He was twenty-three when he first noticed the black mold. It started as a tiny speck on the ceiling above his shower, no bigger than a dot on a sheet of paper from the sharp lead tip of a pencil. He didn’t think much of it then.
Two weeks later, the black mold had spread to the corner. It was hard to ignore when he was standing in the shower, reflecting on his day and pondering the choices he had made. It stared back at him with a menacing grin, as if to say, “I’m coming for you.” It opened a pocket of fear and anxiety in his chest. He stayed up long into the night scrubbing at the vile fungus with bleached rags and, even though he wore a mask, he could feel the poisonous mildew infecting his lungs with every breath he took.
His roommate said, “If we just ignore it, it will go away.”
And his landlord said, “Just shower with the door open.”
And his girlfriend said, “Just accept it and move on.”
But he knew the true poisonous nature of the black mold and he knew that he couldn’t let it take him.
It didn’t take long for the black mold to spread even further, covering the entire rectangle of ceiling above his shower. He had a dreadful feeling anytime he knew he had to use the washroom. He began washing his hands and brushing his teeth in the kitchen sink. He would stop to use public washrooms on his way home as much as he could.
Soon it covered the entire ceiling of his washroom and started to spread down the walls. It had already jumped onto his shower curtain, so he would shower with the curtain open, never taking his eyes off the creeping, threatening black mold.
He asked his peers and coworkers – people with years of experience – if they had encountered black mold before.
“Yes,” was always the answer.
“And how did you deal with it?” He would ask.
“You learn to live with it,” they would say, “Incorporate it into your day to day life. Soon, you forget about it.”
But he couldn’t imagine forgetting about the black monster that was taking over his apartment and consuming his life.
One morning he stepped into the bathroom and flicked the light switch, but nothing happened. He looked up to where the light bulb should be tightly screwed into the socket and saw a speck of dim light, covered by a thick layer of black mold. That’s it, he thought, it’s even taken the light.
As time elapsed, the black mold oozed out of the bathroom onto the walls of the hallway. It never moved while he watched, but when he looked away, he could feel it creeping towards him, swallowing more and more of his life as it covered his belongings. The only way to keep it at bay was to discard the objects it was slowly swallowing. Books, games, and toys that were collected over an optimistic adolescence were slowly disappearing into trash bins as the life he once knew was morphing into an Ikea display room.
It was the next day when he was changing that he found the black spot on his chest. In a panic, he tried to rub it off, but that only seemed to accelerate its growth. Fuel on an already out-of-control fire. By that afternoon, his entire chest was covered and the black mold had started to make its way down his arms. He tried to warn people who got close to him.
“Stay back! I’m contagious!” He would say, but nobody listened. They would simply shrug their shoulders and told him to let it take him, like they let it take them. But he didn’t like the way it made him look. He didn’t like the way it made him smell. And he didn’t like the way it made him feel. He wasn’t so scared of what the black mold would do to him, but rather what it would turn him into. A contagious monster with no apparent form or color, spreading his poison to those he comes into contact with.
By the night, the black mold had spread down his torso to his waist and was making its way down his legs. When he looked in the mirror, he could see its thin black extremities moving up his neck and reaching for his face. The more it spread, the less he cared – losing control of his mind and body. Completely against his own will, he adapted to the smell, the look, and the feel. Once the poison reached his brain, he was no longer a clean, innocent being. The doors to his mind had closed and his imagination was stifled. He was now darkened and burdened by the black mold that engulfed him.
But his peers and coworkers were right – he learned to live with the monster he had become and, eventually, had forgot that he was a monster at all.