Bogleech.com's 2019 Horror Write-off:
Submitted by Shakara
The Body heals. The Body nourishes. The Body restores.
I heal those broken. It is something I do. It is something I have always done. Always.
Father is broken. And I will heal him. I scatter towards the table, picking up his ocean-sky head. Rent from his shoulders. What did he do wrong to earn the ire of The Stygia?
Vile beasts… Not that they cared for life. Anti-gods, creators of life worse than death.
With infinite precision, I find the veins of his spine. I have The Body.
I open my palms. I am of Father’s blood. The Body responds, and ripples around. It leaps up, red and hot. Instantly, it tightly grips itself to the shattered spine-stem. The red pulses.
He’d lost an eye in that fight. I could not reobtain it, but I can form one anew.
A disc of gold. Petri dish. It holds the broken pieces put together.
The red veins flow into the disc, and a clear blot rises to the surface, akin to oil on water. Roiling around itself, it begins to coalesce. A second disc, and a mouth will form. The two pale pink lines confirm it. The eye blinks and moves.
“I… I live.” The mouth flexes.
Along the table, the veins grow and grow. The Body grows. Thickening redness forming limbs. Slowly. It will take time. I bring two prosthetics. A metallic leg and an arm-hook. We had run out of pairs. Ever since The Stygia arrived, more and more are getting hurt.
The nacre-sheen head of Father lolls on the limbs, irregularly pacing. I put the eye back into the empty socket. It is gold.
“Rather a foreign sensation… But I thank you, young one.”
“Will you be alright left alone?”
“More than alright. You gave me The Body!”
I go to Mother. She is not a doctor, but a mechanic. She made the prosthetics. Ah, if only she would give me a prosthetic. I had lost my original form many years ago to The Stygia. Now, this shell.
She had been blessed with luck and normalcy. Two arms. Two legs. Pale pine-wood skin tone. Hair that’s keratin. Eyes that’re shiny.
Me? A grotesque. She’d told me so.
“Damnation!” Liquid solder dripping. Another mistake. Such is the cost of denying sleep. The smell of tin rising into the air, mingling with anger.
“Ah, you hadn’t cleaned the circuitry board. Have you misplaced the desolder pump? Did you not set up a heat sink?”
“You’re hardly an assistant! How’re you meant to work mechanics with those man-ripping claws you have!”
“They are scalpels.”
“And those limbs of yours? What are you, arachnid?!”
“Multiple limbs allow better balance and locomotion.” I have to resist the urge to chew through my mask.
“You didn’t use The Body to heal yourself. You used it to turn yourself into a MONSTER!”
The soldering iron clatters to the ground, drops of brass and tin raining.
Rushing forward with a warped body, I don’t shy from the fight. But although I was fast, I was not strong. God’s teeth, I should have covered myself in scales.
After a volley of blows, the fight breaks, and we divide. Once again, returning to the workshop to futilely melt metal. As if she could melt her anger.
Melt me. I dig my nails into my legs, trying to draw blood.
The Body heals. Skin. Organ. Bone. Lymph. Nerve. Platelet.
But not Mind. Never the Mind.
Father walked more, his head reforming. I could see the jaw and teeth returning, new and white. Hair growing, a cloak of grey-blue. No pain. The Body never hurts you.
A nest of red, yellow and orange, flame and stars, diaphanous vines of light feeding upon themselves and multiplying once again. The fiery fluid nested within a dark stone. Mountainous black and earthen, spires clawing the sky. Maroon roots and threads of arteries and veins. Even if it were destroyed, it would live. From a single shred, a single drop, a single atom- The Body prevails.
It was no small guess as to why The Stygia so desired the body. Lifeless souls with no drive for growth. Only to kill, maim, torment. Cardinal sins in the shapes of Men.
All of The Stygia were clad in black, darker than even midnight itself. Never detected by even the keenest eyes until their bone-blades were lodged in your sternum, pierced right through your third thoracic vertebrate. Silent as poison.
Oh, if only they were gone…!
And their leader… The Director Stygia… Scorpio. The most terrible of them all. Pregnant women in his presence had miscarriages. Blind men who saw him wept blood. The healthiest people vomited. Jaded war veterans sprinted away until their hamstrings popped.
I never saw him eat. … I never saw him speak.
Father can walk. The stump of his neck is lengthening, healing further. If we continue at this pace, he’ll soon have his torso back. The red hollow of his jaw connects back to the skull.
I wire in his vocal cords, his eyes hard. Although it does not hurt to use The Body, it is a strange and frightful experience. He does not need to breath the same, not until his lungs grow back.
I finish, and I suture his throat.
“Behind you!” He cries, as I barely finish the stitching.
The door shatters. Impossible. I had it triple-locked and reinforced with bone-scale.
The floor oozes pus and blood as hard, sharp feet clomp through. Grunt Stygia, fast bruising the room. Mother tries to fight with her soldering iron. It is no use.
“Stay back!” Nails elongate themselves, harder than metal. I had myself tailored for surgery, not combat. Piercing the gel of the eyes, it is no sham fight. Grunt Stygia are hardly the most intelligent. Flash-bred in the womb-caves, they have no true brains, but ganglia.
“You will not have The Body!” Father cries, thumping his prosthetics off the table in protest.
Even as a mere head, he is still fiercely determined.
The taste of nickel and a blaring white fire behind my eyes. My mask wets with blood.
What a fool I am. I hadn’t noticed the back door.
Scorpio. He is here. Staring at me with eyeless eyes and a depthless black. How did he find us? How did he get in? The Surgery is the most heavily guarded area in the Starscape!
I don’t think any more on the questions, I only fight. Father steps backward and rolls off the table, landing heavily in a clatter. I am only grateful The Body is inside his brain, healing him.
Trying to rush forward only results in broken limbs. Before I even realise it, the wrists are crushed into powder, mere shards of bone held in tubes of mushed muscle. I did not even feel him strike me.
The red-yellow fire. The roots twitch and the veins scream. It knows. It will not be stolen.
Arachnid extremities, trying to flay the enemy alive. Scorpio cripples me. The shock reverberates into my spine and through my ribs. God only knows how many injuries I’ve sustained.
Trying to crawl to the red, to the live-giving lymph. It is not there. Picked up into the arms, all I see is the hollow black-brown tabernacle of where it was. The Body, raw. The receptacle of glowing fluid. Scorpio has it now.
He looks to The Body, vermillion whirling diaphanous, the scent of burning amniotic fluid and lymph. I can see it boiling white.
Father coughs and rolls. I daren’t look back. How much did the Grunts maim him? Will the rest of The Body in his veins heal him? Will I heal? I will not. Scorpio holds The Body. Holding it up to the lamplight, as if one would analyse a fine piece of art.
Blackened cupid’s bow curl up. He smiles. I look down at my opened form. Already, I feel myself bleeding out, grey mixing shining purple wetly with rotted green mucus. Sputum. At least he won’t see a mournful frown through my mask? But I can’t feel my jaw.
The Body. Warped. I am unhealing.
It does not clot. It does not scab. It does not bind. Inflammation. Fever. Infection. Conflagration. Haemorrhaging. Contusion. Purulent. Sputum. Not like this. It can't be! The Body heals! The Body nourishes! The Body restores! Why am I weakening? I studied enough to bring back Father from the brink of death? WHY?
The Grunts retreat, carrying with them spoils of the pilfered laboratory. Disrespecting the very flesh under their feet. I can smell something sickly sweet.
Something is rotting. And quickly.
Kneeling down on bloodless, cold limbs, Scorpio looks at me. His eyes long-dead, soul long-vacated. He knows he’s won.
I can feel my heart empty itself, twitching in the final moments before total collapse.
Twin maws open, pallid grey flesh crackling. Teeth upon teeth upon teeth click in a laugh.
A split tongue flicks the air. He speaks.
“THE BODY BLEEDS.”