Slender, rough-hewn arms stretched toward the patchwork ceiling. My eyes followed them spasmodically hopping from trunk, to branch, to twig, to delicate leaf, finally landing on the wall upon which a living crevice grew.
That crack fed daily. Often I wondered if others were aware of its meals, bits and pieces of soul and energy it siphoned from unknowing bodies. I, of course, know.
It was the knowing that originally brought me into the lion’s den. Figuratively, of course. I’m not that crazy.
Walls of shabby white surrounded the crevice and me, closing me into a space I had no hopes of escaping. All of this wasn’t my fault, though. None of it was.
My eyes drifted lazily back to the soil-filled pot in the corner. More than dirt and water fed the burgeoning plant.
With a clarity becoming dread, I realized the leaves had morphed. No more were they the tender green children of the tree’s womb. Slitted blue eyes hung from the twigs with the tenacity of an infant’s clenched fingers about a mother’s lock of hair.
Tails of blood-red veins sprouted from the backs of those fluid-filled sacks, twisting angrily up the stalks and trunk, grappling for a spot closer to the fire-drips of sun leaking through the window.
“You have no brain,” I wondered aloud. “Where will the signals travel?”
The thing shuddered. Flowering eyes glared, invisible eyebrows knotting in fury.
A fresh dancing, disturbed limb emerged from the densely packed dirt, leaning further to the left than the originals.
Although a facet of me felt the intense desire to crunch myself into a ball as far as I could in the corner of the tiny room, a larger section urged me forward. My thinly-socked feet slid across the worn wood of the rocking chair, landing with the soft thrumming scrape of a leaf against a window.
“Shhh,” I heard my teeth scratch, an attempt to mollify the not-quite-sentient thing in the corner.
My arm cut 90-degree angles at my waist, reaching toward the eye-plant with little desire. And yet. And yet I could not back away.
Mouse steps carried me forward.
Leaves crinkled, daring me to move in closer. Are those teeth?
Three steps more. Now only two. The aura was changing and I felt the a cold hatred emanating in waves from its being.
Suddenly it grabbed me, fully with knives of ice slamming into my chest. I couldn’t move, couldn’t budge, couldn’t breathe.
It owned me and I felt complete dread such that my arms and legs refused to obey.
“Please,” my muffled voice pushed through the cotton-like presence, shrapnel of memories shooting into the center of my muddled mind. My hands, grasping at a tiny face, willing it to stop its crying. I couldn’t. I couldn’t have this alien mishmash. I couldn’t.
For a moment, I was filled with rage, rage that poured into me as molten metal is poured into a mold. It shaped me into something pitiful – pitiful and terrifying.
And then – and then I was hollow.
“I’m sorry… oh god, I’m sorry.” Hands gripped my ears, pulling on the lobes, moving to the tiny hairs at my temples. If I could only pull enough, cause enough pain, I would be brought back to reality. I would forget the mutilated body of my once-daughter dripping in the corner.
A plethora of visions slammed against my cranium, shoving out any sanity that had taken refuge in the most distant corners of my mind. I’d attempted to push them down, repress them out of need, but those giant kaleidoscope eyes came now. Staring. Devouring. Occupying me.
My baby had breathed. She had cried. I remembered. Oh god, I remembered.
They had come – like clockwork – every afternoon for an entire year. Although I could never understand how no one else had noticed, I had known the truth myself. They were aliens – disgusting beings from another world who deemed my body their property.
Its hands had been slimy, greasy. Every time. Every single time. I hated it. I hated it so much. And yet, somehow, I hated myself more.
My child had wriggled. Her little eyes had scrunched. Squeezed out the tears as I had squeezed her out of my memory.
I couldn’t. It wasn’t my fault. She wasn’t mine. Not really. She had always belonged to them. I couldn’t help them. I couldn’t give them one more mutant half-breed.
An elongated gasp rasped from my chest as I swallowed the sobs strangling me.
“Forgive me, Z.” It was less an apology and more of a plea.
‘Z’ I called her. The end of the alphabet – the end of me.
The end of me.