Plinky.com asked me to pick a photograph online and write a mini-story about it. I chose a random picture generated from the word ‘Stones’.
Ever since I was young, I’ve had an exaggerated gag reflex. It leaps up my throat the moment any object or liquid gets close to my epiglottis.
[I didn’t know it was called an epiglottis until I started to choke regularly]
I tried to swallow peas whole; they made me puke.
Sitting in the dentist’s chair, with seemingly the whole of his hand shoved into my mouth, was horror; his mirrors and probes bristling like suffocating fingernails.
And pills? They made my nose bleed.
It was all I could do to swallow food, even after chewing.
Life was fear of suffocation.
Until I saw ‘Mr Mighty Mouth’ on television, chewing on glass, nails, broken plates, steel. Whatever it was, he ate it. Sometimes chewing, sometimes not.
He could swallow anything so, logically, couldn’t I?
I started researching the act of swallowing. I read of how Harry Houdini trained his gag reflex by tying a small potato to a length of thread; he would swallow and hold the potato in his throat, so he could regurgitate it on command. It was how he secreted keys for his ‘miraculous’ escapes.
I trained myself in a similar manner. But where he used a potato, I chose harder objects; I was determined to succeed.
I began with single grains of sand. They were easy. Hard to even tell they were in my mouth. From there, on to grit, coarser and coarser as my swallowing capabilities improved and my reflex came under my control. When I swallowed a small pebble, I felt elation, surprise and joy. I floated on clouds, soaring on my achievement.
Ejecting it a couple of days later wasn’t so much fun, but I got just as much of a rush from that sensation; a surprising bonus.
Swallowing stones quickly moved from a discipline of necessity to one of guilty pleasure. Pretty soon, I was sneaking stones into restaurants, popping them in my mouth in between courses, unbeknown to my dining partner of the eve. Flipping my head back in a mock laugh and swallowing.
How they must have enjoyed my company, my rich laughter, my ebullience at the anecdote they’d just shared.
I swallowed larger and larger stones, some so big that they could hardly fit through my teeth. A boiled egg had nothing on the stones I swallowed.
I swallowed all manner of minerals, all manner of colours, shapes and values. Oh yes, the thought of swallowing gemstones left me giddy. I would crack open amethyst geodes like a connoisseur; my own personal treasure trove of delicious surprise. Swallowing an emerald I’d liberated from an antique ring was orgasmic.
Life was swallowing.
So what if I can no longer shit anything but a liquidy paste, if those stones are now part of my digestive tract just as much as they are of a fowl’s gizzard. I can’t stop. Of course my stomach is distended where they collect but, though my weight has increased by kilograms, my body fat has never been lower.
I should see a doctor I suppose. He may be able to help me with the fact that I rattle when I walk, a wet rattling, where the stones swim in the digestive juices which can do them no damage.
Yes, a doctor may be able to help me. But in the meantime, I can’t stop… I simply can’t… I can’t stop swallowing stones.
Life is swallowing.