There are more harmful vices than chewing on old T-shirts and bed sheets. But the yellowed saliva stains on every cloth in Gillian’s house were becoming more and more disturbing. The spittle – approximately three parts water, one part saline and one part half-digested food – marred the edges of the material, making them stiff, crusty and unhygienic. The house was trashed too, kind of like the games room of a twenty-three-year-old Call of Duty player. The smell was probably the worst part of the whole affair; wet dog and baby vomit, wafting up from the back of the house. This odour, mixed with the tell-tale whiffs of mould and decay, and the tone of something you might call overdue sadness, would have been enough to knock out any ordinary visitor.
The few friends Gillian had left had no idea she was buying various frilled blouses at discount prices to eat, and biting into them behind closed doors.
On a gloomy day when Gillian stopped in the middle of the street to lovingly (perhaps too much so) stroke the coat of one of her neighbours (not speaking, just smiling mildly and staring wide-eyed at the fabric) her friends started to cotton on to the change. Like a gaseous, annoying spirit from a Goosebumps novel, this eerie feeling of mania seeped out of the corners of her house.
And so Gillian fled. Her refuge came in the form of a tiny house on the edge of riverland Victoria, where all she could hear was the whistling wind and the ringing of her mind.
But Gillian couldn’t control her desires. The nerve endings in the stomach are said to be so many, so sensitive and powerful, that they can overtake the brain and rewire our rationality. As the fibres were ripped apart between Gillian’s teeth, she thought she tasted God. Except that 'God' was probably sitting above the clouds, looking down with a gaping mouth and furrowed eyebrows.
Perhaps in a more modern time, Gillian may have found herself on an episode of My Strange Addiction. Or Jerry Springer, if she was unfortunate enough to be in the right place (America) at the right time (arguably the worst part of the 90s). In a short amount of time Gillian had developed a number of, how you say, curiosities. The eye that twitched whenever someone mentioned the word polyester. A bizarre shudder that shook through her whole damn body when she touched silk. Et cetera.
Months later, when the alarm was sounded and her body found, her face was bloated, one eyelid swollen and half-closed, insects moving around her corpse, and there was a strange formation visible in her stomach. The final word was that she had passed away slowly. The doctors said it was the stigma that killed her.