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It was late at night, and Ray was alone in his office at Beltway City Bliss Contents, working on a presentation for an important client which was due in the morning.
A small noise, a kind of rubbery squeaking, made him look up from his computer, and he saw the intruder. A figure in the shape of a man, a figure made of translucent lime green jelly held together by a plastic shroud.
"Metastasis," said the figure, announcing himself, naming himself.
The voice was a light baritone but hinted of reserves of basso profundo power.
Having spoken, Metastasis advanced. Inside the jelly were various organs, all flawed, variously soft, coagulated, cankered, furred. A lung like a swollen pad of sponge embedded with coal. A humped pulsing blood clot which might once have been a heart.
"Stop!" said Ray desperately.
And the thing stopped.
"Who are you?" said Ray.
"I think you know who I am, Ray. Didn't I just introduce myself? I'm Metastasis. If you don't understand that, further explanations wouldn't help you any."
"No, Ray, we're not going to go down that route."
"Okay, why are you here?"
"I don't come from the world of why and wherefore, Ray. I'm not like that. I'm not like that at all. The fact is that I'm here. That should be sufficient."
"Persistence is not everywhere admired, Ray. Sometimes it's better just to give up and go with the flow. Why? I don't have a why. I've already made that clear."
Then Metastasis fell silent, leaving Ray to contemplate the details. The jaw, nose and eye were blurred, smeared. The left hand was a crude mitten shape, the right hand delicate, bony, long-fingered, the asymmetry disturbing. The body lacked a penis, and had only one half of one testicle. The half testicle extended from the shroud, sliced open, complex pink convolutions painfully raw. Bloodless. Healthy? Maybe.
Back of where the missing penis should have been, Ray could make out a murky mottled orange blog which might have been a ruined bladder.
"You want to touch it," said Metastasis, gesturing at the exposed half testicle, using his delicate right hand for the purpose.
"I don't want to touch anything, thank you very much."
"You may touch it. Feel free. Believe me, touching is a liberation. The imagination, you see, is always to much more terrifying than the reality."
"I'll pass, thank you."
"As you will."
Touching. What would it feel like, that obscene half-fruit? Would it recoil backwards in a spasm of flesh? Be cold? Be warm?
"Relax, Ray," said Metastasis. "I think it's time for us to talk business."
And, though Metastasis did not have much of a face, his jawline articulated in a manner which suggested a smile. Humor was successfully expressed, though not, admittedly, the most pleasant humor in the world.
"Business?" said Ray.
"Yes, Ray, business. I've come to a decision. An act of free will, you might say. I've decided that tonight I'm here to help you. And I will, Ray. I have all kinds of very good ideas, just for you."
"I have some neat gifting ideas, for starters. Valentine's Day cards for cats. False noses to make small dogs cuter. And special spangly Christmas decorations you can install right inside your refrigerator to get that yuletide uplift feeling all the year round."
"You're nuts," said Ray.
"What did you say?"
"Nuts," said Ray. "Get the hell out of here."
"Ray!" said Metastasis. "Rudeness! I'm disappointed in you. And we were getting along so well together. I think you've lined yourself up for a punishment. What would you like, Ray? Leukemia? Lung cancer? How about testicular cancer, huh? Cancer of the testicles makes a great conversation point. Who knows? It might get you on one of the major talk shows. Well, Ray. How about it? Testicular cancer, how would you like that?"
"No thank you," said Ray.
"Then what would you like? You have to choose something, you know."
"I believe we were talking about business plans," said Ray, eager to get back to the puppy dog noses and spangly yuletide decorations, eager to get away from the vulgarity of blood and naked nerve endings and cringing pink vulnerability.
"Oh, business plans!" said Metastasis. "Me may have started out that way, but I don't recall you being seriously interested. Insincerity, Ray, is a very serious crime."
"Don't waste your breath. Please understand me, Ray, if there's one thing I really don't like, it's hypocrisy. My motto is - "
Abruptly, Metastasis lurched to one side, staggered, righted himself, flung both hands upwards, tottered then stabilized himself. His innards convulsed, and a strangled gargling sound, halfway between panic and agony, filled the room.
Metastasis's shroud dimpled and swelled, then began to tighten, shrinking closer and closer to his translucent lime green flesh. With a sudden splurting sound, the extruded half testicle was abruptly sucked inside the shroud.
Metastasis screamed in shrill agony, thrashed from side to side, then gradually became steady. Silent. Still.
"That," said Metastasis, soberly. "That was a near thing. I almost exploded. Well, Ray, I guess this just about brings us to the end."
"I guess it does," said Ray.
"You never commented on it, did you?" said Metastasis.
"You never commented on the aroma," said Metastasis.
"The aroma of my deodorant, Ray. A delicately complected blend of lime and lemon, with just a hint of basil for organic balance. So much care in the choosing, but you never seemed to notice it at all."
"I'm sorry," said Ray, truthfully, "but I have a very poor sense of smell."
"And a poor sense of hospitality, too. Otherwise you'd have offered me refreshments. Brandy, I'm partial to brandy. Rich Christmas cake, too. You know, the really fruity cake with a thick layer of marzipan, topped off with white frosting. But you, Ray, you didn't even offer me a cup of coffee."
"Would you like one now?"
"A little late, Ray. I'm leaving. But I'm gifting you something to help you remember my visit."
"Sure. Look at your forearm, Ray."
Ray looked. And there, on the skin of his forearm, was something new. A shiny black spot. A berry growth, dark and potent. Embedded. He scratched at it.
"I wouldn't scratch it if I were you, Ray. I'd take it to my doctor. Fast. Very fast. I can't tell you for sure exactly what it might be, but there are times when a black spot on the skin turns out to be melanoma. A very dangerous form of skin cancer. It can take you down and kill you in just a few weeks. See your doctor today, Ray."
"It's two o'clock in the morning."
"So you're off to a good start," said Metastasis. "You can be first in line at the surgery. Well, it was nice to have met you, Ray, and I wish you very good luck with your struggle."
And, with a polite bow, Metastasis shimmered into nothing and vanished, leaving Ray contemplating, silently, the anomalous future gleaming berry black within his skin.
After a while, he realized he was hungry, so he went and found the last piece of Christmas cake and the brandy to go with it, and felt better for consuming these things. Dead in a few weeks? Well, maybe not. Let's see what the doctor says.
And, impending death or otherwise, his headline was still doable.
Alive or dead, not knowing which, he returned his attention to the keyboard.
This cancer story, "METASTASIS," was first published when posted online by Hugh Cook 2005 March 25 Friday. Copyright © 2005 Hugh Cook. All rights reserved.
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honeymoon horror story
"The honeymoon suite," said the clerk brightly, handing over the keys.
"Thank you," said Benven.
On the way to the room, Lasella followed him. This didn't feel right. In her imagination, they had walked hand in hand, smiling. But, for some reason, after barely six hours of married life, she had gotten into the habit of following him.
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