A compartment or area in a ship used for medical purposes.
Several weeks after the turn of the century, a man named Foporp had a nightmare where he was chased by a large clump of disembodied hemorrhoids. In it, he found himself on the shores of a fog-covered lake, the blue beast of swollen veins rising out of the water to lumber towards him. He managed to avoid the monster, but just barely, waking up in a drenched sweat only moments before it finished closing the distance between them.
Foporp, a farmer from southern Idaho, had never until that point experienced a dream as vivid or memorable as that one, and for the entirety of the day that followed he found himself unable to think of anything else. He performed his various farming duties mechanically and without real thought, the sustained mental image of what he’d seen too distracting to allow him proper focus. At the end of the day, he was glad for the chance to rest and finally put what he’d dreamt about behind him, peace once again settling over his mind as he drifted off to sleep.
He had the same dream. There were no perceptible changes, beyond small differences in his actions. The fog, the lake, the monster, the chase. Even with full recollection of the first dream, Foporp ran exactly as he did the first time, too afraid to scream, too afraid to stay still. In the final seconds, he was able to catch a better glimpse of his attacker’s face, seeing a sick facsimile of an expression. The beast moved itself by continually rearranging the wet lumps of prolapsed blue and purple flesh that constituted it, and although it never made an effort to shape its body into any recognizable human form, it had crafted a sort of face for itself. Three deep holes, dark gaps without veins or flesh were left in the area a face might have otherwise been, the hole on the bottom bigger and wider than the other two.
Eyes and mouth, Foporp saw.
The second day was worse than the first, his mind reeling, his sense of normalcy shattered. He barely ate or drank, managing only to complete his work by blocking all thought. But even within the mental silence he forced on himself, it was still there, a fixed constipation on the output of his soul.
Foporp lived alone on his small farm, with no living family or friends to speak of, his only companions a pair of goats too old to have any non-aesthetic purpose. He had never felt any emotional connection to animals, and the goats were no different, but he inexplicably found himself going to visit them before bed. Internally, he had expected the touch of another life to spur him back to his usual state, but no such thing happened. He petted the head of the nanny and the billy, and all they could do was stare back at him, not able to understand.
Foporp went back to bed, unsure of why he was so dissapointed. Had he really thought that they could help him? That would have been absurd. Foporp was no philosopher, but even he could recognize that goats could do nothing in settling matters of the soul. If the problem persisted, only those with the potential to reach the kingdom of heaven could assist him. By nature, goats were not among that group.
Then, for the third time, he saw the beast, as vividly as ever. The trio of dreams were special, he had come to notice, in that they allowed for perfect retention of the senses. He could experience with as much clearness as when awake, hearing, smelling, touching, seeing.
After waking up and realizing with total certainty that he was not dealing with a matter of coincidence, Foporp did not even attempt to work, instead fetching the weathered bible he kept under his bed.
Although he had been saved, he rarely took the time to speak to god in the manner that his parents had taught him. He would bow his head before meals and make the yearly trip into town for Easter service, but next to never was the occasion that he would simply pray for prayer’s sake. That had been a mistake, he realized. By allowing his connection to the lord to wither, he had set the stage for the beast to take control.
He read from John, slowly, methodically. His lips moved silently as his eyes scanned the words, and he stopped often to think about what he was taking in, trying his best to involve his heart, his soul. He thought of the sacrifice that had been made for him, showing true gratitude, requesting strength, release from whatever was trying to take hold of him. He continued for hours, never breaking, even when the sun went down, reading by candlelight.
Finally, long after the stars had made themselves seen, he finished his chosen gospel, gently setting the bible back in its place. As he prepared himself for bed, he concluded that he must have succeeded, his soul feeling lighter, freer. He had shown the lord that he was still a grateful member of his flock, and he went into the darkness with absolute conviction that he was safe, a shepherd like none other watching over him.
If the beast had any fear of said shepherd, he didn’t mention it, following Foporp as he always did, pulsating, dripping. He woke up from the fourth nightmare with tears in his eyes, finally understanding his situation, that reprieve would not be awarded that freely.
On the fourth day, he removed his clothes and went into the field, pressing his knees and forehead hard onto the dirt, prostrating himself. He prayed without the assistance of scripture or the comforts of his home, fasting, not even drinking water. The sun beat down on his back and burned him horribly, but he thought of nothing save for God and the sins that he must have committed against him, acknowledging nothing else. He screamed until his throat was raw, wailing, sincerely apologizing for his crimes, both original and done while living.
When he went to bed, he hoped that he had solved his problem, but he didn’t dare again assume it with any certainty, not wishing to invoke hubris.
His humility was not rewarded.
For the next two weeks, the pattern continued, the farmer alternating between reading and praying and pleading, the beast always present in his mind. He ate sparingly between fasts, which suited his situation; although never having suffered from hemorrhoids in real life, Foporp found himself terrified of squatting or straining himself, each bowel movement seeming to tempt the beast into coming forward, into taking him.
Shit, he came to understand, was more terrifying than anything.
But none of his self-guided spiritual efforts led him to success, and he soon concluded that he required the assistance of others. With most of his crops having already died from neglect, he packed his bible and savings into his truck, driving to town, to Nampa. He had already lost the season, but that didn’t matter. His success as a farmer was recoverable later, if he could take care of the beast. That was all that mattered.
His meeting with the pastor was the first time in his thirty-eight years that he’d ever cried in front of another man. At first, the man almost laughed after hearing him describe it so seriously, but he soon began to listen earnestly, understanding his fear. He had him come to an evening service, he had him pray, reading from specific passages, parts of the bible he’d never even seen before. It would work, he assured him. With the lord, all things were possible.
For days, it went on, more praying, more fasting, more talking, crying, whimpering. But the beast continued to follow him. And the second pastor could no nothing more for him than the first had, and so on with the third, the fourth, the fifth.
In a moment of weakness, he’d even gone to see a priest, ignoring the opulence, the lies about Mary. And it accomplished just as little, in the end. The beast still came.
And after several months of burning through all he’d built up in his life, after talking to so many who claimed to represent the ultimate authority, he started to doubt. And the doubt soon blossomed into rejection. He came to understand, while living in the city. They knew nothing. They never had. If there was a god, he either could not or would not help him.
If there was a solution to his issue, it lied outside of churches. No heavenly fiber could cleanse the bowels of the soul.
He went to a psychologist, for the first time considering the idea that men might be able to approach the mind as a science. It was hard for him, but no less difficult than the idea of another night with the beast, so he went, giving it all he had. He took the pills, when prescribed. He changed his diet, read the self-help books. He spoke about his parents, his childhood, whatever seemingly irrelevant personal topic they demanded to discuss. He laid himself bare to as many white-coated men and women as they said he needed to, trusting those proclaiming mastery over the physical side of reality, wanting more than anything to find a cure.
And he came to understand, once again, that they knew nothing. His first instinct had been correct. They were liars, as lost as anyone else. Science could observe, but it couldn’t solve. Not his problem, at least.
He sold the farm, the goats, nearly all his possessions. The bible, the pills, his cross, the books. Worthless. He hated farming, he discovered, leaving Nampa, leaving Idaho, bringing nothing but his truck and his money. That was about all he could trust with any consistency. The truck, the dollar, and the beast.
Years passed. No matter how far he traveled from his original home, the dream never stopped, playing out like it always did. He liked to think that it would have stopped bothering him at some point, but that was wishful thinking.
He saw his country, between the nightmares, learning more about the world than he’d ever expected to. He touched the Pacific, the Atlantic, the Gulf. He did construction, gardening, whatever temporary work found him, never staying in one place too long, never making friends that would hurt to lose. It almost felt like living, sometimes.
He ate a lot of fiber.
Eventually, after a number of years, he lost the truck. The dollars, what remained of them, left him soon after, and he was stuck with only the beast. The one constant, through it all.
It took eighteen years from the time that he first arrived at the foggy lake for it to finally happen. He was in New Orleans, visiting during Mardi Gras. It was night, and he had managed to get a decent buzz going by picking out half-finished beers from the trash, readying himself for sleep. Drinking didn’t lessen the terror of the chase, but it did make the wait for it just that much less unbearable, which was more than enough motivation to make the effort worth it.
After having settled with an amount he felt comfortable with, he staggered back to the back alley he’d been resting in, ignoring the music, the drunken screams.
Someone followed him. A woman, old. Ugly. Covered in warts. Not homeless like him, if her clothes were any indication.
She looked at him for several minutes, and he wondered whether or not to tell her to leave, but she eventually turned away without needing him to prompt her. As she did, however, she said two words, words that took him some time to process.
In his beer-addled state of mind, he didn’t quite get it at first, but his eyes soon widened, then closed, and he fell asleep for the first time in decades with a smile on his face.
When the beast rose from the lake, against all instincts, Foporp stood in place. And it came, lumbering as always, not stopping. And it reached him, finally, just as expected. He smiled.
The beast formed two appendages from wet, gooey flesh, wrapping them gently around his back, embracing him without pain or pressure.
He hugged the beast back, the cool damp veins almost refreshing against his uncovered arms and back. The beast pulsed peacefully against him, prolapsing, breathing, appreciating. It was wonderfully wet and slimy, like softly rotted onions mixed with raw ground beef, only better, more alive. Squirming.
Just two comrades, he realized, in a world where god and science meant nothing. The beast had only wanted a friend.
Foporp laughed. He’d been such a fool, to fear it.
After an endless amount of time, the hug broke, the creature offering up something at the end of an appendage, smiling. It was a piece of itself, a gumball-shaped section of purple veiny goodness. It was still alive, pumping with life, with energy. Moving, wiggling, all for him.
“Chew,” the beast said, comfortingly, lovingly.
Foporp picked it up, putting it in his mouth without hesitation, allowing the slime to settle against his tongue before using his teeth to pop it open. Like a soft-boiled egg, hot yolky liquid filled his mouth, salty, wonderfully salty, more salty than salt itself, the whole Dead Sea crammed inside his mouth.
Delicious. Peace filled him, infinitely better than the fake peace he’d known before the dreams.
The dream ended, and he woke up with a smile, dried tears on his face. The woman was gone, but the beast had remained with him. They were connected, finally. Even in the real world, they could remain friends.
Suggestions flooded in his head, the beast talking with clarity, with joy. Instructions, he’d been given, to share the bliss of hemorrhoids, the wonder of hemorrhoids, the knowledge that came with hemorrhoids. So that everyone could have a friend like that, who wanted peace and love and happiness.
The beast had a plan, and if Foporp would help him carry it out, everyone could feel what they felt, forever and ever. They were going to make a cartoon. For adults, for children, for everyone.
Sick Bay, it would be called. It was about a hospital by a foggy bay, where the sick came to heal, to get better. And there was a friend living in the bay, Henry Hemorrhoids, who helped the sick people, fixing them with the power of friendship. It would be the perfect cartoon. Funny. Relatable. Hemorrhoids.
The plan would take forty years. Foporp would have to draw every frame himself, seduce a billionaire, and voice every character, enduring a medley of painful vocal surgeries. But it was going to work, they knew. The beast — the friend — would be with him for every step of it, drawing with it, speaking with him, loving with him. And then it would air, four decades in the future, and everyone would laugh and relate and have wonderful hemorrhoid friends too, and everything would be great. No more war or hunger. No more pain, no more death, only happy happy happy hemorrhoids, yummy yummy tasty hemorrhoid salt, blissful salt, the tasty wet hot yolky salt that entered and never left, staying inside, staying forever.
Foporp smiled and stood up, feeling great. It was wonderful, having a friend.
I opened my eyes. I was lying down. Stuff in my arms, people standing around me, in front of me. On something.
Couldn’t think, couldn’t move.
Someone looking at me, saying stuff. Someone else said more stuff, and my arms got hot, and then my body, and then my eyes started to close again.
“Sorry about that, Led. Back to sleep. We still need to stitch you back up.”
Back to sleep, then.