Students were discouraged from venturing into the park’s public toilet. Of course they all knew, in whispers and titters, it was because of the hole. Not much bigger than a fist, it looked to have been brutally bashed right through the third cubicle’s wall. That poky little cubicle with its crooked door was the crux of a whole slew of lurid urban legends.
Even girls from the neighbouring campus seemed in on it; shocked the hell out of Jack the first time he overheard them giggling and carrying on. Girls were supposed to be nicer than that. Why should they know anything about the men’s toilet?
Men’s. Not boys’. Jack supposed aspiration might explain why he’d taken to defiantly pissing where he oughtn’t to be. Got to be a nice little ritual: his stream drumming against the metal trough, the sound booming in the icy concrete room.
The wind whooped about the verdant green oval outside. Like the excited squabbling of gulls on a distant cliff, he could faintly discern the shrieks of various district sport teams hashing it out. All of whom’d be doing peachy without him, thank you very much.
The toilet block was a good place to be alone. Like some private sleepy island, where hectic summer was barred. Where Jack could almost feel calm, tucked away from the fizzing, bubbling world that made him want to spring from his skin and go racing for the horizon.
Still, while going about his business he made sure to stand with his back to the infamous third cubicle. Not scared, as such. More vaguely ashamed, in case someone looked in. What lurked back there wasn’t anything a nice kid wanted to go showing interest in.
So the sly whisper that one day came dripping and slithering from the hole’s dark maw almost did manage to tweak him right out of his skinny hide.
‘Hey! Bring it ‘ere, boy.’
It was a thick voice, clotted and low. Furtive in a way adults shouldn’t ever be. You couldn’t help picturing the ponderous bristled bulk it must emanate from.
All of the hair instantly raised up on Jack’s flinching neck like cactus spines. Although a reasonably solid wall loomed between them he was too terrified to so much as twitch.
‘Bring it ‘ere, then. Go on. It’ll feel good.’
The gutter-voice paused, as though considering what might tempt a nice boy. Perhaps, horribly, it was trying to remember its own childhood.
‘Ya c’n pretend it’s anyone. Like all them giiirlies, is runnin’ ‘round out there. Ya like one o’ them girlies?’
Wetter and closer, the mouth pressed eagerly against the hole with a flickering tongue. That great misshapen head trying to squeeze its way through like sausage meat.
Of course he liked one of them! Who wouldn’t?
‘It c’ld be her doin’ it to ya. How’d ya like that?’
Jack forced himself around. He had to, to face the door. No sense fleeing hysterically through the dim room without looking, which was all he wanted to do. Likely smack against a wall and knock himself silly. No telling what might happen with him laid out cold.
His portal back into the nice safe world blared so brightly into the room it was a rectangle cut from bleeding light. The afterimage blinded his eyes everywhere he dared look. A temporary, scrabbling panic until vision returned.
The hole, though. The hole was dark. Fathomless, like it drilled through to nowhere. No hint of what skulked behind there, crooning its sweet nothings.
It was a no brainer, right?
Except for the burning enticement of the voice’s next slippery words, laid out precisely like a trail of sweets. It was a prospect that unbelievably impelled Jack toward the cubicle, his poor legs trembling so badly he was sure any second to be spilled across the hard, clay-smelling floor.
‘Ya c’ld be makin’ her do it.’
Because that’s what it came down to, wasn’t it? The only way any of those girls would ever be accessible to him.
One more step and he was there, like a man on the moon.
Gooseflesh rippled and crept in shivering fingers up Jack’s tender, bared stomach; in his fright he’d neglected to cover himself. The skin of his stones crawled as though appalled.
Glancing down Jack saw the little curling hairs tremble in a puff of stray breeze from the other side of the hole. Or, if it was the satisfied chuffing of breath that he heard, then why on earth did it feel so dreadfully cold?
A moment of hesitation. Then, before he could chicken out, he quickly stuffed himself through.
As promised came warmth, a wet cavity. A hot mouth that closed over his unhappy, shrivelling little nugget and flogged it to instant, thrumming attention. A jaded mouth that knew exactly what it was after, and pursued it mercilessly.
Jack groaned, spreadeagled against the gritty wall with his strides puddled about his feet and socks still yanked comically high. That voice was sodding right. This felt so good!
Distantly he caught the shrill calls of the girls out on the football oval. So far off, it was like they frolicked on another planet. In fact they might as well, for all the luck he’d had. Each had their charms, but luminous unobtainable Beth most of all.
Beth’s long legs flashing in the afternoon glow. Sometimes she skimmed carelessly here and there, like a dragonfly. Then suddenly she became a sleek muscled predator intently chasing down the ball. Warm thundering life incarnate.
Jack scarce had words for all this. What good were fucking words, anyhow? This, this feeling was what he’d been made for! Wound up and set ticking, just to give himself over to it.
Before he knew it he was jerking and spasming, drowning that secret mouth. Smothering a voice that chortled and gurgled its pleasure, as Jack yanked up his shorts and fled. Casting only one wide-eyed glance back: Christ, he’d left the cubicle door open! Anyone might have strolled in and seen!
Over the next few weeks Jack tried to uphold the fiction that he only dared the public toilet for an irresistible piss. At least at first.
He haunted the park.
His pa was baffled but declared himself dutifully proud at the variety of sports his boy was suddenly keen on. Blissfully unaware of how Jack sat parked on the sidelines every day, swilling bottle after bottle of electrolyte water from the corner store ‘til his eyeballs were floating. Glumly watching the girls shriek and flap about.
Girls like those, Jack wished so fervently to possess, but was puzzled what he’d do should he snag one. Dress her up, maybe?
Vivid imagination saw him posturing long smooth limbs against a diorama in formal, ritual movements, like one of his brattish sister’s tea parties.
While another part of Jack, dark and urgent, asserted he knew very well what he’d do with her.
So very well.
Jack’s parents went and threw a birthday party he sure didn’t ask for.
There was even a big football-shaped cake on the table in honour of his new interests. Crammed so full of frustration with the lot of them that he was practically vibrating, on the verge of flying apart, Jack seized his first opportunity to slip away.
Away from the bright lights of his laughing festive family, who were busy pulling party-poppers in each others’ faces and carrying on like some species of idiot who didn’t give a damn about anything. Into darkness and a whistling cold that made him wish he’d brought a coat.
Jack went jogging through the empty night to the park.
He didn’t generally see a whole lot of jogging in his day-to-day. His breath pounded harsh in his ears, but gradually as it worked through his system his roiling blood began to settle.
What am I doing? he wondered. Just what the fuck am I thinking?
The park was a different place by night. It lolled out bonelessly, much bigger, its geometry adult and strange. The streetlights burned few and far between, and it occurred to Jack, I could be robbed out here.
I could get murdered.
There’d be no living with shame should his rellies sniff things out, that was for fucking sure. Even the idea made his gut wobble.
Good old Jack, discovered the next morning in the sordid public toilet. Sprawled face-down with his pants tangled around knobby ankles like they’d kept him from fleeing.
A deviant scene to be unearthed by the poor little juniors, they were always first on the field. The early bird gets the emotional scarring. So take a good gander, you toddling fuckers. Know all that stuff they promised? This is what truly waits up ahead.
Kids shrieking for teachers, for adults who were in cahoots with this heartless world. Adults who’d sigh reprovingly and bring in cops, the press, whoever. See there’s a moral to be learned here folks, so step right up!
And the hole lit up. All lurid and leering in the flash of a newspaper’s camera.
In which case it’d be great to be dead.
Nevertheless Jack continued, wretchedly unable to resist. Across crisp gravel to soft, soundless grass, his nose full of vegetative tang. His bare arms seemed to be steaming in the cold.
But hey, were he quick enough he could hopefully flit on back before his parentals lit the candles and realised their little boy was missing his Happy Birthday.
Solemn-faced Beth drifted briefly behind Jack’s eyes as he jiggled and thrust, panting frantically. But the artificial light overhead glowed dull and leprous, crawling with insects. Every chill surface branded his skin. And with the drain in the floor backed up, the close room was dank with raw piss.
He couldn’t hold onto the promise of her, not in a place like this. Here there was only the hole.
In fact, Jack never found her again.
That was also the night Jack noticed he had bits missing.
His scrawny pelvis was ringed in a proud array of scabs and scrapes from the unyielding concrete. Looked like he’d been trying to fuck some damn pissed-off tomcat. And at first he reckoned this was more of the same.
Then he prayed, urgently, that it was.
With his pyjama bottoms raked down Jack switched on his bedside rocket lamp, which he’d vowed to never outgrow. Moving quick and furtive, lest his ma pop in for a goodnight kiss.
What he found illustrated very clearly that Jack’d never been scared before. Not even close; he’d only ever been pretending.
Because now he actually swooned, in a fever of nauseating panic. Crashed sideways into the rocket and smashed its ignition for good.
Probably for the best. He really couldn’t stand to see anymore.
Still in mortal dread of discovery and too traumatised to revise that priority, Jack clumsily tugged his pants up in the dark and crawled beneath the doona. Trembling and moaning quietly to himself all the while. Even curled in a knot he couldn’t seem to get warm.
Now he understood how fluttering birds died of a shock they just couldn’t recover from. His hands and feet knocked about like senseless lumps of ice, and he didn’t know how he’d ever crawl out there again.
The tip of Jack’s dick was gone.
That’s what he’d seen as he doubled over in curious inspection, trying to understand the visual difference.
Not bitten or severed, mind, which would have sent him wailing to the emergency room.
Just … gone.
A couple of days trying to pretend it wasn’t happening garnered Jack quite what you’d expect.
All the while, what ailed him steadily worsened. It was more than only the tip now; God, how he longed for the days when it’d been just the tip! He was consumed by an utter creeping panic, going about his routine with a scream swelling his head desperately like a balloon.
After dithering outside the sickbay for hours Jack tried spilling his bewildered saga to the nurse. Or at least what few parts he could bear to spit out. The worst of the tale jammed in his throat, too toxic for extraction no matter how he tugged and convulsed.
Could he have just shown her? Funnily enough, it turned out while Jack was A-ok with jamming his junk through a mystery wall, he was too precious to drop his dacks in the office of a mildly perturbed school nurse.
The nurse shifted uncomfortably, clearly not keen on having the door locked. ‘Well this really isn’t my area. But I’m quite concerned to be hearing your communication troubles. I hardly see what’s the great drama in speaking to girls your age; I mean, they’re just people. You’ve got to get this idea they’re some kind of mystic icons out of your head, or you’ll always be terrified.’
No, Jack thought dismally. I can’t imagine you see it at all.
What he wanted more than anything was somebody to stop him. Because he still guzzled those electrolytes, in such quantities he’d joined a recycling program, too.
He just couldn’t keep away from the park.
Jack couldn’t stand to look down at himself. The very idea of a glimpse made him vomit wretchedly, so he went to great pains not to: dressed in the dark, showered carefully with his eyes closed.
For a brief peaceful period he lost touch with himself, a floating head connected to nothing. And considered it a blessing.
Until the rainy afternoon he heard the guttural, thickened demand, ‘Bring it closer,’ and realised he’d nothing left anymore to cram through the hole at all.
He wasn’t smooth like a doll but had gone concave down there, as whatever awful thing was ravaging him set itself to burrow insatiably through his hips. It was chowing through the fucking bone!
‘Bring it closer, boy!’ With excited grunts and squealings.
To Jack’s horror an impossibly long grey tongue slid from the hole, probing for him. Reptilian, and dripping with a clotted straw coloured wetness that tumbled off in steaming strings. They soaked his shoes with a splat, and burned the hell out of his toes.
Finally the spell broke. Screaming mindlessly Jack fled the toilet, utterly heedless of the puzzled students occupying the park who stopped their laps in the downpour and turned to watch him stumble by.
A few of the younger kids burst into tears, sure something terrible had transpired. One or two apple-cheeked team leaders even started toward him with a hand raised, instinctively seeking to help. But Jack’s staring eyes were so wild and raw they flinched back.
Wailing, he ran home alone.
No change of heart was going to be Jack’s salvation. Even avoiding the third cubicle like the plague, the inexorable progression continued.
Hollowed out. Devoured by a ravenous hole that tunnelled through his body, leading to nowhere and nothing.
His legs became unhinged, rattling loosely in their incomplete sockets, making his gait strange. He took to wearing baggy clothes that flapped about like sails, and then finally padding out his frame to hide the increasing bits that were missing.
A cloth-and-stuffing boy. A rag doll. He employed anything he could filch without his ma finding out: spare cushions, balled-up socks. As Jack feebly wound lengths of bandage about himself to hold it all in place he looked away from the mirror, sobbing and shuddering helplessly with revulsion.
He felt so sad all the time his limbs became to heavy to move, and he fell asleep unpredictably and often. It was his only escape.
The only thing Jack still enjoyed was to sit longingly in the park watching the girls swoop about. As far away from the toilet block as he could get. He only planted himself in full sunlight, wherever a ray could be found. It made him faintly remember happiness, although no amount could make him warm.
Jack sat and wistfully watched the girls jostle in the golden sun. The cut grass smelled so clean. The breeze ruffled his hair. He turned up the hood of his jumper so that no-one could see him weep.
Until one day an ill-aimed football came crashing through the little huddle of clothes. The impact scattered socks and rent cushions, hurling bandages everywhere like an explosion of streamers.
Beth and the girls came tramping over to retrieve their ball, laughing and yelling insincere apologies. But there was nobody at all inside.