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Invader No

J.M. Guzman is a Dominican-American who writes about ghosts, coffins, and all the things in the dark. He has forthcoming fiction in Liminal Stories and Lackington's. You can find him on twitter @jmguzman_ or at gravetalk.wordpress.com.

***Editor's Note: Adult story, for mature readers***
Maybe you're just imagining that you're dying, she said.
And yeah, well, maybe I can't stop it. We're talking placebo memories and the feverish lave. We're talking about--
"I don't want to talk about this."
Kaled Anei smirks. "But we have to," he says. His office reminds me of a containment pod, oval and nondescript.
I always make it a point to learn their names, their first names, because it makes it all genial, dials down the heart-stopping fear and lets me think that hey, maybe later me and Kaled can down a couple of beers or snort coke off a mannequin or three.
"You came here because you want to know, right?"
And I squint at him when he says that all matter-of-factly, shake my head because I know he wants me to agree and because right then and there anything sounds better than agreeing. Niggling over the foreplay when you just want to dig into some anal. But fuck you, if he isn't going to lube me up I am going to do it my goddamn self.
And it's inside me.
No, not Kaled.
We're talking about an unmasking. It wears the skin of things. Wriggles beneath you, and makes you ache. Reminds you that it's there. Makes you do things and makes you forget them. I can feel the rust in me. I have holes in my skin, deep like tunnels. It is crawling inside them. If you listen closely, you can hear the beat of little legs. My skin is peeling, and I can feel....
Kaled smiles. He shows no teeth. "Would you like some scotch? A smoke, maybe?"
His face was the same when I told him the symptoms. Hidden teeth, smiling eyes. Big doctor who is small and thin with thinning hair, a reminder that no matter the stars we picked up or the things we locked in, age will still make a dead one out of the best of us.
First, Kaled pulls a piece of glass out, sticks a lighter under it and says he is checking for ghosts. He says that straight-faced and I know for a fact he is straight-laced. "I am being thorough," he says. And yes, he does wear a lab coat, and his office is all the right shades of white. Fastidiously clean, strut out with that antiseptic smell etched in the metals.
"Thorough? I can guarantee you there's something inside me. Moving me."
"Possession, you mean?"
"That makes it sound like I'm a quack, Kaled."
"Invasion, then."
"Okay, yeah. Better."
And then the machines scan me up and down, and I just think about the corrosion. I can feel it playing inside, rummaging through my intestines, and sometimes I jolt up and I feel used. I'm missing fingernails. I'm dripping blood. I have bones sticking out of my stomach, cracking through belly skin, steaming pink and red. Spider legs jut out of my calves.
The pills sometimes make it go away.
Sometimes I forget to hurt.
You should get yourself checked out, she said.
Kaled sighs. "You're not being eaten out by a changeling, that's for sure."
"What else is for sure?"
"That there's nothing supernatural about this."
"It's a neurodegenerative disease."
I didn't know whether he was serious or not.
I laughed just in case.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

Author Comments

This story is an interrogation of the relationship between monsters and disease. It's what happens when an internet diagnosis meets a future with ghosts. And when revenants aren't quite as scary as our own minds. But more than anything, it's about laughter in the face of disaster. Sometimes, in my experience, the only thing you can do is laugh.

- J.M. Guzman
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