."

As soon as he hung up on Julien, he started flipping through the book looking for Amanda Mueller's number. She was the girl he had wanted to go to the graduation dance with, so it was no surprise that he had made out with her. He didn't expect Abigail to mind that much, but it seemed as though she did, and took the grudge all the way to beyond the grave. Finally, he laid his finger on the number as the spidery tingling of the itch reached his other thigh. He cursed as he dialed the number, hoping that she would be able to help him.
"Hello?" said someone on the other end of the phone line after it had rung three times.
"Hi, I'm looking for Amanda Mueller please", he said, trying to keep the panic out of his voice. The way it was spreading it was only a matter of time before he would give into his instinct and start scratching. Already it had started winding down his legs.

"I'm sorry, Amanda's not here", said the voice. It sounded older; he suspected it may be her mother.

"Any idea where she is?" he asked.

"You're the man she spoke about before she left." Not a question, but a statement.
"Left?" he pressed.

"Yes, she left some time ago, there was something wrong with her skin and she said she needed to see someone about it." The old woman paused. "She left you a message because she said you would probably call. She said about two weeks after she left, which is now."
"What did she say?" he almost shouted into the phone, but controlled himself, the itch spreading down past his knees now.

"She said to tell you to burn the letter. It doesn't make any sense, but that's what she said to tell you. Now I have to go, I hope this helps." The line went dead.

The letter! The blank letter! She must have figured something out. He dashed from the phone to the coffee table, almost tripping over the carpet edge on his way there, and quickly sorted through his discard pile. There it was, the blank envelope, except on the front of the envelope was written, in a thin spidery handwriting:
"I can still hear you saying you must never break the chain."

He ran to the kitchen and got a box of matches, striking one on his way back to the envelope and watching the match break, He cursed and struck another one. The fingers of the itch had spread down to his feet and they were getting closer and closer to his toes. All along the spidery tracks he could feel something moving. Many small things, crawling inside his skin, waiting for the right moment to burst out and consume him. He struck the match again and it flared. He touched it to the edge of the envelope and at once every single part of his body began crying out in pain. He felt the screams envelope and consume him, closing his eyes for even the light coming through them hurt him. He curled up in a ball, screaming and moaning for what seemed like forever. Then, suddenly, it stopped. He opened his eyes just a bit. He was still here, still alive. He touched his face and the scar was gone. Sitting up he looked at the smoldering remains of the envelope. In the back of his mind, a small voice, that of a sixteen year old girl maybe, sang an excerpt from an old Fleetwood Mac song.

And if you don't love me now
You will never love me again
I can still hear you say
You must never break the chain.

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