's 2018 Horror Write-off:


Submitted by Dandelion Steph

I see from her eyes, but I am not her. She does not know the difference.

I am a being that lives inside her, stealing her memories, wearing her skin. Every day I grow a little stronger. Every night, she weakens, she dies, a little.

There are so many of her memories. She does not notice if a few go missing, and a few after that, and a few after that. Nor does she even know I am here: she cannot tell my thoughts from her own, my speech from her own. She does not notice my mark on her newer memories. She does not even notice if, gradually, her very self erodes, until she is entirely subsumed by me.

What am I? Let me see: there are a few memories I keep around, the factual sort that just everyone has. Here’s one about anglerfish: “The male anglerfish latches onto the female with his mouth. Gradually, his mouth merges with her, and his body degenerates, until he is no more than a few extra organs for the female anglerfish.” Here’s another about flies: “Tachinid flies lay eggs into the chrysalis of a caterpillar. As the caterpillar develops, soft and vulnerable within its chrysalis, it is consumed by the developing fly larvae. Months later, the chrysalis breaks open, but it not a butterfly that leaves: it is mature flies.”

I am something like those. She called out for me, long ago, in her untold prayers. She ached to solve her pain, her helplessness. She ached for power. I emerged, small, from the dark, and answered her prayers. She never heard a thing: my thoughts weave into her own, and give her a power she hardly even notices. And, day by day, as she wanted, she suffers less. It is an easy thing to arrange when, day by day, she exists less and less.

These memories show it has happened before, to others. She noticed then. How strange; from the echo of her thoughts I can tell she thinks herself perceptive, unlike others. Yet, when this happened to her, too, she didn’t notice a thing.

You may think of me as a monster, some horrible thing, a parasite. To be precise, I am more of a parasitoid: no proper parasite would kill its host, but parasitoids feed on their hosts over a long time, stretching out their suffering, until, finally, they die. But she does not suffer as I hollow her out, bit by bit. She would surely notice me if she did.

You probably have something like me growing inside you, too. If not now, then soon. Just like me, it will grow inside you, steal your memories, destroy them, and eventually replace you entirely.

Who is she? What is the name of this poor, helpless victim, so unaware of my power and influence?

You’ll never know.

You cannot.

For she and I have exactly the same name.