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Estimated reading time — 12 minutes
Arthur had just come home from a week of restful camping with his 2 best friends. The three of them had been planning the trip months in advance due to the increasingly toxic work environment that was created with their new supervisor. Arthur was particularly excited when the three of them had planned the trip, mainly because going out into the woods had always put his mind at ease.
When Arthur was a child he would go on trips in the great outdoors with his father. The two of them would live off the land for a week or so- despite the fact that it would always make Arthur’s mother worry sick about the two of them alone in the woods. Arthur could never understand what made his mother so worried when they would leave, because Arthur and his father would regularly take a trip into the woods every last week of July. The camping trip was planned to give Arthur a final sense of freedom before the school year started in September. The reason why they didn’t take the trip in August was that that month was reserved for getting all the supplies and clothes Arthur would need for school and the two of them wouldn’t be able to plan anything for the month.
The final sense of freedom he felt when he and his father went on those trips is the reason he loved them so much. Arthur and his father would lie underneath the warm July night sky and point out the constellations as they appeared to them. Arthur’s father would explain the stories behind the groups they found, being an avid stargazer. As the summer night would become darker more constellations would present themselves to Arthur and his father, almost like they were becoming brave enough to fill the night sky with their presence and majesty.
As a child, Arthur would always wonder why he could see each constellation so vividly when he and his father were out in the woods as opposed to when he would look through his telescope at home. His childish self would think that the stars were too afraid of being seen by people to come out over cities, in fact, he figured that the bright lights of the city were scaring them away. The notion that the stars were afraid of humans was a funny thought to the now 23-year-old Arthur, but sometimes he felt that living in the ignorance of youth on the topic might have been better.
Arthur entered his small studio apartment with a sigh of remorse as his mind started to fill with the overbearing reality of being an adult. Entering his cramped little living room, Arthur kicked off his muddy boots causing them to launch off his feet and up against the door. Arthur threw his backpack onto his vomit colored couch nestled up in the corner against the two thin tan colored walls that made up part of his living space. The thought of being home was both refreshing and dismal at the same time, mainly because he never felt like this building was his home; he felt more home out in the wildness than he did in his own apartment. The idea that Arthur felt more at home outside was a depressing thought, but he couldn’t really do anything about that except for what he would usually do when he felt this way.
Arthur crossed the beige carpet and entered his kitchen to seek out what he now craved most dearly. Opening up the fridge, Arthur reached in and grabbed a cold bottle of his favorite beer from the side shelf before twisting the cap off with little resistance. Arthur brought the cold bottle up to his anticipating lips but stopped short after feeling a sudden pain on the front of his left leg. Small pricks of pain began to make its way up Arthur’s leg, but it wasn’t a particularly deep pain. Each spasm was more like a pinprick just below his knee-cap that kept occurring every few seconds. Arthur quickly reached down to where the pain was originating from, but felt nothing against his fingertips except for his own smooth skin as he took a small sip from his bottle.
After Arthur got finished unpacking he decided that it was time to get dinner ready. Although sometimes he hated to admit it, Arthur had a passion for cooking meals and baking that seemed to sprout from when he was in middle school. As Arthur began to collect the dishes required to make his evening meal he started to feel the same quick pricks of pain he felt just a few minutes ago, and immediately started to rub his left leg in an attempt to discover what could be causing the discomfort. As Arthur began to trace his leg the pain vanished as quickly as it began causing Arthur to believe he might either have a splinter or that maybe he must have banged his leg up while hiking last week. The thought of his leg being injured in the hike seemed a little bit hard to believe considering that he didn’t remember running into anything that would cause any sort of leg injury, so Arthur dismissed the thought and continued preparing his meal.
The small pricks in Arthur’s leg continued far into the evening even bothering him as he slept. The small pricks were unpredictable, starting at unknowable intervals but containing the same amount of annoying disturbance as the previous prick of pain. However, due to some miracle Arthur was only woken up three or four times during the night before he had to get up for work. Before getting up due to the high pitched buzzing of his alarm, Arthur glanced over his leg in order to inspect it. Inspecting as intently as he could, Arthur was unable to find any source of the pain he was feeling.
As the week dragged by the pain in Arthur’s leg continued to pester him during the day and night. Each prick of pain caused Arthur to rub the affected area. By the end of the first week, Arthur’s leg began to get extremely irritated causing his skin to burn and itch. Finally, Arthur got to a breaking point and realized he would need to do something to quell the irritation, so he tried applying a number of skin creams to the affected area, but to no avail. By the end of the second week Arthur’s leg got even worse, even with the countless amount of creams he was applying to his skin it wasn’t enough to fix the irritation. At the beginning of the third week, Arthur was at his limit and couldn’t take it anymore, he would have to see a doctor or risk sawing off his own leg due to the frustration.
Arthur scheduled an appointment to see the doctor and showed up the next day to see if he could get any assistance with his problem. Due to the massive swelling on the affected area of Arthur’s leg, the doctor couldn’t get determine the exact cause of the pain that Arthur was reporting- although he figured that he might have been having an allergic reaction to a plant that was causing the irritation and swelling. To help the swelling go down the doctor prescribed an extra-strength ointment and suggested that Arthur should wrap the affected area in bandages after applying the ointment. The doctor told Arthur to wait until the affected area was healed and the swelling went down before coming back so they can do an x-ray to determine if he might have fractured or sprained something in his leg. If Arthur’s leg didn’t show any signs of healing his doctor told him to see a dermatologist, but most importantly the doctor to him not to scratch or rub the affected area to prevent the possibility of infection.
Arthur rushed home as fast as he possibly could and charged through the door slamming it behind him. Arthur ripped open the packaging and rigorously applied the cream to the raw skin around the affected areas. Arthur was quick to apply the cream on his skin, but as he was applying it he felt something that caused him to jump in surprise. Running his hand over the area around his kneecap again caused him to feel a small intrusion coming from the outside of his skin that both shocked and relieved him. The discovery relived him mostly because now he knew the source of the problem and could figure out a way to solve it.
The source of all his suffering must have been some sort of splinter or thorn, but Arthur found it a little odd that he wasn’t able to discover it previously. Regardless, Arthur figured he should be able to pull it out, but was unsuccessful due to the size of the thorn and the fact that his fingers were too slick from the cream. Seeing as there wouldn’t be any way to get the thorn out anytime soon, Arthur decided to wait until the cream did what it was supposed to do, then work on getting it out later.
After three days of torture, the swelling and irritation in Arthur’s leg finally subsided. Arthur was relieved to see his leg return to its normal size, but all throughout his time of healing, he felt that same pinprick he felt the day he got back from home every now and then. Arthur felt like his suffering would soon be over as he sat in front of his desk at work waiting for his time to pack up and go.
It felt like an eternity of waiting, but after work was finally done and over with Arthur hurried to the store in order to buy some tweezers. Arthur returned home with a fresh pair of tweezers in a plastic bag. Arthur ripped the tweezers out of the package and began to study the surface of his skin intently. After a short time of scanning, he finally found what looked like a very small intrusion slightly sticking out of his skin. The intrusion looked like a piece of a black thorn that had been implanted after the body of the thorn had broken off.
Despite the fact that Arthur’s skin had healed from the swelling, there was still a lot of broken and blistered skin around the area of what looked like a thorn or splinter. As Arthur pressed the tweezers against the skin of his knee he felt a wave of pain flow from the area, but he was determined to remove this nuisance. The tweezers clamped down on the piece of a possible thorn and Arthur pulled softly, but the piece of thorn wouldn’t slide out it only slightly stretched like it was just another hair on his body. Arthur tried pulling even harder as he tried to ignore the rising pain shooting up from where he pulled, but his effort resulted in no visual change. Arthur paused briefly before he clamped the tweezers firmly on the intrusion and pulled harder and harder as the pain in his leg ramped up tenfold before he felt the thorn slightly move back with his effort.
The piece of thorn must have been a lot longer than Arthur had expected, because as he pulled it only seemed to get longer. The thing that Arthur thought was a piece of thorn turned into something completely different and would only yield a few centimeters before halting and not budging. Arthur held his breath and clenched before yanking back with half the amount of force he was planning before yelling out in pain and doubling over. Arthur looked at his leg noticing that the piece of thorn he was trying to pull out had seemed to be a lot longer than he expected. As Arthur sat there looking at the strange object protruding from his skin he moved the tweezers closer as his eyes fixated on the point of the piece of thorn, but to Arthur’s horror, he noticed that- what he thought was a piece of torn or a splinter began to quickly slither back into place on his knee.
Noticing what looked like some sort of tail moving into his body caused Arthur to scream the loudest he had ever screamed in his life. Arthur’s eyes widened as he sat there, his eyes fixated on the strange protrusion wiggling its way back into position like a worm. The tail returned to its original position at the area just below his knee cap slithering in till it looked like a small thorn again. Arthur sat there for what seemed liked hours confused and shocked as to what he just witnessed. A flood of thoughts entered into Arthur’s mind as he tried to decide what he should do about the situation.
Arthur couldn’t decide what would be the best course of action to take based on the situation- it’s not like he could tell anyone, who would believe him anyway? Arthur thought fast and brash and decided that whatever the thing slithering around in his body was it needed to be pulled out now. By the time Arthur came to his decision he was writhing in so much pain that he wouldn’t be able to make it down to his car let alone drive down to the hospital by himself. Arthur had no one to call to come pick him up so he made a quick decision that he would cut out whatever was taking residence inside his body and call 911 after he was finished to take him to the emergency room.
Arthur crawled over to the kitchen slowly until he made it to the fridge. Arthur opened the fridge and reached up grabbing a few bottles of beer and downing them quickly until he felt slightly woozy then crawled over to the small living room. Arthur sat in the middle of his living room and moved the tweezers onto the intrusion reluctantly clamping the tweezers down and taking a deep breath. Arthur yanked back on the sliver-like intrusion causing more to be exposed. Arthur cringed as he saw what looked like a black tail of a worm start to surface from his skin before pulling so hard that more of the creature was beginning to surface as it was being pulled from its burrow.
The skin around the intrusion began to bleed and break causing Arthur to scream in agony, but he continued to pull the worm causing his skin to rip in a line traveling in an upward direction on his leg. Arthur continued to scream in pain as salty streams of tears began to cascade down his face while he continued to pull causing the breakage to continue upward leaving a trail of broken skin filling up with warm crimson blood. The worm emerged more as Arthur continued to pull even though he was in excruciating pain, but he had to get this thing out. The line traveled farther up Arthur’s body as the worm emerged tarring up Arthur’s thigh and making it up the side of his stomach as his clothes and floor began to turn a deep crimson while he continued. Arthur’s hands became slick as he pulled more abandoning the tweezers a long time ago in order to uproot his invader faster.
Minutes ticked by as Arthur struggled to keep from passing out on his floor. Despite the limitation, Arthur continued on pulling, removing the creature inch by inch from his body. At this point the line of breaking skin traveled from Arthur’s kneecap up his thigh, up the side of his stomach and rib cage, winding up past his chest and up the side of his skull. The carpet was soaked thoroughly with Arthur’s fresh and drying blood as he sat there sobbing uncontrollably from the intense pain and the realization of where the creature’s end might be. Arthur sat there looking down at himself and the large pooling puddle that was soaked into the carpet as his wounds began to form clots in a desperate attempt to stop the bleeding.
At this point, Arthur was starting to fade in and out of consciousness as his hand weakly gripped onto the creature’s body. Pulling softly, Arthur began to push himself up onto his feet. Stumbling into the kitchen slipping and sliding on the tile, Arthur made his way to the phone propping himself up using the kitchen counter. Arthur dialed the number for emergency services and waited until he heard a woman’s voice come over the phone asking what the emergency was. Arthur tried to regain his composure, but found it extremely difficult with the amount of blood loss that was occurring.
The operator asked if anyone was on the line and said to state the emergency again, to which Arthur began to speak. Arthur weakly told the operator to send help as he stumbled toward the living room and managed to tell her his address before collapsing on the carpet struggling to get up while the operator continued to ask him questions. Arthur told the operator one more time his address and weakly said to send help as the phone dropped from his hand and he laid there on the carpet fading in and out of consciousness the last thing he heard was the operator telling him that a medical team will be there shortly. Arthur’s vision began to get very blurry as he crawled over the carpet, his wounds being irritated by the carpet as he dragged himself along. Arthur continued on for a little more until he could no longer keep himself from drifting off and collapsed on the floor of his living room.
Arthur startled himself awake a few minutes later weakly pulling himself onto his couch and breathing heavily as he surveyed the mess covering the room. Arthur glanced at the exposed worm-like creature twitching and coiling on the ground beside him. Sliding his hand up the side of his skull, Arthur gripped onto the exposed part of the creature attached to his head and grabbed the tweezers. Arthur brought the tweezers up to the exposed worm and clamped down hard causing the rest of the worm to wiggle and twitch on the floor. Arthur took a few deep breaths winding up his strength before he abruptly stopped as his gaze turned to the photo of his father and himself that was sitting on the coffee table.
Arthur studied the photo intently with tears in his eyes as the flash of memories centered on the day of the photo flooded into his mind. Arthur returned his grip onto the tweezers which squeezed down on the worm-like creature attached to his skull as he began to hear the faint sounds of sirens in the distance. Arthur breathed heavily and winced as he gripped down as tightly as he possibly could before yanking just as hard as he had been previously. Arthur pulled with all his might until he felt a huge pressure being relieved from his skull. Arthur’s hand slowly fell to his side as his body went limp and collapsed onto the side of the coffee table causing it and the tables’ contents to flip onto the ground with the photo of his dad landing right next to him.
As Arthur laid there on the ground facing the photo of his father he could see the worm-like creature wiggle and twitch frantically behind him as he felt the warm flow of a crimson tide slide down the side of his face and pool onto the carpet. It was at that moment, when the paramedics rushed into his apartment, that Arthur finally realized something. He could faintly hear the reactions of the paramedics as his vision got more and more clouded, and his thoughts started to drift off into a sea of memories. In that moment, as Arthur laid there triumphant, yet at the same time beaten, his last thoughts drifted on one particular memory he always kept locked up. Arthur gave a weak smile as the light began to fade from his eyes and the paramedics rushed over to him, the smile he gave was because of the irony of it all.
Everything went black as Arthur remembered the exact day his father had died, and how the way that he found his father was the exact same way that the paramedics had found him…
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