Thursday, May 19, 2011

31/365 --Playlist Story-- inspired by On We March by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross from The Social Network soundtrack

It inched it's hulking body forward through the sewage, trailing a thick swath of mucus. It was getting to be a tight fit now, its black rotting scales scraped against the sides, filing them down into a shiny patina. It was trailing a pack of rats interested in part of a dead cat that had fallen through one of the drainage openings. It slithered closer, as quietly as it could. The rats knew it it was there, but were more concerned with their meal than its.

It waited. It inched closer, squeezing up its body, then relaxing. Soon in was in reach of the rats. It shot out a hand, and grabbed a squealing rat. With its other hand, it broke the neck of the rat, silence it. It sighed, then started to peel off the fur, plucked out the internal organs, then ate the raw meat from the bones.

It slept. While it slept, a downpour started. Water coursed through the sewer. It felt the cold wetness and awoke. Its back-end was immersed in water, but its front was not. Only a dribble of water made it past its body. It tried to move forward, but could not. It began to panic. It wanted to scream, but was too afraid.

A day later, a man in an orange vest climbed down into the sewer. He carried a long flashlight and shone it ahead of himself, while looking for the source of the blockage that spilled water all over the road above. He saw something dark ahead. He shone the light back and forth, trying to make out what it was. He saw two reflected glints. He moved closer. In the light he saw a face. The man in the vest screamed.

"Please don't be afraid!" it said. The man in the vest was walking backward.

"You can't be down here!" said the man.

"I can't help it," it said.

"You can't live here, it's illegal," said the man.

"You don't understand," it said.

"You have to get out!" said the man, motioning with his flashlight back towards the drainage opening.

"I can't, I'm stuck!" it screamed. "Won't you help me? Please? I don't want to die here. It's an awful way to die." The man moved closer.

"How are you stuck?"

"Well, I can't stop growing, and now I'm too big for the sewer."

"It's as tall as me. How can you possibly--"

"I'm an abomination," it said, sadly. The man moved close enough to touch it. He shone the flashlight around the sides of the sewer. He put his hand over his mouth, forgetting where it had been on his climb down. It had a face, a human face, with human eyes, and a human nose, and a human mouth. It had human arms, although they were spindly and covered in slick fur. The rest of it, was not human. It had slug-like antennae jutting from its forehead. It was complemented with a set of insect antennae, as well as extra spider-like eyes set on top of the head. Its neck was buried in thick rolls of fat, that ballooned out past the arms to form the body. Right where the body touched the walls of the sewer was where the scales began.

"Oh, my god," said the man in the vest.

"I'm sorry you had to see me. I never wanted anyone to see me again." It said. "But I'm scared."

"What are you?" said the man in the vest.

"I was a man once. I'm not sure exactly how this happened. I had a tumor in my chest. The doctors said it was inoperable, since it was so near my heart. It grew slowly, so I had several years left to live, and I went about my life. Then I contracted Hansen's disease, and things got worse."

"That's leprosy, isn't it?"


"You know that's curable, don't you?"

"I got it long before there was a cure."

"You mean--how long has--how old are you?"

"I was fifty when I got it. I've been here several decades at least now."

"How--what happened after you got leprosy?"

"I started losing feeling in patches of skin, as is the normal progression of the disease. Then I felt something happen in the tumor. It's hard to describe, but I could feel it moving. I think my immune response to the disease activated it somehow. It was reacting to the disease, fighting it. Somehow, it was able to take the animals I ate, and incorporate them into my body, to fix the parts that I was losing to Hansen's."

"Like DNA?"

"I'm sorry, I don't know what that is."

"You have been down here a long time. Even I know that one. It's the information in a cell that tells it how to grow. It's like a schematic for telling an organism's body how to develop."

"Hmmm," it looked thoughtful.

"So why are you down here though? Why didn't you go to the doctor?"

"I couldn't afford it. I had lost part of my foot, and I could no longer work. Now I've lost my legs entirely. I have my arms, thankfully, but I've had to eat a lot of rats to keep them in good condition."

"But why the sewer? Why not go into the forest or something?"

"I don't know," it said. "I guess I didn't really want to be far from people." The man in the vest looked pitifully at it.

"You must have eaten other things besides rats."

"Yes, I kind of regret that. But I can sense movement in the dark, I can sense heat at a distance, and I have a fantastically nuanced sense of smell," it twitched it's antennae. "I also have venom glands in my mouth, but I never use that--it just tastes really bad." The man in the vest laughed nervously.

"Do you have a name?" asked the man.

"I did," it said.

"It's still yours, isn't it?" said the man. It looked at the man searchingly.

"Jeffrey. It was Jeffrey," it said.

"It's nice to meet you, Jeffrey." The man held out his hand. "My name is Omar."

It looked at Omar's hand. It reached out and clasped it with its own. They shook hands. Omar smiled. Jeffrey began to cry.

"We have to get you out. We have to clear this sewer, and obviously, you don't deserve to live like this. I don't know what's in store for you, really, but I think you're going to get a lot of attention. And we're going to have to tear up the road above you. That will be dangerous."

"That will be expensive," said Jeffrey.

"That's not the point," said Omar. "This isn't your fault."

"I don't want to end up in a zoo," and Jeffrey suddenly. "I'd like to be released into the ocean. I think I could live there better than here, and better than on land."

"You're still a person," said Omar. "Don't you want to be with other people?"

"I don't think other people will want to be around me," said Jeffrey. "At least not anyone who isn't interested in studying me, or gawking at me."

"You underestimate some of us," said Omar.

"Thank you," said Jeffrey. "I don't really know you, but I feel so lucky that you were the one to discover me. But still, who I am, and what I am, are at cross-purposes. I think the ocean will ultimately be the best place for me."

"I understand, but I hope you reconsider," said Omar. "Now, I have to go tell my supervisor. He won't believe me until he actually sees you, and he's the type of person who is a gawker as you put it. This will be unpleasant, but I'll protect you, and make sure you get out of here safely."

Jeffrey nodded, and watched Omar walk towards the light from the drain.

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