Flash Fiction: Filth

[Once again doing Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge. This time he’s said to write, in 2000 words or fewer, a story that’s in some way about filth, inspired by the controversy over Clean Reader, an app that removes swear words from books. This story was written in 48 minutes with no revision and is UNPLEASANT, though I will note that it contains not a single word that Clean Reader would block. This story has trigger warnings for self-harm, body dysmorphia, homophobia, and general nastiness. It’s unpleasant enough that I didn’t want to post it, but I kept to the spirit of the thing.]

This one’s genuinely nasty, so I’m putting it behind a cut

It couldn’t hurt, could it?
He took the knife and looked closely at it. Surely it wouldn’t hurt, to cut the filth out and leave himself pure. Get rid of everything that could defile, everything that was base and impure.
The body is only a vehicle for the soul, after all. Everyone has known that. Plato, St Paul, they all said the same, the wise men throughout history. They all said that the body was disgusting, filthy, wrong, and that the soul needed to rise above worldly concerns.
And certainly Craig knew that they were right. All his life, he’d felt trapped in the disgusting, smelly, rotting, meat carcass that they called a body. Hairs grew out of it, and… substances… came out. It did things that he didn’t want it to, and worst of all, it made *him* want to do things that he didn’t want to do. He wasn’t even sure how that worked, but it was true.
Like when he’d seen James in the lecture. James who was so much stronger, cleaner, purer than Craig. Craig knew that he should aspire to be like that himself, but instead he felt himself wanting to degrade James, to defile him, to do… things. Things that would make James impure like Craig.
So he had to mortify himself for God.
“If thine eye offends thee…” that was how it went, wasn’t it?
He started with the part that he had identified as the source of the evil, that filthy pouch from which the effluents flowed. He knew that if he just got rid of that, he would no longer have the urges. And that was right and proper and godly. He’d read about the castrati who’d sung for Popes, and the LORD himself said that those who could should make themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven.
It did hurt, more than he’d imagined, but he knew that he was refining himself, purifying himself, mortifying his flesh to give his soul control. He wouldn’t let this worldly body seduce him into the pleasures of the flesh.
He knew enough to staunch the bleeding afterwards. He flushed the remnants down, in the bathroom, the proper place for filth, and felt euphoric as he did it. He was in control now, not the gonads.
But it couldn’t last. He still felt like he had to abuse himself, to do those things that so disgusted him. Even though the unpleasant conclusion no longer happened, he still couldn’t resist the action. So a week later, he removed that part, too. He felt proud to have put temptation out of reach.
The nipples were comparatively easy, after that. That hardly stung at all.
But still he felt the urges. Still he had thoughts. Thoughts about… insertions. He considered cutting away *that* part, too, but then the urges started to tell him to, that it would be fun, pleasurable even, to slide the knife in there…
No. No, he just had to be strong.
Craig threw himself into his work. Soon he was top of the class in all his computer science courses. He liked algorithms. They were clean, simple, pure, expressions of thought, with no disgusting physicality. He had less time for their messy implementations, though. His code had often been buggy in the past, because the very thought of failure repulsed Craig deeply, and so he hadn’t considered all the ways his code could go wrong. His attitude, with which he still agreed, was that if his code failed it was because of interactions with other systems, so it was those systems’ fault, for introducing impurities. He mourned the fact that his code ever had to interact with other systems at all.
But now Craig was purer… he was purer, surely? He must be, or so he kept telling himself; you can’t sacrifice that much and not be pure… he worked constantly at improving his code. He chased down and eradicated errors, got rid of the dirty hacks that were polluting his work. He was purifying his work to go with his new, pure, body.
But Craig was, if nothing else, honest with himself, and he soon realised that he was still impure.
The brain is a part of the body. And Craig’s brain, he now realised, was the part of his body that was polluting his soul the most. His brain was the part that generated those filthy ideas, the part that made him think those thoughts.
Of course, it couldn’t be *all* of his brain. There were probably just a few tiny spots where the impure thoughts were. If he could just get rid of those, and leave the rest, he could finally be pure.
God would guide his hand. He knew it.
He knew that trepanning was safe. He’d read about that before. Heathen savages did it, drilled holes in their skulls, and they recovered fine. If he drilled a hole in his skull, right where the bad thoughts were, and just poked the drill down a tiny bit further, he could get rid of them forever.
As he pressed the drill into his brain, Craig smiled. He would finally be free of the impurities. He would finally be clean.

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11 Responses to Flash Fiction: Filth

  1. These are powerful words and so terribly sad. If sexual urges are wrong, why do we have them and why does it feel so good? God doesn’t make mistakes. This man was perfect and perfectly loved. He just didn’t know it.

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      Thanks. I’m glad that at least one of the emotions the story evoked was compassion…

  2. warjna says:

    …holy crap! That is just freakin’ SCARY! And the scariest part is that, from what I’ve seen and what I know, there is someone like this out there right now.

    You have eminently achieved your objective.

  3. This is a powerful and amazing story. You really should sell this.

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      Thank you. Sadly, I can’t sell it to any magazines now it’s been published. But I’ve been thinking that if I keep doing these, I might be able to self-publish a book of them once there are twenty or thirty of them…

  4. JJ says:

    I really enjoyed this! Something about it is so raw and real. Even though I saw the end coming but I couldn’t stop reading. I had to watch the train wreck haha! So thank you for a lovely (terrifying) piece.

  5. Horrible and tragic. Poor misguided soul. :-( I suppose he moved the spiritual censure to the physical world. (I read a true story of a man who cut off his penis. He had the same sort of misguided thinking. The book is called “The Professor and the Madman” by Simon Winchester. The professor in this story is responsible for 10,000 definitions in the original OED.)

  6. writerchick says:

    Visceral, shocking, extremely well-written. To you sir, I tip my imaginary Internet hat. Well done.

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