Only a coughed up fellow lungworm noted a boy striding feebly with a hand against his right wall. It was at the peak of dawn that this little blurred image of Pepin came to a wobble, and finally a stop. A long trek awaited; and a long trek he had already took behind him from the foot of his house. He didn’t know how long, he couldn’t know, for this deserted road on which he trekked seemed far and long; somehow like butter, spread out into the expanse of his horizon. He forgot in the reverie as to how long he had remained traveling on that path. ‘Yes, it’s a dream,’ he had been told as he persistently kept on his path. Yet, with a lurch ahead, Pepin found himself an arm and a leg away from his school. It was where the wafting smell of perfume and flesh hit him in the most realistic of nightmares. It was at this point that the formerly unrealised hanging tape ends of an embedded zipper halted its flinging fit against his thigh.
Pepin had noticed its appearance at the morning of an all-night study session. A sudden glimmer of morning light pierced his curtains to an awakening: something lay comfortably upon Pepin’s arched resting back. Feeling an urge to empty his bladder, he opened his eyes and pushed himself up with the support of criss-crossed hands on books upon books. He soon wriggled into the view of a sink-top mirror, where he noticed a slight glint wavering on his back. He quickly took off his shirt to find a small zipper attached restfully downwards from the base of his neck. A touch with his own fingers made him feel unseasonably cold.
“This is way too unreal,” muttered Pepin, focusing entirely at the occasional clinking on his back. As he kept his gaze, zipping up his increasingly loose school pants, Pepin couldn’t help but notice how disconcerted the boy through the mirror felt. The wind brushing on his paling skin was no sooner overlapped by a sense of hollowness as the same wind seeped through his back zipper’s gaps.
“My my!” cried a girl in a pretence of shock. No sooner had Pepin turned did a leg fly through his bathroom opening, followed by a tight set of underwear – rather, an almost clear observation due to her uniform flapping in the wind – and a head. Pepin’s classmate wasted no time in asking as to where the zipper came from, and from whence did he find such luck to please her.
“No no no,” Pepin said frantically, “I didn’t find…that is to say…I never knew how, as to when and where and why, I found this zipper. But to be on my back before I could even know… Oh, Martha! Please, don’t tell anyone…” His voice broke, as he feared, into a sag of a whisper. It was near indiscernible, except to the keen buzzing brain then. Although Pepin had babbled onwards, he had no intention of expressing his actual curiosity; a reason that was, to him, blatantly embedded against the female-loving behaviour of hers that seemed to hold self-regard as having the highest of many illogical grudges against him.
“Ah. Your parents would be awake with that sort of voice as an alarm clock,” she said. “Meet me in the stairwell at school towards the rooftop. Unless you’d love to have your photoshoot taken for display.” A grin perked her cheeks up, grime and blight stealing out from the corner of her eyes. With that, two photos of his zipper-done-in body zipped past in a mobile phone before following her out of the window. Pepin, on the other hand, was knowledgeable of the dangers of Martha’s solicitous nature. However, following her meant jeopardising his vainly kept track of monthly allowances. Even if Pepin had kept it at a passive approach, even if it were inconsistent, it still amounted to progressing…success…
So, giving up, he fled with minimal noise.
It grew into a routine, unexpectedly. Pepin initially resented his thoughts with determination to save what might still be worth of his face. In addition, he had to shake off the increasingly bothersome attitude of his parents over this fussy routine, at the point where he thought ‘enough was enough.’ But what started off as simple pocket money exchange grew to a “monster dissection” of some sort. What was just a touch and tease swiftly grew to a smothering of two hands on his whitening back-zipper, which, if he thought it, boded deathly. All the while, an obvious stabbing pink engraved upon Martha’s face flashed in the fitting unfazed fashion of a leech.
And then, at the final wafting smell of flesh and blood, Pepin decided to move on past school. The smell lingered on his body. Still, he trudged forward, paying it no heed.
“Did you bring it?” Martha asked. Pepin tottered forward, unused to the filled emptiness. And, at long last, he stopped. With his head down and hands flat on the ground in a kneel, his arched back breezed and wheezed in exhaustion under the long torment he still knew not when would end. He simply nodded his head in a wrung-out standby.
“Liar,” she whispered, breathing onto his rubber smooth neck. She strode to his back, opening the zipper. And just as she reached in to take his place, as she meant to, she saw the two bulging, engorged masses of flesh that took her desired place.
“Oh… Pepin.” This time, she breathed into herself, a seething of jealousy that nearly erupted as the stench within and the polluted air out here exchanged in somewhat jarringly graceful reciprocity. Just, perhaps, a few remaining coins fell from the oozing blood of a squashed sandwich of innards, danced some rounds… and so, land face up towards the hollow lingering skin of its deathly marred uniform.