by Travis Brown
Pedro is a state of mind
The whispering started about a week ago. This was around the same time I found the lump on my temple. There was some correlation between the two; that was obvious from the beginning. I was making breakfast when the low murmur I’d been hearing all night coalesced into a voice.

Good morning, the voice said.

The sound was high and scratchy like a breeze swollen with spring pollen. I stood entirely still while my egg sizzled weakly in the cast iron pan on the stove.

Uh, hello, I said out loud to an empty kitchen.

Your breakfast smells great, the voice replied cheerfully. I am the Devil and I’m going to eat your fucking eyes.

I dropped my spatula.

Could you repeat that? I asked, pulling my bathrobe tight against a sudden chill.

The part about the breakfast or the other part?

The other part.

The voice confirmed that it was the Devil and repeated its plans for my eyes. It then added some new information:

  • Its name was Pedro
  • Deviling was its occupation
  • It was whispering to me for years and was surprised I finally heard it
  • The voice suggested I get that lump on my temple checked out

After I finished throwing up in the bathroom- existential dread always has a way of making me nauseous- I examined the lump. It was roughly the size of a marble, firm to the touch and paler than the skin around it. There was no pain when I poked at it but the voice did increase in volume. It was singing now (the voice not the lump). Christmas classics.

I felt something lick the back of my left eyeball. I screamed.

The voice stopped.

My morning kind of went downhill from there. I gave up on breakfast, feeding my half-fried egg to the trash can. Instead, I tried to drink the world back to being rational, first with wine, then with rum. All I accomplished was getting piss-drunk by 11 a.m. Literally piss-drunk. I couldn’t stumble to the bathroom in time so I ended up relieving myself in a collection of succulents and cacti that Mary used to decorate the living room.

The voice stayed quiet throughout the entire time I was debasing myself but it was a fragile silence. I got the impression of something waiting for its turn to speak. After my blackout nap, Pedro returned to whisper to me again.

How are you feeling? There’s piss all over the rug, you know. I felt a horrible, gentle pressure on the back of both of my eyes. It was as if teeth were resting on the orbs, the enamel not quite breaking the surface tension. But at any moment, those teeth could snap and grind and chew.

I whimpered.

An invisible tongue rooted somewhere in my skull began licking from the inside out.

Oh Jesus, Jesus Christ please stop, I begged.

Have you checked on your lump lately? Pedro asked.

Gingerly, I pressed at my temple. My fingertips came back stained with a greasy white-yellow liquid. The substance smelled like rain leaking from an overflowing dumpster. The lump had opened. I prodded again and realized that the mass had actually split like a tulip greeting the spring. There were curves and ridges and flesh and a hole in the middle.

My head had given birth to a third ear.

YOUR FUCKING EYES, something screamed inside my mind. The volume was staggering, lighting up my nerves like a Christmas tree doused in gasoline then struck by lightning. I fell off of the couch and curled up on the floor.

Pedro was silent for the rest of the night.

The next morning, after calling my office to let them know I’d quit and would never return, I found a fourth ear blossom. It was a little lump on my left side just below the rib cage. When I shined a light on the mass I could clearly see the outline of a tiny ear no bigger than a quarter. Over the next week, more and more of the lumps sprouted and then erupted into new ears of various shapes and sizes.
I was spotted with them, chickenpox made of new body parts. My fingerprints deepened then spread until they became swirling walls of flesh. Tiny ears covered both hands. When I pressed my fingers to the wall I heard such terrible sounds.

This is Hell’s radio, Pedro told me. Listen. Use your new ears. All of them, fields on fields of them.

Why, I asked.

Pedro didn’t reply.

I woke up later that night to the new, horrible sensation of teeth biting my eyes. There was a tremendous pressure, sharp objects jabbing into me.

Wait, I begged. Please st-

Both orbs popped together. Something was chewing on my optic nerves, ripping and munching on the deflated sacks that used to be my eyes. My vision went black, true black, the absolute absence of light. I screamed until I passed out.

While I slept, I dreamed of massive trees dangling lights from their branches. In that dream, the sky was starless save for one bright red dot against the black. It looked like a stab wound hanging in the air.

When I woke up, there was no more pain but I was blind. Not only blind; eyeless. There was a wet, sticky substance leaking from my sockets. I brushed it away with fingers that were completely covered in small ears. They were everywhere now, the ears. Small and large, they sprouted from every inch of me and dragged the sound into me like hooks bringing in fish.

I was nearly deafened by the roar of noise every time I took a breath. My neighbor’s television sounded was so loud I wept more of the fluid from where my eyes should have been. The planes flying above, the satellites in their drift, all of it was agonizing, all of it was crystal clear.

Worst of all was Hell’s radio and the promises Pedro made. I heard him making croaking sounds as I crawled across the floor. The rasp of my stomach ears dragging on the carpet was so painful I vomited. I couldn’t see the sick that came out of me but judging by the texture, and the chunks left in my mouth, even my puke was filled with ears.

You should have listened to me, Pedro gloated, when I told you not to listen.

I can feel Pedro slinking around in my head as I write this final account. He’s hungry and loud, licking at the meaty contours of my brain. His tongue feels like a Christmas tree made out of razor blades. It’s difficult to type with each fingertip ending in a soft shell. Not being able to see the screen doesn’t help, either.

But I can hear the keys as I press them. I blink some of my face ears and can almost listen to the story stitching itself together. But not quite, so please excuse any spelling errors.

Hell’s radio crackles and flows all around me. When I feel the first teeth nibbling at my gray matter, I open my jaw ears to laugh.

Pedro really is just a state of mind.