I walk through the City on broken legs. I am conspicuous, but the people here grant me many affordances.
I chose this form well.
I sway and catch myself on a low stone wall. I am ready earlier than anticipated, but I must still learn the next step. I look up toward the false dusk I have hung, but it is not yet finished.
I am afraid, but it is thrilling to engage in something new after all this time, something unknown. I close my eyes tightly so they do not bulge.
The feeling passes. I open my eyes and search the faces of the people around me for familiarity. I did not mean to. I twist inwardly with disgust.
When they first reached for me, I reached back in acid mockery, and they opened themselves to me in stupid, naked innocence. I was giddy. My fingers raked their minds. I forced my will through them using only words and met no resistance. Their naiveté was beyond description, and I feasted until my eyes welled with black tears.
Now I reach as often as they do, and when they reach back, I am thankful.
I speak with them. I seek their company. Their companionship.
This is not pity, for I know pity. What is this—
I drop to both knees, clear my mouth, and vomit. The thin black fluid turns to vapor and disappears.
I clench the gangling black mass that threatens to unspool recklessly from within this shell of flesh. My new arms are too thin, too weak. My new shell still bound with thick mucus. Not yet, I say.
A moment of blackness, and then…
A man places his hands on me, on my shoulders, on my back. He asks if I am ill, and he sees my flat eyes, my teeth black with ripeness, and he prepares to scream.
I let him keep his mind. I push breath up and through my ruined mouth and speak a simple lie.
He stops, smiles, laughs. Shakes his head. He points a finger at me in mocking admonishment before walking away.
I swallow the fatty morsel of his ignorance and it gives me the strength to stand once more, cover my face, and resume my walk. I feel this form splitting beneath its wrappings, held together weakly by wet strands of sinew. And from deep inside, stirred by that latest scrap of deception, I hear the oily growl of the Worm.
Even here, basted in deception both ample and rich, the Worm cries ravenously. It has grown grotesque, skin taut, overfed, and still it howls for more. It commands me to keep it alive.
I look up, beyond the flickering net of darkness, and see what rests just beyond. Waiting for me.
The Worm roars.