The Itch

A piece I wrote for a university assignment. “Freestyle” piece. 

“Miss Freis, I can assure you that you’ll be perfectly fine.” The doctor said, looking down her nose at me with eyebrow raised and an artificial smile tugging at her mouth. Under her hand was a little green slip, scrawled on with illegible writing that I hoped the pharmacist downstairs would understand. At least the prescription was more or less printed at the top. “Please take this downstairs for me, you’ll want to use this ointment twice a day, once in the morning and once before bed. Just like we discussed.”

I slid my hand over the desk and took the slip. It was probably just going to be another steroid cream. I looked back up at the doctor dejectedly, rubbing the fabric of my sleeve against my arm. “Is this actually going to work? Or will it just be the same as last time again.”

A hesitant flinch. “Well, I can only say that it’s worked for other patients with your condition. Whether or not it will work well for you…” She shrugged and leant back into her chair. “Time will only tell. Just be sure to follow my instructions this time—no stopping just because you think it doesn’t work. These things sometimes take a little time to take root.”

“I thought two weeks was more than enough time.”

“Hardly, my dear. Sometimes it takes a little longer than that. Either way, this—” she pointed at the slip with a papery-skinned finger. “This should help. It solves most of the worst problem cases.”

“Fine.” I stood, straightening my skirt and nodding curtly at the doctor. “Thank you, Doctor. I’ll see you soon.” My skin crawled at that idea. I pulled at my sleeve to relieve it.

“Hopefully not too soon, my dear!” I bet Doctor Deets thought she was ever so funny. Humouring with a forced smile, I turned and glided out of the room, letting the soft-shut door fall by itself behind me. As my shoes tap-tap-tapped along the silent hallway that reeked of decay smothered in alcohol disinfectant, I heard the quiet click of the lock as it finally shut. It would have been far more satisfying for it to have slammed.

Down a set of stairs and through the double doors was the pharmacy, another place I hated yet was forced to visit too often. It was empty, as usual. Not many people seemed to come here at this time during the summer. Stretching out my arm, I handed it to the tired-looking intern at the till.

“It’ll be about ten, fifteen minutes.” He said, after glancing over the slip. Ten minutes. Ten minutes too long. Stifling a huff of irritation I shuffled over to the waiting seats and sat myself down on the too-hard plastic. I would have rather been at home. Maybe in the bath. It seemed that cool baths were the only thing that kept the itching at bay.

Gulping down the saliva that had swelled under my tongue, I struggled not to scratch. I tugged on my turtleneck, exposing the red sores to the AC-cooled air for a moment. Relief, but not for long. Soon, it felt worse, like it always did. My eyes tick-tocked between the clock and the door to the stock room. Had it really only been three minutes? Biting my lip, I tried to keep calm. Click click click, nails against plastic. Anything to keep from scratching. I often fiddled with things absentmindedly before all this junk happened, but now the red welts on any easily-accessible patch of skin showed the signs of my frustrating affliction. My mother had started to worry, so she sent me to the doctors, but whatever they gave me always just seemed to aggravate it even more. Topical ointments didn’t work for things under the skin, I explained. They shrugged me off. Just eczema or something like that, they said. They couldn’t feel what I felt.

Tick tick tick. Five minutes gone. God, why was time going so damn slow? Maybe if I just scratched a little… No, no. It would make it worse. Everyone said that if you scratched an itch, it would just be worse. But what if it made it better? Just a few moments of relief. Just a few moments till I could get the cream…

Giving in, I started rubbing my arms. The slightly rough surface of the fabric causing friction against my skin felt godly. It took all of my power not to moan right there. Slowly my hands crept up my arms, spreading sweetness as they went. It didn’t matter for that moment that as soon as I left on part of my skin, it started itching again immediately. All that mattered was that it felt a little better. Up and up my hands went until I reached my neck. The damned turtleneck was in the way. Curse my modesty and attempts to hide all this. Rubbing the fabric against my neck wasn’t enough. That was where it was always the worst. Giving in to temptation, I tugged down the barrier and let my nails loose on the skin. Oh heavens! It was glorious! A sigh of joy slipped past my lips as I leant my elbows on my knees, still scratching the itch on my neck. Yes!

“Erm… Miss Freeze?”

I snapped out of my thoughts far too quickly. I looked at the intern, then at the clock, then back at the intern. At least fifteen minutes had passed. “It’s pronounced frais, actually.” As I went to sign for the little paper bag, I noticed that my nails were covered in red with a crusty black under them. I stopped for a moment before quickly finishing and grabbing the bag. “Thanks, bye.” I ran out before he had a chance to reply. I didn’t want him to see the blood and what I assumed to be scabs.



Back at home, I sat in front of my mirror in nothing but my underwear. Peeling off the turtleneck was painful with all the dried blood fusing the fabric to the skin, but now I could finally assess the damage I had done in my frenzy at the pharmacy. Gross was a pretty good word for what I saw. Little flaps of skin and peeling scabs completely covered the two sides of my neck, where my nails had dug in the furthest, dark flakes peppering the area. Taking a deep breath, I scooped a generous amount of whatever that cream was out of its tub and started rubbing it against my neck. There was a moment of cool nothingness. “Ha…” I smiled. Finally that useless doctor had found something that worked. Quickly I worked and soon it was smeared all over my body. Oh, sweet relief!

As quickly as it ended, it started again with a vengeance. Wailing in defeat, I fell to the floor in front of my mirror. I wept. Nothing worked. Nothing would ever work. I knew it now. So why bother trying? Giving up on the notion of beating whatever this was, I attacked my body. I scraped my skin against the carpet, raking my nails against any and all skin I could reach while I writhed. I didn’t care if someone walked in. I didn’t care if they thought I was mad. I was mad. Driven to insanity by this infernal itching.

I laughed as I rolled and scraped and grated. For the first time in months I felt good. All over good. But then, I stopped. I didn’t feel the itching anymore. I looked down to see my entire body covered in cuts, grazes. I must have hit my thigh on the sticky out nail in my desk, because it was gushing blood onto the carpet. God damn, what a mess.

It was a miracle that I didn’t break the mirror. I winced while moving towards it to examine the damage I had done. The only conclusion I could come to about the sudden stop was that I must have overloaded my nerves with pain, and that’s why it wasn’t itching. A smile almost crept its way onto my face, but I noticed something else creeping. My skin. I scowled at the leaking sore on my neck, the mess of flesh, blood, and black scabs. Why was it doing that? Was it some weird muscle spasm, or…

I screamed.

There were black things crawling out of me.


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