UNDER MY SKIN • by Melody Beacham

When the first one appeared on his hand that morning, he thought it was some kind of weird rash. The biggest part of the rash bubbled up to the size of a dime and was lodged into that soft fleshy part between his thumb and index finger. It might have been a blister, swollen and pink, except for the radiating redness he could see just under the surface of his skin.

His girlfriend, Lisha, took one look and shrugged it off. “Spider bite, most likely,” she said. “It’ll probably go away on its own.”

He kept examining the rash or spider bite or whatever the hell it was.

“Don’t pick at it,” Lisha called from the shower. She knew him too well. Whenever he noticed any little oddity, his hypochondria got out of control. In his imagination, he was always dying some slow, biologically bizarre death. A mosquito bite always led to a previously undiscovered strain of malaria. A deep papercut would undoubtedly lead to a twisted death of tetanus. In reality, he was rarely sick and ended up feeling like a moron whenever he visited the doctor.

He noticed the second one on the top of his foot in the shower. He noticed the pink lump on his instep before he saw any of the radiating lines wrapping around his ankle and down towards his heel. As he bent down for a closer look, he saw the angry red tendrils were actually moving underneath his skin.

“Lisha! It’s on my foot too!!!” As he jumped out of the shower he showed her, “Do you see? Don’t you see it moving?!?!”

“Um, not really, seriously, it looks like a bug bite of some kind to me. It probably IS infected and maybe that’s what you’re seeing in your veins or whatever. If you’re worried about it, just stop by the doctor’s office. It’ll ease your mind.”

By the end of the work day, he was headed to his doctor’s office. The blistery bite things had crept up in several other spots. Although it didn’t feel uncomfortable — didn’t even itch — it HAD to be something serious.

He checked in hesitantly, describing the weird skin rash, which might be a poisonous spider bite, and might be seriously infected, and might be affecting his heart because now it felt “funny” too, and this was definitely not in his head. Definitely not imaginary.

The nurse assured him that it was probably no big deal. It was likely an allergic reaction of some kind. The doctor wasn’t much more help. “Well, it’s definitely not a spider bite, not a bite of any kind actually. It’s probably just a rash. It just looks worse because you’ve been scratching and picking and worrying about it all day.” He went home, defeated, with a jar of anti-allergy cream.

He was reading about obscure and deadly rashes online when he noticed — for sure this time — the tendrils underneath his skin were squirming. Their red lines moved, swishing back and forth, around the blue lines of his veins and disappeared into the deeper tissues of his wrists. The part of the rash that bubbled up above the surface of his skin was pulsating with his heartbeat. Watching the lump beat unnaturally like that made him nauseated, and he just made it to the bathroom before he lost his dinner. They were all moving — the blisters on his hand, foot, neck, and stomach — the radials stretching farther and deeper into his body. Every once in a while, a long red line would resurface — just barely contained by the translucent film of his skin. He felt the rash was weaving itself together deep inside the soft tissues of his body.

He reached for the phone and called Lisha at work. Busy. Where’s the redial? Just keep redialing. Don’t look at your fingers. Everything will be fine. It’s just a mild rash. It’s all in your head.

He reached for a match and held the flame close to the blister near his thumb… Remember that swollen black tick? Mom burned it right off. Sucker pulled right out of the skin, curled up, and died. No big deal. This thing is moving like crazy! Don’t think about the pain. Heat kills infection — everyone knows that. This thing will curl up and die. I’ll take a nice cool shower.

He reached for a knife… This will be messy. I can do this. I’ll just make a shallow cut. Just to let the infection bleed out just a bit. I can barely curl my hand around. I can’t bend my fingers. I can do this. I’ll just pull this thing out of me. It’s moving in my chest. What if it’s attached to something in there? I won’t pull. I’ll just cut and bleed it out. They used to bleed folks out all the time. Cured them of everything and anything. Bloodletting. There’s so much of it. This is the logical approach. The whole room smells metallic. I’ll bleed this thing out of me. Like an old-fashioned leech treatment. That’s probably what it is. Some kind of mutant leech. Bioengineered. This thing is feeding on my blood. There’s probably a cure labeled in a tube somewhere. Maybe I should pull part of it out. I can feel it moving just inside the cut. I can do this.

Lisha came home around midnight. The thick coppery smell hit her before she turned on the lamp. He lay on his back with his shredded wrists flung out to each side hopelessly.

She went through the motions in a slow daze — making all the phone calls she had to make. Every time she said the word “suicide” out loud the scene became more and more real. People came. People went. She retreated to what had been their room. As she removed her shoes, she noticed one had rubbed a blister on the sole of her foot. A blister about the size of a dime.


Melody Beacham is an office worker in Memphis, TN, where she is best known for consuming large quantities of coffee.


Rate this story:
 average 2.3 stars • 3 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Yikes!

  • Bob

    I was with you right up to the end, which was . . . disappointing. It was a terrific, if wordy, buildup, and I was excited to find out what the thing was, what it would do to him, or . . . something. I felt cheated at the conclusion, because I never really got to find out what the thing was – rash? Parasite? Alien invader? Psychotic hallucination? You had built up the tension so well in the beginning that it felt like you rushed to take the easy way out from a plot perspective.

  • R.A.S.

    Creepy. Loved the ending.

  • I loved the story all of the way through . . . or I did until I felt this itchy place on my ankle and discovered that it was already the size of a dime. Now I am itching all over.

  • While it’s true that you never find out what was really happening to them, that seems to just make it creepier because you don’t know. This was great.

  • Yeesh! I’m glad that **I** am not a hypochondriac, that story and the sudden itch on my foot might get me upset ….

  • Yeesh! I’m glad that **I** am not a hypochondriac, that story and the sudden itch on my foot might get me upset ….
    Oops…forgot to say great post! Looking forward to your next one.

  • Margie

    I’ll be scratching all day! 🙂 5 stars!

  • Arthur Newton

    Spooky!!! Keep taking the coffee, Melody.

  • Jen

    This was a really fun story. I loved the tension and the buildup you gave us. I loved that it looked like a suicide bu wasn’t. Poor Lisha!

  • DebE

    Ooooh, how very Twilight Zone. This was great. Really enjoyed it, but now I itch something awful.

  • Excellent story, gives me the shivers. It’s a testament to your vivid writing that so many of the comments acknowledge looking for blisters, itching … I feel a tingling near my left shoulder blade ….

    5 stars for creeping me out in a way that will linger.

  • Jeff M

    Well done — I really enjoyed this.
    Unfortunately, having your protagonist die forces an awkward POV shift in the last paragraph.
    Also, I think I would’ve omitted having the girlfriend discover a blister. To me, it feels a lot more creepy if we’re left unsure whether the “rash” was real or whether it was all in the guy’s head.

  • Mark Dalligan

    Nicely done. Loved the ending.

    Cheers

    Mark

  • Morley Young

    That story made my hair stand up–and now it won’t lie down.

  • Sharon

    POV switch is necessary since MC is sorta well, dead. The hypochondriac/know-it-all doctor angle, while not entirely original, adds a nice tone of dismissal. GF finding her own blister adds a tone of delicious despair.

    Rod would be working on the script as we speak.

  • J.C. Towler

    This was good, but I felt something missing right after the paragraph “he reached for a match”. Was there some seque to the knife that was edited for word count perhaps? Feels like there should be something about how the flame didn’t work or hurt too much or…I don’t know. Something.

    The only other pick was I couldn’t imagine a true hypochondriac burning or cutting himself.

    After researching the symptoms, I believe the MC was suffering from ladymacbethitis.

    –John

  • Casey

    Did you watch the movie “The Ruins” recently?? Sounds just like it sans the remote location and killer plants.

  • Christopher Floyd

    DebE said it right. Twilight Zone. A nice quick read.

  • Sheila Pierson

    I liked this. There is a creepiness that stays with the reader long after they have finished reading the story – Don’t we all want to write something memorable?

  • Oscar Windsor-Smith

    I don’t usually like horror stuff, but this has the real creepy draw-you-in feel. Agree, though, with JCT (post 17) that there was something a bit clunky around the flame/knife part, but overall, yes, it works and scares the itches out of you.

    😉 scar

  • sandeesandlz98

    eek!