Chewing my fingernails. Pulling hairs from the roots. My stomach rumbles from too much coffee. Shut up, stomach. Nobody asked you. My fingernail is clicking rapidly on the desk, thumping like Morse code. It must have been going at it for a minute before I stopped it. My mouth is dry. I roll my tongue around to collect moisture. Saliva feels like paint. I’d get water but I don’t feel like moving.
In lieu of needing to finish my work, I travel the internet, looking for my next fix. Another hair gets tweezed by overgrown fingernails. I’m a mess, but the part of me that recognizes this isn’t even conscious now. I’m sucked into the internet world, full of videos and articles and blogging.
Maybe if I shut my eyes, just for a little while, I just might wake. Back. Up.
They all died in a fire I started. Charred bones scratch at my dreams most nights. Terror sweats. Indigestion. Gray hairs. My body’s tearing itself apart from the inside.
* * *
When I was little, I liked to burn ants with a magnifying glass. When I got older, I realized that those ants were going home to their families. When I got older still, I realized that ants don’t actually have a family unit in the traditional sense. They’re simply workers produced by a queen. It occurs to me now that the only reason people don’t go around stepping on ants is because it’s beneath them.
* * *
Have you ever seen a meadow burn? Flowers and leaves wilt like old cabbage. The fire feeds on death like a meth addict. I, too, have a problem. I’m a pyromaniac. I can’t stop building fires. I’d always been careful, tiny fires where I’d dug out around them, surrounded it with rocks. When I tried to stop, cold turkey, I think I went a little insane. I had to stop smoking, too. It was too much temptation. Then it happened. One windy day, walking through the hills, and I find a lighter. That’s all it takes to commit arson–one windy day. The wonderful thing about fire is that any traces I may have left for the police have likely been burned away. Fire burns indiscriminately. It doesn’t care whether you’re person or a flower or an ant.
* * *
I can’t help but feel for those who lost their lives as a result of my carelessness. I’ve tried to blame them, tell myself that they should have left their houses sooner, the damn idiots. But it’s my fault. Only me. I drink pepto like water. Ironically, it’s wreaking havoc on my stomach. I don’t care. Not like ants, those people had families, loved ones. Even if they didn’t, it was wrong. I’ve tried to throw away that lighter a thousand times…
My stomach talks to me. I call him Stomache (pronounced like “moustache” except with a “stom” instead of a “moust”). He growls in the morning. When it’s time for work, he talks about more topical stuff, like the weather. He’s really boring in the morning. In the afternoon, we chat about stuff I ate and stuff he digested that day. By the evening, he reminisces about days gone by, when he could take on a whole plate of spicy curry and not even flinch. Stomache is a good guy, though he snores really loud, and I have to hit him from time to time. Could be worse. I’ve heard horror stories about people’s stomachs robbing them blind and leaving…
The terrible stomach growled. It sounded like a motorcycle revving its engine. The stomach leapt on top of the tallest skyscraper in New York and began devouring it. The terrible stomach rumbled. It tore up the streets and the sidewalks, bathed in the busted pipelines. The terrible stomach battled Godzilla and ate him too. The terrible stomach consumed the military, its tanks, its jet planes. It crushed choppers with its massive gut (for that’s all it was) and bounced off to get its greens at the park. When the carnage had subsided, the terrible stomach left into the ocean to sleep off a stomach ache.
Why, oh why did I eat that ice cream? It was just one scoop. Well, one scoop of chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, and rocky road. I was going for all the classics but rocky road’s my favorite, you know. Oh, but my poor stomach. All I did was eat just one waffle cone of ice cream, but it kept dripping so I put another two cones underneath to hold in the spillage. That’s all. And just a few sprinkles, really (I’m trying to cut back on the sprinkles). Then there was the granola, which is healthy, I hear, and some chocolate chips and some white chocolate chips to balance it out. I went for the Oreo crumbs because I usually put one candy topping on, but then I’d never tried the Snickers topping before so I tried that out too. And of course, no sundae is complete without whipped cream and a cherry, so I said “pile it on!” And I swear I only asked for one cherry but it was tied at the stem so I got two. I just got lucky, I guess. Oh, but why does my stomach hurt so much? I only had a little ice cream and I didn’t even eat that much today, either.