Spots (Matt Rowan)

Spots were dotting things in a peculiar way, all of a sudden. 

Wouldn’t you know it? The cause was man-made. It was made by one man in particular. His name was Jeremy, but most people called him “Spots” on account of his spots, which people thought he’d been born with, or at least, that they’d appeared sometime after birth, as freckles or birthmarks – sort of a misnomer there, birthmarks, forming as they do after birth. 

They were a little too perfectly round, though, Jeremy’s, “Spots”’s spots. Birthmarks are notable for their imperfection, their irregular forms, never quite perfect circles. 

He learned he could move his spots around, send them out into the world and back to himself. It was a lot like the gigantic dog-kangaroo-leopard creature who served as protagonist in that knockoff Dr. Seuss-style children’s book he remembered reading, Put Me in the Zoo. The book itself was off-putting. It felt like a paean, a rhapsodic celebration, even, to one’s own oppression, with that ambiguously genused protagonist demanding to be put in the zoo to all who would hear him.

But the spots the dog-kangaroo-leopard protagonist possessed were uncanny, offered up magical powers to the delight of the children the creature had so enthralled, and made Jeremy feel just a mite less self-conscious about his own “spots.” They made Jeremy think maybe he could share his spots, too. And so it was that he could direct the spots away from himself using only his mind.  

There was trouble with sharing his gift, though. It is a natural thing to want to share a gift with others, with the whole wide world if possible. Unfortunately, gifts aren’t always meant to be shared, or the sharing can sometimes have unintended consequences. 

All of which is to say, the spots Jeremy sent out and upon others, objects, people, all of it, were having an immediate effect. Jeremy sat in a field, arms outspread, red dots floating into the atmosphere. They landed delicately, like petals, all around him. 

Touched down on human fingers. Human skin. Hair. Clothes, too. Got into everything. But it wasn’t harmless, no. That was the problem with its effect. And really, how could his spots have been harmless? He was sending pieces of himself out there. You can’t do that without the prospect of doing harm. 

Maybe it was because when too much of himself was out there in the world, it was much too much for anyone in any single place to be expected to endure. Building’s facades eroded quickly under his spots’ weight. People were afflicted with buboes, a plague of spots engorging their flesh. 

When Jeremy realized this, he tried to call his spots back. He really did. It was no use. They were out in the world now, doing what they would do in it. All he could do was watch.

What’s done can’t be undone, a leopard can’t change its spots and neither could Jeremy, neither could Spots. And now, neither could the whole wide world. 

Spots grew new spots and they grew new spots and pretty soon there were no spots unblemished at all. 

Until Jeremy “Spots” was left alone, a solitary, tiny spot. 


Matt Rowan lives in Los Angeles. He edits Untoward and is author of the collections, Big Venerable, Why God Why, and How the Moon Works (Cobalt Press, 2021). His work has appeared or is forthcoming in HobartCosmonauts AvenueTRNSFRHAD, and Necessary Fiction, among others.