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Canker

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When I awoke, my first thought was that I should’ve brushed my teeth the night before. My mouth was sticky with tar and the filth of sleep. I opened and closed my jaw regretfully, smacking my tongue as I did so. That was when I noticed the bump that had formed on the roof of my mouth. I chalked it up to poor dental hygiene and tried to put it from my mind.

But, as is so often the case when we try to ignore something, the bump kept interposing itself on my thoughts. My tongue would touch the welt of its own accord, morbid fascination overpowering self-control. By nightfall, it had neither reduced in size nor become any easier to ignore, so I took a closer look.

Shining a flashlight at a mirror, I was able to put a face to the annoyance. It was, as I’d surmised, little more than a red bump on the roof of my mouth. It was smaller than it felt and reminded me of nothing so much as a zit. The idea repulsed me, but lacking a better explanation, this is what I regarded it as.

The damned thing kept me up at night and distracted me during the day, while seeming to grow ever larger. It took on a whitish hue and seemed to be filling with some fluid- mucus perhaps, though I could think of it only as pus. After the third day, I’d had enough. Reaching my fingers into my mouth, I felt around for the bump. It was slimy and seemed to slide from my probing, but I eventually seized it between two nails and squeezed until the membrane burst.

There was an awful foulness in my mouth, like decay, and I spat and rinsed it away as best I could. A portion of the blister’s contents had stuck to my forefinger and I saw it was a cloudy, murky white stained by an off-yellow hue. More a gel than a liquid, I wiped it off in disgust at what had been pooling in my mouth.

Less than a month later, it returned. The same spot had swollen up during the night and it looked whiter than ever, with bare redness at its inflamed edges. There was no pain, just a curious numbness and I disposed of it as I had the first. Still unable to get past the zit comparison, I wondered if maybe I wasn’t doing myself some harm by not allowing it to heal on its own. When it returned in a couple weeks, I resolved to just let it be.

I scrubbed my mouth day and night, but the canker grew. My tongue touched it in horrified disgust, but still I restrained myself. When it had nearly tripled its original size, my resolve crumbled. I got the flashlight once more and yawned wide into the mirror. I found the bump had become a hemisphere nearly an inch long. It was pasty white except for where veins throbbed across it. The membrane was taut with the ooze within and at its center, there was a black dot.

As I lowered the flashlight, the mirror showed me that the dot grew larger as the light receded and I had to choke back the bile that rose to my lips. I took the sharpest knife I had and stabbed the eye growing in my mouth, feeling only numbness as it, staring silently at me, burst.

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