Bulimia: Fluffy Puppies Leak Poisonous Gas: an insider’s metaphorical depiction of the struggle of this menacing disease.
It came up to her, sniffing the purple tennis shoes and lightly panting. For that reason, she saw herself in the ball of fur because she too felt a shortness in her lungs. Having had just run a significant distance, her skin was coated with a film of saltwater and a speckled pattern of red dots. She knew her legs would turn stiff if she were to remain stopped for much longer, but it didn’t leave and so she didn’t move. She couldn’t explain why, but her mind transformed the ball of fur into a towel sure to relieve her of the moisture covering her body. So she knelt down, took the puppy in her arms, and let its foul mouth lick off the outer layer of her face.
Even though she was out in the forest preserve with no one around, she half expected someone to run up and object to her holding a stranger’s puppy in this way. But the puppy had no collar and no one came running. She thoughts about putting the puppy down and continuing to run while it wanders around the forest alone, but the loneliness of that scenario upset her too much. Therefore, she held the puppy tighter and turned to head back towards the car.
Her apartment isn’t much of anything. She lives alone so feels little need to straighten or declutter. Her mother had been the last person to walk through the creaky front door, only to be disgusted by the stacks of magazines and rows of used candles.
“Looks like a hoarder lives here,” her mother had said.
“I am saving them,” she explained.
“I don’t know, for something.”
That something tonight turned out to be a protective blanket of old magazine pages covering her beat up wood floors. The act was preventative in case the puppy had an accident overnight, but as she filled a bowl of water she realized the floors don’t matter really because the puppy was on her bed anyway.
The sun was already nearly gone, so she decided that it wasn’t worth her time to make posters tonight. She would wait until tomorrow before getting the word out that she had found a male golden retriever puppy, who is probably no more than a month old.
“I am going to call you Fluff,” she told him.
He just looked up at her, yawned, then rested his head on her pillow, and the two fell asleep to the synchronization of their breath.
The hours of the night darkened and progressed with a daunting heaviness. Each minute passing on the clock seemed to be injected beneath the skin of Fluff as the small little ball of fur exponentially began to grow. She didn’t notice, deep in a dreamless sleep, until about the fifth hour when Fluff’s body had grown so large his mass had spilled across the pillow and began leaking onto her face. Darkness impaired her understanding of exactly what was happening. As her birdlike limb reached across the bed in attempt to turn on the lamp, she felt something, something huge, something strange blocking her reach. A few hours ago when Fluff and her had settled into bed, he was no more than a few pounds, a small little creature able to nestle into the crevice behind her ear. So what then was this large mass, scratchy and breathing deeply, that now covered almost half of the bed?
She rolled off the bed in the other direction and stumbled across the bedroom, knocking into her dresser. She had stubbed her toe and called out in pain. When she finally reached the light switch, she found her hand to be trembling. Anxiety stirred. One. Two. Three. And the switch was flipped. Light poured across the room illuminating not a puppy but some distorted creature lying across the bedframe. She yelped quietly, swallowing most of the noise out of fear that she might wake Fluff, or him, or it, whatever the beast may now be. She leaned in closer and came to notice that it resembled a cross between a bear and a wolf, a hybrid of black and brown straggly fur and an uneven placement of weight. Quietly she crept to the doorway where she sat cross-legged, waiting for Fluff to wake. And just as it had been occurring through the hours of the night, each minute that passed Fluff was injected with more mass, more size, more weight, resulting in a significant transformation.
Dawn came around 5:30 with an orange and menacing glow. Her heart began to leap up and down in her chest, jumping in and out of her esophagus, and making breath a difficult thing to come by. Fluff stirred. She was certain he had heard the thumping and tried to quieten her fear, but it was no use. Fluff yawned and stretched and slowly blinked his eyes awake. She braced herself, for what she wasn’t sure. An attack? Maybe. She didn’t know. She didn’t know anything right now. Awake or asleep. Dreaming or lucid. The mystery was suffocating and her mind was disintegrating.
Fluff moved with grace and timidness. It was as if he was completely unaware of the transformation that had transpired throughout the dark hours of the night. He panted, licked his lips, and wagged his now stubby and unattractive tail. In these few movements, she felt more at ease, sighing with the energy of comfort and friendliness Fluff was exerting. He leapt from the bed, his weight shaking the whole room, and ran towards her, but she felt no fear. He was smiling, tongue hanging out, and ears perked. She gently rubbed his head. His fur was scratchier than it had been yesterday, but never the less resourceful. For, like yesterday she saw it as a reliever, a layer of reassurance that, yes, Fluff was still a puppy, a friend, a comfort.
She made coffee. The smell filled the apartment and drowned out the staunch of Fluff’s newly vulgar breath. She hummed and Fluff yelped. The two danced around each other to the rising of the ball of yellow in the sky. Around the kitchen and throughout the morning, though the creature was confusingly large, the two grew ever more enmeshed. There was something oddly satisfying about Fluff’s newfound largeness. He presented himself now as more of a shield where yesterday she had been the protector of his frail and little body.
She left Fluff at home while she put up posters around the streets. Though she felt bad because the posters were now terribly misleading. “Male golden retriever puppy found. Please call…” But she didn’t know what else to say. “Puppy yesterday. Half bear, half wolf today. Growing with each passing hour.” That would confuse people too much. After all, someone lost Fluff when he was a puppy therefore that someone would be searching for a puppy.
When she returned to the apartment, the sun was high in the sky. Her cheeks were flushed and her stomach was growling. With a turn of the old rusted key and a creak of the front door, she entered a space that felt quite different than the one she had left. Expecting to find Fluff large and misplaced somewhere in the middle of the small studio, she saw nothing. She walked in quietly. Nothing was out of place. Nothing was different. Just this strange suspension of time where the dust seemed to linger more vividly in the air and a deafening silence overwhelmed her.
“Fluff!” she called.
And a little puppy stirred in the corner of the couch, no larger than the pillow next to it. Her eyebrows furrowed as she tried to understand the transformation. Just a couple hours ago Fluff was a massive creature, now he was no more than a few pounds? She couldn’t even if she tried to explain the situation, so she relinquished hold on trying to understand and took the puppy outside.
The day’s afternoon fell away and Fluff remained small and precious, but as the night began to creep back over the apartment the events of the night previous repeated. Each minute that passed was injected into Fluff until he was massive in size. He grew large and ugly again, but this time so much so that she was crushed beneath Fluff’s weight as she laid next to him. The bed was no longer big enough to hold the both of them and she was forced onto the floor because Fluff being too massive to rearrange.
And so it happened again. The sun came up. Fluff awoke. This time with a temper that was not present the morning before. She didn’t let that overwhelm her though and moved away from the uneasiness she felt with Fluff’s newly aggravated behavior. She made the coffee. She hummed, but Fluff didn’t yelp in response like the morning previous but growled, deep and rough. And so, the dance of the rising sun was awkward and forced because a new fear not present yesterday morning was now taking up residency in her chest.
She left for the day. She had things to do and places to be. She wasn’t always so alone, cooped up in her studio apartment taking in stray puppies. She checked her phone while at work. No one had called about Fluff. She turned her phone off and told herself not to worry, that surely someone would take the mystery off of her plate. When she came back to the apartment late in the afternoon, Fluff was a puppy again. She felt a sigh of relief, but also an anticipation of doom in her chest. The sun was setting which was now associated with fear, change, and uncertainty. She tried sleeping on the couch and putting Fluff on her bed, but Fluff objected and curled up next to her on the couch. And so the night repeated in the same fashion as the two previous. Grow. Transform. Crush the woman next to Fluff.
This cycle repeated every day this week and each morning Fluff grew increasingly more aggressive, more irritable, scarier. She checked her phone incessantly and put up more posters hoping and praying that someone would call and inquire about missing Fluff, but no responses came.
On Friday, a week from the day Fluff was found in the forest and taken in, she awoke to Fluff climbing up the walls and snarling down at her from the ceiling. She screamed and he jumped down on top of her. She fought to get Fluff off and Fluff bit her hand. A crystal stream of blood leaked from her palm. She fell limp with the awareness that the fight was not fair. She could not win. She was too small. And the blood covered the sheets, dying the morning red.
Fluff turned back into a puppy around four on Friday. She was home to see it happen this time and because of that the transformation wasn’t as seductive. His skin shed while he was foaming at the mouth and he secreted this strange fluid from his eyes and tail. It was repulsive to watch and her stomach revolted at the sight. Even when a puppy once more, all she could see was the pile of skins and disgusting liquid covering the floor. Fluff whined and begged her to rub his belly, but she instead grabbed her keys and a cardboard box.
The sun was setting sending a purple, pink glow across the horizon. The radio was playing some somber and therapeutic song as she drove across town with Fluff in the cardboard box in the seat next to her.
It took 20 minutes before she arrived at the forest preserve. She opened the passenger door, reached in, and took Fluff in her arms. He licked her face. She smiled down at him and caressed his head.
“You were good at times,” she whispered in his little puppy ear as she knelt down and placed him under a tree.
Fluff looked up at her with two big brown watery eyes.
“Where are you going?” He seemed to ask.
“Away,” she told him.
“Why?” Fluff whined.
“I have to.”
“Don’t leave me here alone.”
Despite his whimpering objections, she turned her back on the little puppy, got in the car, and started driving towards her apartment in the dark. As she did so, she felt a hollowness fill her gut where previously it had been tangled in knots.