The first time Marge noticed something was wrong was when Tommy's nose fell off. They were drinking tea at the time. Tommy lifted his mug to his mouth to take a sip of his favourite earl grey, two sugars with just a dash of milk, and as he lowered it there was a distinct 'plop' sound. Marge had been daydreaming at the time about being a lady of consequence in an age long past, she suspected she would have made a rather fine duchess or even a passable queen perhaps. The plop returned her attention to the present and as she looked up at her Tommy she felt a feint dread scaling her oesophagus. Where Tommy's nose had been there was now just a dripping section of flesh covering a hole, not entirely unsimilar to an unimpressive waterfall she had once seen on holiday, she noted in the back of her mind.
“Oh my, what have you done Tommy?” she asked, still holding her tea to her chest with both hands, absorbing the mugs warmth through her gnarled fingers.
Tommy looked at her puzzled as another drip of flesh fell onto his shirt. Marge stammered, unsure of what to make of all this.
Had the skin beneath Tommy's eyes always been so baggy? She was almost positive it had not, but her memory had never been one of her strong suits, particularly of late. Tommy's eyes suddenly looked down into his mug and as Marge's eyes followed, she saw what had made the plopping sound. The liquidy remains of what had, until quite recently, been Tommy's nose floated in his half drunk mug, mixing with the tea in what she immediately decided was a very disconcerting way.
“T-tommy....” she stuttered, taking a moment to collect herself “your nose is in your tea.”
As she continued to stare at the nose, floating there like a piece of rubbish upon a lake, there was suddenly a splash next to it. Marge almost jumped out of her chair, although visibly she only recoiled by a few inches and blinked rapidly. Next to the nose was a small white orb with a collection of pink strings emerging from it. It bobbed for a moment and then rolled to reveal a melting pupil staring up at her. She felt sick.
Marge looked up at her Tommy just in time to see his other eye roll lazily out of its socket, bounce off the corner of the small table and tubmle across the carpet a few feet. She felt like screaming, but nothing came out. She put down her mug on it's saucer, beside the half devoured tray of custard creams. Slowly she stood up and walked around the table to Tommy's side. Other parts of him were falling off now, hair, an ear, even a few fingers littered the carpet beneath his chair. She took a deep breath and reached down to touch his shoulder.
“This isn't funny Tommy, you know I don't approve of practical jokes.” her voice shook as she forced out the words.
His shoulder was warm to the touch but softer than it should have been, and unsettlingly damp. It sagged under the slight pressure of her grip. His whole body was sagging now, sliding down the chair into a pile upon the floor. She stood upright once more and glanced from the puddle that until moments ago had been her husband, to the half drunk mugs on the coffee table and back once more. Was there something wrong with the tea? Was she about to melt as well? No, she had made the tea herself. She took particular pride in her tea making as it was something she had always been complimented on. She dismissed the idea that any tea she had made could be to blame at once. The question remained, why had Tommy melted? She pondered for a moment then shook her head. She walked to the kitchen to get a bucket to put him in. Lisa wouldn't believe her when she called tonight to tell her about all this. Perhaps she should call their GP too, maybe he could enlighten her on why her husband had turned into a puddle of goo, something she had not entirely dismissed as being his fault yet.
Tommy wasn't sure if Marge had remembered to put his usual two sugars in his tea. 'Bloody typical' he thought as he sipped his earl grey, although his expression remained stoic. They had been married for almost three decades now. Tommy often ruminated on the power of deeply held frustrations in a marriage, how they could infinitely multiply small grievances into volcanoes of resentment just waiting for a shift in the marital topography to erupt. Last week Marge had forgotten to order his battered sausage at the chip shop. He knew her memory was getting worse, his was hardly in its prime he had to admit, but how was it she never forgot the things she wanted? Her extra order of mushy peas hadn't 'slipped her mind' after all. He sighed, not loudly enough to shift the topography, but audible enough to register his displeasure. As he lowered his mug there was a sudden 'plop'. He felt a few warm drops of tea rain across his lap as Marge's eyes rose from her mug to meet his.
“Oh my, what have you done Tommy?” he heard the words, but they seemed to come from impossibly far away.
He wondered if perhaps the time had come that he needed a hearing aid. His brain felt heavy, slower than usual. He felt wet, as if he had been sweating all over. He looked down at his tea to see his nose slowly dissolving into it. He couldn't quite believe it. How could his nose fall off? He tried to sniff to see if he could still smell. Nothing. He felt his skin sagging and his sight began to blur. Suddenly his eyes no longer felt secure, it was an odd feeling and if his tongue hadn't already lost all shape he would've struggled to describe it to his own satisfaction.
He was losing all sensation now, his nerves dissolving along with the rest of him. It wasn't painful, but deeply uncomfortable, like a thousand ants marching through his veins. Everything was darkness now, he felt afraid. The last thing he felt as the dark waters rose to swallow him was Marge's touch on his shoulder. He had known that touch for almost half his life, and even now it comforted him. His last articulate thought was of her, “Who'll remind her not to forget things when I'm gone?”. With that lingering regret still echoing, his consciousness drifted out onto the deep, dark lake engulfing him.
Marge carefully shuffled into the doctor's room. The bucket was heavy and she had struggled to carry it from the car without incident.
“Mrs. Holme?” the doctor enquired, tilting his head slightly. “I thought you made this appointment for your husband?”
“Quite right Dr. Pascel” she replied, heaving the bucket up onto one of the chairs facing the doctor's desk before collapsing into the second. “I've brought him along for you to see.”
Dr. Pascel glanced from her over to the open door and then back again.
“Oh, I am sorry!” Marge said, rising from her chair and reaching back to close the door. “where are my manner?” She sat back down with a sigh and gave the doctor a polite smile.
“Mrs. Holme, that's not...” He smiled and shook his head slightly. “Where is your husband now?”
Marge's smile sagged somewhat at the edges but persevered. She motioned to the bucket seated beside her. It had been 3 days since Tommy had dissolved. She had managed to get most of him into the bucket, that which hadn't soaked into the carpet or been subsequently spilled on the car seat at any rate. She had put a lid on the bucket due to the smell, which had started after the first night and only grew in strength. She had requested Tommy stop the smell on multiple occasions but he could either not hear her, or rudely chose not to, she was instinctively inclined to believe it was the latter. When she had called her local GP's office she had been informed that she would have to wait until Tuesday for an appointment as Monday was fully booked. 'Bloody impossible to see a doctor when you need them these days' Tommy had always groaned. She also suspected that the woman who had answered the phone hadn't believed her. She kept asking her if she was sure, if was ok or, most infuriatingly, if she could speak to her husband. The nerve of her.
The doctor stared at the bucket for a few moments, wondering if this was either some kind of joke or misunderstanding. Whatever it was, he didn't understand. He looked back at Marge, raising his eyebrows without a word. She sighed.
“It's like I told the lady on the phone, Tommy melted. So I've brought him in for you to have a look.” She reached over, hesitated, then lifted the lid as she spoke. “Sorry about the smell.”
A sickly sweet yet pungent aroma filled the small room at once, shoving all other scents out below the door or through the slight crack of the window. It was overpowering. Dr. Pascel had to hold his hand over his mouth and nose to stop himself from retching. He stood up and forced himself to walk around the desk and over to the bucket. Looking down he saw a thick, pinky-red liquid with sections of white swirled within. As he looked more closely he could see shapes just below the surface, one bobbed up suddenly causing him to pull back.
“Mrs Holme, is that a custard cream?” his face a contorted blend of disbelief and disgust.
“Oh yes!” She replied, far more enthusiastically than he felt she had any right to be. Marge was unfastening her bag and retrieving another biscuit from some secret stash deep within.“I thought he must be hungry you see, and these were always his favourites.”
The doctor, reduced to little more than a spectator now, his vast medical knowledge having been pushed from his memory by either the smell or the emergence of the initial biscuit, watched as Marge held out the dishevelled biscuit above the bucket and let it fall. 'Plop'.