Mold – Alex Antiuk

        I’ve never known a shower without mold. My entire life I’ve ignored the black streaks that lived in between the tiles or were growing from the showerhead. They were always there, and my eyes never knew to worry about them. From shower to shower I went, and they always followed. They grew up with me, and only when I was forced to scrub them in order to get back my measly security deposit did I realize they were far more important than mere decoration.
        “Jesus!” I yelled at Walter. He was dumping bleach and had begun to spray something citrusy on-top of it. He was laughing like a maniac and I felt my hand begin to sting and let out a yelp.
        “I told you…” He replied. “My Mom said we should’ve worn gloves… She’s always right!”
        It was Walter’s usual worried drawl, and despite my best interest I kept at it with my toothbrush.
        I was scrubbing every single tile, getting in between with the bristles of my medium firm toothbrush. There were small spots of blood from my gums getting into the cracks but when Walter followed up with the spray-bottle they disappeared. We worked in tandem, defeating tile after tile until slowly the bathroom began to sparkle. It was something I was proud of and I looked at Walter and noticed he smiled too. We had set out to conquer the unexpected headache and it was soon going to be our biggest achievement since we somehow got our couch through the front door the day we moved in.
        “Last one…” Walter said in a quiet, anticipatory whisper.
        “Sal… Do you want to do the honors?” I looked towards Walter and smiled, before replying, “Sure… Why not.” I grabbed the spray bottle and sprayed down the corner tiles, when I noticed the mold didn’t move.
        The corner of the shower was filled with a mold unlike the other tiles. It was the same, hardened black, but there were spots of yellow and what looked like a mushroom growing out of it.
        “Spray again…” Walter said, this time moving his head closer and closer. He was smiling violently and for a moment I wondered if he was simply going to bend his head all the way down and eat the miniature mold mushroom that had sprouted in the corner.
        I unleashed another powerful, direct spray at the corner, wondering if it would dissipate but there was no luck. It was firmly rooted, and even with another round of spraying the mushroom only smiled at us. Its head was white and body brown, and it looked content growing each day when the steam from the shower coated its miniature frame.
        “Do we just leave it?” Walter asked. He was smiling and looked so innocent I couldn’t help but smile.
        Walter and I weren’t particularly close when we moved in together. We were two strangers desperate for a new place to sleep. Our lives had moved at different paces and when Walter found a condom that didn’t belong to him under him and his boyfriend’s bed, he grabbed his few key possessions, stormed out before realizing the one thing he hated more than the horrors of adultery and lies was the dreaded, steamy summer rain.
        This led Walter straight back into bed and onto the internet, and while I had stumbled online in search of a roommate for a completely different set of reasons, we met soon after a brief messenger chat, at a diner, both coincidentally ordering french toast knowing from that moment on, or for at least the one year until our lease was up, we’d cohabitate happily ever after.
        “No… Stan is a real asshole…” I said to Walter. Stan was our landlord and he was not particularly nice. He didn’t fix things when they broke and the day our fire-alarm, which lived too far up for any human to reach, suddenly began beeping in an epilectic fit, he simply told us to just deal with it until the battery died.
        I grabbed my toothbrush and began to scrub. I moved my arm violently, scrubbing hard enough that if the tile was my teeth my entire mouth would be coated in blood from my rotten gums. It was the hardest I’ve ever brushed and I didn’t let up, until suddenly the mold slid off.
        It moved like a train, the mushroom sitting in the conductor’s seat.
        “Thank-Jesus…” I said, before I turned around to grab a paper-towel. I spun my head and everything seemed fine for a moment, until I felt my foot slip and my face smash into the side of the tub.
        It landed with a thump and for a moment I saw nothing but stars and black lines. My eyes were wobbling and I couldn’t comprehend what was happening. I heard cackles and yelps, which were soon replaced by worried whispers.
        “Sal? Sal?” Walter’s voice came in and out. It moved delicately through my ear drums until I felt myself return to normal. I lifted myself up and took a minute to realize I was concussed just enough to avoid a trip to the hospital.
        “You ok?” Walter asked. I took a deep breath before smiling my biggest smile of the day, when suddenly Walter let out a horrid, violent screech. I was unsure what had happened but he flung his face away and said, “Spit it out… Now!” I had no idea what he was saying until I placed my hand on my teeth and noticed the goo, and something stuck in the gap between my front two teeth. It had clung onto my teeth like braces and before I felt the panic set in I ripped it off and watched it fall onto my feet.
        The mold didn’t taste like anything in particular but it soon began to sting. My gums felt like they were being stabbed with a needle and I immediately hopped out of the shower and ran towards the sink. I lifted open my mouth and noticed my teeth were stained black. I felt my heart begin to race and my head pound and I placed my mouth under the faucet and began to gargle and spit. I repeated this action a thousand times but it was to no avail. The black wouldn’t fade, and the mushroom remained firmly rooted like a poppy seed after eating a bagel.
        I decided to accept defeat, but when I lifted my head up I noticed it wouldn’t lift.
        My neck had become completely stiff and my arms soon joined. I was slowly becoming paralyzed and although I wanted to contemplate if this was it, and how I felt about closing my eyes and leaving one plane of existence and opening them in the next, like many I wasn’t awarded the time.
        My eyes shut and my head bashed against the sink, leaving the last thing I heard- Walter beginning to cry and yell into his antique cellphone, “Really 911? You’re going to put me on hold? You’ve got to be kidding me…”