How Clean is Your Sty?

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
Amy is hard-done-by and constantly under siege by rising levels of dirt. One day, something weird happens to turn her world upside down...

Submitted: July 27, 2009

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Submitted: July 27, 2009

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The sulphuric rotting of vegetables, concocted with the staleness from months of layered grease, swelled around Amy’s nostrils as she slowly cracked open the door and entered the kitchen, her hands trembling a little around the handle. It was an unchartered, feral territory, for she had no idea what she might find as she looked towards the sink, an image that gave her legs the elasticity of iron rods, as she tried to take a faltering step. Her stomach repulsed, jolting upwards in protest. Clamping her hand over her mouth, Amy diverted her attention to the floor. Her expression twisted at the accumulated dirt sprinkled across the tiles; sharp pieces of dried pasta, grit from trainers which prickled under foot, and a stickiness, that Amy guessed was once orange squash, spilt and left to turn into a congealed puddle. The soles of her feet stuck to the floor and peeled off again with each new step, and she began to regret not having worn socks.

Amy lived with two other students in a house close to the campus. After watching them soil the carpets with mud and grass from their football boots, and falling down the stairs after tripping over their hockey sticks, Amy had learnt that their approach to tidiness took a threadbare backseat. Instead they preferred to adopt the mannerisms of moths, transfixed by the neon signs of the city’s nightclubs; fronted by a green dusting of beer bottle glass and an untidy drunk sprawled on the concrete. With dawn they would swarm to the rusting porch light beacon of home, fluttering across the threshold and squeaking wildly, sometimes modelling a new piece of headwear; a lifted traffic cone as a souvenir.

Amy intended to at least put a dent into the mountains of washing up. At first glance it appeared threatening, like peering up at a dark and sinister stone tower, and challenging, like embarking upon a climb up the cruel jagged peaks of Mount Everest... Then she snapped out of her reverie, in reality they were plates, pots and pans. Yet her nose wrinkled at the curdled lumps of cheese sauce, clinging aimlessly onto a wooden spoon, and Amy was certain a fair bit of persuasion was required. She took a shuddering breath and steeled her fragile gag reflex against the state of the plughole, a clogged underworld for food debris. Pale clumps of raw cake mix floated limply without direction, like lost souls, upon the surface of stagnant dishwater. An aroma shot up from the depths and punched Amy square in the nose like a fist, and she in turn felt her body involuntarily stagger backwards.

Enough was enough. Amy snapped on a pair of rubber gloves, plunging her fingers into the plughole with a force that declared she meant business.
As she excavated the grime, Amy felt lightheaded; whether it was the simple feeling of finally being able to get something done, or just the fumes, she could not say. She picked up the embryonic matter she had extracted with the very tips of her fingers, and as it quivered in mid-air, she pondered whether she had given those scientists a run for their money by discovering a new life form, which dwelled in kitchen sinks and had the uncanny ability to survive on infected food particles alone. With that thought, Amy felt that familiar acidity rising in her throat, and hurried over to the bin, hurling her new ‘discovery’ into its dark abyss; this was one experiment that would never hit the front cover of ‘New Scientist’ magazine!

Turning back, she caught a quick flash of brown scuttle past. She sighed; the cockroach traps had long lost their potency. After running some blessedly hot water, washing away the silt,and frivolously squirting some lemony-fresh liquid, she sank a mug, long tarnished with tea stains, into the ebullient froth and attacked it with the scouring sponge, her teeth gritted, and knuckles white. More gleaming mugs and glasses were slammed haphazardly onto the drainer, with Amy showing no intention of slowing down. Perhaps it was this uncontrollable sense of frenzy which caused her to absentmindedly reach out and grab a saucepan handle from the middle of the pile. The stack of crockery and precariously placed knifes started to topple. For those terrible few seconds, Amy knew they were going to fall. Nothing prevented her from shrieking as it clattered around her with a resounding air of defeat.

Amy realised she had been too eager to complete her task. Flat on her back, she was hypnotised by how grey the ceiling seemed, shrouded in its veil of netted cobwebs with crystallised bluebottles entwined in the silken threads. An abrupt jolt from the scolding ache in her tailbone rudely distracted her. Wincing, she sat up, when something caught her eye. Red dotted her arm like a rash, and Amy’s chest tightened. The calm that had simmered away inside for so long had finally boiled over, burning in her cheeks, before spreading through her body like a brush fire. The heat surged through every pore and follicle, and Amy unleashed an irresistible scream.

Her screech ricocheted, like the ammo of a fired pistol; the tension permeating the stale air, but it was not enough. Amy’s leg’s lashed out, like a recoiled spring, and sent an innocent frying pan spinning across the room. A brown mist of cooking oil sprayed across the yellowing paint, as it collided with a cupboard door. In the stillness that followed, Amy shivered as an icy numbness began to trickle down her back. She gazed as the droplets of oil slithered in greasy trails down the tired wooden panel, unable to muster the energy, or the will, to clean it off. Instead she sat, clasping her knees towards her chest. Muffled sobs gargled in Amy’s throat and cascaded down her chin, spotting her bright blue shirt. She stared up at the clock; even its stony white face was scrutinising her. Each minute that ticked by felt like a long, tedious hour, until she realised she was still bleeding.

Amy swung open the bathroom door with her good arm, not caring if it chipped the already brittle paintwork. She was greeted by dropped towels vegetating in a damp heap by the bath, polluting the air with a musty smell, and toilet roll tubes littering the linoleum. Her heavy footsteps kicked these out of the way, as she made a beeline for the medicine cabinet. Taking a bandage, Amy’s insides churned. The smudged fingerprints and streaks of crusted toothpaste had failed to distort the pale, tear-stained reflection of a face she no longer recognised. Her clenched fist hurled the bandage across the room, disturbing the assorted bottles on the windowsill.

Heaving a sigh at her unpredictable temper, Amy went to rescue a shampoo bottle that had ventured underneath the toilet. As she bent down to retrieve it, she caught sight of something small teetering on the very edge of the toilet seat, its paper wings blurring erratically like propeller blades. With a sudden sense of empathy, Amy built a bridge with her index finger, ignoring the fact that anything with six legs or more usually sent her running, and allowed the cockroach to crawl across to safety.

Amy began to giggle uncontrollably. She could not remember the last time she had done so.The cockroach flickered on the bench, so she thought she had better introduce herself.“Hello there, Mister Cockroach, my name's Amy. I'm sorry for the state of the bathroom”, she said, hiccupping back a sobbing giggle, “but I guess filth is a way of life for you. I'm sorry I'm crying so much too, but I have these housemates...” She stopped mid-sentence. Was she really engaging a cockroach in conversation? Tittering to herself, Amy crouched back down for the bottle.

“Personally, I prefer to keep my feelers filth free.”

The bottle slid promptly from Amy’s hand. Was it talking back? Trying not to startle her new friend, Amy leant in, gently putting her ear to where she guessed its mouth might be, and listened.

“Your impression of my kind is quite peculiar. However, I am grateful to you for rescuing me from a watery grave, and so I shall reward you.”

The clicking noises were barely audible, and as Amy leant in closer, the tickling of wiry feelers brushing her cheek, she was positive that it was definitely a voice she had heard. Was that its lips moving? “Does it even have lips?” she debated, her brow furrowed. The cockroach seemed to read Amy’s thoughts and flashed its wings, as if demanding a halt to her distraction.

“Well, we shall see.” it declared, before scurrying away, like it had somewhere important to be, through a fracture in the wall. Amy gaped after it. Well, she reasoned, she had been under a lot of strain lately. Amy studied her arm; this scratch was not as dire as she had first thought.

It was a Monday and life appeared to continue as normal; the laundry and crockery still festered in its usual way, as though nothing out of the ordinary had ever occurred. Despite this, Amy had woken up filled with an unexplained sense of optimism for the future.


“Ugh, rank.” Janine scowled as she prepared for her morning shower, ogling the large purple circles blotting the plastic curtain. “I’d have thought Amy would’ve done something about that, she’s always on my back about cleaning and stuff.” As she turned on the water the mould seemed to pulse with its own strange light.

“Oh well.” she said obliviously. “I’ve got no time to worry about it now. Amy’ll do it anyway if I leave it long enough.”

Downstairs Marissa was whisking at the kitchen counter. Amy walked in and quirked an eyebrow at the half a dozen eggshells; Marissa had never been in the habit of cooking to share. As Amy went over and grabbed her box of muesli, Marissa stopped what she was doing and turned to survey her in a lost fashion. Sensing a stare upon her, Amy relented.

“What’s the matter?”

“Where’s the juicer?” came Marissa, her hands on her hips, “I used it last week, I swear...”A vein in Amy’s forehead started to throb. Although they had been friends at first, gradually Marissa had learnt her tone from Janine in regards to household matters. Amy was eager to avoid arguments this early on in the day, but if Marissa really wanted her juicer...

“It’s probably still in the washing up from last time.” Amy mumbled.

“Well, I need it so I can have a drink of fresh fruit juice every morning. Janine and me, we’re learning about the importance of fruit in our diet for good health. God, you’re so inconsiderate!” Marissa snorted, adding four rashers of bacon to the spitting frying pan.

The week progressed, and Amy began to suspect things were quite different. Marissa was constantly in the kitchen, either cooking or eating something, and Janine now occupied the bathroom at all hours of the day and night; perhaps a new crush was on the horizon? She was at a loss when it came to explaining Marissa’s new behaviour though, for she had started skipping her gym sessions in favour of experimenting with disgusting recipes; ‘chocolate-bacon-fudge ice cream’ being her latest delicacy. If Amy was honest, it was beginning to show, not that she would ever say anything.

Events came to a head on Thursday evening, the start to the typical weekend, abundant in cheap larger and obnoxious music. It began normally enough. Janine and Marissa took their turns in the shower and laid out their clothes, each hoping their outfit would snare the attention of some unsuspecting male for the entire festivities. Amy, on the other hand, was content to catch up on her reading, for the upcoming seminar on Victorian literature, from the sanctity of her room. Along the landing chaos was brewing. Marissa was wearing a tube dress, which concealed how she could not properly fasten her skinny jeans, yet her feet would not squeeze into her favourite heels with the pointed toes.

“Hey, Jay, could you lend us a hand? My sodding shoes have shrunk or something.”

A flustered Janine emerged from the bathroom holding a razor.

“What?”

“Stand here.” Janine whimpered as a chubby hand pressed down on her bony shoulder, while Marissa wobbled, forcing Janine’s frame downwards.

“Why aren’t they going in?!”

“You’re a bloody pig, Marissa” Janine glowered, “you say you’re trying to bulk, but you haven’t lifted in days, no wonder you can’t fit into your clothes.”

Marissa’s small eyes flashed, and she booted the offending shoe across the room. “What about you Janine?” she asked in a silky soft voice. “You’re in that bathroom, day and night, and I keep finding hairs all over the place...” She peered at Janine a little closer. Maybe it was a trick of the light, but after Janine’s baiting, she was not about to let her off so easily.

“Is that a moustache?”

Janine’s face flushed a brilliant hue, her fingers now curled even tighter around the razor in her hand.

“Brat!” Twisting away from Marissa, she stalked out of the house with a loud slam, leaving Marissa to fall.

Marissa kicked off her remaining shoe and ambled into the kitchen. She was going to need some more ice cream after that row! Meanwhile, Amy turned another page of Christina Rossetti’s ‘Goblin Market’. The peace was never kept for long.

It was next Monday and Janine, needing to write a lab report for tomorrow’s deadline, had hurriedly decided to find her textbook. Remembering it was placed on a high shelf, she fetched a chair in order to retrieve it. Poised on tiptoe, Janine stretched; puzzled that her hands could only reach the shelf below. Still, Marissa owed her big time for Thursday’s fight, so she decided to pay a visit to the kitchen. Soon enough, Janine had Marissa wrapped around her little finger again, just how she liked her. Marissa was eager to score points, eager enough to clamber onto the chair, which now looked incredibly flimsy, and reach out for the precious book. Marissa wriggled and overbalanced, sending her and the book crashing back down to Earth, Janine scarcely able to scamper out of the way in time.

Although she had dodged Marissa, Janine’s heart was still pounding. She was taller than Marissa not so long ago, why could she not get the book herself? No explanation made sense; she exercised, ate healthily, and had never heard of a disease that made you shorter and... Hirsute. Janine fingered the sleeve of her jumper, which she noticed hung oddly around her scrawny wrist. “Marissa, why did you do that!” she shot. Marissa was shifting uncomfortably in her jeans, apparently fixated with the clasp. Amy stepped out of her room, not bothering to stifle her laughter as she strolled past Janine’s open doorway and down the stairs; the walls of this house were so thin! Janine’s eyes narrowed at Amy’s retreating back, she had a nerve! She turned on Marissa again, “Well? You could’ve seriously injured m...” Janine stopped. Marissa’s nose... had it... flattened? However, it was Marissa’s wide-eyed gawp, aimed in her direction, which heightened her alarm.

“What!?” she snapped.

“You’re... you’re growing a tail!”

Janine’s hands flew around, frantically pawing at her behind, until something slender bristled against her fingertips. Her breath stilled. Immediately, the ground rushed up to meet her as she felt each bone shift and crunch, doubling her up to all fours and Janine wondered if she might vomit, her insides contorting, her skin bubbling like hot wax. A ripping sound pierced the room. Janine could only just catch a watery glimpse of Marissa, squealing shrilly as her clothes burst at the seams and as her arms and legs dwindled into stumps...

As suddenly as it had started, it stopped. The rat and the pig studied each other, until the silence was interrupted by a key being inserted into the front door. The pig darted at the rat, nipping at its withdrawing tail with its snout. The chase charged down into the hallway and bolted out of the front door, past a shocked Amy. As she watched them both disappear into the night, she could only think that it had been a prank, left for her by her departing housemates, who she never saw again.


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