Ants Don’t Take Sabbaticals

Prompt Day #93: Take the horror cliché, “makes my skin crawl,” literally. Or, alternatively, dramatize something nasty actually “getting under” a character’s skin.

 Ants Don’t Take Sabbaticals

                Taking a sabbatical and renting the cabin by the lake was Dean’s first step towards serious novel writing. He was wasting his life working on bits and pieces when he could find the time. What he needed was to be able to focus on the novel full time and if at the end of the year, he couldn’t sell it, he would give up entirely. But for now, he would rock on the porch, breathing in the fresh clean air

He assumed the itching at night was bed bugs, so he fumigated and washed the sheets and finally on his tenth day there, he started his novel. His small writing desk sat facing out the master bedroom window in an alcove. He was already working on chapter five when he felt something crawling on his leg. He jumped and swatted at the invisible menace. Checking the floor and his palm for evidence of the offending organism, he saw nothing. He inspected his leg where he’d felt the sting and watched as a small dotted red circle appeared on his shin. It was about the size of a paper punch hole. It wasn’t raised or itchy and the center of the circle looked like normal skin. It must have been a weird bug that got away before I hit it he thought and went back to his writing. By the end of the day’s work, he’d felt and swatted at several more unseen agitators. He looked at his legs, each now sporting a number of red circles.

Dean laid in bed on his brand new sheets making a list of things to get a local hardware store the following day. He would need some bug sprays, traps, and various poisons. He’d need to get some calamine lotion or maybe Benadryl for his rash that he suspected would start to itch sometime after he’d fallen asleep only to keep him up the rest of the night. He was wrong about the itching but he found himself waking off and on all night anyways. He could feel insects crawling all over him. He swiped and brushed at himself all night.

It wasn’t until he threw the covers off the next morning that he saw the extent of what had happened to him over night. His legs and the blankets were smeared with blood. His fingers were stained red and dried blood caked under his nails. His polka dot bug bites were now red ulcerations as if they had been subjected to some strange skin hole-punch. Horrified, he showered and headed straight to the local walk-in clinic.

“Impetigo” the well beyond retirement age doctor declared and handed him a prescription for an antibiotic. “Come back next week if it doesn’t get better” he said on his way out the door. Dean filled the script, finished his shopping and spent the day in chemical warfare with any six-legged creature inhabiting the cabin. He skipped dinner in favor of a nap and awoke strangely refreshed at 10pm ready to get back to his writing. The stinging and formication started up again soon after leading to a frantic disrobing and hot shower.

Dean stood naked in front of the mirror looking as if he had been attacked by a school of miniature octopi. He wasn’t going back to the civil war doc. He’d just keep spraying the bug poison everywhere and covering himself in calamine. He was on a roll with the novel and this one was really good. He decided to line the cracks along the walls, doors and windows with bath towels and set to work. He squirmed and wriggled, feeling the bites and the crawling of something and then the trickle of blood. He refused to acknowledge it. He took his shirt off which was now spot welded to him with drying blood. He felt the crawling sensation again and looked down at himself. A small circle of his skin was traveling along his stomach elevated millimeters off the surface of his belly. He watched in awe as it continued its journey down his leg, onto the floor and into a fold of the towel. His skin was crawling away from him piece by piece.

“I need a drink” he announced to the empty room. He poured himself two fingers of whiskey, neat, then thought better of it, filled the glass and carried it and the bottle back to his laptop with him. By the time he reached chapter 20, he’d watched seven more pieces of his skin creep away and into the abyss of microscopic places of the cabin. From afar, Dean was sure he looked like a leper. He wondered if the rest of his body parts would start falling off and crawling away too.

That night the weird creeping sensations continued. Dean turned his bedside lamp on and rather than swish and swat, he studied. The round spots started to kind-of undulate and bubble around the edges and then the circle lifted up and began to run away like all the others. He caught the piece of skin between his fingers and lifted it up to his eye. Squinting, he saw a small white ant; its front legs lifting the skin piece above its head like those leaf-cutter ants he’d seen on National Geographic. Ok, well at least he wasn’t going crazy. He’d call an exterminator first thing in the morning. Meanwhile, he took another Benadryl and wrapped himself up in blankets like a burrito. He was asleep in minutes.

He woke up shivering. The blankets were gone and his legs were devoid of skin. Somehow, during the last few hours, the ants had managed to take every bit of skin off his lower half and cart it off somewhere. He got up gingerly and grabbed a flashlight. Searching the crevices of the walls and stuffed towels he saw one carrying his epidermis like the Stanley cup. He followed it into a tiny crack running up the wall by the closet door. He hit the wall with the back of the flashlight and began to pull pieces of drywall away. The mass of ants scurrying about was unsettling but when he noted that every one of them was wearing a mask made out of his skin, he screamed.

Dean sat up in bed panting and sweaty. He’d been dreaming. The problem was the dream had been so real, he didn’t know when it started. Had he seen an ant carrying his skin away? He threw the blankets off his legs and gasped. While most of his skin was still there, it was full of holes, like lacey pantyhose of skin. And the skin that was still there was roiling and moving. He watched a small head peek out of one of the holes. Its antennae tuning into something Dean could not hear or smell or whatever those things did. He looked at his chest and saw the same thing. Marching to the phone, he called the local exterminator and offered to pay any price to get him over immediately.

A half hour later, Carl Smallman was standing outside the door of the little cabin by the lake. The man who answered the door was obviously unwell. Carl had once seen a show about drug addicts who are constantly picking at their faces. The people they interviewed were covered in sores and continued to pick even as they spoke frankly about their problems. This man, looked just like that. His face and chest (he answered the door in boxers only) were covered with sores in various stages of healing.

“Thanks for coming so soon.” The man said, opening the door “I think it might be ants. I saw one carry off a piece of my skin last night. They have a colony in the wall. I pulled some drywall off and found them. They were wearing my skin like little masks. It was like they had people faces.” He scratched absently at his leg. “What kind of ants are they, would you say? I’ve never heard of anything like that.” Dean said to the man.

Carl wondered if the guy was high right now. He shrugged “That’s a new one on me, Buddy. Can I have a look?” Dean nodded anxiously and gestured up the stairs. Carl wrinkled his nose at the stink of the place. How long had this guy been cooped up in this place? It was hot and muggy too. It was a cool late September day, they guy ought to open some windows, air the place out. He pulled his respirator down over his nose as he ascended the steps. The smell wafting down was vomit-inducing. The man with the pock-marked skin led him into the nidus of the stink. The room was a trash heap of old food, moldy half full glasses of various liquids and dirty clothes. Flies swarmed around the crack in the wall, and maggots toppled out of it onto the floor where they blindly wriggled back towards the hole. Carl walked over to inspect it. There was a mass of what appeared to be spoiled meat protruding from the crevice.

“I stuffed some steak in there. I thought maybe if the ants had that to cut up, they might leave me alone” Dean explained “It didn’t work, as you can see” He stuck a leg out and pulled up a leg of the boxers. His legs were by far the worst. They were almost entirely made up of scabs. This guy’s been picking for a long time. Some of the wounds were crusted over but many were oozing pus. Carl worked the bolus of breakfast burning in his throat back down. Carl nodded as if it was a perfectly natural thing to do to rid yourself of skin cutting ants. The windows and wall edges were lined with rolled up towels and sheets, all of which were covered in rodent droppings, urine and bits of food and nesting.

“I’m gonna need to pull all these towels and sheets out, man, is that ok?” He said

“Yeah, it’s not working anyways. Listen, I’m gonna grab a shower while you’re doing that. Are you ok here by yourself?” Dean asked. Not really Carl thought but nodded instead. He didn’t want to be in this shit hole at all but if he had to, he didn’t need this tweaker following him around.

After Dean left, Carl began his usual room survey. There was a laptop up and running with a document up titled “Chapter 25”. Unable to stop himself, Carl leaned over the desk and read it. The horror of the thing was the last straw. He turned around and ran out. Carl Smallman was the last to see Dean Carson alive. Two weeks later his body was found rotting amidst the rubbish in his room. The corpse was devoid of skin. Its ears and nose nothing but cartilage. Official cause of death was cardiac arrest. The body’s condition was attributed to exposure.

Chapter 25

 

The ants go marching one by one

Hurrah, hurrah

The ants go marching one by one

Hurrah, Hurrah

The ants go marching one by one

The little one stops to eat my thumb

And they all go marching in to my wall with the skin of my balls

Dum dum dum dum dum dum dum

The ants go marching two by two

Hurrah, hurrah

The ants go marching two by two

Hurrah, hurrah,

The ants go marching two by two

Another one starts to bite and chew

And they all go marching down to my feet and off with my meat

Dum dum dum dum dum dum dum

The ants go marching three by three

Hurrah, hurrah

The ants go marching three by three

Hurrah, hurrah

The ants go marching three by three

A big one tore the skin off my knee

And they all start wearing masks of my skin that look like my face

Dum dum dum dum dum dum dum

The aunts go marching four by four

Hurrah, hurrah

The ants go marching four by four

Hurrah, hurrah

The ants go marching four by four

They live in the wall beside my door

And they come out at night to find me and bite

Dum dum dum dum dum dum dum

The ants go marching five by five

Hurrah, hurrah,

The ants go marching five by five

Hurrah, hurrah

The ants go marching five by five

I think they plan to skin me alive

And they all start taking more and more til I’m down to my core

Dum dum dum dum dum dum dum

The ants go marching six by six

Hurrah, hurrah

The ants go marching six by six

Hurrah, hurrah

The only skin left is on my dick

And they all go crawling away with my skin on their backs like a fin

Dum dum dum dum dum dum dum

The ants go marching seven by seven

Hurrah, hurrah

The ants go marching seven by seven

Hurrah, hurrah

The ants go marching seven by seven

I’ll be a freak when they send me to heaven

And they all dissect my skin off of me, subcutaneously

Dum dum dum dum dum dum dum

The ants go marching eight by eight

Hurrah, hurrah

The ants go marching eight by eight

Hurrah, hurrah

They ignore the meat I’ve left as bait

They all just like to masticate as they decorticate

Dum dum dum dum dum dum dum

The ants go marching nine by nine

Hurrah, hurrah

The ants go marching nine by nine

Hurrah, hurrah,

The ants go marching nine by nine

They’ve taken all that once was mine

They’ve burrowed so deeply in to my head, and I believe I’ll soon be dead

Dum dum dum dum dum dum dum

The ants go marching ten by ten

Hurrah, hurrah.

The ants go marching ten by ten

Hurrah, hurrah

The ants go marching ten by ten

When Carl gets here, they’ll do it again

And we’ll all end up in a box in the ground and our skin never found

Dum dum dum dum dum dum dum

 

 

 

 

 

 

               

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2 thoughts on “Ants Don’t Take Sabbaticals

    • The Petulant Muse says:

      I take that as the highest possible compliment coming from the writer of “Don’t Stop Bleeding” from The Gorelets Omnibus!

      Like

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