By Jo Walker -

Frankie - - WRITERS’ PIECE -

If a mis­spent child­hood watch­ing ter­ri­ble schlocky hor­ror flicks taught me any­thing, it’s that the world is full of mis­un­der­stood mon­sters. Gore-splat­tered chain­saw ma­ni­acs out for jus­tice. Draindwelling clowns des­per­ate for a bit of hu­man con­tact (and maybe a bal­loon or two). Man/fly hy­brids who just want to do good science.

When I was 23, I be­came one of those mon­sters. Sham­bling; in­ca­pable of co­her­ent speech; ooz­ing ran­cid waste prod­ucts; fear­ful of hu­man touch. Be­cause the creepi­est thing that’s ever hap­pened to me was be­com­ing an adult with chick­en­pox. Trust me, my friends – it’s a hor­ror show. You get sores ev­ery­where.

OPEN­ING MON­TAGE: I’m work­ing in a mu­sic store at the mall. I tell my boss I’m feel­ing sick, but she makes me work the end of my shift. (And fires me when it be­comes clear I’m ill – yes, the real hor­ror here is the ca­sual job econ­omy!) I re­alise my stom­ach is cov­ered in spots and drive my­self to a med­i­cal clinic, where a doc­tor con­firms the worst: I am toxic, and will soon be cov­ered in pus. Also, since I’m an adult chick­en­pox-haver, there’s a small chance of de­vel­op­ing brain dam­age from the rag­ing skin her­pes that now in­hab­its my body! Then, the itch­ing be­gins.

MOUNT­ING HOR­ROR: I hur­riedly va­cate my share­house. My mother, who is liv­ing over­seas, flies home to care for me as I can­not be trusted to take a shower with­out fall­ing on my head. We move into my old child­hood home. I am un­em­ployed, my mum has to bathe me, and

I have blis­ters inside my vagina.

Ac­tu­ally, I have blis­ters ev­ery­where. My face, inside my nose, eye­lids, ears and mouth, all over my body; on the top of my head and the soles

of my feet; up inside ev­ery pos­si­ble ori­fice a hu­man be­ing can pro­vide. I ooze, then crust over, then ooze again. Mum cov­ers me in spe­cial non-scar­ring band-aids, and I wear slip­pers all the time be­cause my feet bleed when I walk. The only thing I can eat is cold soup, since my mouth is full of sores. The meds mess with my brain, so I talk funny and sleep a lot. I hurt, I groan.

I’m also on the dole, or so I thought. Hav­ing dili­gently col­lected doc­tor’s cer­tifi­cates and mailed them to the gov­ern­ment with a note ba­si­cally reading, “I am in­fec­tious and can­not look for a job right now,” I thought I was cov­ered. I am in­formed oth­er­wise. Ap­par­ently, Cen­tre­link needs me to present my­self in per­son at its lo­cal branch of­fice. So, re­luc­tantly, I do.

THE MON­STER EMERGES: I am vengeance! I am fury! My mum dropped me here on the way to the shops! My hair is mat­ted, and I’m cov­ered in weep­ing scabs. Wear­ing blood-specked slip­pers and a stained nightie (no bra or undies – they hurt too much), I smell faintly of soup and strongly of de­spair. This is my low­est mo­ment. And when the woman be­hind the counter at­tempts to deny my claim, I’m re­duced to in­co­her­ent moans and rage tears. A Franken­stein mon­ster in Bris­bane’s northern suburbs, with only slightly nicer scars.

I want to tell these strangers in this aw­ful place that I was once like them! I too en­joyed non-creepy skin and work­ing feet! I was not al­ways this wreck of hu­man­ity they shud­der from now! And, most of all – god­damnit Cen­tre­link, I want you to know that vis­i­ble con­ta­gion is a pretty good ex­cuse for hit­ting pause on the job-seek­ing.

Fi­nally, some sort of san­ity pre­vails. A su­per­vi­sor is called over, and my so­cial se­cu­rity re­in­stated.

I am grate­ful, and re­pul­sive.

I snatch my forms and shuf­fle to the car. A small part of me hopes I in­fected ev­ery un­help­ful bu­reau­crat in the joint. Maybe I re­ally am a mon­ster.

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