by Martin Chandler
He had the driest skin they had ever seen. He claimed to moisturize it several times a day, but his skin was dark and scaly and sucked the moisture out of anything. In many places, it was hard and cracked, and he worried obsessively that it would turn to stone if he didn’t keep up his daily lotion schedule.
Of course, his doctor dismissed this worry. “Skin can’t turn to stone,” she said. “At worst, it will flake off and expose a layer of skin underneath. The real question is: Why is it so dry? Do you work for a salt company? Or with sand?”
He didn’t, and told her so. She took some samples of his flaking skin to be analyzed, and prescribed him a topical corticosteroid. He left, feeling entirely unhelped and uncertain.
The corticosteroid improved his skin briefly, adding yet another tool to his formidable daily arsenal. Soon, it became as ineffective as his previous moisturizer, and he had to slather it on like whipped cream to see any results.
The tests came back several weeks later. Apparently, the skin looked normal under a microscope until it was touched with a finger, when it would crumble into quarry dust. He told his doctor about the corticosteroid’s lack of efficacy. She was at a loss, so she referred him to a dermatologist.
The dermatologist had him spend a full hour immersed entirely in special moisturizer containing aloe, calendula, and all manner of other medical additives. It helped for one day, and then his skin was back to its normal crusting and flaking. The dermatologist advised him to stop using moisturizers entirely. “Hopefully,” he was told, “after a day or two, your body will take over and begin to moisturize itself properly again.”
He returned after two days, missing three fingers on his left hand. They had dissolved into dust after being left alone for 15 hours. He had immediately started his routine again, but it was too late to repair the damage to his hand.
They rushed him to an emergency tub, where he was submerged in the same moisturizing solution he had been immersed in before. It kept him alive, for the most part, but he could no longer leave for more than a few moments.
After his toes fell off, it became his permanent home.
Copyright © 2014 Martin Chandler