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Broken Yesterdays

Tabbie Hunt is a children's book-packager turned freelance writer--she does and will write anything for anyone!

Author of a bucket load of short stories (which she is just starting to send out into the world!) she is currently nearing completion of her first YA novel (if you don't count the other three in her desk drawer!)

In between writing and family, Tabbie devours fairy tales and MG/YA fantasy fiction; runs storytelling workshops; plays way too much piano, and rescues dogs and cats, who in turn rescue her!

I'm really hoping for the Chinese shop from Gremlins, but his room looks pretty much like a normal doctor's surgery, except for the floor to ceiling shelves full of empty jars. And although he's of Chinese origin, he's really not the Gizmo-selling kind of guy: middle-aged, clean-cut suit, no obvious accent. I'm kind of disappointed!
"It's your skin, isn't it?" He says, as I sit down.
I gasp and nod. I haven't even said hello.
"Feels tight? Like it doesn't fit properly?"
"Yes... how do you know?"
"I see it a lot. Got any lumps?
"Yeah. Loads of them!"
"Let's have a look, shall we?"
I take my shirt off and lie face down on the black, plastic couch. His hands are firm, in a reassuring and kind way.
"I'll need to remove some of these, today. Is that ok?"
"How do you get them out?"
"Ever watched blackhead extraction videos on YouTube?"
I chuckle and nod.
"Well, it's pretty much like that, but slightly less addictive, and a little more emotional!"
"Now, what size to start you with?" he says, scanning the shelves. He eventually selects a small jam jar. "I don't want to overdo it, not for the first time."
The pain is bearable--a firm push followed by tugging and a slight pop. I hear a tiny, soft thud--no more than the sound of a baby bird falling from its nest--and the process repeats.
"What are they, exactly?" I ask.
"Well, so far we've got a messy miscarriage; the sudden death of your grandfather; a mother who never knew how to love you; glandular fever; your father's lies; several dead pets; your sister's betrayal; you drowning yourself in your own mind--there's a few of those--and a couple of--"
My chest explodes, and the doctor throws himself across my body. Sobs and tears rain down on us. Where he hasn't covered me, my skin stings as though hailstones are biting me.
When it's over, he helps me sit up. I'm so weak he has to prop me up with pillows.
His shirt is torn and soaked. My tears still drip from the ceiling, and more puddle on the floor. A few of the glass jars have smashed, and his desk is wrecked.
"Oh god." I whisper. "Did I do that? I'm so, so sorry."
"It's ok." He says. "Quite normal."
He gestures to the plug hole in the middle of the floor, and opens his shirt to reveal a substantial looking vest.
"Graphene." He taps his chest. "Twice the stopping power of Kevlar."
I risk a careful laugh. "Good to be prepared!"
"That was actually quite a mild reaction. It's a deeply cathartic procedure. I think that's enough for today, though."
He shows me the jar. It's nearly full to the brim with lots of black, jellylike blobs, varying in size from a pea to an olive. Their little white eyes stare adoringly up at me, and they are mewing, most gorgeously.
"Oh god, they're so sweet." I say, reaching out, but the doctor slaps my hand away, screwing on the lid quickly.
"Don't touch them." He barks. "Don't be fooled by them!"
"What are they?"
"There's no real explanation for these, in your culture, but to us they're a very specific and very dangerous kind of spirit. The closest translation is 'broken yesterdays.' Untreated, they have the ability to distort not only the present, but also the future."
I mentally review my life. "I'm thinking I've had them for some time."
"Yep, I'd guess you were no more than two or three years old, maybe younger. It takes a while for the actual lumps to develop. The really nasty part is the subcutaneous network connecting the lumps."
"Ugh! How do I get rid of that?"
"Removing the lumps damages the roots, but both will return. You'll need to come back regularly, and you'll need to reassess how you process bad experiences. Forgiveness, especially self-forgiveness, is an excellent antidote."
He places the jar of spirits into my hands.
"Now, I want you to be very clear on how to manage them. You don't talk to them, and you don't listen to them! If you have to look, fine, but don't smile while you're doing it, and wear sunglasses! Some of the cleverer ones can control you through eye contact alone! Don't engage! Above all else, do not open the jar!"
"Can't you just keep them here?" I ask.
"No, they have to realize that you're no longer prepared to feed them. At that point, they'll turn on each other, and time takes care of the rest. Now, let's make another appointment for a month from now."
As I place the jar on the car seat next to me, I can't help sneaking a sideways peek. The little black blobs are bumbling around each other, making tiny squeaks. They're delightful, and I have no idea how I'll find the strength to let them die.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, March 20th, 2019

Author Comments

My son likes to show me gross things on YouTube--he has yet to shock me! I'm sorry to admit that this story arose from watching a blackhead extraction video! Some of the extractions--I won't give graphic details--looked like funny, little creatures, reluctantly being pulled from their humans. I kind of felt sorry for them, and started to wonder what such creatures might represent, and what we might call them. My weird and mildly disgusting mind is entirely to blame for everything else, along with an abiding love for the film Gremlins and anything from Studio Ghibli!

- Tabbie May Louise Hunt
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