by Elizabeth O’Hara
Every section of his surface was reefseed to a calciferous garden of ill-feeling and papery negative assessments of his person. Exposed and clothed areas alike were festooned with insults flyposted by unseen hands. In the less accessible precipices and crevices of his external anatomy - the crevasse formed between the shoulder blades, for instance - the many layers of character assassinations had fused into papier-mâché scales. He was a bulbous baobab braced with plate fungus hatred, an upright stegosaurus abused by the fortifications of his own exterior.
He had become some form of living pasquino, his flanks bristling with scraps of paper spidered over with satirical verses and erudite mockeries of his foibles, morality, appearance, and general worth as a human being. There were long tracts written in various Englishes high and low, Latin scholarly and schoolboy, and a few in sneering French or snarling Finnish, some barbed with German adverbs so nuggety and gnarled that single words enjambed over several lines of the page. A notable example, written in the very choicest Italian, evaluated his roles as an unnecessary consumer of resources and vital atmospheric gases and postulated on the exact circle of hell to which he would be consigned.
He never let it get him down, however; he was determined to maintain a reasonable opinion of himself and an aspect of congenial bonhomie, despite the paper condemnations and assertions to the contrary flaking from his exterior like old birch bark.
“Your face is merely a hive for your many teeth, the least shocking aspect of which is their incredible number. No man; not you.
A lamprey mocking human form is nearer to the mark. Maybe one at the helm of some manner of man-sized mecha.”
“No, no; not at all.” His replies would echo through the cabbage-scented corridors of his interior, in a voice only slightly louder and more shrill than he intended, “Homo sapiens all the way, this one. Down beyond the bones.” He tapped a nobbly ganglion in his wrist; a redundant demonstration, as it was conducted purely within his mind.
“That which you call a home is, when viewed by an eye wired to a brain unassailed by the malfunctions plaguing your own, nothing more than a shallow concavity barely perceptible in a medium-sized chunk of moor-weathered granite. A party of such reputable citizens bore witness to the activity you designate as “going home” and shakily describe the creepy rubbing action to which you devoted many hours, your cheek achieving friction against the bare rock. Just the boulder and you; naked, windswept, apparently coated head-to-foot in a clear gelatinous substance, and vigorously mashing the right side of your features into the rocky dip. “Nuzzling” was the word many of them used, and that sickened my wife and I more than any of it. We sincerely hope that you find no comfort in its rigid crevice, unappealing character that you are.”
“It’s a mock Tudor semi, I’ll assure you.” As his refutations remained unvoiced, they remained unheeded.
“Snuggling up to outcrops is not an activity for your sort,” came another missive, along with “Die, igneous reprobate!”
“You make tea as an act of passion and make love as a normal person makes tea. Up to and including the half-hearted reading of cereal boxes while waiting until all that’s necessary comes up to the boil.”
“I’ve received no complaints on either count,” he attempted, but even his internal voice lacked the animation for wit.
“Your knuckles are repugnant and you enjoy the general reputation of a stinky winkle. The smell emanating from your manifold creases irritates my mucus membranes over long distances, and I bet your coat is filthy. Your umbrella suffers two broken spokes, a rip in the canvas and a dense profusion of tiny bristling legs across the entirety of its inner surface. This is all the information I need to pass the gravest judgement.”
“I suspect your immune system of being overly sensitive to allergens,” would be the only defence even half offered-up.
“Pitiful man; you are a sourpuss and a receptacle for welts. Your face is provided for our sport, your lips for smacking with wooden planks. You are a nugatory animal, unworthy of genes and animus, and even of the feeble matter at their disposal.”
“No, no, sir; I must protest…”
But he didn‘t. Not for a very long time. Not before the weight of insults built up, slowing his progress and adhering him to the surface. He survived barnacle-like in his cyst of ridicule, using the last reserves of his self-buoying bonhomie and eventually having to take in material via the filter of external judgement. It was this that compelled him in his quest to communicate.
It hit him like static. A letter of his own. His own judgement, the counteract all those from outside. Wild-eyed, he scrawled on the backs of messages pulled from his body. He continued into margins, forming weird palimpsests with the original texts. Where there was no room at all, he resorted to amending what already existed, removing or adding a “not” as necessary.
For many days he worked, neglecting the maintenance of his façade for this new higher priority. By the time his work was one done, only the right hand where it clutched the pen and an oval surrounding his muzzle emerged from the growing ludibrious mass. Here was the record set straight, a true account of his person, whatever any unseen other might judge. It was time for the membrane separating his interior and exterior to bulge outwards, a convexity in his favour.
His mouth formed a faint smile over which he promptly plastered the papery wads of his own self-assessment, shutting out the air and quietly dying within the newly-sealed cyst of his isolation. Soon after that the pasquinades stopped. By which I mean no more came; unfortunately and as they are wont to do, the old ones stuck fast.
Elizabeth O’Hara weaves churrigueresque nonsense and hebephrenic vitriol into a form of literature. Intercept her brainspurts at http://radiatorlizard.blogspot.com