This past summer I had an itch so bad I picked up a razor blade to scrape the skin off my body. This is what led to that.
* * * * *
In the middle of September my friend Josh and I went to visit someone in Myrtle Beach. It was a long drive, twelve hours, but it was a quiet drive. Longer trips I tend to take in a series of checkpoints. Make it to Birmingham, make it to Atlanta, halfway there, six hours to go.
“Stop after Atlanta, I can’t hold it in any longer. I’m going to piss myself.” Josh said.
“I don’t even need gas yet.” I explained as to why I couldn’t yet stop. Preferring to only stop once for gas, I hold off on bathroom breaks as long as possible and try to kill two birds with one stone.
“Forget that, I gotta piss.” Ignoring him I continue on, he can wait awhile longer. I think we can make it closer to Myrtle Beach without stopping.
Thump. I notice Josh in my peripheral fumbling with his right hand between his seat and the car door. He dropped his phone. I watched him out of the corner of my eye for the better part of five minutes waiting for the inevitable request. “Can you pull over? I gotta grab my phone. I can get my hand down there to find it.” Christ. I knew he’d pull some bullshit like this to get me to pullover.
“Fine.” I said, I should’ve let him indian burn his fat hand rubbing it between the door and the car seat a little while longer. Usually I don’t pull off the interstate unless I can see the gas station from the road, but as I don’t want to clean piss out of my passenger seat I pulled off at the next exit. It was a filthy gas station, one of those off brand hick-type of places. It had four pumps, a local newspaper stand, a broken down ice machine, and an air pump. I went to grab a soda and some beef jerky.
“This hick place, huh?” Josh said to me as he shoved me to the side to pay for his road snacks. He could’ve been a bit more grateful. The clerk looked at us through her horn rimmed glasses, some gray hair flowing over them and down the back of her head. Pretty normal stuff, but something about her seemed unnatural.
The store had a rotting smell. Like dead pig. The bathroom looked as if it hadn’t been cleaned in years, but also as if it hadn’t been used either. The old lady continued to stare us down. “Creepy stuff. Pay for your stuff, let’s hit it.” She gave me a look of disapproval as I counted the money for my soda and jerky in as much coins as I could muster from my car coin tray. A sudden nudge as Josh bumped into me as I knocked down the tray of candy off the counter.
“Damn sorry lady!” Josh said. “My bad, dude. Loss my balance.” He grabbed some cigarettes off the counter, pocketed them and walked out. Not saying another word as he paced back to the car.
“Sorry ‘mam. Have a nice day.” She didn’t speak, just stared through us. I grabbed my soda and jerky and walked the hell out of that place. I looked behind me and the old lady was simply staring out the window at us. It was odd, she wasn’t anything abnormal, she wouldn’t fit in a Friday the 13th film, more of a loving grandma that’d cook your freshly baked cookies. I got the back in the car and slammed the door, the stench of the place was resting outside like it followed us. “What the hell, man? You crazy?”
“Nah, screw this place. Let’s get the hell outta here. I see you used the opportunity to not pay for your stuff.” Josh said, eyeing my bag.
“What? I paid” My pocket rattled with change. In the moment I must have pocketed the money and forgot to place it on the counter. We were already on the ramp to get back on the interstate. “Shit dude.” Sorry, lady.
After about six more hours we arrived in Myrtle Beach and at Mike’s place. We spent the day sleeping in and making up for lost time. It was nice. The next day we went to the beach.
* * * * * *
The sun was bright and beaming down on us.
“What’re you gonna really use sunscreen?” Mike said and Josh laughed. I put it back in my bag. It wasn’t that hot, I figured.
We were in the shallows swimming while playing beach volleyball. Tossing it around like a bunch of goons. “SHARK!” Somebody yelled from the shore. Glancing around I didn’t see anything.
“Over there! I saw a shadow.” Josh said. Over there happened to be behind me. I turned around to the shadow but nothing was there. I walked through the shallows pushing against the water. I felt something brush against my leg. I stopped. Looking down I didn’t see anything there, a plant or something maybe against my foot.
“Dude hurry up, get back up here.” Mike said.
Another brush against my leg, this time I felt it slither across. There was a shadow for sure moving away from me, curving around it seemed to turn back towards me. I begun to hurry back.
“It’s probably a small one anyway.” Josh was first to the beach. For it to only be a ‘small’ one he was moving fast. I continued pushing through the water but the receding wave knocked me back and underneath the water. Staring ahead I see a cut in the ray of sunlight beaming in the water. I waved my arms down moving back up. Swallowing salt water I coughed it up getting back onto my feet and back under. I saw another shadow in the water before the water blinded me. I got up and went up against the receding water and looked through my murky eyes to find the shore.
Crawling back to the shore I flopped my body down on the sand and brushed my hair out of my face. The sun was shining down and beamed like a laser onto my body. I felt it burn and enjoyed the warmth of the sand. It was a good day.
* * * * *
We spent two more days there in. The final day my body was burning like the sun but I manned up and got in the hot tub. It was rather relaxing, despite the pain. We said our goodbyes and left to drive twelve hours back to Memphis.
On the trip back I could feel my body burning, but there was no usual skin peeling. Just a hot red tone with a blaring pain. I stayed quiet about it while we drove back but it was beginning to itch. Quelling it by patting, I kept on patting my shoulders all the way back home. It worsen about two hours out passing through Tupelo. Hello Elvis.
For the next couple hours I patted down my shoulders it seemed by the seconds. Each pat would stop the itch, just for a second. I must have looked like a maniac, patting down my shoulders quelling the itch.
I dropped off Josh at his apartment and drove home quickly as I could. Bursting through my door I went through my cabinet and got some cream, aloe, and anything I could dig up I swallowed and rubbed to end the pain.
That night was the worst night of my life.
I was on the ground, crying, tears rolling down my cheek. I got in my car and went to the nearest pharmacy. I bought more burn cream, benadryl, anything that said sunburn relief. I went home to take a bath in epsom salt and just cried, itching and hitting my shoulders, arms, chest, back. The pain was everywhere. My scratching worsen.
It didn’t make sense. I could have messed with some witch, and in turn I think she cursed me and cursed my life. That’s how I felt now. No sunburn has ever been like this.
Laying on my living room floor my mind was racing. Maybe a razor blade, maybe I could slice off my skin and get to the bottom of this. I scratched and tore through my arm until I started to bleed. Blood poured down my shoulders and I didn’t care. It made no sense to me, I kept on scratching until maybe I would feel better. It wasn’t even pain, it was something else. It was the Devil’s itch.
RING RING RING
Josh was calling. “Hello?” I answered. “Dude, did I leave my wallet in your car?” he asked.
“I have no freakin idea, I’m dying right now.”
“This damn sunburn, it’s itching bad. It fucking hurts.” I said with sincerity.
“Christ man, I have. It’s not working.”
“Well, not sure what to tell you. If you find my wallet in your car let me know.”
“Screw your wallet man, I’ll call you later after I’m dead.” I ended the call and dropped my phone on the floor. I really felt like I was dying. It began to become unbearable. I was getting desperate as time drove by. Staring at the wall, tears rolling down my cheeks. I knew what I had to do.
I got up and went to my bathroom, opened up the cabinet and grabbed a razor blade from it’s holder. Staring into the mirror and contemplating what I knew to do, blood was dried up on my shoulders, blood still fresh on my arms, I had to end this itch. I grabbed the razor blade, holding it carefully by it’s edges and shaved off a piece of skin off my shoulder. Underneath it took my breath away, there was some hair growing underneath. What was this!?
Scraping further uncovered more hair, I was flabbergasted. I kept on shaving, blood busted out like a dropped carton of milk on the kitchen floor. I didn’t care. I scraped and shaved my skin away. Flesh tore away when I went to hard at it so I took my time. I screamed in agony. I hated myself. I hated my life. I hated everything and everyone in this moment.
I’m sure the neighbors heard my yarping and shaking of the walls, I broke off the cabinet door. I busted a hole in the wall, a hole in the bathroom door, I broke the shower door. I picked up the razor blade and continued to cut through my skin, careful not to tear the flesh but to rip off the skin. I wanted to break the mirror, but I needed to see what I was becoming.
After an hour both of my arms and shoulders were skin free, a crimson layer of hair revealed itself, dripping in blood onto the bathroom linoleum floor. I layed on the floor, beginning on my legs. Carefully holding the keen razor at a 30 degree angle peeling off my leg skin strip by strip. I continued this for another hour until my leg skin laid on the floor beside my former arms. I continued on my chest like it was the next task needed to be done. It was part of a checklist. Shoulders, Arms, Legs, Chest, Back.
Using the mirror I turned around and sliced off my back. The bathroom was completely crimson red. Not a piece of beige linoleum tile could be seen, the bathroom tub was once an eggshell white, now a fire-engine red. I couldn’t reach the entire back, so I went in my closet, dragging blood footprints all the way there onto the carpet. I tore my closet apart and found a backscratcher. Attaching two razors to it with duct tape I went back at it in the bathroom. Scraping and slicing away.
It took several hours but I was clean. All my former skin that was once attached to my body was no on the floor, my old self. My lesser self. I turned on the water in the shower and rinsed away the bloody and let my new self shine out. Covering my body was a stained cover of crimson fur. But I wasn’t complete. I finished off my fingers, filed away the bones. They needed to be perfected.
After another hour, I was pain free with ten long claws protruding from my hands. My fur shined bright in the fluorescent lighting. The Devil’s itch was gone, and I was reborn in my bathroom. As I write this my nose was protruding with my mouth forward out of my face. There are few things I now know. I know I’ve been cursed, I know what I’m becoming, and I’m no longer afraid.