Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Itch

"Don't scratch it."

"But it itches sooooooo much!"

"If you scratch it you could tear your skin."

"But Mom...."

"Bobby, don't fight me on this. If you keep scratching I'll have to tie you down."

Bobby gritted his teeth and tried not to scratch. He tried so hard. He really did. But the darn itch was interminable. Bobby sat on his hands in an effort to control them. It didn't help. Somehow, they made their way back to the itch. His fingers dug frantically into his skin.

Oh, the relief, if just for a moment!

His mother caught him, of course, and she was true to her word. She laid him out on the bench and strapped his arms to his sides. Bobby cried as she did it.


She tightened the straps, immune to his imploring.

"Mom, please...."

"It's for your own good."

She gave the straps a final tug, and then walked away without another word.

Bobby choked on his tears. His body convulsed in great wracking sobs. How could she do this to him? As unpleasant as the crying episode was, it succeeded in taking his mind off the incessant itching. Eventually, though, the sobbing ceased and the itch returned in full measure.

It was insidious. Bobby imagined thousands of spiders crawling over his body, their tiny legs poking at his skin. The itch was worse. He thought about angry wasps buzzing about, landing on him and stinging with a wicked passion. The itch was worse.

Bobby struggled against his bonds. They were so tight! He pulled, pushed, and squirmed in a futile attempt to free himself. The itch mocked him all the while, relentless in its assault. Bobby screamed from the torture of it, arching his back in a violent, twisting contraction. The force of it tipped the bench, and Bobby went crashing to the floor.

The side of his head struck the unforgiving stone with a sharp crack. Bobby felt the skin on his cheek tear from the impact. He didn't care. With the tear came relief, such wonderful relief.

Bobby thrashed against his restraints. He could feel the tear widening. Yes, yes! The uneven stone bit into his hand and the skin tore there, too. More relief. Bobby practically cried for joy – until his mother came back into the room.

"Robert Phinneas Ghoul, what have you done?"

His mother's tone was so sharp it cut through the sunny fog of his relief.

"All that work and you've ruined it."

She righted the bench and drew a finger along the tear in his cheek. The skin had torn several inches. It flapped away from the rest of his face, revealing the dark gray skin of his true self beneath.

His mother frothed in irritation. She bared her considerable fangs at him.

"It took me three weeks to grow that skin. Now you've gone and ruined it before it had a chance to cure."

"But Mom, it itched so much."

"It's supposed to itch! That's how you know it's attaching correctly. Now I've got to sew it back together."

She reached behind her and came back with a very long, very sharp needle and thread.

"Bobby, you'll never be able to hide in human society unless your skin suit is properly adhered. It has to be done if you want to pass for human. Now hold still," she said as she leaned over him, gleaming needle poised above his cheek. "This may hurt a little, but it's for your own good."