The Boy

By Gregory Paul Mineeff

The boy stood in the doorway. His feet nervously tapped on the linoleum strip beneath him, as his fingers inspected the doorjamb surrounding him. After following the grain of the wood to the floor, his fingers reached the nobby fabric of the carpet. He could not see what colour it was, but he could smell it - it emitted a musty, oppressive stench; like old shoes, boiled cauliflower, and stale air. He flinched as the smell reached him, scrunched his nose, and quickly moved his hands across the floor to find what he had dropped.

With one hand resting on the doorjamb, his knees bent, and the other fishing in the lengths of carpet below him, he heard a noise. It was a low grumble, like a burp, but purposeful, threatening. He panicked, slipped, and fell to the floor. They had found him.

The carpet reached into his nose and grabbed his nose hairs. He coughed, sneezed and jumped to his feet.

As he went to run away, he stepped on something round, squishy. He bent down quickly and picked it up: it was what he had been looking for. He slotted his eye back into the empty socket, making sure to connect the cables before fitting it completely. Ah- He could see again. His vision was a little muddy, as if someone had stepped on it...but, other than a few dints and smudges, it was fine.

He walked through the door and hid around the corner. After he had steadied his breathing, he peaked around the corner to see, with his one grubby eye, what had been chasing him.

Before him, about three or four metres away, stood a tiny body. It was crouched, short, more horizontal than vertical. The boy knew it was an Ear. He could see its tiny legs fingering the cushioning carpet beneath it. Four legs, five, six, nine, ten, he could not tell how many, but he could sense them tapping. He could feel their high-pitched squeal as they moved, like the thin, spider-like legs had started growing in his mind, in him, and he could do nothing but wait for them to stab and skewer him.

He could smell the foul odour that escaped its hairy body. That odour was searching for him. It was inspecting the room for what it had let escape, for what it had failed to define or measure or inspect or label or limit.

The Ear, only part of the whole the boy knew was after him, was searching for what it knew it could never hold or define: him; experiences other than those limited by the five senses; experiences rare because of their impossibility in a system that pretended to know all.

The Ear represented arrogance, greed, wealth, capitalism; just a few aspects of the system known as Science. The rest of the notions imbedded in this filthy word were seeking him out also. They were seeping closer, like an ocean poured into a paper cup. They would be upon him soon. He knew this, but could do little to avoid it. Inevitability was, unfortunately, an aspect of the system he was enclosed in.

The Ear belched again. Its mouth opened in a hideous grimace that revealed its short, blunt teeth.

Each tooth seemed to smile at the boy as he stared at them. Their yellow colour intensified as he looked. Eventually, he turned away and licked his own teeth. He could feel them slowly decaying, disintegrating, abandoning him, particle by particle.

Where should he go? He pondered. There was nowhere but here, nowhere but the room he was standing and the door before him.

The room, the confine he had been imprisoned in, was what he wanted to avoid. Everything was after him. Everything wanted to touch him. To claw at his body. To rip him apart and lick and suck at what was inside. They would do this, he knew. But he smirked at the knowledge that they would leave his skin to rot and decay without inspecting it or examining it exhaustively with their probing tools. They would decide that the truth was hidden away, inside; somewhere else, anywhere else, to make the search all the more exciting; all the more challenging. The search would be emotionless. The facts that would be found inside of him would feel like sheets of tin sharpened and scratched to them, not at all like they were. Tiny curls of this tin would protrude from the sheets to cut them for their impatience and hastiness, but they would see this as an intrigue; as an oddity that needed a new formula and solution. When they found what they wanted, the sheets would be discarded and another being would be sort.

He would be left alone, incomplete, but still partially intact. He would still be able to grasp to something of him. Science would not steal everything. It couldn't. It just didn't have the knowledge or the patience to exhaust something completely. He would be played with, fumbled, scratched and prodded, but he would never be completely dismantled.

He dropped his head and conceded that he could never be sliced up and still be him, though. It just would not work. He would not be he. What then would he be?

The Ear belched again, then yelped and cried.

It was calling the others, the boy thought. He had been forced into a corner and now the others were being alerted to his helplessness. They would attack him when he was most alone; when he was most completely within himself. This way they would discover what they knew was there.

The boy retreated a little further. He panted and could feel a cool breeze gushing through his empty eye socket, as if it too wanted to discover who he was. It made a haunting whirring sound as he moved, as it recorded what it found.

With this sound to guide it, the eye-less Ear had no trouble locating him. Its body shifted as he did, as if it was imitating him, balking him, teasing and taunting him. But it did not leap out at him. It just moved, ever so slightly, forward. He knew it would wait before it attacked him. He also knew that if he tried to escape he would be leapt upon. He was being warned; he was not being bluffed.

As the boy moved, his feet tapped on the metallic floor. Tap; tap; tap. Each tap produced an echo, which in turn produced an imitation a little fainter then the last. These noises rebounded, recoiled, and refracted off the blank walls. He could see the shadows of the sounds, and he could taste the crispness of their origin and the milkiness as they approached their fourth and fifth generation. They were not replicated, each was distinct from the last. Each sound swirled and swayed in their own way; each had their own smell and taste. He could hear them as they swooped past him. He felt them infiltrate his body and extract something from him. He took nothing from them, only what was conjured in his mind, what could be captured by his memory.

The boy stopped: the other Ear had arrived. It greeted its opposite with a smelly belch that stung his ears. When the two had completed their introductions, they both turned towards him, smirking duplicate smiles that told him they knew they had him.

The boy stepped back.

Maybe if he feigned retreat or surrender they would leave him until the rest arrived, he thought. Perhaps not, an annoying grimace tapped into his awareness. What should he do? What could he do?

The boy began to panic; the horizontal Ears began to laugh. Their yellow teeth crumbled as the sound of their pleasure leapt out of their mouths. The boy felt shards of this pleasure smack into his face and lodge themselves there. They were not sharp enough to slide down his cheeks and cut bloody traces as tears would, but they were sharp enough to cling to his face.

The boy leapt forward in haste. His loud puffing and panting deafened his ears to the belches he could see the Ears releasing. He recoiled quickly, though, digging himself into the corner of the small room that sat directly opposite the door. He was only testing; testing how far his panic would take him. How far would he go without thinking of the consequences?

The boy did not know the answer to this question. This frightened him. When more of them came, what would he do? Was there really anyway to escape? Was there a chance his fright and his panic was the only way to proceed, or was him staying calm and rational the answer he sort?

The Ears yelped at the boy as he slouched into the corner, covering his face as he dropped. They were yelling at him, warning him to stay still; to wait for the others to come before he moved.

The boy did this, thankful for the time to consider what he should do.

One of the Ears left.

The tiny scamper of feet reminded him of broken glass when dropped into a metallic bin. He let this sound lead away his fright. With the arrival of relative silence, he considered his position.

Should he just bolt for the door now? No, he blasted himself for his optimism. This had happened hundreds of times before. He knew there was no chance to escape, not now. He had attempted this too many times. All he needed to do was wait. Just wait, and he would discover what his future would be.

The scratching of the Ear appeared again, but he could not see it. The noise rose until sound could no longer contain the creature: the Ear burst through the door, bearing its blunt teeth at the boy in a wicked invitation to challenge it.

The boy did no such thing.

Seeing this, the Ear turned to its opposite and grunted something incomprehensible. The other Ear responded in a similar fashion, following it by darting a vicious look at the cowering boy, as if warning him to stop listening.

The boy quickly crossed his arms over his face and peaked through the space left between his two arms. He could still see the two, but his hearing was a little muffled. No matter, he thought. They are not verbally communicating, anyway.

The two Ears stood still facing each other.

The boy lifted his head slightly. It was as if they had somehow become inanimate. They looked like dolls or toys, plastic ones, that had been molten for a moment, but had now hardened. The boy began to stand, thinking he should be ready when the others arrived. He did this silently, sliding his back up the pressing sides of the two walls which formed the corner behind him.

The Ears did not respond. They were silent, still.

Then the boy began to squirm. He did not move, but he could feel the oozing, squelching sound of the others approaching inside of him. The sound made his arms jiggle and his legs went limp and floppy, but he still did not move; he was as still as the two Ears opposite him. He saw the two Eyes slide into the room in the middle of the walls which parted to produce the door.

Squelch; Squelch; Squelch. The Eyes moved like slugs, but quicker, louder. Just like the Ears which stood exactly like each other, opposite one another in the enter of the doorway, the Eyes squelched their way through the door at exactly the same height as each other, at precisely the same speed. They were the epitome of symmetry.

The Eyes both had bloody tails streaming behind their bulbous bodies; they both left a gooey, incandescent trail behind them as they moved; and both came to rest facing the boy in the center of the walls he rested his twitching fingers on. Like the Ears were the eyes and the Eyes were the ears; the body was coming together.

The Eyes scrutinized the boy harshly.

He could feel their anger and their spite as they glared at him. He could smell their hatred, and hear the promises they were making themselves for when they had the chance to inspect him. He did not move, he just glared back, ready to leap out of the way when they decided it was time to spring upon him.

The Ears fumbled back into animation.

The boy watched as a slight ripple coursed along their bodies.

The Ears did not belch or communicate with each other or the Eyes, they simply tap, tapped their way away from the enter of the door and stood under the pulsating bodies of the slurping and popping Eyes.

The boy shifted a little and waited for what was next.

Through the door launched a massive set of blood red lips, cut, bruised, and bleeding.

The boy dived to the floor.

The Mouth bounced off the corner behind the boy and back-flipped over the boys prostrate body.

As the boy lay covering the back of his head with his hands, he was drenched with the blood and dribble of the lips.

The Mouth landed with a squelch and a splattering before the boy.

He looked up and quickly leapt back into the corner he had been forced to leave.

Smiling a hideous grimace, indecipherable in its intention and its meaning, the Mouth's lips parted to reveal a set of blood stained teeth, speckled with dark holes, and a tongue sliced into strips and lacerated so that no smooth surface remained. Behind this, a shallow throat was evident. It was dark, slimy; oozing with a smelly liquid that squirmed and squealed for the voiceless Mouth. The throat bore holes in it that revealed the presence of another member of this sickening group.

Behind the Mouth stood a giant Hand, at least as big as the boy, but much wider. It stumbled forward, walking with its massive thumb and pinky. The Hand was grubby, clogged with dirt and grime that sprouted long mossy tendrils and other grass-like protrusions. It moved with a thumping sound, one loud, one soft. Thumb then pinky, thumb then pinky. The Hand stopped when it had squeezed its way between the narrow doorway. It stood still, pointing its remaining three fingers at the boy.

The boy could see the fingers through four or five gashes that existed in the throat of the Mouth. He gagged as the Mouth's vile breath slapped and shook his body. Before he turned away and covered his nose and mouth, he saw the delicate, scum-ridden fingerprints of the Hand ripple and gyrate. He concluded that they too were sickened by the stench emanating from the Mouth. He shrunk back a little further, removing his nervous hands from the walls. Would it happen again? He thought.

Before he had time to answer himself, he was knocked to the floor by the heavy thumping of the Hand's thumb. He hit his head on the corner behind him, but this did not harm him. He was more annoyed at the sounds the Senses were making.

When he looked up to find the source of the sounds, he discovered that the Ears were shrieking at the Eyes. Why, the boy could not tell, but he could see that they were all becoming increasingly agitated.

The Ears were threatening the Eyes with their fast jabbing movements, the Eyes looked to be inviting the Ears to try whatever it was they were promising, and the Hand had thrust its fingers through the holes in the Mouth's throat.

The Mouth was obviously in pain. Its lips were launched open in a huge, silent cry. The blood-drenched lips quivered and shook. But the hand did not look as if it was going to withdrew its penetrating fingers. It seemed to be enjoying the probing. The fingers twirled and squished together, as if the Hand was exercising the forearm muscles that were supposed to be behind it but were not. The relief that distinguished each finger, curled and smirked.

The boy was amazed at the individuality of each fingerprint. The humanness of the pleasure the fingers were extracting from the Mouth's pain frightened him. He dropped his hands to his sides, dropped to one knee, and waited for what he knew was coming.

Just as the boy's knee hit the floor, the Ears leapt onto the Eyes with a blood-curdling cry, biting and thrashing with their legs at the glossy bulbs that were their enemies. The Eyes fought back as best they could with their tales of blood, but the effect was minimal. The Ears bit hard, and the Eyes bled accordingly. Below this, the Hand continued to inanely grope the Mouth.

The boy watched as the Mouth started to bite down on the hands fingers. Here it is, he thought. It is coming.

The bloodied messes that were the Eyes and the Ears tumbled simultaneously from opposite walls, landing with a wet slap on the back of the Hand. Almost instantly, the messes went flying as the Hand began to shake. It was trying to rid itself of the Mouth it had so greedily captured. With one final lunge, the Hand unfastened the Mouth from its fingers, sending it scooting along the floor toward the boy.

With practiced precision, the boy rolled out of the way of the Mouth. As soon as he heard the Mouth land, he bolted for the door. He knew that he would leave the room unimpeded, but he was still scared: what if something else happened this time? He exited the room, not looking back, but knowing that each of the Senses was behind him, alone, wriggling and squirming on the floor. He could hear those screaming and wailing that had the capacity to do so. Those that didn't, he felt beneath his bare feet, as they squirmed in the quagmire of their own self-pity.

The boy smiled at this, but the pleasure was stolen from him as he was knocked to the floor. His head hit the ground first, dislodging the eye he had spent an eternity searching for. He heard it role away from him, slushing to a halt not far from where he had fallen. Humph! was all he could manage. He scolded himself: again he had forgotten about the Nose. It moved much slower than the others, he told himself. Like a centipede, with nose hairs for legs.

The boy felt the Nose's hairs on his legs. Ah! He yelped, in a frightened breath too low for his body. He jumped to his feet, blindly, and ran away from the Nose, away from the room, down the corridor he had traversed hundreds of time previously, leaving his grubby eye laying on the floor, disconnected.

* * *

Above the boy, in a room he had been programmed not to see, two men stood watching as he bolted away from the room. Simultaneously, they turned away and sighed. One shook their head, the other spoke.

"Run it again." He said.

The other one nodded, leaving to begin the process again.

"But this time," The voice stopped him. "I want another one of those."

"Another one of what?" The subordinate questioned, grimacing.

"Those." The man pointed at the tiny movement that was the boy.

"Those are called Boys, sir. And we've already tried that. We found that they're all the same. Don't worry about it." The subordinate replied flippantly, tapping buttons on a console as he spoke.

"No, I want another one of those. Get another one." He turned to stare at his subordinate to show his intent, and his authority.

"Alright, alright." The subordinate said, nodding. "I'll go see if I can procure us another one. In the meantime, I'll play it again, just to see what you think." The subordinate did not look up to see if his superior had agreed to his proposal. He simply tapped in the necessary passwords, and left the room.

The man staring at the Boy nodded slowly. "I'll wait for you here." He said, not bothering to face the other man.

The man staring at the Boy remained where he was.

He watched the same procession over and over again, always hoping that it would somehow change. It did not.

Eventually, he too left the room. Before he left, though, he stopped to make certain his subordinate had played the right test. Checking the console, he found that the right button was depressed. On it was written Truth in patchy, sticky lettering that captured the fingerprint of the last to have touched it. The man was sure he could see his subordinate's fingerprint pressed into the gunk topping the key, smirking and smiling at him, inviting him to leave the room.

The End

Copyright © 2003 by Gregory Paul Mineeff

Paul is a twenty-one year old university graduate from Wollongong, N.S.W. Australia.



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