I curl up on mum’s chair. I run my hand along the mahogany arm and my fingers discover little holes in the surface, small clusters of worm pricks within the wood.
A shiver of disgust and fascination climbs up my vertebrae.
The commode next to me displays a dusty graveyard of all things oceanic. Mum’s little treasures. I pick up the dried-out starfish. I inspect its pimply surface, put it back down. I pick up the urchin’s skeleton – is it a skeleton? It’s bone, body, carcass, perfectly round and preserved. Where there was once a menacing spike, there’s now nothing but a hole, surrounded by thousands of holes. I feel the shiver again.
I thrust the starfish and urchin into a drawer that I vouch not to open again.
“It’ll go away.” Dad pats my head softly, reminds me not to bite my nails – mum would not approve of that – and leaves me with Emma, whose pretty face – Emma was always the prettier one – I spit on. Why isn’t she biting her nails until they bleed? Why doesn’t she lie awake at night? I enjoy the sight of the hurt in her eyes, which is nothing compared to the hurt in mine.
“It’ll go away,” says my biology teacher the following week after I refuse to look at pictures of mushrooms covered in gaping little mouths gasping for air. I tear up the page and storm out, millions of little holes howling inside my brain.
“It’ll go away,” they say, as I scream into a void of rashes and scabs, my lips turning and my skin thinning against the pointed cheekbones of my skull as I shout for mum, mum, mum, knowing that it won’t. None of this will ever go away.
B F Jones is French and lives in the UK. She has flash fiction and poetry in various UK and US online magazines and her collection, Panic Attack, will be published by Close To The Bone in 2021.