The Itch - Short Fiction
Updated: Sep 2, 2021
It’s a blistering winter night and my first-floor apartment windows are hemorrhaging cold air. But my main concern is my thumb, which itches to the point of driving me mad.
It starts with minor scratching, I think I have a bug bite, but there’s no bump. I go to the sink and run my hand under hot water, under cold water, put anti-itch cream on it, pinch it at the bottom until it turns purple. Still, absolutely nothing will stop my thumb from irrationally itching.
It seems like such a trivial thing but trust me, after a while, it’s enough to drive you fucking insane. I can’t concentrate on anything else. I talk to people and they look at me cockeyed because I’m constantly scratching. I go to the doctor, but he looks at me like I’m faking it or on drugs or both. He won’t write me any prescriptions. Luckily, I know a guy from back in high school. I try Benadryl, weed, Vicodin, muscle relaxers, even crack—but only one time. Absolutely nothing helps. My thumb is still being sadistically tickled by some unknown force. I can’t take much more—I’m almost at rock bottom.
Will this itch eventually spread? I wonder and shudder.
I grow paranoid, pacing frantically around my apartment late at night. I step out onto the front porch and dig my hand into the snow. Keeping it there for minutes as I weep, wishing this would stop. My hand goes numb from the frost, but my thumb is still itching. I see things dance in the darkness in the cornfield across the street. Or maybe it's my porch light that flickers no matter how many times I change the bulb. I glare out into the cornfield.
Maybe someone planned this, did this to me on purpose, I think, conspiracies running wild in my mind.
It would be a strange way of driving someone crazy. Maybe that’s why it’s so genius. I scream at the enemy in the cornfield, but no one screams back.
Frustrated, I slam my thumb in the door on the way back into the apartment, hoping the pain will cloud the itch, but now my thumb itches and hurts like hell. I curse and lock the door and close the blinds.
Hours pass. Then days. Weeks. I don’t leave the house, can’t function. I ignore all my calls. Ignore my landlord’s knocks on the door. Ignore the bills overflowing in my mailbox. I’m sure I’ve lost my job, although I haven’t listened to their voicemails. I’m about to lose everything if I don’t do something about this.
It’s Sunday night, and the football game just ended—I’m surprised the landlord hasn’t cut my cable yet. I’m standing in my white wainscoted living room and it’s cold and I’m only wearing my underwear, tight cotton whites. A single blacklight shines in the room from the top of my mini fridge, drenching the room in a dark purple glow. I drink down three Vicodin with a glass of Bacardi 151 and it’s all I can do not to throw it up.
I set the Bacardi down and pick up a long serrated steak knife with a green rubber handle. I stand over the dirty sink in my tiny kitchen, my bare feet cold against the linoleum floor. I lay my thumb down against the white ceramic and dig the knife into the base of my thumb bone. It spritzes blood and hurts like fuck all but my thumb’s not even close to coming off and I realize I need to really saw at it. The knife grinds, something in my knuckle pops, and my thumb is finally severed completely, sitting in the sink. I drop the knife on the counter and stumble back… screaming, crying, and pouring blood.
The pain is agonizing, but my tears turn joyous as I realize… my thumb doesn’t itch anymore. Relief washes over me, and I collapse back onto the living room couch, pressing a blanket on the stump where my thumb used to be. I consider what life will be like now, without a thumb, but it’s okay; anything is better than that Goddamn itch.
I smile, take a deep breath and consider my next move. I figure I should go to the hospital.
But something snatches my attention. I look down at myself. My tight whites are stained with a few sprays of blood from my thumb. But that’s not what alarms me.
I slide off my underwear and sit, butt naked, on the couch, with my penis in my hand. I stare at it—it doesn’t look like itself. It’s shriveled and scared and won’t look at me. Tears well in my eyes, and soon I’m crying harder than I ever have because I know what’s next.
I hold off for as long as I can and then I scratch. My manhood is a million mosquito bites as I tear at it with my overgrown fingernails. It's bleeding now and I'm desperate for relief—it’s already worse than my thumb ever was.
As I’m savagely scratching, I look through my tears, across the room, at the green steak knife sitting on the counter waiting for me.