Bust My Buttons
From the July 2009 Lutin Muse issue
Written by Sennebec
I wasnt sure whether the message on my answering machine was more unexpected or unwelcome. Marcus Dinsmore was a name from my high school days and certainly not someone with a good reason to get in touch with me.
The voice sounded more mature, but familiar, bringing back memories of spring, 1989 when we were about to graduate from high school. I beat out Marcus by asking Shannon Merck to the graduation prom, completely unaware that they had been dating. He had gone ballistic, threatening me in senior English and later spray painting all the windows on my beloved 57 Chevy. He missed getting expelled by a hair and wasnt allowed to graduate with the rest of us. Oddly enough, Shannon and I discovered we had nothing in common and never went out again. That was almost 20 years ago. I had gone to college, then graduate school and was a slightly balding software engineer in Emeryville, California, far removed from Simonton, Maine. Heck, I hadnt even been back to visit in ten years.
Curiosity won and I listened to the message again. Hi James, bet you never expected to hear from me, did you. I saw on the web that you were doing some really cool stuff with 3-D graphics in computer applications. Way beyond anything Id ever do. Anyhow, I found your phone number in your online resume and thought, hey, maybe its time to make things right for what happened way back when, if you know what I mean. Id like to meet and clear the air. Im staying at the Radisson for the next few days. Give me a call if you want to meet. Later, Marcus.
As the events of that spring ran through my mind, I started to dial the number, hesitated and then thought what the heck. He answered on the second ring and after some awkward small talk, we agreed to meet at an obscure sushi place in North Beach the following evening.
I recognized him immediately as I came down the stairs into a quietly lit and very small restaurant. Japanese music was playing softly in the background and there was an Asian couple engrossed in each other at the far end of the bar. He waved me over and stood as I got close, extending his hand. I shook it and took the seat next to him.
After a bit of awkward small talk, I started to relax and asked what he had been up to since high school. My question seemed to defuse his edginess as well and for the next hour, we caught each other up on post-high school experiences and news of classmates. I didnt realize it at the time, but most of what Marcus told me about his own experiences was just vague enough so none of it was traceable.
He seemed to know the sushi chef quite well and insisted on treating me to an array of samples, many of which I had never heard of before. Not wanting to offend him, I sampled each one, even though Im not the greatest raw fish fan. They were surprisingly good and I cleaned the plate while Marcus ate sparingly, urging me on whenever I seemed to be sated. Several hours later, we parted amicably after exchanging emails and phone numbers.
The next day, I received a cryptic email from Marcus; Thanks for getting together and letting me repay you for old times, Marcus.
I was buried in a new project a couple days later when I started experiencing waves of nausea which quickly turned into gut-wrenching pain. It became so bad I knew there was no way Id get to my doctor unaided. I called 911.
The paramedic lifted my shirt, took one look at my distended abdomen and wasted no time. While he and his partner wheeled me to the ambulance, he called the ER to have a surgeon standing by and as soon as I was safely strapped in, he took off like a bat from hell.
I was so focused on the pain which was now so powerful I was alternating screaming and whimpering, I didnt remember reaching the hospital, but everything came to a blinding stop right after they wheeled me into the examination room. I felt one last tearing sensation before the surgeon swore and ripped my shirt open, sending buttons flying in every direction. While the EMTs and a nurse struggled to get an IV started, the surgeon cursed again and without waiting to get me to the OR, started an incision right over whatever was tearing me apart. Whatever was in the IV blessedly started taking the raw edge off my building agony just as blood and bits of torn tissue erupted from the incision followed by a translucent creature which continued to writhe as it oozed from my open abdomen. In my hazy state, I barely registered its size and the incredible mandibles clacking viciously as it searched for something else to destroy.
Three days later, I emerged from a drug-induced coma to find the surgeon regarding me with a mixed look of pity and compassion.
Wha I tried to ask around the tube going down my throat.
Someone really dislikes you, Mr. Radnik. Ive treated numerous cases of Anisakiasis, but I never encountered anything like the parasite we tried excising from you. In fact I had to consult with colleagues at Tokyo General to get an inkling of what we were dealing with. Someone slipped you a serving of Hokkonu Haddafrass, a species seldom seen and nothing any sane person would consider consuming. It hosts a segmented parasite which can reproduce when a section is severed and is nearly impossible to detect, even with modern techniques.
I barely heard anything he said after the word tried.
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