Tom and I arrive at Tom’s cabin — thirsty. Tom’s drinking breakfast. It’s noon. Tom’s just a bathrobe squatting on the lawn. “Blood of all bottles,” he says, and under-hands two cold ones. We crack and slurp. “Tonight’s going to get sloppy.”
Yeah, it’s my birthday.
More Toms arrive and Shayla does, too. She holds a ribboned box.
Tom fingers Shayla’s hair. She’s a poker: better legs, mouth-curves like a pin-up. I follow her bottom as it shimmies from kitchen to sofa, sofa to fridge and watch her squeeze that box up in there. My lap burns — booze fire. I’m numb, haven’t seen her in forever.
Crank the radio. Tom arrives. “Pass that rooster a clamato,” someone yells.
“Booze-a-doodle-do,” Tom says. “I’ll be here all night, ladies and gents,” and mouth-drums, “ba-doom-ching.”
The toilet flushes, bathroom door opens. Shayla flicks wet fingers to pink towel. She eyebrows, winks. I tongue over my mustache, raise that can tall enough for her to see it is always for her. Always has been, too.
“I’ve got something for you,” Shayla says, turns away, “your favorite.”
A knock at the front door. It’s Tom, finally.
Outside, Tom flips a Frisbee and Tom fandangos to catch it. He trips off the dock and into the lake like a crippled seastar. I take it all in.
The lake sparkles. A tiny pontoon tugs the surface in circles. Shayla comes up behind, runs a hand across my back. “Was waiting for that,” I say.
“Drink up, sailor,” she says. “It’s almost time. It’s all chocolate, Tom.”
We go in. I grind celery — ants on a log. Tom sucks a carrot stick, puffs it. Shayla opens the fridge, that box, lifts out the cake. It’s beautiful. Brown or brick. We talk life after college, shit jobs, failures and flings. She moves the cake to the table and leaves it.
It’s time. Shayla wanders up to me, puckers a kiss, disappears. I turn, face her strut. She’s tiptoeing away backwards. Her face is booze-blurred and chestnut. “Let’s go upstairs and play, boy, play,” she says. “I know you want to.”
She goes up first. No one notices. I pretend pitter patter to the bathroom, swing right, palming my pockets like I forgot something on the second floor. I conquer the stairs to what must be Tom’s papa’s room, but I don’t care. Dig in. Shayla is a moist slurp to the cathouse and we pole dance.
Finished. Happy birthday.
Back downstairs, Tom chews shrimp. He’s a cross-eyed idiot, all bloodshot and cheek bones. The cake looks larger, a lump of ooze. Tom pulls me aside. “You’re hoss and this shindig is far away anymore and yet …” He pauses, stoned off his own poetry. “Tom, good to see you. Ready to explode?” I already did, but he doesn’t know that.
“It’s good to have a friend,” I say. He’s nodded off, so I grab a match, fire his eyebrows until he squeals. We laugh at the smell. I slug him in the heart, step and slip a little on a smudge of chocolate.
At the dining room table, Tom and Tom smoke Zen. I’m hungry waiting for that cake, doodle face hair on Tom’s family photos: mustache lines, x’s over eyes, curls and q’s.
Step out onto the back porch for a smoke and pull up a deck chair. The lake undulates pink in the dark.
Tom’s blood-curdle rips my ear in a pig squeal.
He screams harder. Tom screams like I never heard before in my life.
Enter the kitchen.
Tom’s about to inhale another shot when the slime-thing wraps around his left leg, bites, slurps it clean off his body — farts this sour wheeze; it is just a pulsing, oozing, slurping mouth.
Blood spills from Tom’s leg-stump.
Blood splashes up chests and splatters cheeks in buckets.
Tom drops into the blob's fattening muck. Tom tries to wrench him away. Shayla is mumbling incoherent. The blob plops, clamps right leg, slurps up his waist. All of us pull, yank the upper half of his body off at the torso spraying messy ropes of guts, party juice, and bile over everything. I catch a chunk of carrot buried somewhere in those guts and try not to swallow.
Can’t breathe, fall back, skull-smack the linoleum. Tom’s limp upper body thuds my chest. Corpse arms wrap around my shoulders. Mouth open, a half-eaten chip shits onto my face. Tom’s dead, Shayla. Something cracks. Brains in a pile like dogshit on the counter.
The walls pulse brown or brick. Blood-slime cakes out cracks, spreads.
Tom enters from the garage. He drools, fires a shotgun at the blob. I stand bowlegged, slip in vomit and thud the fridge. Tom crouches with that firearm. He knows how to use it. He’s been waiting for this to happen, so he doesn’t have to put it in his mouth. Tom slides a shell into place. “Shayla, is this your ...?” I mouth, but my voice is an empty rib, dried meat and I can’t see her. A window shatters. Shayla is in the corner trying to shake chocolate off her hands, those hands moving upwards to form a steeple. She mouths, “This is all for you,” and I just don’t know what to say.
Tom's blasting of the blob into slime multiplies the onslaught. The tiny piles of wiggling goop that splatter the ceiling and walls slip, drip, and jitter around the room, seep, cover the cabin in paste. They chirp, retch bile in clumps. Tom’s face is blue.
Something squishes from where the cake sat. I crawl toward the dining room table. Mini-blobs are dripping everywhere. One leeches itself onto my neck. I claw it off, mash it with my boot. Tom is in the corner spewing lungs. Tom shoots and shoots. I catch a glimpse of Shayla, her face browner, nose longer, something not right, and then she is gone.
Outside, three blob-balls sludge over the lawn. The cabin shudders a moan from the basement. A volcanic belch sends us up tripping over tables, smashing chairs to useless stakes. We hold nothing. I watch Shayla mash Tom’s skull to pulp.
With a bread knife in my hand, I stumble down the basement stairs to confront the moan, flick the switch and behold the mother blob: gelatinous, bubble mountain. She rises in lard from the center of the room.
Two fleshy tubes of mucus shoot out at my face. Blindly swinging the knife, I leap back and dash up to the first floor.
Shayla is busy throwing up chunks of chips in between sobs. “What is this all about?” I yell. She looks away, to Tom. I want to stab Tom in the nostrils, rip his face off. She opens her mouth, says nothing, waves me away, shields her face and that face has changed green, warty, ancient.
“This is it, Tom,” she says. She sways, messy, dazed, and claws at her mouth, frowns at Tom with a look of regret, then to me with big tears as if all this was somehow her fault. I shake my head, flap my arms like I could maybe just fly out of here, but I can’t. Not without her. That's when she stomps to the basement door, kicks it open and begins thrusting one beautiful leg into the blob-flesh of the rising mother while escalating her mumble to a howl. Surely she wouldn’t be stepping into the folds of that mother, surely not, not that.
The mega-blob on the basement stairs spits mouth-holes, and slime, gurgles in wretched and bloodthirsty fits. Shayla goes to kick the mass back, but her foot sticks mushward, leaves only her leg dangling, entrapped in a wad of muck. I hear a string of garbled letters then, just like that, Shayla vanishes. It sucks her, ankle first, into its syrupy gut and ejaculates streams of viscera all over Tom. He stands behind her, mute, suddenly smothered in strawberry gore.
Wipe bits of her innards off my face, taste pie and salt. A piece of lip sticks to my tongue. Tom and Tom ram shut all doors, take turns firing shots through shattered windows at more blobs outside. Blobs trail slime puddles to the front porch of the cottage. I pick at a small bit of Shayla's stomach lodged in my eye, swallow and notice that cake on the table, a heap now, a mess now, all for me.
Time collapses in the cake.
The room reeks.
Tom swears until his threats blur into slushy yelps — the language of gravel. I hear yodels, the clanging of cymbals, “ba-doom-ching,” tom-tom rolls, and wonder if anyone has bothered to turn off the radio. They haven’t — the radioman says, “partly cloudy with a chance of thunder showers and in the south, possible flooding.”
The gurgling suck-sounds of the blobs and the bloody traces of Shayla that stick to and drip from the walls are enough to send Tom into a frenzy. I kick him onto his back. Moments later, a fork handle sticks out his chest. Shut your unblinking eyes. It’s my party. My fingers are Shayla’s stains, too late to chop them off and stuff them down my throat. Suck, Tom.
The cake calls out in German. I don’t speak German. But it’s Shayla’s voice.
Tom wields a broken bottle of vodka. He thrashes at the blob, sees me and charges, is splattered purple. The blob affixes itself to his skull, burrows into his ear.
Tom trips over the sofa, glass shatters, crunches. I catch glass in a vein, pull it out, smear blood on my shirt and slice my face to let the veins breathe, just to hear Shayla more clearly.
Tom reloads and shoots Tom in the ribs. Tom reloads, is about to do himself in when one monstrously mushy and quick blob smashes the window behind him and head-sucks him into snot. He disappears into its hole. Tom's work boots stick out behind the sofa, twitching.
The blob sinks in Tom's cranium. He is nothing more than a heap on the floor. Neon headcheese leaks, gushes. Slime bubbles open on his face. I hesitate, take a step back and then tear in thinking maybe, just maybe this is where Shayla went.
Stumble up. Your chest is a magic mountain. Yet:
My friends. They are gone. Shayla's sultry legs, Tom's dance, Tom dope smoking at the football game, the purr of Tom’s clunker.
I stand transfixed, framed in the invisible line between the living room and dining room like a garden shadow. I stare at the cake, hear my name rise from its abysmal slop.
Tom's face-skin is sucked clean off. His skull is slick. Blob mouth-holes wheeze, whine, huff and shit all around me. I don’t realize I drool milk.
I reach out for the kitchen light switch, flick it off. I want the agony to bubble gore up around me thinking Shayla is somehow still here. My guts itch funny. I turn. The view from outside the cottage, through the frame of the kitchen window, nails me. The lake shimmers.
Shayla, I want to stop the silence of having to stand and see my world as a heap. I want everything to spin back to when we were together. All those years. It’s my birthday.
The terror spins away just as quick as it comes. My body flushes with cups of hot fever. It is quiet, this drone.
At the dining room table, I wipe away the piles of body parts, chunks, and the swill of my friends. A ripped eyeball stares, murmurs “sorry, Tom, this is the only way.” I flick a chewed-up thumb. I shake goo from a plate, use the dull bread knife to slice myself a piece of cake as if this birthday ritual will somehow reverse everything bad. It’s German chocolate, my prayer, Shayla.
I eat the cake with the fork I pull from Tom’s chest. The blob in the basement sloshes bass up through the floorboards. Blobs slither, slime their way to the table, but do not touch me. The lake, the beautiful lake, presses closer to the cabin in thrusts. I can taste it. A pink glow fills the cabin. I push more German chocolate down my throat until not only my mouth but entire face is smothered brown in chocolate. I rise, hold that eyeball in the palm of my hand. It happens, Shayla, it really does. Just like this. Listen.
From the lake, the basement, the walls, the ceiling and from a chorus of dead bottles, I hear the whispering haunt of a familiar melody. Happy birthday to me.
It’s a blur, though. What I know is I am chocolate-covered and clinging to a rope ladder, cradled in the arms of a uniform. There are gunshots, bombs, firecrackers. I press hand to pocket, feel you squish against my leg. You thought I’d leave, Shayla? I’ll keep you anywhere, pull you out of this muck of a life.
Helicopter blades whirl in shivers and below, the lake is a drink undrunk. We float until the pines and cedars open black. I give up.
Naked in a white room. “Analysis,” they say. “Quarantine,” they say, but I don’t know how to believe words from Hazmat suits. Words lie. I don’t speak German to a Hazmat. I’m wet, but routines help keep things calm like clams in a washpot.
Ladies, much like yourself, come with candy for split veins, until it gets to the point where those needles make their way to ponds, to padded cells where blobs don’t suck friends off on birthdays only to cum on quilts made of someone else’s memories. I remember the shape of unraveled ribbons.
Scars run traces up my stomach, lab coats suck slime out new holes. It’s okay, though. We’re here again, and that’s all that really matters. There are places to stick eyeballs and if this all I have left of you, then so be it.
I chew strawberries when I can and if I say your name enough, pinch tight enough into the oracle you’ve become, we could love each other even more, yeah? Sure.
When Tom comes in through the vent, we lap slime off our chin. He’s a toothless gimp, brings tunes to whistle, mostly scratchy, sometimes fizzy. Take a sip. Tom says spring is a battle. Tom lies. Spring is a blob that will eat you, Tom.
And I sit, bent among the dead, and talk, talk, talk and get volts for chewing tongue-bits to pulp, have to swallow bone to keep things smooth. It’ll pass right through. In the end, I doubt it happens this way for real. Can’t tell.
Someday, I’ll smother you in chocolate and never stop chewing. In the meantime, here’s one for the road, Shayla.
Jamie Grefe is the author of The Mondo Vixen Massacre forthcoming from Eraserhead Press and TARANTULEECHEN forthcoming from Conatus Publishing. He is currently at work on the novelization of a B-movie and lives with his wife, daughter, and two dogs in Michigan.