The Speaker

Gary hated the thing on his shoulder. Always had, but now more so than ever.

It started as a little lump. Nothing big, nothing to really worry about. It was there from when he was about six. Maybe it grew a little as he grew, he could never be sure. The doctor had a look at it, poked it with things, and sent off for tests that came back negative.

Then came puberty, and as the rest of his body sprouted and evolved into something he found difficult to fit in, so did the lump. This time, it definitely got bigger. Still the tests came back saying that everything was fine.

Then, one day, as he looked at in the mirror, the lump blinked at him.

More precisely, it opened its single eyelid, stared at his reflection for a moment, and then closed it again. No matter how much he pulled and prodded at it, the lid remained shut, and no-one believed him, even accusing him of making it up for attention.

It was when it grew teeth that it all went wrong.

Because covering it up with clothing became harder, especially when the lump developed a taste for cotton. It munched its way through his shirt shoulders, and then licked its lips and blinked myopically at anyone staring at it in horror.

Gary never knew how to explain it.

Often he just shrugged and looked embarrassed, and politeness took over, and so people pretended to ignore it.

At his first job interview, just as we was asked to describe his faults, the lump ate its way into the open. The man behind the desk stared.

“What are you looking at?”

It was the lump asking. Demanding.

Those five words were all it said anytime it appeared through his shirt, for a good few years. It took Gary too long to realise it would be easier to just cut the holes in the shoulders himself, and stitch them back so they didn’t fray. That way, at least he could keep his shirts for longer.

Maybe that’s what did it. Maybe it ingratiated him with the lump, or maybe it infuriated the lump, now deprived of its only snack source.

Either way, the lump got more bolshy.

And it seemed to have a direct line into Gary’s innermost thoughts. Fair enough, except the lump had no qualms about voicing those thoughts at every given opportunity. It told Gary’s family exactly what he thought of them. Told his friends his real feelings. Swore at annoying people. Heckled, taunted, shouted.

All alone, Gary was left in the company of the bastard lump on his shoulder.

He stared at it in the mirror.

It stared back.

“Piss off you fat lump of fuck,” it said, and never stopped speaking after that.

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