catches the same place each day for the last week. something under the wallpaper. Little scritch. forearm just below the elbow. loose nail?
after work Friday. run fingertips across the suspect patch until whatever it is nicks the skin. not enough to draw blood. narrow it down to the slightest bulge. like a blip of anaglypta. work fingernails around and into it and pick pick pick. tear the paper. there. enamel embedded in the plaster. a tooth. incisor. too big for human. too human for animal.
fingertip judders across its dry surface. the slightest chip in the crown. push into the plaster. try and work a way underneath. try to dig it out. plaster not plaster. yields. twitches. blood forms in half-moon fingernail grooves. peel away long strips of paper like sunburned shoulder skin. bald the wall.
half a dozen more yellowing teeth set deep. cavity in this one. nicotine tar black. here. molar.
sharp parts ground down like sea-smoothed glass. place palm against wall and feel the heaving pulse. not plaster. gum. the colour flushing back into it. stippled and red. recoil and then return. close eyes and lay cheek against the life of it.
top rung of stepladder fetched from under the stairs. left hand placed against the ceiling for balance. chip at artex with sharp corner of an edging tool. send swirls of ceiling twisting to the floor. neck cricked and eyes narrow. brow salt and peppered with flecks of powder.
mouth open concentration. inhale fibres of god knows what. these old houses. could be asbestos mixed in with the plaster. microscopic needles settle in lung tissue and sleep. perhaps. change the cells there. perhaps.
what choice is there?
beneath the artex. no teeth. something else. here in the corner. ribbons of meat. keep chipping away. here. press hand against elastic jelly of newly freed sclera. viscous fluid moves beneath fibrous membrane. collagen mainly. a single bloodshot eye. twenty feet across at least. threads of vessels stretch across the curve of its surface. clamber down. lay directly beneath. gaze up into shifting bottle green brown kaleidoscope iris and shimmering oil-drop pupil.
floorboards heave. perhaps. inhale. expand. hold.
what to be done? cover mouth against ancient disturbed dust and tear at carpet. cough anyway. pull and keep pulling until fingernails split. fingertip meat black and tattered from ripping at carpet backing. corner piled with rotten hunks of fabric. take mallet to the boards beneath and work in febrile heat until wood splinters. then stand on arch of exposed bone. ribcage. drop to knees. then lay prone. rise and fall with the swell of lungs. somewhere deeper
perhaps the heart.
and then a decision.
Simeon Ralph is a writer, former-lecturer and musician with the DIY noise-rock band Fashoda Crisis. He has recently completed an MA in Creative Writing at MMU and his work has appeared in several publications, both online and in print. Originally from Essex, he now lives in Norwich.