Family Curse. Short Story.

Still in my sisters, though this is my last day here. I’ll be heading back to Dublin later tonight. Finn is currently sleeping across from me, he’s much cuter when he’s sleepy/tired. The other two dogs are also here, Finn spends most of his time either following them or trying to get them to play. Neither are interested.

Not much has been happening here other than cleaning and organising and moving stuff. I’m feeling pretty tired, I think it’s because I’ve been eating crappily the last few days. It’s difficult to eat healthy when there’s no real cooking trays or anything in the house. We got Indian food one of the nights, which was tasty. It’s the first time I’ve eaten Indian. A few years ago my sister and I ordered from a nearby Indian restaurant and all of the dishes tasted the exact same and the colour of the sauces was only slightly different. It was really disappointing too as we had ordered a few different things so we could try a bit of everything. This time it was really tasty though.

It’s a pretty nice place to live, it’s really relaxing, it’s quite strange. It’s almost like being on holidays.

Just a warning, the time of the post may be slightly different for some people for a few weeks as Irish time went back an hour this last weekend, so I’m not sure how that adjusts to places around the world, I know some go back and some don’t, so this will be the new post time until summer arrives. When it changes again I’ll make an announcement. I would have warned everyone prior to today, but I forgot about it until they went back this weekend.

On with the show!

_________________________________________________________________

Jason stood from the table and made his way through the maze of people. He could feel people staring as he slipped by them, wondering why he looked so pale and sweaty. He made it to the bathroom, it was empty. He went to the sinks and turned on the cold tap, after letting it run for a second he splashed some water on his face. Jason looked at himself in the mirror. He’d make it. He had to. His eyes were slightly bloodshot, but it wouldn’t be too noticeable, his skin was pale, pasty. He looked like he was sick, or about to pass out. He went into one of the stalls and grabbed some tissue to dry his face. He took a deep breath, threw the tissue in the bin, then went outside again.

He sat at the table, the food arrived while he was gone, “You should have started without me.” “Nonsense. You weren’t that long.” They picked up their cutlery and began to eat, Jason picked at his food, sipping his water occasionally. Fredricks talked as he ate, some rambling story about war or mergers or something. Everyone nodded at the appropriate times, occasionally adding a comment or quip. The background music seemed unusually loud, it was distracting, made it difficult to concentrate. He was almost done though, it wouldn’t be much longer.

The remains of their meals were taken away, replaced with coffee. No one wanted dessert, coffee would last another half hour at least, after that he was free. He tried to focus and made more of an effort to join in the conversation. He took repeated sips of the coffee, it was bitter, acidic. He could feel it burning in his stomach. He finished his drink before the others.

When the coffee was gone the bill came, followed with the usual argument of who was paying, everyone put forward a compulsory effort, but Fredricks shouted them all down, and they all traded thanks and promises of “next time.” They all knew Fredricks would be paying next time too. They stood and made their way to the front of the restaurant, outside the air was cold. Jason breathed deeply, they chatted for a few more minutes before they all made their ways to their cars. Jason was walking. It was comfortably dark, the yellow street lights provided enough illumination for him to see, but not so much that he was blinded. He could feel a headache coming on. No big surprise there. He walked slowly, breathing deeply. Occasionally a breeze would pull at him, but never in earnest. He occasionally wiped the sweat from his brow, happy that there was no one around to stare or judge.

He arrived home faster than he had expected, but then he had zoned out while walking. He let himself into his apartment and went into the bathroom, he stripped down and stepped into the shower. The blast of cold water shocked his system, and after a minute of gritting his teeth, he stepped out and began to dry himself. He felt much better now, but it was only a temporary cure. He went to the kitchen and opened up the medicine cupboard and took out the boxes, slowly he opened them and consumed his pills. So many of the damn things with varying side effects. He didn’t have a choice though. He put everything back when he was done, then he went to the bedroom.

He lay in bed, knowing he wouldn’t sleep, but not wanting to do anything else. The TV would be too bright, too loud and he wouldn’t be able to concentrate on anything. If he read he’d end up reading the same five lines over and over again, having no memory of what they were. The night passed slowly, he tossed and turned, going from too hot and drenched in sweat to too cold. When morning came he dragged himself from bed and showered.

He didn’t have work today, he had taken the week off, they thought he was going on holiday. He wished. He would spend the week here, in his apartment, in complete and utter misery. It happened every year, but it was worth it. Sometimes he wondered during and when it was over, while he was cleaning, but he knew it was. He shuddered, then gritted his teeth. Hair fell from his body, leaving it completely bare. Almost instantly, it started to grow back, making him madly itchy. When it passed, he went into the kitchen, he needed food. He took out a chunk of raw meat and ate it over the sink. He couldn’t stomach it cooked, not now. He couldn’t really stomach much of anything during this time. The meat wasn’t as fresh as he would have liked, but it would do. As he ate, his mouth started to bleed and his teeth began to fall out, one by one. He spat them out into the sink until there were none left. He clenched his fists, waiting. His teeth began to grow back, sharp and painful. Blood poured from his mouth. He rinsed it out with icy water. He took a deep breath and shakily he went to a chair. Well, that was unpleasant, but it wasn’t too bad. His stomach clenched, he made it to the sink before he threw up, again and again until there was nothing left.

He lay huddled on the floor, unable to move, not that he wanted to. Sharp pains shot up and down his arms and legs, muscles cramping. His nails were unnaturally long and scraped as his skin as his hands clenched and his feet twitched wildly. When it finally stopped, he found a nail scissors and cut his nails down to proper size. It was night, he went to bed and passed out, knowing he’d have to face it all again tomorrow.

The medication had been discovered when he was a child, a potent collection of drugs that would stop the curse. He much preferred this to the monthly changes. It was tiring and difficult and afterwards he always looked emaciated, but it was for the best. It really was. It was safer this way, he retained self-control, he wouldn’t attack anyone, wouldn’t kill anyone. His parents had gone on the medication for a short while, but they only tried it for a year. They preferred the change. But they didn’t live in the regular world, they never left the town he grew up in. He didn’t want to stay there, he wanted to leave. Others had left before him and they had been able to live semi-normal lives, but the medication changed it. He would be able to have children without passing this down to them, they would be at risk for a thousand different defects and diseases, but the worst of them all would be avoided. He wouldn’t have to hide or live in shame or return to the town once a month. It gave him unparalleled freedom.

He didn’t visit home as often as his parents would have liked, he didn’t like the judging stares he got from the people he grew up with. He didn’t like how they talked about him. It wasn’t fair to him and it wasn’t fair to the people who wanted to get out like he did. He escaped, and he never wanted to return to being what they were. He woke up and stumbled into the kitchen, on his way, his hair started to fall out.

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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