Short Story
                                                    Skin Deep
                                                                     By Allen Huntsman


     The last time John stood before an ultrasound monitor he held his wife’s hand awaiting good tidings.
His wife, Laura, had been pregnant, and he saw the small, ghostly black and white outline of a fetus in her
womb, producing feelings of longing, love, apprehension, and excitement. This time around it wasn’t in
response to the good tidings of pregnancy.

     One night, while John massaged her back, he discovered a strange and immense lump above her
buttocks. This lump was so large John had been stunned his wife hadn’t noticed it during her daily routines
of showering, exercising, and dressing. The lump was the size of a golf ball, dark brown, and black veins
seemed to pulse throughout it.

     “Does that hurt, Laura?” Dr. Edmonds asked as he gently moved the transducer over the lump on her
back. She was lying on her stomach on an examination table. John stood next to the doctor, viewing the
image on the monitor.

     “No, not at all,” Laura said in a placid voice.

     “Could it be some kind of bug or spider bite?” John asked. A sick feeling came over him as he
remembered seeing a picture on Google of a man who had been bitten by a brown recluse spider. Most of
his hand had rotted away.

     “Anything’s possible,” Dr. Edmonds said. “Although I’ve never seen any spider bites in our area
produce a lump of this size and hue. A spider bite will cause some swelling and redness, but nothing of
this horrific size.”

     “Perhaps a spider no one’s identified yet?” John said. He shuddered as a chill ran through him.

     The doctor continued studying the ultrasound image, eyes narrowed in concentration behind his steel-
rimmed glasses. John observed as well. Black and white lines intersected within the ghostly round shape
displayed on the monitor.

     Dr. Edmonds pointed at the screen, moving his finger over the black oval blotches. “Here,” he said, “we
have obvious pockets of air or blood. The white traversing areas could be skin growth—”

     “Did you see that?” John said. The intersecting lines in the image suddenly rotated. The bottom half of
crisscrossing lines tightened and constricted, blocking out the areas of air or blood shown on the monitor.

     “I did,” Dr. Edmonds said.

     “What does that mean?”

     “I don’t know.”

     John took a deep breath as his heartbeat sped up and his belly wrenched sickeningly. His wife
glanced over at them with a pale face expressing apprehension and bewilderment.

     “What do you mean you don’t know?” Laura said. Her voice trembled.

     “I’m sorry, I just don’t” the doctor said. “I think the best route to take is to cut it open and get it out,
whatever it is.”

     “You’ve got to perform surgery?” Laura’s voice rose with alarm.

     “A minor surgery. We won’t have to put you to sleep. We can heavily numb the area.”

     Laura laid her forehead down on her folded arms. John saw her shoulders rise and fall in a deep
breath of trepidation. He never liked the idea of him or anyone he cared about getting sliced open, minor
or major, but he understood the necessity of it. What else were they going to do? Removing the ugly damn
thing seemed the only course to take.

     “Sounds like that’s what we better do, hon,” John said. Laura raised her hand without looking back,
resignly accepting.

     He glanced one more time at the ultrasound monitor and felt his stomach twist again as the spiked
lines rotated once more. It looked like a huge puncture bur had grown under her skin, a puncture bur that
was alive.

                                                                                     #

     John sat in the waiting room that afternoon while his wife underwent the surgery. He desultorily
skimmed through a car magazine. The act of skimming through the magazine was only to fit in with the
milieu of the waiting room, to contain and conceal the anticipation and anxiety that really boiled inside him.
Part of him was thinking about the surgery, wondering if it would go smoothly with no complications. The
other part of him was thinking about their five-year-old son who was home with a hired babysitter. He
wanted what was best for the boy, and he knew bringing home a healthy mother would be the best thing.

     A large man with a goatee and a war veterans cap sat in the chair to the left of him, skimming through
a hunting magazine. To the right was a thin, bald man wearing a green vest holding hands with his pale
and feeble-looking wife who wore long golden earrings that looked like scepters dangling from her ears.
John imagined they must have some relative or kid in the hospital. He wondered if the couple were holding
hands with longing and love for good news, or was it a sign of their struggle through the tension of bad
news?

     John eyed the clock on the wall above the war veteran. Thirty minutes since his wife began her surgery.
The doctor said it probably wouldn’t take much longer than an hour. He shifted in his chair and turned the
page in the magazine. A beautiful woman wearing long black skin-tight pants and a yellow blouse posed
beside a Ferrari. John began reading the article when he was instantly jolted out of his concentration by
the sound of a wretched scream beyond the waiting room door. The receptionist visibly jumped and turned
toward the sound of the scream. The others looked in the direction of the scream with worry and wonder.

     Another scream, this one louder and hoarser. A hard thud and a crash like breaking glass.

     “What the hell?” The war vet said.

     The receptionist got up to check, and then she immediately returned, screaming herself, backing
against the wall. The war vet got to his feet, hands clasped into fists. He looked ready to fight. The older
couple moved back to the wall beside John, away from the receptionist window.

     Frenzied screams. Pounding footfalls.

     The waiting room door banged open and everyone in the room gasped and shrieked at the sight of a
female doctor thrashing back and forth with both hands clasped to the back of her head. Blood spurted
and splashed down her arms and shoulders, staining her blue scrubs a darker hue. The woman collapsed
to her knees and that’s when John saw it for the first time, a round ball of reddish, fleshy color squirming
about on the back of the doctor’s head. Blood drenched spikes protruded from this alien thing that snarled
ferociously in the poor woman’s hair.

     John turned his head away from the ghastly sight, feeling ill. The thin woman with the scepter earrings
had already collapsed unconscious, and her husband leaned over protectively.

     Cracking and crunching sounds could be heard as the creature ripped through the woman’s skull. The
poor female doctor flopped face-first to the ground as the monster burrowed into her head.

     The war vet cursed and ran to the woman and knelt down in the attempt to grab the creature burrowing
into her head.

     “No wait!” John yelled, but it was too late. The monster darted from the woman’s skull and attached
itself to the war veteran’s hand. He fell back on his butt, cap falling to the floor, as he screamed and
thrashed his hand side to side. One of the spikes had impaled his hand like a spear. Blood oozed from
the round wound in the center of his palm.

     John jumped to his feet and hurried past the dead female doctor through the waiting room doorway into
the corridor of examination and surgical rooms. Sounds of the war veteran’s screams accompanied by
ripping flesh and cracking bone faded as he passed through the doorway and made his way down the
corridor.

     It wasn’t hard to find the room where his wife’s body lay on a table for surgery. A trail of blood led the
whole way. John felt overwhelmed with grief and horror as he stood in the doorway of the operation room.
His wife’s body still lay on the operation table. One arm dangled over the edge. Her dead eyes gazed at
him with fathomless emptiness. There was a huge gash in her back where the operation had been
performed, the place where the monster had been released. In the far corner of the room was Dr.
Edmonds. His body lay against the wall, glasses halfway fallen from his face. The top of his bald head had
been split open, and white bits of fleshy matter spilled over the top of the gash.

     John went to his wife’s corpse and leaned over her, hugging her. He sobbed in despair and shock. He
felt a hopeless fear for his young son who would now be deprived of his mother.

     Then he heard a low, snarling sound from behind him. He turned and saw through his tear-streaming
eyes the small creature that looked nothing more than a golf ball sized puncture bur standing in the middle
of the corridor floor outside the operation room.         

     The creature howled and dashed toward John with lightening quickness. He tried to run by it, hoping he
could dodge it through the doorway and make a run out of the hospital to his car, but fierce pain ignited on
the back of his head as the monster burrowed into his skull. He screamed in agony, collapsing to the
ground. The last thing he saw in death was a pool of blood expanding around him.
AboutAllen Huntsman

Farmer by day, writer of
horror and suspense by
night. You can read my
stories in the Fall 2009 and
2016 issues of Dark Gothic
Resurrected Magazine, or I
can read them to you on my
YouTube channel
DeathGroundWriter. I've also
created a YouTube channel
devoted to reviewing horror
and thriller novels called
DeathGroundReviews.
To read other short stories,
click one of the titles below.