Diphenhydramine by Delvon T. Mattingly


I created a drug that if taken induced terrible allergic reactions to any person exhibiting unpleasant traits.

One day, I became allergic to my boyfriend. The episodes were kaleidoscopic — unveiling fields of purple lilacs and stampeding, variegated unicorns — or cruel — maelstroms engulfing my entire neighborhood, tiny lightning strikes gouging my body as if I lay on numerous sea urchins. Spiders. I saw lots of spiders too.

On rare occasions, I beheld an asexual humanoid standing alone in a barren field at dusk. The entity lacked genitalia. It wore hairless, lustrous skin, silver in color, like a tight bodysuit, and had eye-sockets void of eyeballs. The crux of its forehead beamed a white light at times, blinding, but oddly soothing. It spoke to me in wordless hymns, and it seemed to understand my responses.

I perceived the entity, for the first time in months, the same day I grew allergic to my boyfriend. I engaged it by complaining about the drug; it was pretty obvious why. Even though I benefitted from the pill, it came with downsides. Hyper-masculine intrusive men would dither at my sudden outbreaks in public, and they were everywhere. That’s why I always carried plenty of maximum-dose diphenhydramine pills on me — to avoid worsening the episodes.

Well, sometimes I didn’t expect the reactions to happen, and it was up to my boyfriend to give me the cure if I fell too far into a trance. But he caused the reaction. And he already expressed growing ill of feeding me the pills in public, comparing me to his aging mother.

“I just don’t get why he has to act like that,” I babbled to the entity. “Why does he yell and turn so aggressive?”

The entity nodded, emitting a calming tone.

“What should I do?”

The hymn shifted, sounding similar to upbeat post-rock instrumentals. There were many sounds at play, each one clamoring at a rhythmic melody.

“I like it.”

The entity invited me to meditate behind the music. The hymn began to scale across the entire land, reverberating in my ears until I fell further into an abyss enveloped inside my existence.

And when the diphenhydramine kicked in, I awoke, my vision adjusting to the light and reifying the abstract into earthly coherence. I usually saw my boyfriend first. But this time I only heard him.

He screamed, loudly, like a vehement beast. And I wondered why I couldn’t see anything. I felt awake — but I witnessed only darkness — like a terrible case of sleep paralysis.

My boyfriend shouted, “Your eyes! What the fuck happened to your eyes!”

Everything began to click. I might’ve figured I’d feel a pit in my stomach, a knot in my throat. Fear. Sweat. Tremors. Anything. Rather, I seemed disconnected all together.

“Stop! Please leave me alone!”

Sounds of mutilations filled my head. Something tore my boyfriend apart, piece by piece.


His voice became muffled.


And in a matter of moments, he vanished.

Then I came to.


Opening my eyes, I noticed my boyfriend’s face intact. No blood. No signs of torment in our house.

He eyed me with distasteful scrutiny, fuming as he attempted to maintain an unruffled demeanor. He shook a bottle of diphenhydramine pills; as if he did me a favor by assuring I lived. Probably expecting passive-aggressive reciprocation, or perhaps applause for his heroic deed. I wasn’t going to give him that pleasure.

“Why did you have a reaction to me?!” he yelled, tossing the bottle at the dresser.

Storming out of the room, he slammed the door behind him. And I pondered why the entity manifested the theoretical murder of my partner, or if it were my unconscious desire relishing the scenario.

I became allergic to nearly everyone. The idea of relationships faltering at the expense of the drug didn’t resonate well with me at first, but seeing my boyfriend’s behavior helped me solidify this view.

He slowly crept back into the room, remorseful, arms crossed and head tilted away. A single tear surfaced his cheek.

I quietly sat in his vulnerable presence, feeling the imminent tears form in the crevices of my eyes, unsure if they emerged from my emotions, or more allergies.




Delvon T. Mattingly, who also goes by D.T. Mattingly, is an emerging fiction writer and a PhD student in epidemiology at the University of Michigan. His fiction has appeared in Maudlin House, X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, MoonPark Review, and elsewhere. Learn more about his work at http://delvonmattingly.com/. He tweets here: @Delvonmattingly


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