June~Sci-Fi Issue

A Story to Tell
David Lester Snell

At the typewriter again.

The character globe stares at me with its extruding eyes. The keyboard gives a white tooth frown as it waits to gnash my fingers, which are poised above, arthritic and constipated with years of immobility. Worse still, the blank page, growing from the typewriter like elderly hair, mirrors my mind, a ghost of what my writing ability once was. I take a long pull from the cigarette betwixt my lips, let the smoke wither my lungs. The burn feels good. It’s one of the only sensations I have left, besides the momentary pain of razor cuts or the ache of my eyes strained to read ant- sized print. I glance at the stack of manuscripts, the pile of short-lived fame at the edge of my desk, then at the paper balls of failure spooling from the trashcan. God, what happened? I once flew across the page faster than any courtroom stenographer. Now, I’m mentally illiterate.

I try to scrape an idea from the pits of my skull but dredge up only a headache. I’ve been getting a lot of those lately. Probably a tumor. Cigarette smoke creeps up behind my spectacles. I rub the burn from my hot, bloodshot eyes. I focus on the page again. An anxious fever boils in my chest and cheeks. My fingers remain motionless. I take another puff of my cigarette, sucking in nothing but filter. I snub it out and light another. It smolders betwixt my lips, creating a smokescreen across the blank page.

Nothing. The fever intensifies. I stifle the urge to heft the typewriter overhead and smash it against the desk’s edge, the desire to burn out my own eyes with the coal of my cigarette. I flex my fingers. The joints creak and pop. I plead up at the light bulb smoldering above me. It lends nothing but a yellow ache to my head. I look back down at the page.

I sigh—and a worm saliva draft slimes past my face. It cools the performance anxiety burning my chest and brow. I look up from the blank page. The gray wall is torn like some cheap curtain, ragged ends fluttering, and instead of rusted plumbing and sparking electrical wire, instead of Mrs. Banney’s doll-haunted apartment, the space beyond is wallpapered in a forest of squirming tentacles. The sound is like maggots writhing in rot.

I sink my hand through the rip. The air beyond is viscous and fluid, a bucket of throbbing phlegm. Particle orgasms surge through my fingers and fizzle dead at my knuckles. I plunge further, elbow deep in slimy ejaculation. My arm acquires a new heartbeat, the pulse of the liquid and the walls. I climb atop my desk and dangle my legs inside the rift. The liquid trickles around them like a saliva sea.

Before I completely submerge, I glance at my typewriter. It frowns at me with all its white key teeth, with its compound eye. Its blank page hair cries to be dyed black with ink. Anxiety creeps back into my cheeks and chest, but I turn away and slip into liquid ecstasy. My brain explodes, a firework of red and blue. My blood is syrup, endorphin-rich, my every cell a taste bud.

The green undulating walls contract and swaddle me. They swallow and squeeze me through, grumbling and gulping like working intestines. I am excreted into a dome with a spiral galaxy ceiling. At the galaxy’s core is an obsidian eye reflecting the ocean. Before me is a mantis, its emerald forelegs folded in prayer. Its honeycomb eyes ogle at me, the mantis working its strange mouth, so like a predatory cunt.

One of the mantis’ legs slashes out and severs my head. Blood jettisons from my neck stump, my consciousness draining with it. I am liquid, crimson eternity. Then, I spatter the dome’s velvet walls, absorbed by their cells. I am an embryo in a ribosome placenta. I can feel my cells divide, like the pins and needles of an awakening limb.

My womb forces me out premature. I flop onto cold oil-stained concrete, gurgling vacuumed air. I shriek at the heavens. Meteors shower from a broken window sky and punctuate the earth, clacking like the striking element of my typewriter. I pull my umbilical ripcord. Bat wings slither from slits in my back. I take flight into the firework sky, a gutted fetus oozing amniotic fluid. The land expands below me, a bruised and ashen land cratered with smoking warheads. Strange Venus flytraps creep from the soil, unhinging their bear trap jaws.

They spit into the solar winds, catching my withered nose with their pheromone nectar. I swoop down into a flytrap’s gullet. Its jaws clamp shut, drawing me a bath of acids. My slimy wrinkled flesh bubbles and deliquesces until there’s nothing but an elephantiasis skeleton for the plant to regurgitate.

My essence seeps down into the flytrap’s loins, where it tears through with glass shard claws. I emerge as a seed, plummeting into oblivion. I crater into a steaming compost heap of lymph nodes and sprout into a cancer cell, metastasize into a tumor. I shed cells into the surrounding tissues. My host withers, rots, becomes dust, leaving just me, a kernel of everlasting death.

At my core is the spiral galaxy eye. It blinks—and I am sitting at my desk, fingers poised above the typewriter, cigarette clenched betwixt my lips and burning my eyes gray. The portal is gone from the wall, but remains a third eye in my mind, and the flaxen page clamped in the typewriter’s guts is no longer vacant; it is ink-dappled with a story to tell.