A Leaky Head

Contributor: Nathaniel Tower

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A puddle of goopy pink blob greeted Marty Cooper when he woke up one Sunday morning. He'd been dreaming about his wife being angry at him for some reason or another.
When his alarm blasted him out of his nightmare, he tried to spring his head off the pillow and silence the buzzing, but the thick sticky substance clung to his head and pillow like gum to a shoe and asphalt on a hot day. The further he pulled his head away from the pillow the further the pink gelatin stretched.
Despite the force pulling Marty's head back to the stained pillow, his head felt significantly lighter. Staring at the goop, it didn't take long for Marty to figure out what was happening. His brain was leaking out of his ear.
While trying to gather the strength to lift his leaking body from the bed, Marty tried to remember what he had done the night before and where his wife was right now. There was the off chance she had gone to church, but he didn't think she would have gone without at least waking him. Unless of course she really was mad at him. Perhaps that hadn't been a dream after all.
Through his gooey thoughts, Marty thought he heard his wife's nagging voice call for him to get out of bed so she could change the sheets. Marty sprang out of his bed like a lopsided jack-in-the-box. His unbalanced body bumped into the nightstand, knocking over the hand-blown glass lamp his grandmother had given him for no reason other than she was dying. The lamp fell to the carpet out of Marty's desperate reaching hand. He shook his head to try to regain his center of balance, a string of thick pink goo squirting like jelly out of a water pistol onto his dresser and carpet.
"Muhbran," Marty shouted, the words coming out mostly wrong. He clasped his hands to his head in a scene reminiscent of The Scream, which Marty had never actually seen. The goop seeped onto his left hand and oozed its way between his fingers and down his arm, but nothing came out of the right ear.
Marty raced to the bathroom, his body dragging as if he were some sort of wounded animal searching for protection from an onslaught of hunters. He rifled through his toiletries until he came across a loose cotton ball. Showing no concern for the grime that had collected in the soft fabric, Marty plunged it into his left ear. After tilting his head to the right a little to let his brain settle, he stood and looked in the mirror.
Nothing seemed out of the ordinary with his general appearance, save for the cotton ball sticking out of his ear. Only a few seconds into the study of his visage, Marty saw the cotton ball expanding as it filled with the pink sludge that he had formerly used to think. Without thinking, he sprinted from the bathroom into the kitchen and threw his body down by his wine rack. He pulled out the bottles one by one, but they were all unopened. Without much consideration, he chose the finest bottle from his collection, a 1998 vintage, and set it down on the linoleum tile while he searched his drawers for a corkscrew, but all he could find were some knives and toothpicks.
By now the cotton ball was a breaking dam, and Marty's liquefied brain was seeping down his neck and unto his favorite shirt. He mumbled and moaned as he grabbed the wine bottle and headed down the hall and out his front door. Bottle in hand, he stumbled like a drunken zombie across his lawn and then his neighbor's, almost tripping over the Sunday paper. Two cars driving slowly through the neighborhood almost collided as their drivers gasped at the sight.
Marty charged up the lone step onto the neighbor's porch and began pounding on the door. After three knocks he slapped at the doorbell. Unsure if he'd actually hit it, he slapped twice more. A moment later, with little sense of urgency, a man in a blue robe opened the door.
"What's going on, Marty? What brings you over to the ol' abode so early in the morning?" the robed man asked as he sipped from a steaming coffee cup.
"Corscrew," Marty shouted as he held up the wine bottle while pressing his other hand against the swollen cotton ball.
"I don't think you need to drink this early in the morning," the neighbor replied with a few hearty laughs.
"CORSCREW!" Marty screamed at the man, the force of his efforts causing a thick sludge of brain to ooze between his fingers and onto his neighbor's immaculate porch.
"What the hell?" With a horrified look, the neighbor slammed the door. Marty heard the man's hoarse screams echo around the foyer. He smashed the bottle of wine against the sidelight window, the shards of glass piercing the delicate flesh of his uncalloused hand. With blood seeping from his hand and brains gushing from his head, Marty staggered back to his house with the half-broken bottle dangling from his fingertips to do the next most logical thing: call 9-1-1.
Hunched over in a near bear crawl, Marty reentered his house and climbed the stairs to his bedroom. He grabbed his phone from the nightstand and flipped it on. His fingers jabbed at the buttons until he finally dialed the right combination.
"9-1-1, what's your emergency?" he heard an operator say as he brought the phone to his good ear.
Before he could utter a response, he saw the handgun resting on the floor. He inhaled deeply the scent of fresh gunpowder. The phone slipped from his hand as he felt the small hole on the right side of his head. His body collapsed to the carpet and his wife smiled in the mirror.

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Nathaniel Tower writes fiction, teaches English, and manages the online lit magazine Bartleby Snopes. His short fiction has appeared in over 100 online and print magazines. His story "The Oaten Hands" was named one of 190 notable stories by storySouth's Million Writers Award in 2009. His first novel, A Reason To Kill, is was released in July 2011 through MuseItUp Publishing. Visit him at www.bartlebysnopes.com/ntower.htm
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