Chapter 1: With a Gentle Hand

Check out Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 here.

With a gentle hand she caressed the Weird. White eyes, lacking pupils, peered at her. The eyes were transient. The flesh of the Weird would absorb the eyes randomly and create others in different places along its oily, wooden skin. Clair looked at it with awe. The pulsating, blue light from the portal beside her reflected off the walls of her hidden lab. The creature’s skin undulated in rhythm to the portal’s light.

Clair sobbed tears of joy at the Weird and her success. She had finally done it. She had proven her theory. The university would be so jealous of her accomplishment, but they would have to accept her. Being a self-taught wizard was no small feat. Piercing beyond the bounds of reality, even greater. She was the first; it would be her legacy.

The creature was still formless, primitively mimicking her eyes. The portal light was the brightest in the room, so it used that as a skin color. Clair frowned. The weird was still little more than flesh and eyes.

She placed her hand lovingly along its leathery skin as one would do with a child. “You are my great victory,” she whispered.

A toothless maw coalesced from the flesh around it. It gurgled and made wet, smacking noises. A tendril of flesh appeared in the maw’s center. “Bic-tar-ee.”

It made a primitive pronunciation! Claire smiled from ear-to-ear with intellectual ecstasy. It learned to simulate a tongue in less than a minute of creation. Somewhere within its fleshy mess were growing vocal cords. But how did it know to do that?

Another maw opened in the flesh beside the other one. It gurgled, coughed, and spewed blue flesh onto the floor. The flesh morphed from blue to brown. It quickly desiccated.

Excrement? Had it eaten already?

The creature shuddered. The undulated blue color on its body faded. The maws moaned with low gurgling sounds, like a submerged drowning animal.

No, it was dying!

Clair knew this was a possibility. An entity from another reality may not be able to survive the trip here. Natural laws didn’t function the same from the Other Place.

It needed a shell. A body to meld with its own to survive the harsh conditions of Claire’s world.

Claire looked around her lab. Where was Nicodemus? Where was her cat?

Claire stood, cradling the dying mound of flesh in her arms. She was slightly disturbed at the toothless maws that sucking on her body through her thin robes.

“That’s not the type of mother I want to be,” she grumbled.

The Weird made gurgling sounds in response.

With her free hand, Claire moved aside boxes to find her cat. She checked under her alchemy tables but couldn’t find her faithful calico. The Weird squirmed and gurgled in her arms. It was hemorrhaging, desiccated pieces fell to the ground like a trail of breadcrumbs.

Clair groaned and shouted, “Dammit, Nicodemus where are you?” She peaked under a table. Finding no cat, she continued, “Here, buddy. I just need to sacrifice you for progress.”

The Weird wailed from one of many toothless maws it now possessed. “Neek-oh-de-muth.”

Clair was getting flustered her greatest achievement, the greatest achievement of any wizard, was going to die in her hands if she couldn’t find the damn cat.

“I should have put him in a cage.”

A sting of pain shot through the back of her arm. The muscles in her upper arm were torn as something ripped up her arm. A dagger? An Intruder?

She spun around, the room was empty. The dagger sliced further up her arm. She dropped to her knees from the pain. She let go of the Weird, but it only hung from her arm. She felt her flesh rip as the Weird slithered along her arm. She watched as a toothless maw morphed into a stinger the size of a knife. It punctured her flesh just below her armpit.

Clair screamed.

A toothless maw and a single eye stared back at her. The maw screamed, a high-pitched gurgle. Claire screamed again and reached for the Weird. The maw screamed again, sounding less garbled and imitating Claire’s voice.

Claire was stabbed in her left shoulder blade. Her grip on the Weird was weak. She couldn’t remove it from her. Blood poured freely from the wounds. She watched as many toothless maws licked up the blood.

She screamed.

A chorus of slimly maws replied, echoing her scream.

Her screaming sounded muffled, as if Claire was pulled underwater. She felt pressure on her ears. It was moving into her ear! The Weird was squirming its way into her brain. It was looking for a place to nest, to be protected from the harsh environment of her world. The Weird was doing to her, what she wanted it to do to her cat!

Claire collapsed to the ground and the flesh of the Weird covered her face and poured up into her mouth and nostrils.

Claire saw Nicodemus. The cat had just come from behind a bench. It hissed at her.

Claire reached a bloody hand out to her cat. If she could catch, she was going to strangle it. The cat jumped back and hissed. She couldn’t yell curses at her cat, the Weird’s flesh gagged her throat. She was choking.

Undulating blue flesh covered Claire’s eyes and pressed inward. The pain was excruciating. Claire screamed in silence.

But she heard her voice. It said, “Neek-oh-dee-muth.”

© 2017 C.J. Staryk. All Rights Reserved.


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