The July Selected Story is by Andrew Marinus
Please feel free to visit Andrew at: firstname.lastname@example.org
by Andrew Marinus
“-for a trip into hate land. Obnoxious Joe comes on the screen, Along with his-”
Brian’s hand came down on the clock-radio’s Alarm button, silencing the song in mid-lyric. He rolled over onto his back and looked over at the clock. It was seven o’clock in the morning. He looked back up, towards the ceiling. What day was it? Tuesday? Yeah, that was it. Another day in paradise.
Brian smiled, swung himself up and out of bed, and began his morning routine by walking into the bathroom. He turned the shower on and then walked back into the bedroom. As he waited for the water to heat up, he took his clothes out of the closet and placed them on the bed, then stripped off the pyjama pants he had been wearing in his sleep and tossed them in the laundry basket, which was already half-full. He’d have to go to the Laundromat on Thursday, then. Be a good day for a walk. According to the weatherman, anyways.
As he walked into the bathroom again, Brian stepped into the shower and sighed as the hot water ran down him. A shower really is the only way to wake yourself up, he thought. Feeling the hot rivulets of water blast against his skin, he began rubbing his eyes to help expedite the waking process.
After he had finished rinsing off, Brian shut off the water and opened the shower door, reaching out for the towel on its rack. Grabbing it, he began drying himself off as he got out, dripping all over the tile floor. No matter. It would evaporate by the time he got home.
Brian tied the towel around his waist and put his slippers on before shaving. His facial hair didn’t grow particularly fast, so he just did a good once-over with his electric shaver. After examining his face for any missed patches, he headed down to the kitchen. He opened the bread bag and removed two slices, placing them in the toaster and pushing the lever down. The toaster was a slow one, a family heirloom of sorts. He probably had five minutes before the bread would show even a hint of brown.
Brian headed back up to the bedroom, removed the towel, throwing it on top of the pants in the basket, and took his slippers off. He grabbed the boxers off of the bed and put them on before putting on his pants, socks, undershirt, and shirt. He grabbed his watch off the bedside table and slid it over his wrist, then frowned, looking around for his belt. Then he remembered that it was on the other side of the bed, where he had tossed it unceremoniously the night before. Grabbing it, he tucked his shirt into his pants, then slid the belt into the belt loops around the waist, tightening it just the right amount.
He walked downstairs again and grabbed his wallet off the counter, sliding it into his pants pocket before glancing down the toaster to assess how the bread was coming. Still a few minutes to go. He opened the fridge and pulled out a jar of strawberry jam. He had gone with buttered toast in his early years, but since hitting thirty-five, Brian had felt slightly guilty whenever he ate something that his doctor might disagree with. His father had died of a heart attack, after all. Uncle Jeff too, in fact. It ran in the family. And he had to admit, strawberry jam was an appealing substitute.
He glanced at his watch. 7:15. Still had twenty minutes before he had to go. He would have to stop by the gas station and fill up the Jetta, but that would only take a few minutes. He lived only fifteen minutes from work, after all. Twenty minutes, tops.
He went into the entrance room and put on his shoes. Walking back into the kitchen, he opened a drawer and took a glass out before shutting it closed again, setting the glass on the counter. Smelling cooking bread, he looked towards the toaster just as the bread popped up. He got a plate out of another drawer and placed it on the counter next to the glass, then dropped both pieces of toast on top of it. He grabbed a butter knife out of the sink, then opened the jam jar and stuck the knife in. After getting a good load of jam onto it, he spread the dark red jell onto one slice of darkened bread, then the other, tossing the knife into the sink after this was done.
He grabbed one piece of toast up and sank his teeth into it, smiling as the combination of bread and fruit mixture hit his tongue. After taking another bite, he set the slice down again and opened the fridge, pulling out a jug of milk. Brian had been informed by his doctor the year before that he had somewhat low bone density, and that it would be prudent to start increasing his regular diet of calcium. After some consideration, Brian had decided it would be best to start substituting his morning coffee for a few glasses of milk. It took care of the calcium requirement, and he had no doubt that the less caffeine perking through his bloodstream, the better.
Brian pulled the plastic tab off from around the lid, tossed it in the trashcan, and twisted the lid off before pouring himself a glass. He had bought the milk the day before, and had decided to switch from his regular 1% to a different 2% type. Brian was unaware of what made the two varieties different from each other, but had decided that he should probably get some variety in his life.
Brian took a cautious sip of the liquid and cocked his head, considering. The taste was a little different, but not altogether unpleasant. He took another, slightly larger sip, and then took another bite of toast to go down with it. He continued this until the glass was empty and the slice of toast, nonexistent.
Brian took a bite out of the second piece of toast, then looked at his watch again. 7:20. Still time. He grabbed the milk jug again, and tipped it sideways to pour himself another glass.
There was a brief period when nothing came out, and then there was a noise that sounded like a suction cup detaching from a window, and something dark slipped out, bounced off of the edge of the glass, and landed on the counter top. Milk overflowed and spilled into and around the glass. Brian noticed for a moment that the milk appeared to have a slightly reddish tinge before he reflexively turned the milk jug upright to stop the flood of whitish-red liquid.
Brian paused for a moment. He looked at the top of the milk jug, where the expiry date was situated. The milk would be good for another week and a half. Confused, Brian looked down and examined the dark mass.
It was about the size of a computer mouse, whatever it was, making Brian think that it must have been quite malleable in order to have squeezed its way out of the milk jug. Brian had at first believed it to be brown, but then realized it was a dark gray. It appeared to be covered in a carpet-like material, which was matted down by the milk.
As he reached into the sink to grab the knife out, Brian looked at the milk that had been spilled, observing that the reddish tinge had not been a figment of his imagination. In fact, there were distinct tendrils of red through the normally-white milk in some of the puddles. Like food colouring, or something.
He grabbed the knife and poked the dark gray object. He had been right; it was soft. The carpet-coating stuff shifted in the other direction, giving Brian the impression of a cat’s fur being raked upwards after being petted in the wrong direction. He shuddered slightly. Then he pushed the object around.
From the other side, Brian observed that there was a distinguishable shape. Three different triangular offshoots formed off of the normal pass. Brian looked closer.
The three triangular objects reminded him of cats, again. They reminded him of a cat’s head, in particular: two vaguely triangular ears, and a pointed nose. But that was absurd. This object was several times too small to be part of any cat.
A rat, on the other hand…
As if on cue, one of the rat’s eyelids slid down, uncovering a milky-white eye below, staring directly at Brian. He jumped back, letting go of the knife. The movement pushed the rat sideways, allowing Brian to see the other side of it. There was a mass of what had once been blood and bone and internal organ, but which had since congealed into a lump of scabby red material. It appeared that the rat had been severed in half.
Unbidden, Brian’s mind imagined a rat happily scurrying around in whatever factory they processed milk in, before being bisected by some passing bit of machinery. The one half of it falling across the mouth of the jug, then being pushed through by the lid being pushed overtop-
Oh, but remember, the rat would have remained alive for a few seconds before it died, right?
Yes. It had wriggled around for a minute or two, maybe given a good squeal or two if the lungs were intact, before dying. Then the lid coming down had pushed it through the top of the jug. Then it had presumably floated just below the lid, the moist, bloody wound gradually jellifying into a dark solid. The blood which had leaked out would have caked into another solid, and the mass would have sat under the lid, invisible through the opaque whiteness of the milk.
Then, after some time, the jug being moved around in trucks and such, the meaty mass had broken free of the dark, sinewy tethers, and had floated around in the jug for a while like an unborn fetus, getting moistened up and softening after absorbing some milk.
Getting a good load of calcium.
Then he had opened up the thing and when he had tipped it sideways, the floating rat carcass had slid to one side, giving him access to the not-quite-uncontaminated milk, which he had swallowed happily and heartily.
The second time he had tipped it sideways, however, there had been an air bubble which had sent the little carcass into the path of least resistance: the opening. It had not quite fit, but then the pressure of the milk behind it had pushed the soft n’ soggy little rat corpse out to sluice onto the countertop.
Brian’s eyes looked at the milk jug. The milk inside was now clearly red-tinged. Of course! After he had tipped it around, the congealed coating of blood had split away from the wound. Normally, the rat’s blood would have coagulated by now, but of course, the however-long soaking of milk had no doubt kept it in liquid form. Then the blood had started dribbling out, mixing with the milk. Just a little extra flavouring, my dear.
The taste was a little different, but not altogether unpleasant.
Brian looked at the corpse, now seeing the wet, matted fur of the half-rat, it’s one dead, white eye staring at him. He observed that he was breathing rather fast, and the world was starting to spin slightly. He looked at the milk one last time, then began a short fall to the floor, his eyes rolling backwards to the top of his head.
Andrew Marinus is an 18-yr-old writer of horror, science fiction, satire, and any combination thereof. He resides in western Canada, and is currently enrolled at the University of Victoria. "Good Morning" is his second published story (the first of which, "Off", can be found HERE)