Felicity was in the shower brushing her teeth. She started doing this as a habit after her boyfriend Chad got up in the middle of the night on a Thursday two weeks ago to use the bathroom but instead started vomiting a clear fluid that turned out to be liquified silk, attached the globby end of it to the ceiling, then proceeded to spin himself into a cocoon. He blocked the sink, which is why she used the shower. She dipped her toothbrush in a cup of rinse water and swirled it around, watching Chad breathing silently within the silk. She crouched down and poured the water in the drain then carefully exited the shower and sidled past his bulk into the living room.
The sun had been up for an hour and flooded the apartment with golden light. It would be a warm day. Felicity dressed quickly, in jeans and a light shirt, with her hiking boots and a baseball cap, then slipped on her backpack. It was empty except for a small first-aid kit and a slotted screwdriver. She left the apartment not bothering to lock it.
She carefully took the two flights of stairs down from the apartment, mindfully placing each step, and holding the railing snugly, petrified of any accidental injury.
"Good morning!" she said as she passed her neighbor Mr. Chowdhury. He did not respond, encased as he was, in silk and hanging from underneath the cement stairs. She only knew who he was because his favorite hat was sticking out of the silk.
She walked on, passing the occasional person wrapped up and suspended from various overhangs and outcroppings. There were even a few who were adhered directly to the glass of windows, but for the most part the world was deserted. Felicity assumed most people had cocooned themselves in their houses that Thursday night along with Chad.
She stopped in at the corner convenience store and picked out several bags of chips and Cheetos, and the last remaining water bottle from the back room. She would have to go further now to get fresh water. She started off towards the closest grocery store, a half mile away. She had driven their initially, when the cocooning first occurred, to stock up, and in the hopes of finding others that had avoided the process of metamorphosis, but when she arrived, there were just the overnight stockers swinging gently from the light fixtures or stuck to the outside of the refrigerated cases. There was just no one, and a few hours later the electricity went out, then the water the next day. She spent an hour in her car screaming, then drove to the bookstore and stocked up on enough books to keep her occupied for the indefinite future.
Felicity arrived at the grocery store once again. She pushed open the sliding doors and was immediately assaulted with the stench of death. She retched automatically, then covered her nose with her sleeve. The cavernous dark room inside echoed with chittering. A dog barked from the depths, then gave chase to something. Felicity peered into the darkness, letting her eyes adjust, and saw movement at the back of the store, between the aisles, by the dairy case. Boxes fell and metal clattered. Something rushed towards her--she moved aside, and a family of racoons skittered by, out into the sunlight, followed by a hungry looking poodle with matted hair.
"Hello?" asked Felicity of the gloom, once the ruckus passed. There was no reply. She thought briefly about trying to lure the dog back. It would be company at least. She sighed and walked forward, passing through the still checkout stands. She pocketed a pack of gum and retrieved a warm soda from the small refrigerated case at the end of the check stand. She cracked the lid and listened with satisfaction to the escaping carbon dioxide fizz. She stood and chugged half the bottle, then recapped it and shoved it into the side pocket of her backpack. The taste did little to assuage the scent of rotting meat and food, but it was hydration.
She moved forward, but proceeded cautiously. Potato chips, cereal, candy, and basically anything that was packaged in a flimsy box or bag was represented on the floor, strewn about by various animals. A slip now would receive no help. She walked up the aisle with the ice cream, now melted out into dried up and licked at crusty pools on the floor. There was movement. Felicity approached, lured by the sign of life. A bulging cocoon with a work apron dangling from the bottom that was stuck to one of the glass doors of the ice cream case, was vibrating. As she got nearer the vibration intensified; the door broke its seal and slammed back, and again, harder and harder. She reached out and tentatively touched the silk casing--it was very hot and she retracted her hand. The cocoon started to moan.
"Are you okay?" asked Felicity loudly. The moaning intensified. "Do you need help? What should I do?" she asked. "I don't know what to do. I don't even know what happened to you."
Felicity felt small and heavy in her helplessness, her shoulders loose. The cocoon moaned intensely, in choked fretful notes, vibrating and wriggling. Her eyes became watery, then she breathed in deeply and slid off the backpack. She retrieved the screwdriver.
"I'm going to help you," she said loudly and firmly.
She pushed the screwdriver into the mass and worked it under a layer of the silk, teasing the fibrous strands apart. She reached in with both hands and grabbed ahold of the person inside. She pulled and grunted with the effort, and fell backward as the cocoon suddenly emptied its contents onto the floor. The moaning stopped.
Felicity wasn't sure at first what it was that emerged. She pivoted onto her knees and leaned over the body. Part of it was milky white, like skin oversoaked in a bath, and it was entwined oddly in shards of wet clothing. There was a bulge that looked like the back of a head. It was connected to an armless torso, still in its shirt with limp unfilled sleeves. The torso fattened at the bottom and spilled out unevenly over a leather belt. The top of the pants were engorged, but the pantlegs were empty. The shirt shifted. Felicity put her hand on the placket, and undid two of the buttons. She spread the shirt apart.
She peered at it, at first confused, then scrambled backwards. There was no skin or muscle or bone under the shirt, just enlarged organs--a beating heart, breathing lungs. Felicity's eyes were wide, and skin went prickly. She took ragged breaths.
Then the head turned towards her and she screamed. There were tiny holes where ears should have been, and the white flaccid skin completely covered the eye sockets. There was no nose, just two small holes in place of nostrils. The mouth was reduced to a sphincter that curled in and out with each breath, exposing it's violently pink underside. Felicity shook uncontrollably.
The body moaned and Felicity shot up to her feet, holding her hands over her mouth. It tried to move along the floor, towards her. The belt buckle clinked dully against the linoleum.
"I can't help you!" she screamed. "Do you understand? I can't help you!"
The body stopped moving, but the mouth sphincter clenched tightly. It opened again, letting out a single syllable, "Maa."
"I--I don't know what that means!" said Felicity. She stepped towards the body. It turned it's face away and moaned plaintively, then started what sounded like sobbing.
Felicity knelt next to it, and placed her hand on its forehead. The flesh was very soft, and she assumed the skull had been absorbed in the process with the rest of the skeleton. She stroked the head.
"I'm sorry. I'm so, so, so sorry this happened to you," she said. "You must be waking up from a dream, only to find a nightmare. It seems to have happened to everyone. Everyone except me." The body was silent but breathing steadily. "I'm so lonely. There's just no one." The body moaned. Felicity took a choking breath, "I think you hear me. I think you do. Don't worry about me. I shouldn't have told you that."
She continued to stroke the skin, hoping it was giving some comfort. She reached over with her other hand and picked up the screwdriver. She rolled the cold, smooth plastic handle in her fingers.
"Everything's going to be okay," she said. "I called an ambulance. You'll be okay. They'll put you right." The body moaned. "No really, I can hear the sirens now. Just stay still. Don't be afraid."
She raised up her hand and plunged the tip of the screwdriver into the eye socket of the head. The body flinched slightly, then stopped breathing abruptly. She buttoned the shirt carefully, then wrapped the sleeves across the chest, as if the body had died at peace.
Felicity stood, looking down at the body, sensing its smallness, its uselessness. Then her ears picked up rustling from various points in the store. She looked around. The other cocoons were starting to vibrate.
"I'm not helping you," she said. "I'm not doing that again."
She quickly walked through the grocery store and out the front door. She sat heavily on the curb to the parking lot, trembling. She looked up. The sun was white and fierce and somehow cruel. The color of the cars in the parking lot, and even the sky, seemed to be drained and everything was a bit more stark.
"I want to scream at you," she said to the sun, "because there's nothing left to scream at. But that would just be another pointless thing."
She pulled her arm to her face and pressed her eyes into her sleeve, stopping the tears from forming. She got up, and walked resolutely north, towards the closest edge of the town.