's 2016 Horror Write-off:

Assembly Line

Submitted by Nausicaa Harris

I awake. I am bathed in light, painful and bright. I am standing on a conveyor belt. There are many others like me on the conveyor belt - men, women, others, each raw and naked in the face of new existence. We are silent. We all stare at the gate in the wall towards which we creep. We can see nothing beyond. One by one the men and women disappear into the gate.


And then it is my turn.

Bright beams of light, brighter even than the light which surrounded us, stab into me, into my bones, my muscles, my joints. They twitch minutely, causing my body to spasm. I feel discomfort, but no pain. Yet.

Then, one beam grows brighter, impossibly bright. My skin shrivels, my body deforms, and I age decades in a few seconds, before whatever ghastly mechanism reverses and I grow youthful - and then I age again. A high voice speaks from somewhere beyond the light - "I think this one should be old."

The next beam grows brighter. My shoulders spasm, extend to monstrous width, and then shrink impossibly narrow. I can feel my bones growing, the skin keeping up with them but the muscles taking a few moments to catch up.

Another beam brightens. It yanks my arms downwards, almost tearing them from my shoulders, and lengthening them. They swell with muscle, slipping over itself like a nest of snakes within my arms. Another beam, and my legs likewise bulge and swell, but they are crushed up into my body as if in some otherworldly gravity, leaving me with legs little more than stumps.

My abdomen goes convex; my chest, concave. The first feels as if I am about to burst from forces within it; the second as if a hammer is crushing my ribs. The beams pluck at my skin, pinching it or filling it with fat as they please, like a needle biting into my flesh in either case. My entire body becomes surrounded in one large beam, and a second high voice says, "I'm going to make this one into a little man!" I shrink, bones degenerating, muscles compacting, unnecessary skin sloughing off. I am less than I once was, in every respect.


Exhausted and panting, I hang limply in the light, thinking that my torture has ended. I continue to move forward, though, and pass into another gate.

Here, the beams of light depart from my body and cluster around my face. They attach to more parts of my face than I knew existed. And now the tugs are sharper, more precise, more painful. My brow indents; my mouth is wrenched into a ghastly paralytic smile. My jaw is tugged back and forth, back and forth, before finally being snapped forwards, too quickly for my skin to keep up. My forehead is squeezed; my neck forcibly elongated. My facial features are pulled towards the center of my face, as if the everpresent beams of light have created a black hole in its center.

One of the hateful beams now attaches to every portion of my body, and my face, and they all fire at once. My features melt and dissolve like rain, by increments unchanged, but with every minute that passes, I feel some new horror pulled into being on my tortured frame. Melanosomes boil and die across my searing skin as my very hue is changed; follicles crackle as my hair is teased into new and bizarre configurations. My eyelashes stab deep into my eyes.


But the worst is yet to come.

The first high, cold voice speaks: "It's still not enough! We're going to have to go deep here." Beams penetrate into my skull ... and yank. My face explodes. An eye slips loose from its socket to float near my cranium. My mouth extends, trailing off into a spike of impossible distance, studded with teeth and lip. My flesh forms huge polygons, spiking out of my skull before they calcify. Ghostly ribbons spill from my skin as I try, desperately, to move. The pain is not indescribable, but I wish it were. I am being made into something beyond even the bounds of natural law.


And, just when my torture grows to its height - there is darkness, blossoming before my eyes, soothing and soft. A beautiful woman walks out of the darkness towards me. Her face, though ravaged by some unnamed disease, is motherly and kind, and her body suggests unimaginable strength. The psychopomp lifts a ghostly axe over my unprotesting form, and releases me from the brief torment of my existence. I take her powerful hand, and, as I slip beyond, I almost think there is justice in this hellish world after all.

But before I can leave it all behind, I feel a compulsion to turn my vision back towards the thing my body has become. I look. I see.

I see it move its eyes, eyes now filled by some cruel and unnatural intellect. In high, mocking, insouciant tones, words creep from that which were its lips: "Hi! My name's Jimothy and I'm a beautiful beef boy!"