A Romance of Skin and Pins: An Excerpt

25 Sep

Hello again! Here’s another little extract for you, from the latest short story I have been working on.

But first, a few bits of exciting news! First up: I’m going on frickin’ tour! That’s right, Titans & Kings are off on tour at the end of October. We’re sharing the stage with a pair of absolutely fantastic bands, so if you’re in the area for any of the dates please come along and say hi!

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Next news, the White Birches EP is coming along swimmingly. Recording will be finished in early October, a music video soon after, and then the fun bit: sorting out physical copies and distribution. We’ll hopefully have a few live dates lined up, too!

And finally, there’s something big in the works. A project I am extremely excited about, related to writing (and these short stories), and not just a simple collection from myself. It’s going to be brilliant, and hopefully I’ll be able to tell people more very soon.

Anyway, to whet your appetite for more bizarre fiction, here’s my latest.

* * * * *

You are what you eat. That is why he called himself Skin. It was just a little compulsion. It didn’t affect anyone but Skin, himself, alone. And like most compulsions, it had roots in childhood. Skin had once had a father, a cruel man. Not physically – not that particular cliché of childhood hardship – but mentally.

See, his father had told him very particular but impressively devastating lies; lies that were very difficult to eradicate when drilled into the mind of a child by the one that he most idolised. Skin had once believed that Daylight Savings Time was only for Roman Catholics, and that his family, the average, non-believing sort, did not have to change their clocks. One lie, that pillows were for the feet rather than for the head, had been so well planned that its groundwork had been laid for ten years, Skin’s father sleeping backwards for a decade. All to cause Skin the upmost embarrassment at his first sleepover night.

Most of these lies had been expunged by the time he was an adult, but a few held deep, where Skin could keep them secret, where society could not judge him. One in particular was so potent that it became his mantra, became his name. Skin was told, at five years old, that his hair was not supposed to fall out, ever. That his nose was not supposed to run. That his skin was not supposed to shed. Each time he lost a part of himself unconsciously, anything that was not deliberately expelled, that wasn’t obvious waste, he lost a part of who he was. He lost a part of his identity. He lost time off his life expectancy.

A running nose from the flu was a sign that someone was truly, insidiously ill. Cancer patients’ hair fell out because it was a sign they were about to die. Eczema was not a condition in itself, but a symptom of a greater illness. And the only way to stop from losing this identity, losing life, was to re-ingest everything that had been lost – fallen hair, dry skin, trimmed fingernails, snot, eye sleep, ear wax.

You are what you eat. Skin was himself.

Over the years he developed various strategies to stop from losing himself. Age eight, he cut his fingernails into tiny pieces and added them to his breakfast cereal. Age eleven, he cut his hair as short as he could without getting expelled from school, to avoid losing rogue hairs, asking for the bag of clippings as he left the barbers. Age fourteen, he started to shave, using melted butter instead of shaving foam, making sure to collect every hair, every drop of blood, every scratch of skin.

At age eighteen, he started carrying the vial.

The one problem he had always found was being able to save skin flakes and small hairs. He would lose them in public places, at restaurants, on trains, at work. The only option had once been to eat it, there and then. It was easier whilst dining – carefully push the bodily debris onto the plate, and eat it with a mouthful of the actual course – but there was always the danger of someone spotting it, looking to a friend, pointing to the young man who had just deliberately eaten a scab.

So, the vial. He carried it with him everywhere, in the pocket of his navy blazer, or in the main compartment of his leather satchel. He would sneak whatever part of himself he had lost into it –much less noticeable than raising a hand to mouth – and when home, mix it in with a blended protein shake. It not only saved his life, or so he believed, but it saved his career. Skin was, as you can probably imagine, quite a strange man. And that was even before a co-worker had witnessed him eating his own eye discharge.

He coasted from job to job, contract to contract. Always given good references – he was a hard-worker and surprisingly intelligent for a man who regularly ate his own snot – but was never given a profession. But, when he started using the vial, he found a calling in the Human Resources department of a security solutions firm. His severe haircut, strong muscles from a mixture of health-obsessed workouts and protein shakes, and analytical mind meant that he fitted in well with the company. And without the obvious ingestions, with only his surface level quirks, he seemed positively sane in comparison with some of the violence-obsessed sociopaths that his team interviewed for positions manning the most secure locations.

He lived a happy, solitary existence. The routine of regular work, with hints of career progression, kept him focused. Two hours workout a day at his home gym, mopping up the sweat with pieces of bread. He had no time for a twenty-something bachelor’s regular modes of fun. He despised clubbing – too many mitigating factors that could distract him from any leftover body matter. He had no time for music, or any media. He owned no television, only an ancient laptop he used to hack in to the wireless of the coffee shop next door. Skin did, however, have a form of entertainment: he broke women’s hearts.

* * * * *

Until next time!

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