This is a rough draft of a short story I’ve been working on for a while.
WARNING: Graphic details and gore elements.
by Alina Happy Hansen
Alison touched the back of her head. There was a tiny bump at the base of her skull. She pretended to scratch her head just so she could feel it. Yes, it was still there. Was it a bug bite? An ingrown hair? A pimple? A cyst? Alison wore her hair down; worried that someone would notice the bump. She tried multiple times to see it by positioning herself in front of her bathroom mirror with her compact angled behind her head but there was nothing visible that she could see just golden brown hair and the delicate curve of her pale neck disappearing into the collar of her blouse. Absentmindedly she found herself throughout the day touching the bump, trying to pick at it with her perfectly manicured nails which only ended in scratches and a red patch were the skin had been agitated.
The first night after noticing the bump she laid on her back in bed as usual but quickly felt an irritating itch where the bump was. After adjusting her pillow and realizing she was only comfortable sleeping on her side, she finally dozed off and proceeded to sleep like this the nights after. In the mornings she would get up, jog about three and a half miles then come home and take a shower. She lathered new shampoos into her hair till it was thick and foamy and then rinsed it out for a few minutes careful to make sure there was no soap left. Unsettled by the bump she had bought a slew of conditioners as well as scalp treatment products but nothing worked. Eventually her hair became dry and brittle and a soft down of dandruff began to appear on her pillows and shirts. Frustrated, Alison threw out the multitudes of bottles she had bought and began to ……
It was a couple months until Alison noticed the bump had grown. It was no longer the size of a mosquito bite but a lump. Again, positioning herself in front of her bathroom mirror, she looked for it, whatever it was. Feeling it out, she left her finger right on top of it then tried to see it in the reflection, again she could see nothing but the lump felt like it was the size of a ping pong ball. Alison attempted to look up information on the internet about skin growths but eventually drove herself into a state of self induced anxiety. Afraid someone would notice the lump on the back of her head she gave herself a perm and fashioned her hair into a large set of curls thick enough to hide the mysterious lump.
Alison looked up local dermatologists and started scheduling appointments. Alison would call on a Monday morning and schedule an appointment at the end of the week but by the time the appointment would come up she found herself driving home and walking straight into her bathroom. Sitting on the closed lid of her toilet, she would convince herself that the lump was nothing. The dreaded word ‘cancer’ surfaced occasionally in her mind but she would quickly dismiss it. Unable to see the lump in the mirrors reflection Alison tried to convince herself that the lump simply was not there.
At night Alison had to put a movie on to distract herself from the presence of the lump. Positioning herself up on a couple of pillows behind her back she fell asleep her neck strained resting against the wall. Alison noticed that she was getting frequent headaches now and her neck was stiff. She stopped jogging and began drinking a lot of water, reluctant to start taking aspirin regularly she tried eating more to cure the headaches but they only got worse.
Eight months passed and Alison had gained twenty pounds. She got a new perm every month and refused to cut her hair. She began to measure the lump on the back of her head. It was now about three inches long and half an inch wide. She could now spot a small outline on her scalp when she checked her reflection and in response bunched her curls together with pins to create a poof where the lump was. Alison didn’t want to go to the doctor and had not revealed the lump to her family or friends. She didn’t want to draw attention to herself. If she ignored the lump maybe it would go away.
Aware that she had gained a few pounds, Alison began eating only red meats and fresh greens. Her worry surrounding the lump had made her self-conscious. She had not been on a single date in months. The last date had ended horribly. She still remembered how Mark’s head had disappeared under her dress, his roaming hands feeling every curve of her back and buttocks, the slim dip of her belly, squeezing her full supple breasts. He had pulled her dress off and came up to kiss her neck. Then her heart began to pound as his fingers got closer and closer to the back of her neck. She jolted up and pushed him off. After that date he never called her back and she decided not to go out again until the lump was gone.
Alison stayed at home and found herself in the kitchen or bedroom unless she was at work which had become an increasingly uncomfortable environment since she had to leave to go to the bathroom and secretly check her lump multiple times a day. She wrote down the size and shape of the lump, scribbling doodles of the lump. She kept track of her water intake and details of what she ate and how long she slept, what positions were the most comfortable and which ones irritated the lump and gave her a headache.
It had only started happening recently that she would wake up and there would be a large spot of greenish ooze on her pillow near the back of her head. Her hair crusted and sticky, she searched the lump for a secretion but it looked unchanged only the mysterious fluid on her pillow would appear. She would wash her pillow cases daily and began to wear her curls wrapped up in a large handkerchief. She doused herself in perfume when she began to notice that her hair had begun to smell. It was constant and stagnant the smell of something molding. She would wash her hair before work, after and a couple more times during the night but the smell remained.
Regardless of Alison’s new diet she continued to gain weight, at the end of the year she had gained fifty pounds and the lump had grown to the size of three golf balls in a line on the back of her head. Alison found it harder and harder to sleep. She tried soothing ocean sounds, whale calls and even rain but nothing would do the trick. Whenever she did wake up she was tired, her head a massive throbbing weight on her shoulders. She had finally begun to talk herself into telling her mother about the lump. At the end of the week she would call her mother and ask her to go to the doctors with her. She collected all the pictures, notes, and drawing she had made of the lump into one folder as well as her eating and sleep habits.
Alison woke up the next day to the foul smell of the lump. It had permeated her room, her bed, her house. She lighted scented candles and opened the windows in an attempt to get rid of the smell. Instead of jogging, Alison now went into the bathroom every morning for a few hours to check the lump and wash her hair. She had gotten a magnified mirror and brighter bulbs to help her see the lump.