By Shawn Cropley
May 14, 2019 · 972 words · 4 minutes

From the author: A teenager's embarrassment becomes an unspeakable horror.

A pimple was forming on Kage’s forehead. He could feel it forming under the skin, a somber throbbing that forced a wince when prodded. Standing in front of the bathroom mirror, the reflected face wore a look of dismay.  Kage dreaded the thing, he knew what it would become. Soon it would grow into a bright red bullseye, a target for the mocking of his classmates, a laser to guide the missile of ridicule.

Maybe it won’t be that bad, he thought, it could stay under there. He wasn’t going to hold his breath. His skin had always given him trouble, but this one in particular looked hostile. School wouldn’t be back in session for two more days and hopefully he could go into this week without the unwelcome guest displayed front and center.

Kage let out a sigh and an aggravated “damn.” He’d forgotten he has homework. As much as the idea of it annoyed him, he retrieved the book bag from the end of his bed and gathered from it the textbook and materials necessary for Algebra 2. It wasn’t that the subject was difficult, it wasn’t at all, it was the tediousness of having to do the work and show it. Nonetheless, it had to be done.

After several hours of rushed math, Kage returned the finished work to his book bag. He approached his bedroom window and pulled up the blinds. The sun would set in a few hours and soon the street would be lined with cars as people returned home from work. Not his mother. She left that morning for the airport, a business trip, and wouldn’t be back for several days. Kage had already planned on revolving nights of pizza and Chinese delivery, the only thing he anticipated interrupting his video games. He smiled at the thought.

A sharp pain in his head brought him back to the present; a sudden headache, like a nail driven deep in his skull. He shook his head back and forth as if that might dislodge the pain but it only made it worse, the throb forced his eyes shut. Pilfering the bathroom medicine cabinet he found the bottle of ibuprofen. Pooling cool water from the faucet into his palm, he washed the pills down and groaned. The pain was intense, causing him to squeeze his eyes shut. He opened them slightly and peered into the mirror. What he saw tore his eyes open in spite of it all. The pimple on his forehead had grown larger. Much larger. Still without forming a head, the thing looked like a cyst, like a thumb pressing from inside his skull. Maybe that’s why my head hurts so bad, he thought. The pain continued to worsen and what was once a throbbing was now like a hammer beating from within. Kage fell to his knees, his head in his hands, teeth clenched tight and grinding. He let out a scream.

Pressing his fingers into with all his might, he tried popping the infernal thing but nothing happened. His mind was paralyzed, his thoughts numbed. Parting his eyelids as much as he could he grabbed the edge of the sink and pulled himself up. He tore the cabinet open with such force the mirror cracked against the wall. He rummaged through the shelves, knocking the contents all over the sink and floor until he found the fingernail clippers. His hands shaking, he flipped the handle of the clippers aside and turned forward the blade used to clean under the nails. Trembling, barely able to open his eyes, he brought the small sharp object up to his forehead and pressed into the lump. The pain of it cutting into his flesh didn’t even register against the backdrop of suffering that continued to build beneath the growth. Blood began to run down his face obscuring his vision, sucking into his mouth with every labored breath. The pain stopped. Kage let out a deep sigh of relief and attempted to catch his breath. He wanted to cry out of joy.

Grabbing a nearby towel, he wiped the blood away from his eyes and started on the rest of his face when the reality of what he’d done sunk in. He’d cut a hole in his face, and he had no idea how bad it was. Taking a deep breath, he shut the medicine cabinet door. It was cracked and he worked to put himself at an angle he could see his reflection. When he finally caught a glimpse of himself he wanted to vomit, but the reaction was quickly replaced by confusion. He’d done a number on himself. A wide two-inch gash replaced the massive zit on his forehead, but it was what was in the wound that now stopped his breath. There was nothing. Black, hollow, empty. Kage stared into the hole in his head and it was as if staring into the void.

The panic he felt before returned and he brought a trembling finger up to the gash. Slowly, he inserted the tip of his finger into the darkness and felt nothing. Panicking he pushed to the knuckle, still feeling nothing. Madness set in as he began prodding with his other hand. Hooking two fingers from each hand on either side of the wound, he began pulling. It widened enough for him to drive a hand into the emptiness, only serving to deepen his derangement as nothing was felt. There were no thoughts, only fear. The right side of his face was sagging lower the farther he opened the wound, but he couldn’t stop himself. Soon his face was unrecognizable, and as the gash tore down his face and past his nose, he didn’t try and stop himself, he couldn’t think at all. There was only fear.

Shawn Cropley

Shawn Cropley writes stories.