T H E M O R P H I S T
by Silva Noir
Chapter 8 : lion
When a river of red filled and seared itself through his eyes he knew something was wrong. A moment of fear bubbled and surged up but passed quickly. It was replaced with a single notion, an ancient instinct of any predator: find the weak, stalk them, hunt them, and kill. Brilliant plating of chrome covered his being, weighty yet well balanced, serving as an over the top needlessly strong armor for the task at hand. He was no longer a boy facing others in a schoolyard scrap. Rather, he had altered his appearance and mindset to a big cat of immense proportions, a lion fit to guard the temples of centuries old temples.
He panted, the most peculiar feeling constricting his heart and dizzied his mind. It was too early to become exhausted; he’d not yet begun to fight. He stumbled once, twice. And then one of the humans was upon him.
A massive shining head rose slowly from off the ground, opening steal trap jaws in a final threat to those who approached. Legs as wide as tree trunks steadied themselves on the floor, cracking the mold speckled tan tiles kicking up dust beneath the drag of its eight-inch claws, leaving long furrows in the cement underneath.
The avenging teen raised a wooden bat to beat the beast over the head. The zealous baseball team’s homerun hitter was determined to demolish whatever stood in his way in payment for the disgrace of honor for his friend. But then again, so was the formidable feline, willing to clash for the bonds of friendship not yet formed with a stranger. Certainly, in hand-to-hand combat the human would have faired a chance with those powerful swinging arms. But this was not an opponent that one man nor a team of the fittest men could defeat so easily. With an effortless move, the lion clamped down on the wood and shattered it into mere splinters and sawdust.
The ball player stumbled back into a locker and fall on gracelessly fell to the scraped floor. Fervently searching for something else he could use as a weapon against the mega beast, he squirmed like dangling bait to a shark, all together too tempting to the predator before him. The lion moved forward, a paper-thin space between its sharp-toothed muzzle and the frightened face of its victim. He was so close he could see the nervous sweat trickling down the others façade. Just as the boy was sure he was about to meet his maker, David pulled back and leapt over his head and landed with a great thud on top of the row of lockers.
The teen could see his own face twisted in fear reflected on the underside of the lion as it soared over him.
Under his mass, the flimsy -in comparison to his own framework- material bent and began to tip. David swayed side to side; the top of his head brushing the low ceiling, teasing the boy below who was thinking that at any moment the heavy casing might fall on him. He rose to his feet about to flee but David wouldn’t allow that. The lion jumped to the next row, the kickoff sending the crumpled lockers tumbling on top of screaming prey. Bounding from row to row, he sent them toppling like dominos. Two men down, three to go.
He sought them out quickly, clearing half the room with single dives, energy of a coiled spring unbound in each step. He batted them down with massive paws as a kitten would with a piece of lint. If they didn’t stay down, he swiped again and again until they would. Fury drove him on, and by the last man, he forgot that he wasn’t truly a lion. Butcher knife incisors sunk into a dark skinned leg, a crimson lake filling the mouth of the predator. Its so easy… so easy to tear them apart… I didn’t know how easy it would be to destroy a human life. I could kill everyone… then there would be no one to taunt me… the contemplation lodged itself in his brain as he clamped down and cracked the bone. His victim was emitting cries of pain and begging for mercy but David was unmindful of it. He continued to tear chunks and shreds of flesh off like a hungry dog at supper. In his mind he laughed, skinning the football team’s prize running back was like cutting warm butter. David twisted his head side to side, thrashing the body to rip the last few stubborn muscles away.
The red liquid slid down the false throat of the animal and leached its way around his wired body. Many silvery strings, veins outside his body that continued from those within, connected him to the shell of the cat. Usually the chamber was filled with a pocket of air and lined with not yet hardened Xilvrin as well as the endless puppet cords that gave him control over its movements. He wore it like a second skin, far more skillful moving it than a pilot or driver of any man-made vehicle. Xilvrin had the odd tendency to adhere to blood, so the usually more spacious air chamber was already tightened when the small flood of the others boys blood gushed in. At the moment it was full and David drowned in it, the whole lion shut down.
David opened his mouth to scream but the African felines mouth remained firmly closed. Instead, the blood and lead like goop wove itself around his lips and laced them shut. His eyes too could not see and stung as if acid had been poured onto the retinas.
In a remarkable act of self preservation and reaction of the most base survival, the hefty football player pulled himself away and dragged himself to his feet… or rather, foot… and limped as far as he could away, great splashes off dark crimson leaving a trail on the floor from the leg that was severed just under the knee.
David himself lurched and toiled to get the armor to bend to his will. It wouldn’t budge. It may as well have been rusted in place. In desperation and panic he tried to shed the intense burden that had become a prison. He risked being seen, but if he didn’t leave the morph he would surely perish anyway. Weighing his option he calmed himself as much as he could force himself to. The outer veins for the most part disintegrated. Without his touch and supply of energy, the outer shell dissolved. The air evaporated it as water to a desert sun. He fell to the ground in the pool of plasma. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the end of his troubles.
His eyes were still scabbed shut, his mouth sewn up, and fingers gimped with a sticky substance stronger than any glue. Walking as if his own leg has been bitten off he made his way towards what he hoped to be the door. A much smaller hand linked to slender arm circled around his waist and aided him to it.
“That was very, very sloppy. Shame on you,” a young female voice scolded, full of ice. “I suppose now I’ll have to clean up after you. Honestly, didn’t your mother tell you to put your toys away when you’re done with them? Wouldn’t want anyone tripping over them. You would be blamed, rightly so, and punished severely. First you leave your cars all over the road, and now your action figures are on the floor. At this rate, you won’t be allowed to play at all” with that she dropped him at the eve of the door, kicking him sharply in ribs, giggling insanely.
“Glll…” was all he could manage to force through the smothering mask. He couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t see, and now, she had winded him as well.
“Oh truly X-109, you are pathetic.” Those words set off alarms in his mind. How in the world could she have known the number tattooed on his upper right arm, and again on his left leg? Perhaps she had read his dog tags, but he could feel those were under his shirt and out of sight. She bent down and stroked his cheek. Where she made contact with his own skin between the splattered metal he detected very little warmth. It wasn’t the same human fingers he’d experienced before. Hers were far smoother, lacking imperfections, ridges, or patterns. They were like plastic, akin to his. “Hehehe… it’s like looking into a mirror. A funhouse mirror that is, distorted and ugly. I can see myself in you,” she tapped a nail against where the Xilvrin was suffocating him. “Quite literally.”
He reached for where he vaguely knew her to be but she pushed the webbed mangled hand away.
“No, we can’t have that. You know, I was going to clean house for you. I didn’t last time; the publicity of your mess is why I was able to find you in the first place. Come to think of it, the worse you look, the more mistakes you make, the more superior and flawless I seem. I think I’ll let you suffer for your sins. That way I can always say to my father ‘look daddy, look at how much better I am than that worthless excuse for a being’. One day of course I just might be forced to destroy you, but for now, I’ll let you live.”
He fell forward, the only action his oxygen-deprived mind and body could do in the situation.
“Let me put it in terms a simpleton rookie like yourself can understand” she quipped condescendingly, catching the much larger person in her modest fingers. “You’ve got Blood Madness. Xilvrin sticks…no…it MERGES…with human DNA. What’s the most direct source of human DNA? Blood. You do know what DNA is I hope. It is also and directed by chemicals from your brain, hormones, emotions, and the like. Extreme emotions that would trigger flight or fight responses in a normal person trigger you to produce Xilvrin, much as a skunk makes stink” she giggled, entirely amused at his downfall.
“The problem, X-109 is that you have a soft heart. You wouldn’t have the Madness if you had really wanted to kill that man. You would have fed off his fear and have become stronger. Or maybe it’s not just a mental flaw, maybe its physical too. You were just an experiment after all; the probability that your molecules would even hold together without having a meltdown was very low. It makes me so happy to see what a failure you are.” She hugged him. “All you have to do to be better is think happy thoughts. The positive chemicals in your brain should release you from yourself. Just like Peter Pan. You can fly; you can fly…” she teased in sing-song.
He thought of Melanie and Kristen and their efforts to make him smile. He reflected on those few days when he and his mother sat together and watched TV and movies with big heaping bowls of buttered popcorn. He dwelled on the stars he used to stare at when he was a child, thinking of whom else was looking at them in the world and what else was looking down at him. Slowly, he began to feel release from his bonds. The horrific melted being began to reveal the handsome humanoid beneath.
Through hazy vision he saw a lean adolescent girl in a gingham dress, decked in frills, complete with yarn bows in her straw hair and paten leather buckle black shoes. In the crook of one arm she held an albino rabbit. He thought he must have died and gone to the little house on the prairie.
“Who are you?”
“Elizabeth. And this is Blood Eyes,” she stroked the pelt of the cottontail with cold affection. “I had rats at first. But their necks snap so easily. And their bellies squish between your fingers. Do you have any idea how tiring it is to wash dead rat off your dress? They gave me him and told me I’d better take care of him or that they would punish me for not having sensitivity to more delicate things.” Her thin lips curled into a wicked smile.
“How do you know about me… where did you come from?”
“That’s two questions too many,” she kicked him again and giggled in her trademark disturbing way. “Bad boy. I must being going now. Ta-ta. And just as a favor to you, I’m going to tell them it was all a mistake and that you’re not really here after all, that I couldn’t find anyone resembling X-109 in the least. That is going out of my way to be nice, so you’d better appreciate it and have fun living your pitiable life as long as you can.” She turned and skipped away humming a nursery rhyme, yelling out when she was in the distance, “Ashes, ashes, they all fall down…”.
He pulled himself up the stairs by keeping an unsteady hand on the railing. “Elizabeth… wait…”
“You can’t go around looking like that” she stopped in mid-skip and shook a finger at him indicating his burgundy stained clothes and formerly white golden locks. “People will think you’re a murderer. You don’t even have the guts to be one.”
He wheezed “You sure about that?”
“Is that a threat?” she pouted. “Big bad X-109 going to chew my foot off?” she shook her shoe out at him and giggled all the more.
“How do you know who I am? How do you know my number?”
“That’s easy, you’re just too dim-witted to figure it out. Your mother is a scientist, and worked with other scientists. And she’s not the only one who had children. Of course some children are much better than others, you were left to rot while I am given the brightest possible future. My daddy told me all about you, and your shortcomings. It’s all a matter of genetics. You must have inherited all her dysfunctional genes and her stupidity to boot!” She side stepped as he lunged for her “I’d get cleaned off if I were you. I can fix it for you, fix everything so no blame falls on you at all, but… you have to grovel.”
“Forget it.” He spit blood on her perfectly pristine white knee high socks.
“Help! Help! This man is trying to kill me! I was just visiting my Mommy at work! I’m just a defenseless little girl! I’m soo scared! Help!” she mock shouted.
“Alright…shut up. Please…would you help me?” He begged quietly
“Louder, more feeling. And call me…” she put her index finger thoughtfully to her chin and contemplated what term she should have him refer to her by, “Supreme Being.”
“Ok… Supreme Being.” he griped. “Would her highest majesty on high see it fit to assist a lowly peasant like myself? I would be forever in your debt if you deemed your time worthy of me. Is that good enough, little miss princess?”
“That will do. Follow me”
Once they reached a stop he proclaimed, “I changed my mind”
“Stop being a baby and take your clothes off, or you’ll never get clean”
“This is ridiculous! How old are you? I’m not going to get naked in front of you. I’m capable of taking my own showers…”
“But I can make sure you’re not caught. Or then again, should I say I could make sure you are? It’s your decision, all you have to do is everything I tell you to.” She tapped the soul of her shiny shoe impatiently. “Its not like there’s anything astounding to see under those anyway,” she motioned to his bloody garments. “Its no different than looking at a mannequin in the store window that happens to not have been dressed yet”
“Excuse me?” he sputtered. “I’d like to think I’m a little more lifelike than that.”
“You’d like to think so, but you aren’t, unless you count mobility. In that case, you have plaster ‘men’ beat. I told you, although you know nothing about me, I know everything about you, every bit of data that happened to be collected over the years no matter how many times righteous Dr. Reid hid you. It was quite amusing to see that silly human girl attempt to mate with you. I know the real reason why you pushed her away. Your kind is incapable of multiplying in that sort of way. It was a happy accident in your design. For the better, of course, wouldn’t want more failures like you roaming around, stirring up trouble, would we? You are the only one in this world like you. Ironic, in some cultures your plain nearly genderless body would be termed as an angellic figure. God and mankind saw it fit to keep it that way, to seperate you from their disgusting ways… if there is a god that is. I think it’s just a popular myth conjured by feeble fearful minds.”
Before he could say anything in argument, she took a scrub brush and soap to him over the flawless and featureless skin. He was at her mercy and he didn’t understand why. Her ministrations were far from gentle. He believed her desire was to scour every bit of blood or dirt or anything else from every single pore. Boiling hot streams were poured over him, steam rising in billowy clouds, the bristles stinging. “What’s it like…” he strained to make conversation through the more than uncomfortable situation, “to have a father?”
“Wonderful.” She replied happily, the first true expression she had shown. “I would do anything to make him happy. It is the best reward I could ask for.”
“You really care for him?”
“Of course I do! He raised me! He is the reason for me being in this world!”
“That’s good… keep doing that: caring. You’re much prettier when you really smile.”
“That’s all you want girls to be: pretty. We can be more useful you know!” She hissed defensively. “In any matter, I’ve sent the message through. I’ll need to dispose of your old clothes. I’ve had some lain out for you. I stole them from one of the other girl’ lockers, but I figured she wouldn’t mind aiding a good cause. Not an ounce of blame will fall on you… as long as you declare to be one of those who were attacked by the silver furred lion as well.”
“Thank you. Why help me at all? Why come here to see me?”
“I wanted to see the one born before me, the other scientist’s child my father spoke of… the little automaton, that which should theoretically should not live, yet does, defying all rational laws.”
“Your father must have been one of my mother's old friend she lost contact with because of me… because of her shame of and fear for me…”
He was glad to be in clean dry clothes again. He was even more appreciative that they had been androgynous to start with. She hadn’t picked out a pink cardigan or any of the sorts. As the odd little girl was walking away he said to her, “Elizabeth, don’t lose your heart completely. I saw it when you spoke of your father… you really do care about a living thing. Don’t ever let that die. I trust you to keep my secrets”
She looked at him curiously; blinking confused, and then disappeared from sight. He would not have contact with the likes of her for at least another year…
She left him with one parting statement that would brand itself into his consciousness for all time “You can be anything you want, X-109, become and creature at all, that is, except human. You can never fully be human no matter how hard you try. So you should not try. Instead, be what you are. Embrace it, find purpose in it, and you’ll suffer no more.”
^__^ thanks to j0j0 for rendering the lion
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