The Transformation Story Archive Horses and Doggies and Cats, Oh my...

Fragile Creatures

by Jason The Skunk

I hang from the trees. It's all I have left to do now. All I can do. They crippled my feet so I could not walk, you see. Twisted them to look like hands, gave them claws.

You fear me, don't you? As well you should, with your head trapped between my claws. You may feel some pain; my nails ARE digging in a bit. That itching feeling? Just a little blood running down the sides of your head. But as long as you don't struggle, I won't kill you. Somebody's got to know what they did to me. I want you to tell them. They'll be in to rescue you soon. They know where I am, and they'll be here any minute. But none of this is my fault. I have killed over a dozen people in the last week, but I am innocent of any crime. Before OR... after.

I have sworn and continue to swear that I did nothing wrong. I was no worse off than any average citizen, minding my own business, going to work, taking classes at night, trying to better myself. Sure, I was a little reclusive, maybe even anti-social. But not sinful, no.

And yet they punished me so. The memory of the pain is almost blinding. It clouds out my reason. And on those rare occasions when rationality takes over, it makes me wonder if maybe, somehow, I might have done something to deserve it. Some overlooked moment of callous selfishness, some flash of anger. We never know what harm we can do, you know. A quick word, a thoughtless remark might be just the right thing to damage permanently.

Human beings are such fragile creatures. It's all that damned emotion, all those subtle social layers wrapped one around the other, all those different aspects that can be damaged. Emotion is a bat's wing. It is the skin stretched between the bones that support us. With it, we can fly, we can flutter around in the sky like some ridiculously hopeful silhouette. It gives us joy. But oh, how tender the skin of those wings. How easily torn, how painfully broken. How clumsily healed.

And if torn too badly, we can never fly again. Instead, we all just hang from the trees. It's all we have left to do. All we can do.

No, not all we can do. That's a lie. We can swing precariously upside down, fearfully latching our claws into the wood above us, and we can realize that the ground looks far more attractive. We can let go.

I have had this option taken from me. There is no possibility of euthanasia for me, no suicide, no last minute flailing of arms as I crash toward the ground in a derelict parody of grace. They have stolen even this from me. They have warped my mind even as they have my body, so that should self-extermination become near reality for me, instinct takes over. The body must survive at all costs. My consciousness and determination are drowned in a flood of adrenaline and panic.

Once I tried to crawl into traffic. It was night and on a secluded road, none would have seen me until it was too late to stop. I would have been remembered as nothing more than a vicious bump and an unidentifiable pile of flesh and dark brown fur. Probably a dog, they would have said. No sign of a collar. God, look at its face, how hideous! Must've been crushed in the impact. Nothing could look that ugly on its own.

My saviors would have climbed into their car and hurtled off into the distance and forgotten about me, save for some uncomfortable dreams.

But as I lay in the road, praying for death to be painless and quick, as the lights bore down on me like twin tunnels of release, a lust for life surged in my chest, and some other, quieter part of myself despaired. I remember little else but scrabbling into an awkward leap in a whirl of motion and light. I felt my claws punch into metal, red tinging my vision. There was a horrible thump--the breath knocked was knocked out of me. Then it was all dizzy spinning and the squealing of tires. A horrible crash, pulling me backward, but I could not let go. The metal cutting into my fingers. Silence. All still, save for the hissing of steam.

Self-control returned to me, and I found myself embracing the front of a car, the claws of my hands firmly latched into the roof, those of my feet digging into the hood. I stared through an unbroken windshield, mercifully spared the reflection of my visage by the darkness of the night. Inside the car was an unmistakably dead young man, his head grotesquely thrust through the plastic openings in the twisted steering wheel. His hands were still latched onto the wheel, the knuckles white, as if he were trying to pull his head back through and free himself.

In the seat next to him was a girl, dazed but alive. She stared at me with unfocused eyes, furrows of confusion kneading her forehead. The glassy stare brought on a morbid wave of curiosity and I felt my head cock to the side, my nose quiver. I screamed at her once, the shrill, high squeal that has become my only method of communication. Hunger curled up inside me.

With all my sense of focus I seized control of myself again and pulled my claws out of the car, leaving trails of my blood on the roof and hood. Then I was gone into the woods, where I hung in the trees all night.

I can feel no pity for either of the two, not even now. Pity seems to be another thing that they have robbed from me. One would think that, upon being separated compassion there would be a certain emptiness, but this is not so. Compassion itself is the very thing that produces that feeling that something is missing, something important. I could care less that it is gone.

It could have been anyone, I suppose. It could have been a policeman or a deli clerk or a rabbit breeder. It could have been you, or perhaps your cousin or brother. Without compassion, we are all monsters.

But it was me. I had a name once, a name which I do not remember. I believe I had a wife, and I am quite certain there was a daughter. I can vaguely recall loving her. There are flashes of her smile in my memory, the way she couldn't pronounce the word 'blueberry'. I remember a seven-year-old birthday party. There were bedtime stories, I think, and a feeling of pride when she started reading them to me instead of I to her. I recall a warm, pleased feeling that I associate with her. This must have been love, but I cannot understand it now.

It makes no sense. Love is vulnerability. It is giving another the power to hurt you for no real reason. There is no benefit from it. Why then did it make me happy?

Whatever the reason, that happiness was stolen from me when I was outside walking to some place I can't bring to mind, for a reason that eludes me. A white van pulled up, and men with guns made me enter.

I remember fear.

They had me lie down in the back seat.

When I tried to talk, I was struck with the gun.

There was pain.

When I tried to sit up, I was struck again.

I lay still.

I remember staring at the sleeve from some white sort of jumpsuit. It had a logo that said Genetizen. We drove for a long time.

When we stopped got out, I started panicking. We were in front of a huge building with no one else around. I flailed at my captives, I begged and pleaded for my life. I offered money. I asked what they wanted of me. They just ignored me. No blows with the guns this time. Apparently, they weren't concerned that anyone would see or hear me. We went through a door that required a keycard and hissed when it opened, past armed guards who, guns drawn, checked badges.

Down sterile halls with anonymous linoleum, past a multitude of identical doors we went. I tried to remember some of the names on the plaques next to some of the doors. All the names are forgotten now.

I was put into a room with a small cot. I sat on the cot and wept for a long time, but I cannot now remember why I was weeping. Something about my daughter, I suspect.

Then there was a sudden panic as I heard the hissing of gas filling the room and smelled a peculiar chemical odor. I began to feel terribly sleepy.

All was darkness.

When I awoke, things felt different. I felt no great concern over it, however. Not until I saw my arms, thin and grotesquely elongated, covered with dark brown hair. My hands were much larger, the fingers longer, terminating in the very talons that you feel gripping your head right now.

No, no, don't struggle. I don't like that. I'll have to squeeze tighter. Then you'll be just like the others who have wandered beneath my tree. You don't see their bodies, of course, because I've eaten them. Survival instincts eliminate most of my previous human squeamishness. In case you've ever wondered, you taste like pork.

Oh, dear. Now you've gone and struggled. Are you still alive? You shake most limply for a live person. Ah, well. No matter. I'll tell you the rest anyway. You don't have to be alive. That's our deal. You can listen without all that avoiding nonsense of being afraid and everything. If you agree, just nod your head.

Whoopsie, I forgot. Yes, you must be dead. My hands are getting wet. But if you say another word I really won't tell you the rest of the story.

That's all right, though. You know most of the rest anyway, don't you? Or you can figure it out. It's obvious that I escaped, and frankly, it was simple.

They weren't expecting me to be as strong as I was. They certainly weren't expecting me to taste their throats that way, to sink those needle-teeth into their fragile flesh like the needles they undoubtably stuck into me. It all came so naturally to me.

If only I had been granted wings by the experiments that warped me, then I might have been able to fly away from it all. As it was, I had to crawl like a beast down the hall. I remembered the way back to the front door perfectly, my sense of direction nearing the uncanny.

The guards were waiting for me with their guns drawn. I could quite easily hear them, and small wonder, with my ears as huge as they now were, radar dishes each larger than my head. I caught them by surprise. One's head twisted easily in my strong claws, and just before his neck broke he tried to shoot me. His partner went down under that bullet.

Neither of them deserved it, I suppose, but neither did I. I felt no pity. No, the closest I have come to that emotion since my change is that night on the car when some peculiar emotion wrested the animal away from me and spared that girl's life. Where it came from, I do not know, but it is gone now.

It was absent in that night when I twisted the locked entrance doors apart and disappeared into the night. And as you probably know, ever since then, I've been waiting in these woods. I'm waiting for the men who did this to me. I hang upside down from the trees and wait for them to walk below. Then I snatch their heads with my claws, just as I have done with you.

They scream with voices made sudden foreign and animalistic with terror. They are reduced to a primal level, communicate with me on my terms. The peculiar thing is that every time I grab one and hold it for a second, lifting it up into the air to watch it struggle, I am certain that it is one of the men who did this to me. I hear familiar tones in the voice, I recognize their faces, their clothes, their scents. So I kill them.

It's very easy. Human beings are such fragile creatures. I can just squeeze my hands together and their heads will crush like ripe fruits. Or I can twist the neck until I hear that familiar crunch. I can dig my fingers into their scalps and stir up their brains with my claws. Sometimes I swing them against the tree until their internal organs are mush, and sometimes I just climb and let them fall. Nothing is too cruel for my captors, no vengeance is too great.

It's only when they lie broken on the ground that the familiarity leaks out of them. Death reveals not a tall, brown-haired man who once waved a gun in my face. It reveals instead strange and undeserving faces, their eyes burning with accusations about which I yearn to feel guilt, but cannot.

Once it was a young girl, no more than 10 years old. Another time it was an old man, his little white dog yapping at his dead toes. Fathers, wives, children, maybe some of your relatives, ah?

You, my dear dead girl, are the first person to come along that did not, to me, resemble my enemy. This I cannot understand, why all else should look to my maddened eyes like my captors, like the men who murdered my soul and left me in what I know must be a base, shallow, and purposeless body. What about you is so different than all the rest?

Ah, but do not feel pressed to answer. I'm certain you have none for me. But what is this about your neck? What a fascinating pendant. You'll forgive me if I take it from you, my dear. I find myself of late intrigued by shiny objects. And there's something about this one, this bit of silver molded into the shape of a rose. Why does this...?

Oh my god.

My god, I gave this to you five years ago. A birthday present. You were seven, only seven, an innocent, happy seven years old and you loved me. And you unwrapped the present and squealed with delight and said, "Oh, Daddy, thank you!"

Daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy.

My daughter? No, please, not my daughter, no! But why could I not recognize you before? Why only now? My god, the blood on my fingers, my fingers, my... claws.

No, no, for god's sake no! It isn't happening; it's not true! This pain, this horrible pain inside me, where is it coming from? Is this love? How could I forget such terrible pain?

And... raining? No, tears. Mine. I must end this damnable, this wretched, tormenting hollowness. I can feel it again. I thought it was gone.

I must let you go, my dear, my daughter. Don't be afraid. Yes, just curl up on the ground and wait. I'll be with you shortly. I know it looks like I'm leaving, but I'm just backing up the tree, my dear. It's a tall tree. There, you see? A nice branch, high up.

I'm coming, my dear.

The truth shall set me free.

Fragile Creatures copyright 1999 by Jason The Skunk.

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