Frederik had a small apartment, a terrible haircut, and an unusual fetish. His therapist had told him, “A fetish is fine, it’s an obsession that’ll do you in.” But Frederik knew he would never become obsessive about his fetish. He just liked things that popped. Instead of morning rituals like showers and coffee, he popped fruits and veggies in the basketball-sized steel vice he had mounted on the plastic countertop while watching blackhead extraction videos on YouTube. He collected the fruit remnants, put them in a Ziplock baggy, and took them for lunch on the garbage truck.
This bright Monday morning, he strolled up bustling Main Street to the bus stop, his grimy trash-collector uniform sticking to his lanky body. He twisted the bubble wrap in his pocket—the popping soundtrack to his morning. The air pulsed with humidity as sweat dripped from his straggly brown bangs hanging across his oversized forehead. The smell of pizza from the nearby Italian joint made a crescendo into his nostrils. He closed his eyes, took a hard sniff, and exhaled through the gap in his front teeth, causing a slight whistle.
Someone slammed into him, knocking him out of his pizza dream. He was about to complain when he opened his eyes and saw her. The hood of her yellow rain slicker hid her face, despite the heat and clear skies. She knelt and picked up her spilled groceries. “Oh jeez, sorry,” she said, smacking her lips.
The young woman glanced up and caught Frederik’s eye. He looked down at the rash of pimples across her face…but didn’t turn away in disgust or horror like people usually did. She got to her feet, steadying her milk and eggs, and covered her face with the yellow hood. Before Frederik could get a word out, she scurried off down Main Street, glancing back at him as she turned onto Walnut Avenue.
The screeching-braked city bus pulled up and Frederick stood glancing back and forth between the obese bus driver slouched over the wheel glaring at him and his dream girl walking away.
Screw the bus. Screw the workday. The trash could collect itself.
As he trailed her along Walnut Avenue, the town grew quiet. The young woman passed the mammoth old cathedral and entered a quaint, yellow ranch house with 4th of July decorations scattered around the lawn. Frederik lurked behind the neighbors’ lush bushes, his hand sliding into his pocket and grasping the sheet of bubble wrap. A few pops usually calmed his anxiety, but today he found himself wringing the sheet, popping as many as possible with each twist of his fingers.
His deeper urges were usually dealt with at home, watching pimple-popping porn videos on his iMac. But now there was something real in front of him, something he might touch if he played his cards right. A once in a lifetime opportunity.
For the next few days, he skulked around her lawn, spying in her windows like a child leering at the forbidden cookie jar. He watched her eat breakfast and dinner alone. Watched her masturbate with her vibrating back massager, always setting it down, looking a little disappointed. Watched her coming out from her morning showers, pacing around the living room, blow-drying her hair, and endlessly looking over some sort of medical pamphlet.
He admired those pus-filled islands of paradise bulging from her albino-like skin. Seeing her in a skimpy tank top and underwear or wearing only a towel wrapped around her damp hair—he realized it wasn’t just her face that was blessed with acne—those delicious pimples bulged over every inch of her delicate flesh.
Blowing a massive bubble with his mixed berry bubble gum, Frederik stood against the yellow siding of her house and peered through the screen of the backyard window. The young woman walked into the living room, and his bubble quickly shrank and grew, inflating and deflating with his rapid breath. Long, strawberry blonde hair dropped over her pink tank top straps and blemish-covered shoulders. The mixture of freckles and pimples made his eyes widen, his heart pound, and his bubble gum snapped, POP, which the young woman heard through the open window.
She wheeled around and locked eyes with her sneaky admirer. Caught red-handed, Frederik stood frozen. Moments tiptoed by as he waited for her to scream or call the police. Instead, she approached the window, covering her face with the back of her hand like a shield.
“I remember you from the other day,” she said, her voice trembling.
“S - Sorry,” he said, stumbling for a valid reason to explain his behavior. Instead, he abandoned all reason and took a bold leap. “Can I see your face?”
She peeked between her fingers, and lowered her hand, revealing her eyes, nose, her entire, nervous face. Frederick looked her over with a dumbfounded grin.
“You don’t look away from me, why?” she asked. A memory of her father stung in her mind. She recalled how, after the acne started, he would rarely, if ever, look directly at her. Whether scolding or praising her, he always kept his eyes diverted. Even on his death bed, as they said their final goodbyes, her father peered just over her shoulder and only saw his daughter out of the corner of his eye. She had only been loved in people’s peripheral vision.
Frederik hesitated, then mumbled under his breath, “Cause, you’re - beautiful."
Her eyes opened wide. “No one’s ever said that before, well, except for Alvin, but he didn’t really say it, but he doesn’t look away from me like everyone else though, so I’ll take it,” she said, giggling. “He’s a Himalayan. Lovely, really, the friendliest little thing."
“He sounds - sweet,” Frederik said, pretending he hadn’t already seen the cat strutting around many times during his few days of surveilling her.
She thought, against her better judgment, for several moments, smacking her lips. “Would you like to meet Alvin? I mean, I don’t normally invite guys into my house, well, I never have at all, as a matter of fact.” She laughed, realizing her invitation was utterly absurd. But he looked at me, she thought.
“By the way, I’m Candace.”
“Frederik,” he said and left the window in favor of the front door. He entered her house like Alice entering Wonderland. Charlie entering the Chocolate Factory.
They gave Alvin catnip, swung on the backyard tire swing under fire-orange sunsets, and fell in love. They were two loners floating through life who happened to crash into each other, and the outside world fell away.
The only thing that kept them apart was their work. Candace made good money as a veterinarian who preferred the company of animals to people. Frederik could relate since he preferred the sound of trash crunching beneath heavy steel to people’s voices.
When they weren’t together, Frederik sat in his dusty living room binging on doctor pimple-popping videos while fantasizing that each patient was Candace and he was the doctor. In his kitchen, he popped tomatoes, pineapples, and watermelons in his vise. Every day he imagined the moment when he might work up the nerve to pop one of Candace’s pimples. The thought of it sent him into a masturbatory frenzy.
That moment arrived one windy autumn night when thunder boiled above her house. They sat together in front of the roaring electric fireplace—Frederick couldn’t help but get excited at the occasional crackle and popping sounds shooting from the digital logs. They slowly rubbed their hands along each other’s bodies. He gently explored her bumps of goo, like an explorer traversing a grand new mountain chain. Candace waited for him to make a move, perhaps unbutton her pants or remove her bra, but he seemed intently fascinated by her acne. He glared around her body like a child peering over a pile of unopened Christmas presents.
“You wanna—pop ‘em?” Candace asked, chewing nervously at her lip.
No words had ever generated such an intense surge of excitement inside Frederik. He took a deep breath and ran his fingers along her chest as she removed her bra. He settled on a juicy whitehead that sat just above and between her tiny pink breasts. He began pressing on either side of the bulge, gently at first. He grinned at the foreplay. Candace smiled back at the gentle pressure growing stronger. She moaned as he dug his fingertips deeper into her flesh. A second later, the skin crunched; yellow pus shooting out of the ruptured wound, splattering across Frederik’s chest.
“More,” she cried, her breath growing to a fever pitch.
The rest of the night was spent in an ecstasy of eruptions—their bodies slip ’n sliding back and forth in goop as he thrust himself inside her. She was a virgin, so it hurt a bit at first, but as the pus dripped down, lathering their genitals, it became intense pleasure for both of them. He laid his fingertips on a penny-sized zit on her forehead and could feel her pulse pounding through the lump. As Frederik came inside her, his fingertips pierced the bubble of goo, and it blasted like a firehose across his face. He licked his lips with devilish enjoyment, sighed, and collapsed into the bed. Frederik fell into the most peaceful sleep of his life.
Looking him over, Candace smiled and laid her head upon his slick chest.
But her smile drooped under the weight of guilt, and she barely slept.
“I have to go away for a while,” Candace said the following morning, dropping a heaping amount of sugar into her coffee.
“Is there someone else?” Frederik asked, peeking up from his snap-crackle-popping cereal. His favorite brand.
She wanted to tell him. So badly, she wanted to tell him the truth, but she couldn’t. How would he react? He might dump her on the spot. She stared down into his eyes and grabbed hold of his shoulders.
“I only wanna be with you. This is just something I need to do. It’s a…medical thing,” she said, looking away from him.
Frederik sat up in his chair, dropping his spoon. “Medical? What’s wrong?”
“Oh, I’m fine, don’t worry,” she said and leaned forward, running her fingers through his sweaty hair. “I’ll be back before you know it, good as new, better than ever.” She kissed him, and Frederik slowly went back to eating his cereal.
“Just don’t go finding another girl while I’m away, okay? Promise? Pinky Promise!?”
Frederik pinky-promised, Candace left, and he went back to his empty little apartment. He had agreed to cat-sit Alvin while she was away. He liked Alvin, and it didn’t matter that the cat liked climbing and clawing since every inch of his furniture was covered in multiple layers of bubble wrap.
Frederik sat before his iMac and typed the address for his favorite pimple-fetish site, pulled himself out of his pants, but hesitated.
Is this cheating? He wondered, remembering his pinky promise to not find another girl.
Putting himself away, he grabbed the TV remote and turned on his favorite sitcom to distract his mind. In this episode, a group of friends wagered on who could refrain from masturbating the longest. The irony was not lost on him. As the days passed without Candace and without pimple-popping porn, his biggest get-off was leering into the microwave as his Orville Redenbacher bags popped. Hundreds of deflated sheets of bubble wrap piled up in the garbage.
Halloween arrived on a windy Trick or Treat night. Frederik arranged a large glass bowl filled with Pop Rocks and Blow Pops; he loved passing out treats to the neighborhood kids. The doorbell chime cut through the air and startled him. He looked at the clock—it was still fifteen minutes before Trick or Treat was set to begin. However, it was no concern to him, and he opened the door, ready to hand out the treats. The bowl of candy immediately fell and shattered on the concrete. The person on the porch wore a Candace mask. But the Candace that looked back at him had smooth and silky skin, glistening under the line of orange skull lights hanging above the door. Any hint of acne had been totally erased from her complexion. Her perfect skin smelled of medical lotion. He noticed the makeup on her face, subtle but effective; the trails of giant blackheads over the bridge of her nose had vanished. Her smile was something from a supermarket magazine. It wasn’t a costume, wasn’t a mask, wasn’t a trick, it was Candace. She was utterly gorgeous…and it fucking disgusted him.
“What did you do?!” Frederik yelled. Candace cocked her head and furrowed her finely waxed eyebrows.
"Nice to see you, too, jeez,” she said, smacking her luscious lips and shrugging her shoulders. “I’m sorry, I wanted to tell you. It was just, well, you seemed to enjoy my acne so much, I didn’t have the heart to tell you. I had a medical treatment done, this experimental thing my sister told me about. And holy cow, it worked, it really worked!”
“What the hell did you do?!” he raged, raising his tone to a frightening pitch and stomping his right foot on the ground like a stubborn child, crushing pieces of glass beneath his heel. All the excitement on her face rushed off like it was late for a meeting—and it never returned.
“You’re upset, I get it. I shoulda told you, I know. Just gimme Alvin, I guess, and I’ll get going,” she said, her voice cracking a bit, her perfectly mascaraed eyes clouding with tears. In an instant, his gangly arms slithered and tightened around her. The door slammed as he yanked her into the apartment, crushing more glass in the jamb.
Candace tried to scream, but Frederik reared back and slapped her with the back of his hand. She collapsed to the kitchen floor. He ripped open a drawer and grabbed a bag of zip ties.
Once he had her hands and feet tied, he screamed, “Why would you do this to me? Why would you take away what he had?”
She shook her head desperately. “I wasn’t healthy. I thought you would think—think I was beautiful, Frederik. Like you did before."
"You’re not beautiful!” he roared, slamming his fists to his thighs hard enough to leave a bruise. “You’re just like everyone else!”
In a full tantrum, he took something from another drawer. Candace looked up and saw a bag of multi-colored balloons.
Frederik tore open the bag and knelt beside her, forcing a red balloon against her mouth. “Breathe!” he screamed. Tears streamed down her face as he forced her to inflate the entire bag of balloons. Candace gasped for breath.
He stood up, leaning against the kitchen counter, surrounded by a rainbow of balloons. Anger fueled him as he slammed his foot down onto one—
All those weeks Frederik had restrained his urges, now they busted free like a hostage making a last-chance escape. His foot stomped another balloon—
Candace cried against the cold linoleum floor.
He pulled her by the hair to the kitchen counter, and she spotted the giant vise, confusion swirling in her frantic eyes.
“Frederik, I love you, please, please…I’ll, I’ll stop the treatments, grow all the pimples back, I promise, I promise!” she pleaded, none of it getting through to him. He picked her up by the armpits and shoved her face into the cold vise. Writhing in terror, she desperately tried to free herself, but he knocked her head down hard into the steel. Blood streamed out of her nose, and her body went limp. Candace murmured a final plea as he slammed the vise together into her temples. It took a few tries; her skull weakened, cracking and crunching with every smash of the vice. Finally, the adrenaline caused a sensational burst of energy, and Frederik crushed the vise shut with enough force to-
-her entire brain like a giant grape, the inside oozing out like an over-stuffed peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Frederik’s toes curled in ecstasy.
He slouched to the floor, panting and staring at the gore-soaked linoleum. As he came down from his orgasmic high, he immediately longed for another, just like any good junkie.
Alvin had made his temporary home on the fuzzy throw rug inside the bathroom. The Himalayan hadn’t heard Candace in the apartment, too busy catching up on his 22-hour per day sleep schedule. But now Alvin was wide awake with his wet nose pressed against the vice. Alvin hissed—a pathetic and terrified squeal—just before his tiny cat head erupted, spewing teeth, blood, and fur into the air.
Frederik’s head swirled; he wanted to keep popping. Suddenly, there was a loud knock on the front door.
The police? he thought. Shit, shit, shit. Panicking, he peeked outside and saw a mummy, a superhero, and Dracula. Of course, he thought, Trick or Treat.
Apologizing for the broken glass on the porch, he invited in handfuls of trick-or-treaters, gave them candy, and popped their brains across his kitchen with perverse excitement.
POP, POP, POP, POP, POP, POP, POP –
When the police arrived hours later, they found Candace, Alvin, and seven costumed kids with their skulls obliterated.
Frederik sank back into a wooden kitchen chair, covered in his own bodily fluids, as well as the brains and blood of his victims. Despite the smile on his face, he was dead. The autopsy revealed a heart attack; too much excitement had caused his heart to pop.