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Pop Culture

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Safe behind his screen a man falls victim to demands of the faceless crowd.

Horror / Scifi
Nathan Mair
5.0 1 review
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Chapter 1

Pop Culture

By Nathan Mair

Welcome to the internet, the vast global repository for the entirety of human knowledge and experience wherein can be found the fruition of what Alexander the Great dared to hope for when he commissioned the Great Library at Alexandria. Of course, there are many faces to the massive sprawling web of the virtual world, for every slice of information there can be found a counterpart of sorts for, as one might imagine, when your library is so open to the general populace there is bound to be someone writing in the margins and drawing certain questionable appendages on the illustrations; as a result of this the unwary traveller along the fibre-optic highways and byways might discover interests and fetishes they didn’t know they had or, in some cases, were aware even existed.

A few weeks ago he never knew anyone could enjoy this, he never thought that anyone let alone himself, would go out of their way to watch this kind of thing. Nevertheless that’s exactly what he did every single night since he’d stumbled across the ‘weird side’ of the internet. Every night he sat up combing the websites for any video pertinent to his new fascination: lancing, abscesses, cysts, popping, bursting; he would search for hours just to find a single new video of the “popaholic” craze that held so many people both disgusted and enthralled in equal measure. His new fascination was becoming something of an obsession, not only learning new terms but fancying himself something of an expert on the matter. Despite knowing nothing of the subject only two weeks previously he would now immediately and aggressively correct any flaw he noticed in any procedure, be it professional or not.

“That’s not sterile!”

“The camera was out of focus!”

“You wipe it too much!”

As he continued in his quest for more satisfying extractions he became harder to please and more unpleasant to those who offended him, thus earning him a well-deserved reputation among the regular commenters on the sites he frequented.

It was after one particularly brutal tirade against one of the more established and respected content providers, a fully qualified and professional practitioner with a very loyal fanbase, that he received a challenge from a very irate follower:

“If it bothers you that much, why don’t you do better?”

At first of course he was angry that anyone would dare question him in such a manner, he who knew better than anyone how every procedure should go and who knew the difference between boils, lesions, carbuncles, cysts, ulcers, abscesses and ganglia. But the more he thought about it the more he grew to like the idea. He could get a camera and make the perfect video, he could raise a boil specially, it wouldn’t take too long to grow a pimple or two big enough for a decent pop. He could show them all how it was supposed to go and he’d be an overnight internet star into the bargain!

To facilitate his plan he decided it would be best to isolate an easily accessible area of skin and simply take care not to wash the chosen patch. He covered a spot on his right thigh with a waterproof plaster and for a whole week left the skin underneath to fester. After the seven days he removed the dressing and examined the result; to his great annoyance there was hardly more than the tiniest of pimples to show for his work, a miniscule pustule barely worth a photograph much less a whole video. He decided to cover over his disappointment and leave it another week to really let it brew to something more satisfying. Only a few days later the skin underneath the dressing began to itch, gently at first but soon even the slightest touch made it unbearable. Once again the plaster was gently removed and the skin inspected; this time was much more like it, a circle of rosy skin crowned with a yellowy-white head just ripe to be squeezed. He quickly gathered his camera and his tools ready to document how a real popaholic should deal with a pop. He took the procedure deliberately slowly, making certain to show every step of his preparation from sterilizing the scalpel to cleaning the skin; he had everything planned meticulously for his crowning glory and despite his own growing impatience he followed the plan to the letter.

It took in all about half an hour to fully prepare for the main event but finally it was time. He adjusted the angle of the camera for the best possible view and then proceeded to make the tantalising first incision. The slightest graze from the point of the blade was enough to rupture the thin membrane of the head and then the creamy yellowish pus started flowing, a small rivulet of off-white tinged with an edge of crimson as he applied pressure to the surrounding skin. Mere seconds later the show was complete, the pustule exhausted and the discharge cleaned away; despite appearances the inflamed skin held only a small amount of purulence but it would have to do. He didn’t even pause to clear away the implements, rushing to edit and upload his masterpiece for all the web to see. Another hour and a half of editing and a few finishing touches later and his video was uploaded and ready to be viewed, all that was left was to watch the view counter explode and the comments come flooding in.

Two days and only a smattering of views later he was furious, they simply didn’t understand perfection when they saw it; worse still were the paltry few comments his work had garnered:

“Too short”

“Not enough action”

“Okay, but I’ve seen better.”

They couldn’t possibly have seen better, he’d planned the whole thing, it was nothing less than perfection. He did have to concede though that, as perfect as it was, it was somewhat short. But not to worry; he had plenty more skin and even more time and for his next video he’d make sure it was many times longer and more satisfying.

This time around it wasn’t just a small patch, he wanted the perfect zit to burst so he bound the entirety of his right thigh from groin to knee to make certain he’d have at least one perfect example to pop. This time he managed to endure an excruciating three weeks of intense itching and overly warm, tender skin before revealing his handiwork. The result was as grotesque as it was glorious to him; the skin was a veritable minefield of greenish lumps and bumps, each abscess full and ready to go. He prepared as before and documented the process, selected the ripest of the dozen or so large pustules that adorned his upper leg and started to incise it. The process was certainly more productive, the copious pale green discharge mixing with the red stream of blood from the open skin, however it was also significantly more painful and several times he had stop to catch his breath before gritting his teeth to express more from his infected skin. Another hour later and the second video was live on the web and this time the performance was not a disappointment in the least. By the time he had showered and treated the remaining infections the views for the video were in the hundreds, by the time he’d had a good night’s sleep it was into the tens of thousands and still climbing. Better yet were the comments of adoration and encouragement, they truly loved his efforts and he basked in the pus covered glory of it all. A few comments bothered him though, people were asking for more, saying they couldn’t wait for his next video, asking what he was going to do to top the last one. He hadn’t considered the idea of making more videos, all he’d wanted was to respond to the challenge to make a better video, he’d not even thought about making a video better than his own. Still, it wouldn’t be too hard he thought, his leg still had one or two impressive offerings waiting to make an appearance; he’d just have to let them come to a head instead of treating them as intended.

Another week passed and another video made, this one was still quite well received but hadn’t reached the same heights as its predecessor. By the time the fourth video was uploaded the reception was downright hostile, accusing him of posting the same crappy videos time after time and demanding new and different material or else he should just quit or worse. This was not how he had imagined his glorious debut would pan out. He was not the overnight sensation he had envisaged; in fact he was little more than a target for the combined petty snobbery and hatred that he himself had delighted in dishing out in the comments sections. There was still a little voice in the back of his mind though, a voice that promised that he could be a sensation, he just needed to make something more spectacular,

“Please the masses” his ego told him, “please them and they’ll give you recognition. Just give them what they want.”

Yet again the weeks passed by, more videos, more comments, more backlash. A spiral along which the curve only ever gets steeper. He had tried his best and it wasn’t enough, even as he scraped his skin raw and rubbed dirt into the wounds, even as his skin festered and sloughed away, even as his blood turned to poison and his flesh turned to pus he still tried.

“One more video” his ego said. “You don’t want them to be right do you? Just one more!”

It was maybe a month or so after his last video that the neighbours finally called the landlord about the smell emanating from his flat. The landlord unlocked the door but ventured no further, the vile stench inside was an overwhelming barrier of sensory assault. The paramedics were the first to discover him in his chair, camera still recording, scalpel still clutched in what could once have been a hand now just purulence and blood soaking into the suppurating mass of what had formerly been a man and a chair now melded into a single decomposing homunculus.

“Poor bastard” The paramedic whispered to herself behind her breathing apparatus.

“Do we have a name?” Her colleague asked.

“Not a clue, the neighbours said he was always pretty quiet, kept to himself.” she replied.

“Did they mention any family?”

“No, none. No idea who he was or what he was doing here apart from the camera.”

If played together back to back the videos told the story of a mind and body in a quite literal state of decay, from trying to prove a point to trying to feed the hungry masses, facing down the faceless tirades of the perpetually unsatisfied. At his last breath he was only ever known by a pseudonym, an online identity that left him anonymous to the countless other anonymous users and yet still allowed him to attack and be attacked; just one more aggressor, just another victim.

The End

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