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Stuffed Head

Stuffed Head

The Vrekli had charged him a small fortune for the gene-tailored symbiotes, and it had taken weeks for him to get used to the squirming feeling in his nasal passages, but it was worth it to be at long last rid of the allergies that had made his life a misery since childhood. The tiny slime worms reliably devoured every speck of pollen, every fragment of dust-mite, every molecule of each airborne allergen that had plagued him in the past, before they could cause the vestige of a reaction.

What he shouldn’t have done was to spring for the recreational-hallucinogen nanobot inhaler on Chur’r. There seemed to be a struggle for supremacy going on inside his sinuses—some kind of hierarchical dispute—and even though he was zoned to the gills, he had now been sneezing nonstop for at least two hours. The spasms were simultaneously a delightful metaphor for a pervasive sense of oneness with the universe, and absolutely unbearable.

from the notebooks of F. J. Bergmann

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The Yarnball Woman – Michael Milne

By the third time Patricia lost a finger, everyone knew better than to raise a fuss.

Her family hadn’t always been this calm. When the first finger, a knuckle’s-worth of her left pinky, had fallen plumply into her dinner salad, there had been an enormous commotion. Her young daughters screamed and bolted into the back yard, and hours later had to be coaxed back inside. Jack fumbled with the phone in the kitchen, trying to maintain an even voice while holding back tears. The family border collie, Bernard, stationed himself next to Patricia, barking at the table and the fallen digit. All the while, Patricia sat staring at her dinner and her finger, unable to move, as though crying or sealing herself in the bathroom would invite some new calamity, allow new seams to loosen and more body parts to shake free.

This finger disassembled like the others, severing just below the nailbed. June, the elder daughter, hadn’t noticed anything, but Leila was looking and let out a calm, plaintive sigh, like the sound of a pillow being fluffed. Whatever form her exclamation had wanted to take, Leila snuffed it and formed it into something tamer. The girls don’t want to embarrass me, Patricia thought. She dreaded that they were already burying their own feelings on her behalf.

She had just painted her nails in aquamarine, and the tiny nub lay lifeless on the hardwood like a dead scarab. There was no blood and no wound, just a smooth, curved tip. Like it hadn’t come from Patricia at all.

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