Phobophobia: A Novel
Jennifer J. Patterson
I am so relieved that the temperature within this room is I-can-see-my-breath cold. I like it cold. I need it cold. When you spend as much time hopping over Hell’s bottomless puddles of roaring flames as I have, you tend to acutely hone a sincere appreciation for air conditioning, global warming, and the occasional blue-raspberry Icee.
And today, my friends, is an absolutely perfectly cold day. These pale white arms are simply rejoicing in their horripilation. Each of the tiny little porcupine hairs is saluting and standing at attention, puffing up to make this weak human body appear just a little big bigger and more capable of staving off pesky predators. Here’s a fun bit of trivia about goose bumps: I bet you didn’t know that the phrase, “Bitten by a Westchester goose,” was once commonly used by the English in reference to syphilis. The Westchester Geese were, of course, prostitutes in South London (and who didn’t love a good gander at those geese, if you know what I mean). Ah, syphilis, how I do enjoy a good STD every now and again. You haven’t really lived until you’ve tossed and turned through a sleepless night of mental anguish, unrelenting itching, and excruciating burning. Satan himself couldn’t have come up with a better consequence for lustful sin, and he’s actually still a little touchy about the subject. (Lil’ side note here: If you ever find yourself standing in front of the Overlord of Hell, I’d suggest not bringing up this tasty piece of trivia, but it’s great cocktail party speak.)
So, yes, it’s perfectly cold and still – just like the place in my chest where I often imagine a warm human heart beating. And here I am wriggling around in this new body, trying it on like a used and wrinkled tuxedo. I guess it fits okay. It’s a little saggy for my taste and oh! so pale. This guy must be allergic to the sun because he doesn’t have a single sunspot or leathery wrinkle anywhere to be found. Either that or maybe he wears SPF X2000.
I’m getting tired and hungry as this is the THIRD body I've tried on today. Nobody likes me when I’m hungry - I get all Paul Lynd sortta nasty and mean. Sigh. I just don’t know what’s wrong with me these days. I used to be able to just hunker down and stay in one of these humans for as long as I could get away with it.
Once I lived a whole human adulthood. I’d popped myself right into a 21-year-old guy named Charlie. Stayed there till he was on his deathbed at age 92. I let him out long enough to say goodbye to the cruel world who had never even noticed he’d been gone for ?# years – imprisoned and alone within the confines of his own mind. He tried his best to convince the docs that he didn’t have dementia (or demontia, if you will), but they just patted him on the shoulder and increased his morphine (lucky me!). I’m actually quite surprised young Charlie’s liver made it that long. I tried my damnedest to pickle that thing in his younger days.