The bookstore was clean only in the places that draws your eyes. The line of comfort was slowly being squeezed. The slowly pulsing member wrapped around Ferdinand’s body. There was a deep red rash that just peaked over his collar. Every shirt felt too tight but this off white cream button up shirt matched his favorite tie that he had worn once on a balmy Chicago afternoon, when he stood in front of a water fountain and sucked in his gut while an all too enthusiastic Brazilian woman took his photo, in between calling him baby and word that he was sure meant “baby” in Spanish. He regretted coming out to this book signing.
It loosened its grip to creep an inch forward. It had made it’s way to his crotch and was slowly coming back around his thigh. He spend hours in front of the mirror. He attempted to observe it from every angle but failed. He knew it was there because he felt it and he saw what it was doing to him.
Ferdinand smiled politely as a woman that reminded him of his mother scooted forward and leaned over his table to hug him. He was tempted to say something but had long known better than to invite that conversation with a perfect stranger whom was convinced that they knew him. He bounded down the seconds until she would lift her slightly weighty tight off his shoulder. He thought about how many woman he had hugged and not noticed. His shoulder was not normally the sensory point but the scratchy rash wrapped around that shoulder, too.
The circular cups released and held his skin, crawling around his neck, feeling the veins underneath. He had imagined tentacles before. He had visited aquariums and eaten calamari. He didn’t know how this one wriggled around him dry and always chafing. It left a path of abused skin and light mists of puss.
The woman felt him wince and neither felt like inquiring more as the intimate line behind the woman came to mind.
“Thank you, so much” The tentacle tightened.
“Thank you for reading.”
He leaned back in the chair for a moment. The cheap plastic bent a little under his weight. The release of his back was no match for the itchy pain. He sat up again as the next next girl walked up. The pops of suction cups in sequence shook his skin. A wet came from his ear. His arm reacted as naturally as it could taking a little swipe at his lobe but regret weighed on it stomach.
A young girl with a cautious smile and a heavy backpack stepped up to the table. He smiled in return. “Can you sign it for Grace?”
“Of course.” he touched marker to cover page and heard a smack. He looked up to see a slick hanging off her chin. She bent her knees to meet his gaze. “I’m a really big fan. My mother used to read Lady Bard to me when I was little. I’m attending university in creative writing. I’d like to be an author, like you.” The slug dropped and plopped onto her collar bone. It made a circular motion.
Hot blood came from behind his air but it didn’t run down his skin for more than a minute before it reached and lapped it all up and cuddled up to the source.
His tongue felt the emptiness in his mouth. His throat was dry. “That makes me very happy to hear.” He looked down and scribbled his message to Grace.
“It’s umm, it is hard. I love books but–” He felt teeth sink into his skull, just behind his ear. “Does it get easier?”
The slug on her collar stretched into the air. He watched it raise a foot above her head. It dripped purple onto her bangs and rolled over her her nose. She didn’t seem to notice.
He noticed her steely gaze. “Like Erinia says, if things are too hard–”
“Change your definition of easy.” She completed.
“I’m afraid I don’t have much in the way of advice.”
“No, I find most of your advice columns to be depressing.” The slug’s skin separated to display blood red teeth.
“That is–” It lunged forward and retracted. Purple ooze landed on the table beside his arm. “I wish I could be more help but there are a lot better sources for advice. None of it has managed to help me.”
“You must keep going.”
“I don’t know how.” He thrust the book back into her hand, aiming for the opposite shoulder as the slug.
“Thank you very much, for all your work.”
The tentacle strained against his windpipe. “Thank you for reading and good luck grace.”
As she turned to leave, the floating slug kept it’s teeth aimed at him.
He coughed and wheezed, leaning off the side of his chair, staring at the checkered carpet, lightly tracked and speckled with dirt.
“Are you alright?” Blood pooled at the ear of is glasses.
“What a silly question.”