Hallo. Keep it Clean may just be the vilest thing I’ve ever written. Well, I suppose it depends on who you are. It’s certainly a little gross.
It is, to put it bluntly, a short pulp horror story about a man and a public toilet.
Still reading? Good. If you like this extract and want to read the rest, you can find it as an ebook here.
Keep it Clean
He’d have liked to say that from first look it was just an ordinary toilet, no more homicidal than any other, but he’d have been lying. It was, in fact, the lord of toilets, or its most low-born, its befouled emperor or its most grotesque assassin. Was it cherished, worshipped and obeyed? Did it head the assembly, chair the meetings? Or was it tolerated – barely – by the others, only as needs must; kept in the dark, in the shadows, ugly and deformed even by its own kind. Perhaps it was both, for in such an underworld the forms of power come naturally feculent, a triumph of disgust to the masses that lurked there in their cubicles and private rooms. The gilded and implacable, perfumed and cushioned at the foot, lid closed in deference as much as the fetid sinkholes with their vacant dribbling stares.
Whatever its position among them it was one powerful and feared. Its mouth was wide open in a toothless yawn, beckoning him on. He almost made to turn and leave, to hold it in, but he was desperate. If only the pub’s bathroom hadn’t been out of order. His friends were the ones who had told him to go to the public toilet in Piss Alley – that’s what they called this stretch of lightless cobbles, on account of all the homeless were scared of the toilet too, rather letting their urine run down the street than open that door. They knew better.
He’d had to walk past them, and they’d stretched out their hands to him, trying to tug on his jacket. They weren’t the usual fallen on hard times, but elephant men, leprous deformities huddled in rags untouched by moonlight. This was their Piss Alley and in the small hours he knew they prostrated themselves before the toilet; their whimpers reached him even in his dreams.
Call it a dodgy curry, IBS, or a reaction to the alcohol: a cauldron of vomit mistakenly travelling the wrong way. Either way he couldn’t make the journey anywhere else, and he banged the door shut behind him and closed the latch, a movement it seemed all too eager to make.
He surveyed the squalor, face twisting in nausea and fear. The cracked lid was pulled back like lips drawn back on chimpanzees. The rim was stained all shades of brown, caked on and smeared, and dribbled down to the foot. The floor sodden with tissues of muck, holes in the tiles where fat black slugs curled and roamed up the walls and squirmed, half-dropping off the ceiling, their feelers contemplating the suicidal dive into the pool below that sang songs to them with basement witchery.
A cluster of moths flicked their wings against the bulb that hung like a corpse from the lid of the place, its glass bruised and choked into giving a green light that cast the room in seasickness. Every gnarl of dirt – and was that blood? – given its time, its torture-den glow. The only thing left unfouled was the roll holder, a bowed metal head that made him of think of H.R. Giger as it shone with menace, curling its dry paper intestines and keeping them tight and guarded like a baby in the womb.
He had barely summoned the courage to touch the lid when it clanged down, sending him jumping back. The lid was not as filthy as the rim, but still shit-lined and worn patches of what could be rust, could be faeces, could be dried blood. He reached to the metal holder and snatched a sheet of paper before its jaws could clamp shut on his fingers. It cleaned nothing; all marks long made and resistant to his touch, and he shivered as his fingers felt the bumps in the porcelain scars.
The toilet regarded him as every toilet regarded every human: with cold silence. They endured, they waited. He knew their patience, stretched thin and twisted. They spoke to each other, you see, sometimes whispering along the pipes but only when they meant to scare him, for they had a hive mind, and they always knew. He heard them, not through his ears but in his head, or rather he heard the things left unsaid, the silent things.