It had lain there undiscovered for three weeks, each day growing bigger and bigger, until it filled its lair, no more room to expand. Things had made their homes in it, a whole new ecosystem feeding off its waste. It had grown fat and strong with neglect and leftovers. But now it needed a new food source. It was hungry, and it was ready to move.
This is the story of the last time I washed up the dishes. It is a story of hubris, and bowel-clenching terror, and ultimately, of the human spirit’s ability to overcome any odds, no matter how icky. And it starts with a confession.
When certain circumstances arise, I can be what is commonly known as a filthmonster. It’s not that I create more mess than other people, in fact considering I barely eat I probably create less; it’s more that I just leave things that I don’t want to do until tomorrow, a tomorrow which inevitably lasts for several days. And in this case, the thing I didn’t want to do was wash the plates up, because it is the second most boring job on the planet (right behind being the psychologist who is paid to listen to Paris Hilton’s problems for an hour a week). So they’d been left for a while in the sink, ready to be cleansed of baked bean sauce and chicken supernoodles (healthy diet); and my housemates had added their own debris, reasoning that if I wasn’t cleaning plates then why should they? And for a while, this seemed to be fine. I hadn’t gone into the kitchen, existing instead on a mix of crisps and MacDonalds, whilst the others had just stolen plates from the kitchen downstairs.
I only started to become concerned when, in my bed in the dead of night, I began to hear a kind of scraping sound coming from our kitchen. I knew my friends were stuck in their room watching movies (yes, that kind) so, fearing some oddly inept culinary burglary was afoot, I crept down the corridor to check it out. I peered through the small glass pane of the door; no shadows moving, no sound of heavy breathing, no shuffling of clothes to denote someone furiously masturbating over the cutlery. I opened the door and turned on the light.
I should have backed out there and then. I should have slowly shut the door, as quietly as possible, and called someone professional, someone who knew what they were doing, maybe an exterminator, or the Ghostbusters. I should have washed up about three weeks earlier.
But despite the horror of what lay in that kitchen, despite the Frankensteinian creation which I saw before me, and despite the fact that I began to cough because of the cloud of mould spores in the air, I walked into that kitchen and confronted my misdeeds.
In the sink, for a given value of “in”, was a fetid mass of stinking filth. Plates piled high on top of each other were joined together with mounds of green fur, hairs waving gently in the new air from the corridor. Glasses which on first glance looked like they were full of liquid turned out with a little closer inspection to be filled with some kind of purple-grey moss. One bowl, which had been used to mix eggs and flour, had a few baby maggots taking their first crawls towards freedom. And worse than all of this, covering the bottom of the sink and extending arms out towards the walls and floor, a brown sludge like solidified gravy was creeping towards me, glistening with unholy light as its tendrils crept out to take hold of my very soul.
I’ll admit that the mould spores in the air may have been starting to get to me at this point, the bottle of wine I’d drunk before bed not really helping me to resist its hallucinatory powers, but seriously, it was fucking grim.
But still, I did not run, though it was only with difficulty that I didn’t produce a brown mess of my own right there. I knew that this was my creation, my monster, and only I could defeat it. Also, if I didn’t clean it, the other two definitely wouldn’t. And after all, it was only a bit of mould (although that bowl was going in the bin, I mean, maggots?); how difficult could it be? So I donned a pair of rubber gloves, grabbed a scrubbing brush, and set to work.
As soon as I’d touched the first plate, however, I knew that I’d made a big mistake. Even through the rubber gloves I could feel a kind of pulsing, a regular rhythm which was making the whole putrid pile vibrate, almost like... a heartbeat. No, that couldn’t be right; it was just dirty crockery. No worries. Gritting my teeth and willing myself on, I ran some hot water, laboriously applied fairy liquid, and began work, levering the plates off each other one by one as if opening large, hideous-smelling mussels. Seven, eight, clean; the green mould had receded, beaten into submission by the power of my manly arms and scrubbing brush. It had put up a fight, the yellow of my gloves stained beyond saving; but I was winning.
I levered the ninth and final plate up, scrubbed, clean; now for the bowls. Maggot bowl was swiftly deposited in the bin, followed by a fair bit of bleach to kill the things in it; the others were covered in the same purply-grey stuff as the glasses, but again it was no match for my mighty scrubber. I thought, for a second, that I heard a low moaning sound come from the depths of the pile, a pile I was still only halfway down, but dismissed it; I would not be halted in my mission of cleanliness. Swiftly dispatching the last bowl, then the glasses, I knew that nothing could stop me.
But then I moved aside the chopping board, still stained red with what I hoped was tomato (because this wasn’t worth Hep B), and then I realised what I had done. I was only halfway down the pile, but I’d cleaned up all the crockery and cutlery we owned. The low moans and the strange heartbeat weren’t just figments of my imagination. This mound, this fetid hill... it wasn’t dirty washing.
It was breathing. It was alive. And, free of its protective crockery shell, it knew I was there.
Now I wanted to run; I wanted to get out of there while I still could, before this monster engulfed me as it had engulfed my dishes. But almost immediately I felt myself trapped in a battle of wills with the creature, its stench and putrefaction against my willpower and mounting nausea; and then it spoke to me.
You cannot hope to win, it said in a voice like worms crawling over bare skin. You made me, and now you will make me strong.
No, I whispered in what remained of my mind. No, I’m cleaning you, I’m cleaning...
You can’t defeat me. Your fairy liquid is no match for my decay. I will consume you, my creator, and then, the world.
I felt myself slipping under its influence, felt my hand drag off a rubber glove and, against my will, reaching out to touch the glistening brown surface. It will consume me, it will consume the world…
But my other hand had reached the bottle of bleach I’d used to kill the maggots, the lid still unscrewed because I’m lazy. With a last, desperate, Herculean effort I tipped the bottle six inches and the bleach flowed out over the thing in the sink. It screamed as the liquid cut a swathe through the sludge, screamed into my mind as it reached the centre of the mass; and deflated, collapsed into a pile of stinking, non-sentient matter.
Gasping for breath, shaking, I poured the rest of the bleach over this heap, and sure that the beast was dead, left the rest of the job to the cleaner. I had defeated the monster; it was up to others to take away the body. Also I was tired and I hate cleaning.
So what can we take away from my travails? Two things: one, don’t ever, ever leave the washing up for this long. Or, alternatively, if you are an evil supergenius who wants to take over the world and needs an army of slime-monsters for your evil plan, mix baked bean sauce and chicken flavoured supernoodles and just sit back and watch it grow. Preferably with some kind of gas mask on.