Richard knew the zipper in his flesh couldn’t have been there long. It ran down the middle of his chest, from just beneath his collar bone down to just above his navel. He couldn’t figure out what it meant. He lay on his back on what seemed to be the coldest floor he had ever felt in a bathroom he had never seen before. The white tiles around him were clinical, clean and visually confusing in their unusual array.
Was Ruby here?
Richard remembered the cherry smell of her sticky lips and the tendrils of smoke snaking out of her nose as she bent over him and said softly, “Open wide.” They had done this many times. The blotter stuck to his tongue, the little paper square meant to bring potent delights to his body and mind. There was a tiny picture of a girl on it. It wasn’t acid. It wasn’t anything he had known before, but it made Richard slip and fall out of the world into something blissful and that was enough for him. Right until now.
Richard did his best to stand up in the bathroom that seemed to now not be a bathroom, if it had ever been. The tiles around him began to shift. Triangles and circles followed by shapes he’d never seen before. He felt himself shudder, felt the room change around him like he could feel deep polar motions nudging the axis of the very Earth.
His fingers groped at his chest as the dread finally came. His body began to sway back and forth with the fear that finally found him. He gripped the shape-changing wall with shaking hands, trying to blink away what he saw trailing down the front of him, feeling his hammering heart thudding wetly against the zipper like a trapped animal.
Richard used his frantic hands and wildly blinking eyes to search for a door in the shifting mess around him. He found none. Panic began to strike with heavy blows.
He heard Ruby’s voice. Too soft and muffled at first. But then he could hear her panting excitedly, shouting loudly. Shouting from behind the zipper.
“Open up, Richard,” she said. “Open wide.”
Richard’s hands were hot and slick with sweat as he slid his fingers over the silver protrusion. He tugged at the tab slowly. One inch, then two. Ruby’s voice urged him on. He pulled down until the gaping openness of his chest brought him to his knees. He felt something inside him eagerly press towards his chest. He peeled back the silver toothed edges of his skin and looked down.
A bloodied foot almost gently and smoothly slid from inside him like someone dipping their toes into water. Richard could not scream, only gurgle. The rest of a small and slightly twitching body pushed, rumpling Richard and sloughing off some of his inner flesh as it passed through.
A new little Ruby pushed off the rest of Richard and walked into the shifting world.