top of page
  • Midwest Weird

"Growth," Keira Perkins



Midwest Weird Presents: Maxine Firehammer reading her story, "The Highway"

Today on Midwest Weird: “Growth” by Keira Perkins.

 

Keira Perkins writes both short fiction and poetry, most of it speculative. She is also a scientist, which is mostly not speculative. Keira lives in Indiana with her husband, dogs, cats, and whichever stray animal she’s brought home that week. Keira can be found at keiraperkins.com, where she blogs about knitting, ghosts, miscellaneous trivia and occasionally, writing.


 

Midwest Weird is an audio literary magazine from Broads and Books Productions. We’re the home of weird fiction and nonfiction by Midwestern writers.

 

Submit your own work to Midwest Weird at www.midwestweird.com!



Episode Transcript:

  

This is Midwest Weird, an audio literary magazine from Broads and Books Productions.

 

We’re the home of weird fiction and nonfiction by Midwestern writers.

 

Today’s episode: A short story by Keira Perkins, titled “Growth.” Read by the author.

 

It was growing.


Clara stared into the refrigerator. That weird, sticky puddle that had been under the rotting carrots was growing.


At least, she thought they had been carrots once. She remembered feeling proud of herself for buying vegetables and she had big plans for the carrots, which she had then promptly forgotten.  Several weeks later, she  had found a plastic bag that was emblazoned with the words, “CARROTS” as well as “Gluten-Free!” and assumed that the greenish-brown sludge were, at one time, gluten-free carrots. The sludge had merged with an older yellow stain on the shelf, which made Clara think of the pea-soup vomit scene in The Exorcist.


The sticky puddle was bigger today, which was definitely weird. She was always finding sticky, little piles of something in her home, so that part wasn’t weird. It was just weird that it was bigger. She had thrown away the maybe-carrots yesterday and scrubbed at the puddle with some bleach.


Maybe she hadn’t actually scrubbed, she admitted to herself. But she knew she had definitely sprayed the puddle with a little bleach from a bottle that she had found under sink. She even rubbed at it a bit with an old sponge too. She wasn’t very successful because both the sponge and puddle were gross, and she didn’t want to handle either longer than necessary. But still, she had tried a little, and that was better than nothing.


The puddle had fuzzy bumps now. Yesterday there were no fuzzy bumps.


Clara closed the refrigerator door and ordered tacos from Door Dash. Tacos were always more satisfying than thinking about rotten carrots.

 

Clara was firmly in the camp that ignoring a problem made it go away. She didn’t really believe it could make things go away, but it was nice to pretend.  You could pretend for a long time before you had to do anything.  But that puddle was still there. It was still growing. There were more fuzzy bumps now and there was a smell, slightly metallic and little like an electrical fire. It felt like pennies on her back teeth and reminded her vaguely of blood. However, the blood smell was also something she didn’t like to think about, so she just didn’t.


It had a been a week since she had first spotted the puddle in her refrigerator. Now she had to admit that the puddle was more like a small swamp.  Clara knew she needed to do something about it, but it felt too big. How do you get rid of a swamp in your refrigerator?


But maybe.


Maybe.


Clara grabbed a large trash bag and threw away the rest of the food in the refrigerator. There wasn’t much in there and besides, that weird blood smell had permeated into the butter. She had nearly vomited when trying to eat her toast yesterday. She would eat a lot of questionable food, but she wasn’t going to eat blood-butter. She had recently bought a gallon of bleach as she had finally come to terms with her earlier efforts and realized that the old bleach simply had not worked. Clara poured it over the swampy puddle, splashing the shelves and her feet.

 

Everything was fine. It would be okay. The bleach would work, and she would be able to soak up the mess with a handful of paper towels. She had bought extra in case it took a whole roll. They were on sale too, so she bought a few more rolls, which made her feel proud that she had planned ahead.


Clara didn’t like to think about the swamp past her plan with the paper towels and bleach.  That pennies on her teeth feeling moved into her belly when she thought about the swamp and whether this would get rid of it.            


She slammed the door shut. The bleach would do its job.

 

The bleach did not do its job.

 

“Lazy bleach,” Clara said.


She stared at the green, swampy, bumpy mess that was somehow, bigger still. And that smell. Christ. She could taste it. It was in her nose and her throat reaching down into the pit of her stomach and twisting.


She shut the door.


She opened the door.


She shut it.


Opened.


It was still there.


The swampy fuzzy thing was growing up the walls of the refrigerator and spreading, twisting its tendrils outward. She could feel the panic growing up and out of her stomach, like those tendrils, filling her throat, choking her.


It was that smell, that blood smell, that kept getting stronger and thicker. She closed the door and breathed. It was a mess of thick blood fog in her lungs and in her throat and in her mind. Breathe. Just keep breathing.


The smell wouldn’t shake loose; she was saturated in it. Without another thought, Clara walked to the back door and into the blazing sunlight.


It was a hot day and Clara hoped the sun was intense enough to burn the smell away. She knew it wasn’t enough, but she still hoped. The sun wasn’t any better at its job than the bleach, but it was a nice idea to hold onto. It was a steady good thought. Sunlight could burn away the blood smell.  The heat was something to feel rather than that awful choking sensation. Clara sat in the sun, letting it envelope her, and secretly hoping its steady warmth might turn her to dust so she could float away.


It didn’t. Lazy sun. She kept breathing instead.

 

 

It made no sense to be afraid of the swampy thing. Clara knew that. It was just a mess that needed to be cleaned up. But she was afraid, and she was ashamed. There was a something growing in her refrigerator, and she had no idea what to do. She knew that weird smelly things sometimes grew in refrigerators. She knew that most adults simply cleaned them up, efficiently and with minimum grumbling, and went about their day.


Why couldn’t she? Why was this too big for her? Clara stood in front of the refrigerator, took a deep steadying breath, and opened the door once again.  The swamp thing was still there. Of course, it was still there. She knew it would be, but she was hoping that just maybe it had all been her imagination.


It was still there, and the universe was cruel.


Clara forced herself to breathe in deeply through her mouth and out through her nose. The smell was still present, but it wasn’t quite as overwhelming this way.


“Good job, dummy.” she muttered, “Now think. Look at it. What do you see?”


She looked. It was still large and green and swampy. It still had twisty, climbing, tendrils that reached like vines and folded like tentacles. It was still bumpy. Good. If she was hallucinating at least her mind was consistent in its deception, which was strangely comforting. Clara continued to search it, while taking her steadying breaths.  It was green, with streaks and spots of browns and yellows. It wouldn’t look out of place in a Pollock gallery. The bumps looked warty and slightly fuzzy, like they may be soft to the touch. They reminded her of a woolly toad. Clara continued to observe the green, swampy, blobby, thing.


Was it….breathing? How could it be breathing?


Clara watched the bumps rise and fall, in sync with her own breath.  Her breath caught and the warty fuzzy bumps stopped moving too. She stared. Her heart thumped hard, painfully, and the thing pumped too. Then Clara was outside of her own body watching herself hyperventilate with the bumpy swamp thing keeping time with her quickening rhythm.


Clara watched herself walk with deceptive calm to the kitchen’s junk drawer. Her hands dug through the rubber bands, and pens, and other detritus until she found a lighter.   She spun around and ran to the living room, laid flat on her belly, and grabbed her hairspray from under the couch.  It had rolled under there the other day, and she just hadn’t bothered to retrieve it.


Clara went back to the refrigerator, flicked the lighter, and aimed the hair spray at the swamp blob. For a make-shift flame thrower, it wasn’t as terrible as it could be. As the flames hit the swamp blob, a high pitch hiss and foggy steam began to emanate from it.  The swamp blob wasn’t on fire yet, but it was smoldering.  Some of the warts dried up like old pimples, popped, and began to ooze a thick black liquid. The smell of it, that awful blood smell, pulled her back to her body while her mind continued to push her out.


Then slowly, the hiss elongated and reached a higher octave. It was a tea kettle screaming from her refrigerator, green, foul-smelling smoke started to pour from the door. Her own hair started to blacken and curl around the edge. She felt delirious, like she was burning hot with a fever.  She watched as tiny fissures split the skin of her fingers and began to bleed. The ineffable, cascading pain of it snapped her back fully into her own body. She expected fuzzy warty bumps to explode through the surface of her skin and for green tendrils to burst free at her hairlines. Neither of those happened. She still dropped the lighter. It was enough. It hurt too much.


Clara fell to her knees and sat back slowly on her heels. She couldn’t kill it.


“Is this it then? If you die, I die?”


The swamp blob didn’t respond, but at least the screaming had stopped.

As Clara sat on her knees, she watched the swamp blob ooze and scuttle on its burnt tendrils from the refrigerator. It hit the floor and then began to inch up her knee, leaving a trail of thick, black slime in its wake.  The swamp blob then made its way up her thigh, curled around her belly like a vine, and finally nestled itself into the crook of her neck. 

 

“You smell bad.” said Clara.


The swamp thing gurgled, like a trumpet full of spit. It may have been a happy noise.


“What if I want you to die? What if I want us to both die?”


The swamp thing made another noise, a little a like a whistle and a little like a braying donkey. It may have been laughing, but who could say. It had no mouth.   

The swamp thing did not die. Neither did Clara.  The swamp thing seemed fond of her, despite her earlier attempts to kill it with fire. She did her best to avoid it, and not think about it, but it followed her everywhere when she was at home, including slipping into her bed late at night and curling up on the bathroom tile when she was in the shower. A few times, the swamp thing tried to sneak out the front door when Clara left for work.  An uneasy truce slowly formed between them, until Clara was forced to consider they were now bound to one another. There was no escape.


“And really,” she said as she stroked where she thought the swamp thing’s belly might be, “that’s not terrible. You eat all the vegetables that I accidentally leave to rot in fridge. And you like my mess, which makes you a better roommate than all my previous ones.”


The swampy blob thing gurgled. Clara thought it might be agreeing with her that yes, it was a good blob and roommate.  They had started a tradition that on Fridays, the swamp thing would join her on the couch to watch ‘80s slasher movies. She hadn’t invited it at first. The swamp thing simply showed up. These days though, she made sure they were both cozy. Clara would snuggle up under a hand-knitted blanket and the swamp-blob oozed into an old Igloo cooler. It liked to squeeze into tight and climate-controlled spaces (When not with Clara, the thing’s favorite spot in the whole house was the crisper drawer in the refrigerator). Clara offered the first piece of cheese pizza to her friend, but looked away as it ate. Clara was still not sure how the swamp thing ate, but decided it was best to not look too closely. Something like dread moved in her belly if she looked too closely. As she turned her head, she caught the goriest of kills on the television and shrieked in horror and delight. The swamp thing in turn wrapped one tentacle around her neck and gurgled happily.


Clara had decided that if she couldn’t rid herself of her monsters, learning how to befriend them was also a very good choice. As long as she didn’t think about it too hard, everything would be fine. Just fine. Just keep breathing.

           

 

Keira Perkins writes both short fiction and poetry, most of it speculative. She is also a scientist, which is mostly not speculative. Keira lives in Indiana with her husband, dogs, cats, and whichever stray animal she’s brought home that week. Keira can be found at keiraperkins.com, where she blogs about knitting, ghosts, miscellaneous trivia and occasionally, writing.

 

Watch for upcoming bonus episode where we chat with Keira about this story, writing, latest obsessions, and more.

 

We’ll be back in two weeks with more weird stories.

 

If you like what you hear, subscribe, like and review the show.

 

And if you want your fiction or nonfiction to appear on Midwest Weird, send us your work! Read the show notes for a submission link.

 

Thanks for joining us. And stay weird.


Comentarios


Los comentarios se han desactivado.
bottom of page