Sunday 4 October 2015

Chaetophobia - #OctoboPhobia short story

It starts like a joke. A hair in my soup. Thick country vegetable soup, just out of the can and heated up. No waiter to send it back to the kitchen. Just me on a Sunday afternoon. And I’m halfway through the soup when I find it.

The hair I find is long. I don’t have long hair. There’s nobody else in the flat (and there hasn’t been anyone else in the flat in some time). It must have happened in the factory.

If it was worth it, I’d send a letter of complaint, or take a picture and tweet it. But for a single hair, it’s probably not.

Despite my revulsion, I pick it up with the spoon and dump it in the bin.

And then I find another one, polluting the soup.

And another.

And another.

Sickened, I can’t eat any more of the soup, and I pour it out. A thick clump of matted hair comes with it, and I struggle not to throw up.

I leave it and try not to think about it, other than rethinking any ideas of pictures and complaints. A letter. That’ll do the job. An actual letter rather than an email. Maybe threatening to go to the papers. 

I take some photos of the soup in the bin, and the bowl, which still has some stray hairs. While trying not to concentrate too much on what I’m doing, I pick up the matted hair with a fork and take pictures of it.

It’s not until later that evening that I realise the mild tickle I’ve felt in my throat for hours isn’t psychological, but is actually one of the hairs. I must have half-swallowed it in that first half of the soup.

I can feel it in my throat, harshly stuck well behind my tongue. I don’t like the idea of swallowing it, so I try to cough to dislodge it.

It doesn’t move, so I cough harder, and then hard enough that it chafes my throat a little, but the hair doesn’t move its position, other than in a mildly tickling way.

Going into the kitchen, I retrieve a glass from the cupboard and run the tap. I may not like to swallow the hair, but it’s better than leaving it there. I let the water run until it’s colder, then fill the glass and take a few sips.

Nothing. The hair doesn’t move at all, although I feel the water going down against it. I drink a few proper gulps, some running down my chin a little bit, but still it remains.

Something solid. That’ll do the trick. I turn to the counter and open the breadbin. There’s half a loaf of multigrain, which I tear a chunk of, chew and swallow. When that doesn’t work, I try a few more chunks.

With every mouthful, I feel the hair moving. It really should have dislodged, but it hasn’t. I try more water to help the bread down, which has stuck in my glottis a little, but the hair doesn’t move with it.

It feels thick and wiry, and while I know that the more tense I feel, the less likely it is to shift, I can’t help it. What I should do, I know, is to try not to think about it, and at some point it will just shift, whereas the more I allow it to irritate me, the more it’ll physically irritate me. The more my throat is likely to swell slightly inside and become inflamed.

But I can’t help it. I try to bring the hair up a little instead, using the muscles in my throat to squeeze and push, somewhere between a glottal stop and a retch. This means that I feel the hair touching both sides of my throat, but it also seems to work. Not much, but there’s a bit movement and it tickles against my tonsils.

I feel comically like a bird regurgitating its food as I keep tensing and moving the muscles in my throat in an attempt to shift the hair, but it’s definitely beginning to work.

The hair works its way up a little, almost within reach of my tongue, if I curl the base of my tongue back. It’s harsh against my throat, and feels as if it’s longer than I realised – while the tip of the hair has definitely moved up, I can still feel the hair in the middle of my throat as well.

I have to stop for a moment, as I almost throw up – my body has got confused by the constant mild retching and thinks I’m trying to vomit. But a few gasps of air help, even though every one of them makes the hair tip move and tickle.

Eventually, the tip of the hair gets to the point where I can just about feel it if I pull my tongue towards the back of my throat as much as I can – it’s annoyingly out of reach at first, and it’s frustrating because my throat is now beginning to hurt,  but the hair is almost at the point where my tongue should be able to get some real purchase on it.

I push the back of my tongue to the back of the roof of my mouth, and try to pull the hair out with it. 

Each time I do it, it moves the hair up just a tiny bit. It feels like a wire going down my throat, because I still haven’t brought the other end up. It must be long, as it’s still in my throat as it was when I first noticed it.

I’d thought this would have brought the whole thing up by now, especially as the hair tip moves up the roof of my mouth, creating a straight line that pushes against my tonsils.

Instead, I reach into my mouth with my fingers, grabbing the tip between the end of my first and second fingers. I’m very careful, because I’m having to reach quite far and I don’t want to unintentionally gag, but I want this damn hair gone.

I pull it slowly but surely, and it’s tight, but it comes. I have it out to around my teeth.

This thing is long. I can still feel it lodged in my throat.

But I have it now, and I have a proper grip between my thumb and first finger, and I pull harder.

It still comes. Right out of my mouth, but still the other end is somewhere in my throat.

I pull harder, and I feel it slicing into my throat and tongue and tonsils as I do so, but no matter how much they’re irritating, I want this damn thing out of me. I’ll deal with the sore throat, I’ll deal with the stinging. But I cannot deal with this hair.

But it keeps coming, without the other end appearing. I pull it and have it out the entire length of the width of my palm, and pull with my other hand.

Now it’s slick with blood, and I can feel the blood in my mouth, but I still pull.

When I stop, the pain of my throat getting too much to keep relentlessly pulling, the hair is now hanging out of my mouth down to my chest. I spit the blood that’s collected into my mouth into the sink. It’s thick and red and mixed with saliva.

After a few deep breaths, each one like a razor blade against my throat, I pull again, harder. More comes out, more blood, more bile.

And it keeps on coming. Further and further.

I have it wound around my hand multiple times, but I can still feel it scraping the inside of my throat, which is now raw and painful, and every now and then, I have to stop and cough and spit up more blood, and each time there’s more blood than there was last time, which I have spattered down my chin and front. My hands are covered in blood, some of it now dried.

I pull and pull again, until eventually, I feel something new.

Deep inside my gut, I can feel the hair is attached to something. Something at the base of my stomach.

When I pull it, I can feel it pulling up my insides.

I tense. Each time I pull, it’s painful, but I have feet and feet of this hair now wrapped around my gore-crusted hands.

If I pull it, will it break? Or will it pull up something inside, tearing?

I can’t have it in me.

I pull one more time.

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