Cameron L. Mitchell
While fighting through the throng of passengers on the train, I started panicking. The cramps were so bad I feared I’d never make it in time. Out on the platform, I doubled over, gripping my stomach as I wondered what in the hell I could have eaten that would wreak so much havoc, like my insides were being ripped apart. No one offered to help or glanced my way at all despite the fact that I was clearly in pain. Not that I expected them to. In New York, it’s best not to get involved. Even making eye contact with a stranger can lead to trouble. Holding my stomach, I shuffled along, hobbling up the stairs to the sidewalk. By the time I reached my block, the cramps suddenly stopped. I wiped the sweat from my brow, relieved I hadn’t had an accident on the street. Now that would have been embarrassing, though I’m sure my girlfriend would’ve got a kick out of it. She laughs at all the bad things that happen to me.
As I put the key into the front door of my building, a sharp pain shot across my body, causing me to double over once again. This time, the cramps were lower down, like whatever wanted out was ready to exit with or without my cooperation. I rushed inside, making it up only a few stairs before having to stop. Gripping the rail, I took a few deep breaths, waiting for the pain to pass. Miraculously, it did, but I wasn’t taking any chances. I sprinted up to the fourth floor, clumsily unlocked the door, and raced inside. My girlfriend greeted me from the living room, but I waved her off and locked myself in the bathroom. I pushed my pants down, sat on the toilet, and spread my legs as wide as possible. After a few minor cramps passed, something small popped out, splashing in the water. I peeked down between my legs and saw a round object sitting at the bottom of the toilet. Before I knew it, three more popped out. “What the heck?” I mumbled. They were round and white like eggs, which was so surprising I didn’t quite know what to make of it. I quickly flushed the toilet, wanting the strange objects gone. I sat for a few moments, but nothing else happened, so I hiked my pants back up, washed my hands, and left the bathroom.
“Are you alright?” my girlfriend asked. “You look really pale.”
“Something weird just happened.”
I didn’t know if I should tell her and doubted she’d believe me anyway. “Nothing,” I answered. “Um, I just got a little sick.”
“Ok.” She returned her attention to the book she was reading. I considered joining her, but the cramps suddenly returned. Back in the bathroom, I locked the door and sat, waiting to see what would happen. Sure enough, three more of the egg-like objects popped out. Passing them didn’t hurt, exactly. They were about the size of a golf ball, but more oval-shaped.
Pulling my pants up once again, I didn’t flush them away this time. I stood over the toilet, staring down. A knock at the door startled me. “You ok in there?”
“Yes!” I shouted. “Just fine!”
Not sure of anything, I sighed. “Well, actually …”
I opened the door. “It happened again.”
“Just look in the toilet.”
“Seriously, just take a look.”
I backed up to give her room. Hesitantly, she entered, taking a look for herself. “Dude, those look like eggs.”
“So you see them too?”
“Yeah, of course. Why’d you put eggs in the toilet?”
“I didn’t know they’d be eggs. They just sorta came out.”
“You’re kidding?” She stared at me, smirking.
“No, I’m not kidding.”
“You just – you just laid some eggs?” Before I could answer, she started laughing. She tried to stop but couldn’t. Once she regained her composure, she took another look, bending down to examine them more closely. “Should we take them out?”
“No, absolutely not.” I pushed past her to flush the toilet.
“Why’d you do that?” she asked as we watched them disappear.
I had no answer.
She turned and walked out, making her way to the bedroom. I waited in the living room on the couch. Soon, she returned with a box. “Here, use this if it happens again,” she said, handing it to me. “That way, we can get a better look.”
“It’s not going to happen again,” I replied defiantly. “And what’d you do with the books that were in this?”
“Dumped them out.”
I sighed, placing the box on the floor and then shoving it away with my foot. “It was probably something I ate. Something just went down wrong.”
She frowned, unconvinced. Standing there with one hand on her hip, I figured she was about to start lecturing me. Instead, she sat on the other end of the couch, and we both stared at the empty box. I had a feeling it wouldn’t be empty for long. She seems to always be right about these things. And, right on cue, the cramps returned. Breaking out in sweat, I clutched my stomach while bending over.
“The box,” my girlfriend said, pointing at it.
“Fine,” I groaned. Maybe it was smart to get a good look at them. I shoved my pants down and balanced myself over the box, feeling humiliated. Three popped out in quick succession.
My girlfriend grimaced. “Does it hurt?”
“No,” I grunted as two more arrived. “It’s – it’s a relief once they’re out.”
“That makes sense.” She tried to see inside the box, but I was in the way. Feeling like nothing else was coming, I yanked my pants back up. We got on our knees to examine the objects closely. “They’re eggs, for sure.”
“Yeah.” She poked one with her finger, proving that she’s braver than I’ll ever be. “It’s soft and warm – and kind of slick.”
“They can’t be eggs. Who’s ever heard of a guy laying eggs?”
“Stranger things happen all the time. Are you aware of all the things a woman’s body can do?”
“Shit!” I yelled out, feeling another cramp. “More on the way.” I pushed my pants down and angled myself over the box, dropping another set of eggs. And then another, and another. Once I felt sure no more were coming, I pulled my pants back up and sat on the floor beside the box, counting them. “Fourteen,” I said. “Think that’s it?”
“You tell me.”
“I feel – empty.”
“That’s probably it then.”
“Will this happen again?” I asked, horrified at the thought.
“Probably,” my girlfriend said, shrugging. “Maybe like once a month.”
“Is that a joke?”
“Will they hatch?”
She thought about it for a moment. “I think they’d have to be fertilized.”
“Maybe they are.” I looked in the box, wanting to touch them, but I couldn’t force myself to do it. They looked so slimy. “Why did this happen? Am I like cursed or something?”
My girlfriend laughed. “Cursed,” she repeated. “That’s one way to put it.”
“Nothing,” she responded. “Look, I should go.”
“Just for a while. Maybe a few days.”
“I can’t believe you’re leaving in my time of need.”
“Don’t get emotional,” she said, getting up and walking to the bedroom. I followed, watching as she stuffed clothes inside her bag. We don’t live together, but she stays over all the time. She has her own set of keys. “Call me later.” She gave me a quick peck on the cheek.
“But what if they’re like, you know, yours too?”
She stopped at the door. “Don’t be ridiculous,” she said. “Those things have nothing to do with me.”
Stunned, I couldn’t think of anything else to say. She disappeared, leaving me alone with my eggs. I remained in place for no telling how long, totally stupefied. Maybe, just maybe, I was better off without her. “Fuck it,” I mumbled to myself, shaking it off. In the kitchen, I grabbed a bottle of whiskey from the top of the fridge and poured myself a shot, gulping it down. The burning sensation across the back of my throat felt good, like defiance. I filled the glass and brought it to the living room, sitting on the couch as I stared at the box. “It’s just us now,” I said, holding my glass out. “Cheers.”
No one said anything back, of course. The silence felt so heavy all of the sudden, like I was the only person on earth. There was no sound at all, not from the street outside, not from the apartments around me. You don’t find quiet like that in the city. There’s always a crying child, a blaring firetruck, heavy steps from upstairs – something. The total silence was overwhelming, so I opened my laptop and turned on some music. “That’s better,” I said, taking a sip from my drink. A series of sentimental songs played, music that my girlfriend would hate. Anything that’s not modern or edgy annoys her. I tend to be more old-fashioned.
I finished my whiskey and poured another round, finally enjoying my solitude. I even forgot about the eggs for a while. As I danced around the apartment, thinking about my girlfriend telling anyone who will listen that I have no moves, I accidentally kicked the box. “Uh oh,” I said, looking down. The eggs got jostled around but didn’t break. “Good, good,” I muttered, feeling a little drunk. A slight movement from below caught my eye – I could almost swear one of the eggs shifted to the right before settling back into place. Bending down, I stared at the egg, but it remained perfectly still. I decided to have another round – and a cigarette! My girlfriend hates it when I smoke. “Fuck her!” I called out, feeling giddy. I didn’t even bother opening a window to let the smoke escape.
I finished the cigarette, I finished my drink. Feeling exhausted, I flung myself across the couch, falling into a deep sleep almost immediately. In a dream that surely wasn’t a vision, I woke to the sound of something rustling nearby. Night had fallen, wrapping the apartment in darkness. The rustling continued, like something scratching – maybe a mouse. As I leaned up, the couch groaned loudly, and the other sound stopped. My bladder was throbbing, so I stumbled to the bathroom. Glancing into the toilet as I relieved myself, I suddenly remembered the eggs I’d left inside earlier. Inexplicably, I felt a deep sorrow for the ones I’d flushed away. I called out for my girlfriend, but she didn’t answer. I can’t say I felt alone in the apartment, however. I always feel a little lonely, but there was a spark of something in the air, like a presence.
After flushing the toilet and washing my hands, I flipped the light on. Squinting against the bright light, I waited for my eyes to adjust. In the mirror, I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. I looked the same as always: a shadow of scruff along my face, a dark puffiness beneath each eye, and greasy hair that sticks up at odd angles. There was also the matter of my growing belly, protruding so much it’s hard to hide; no matter how much I suck in, you can see the roundness of it pushing up against my shirt. My girlfriend once teased that I looked pregnant, though that was long before the incident with the eggs. Skinny everywhere else, I couldn’t help but think I looked like a freak, like all the other aging guys out there who have slowly let their bodies go. An army of effete men with nothing left to lose, we define what it is to be the new average American male. I rubbed my belly, mourning all the things we’ve lost.
And then, that low rustling sound returned. Making as little noise as possible, I crept back to the living room and turned the lamp on. Looking around, I saw nothing. The strange noise had stopped, as if whatever was causing it was waiting for my next move. When it started again, I realized it was coming from the box of eggs. No no no, I repeated to myself, though I couldn’t hear the words. One step at a time, I cautiously approached the box. I had to know. I had to face whatever waited inside.
Peeking over the edge, I suddenly felt dizzy, like I was falling off a cliff. It took a few moments, but I soon steadied myself enough to continue. I had this terrible feeling but kept going, leaning over a little at a time until I finally saw them. Some of the eggs had hatched. There were three of them so far, these monstrous little things, scratching around with their tiny claws as they dragged their slick and glistening bodies slowly along. They had veiny, almost translucent skin; dark masses that might have been organs were visible inside. Their heads were so large they seemed unsteady. They kept scratching and scratching like they were looking for something; one of them opened its mouth, exposing a set of tiny sharp teeth. All three suddenly froze in place, like they sensed I was there, hovering over them. They raised their wobbly heads up, staring at me with cold, dark eyes that were like little pools of black ink.
To my horror, I realized they looked nothing like me – they didn’t even look human. They were like some grotesque cross between an early-stage fetus and a small lizard. Some of their features indicated they could develop into something more human one day: arms and legs extending out from small torsos, misshapen heads with eyes, noses, and mouths. Perhaps this was just a phase they had to get through. I imagined their claws disappearing, leaving behind fingers just like mine, their sharp fangs falling out like baby teeth. I stared into their beady little eyes, hoping these creatures would change over time, shedding their deformed bodies to grow into something that might better reflect me, the one who gave them life, somehow.
Rubbing my belly, I wondered if they were hungry.
And then I woke with a start, groggy and disoriented. In the darkness of my apartment, I couldn’t be sure of what was real and what was not. I knew I’d eventually get up, turn on the light, and check on the eggs. For the time being, however, I remained perfectly still, waiting for a sign.
About the Author: Cameron L. Mitchell grew up in the mountains of North Carolina. His work has appeared in Vol. 1 Brooklyn, The Queer South Anthology, Literary Orphans, Coffin Bell Journal, and a few other places. He lives in New York and works in archives at Columbia University. Find him on Twitter: @CameronLMitchel