Fiction
Incendiary
Grimley Bogue
Butter Pat Babies
Steve Rasnic Tem
Preamble
KJ Hannah Greenberg
Stockholm Syndrome
Lucy Mihajlich
Painting
Sayuri Yamada
Konfessin Mouser K.
AE Reiff

Excerpts
Hellbender
Jason Jack Miller
The Blood Poetry
Leland Pitts-Gonzalez
My Hands Were Clean
Tom Bradley
The Tumors
Matthew Revert

The Tumors Made Me Interesting
Matthew Revert


I haven’t been in a doctor’s office for nearly 15 years. It’s not that I don’t get ill – quite the contrary. I just avoid the urge to parade my various illnesses and injuries around. When your wage is lacking like mine, bolstering the pockets of some, already overpaid, GP doesn’t sit in my stomach quietly. So I suffer my ailments until they retreat. What can a doctor really do to aide a cold or flu? They excel at giving you easily researched advice before removing valuable money from your malnourished wallet. For these reasons, and so many more, I avoid the doctor.

And what does it mean to be ill anyway? The body regenerates itself. It’s more resilient than a teenage boy’s wanking hand. The truth is, if it weren’t for the fact so many workplaces require proof of one’s ailments, we wouldn’t waste time going to a doctor at all. I’m the sort of person who goes to work when they’re sick anyway. You know those work colleagues who cough up wads of phlegm onto their computer screens just before asking you to come over and double check some sales figures? That’s me. I’m the guy who blows his nose just before shaking your hand. There’s usually a disease-infested hanky in my pocket that I utilize regularly. When you hate your job as much as I do, it’s those subtle acts of sabotage that give you reason to continue. If I were being honest, I’m probably more comfortable when I'm sick. It gives my miserableness something to hang on to – it gives me an excuse. Why would I go to a doctor? I’ll leave that task to those I infect. To even consider seeking professional help, I have to be really fucking sick.

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try and fight it, you can’t stop shitting blood. I did an admirable job of convincing myself the bleeding was a result of some constipation-induced tear. My diet is such that constipation is a regularity. The only time I eat healthy food is when it happens to be included in whatever microwaved monstrosity I happen to be eating for dinner. But time went on, and long after a tear would normally heal itself, the blood was still there, as if my bowels were vomiting beetroot. This went on for weeks and no matter how hard the dreaded ‘C’ word tried forcing its way into my conscious mind, my stubborn self-delusion kept pushing it away. My self-delusion took a real blow when the stomach pains started. It felt as if my organs had found switchblades and had decided to attack my insides. It was a sharp, cutting pain that refused to abate. A month of this was too much for even me to bear, so I took a bite from the bullet and made an appointment to see a doctor.

The morning of the appointment, I stared hard at the blood-smeared toilet paper and cried like an onion full of eyeballs.

My inexperience with doctors really slapped me in the face. The waiting room I was in looked like a bunker and smelled sanitized into non-existence. It was the victim of industrial strength humanity removal. The grime and filth were there in abundance. The walls and carpet were painted with it. But the filth had been fossilized beneath layers of disinfectant, rendering it ugly but harmless. No matter where people sat, they all looked like shadows. Quiet, yet distorted music sprayed from roof-mounted speakers. It sounded like a musical interpretation of a stagnant aquarium with all the emaciated fishes bobbing on the surface, blackened seaweed tendrils floating below. Surely there are better waiting rooms than this, I thought. I had a knack for choosing poorly and I blame it on my unwillingness to do research. I could have hopped online and found the best medical clinics in the area. Instead I picked up a four year-old phone book and rang the first place that looked even remotely doctor-related. I thought I’d chosen well. The receptionist was very careful to tell me that all appointments at this clinic would be rewarded with a free spoon, collectible upon exit. I kept losing my spoons so I figured it was a good sign. I was quite wrong.

When my name, Bruce Miles was called (and somehow mispronounced), I felt a surge of victory. I glanced around the waiting room, bathing in those looks of envy the shadows cast my way. It was upon rising that I really began to understand the necessity for waiting times at medical clinics. It gives you a fleeting sense of having won something ambiguous when your name is finally called – everybody gets a prize. I felt conspicuous like an erection on public transport as I made my way up the faded corridor. Everyone’s eyes were still upon me, wishing, if only for one regrettable moment, that they were me.

The doctor was hunched over a foldout table and introduced himself in an indecipherable voice that sounded like an old refrigerator. He motioned toward a filthy looking beanbag and told me to sit, his back turned to me the whole time. After a few minutes of thick, awkward silence, the doctor shuffled his body around until he was straddling the chair.

“So … Tell me why you’re here,” he asked.

I had been dreading this moment. I’d rehearsed what I was going to say in the mirror again and again, trying to find the least embarrassing way to explain my problem. I tried shrouding my problem in the most abstract metaphors, just to avoid saying anything cringe-worthy, but it reached a point where a World War II code breaker would have struggled to decipher my problem. I reasoned with myself that, as a professional, a doctor is well-versed at handling awkward illnesses and, as such, I had nothing to be worried about. So I decided I’d simply cut to the chase, the benefit being that it would get it over and done with in the quickest manner.

“Umm …It’s my bowel movements,” the doctor scrunched up his face rudely. “Lately they’ve contained a lot of blood.”

The doctor’s mouth fell open and he started fanning his hand about his nose. “That is fucking gross! What the hell’s wrong with you, man?”

The question took me completely by surprise. It was as if this doctor had made it his mission to turn this into the most awkward moment of my life.

“I was hoping you’d be able to tell me,” I said cautiously.

“What do you think I am, a fucking doctor?”

I nodded pathetically.

“That is some nasty business. Why did you have to go telling me that for? I’m eating lunch after this appointment. Now all I’ll be able to think about is your disgusting problem.”

I was far too shocked to feel offended. In fact, had I been in the doctor’s position, I wouldn’t have responded well either.

“Well … I was hoping you might be able to tell me what’s wrong,” I continued.

“I’ll tell you what’s wrong. You’re disgusting! It’s not normal to,” his voice dropped to a whisper, “shit blood.”

“I know it’s not normal,” I replied in a whisper to match his. “I’m not exactly pleased I have to come and see a doctor about this. I’m feeling really uncomfortable about it.”

“Well join the damn club, man! There seems to be some wacky notion that doctors are immune to the human body’s vulgarity. It ain’t the case, pal. When it comes to areas best left private, I don’t want to know about it.”

I studied the miserable excuse for a doctor that sat before me. He was wearing a stain-riddled singlet and what looked like lime green pajama bottoms. The skin on his face was stretched tight and vaguely translucent. I could see a forest of writhing veins beneath. A tuft of white hair sprung from atop his egg-shaped head. There was nothing nice about this man. I started to fight my way out of the beanbag.

“What are you doing?” asked the doctor.

“I thought it might be best if I left. This isn’t very nice for either of us.”

“Sit back down, you idiot. I’m a doctor aren’t I? God … my conscious won’t allow for me to let you up and leave like that.”

I was stuck halfway between sitting and standing, eyeing the doctor, trying to figure him out. “Is there anything you can do for me?”

“I don’t know,” admitted the doctor. “There’s probably some tests I can run or something.”

“So you’ll take a look at it?”

The doctor grimaced in disgust. “Yes … I suppose I can take a look at it. But seriously, man. If you tell anyone about this, I’m going to fuck you up. When chicks think of doctor’s, they imagine a handsome dude saving lives and helping small breasts to grow. They don’t picture a dude fondling another dude’s arse.”

I fell back into the beanbag, cautious yet confident that an agreement had been reached. “So … what do you need me to do?”

“Just take your damn pants off and we’ll get this over with, okay?”

There are few things less comforting than the feeling of standing in front of a man you don’t trust with your shame exposed – except for maybe spreading your arse cheeks and bending over to give that man an intimate look at your pucker. My pants were around my ankles and my palms were pressed against the doctor’s foldout table. I was paying this guy to violate me.

He began by prodding the general area cautiously with a stick, like he thought it would bite him. When he sensed no danger, he moved in closer. “This is some sick shit”, he kept saying to himself. The anticipation this built in me was painful but nowhere near as painful as the feeling of his ungloved and unlubricated fingers entering my body. I inhaled deeply, clenching around his anxious digits. As the tension built, I applied more pressure on the table, which was wobbling beneath the strain.

“You’re most likely going to feel a little uncomfortable now,” the doctor said.

Now? I thought. I had a naïve hope that I was already experiencing the worst but no… it got much worse. He began to force his whole hand inside me. I bit down on my lip, my eyes welling with tears. I focused my attention on a faded postcard tacked to the wall. The landscape it portrayed was barren, except for an old government building off to the side. It was one of those early 70s buildings with an obnoxious lack of character – the kind ‘designed’ by a bottom-line architect following a depressing formula. I placed myself in the postcard building, trying desperately to extract myself from the invasive situation. My mind darted back and forth between the doctor’s ever-disappearing hand and the imaginary postcard world.

“Yuck! I got something,” said the doctor.

“What is it?” “Hold on. Give me a chance to pluck it out and then we’ll both know.”

He began twisting his hand inside me, like he was picking a piece of fruit. Pain radiated from the area. The postcard became a grey blur and my mind started begging me to pass out – anything to escape the situation.

The doctor’s hand, accompanied by a wet, sucking sound intervened. I gorged on oxygen and went limp. I didn’t dare turn around. I could feel breeze gusting into my gaping, spent arsehole.

“This is officially sick,” said the doctor. “You oughta take a look at what I just plucked from your jacksie.”

Nothing within me wanted to know what the doctor was holding, but I couldn’t help myself. I turned my head and felt a rush of vomit climb my throat. In the doctor’s hand was what looked like a fleshy, bleeding apple. It was an abstraction from deep within – from a world that existed inside me that I had never visited. This was from a place I didn’t want to know – a place that most of us never want to know.

“What is it?” I finally asked after swallowing my vomit accumulation.

“Well, I’m no doctor, but it looks to me like a tumor.”

This is when the first wave of panic hit. In one demeaning moment, everything I’d managed to successfully ignore punched me in the stomach. Breath escaped me and I collapsed to the floor. For a moment I was overcome by an animalistic response. Notions of civility were nowhere to be found. My face was pressed against the carpet, inhaling the traffic of every patient before me. I rolled onto my back and stared up at the doctor, feeling fragments of civility returning.

“But you got it out, right?” I said with an air of hope that I couldn’t believe.

The doctor burst into laughter. “Yeah, well I got this one out but your bowel is full of the fuckers.”

“Do you know for sure that it’s definitely a tumor?” I asked hopelessly still on the ground.

“Who do you think you’re talking to? I’m a damn doctor, ain’t I?”

“Isn’t there some tests you can run or something? I need to know for sure.”

“Umm … Yeah … I guess. There’s a dude I know. I’ll chuck the tumo … ah, the growth to him and get him to check it out.”

“When?”

“I’m going to his place for a jam session tonight. I’ll drop it off then.”

“Will he look at it tonight?”

“You’re a needy little fucker, aren’t ya?” said the doctor, disbelief filling his face.

If I hadn’t felt so weak and pathetic, I’d have introduced my fist to the doctor’s face. This is what I told myself anyway. I’d only ever been in one fight before and that was just a bout of shin kicking when I was five. I was more of a natural born coward than fighter. What really stung was the knowledge that despite the indignity and apathy this bastard had thrown my way, I’d still thank him and offer to shake his hand afterward. It didn’t matter that I thought I was going to die; I’d still shake his fucking hand.

“Look … I just need to know,” I said. “I’d appreciate whatever you can do.”

The doctor dropped my anal apple on the table, where it landed with a wet splat, and helped me up, smearing my shirt with his bloody hand. He even pulled up and buttoned my pants for me.

“Look, dude. I’ll do what I can. I’ll try to get him to have a look tonight. When we get jamming though, we rock pretty damn hard. I play a bag of scraps that I hit against things. I know what you’re thinking, sounds like a shit instrument, yeah? Well, like anything, you can spend your whole damn life mastering it. I wave a scrap bag like a rock god! He plays a coil of rope. He just throws it at things mostly but sometimes he rubs stuff with it. He’s damn good at what he does. We’re recording a demo that will blow you the fuck away! I’ll sling you a copy.”

“That would be nice,” I found myself saying, regardless of the fact that his demo was the last thing I’d ever be interested in. He gave me a thumbs-up in response. “Do you need my number so you can contact me?”

“Yeah, why not? Wanna write it down for me?”

I scanned the room for a pen and paper. There was absolutely nothing to write with or on. Given the appointment up until now, I don’t know why this surprised me. I made do with a toe nail clipping and a length of pipe that I’d found on the thinning carpet. With the clipping, I began furiously scratching my number into the pipe like a prisoner counting down his stay. I passed the pipe with its slight engraving to the doctor who tucked it awkwardly into his pant leg.

“Alrighty, I’ll contact you soon. Don’t forget to grab your free spoon on the way out.”

I made sure to do just that, but not before thanking the doctor and shaking his hand.


Matthew Revert is an author of disturbing nonsense. His writing explores the absurdity of everyday life and the hopelessness of being human. Themes of sexual failure, body horror, destructive relationships and gender identity often play a roll in his work. This is intermingled with a thread of dark tragicomedy. He’s basically a filth-monger with heart.