Cracked and Broken

  • rating: +3+x

My boots struck the floor heavily as I paced, my fists clenched together behind my back.

Despite our best efforts, nobody could find the alien, and nobody knew where he was or could be. He’d barely left his room before, much less the house entirely, and Onyx’s recounting of his panicked state and dashing off of his own accord made me believe that they had something to do with it.

However, when I’d torn apart his room, I’d found notes upon notes, shoved into a drawer and crumpled as if he were distressed by their contents. When I’d unravelled the paper, I could see why.

Scrawled in disgusting handwriting were gory descriptions of murder and torture, interspersed with long and manipulatively worded ‘explanations’ on why it was impossible to trust anyone but the writer. Rage had risen inside me at the scraps of paper that confessed undying love to the alien, deplorable language from someone who couldn’t have appreciated him for an ounce of how marvellous he truly was.

But reading through the repugnant scrawlings became worth it when my eyes alighted upon the answer to the whole conundrum; a detailed kidnapping plan, featuring him front and centre. The bastard had been cocky enough to taunt me, provided the thing was intelligent enough to possess the foresight that I’d find the plan in the first place. That was doubtful, as anyone with half their wits about them would be very well aware that so much as laying one finger on my patient in the wrong regard was enough to turn my general disregard for life– outside of him– into a malevolent hatred.

So I paced as the UnHumans yelled over each other, trying to talk me down from manually tearing apart every house in town that resembled the one described in the plan.

“It’s too dangerous!” someone exclaimed. “They took 6118; if they mean to hurt him, then what if they’re luring you away to hurt you as well?”

“Ça me fait vraiment chier,” I muttered, clenching my jaw.

“We don’t speak your language, frenchie, we’re just trying to make a plan here–”

I whirled around to face them, eyes opening wide so that they wouldn’t twitch from annoyance. “You’re making a plan, huh? He could be dying, and all you’re goddamn doing is trying to convince me to stay here, fils de pute!” My voice intensified to a yell. “Do you want him to die? Admit it, and you won’t have to want anything ever again! I will personally ensure the cessation of your limbic system’s functioning, and the rest of you for that matter!”

The room exploded into argument, and another UnHuman stepped in front of me to push me back. I shoved them to the side, storming out the front door with a mind darker than my black robes.

This house felt different. It could have been something about the colour, or the overgrown garden, or the thud I heard as something was slammed into the wall next to where I stood on the sidewalk.

I’d been searching for so long, frantic, desperate, that I had almost given up hope. But as I peered into the dusty windows, I experienced the pointed feeling that one may by hearing the hammer of a mousetrap come down on pesky vermin, the kind that always darted away right before you could catch it.

And pesky vermin they were.

A burst of adrenaline overrode deliberation, and I slammed my entire bodyweight into the door. It flew open and hit the inside wall with a loud bang– the inside was dark, cold, and smelled of copper.

My eyes, rapidly adjusting to the low light, snapped to the place the noise had come from. On the floor, slumped against the wall, was my patient. A masked figure stood over him, blade in hand. I saw red.

“Qu’est-ce que tu fais?!” I roared, fury coursing through me like the shock of a baton.

“Ben, mon ami, je–”

I threw Dỳo to the ground, far from their victim. I seized their host’s head, snapping it to the side until it fell limp, then brought my heel down on it so hard that their porcelain visage splintered with an audible crack.

Turning, I rushed over to the alien. My eyes flitted over his injuries, rapidly assessing his condition before noting no damage to his legs; I placed my arms around him and pulled him upright, extremely ready to get away from the horrid crime scene and back home, where he was supposed to be. Where I needed him to be.

Nothing was as it had been before the abducting.

My patient had never been particularly receptive to care, but I’d been able to build up enough rapport and trust for him to let me help him regardless. That relationship had been heavily damaged, severed a bit more with each cut of Dỳo’s blade.

I spent many of my nights awake, sitting against the door of SCP-6118’s room. Sometimes he was silent, sometimes he tossed and turned, and sometimes he wept. My heart clenched in my chest when he did. The nutritional solution I’d fetched for him from Site-19 lay unused, his medications unopened.

When the Calamity struck Earth, I feared that I would go mad. With my life’s work rendered null and void following the annihilation of the human race, what would I have left to fixate on? My cost was sunk as my surgical implements did into corpses, morality as grey as their steel. Faced with the penalty of reflecting upon my actions would have surely been the end of me.

But then there was him. I could watch him for hours, and I would; a significant portion of my anomalously large notebook was dedicated to observational notes on everything from his breathing patterns to his body’s healing process for injuries.

On his arm, however, lay lacerations that he wouldn’t let me heal. He wouldn’t even let me look at them, nor the scrapes and bruises littered around his body. The fact that he hadn’t been eating properly surely didn’t lower the risk of infection to the injuries on his body, and that was on top of his already weak constitution.

I was failing my job as a doctor, as I’d failed to combat the Pestilence before humankind was obliterated. But this time, it was different. It was personal. I wasn’t simply failing myself, I was failing him.

So I took a walk.

A cloud of misery hung in the air around me, the lush plants that were slowly overtaking the town reminding me of my failure to flourish. My failure to even try, it seemed, I thought as I kicked a pebble that lay on the sidewalk. It skidded over the concrete before falling off the curb and into a gutter, and I kicked another. When that one got away from me, I moved onto a different rock, and so on and so forth. Dỳo went through victims in such a fashion, toying with and torturing them until they got away, or died.

I’d seen the cycle countless times– they’d even attempted to use the ritual on me, to pull me into its sadistic rhythm until I expired, though it hadn’t worked. They’d tried to get me to admire them, even sought out my praises, but all that they’d accomplished was the opposite. I loathed them with something deeper than the Marianas trench.

My feet brought me back to the house in which the cracked remains of the mask lay. The basement door was still open; I hadn’t bothered to close it upon leaving, too preoccupied with the wellbeing of my patient.

I walked inside, and while it was similar to how I’d left it, something had changed. There was no corpse. More specifically, there was no corpse with Dỳo’s cracked porcelain atop its face.

I whirled around, eyes darting about the room. It was virtually empty, the only furniture being a powered-off TV residing on a wooden stand, and a chair with untied ropes strewn about it.

Upon closer inspection, there were droplets of blue blood soaked into the carpet to the right side of the chair. This lined up with the placement of injuries on the alien’s body, and a wave of self-loathing washed over me as I imagined the scene that brought them about. I should have been there. I should have prevented it. This was unacceptable.

My eyes drifted to a spot beside the bloody carpet, as it appeared that something heavy had been dragged across it. Recently, as it hadn’t quite sprung back yet.

Then I noticed that part of the trail was still visible, and it led around a corner.

I pushed myself to my feet and followed the trail with tensely bated breath, stomach churning in anticipation of what I’d find.

Luckily, it was not a far distance, as the object was too injured to move faster than a snail’s pace. The corpse was bent strangely, limbs twisted around as it dragged itself along the floor, its neck laying at an impossible angle as it did so.

Caught you.

I kicked it in the stomach, sending it sliding across the carpet onto its back. A wet noise left its throat as it tried to say something, but to no avail. Its head lolled to the side, Dỳo’s mask somehow still affixed to it, which unintentionally displayed the cracks that ran through the thick porcelain.

Dỳo was cracked, a spiderweb emanating from where my heel had contacted their face. I’d thought it would have been enough to shatter them into pieces, but no, they weren’t quite broken. The pieces had likely bonded to the dead tissues of the host’s face, which apparently held them together well enough that Dỳo still had rudimentary control over the corpse’s body.

They weren’t quite broken.

I would break them.

I would break them.

My hands seized the host’s ankle, and I began to drag the corpse to the door Dỳo seemed to be attempting to get to. They made an indecent gurgling sound, roughly clawing at the carpet, and I twisted their leg, pulling it clean out of the socket.

Dỳo choked on something in their throat and fell limp. I continued to drag them by their dislocated leg, opening the door with my free hand and pulling them into the room.

It was a bathroom, with a humanoid entity slumped motionlessly in the shower. Letting go of the mangled leg, I approached it. It appeared to be a dead human; not uncommon to find in a home after the Calamity, but it looked rather well-preserved. Something told me that Dỳo had planned to transfer the cracked pieces of their mask onto this one.

I turned back, and the damn thing was trying to crawl away again. I stooped down and grabbed a handful of their host’s hair, then slammed its head into the doorframe.

“You wanted a new body, yes? Your current one is in egregious condition, just look at you. All you do is make disgusting noises and try to delay the inevitable,” I snarled down at them.

They groaned, futilely trying to twist their body out of my grasp. I held fast, dragging them to the shower by the hair, and, due to all their flopping about, face-down while the rest of their body faced the ceiling.

Once close enough, I knelt on their host’s chest and peeled the mask of Dỳo off of its face. Its arms bent backwards to try to reach for me, the mask whispering weakly through my mind, but I was accustomed to the bastard’s tricks– with a sucking noise, the parasite and host separated, the body falling limp once more.

I was only careful in handling the grotesquely carved porcelain because I didn’t want to irreversibly shatter it just yet– I wanted to draw this out. I wanted to hurt it like it had hurt countless others. Like it had hurt my alien.

I would break it mentally before I broke it physically.

My knuckles rapped gently on the door. “6118? May I come in?”

There was a pause before he responded. “Yes.”

I twisted the handle and opened the door, poking my head in and glancing around before slowly stepping into the room. It was sunny outside, but he’d shut his blinds and had the window closed; he sat on his bed, wrapped in a thin blanket as he read a book.

“It’s a gorgeous day, why don’t we go on a walk outside?”

He sniffled. Had he been crying? “The light hurts my eyes.”

“You did say your planet is always cloudy, isn’t it? It makes sense that Earth would be quite bright for you. I can get you some sunglasses, if you want?”

“I don’t… want to leave the house,” he protested quietly, small hands gripping the book as he stared past it, watery eyes unfocused.

“Is this because of what happened last time?” I asked softly.

He remained silent, unmoving except for the trembling of his hands.

“I’ll be right there the entire time,” I reassured him, stepping closer.

“I can’t,” he whimpered, shaking his head.

I thought for a long moment. It would be wrong to push him out of his comfort zone, and so soon after something so traumatic had occurred. And his pigmentless skin would no doubt burn if exposed to the sun for too long, as well as pale and sensitive eyes. But I couldn’t stand to see him curled in on himself so sadly, growing weaker and more depressed all alone in his room.

“Well… could I bring you a better blanket? That one doesn’t look particularly comfortable.”

After a pause, he slowly nodded, and I smiled in relief.

“I’ll be right back,” I informed him as I turned to leave in search of the most optimal blankets we had in the dormitory.

I returned with a large comforter; it was soft and plush, and big enough to wrap his small body in a few times over. He always liked to sleep in odd positions, and at least this way he could stay bundled up as he did so.

When I showed it to him, he seemed a bit surprised. “That has more substance to it than the bed they gave me at the Foundation.”

“They gave you a mattress on the floor, with nothing but a fitted sheet. I could hardly call that a bed.”

“I also had a pillow… though it was rather uncomfortable.”

It caused me great sorrow that they’d neglected to even give him a proper place to sleep, even while I knew their reasoning. He hadn’t had a bedframe because he could hurt himself by slamming himself into it, and he hadn’t had a blanket because he could have used it to strangle himself. But if one is worried about a tarsier breaking its skull due to stress from captivity, should one not try to de-stress the animal instead? To give it enrichment and comfort?

Punishing him for hurting himself would only teach him to hide it, and that was all kinds of unproductive for my goal in healing him. What I needed was to provide him with support, kindness, even love, and so give him less reasons to hurt himself in the first place.

I walked over to him and draped the comforter over his shoulders, then pulled the corners around his body and tucked them in a way that wouldn’t interfere with his book-reading. There was a lot of excess that I would have liked to tuck underneath him, to hopefully make his sitting position more comfortable, but I ventured a guess that he wouldn’t like me to pick him up in order to do so.

It wouldn’t exactly add to a feeling of safety if I did that; he would likely only feel more vulnerable than he already did if I, someone much, much larger, moved him around without any regard to how he felt on the matter. So I let the matter rest as it was, with him more or less wrapped in a much objectively better blanket.

“How’s that?”

“It’s… nice, thank you.”

His face was expressionless, and while I had come to expect this from him, the dark bags under his eyes gave him such a look of broken sadness that wrenched my heart in a grip so vicing that it awoke some kind of deep-seated instinct to smother him in my affections.

I leaned in, my hands coming to rest on his narrow shoulders. I wished to ask a thousand questions, from if he was alright to if there was anything I could do or anything I could get, but as I touched him, he flinched back from me.

And my heart might as well have stopped.

All I wanted was to care for him– no, not wanted, needed– and yet nothing I did seemed to make the cut. I’d already blundered unimaginably, it was no wonder he couldn’t trust me now.

“My– My apologies,” I stammered, pulling back despite every fibre of my being wanting to all but glue to him. “Too close– Of course– You don’t like to be touched. I’m very sorry.”

I quickly moved to the door, opening it with a stiff, tense hand. “Right, well, I’ll be going, it was so lovely to get a moment with you, and again, my apologies.” I left the room with a nervous glance back, shutting the door behind me.

The cloud of misery was back, heavier than before. It felt as if it were choking out even the loveliest of memories, muffling his soft voice. I made for the front door, heading out of the house.

“Do you think this will actually change anything?” Dỳo demanded from where it lay on the floor. Their host’s body had been methodically battered, incised, and twisted, but I’d left the larynx intact.

I didn’t respond, so it tried again.

“You’re mad, positively insane. You’re just doing this for your satisfaction, which is meaningless for an oaf as miserable as you.”

“I am doing this because you deserve it,” I reminded the wretched beast as I brought my heel down on its shin, causing it to grunt in pain and roll over. “This is entirely your fault. Everything that is wrong with my patient is your fault.”

“Maybe you’re just a shitty docto–” it began, before lapsing into a coughing fit when I kicked it in the diaphragm. Its host didn’t need to breathe, having died quite some time ago, but I could still trigger some of its involuntary reflexes.

“Shut your disgusting mouth, unless you want to be turned into a Cured while still awake.”

“What, you’re insecure about your medical malpractice? Who knew the bird man had feelings.”

I reached into my robes, drawing out a scalpel. “As if you’ve ever experienced genuine love.”

It started rapidly shaking its head once realisation hit, crawling backwards. “No, no, don’t tell me all this is love related. Look, I knew you were fond of the little thing, but honest, I didn’t do anything like that, I didn’t–”

Its lies were cut off with a scream as the blade dug into flesh.

After a moment of hesitation, I knocked on the door again. My patient coughed a few times before speaking. “You can come in.”

I opened the door with one hand, holding a steaming cup of tea in the other. Quietly closing the door behind me, I walked over and knelt at his bedside. “Good morning, how are you feeling?”

He sniffled and pulled the comforter tighter around himself. “Like a lot of stuff is in my head.”

“That makes sense; the other UnHumans are experiencing similar symptoms. It seems a cold has been making the rounds. I’ve brought you this.” I cheerfully raised the cup for him to see. “Leaves in hot water. Can you sit up? I’d like to hold it underneath your face, the heat and steam may help clear your congestion.”

He slowly pushed himself into a more upright position, and I rearranged his pillows to support his back. “What about you? Wouldn’t it make sense for you to quarantine me like they did?”

“I’m not the Foundation, 6118, I’m not going to keep you isolated and alone just to prevent giving someone a runny nose.” I sat on the bed next to him, moving the cup below his chin. “Besides, I don’t get sick. There’s no need to worry about spreading an illness to me, alright?”

“I suppose that makes sense.” He inhaled the steam for a moment before continuing. “Sometimes I feel guilty– you’re doing all this taking care of me, and I’m just getting sick and hurt all the time. I don’t know why you do it.”

“I do it because I care about you,” I explained softly. “I want you to be well, and I want to personally see to it that you are well. Please don’t feel guilty, I wouldn’t be doing any of this if it wasn’t the utmost important use of my time.”

He smiled. He smiled! A small, weak smile, but unmistakably a smile. “I suppose so.”

“You suppose!” I exclaimed, surely beaming at that point. “You’d be right in supposing.”

I watched him as he contemplated, appearing to feel a touch better in who knows how long. After a while, he spoke quietly. “Thank you for being so kind to me. I don’t know if anyone has genuinely cared about me before, especially not like you do.”

Light hair fell into his eyes, a curtain he hid behind, but I saw him all the same. He was so… delicate, the comforter he pulled around himself resembling a doll wrapped in foam to protect its fragile features. I was overwhelmed with the impulse to comfort him.

“May I… May I hug you? I don’t know if that’s… strange…” I trailed off into a mumble as I looked off to the side to avoid his gaze, squeezing the cup hard in my hands.

It was a long and heavy silence until he responded. “Yes,” he answered with a nod.

I struggled not to jump up and down with joy, instead electing to set the tea down on his bedside table. After a moment of uncertain hesitation, I placed my arms around him, light enough that I barely touched the comforter he was wrapped in. He didn’t pull away, so I applied a bit more pressure, leaning in closer but not quite enough to touch.

But then he did something unexpected. He inched towards me until his shoulder made light contact with my chest, and after a moment, rested his forehead against me as well. I waited for him to pull back, push me off, anything like that, but he didn’t. And slowly, surely, I let myself hold him more firmly, until I was properly… hugging him.

He relaxed against me, and it was as if my heart swelled to five times the space my chest had for it. I didn’t dare move, in case this was all an illusion or a dream or otherwise hallucinated event, and doing so would cause it to shatter. He didn’t move, either, until he sighed and brought one of his hands out of the comforter, placing it on my side as he sank in a little further.

It was like when a cat trusted a human enough to put its chin down on their arm, except exponentially and colossally more intense. I squeezed him ever so gently, trying not to explode with excitement even though I certainly felt like doing so.

My first genuine hug, and it was with an angel. How immensely lucky I was.

I held the shower head over Dỳo’s host, absentmindedly spraying the bloody corpse down with freezing cold water.

“Push yourself over, there’s a necrotising laceration on your shoulder.”

“As if I can move without arms!” it snarled back.

“You’re awfully ungrateful for someone missing a large portion of their body mass. I could leave your wounds to fester and rot, yet I choose not to. You’re caked in filth, don’t you see the runoff? Would you rather have that in your wounds?”

“Better yet, don’t rip me apart in the first place!”

I kicked it in the side. “Move. Over.”

Surprisingly, it shuffled its legs around enough that it managed to expose its shoulder. I held the icy stream over it, and Dỳo hissed in pain as the water no doubt stung it to the bone.

“I imagine that’s what he felt over weeks, months, even years,” I stated pointedly.

“What?” it grunted back.

“You no doubt noticed that the alien you abducted is covered in long scars, similar to the wounds you inflicted upon him yourself.”

“How does a tiny cut compare to any of the shit you’re pulling?”

“Choose your words carefully, connard.”

“I barely scratched him!”

I ground the sharp edge of my heel into an injury on its leg, but I was in more of a contemplative mood than a tortuous one. “First of all, that’s a load of fucking rubbish. Secondly, even a scratch is unacceptable, which you would understand if you knew the first thing about his biology.”

“He’s not tissue paper–”

“For a telepath, you can’t seem to tell when someone is in the middle of a thought.”

“I can tell, I just don’t give a shit!”

“You very well should give a shit!” I yelled. “Is it that hard to let go of your gigantic ego for sixty seconds? To listen for once, instead of te branler?”

“Would you like me to?” Dỳo hollered back.

“I find you repulsive, pute! In your goddamn dreams!” I spat in disgust. “Now shut your miserable mouth, or you’ll see how well you can move sans legs, do you understand?”

It grumbled for a moment before falling quiet again.

“He’s not made of literal tissue paper, but even someone as unobservant and dim-witted as you could realise his small size, yes?”

“I got a small host to match, what’s your point?”

“Your ‘small host’ was genetically predetermined to be that height and size, but he is of a unique species that isn’t quite the same.” I turned off the water and drew a hunting knife that I’d placed in the bag at my hip. “You see, Keplers have highly evolved nervous systems, so advanced that they grow faster than the organism can, until it finally fills out, the neurons evenly distributing throughout the skin and muscle tissues. He grew all the neurons, but never developed the body mass for them to properly spread out.”

It was still lying on its front, trying to bend its head around to see what I was doing. “Yak, yak, what’s all the biology lesson for?”

“What that means is this,” I explained, lightly but firmly pressing the tip of the blade into a patch of exposed skin on the host’s back. “Would feel, to him, something like this.” I swapped my precise grip for a fisted one, making a deep gouge into the flesh. “How many times did you cut him? Or, if you don’t want to say, how many scars do you think he has in total?”

My patient sat on my bed, while I was across from him in a chair. I had a book open and was reading from it, explaining the different words and sentence structures as I went. He’d expressed frustration that he couldn’t pronounce English words very well, with a vocal system not built to speak the language, so we would take turns reading aloud.

He had started to stutter and stammer a lot less, and even though he still struggled, his pronunciation became clearer and more accurate. I had long since grown accustomed to his accent, but with the improvements he was making, the other UnHumans were better able to understand him as well.

The goal, however, as I’d explained to him, wasn’t to force or change him to sound like everyone else. I quite liked his alien voice, airy and softened by the Pacific-Northwesterners he’d learned English from. It was quiet and soothing, like a cool towel placed around one’s neck on a hot summer day.

I also quite liked spending time with him. His smile when I praised him for his proficiency was just so precious, and I meant it– I was endlessly impressed by how he could pick up a language so rapidly, and understand it, even if he couldn’t quite replicate the sounds with his own mouth.

He began to rub his eyes, head lowering slightly as if it was difficult to keep it up. I paused where I was reading and looked up from the book.

“Are you tired?” I asked gently.

The alien nodded. “I keep sleeping at odd times. Sorry, I don’t mean to cut you off. You can keep reading if you want, I like listening to you.”

“If you need to rest, please do so. We can always read more later, and besides, you’ve done quite admirably.” I thought for a moment. “Would you like to lay down where you are? I can read to you until you fall asleep.”

A small smile formed on his lips, much to my delight. “I would like that, thank you.”

I pulled the covers back, and he got under, gingerly placing his head on my pillow. I draped the blanket over him, then brushed some hair out of his eyes, tucking the strands behind his ear.

“Let me know if you need warmer blankets, alright? I tend to run hot, so mine are rather thin, but it’s no trouble to get you more.”

“You’re letting me sleep in your bed, that’s more than enough.”

It was my turn to smile. “What’s mine is yours. You can sleep here any time you want.”

“Are you sure?” he asked.

“Absolutely.” I wanted to mention something about his nightmares, and that he could come to me when he had them, but it felt like overstepping my bounds for the moment. “Are you comfortable? Would you like me to continue with the book now?”

“I’m lovely at the moment. Please do.”

So I read to him until he was fast asleep, slow heartbeats and steady breathing as he rested in my bed. I watched him silently, enamoured with his sleeping form.

Normally, I would have gotten up and gone to the house that contained Dỳo. But right then, I was much more inclined to appreciate what I could protect– the small alien in my bed– than what I could harm.

That’s just it, isn’t it? I thought to myself. He thinks I’m teaching him, and technically I am, but he’s teaching me in a much more profound way.

All I’d done was harm, all I’d wrought upon the world was suffering. It was my nature, my very being, what every cell of my morose body was formed to do. I’d killed the people I’d cared about with my own hands, even a child that looked up to me, one I almost called my daughter, simply because they had gotten Sick. I sowed death and pain in my wake, the former of infected humans and the latter of their mourning loved ones.

Until him.

Because now, I knew what it was like to love someone. I knew the soul-crushing panic and devastation that came from seeing him hurt, the vow to do anything for him, for his happiness.

Something I hadn’t felt for any other, and I felt it for an alien. But that’s just what it was, wasn’t it? I’d never let myself get close to a human; not colleagues nor acquaintances, and definitely not those who’d attempted to pursue me, because it was all but a matter of time before they fell ill.

The little humanoid in my bed was not the same. I developed a connection, a fixation, an… attraction.

I averted my eyes from him, as if it would stop him from looking like that. Always the most divine in a room, and all he wanted was to not be stared at, as if it were easy. There was a reason people stared, and it most certainly wasn’t to leer.

But I was such a monster, and I’d thought myself incapable of… that.

The strange thing was, despite its animal nature, he made me feel like a man again. Like a wild creature being civilised, like the beast who’d been kissed by the beauty.

If only…

I sat on the floor of the bathroom, Dỳo laying a metre away against the wall.

“You haven’t hurt me yet. Why?” it asked, breaking the silence.

“My mind’s on better things today. Besides, your host is already so torn to pieces that it would be virtually meaningless to add to the agony.”

“So why are you here?”

“You know why.”

It sighed. “Tell me anyway.”

“It’s time to end things. I was never going to let you go, and I’m done tormenting you, so it’s time for your decommissioning. That’s basic deductive reasoning.”

“Why now?”

I thought about it for a moment. “Because your effect on him has lessened. What you’ve done is no longer so traumatising that he’s unable to enjoy life. He’s healing, and he’s learning how to move on. I need to move on with him.”

“Not because I deserve the mercy? Not because you want to put me out of my misery?”

“Oh, no, not at all.” I chuckled scornfully. “If it were up to me, you’d be put through the worst agony imaginable for all of eternity, but that’s hell’s job.”

“Who knew you were religious,” it scoffed.

“You would, if you ever paid genuine attention to me. All you ever cared to learn were pieces of information you could use against me, feeble attempts to manipulate and blackmail me into something that would do your bidding. You’ve never cared about me, and I’ve never cared about you. That is stating it in the least violent way possible.”


We lapsed back into silence.

It was a long moment before I stood up and walked over to Dỳo’s disfigured host. I crouched by it and dug my fingers under the edge of the mask, attempting to peel it away from the corpse’s face. I didn’t care too much if it broke into sections at this point, but it would be more fun to kill the bastard all at once. Though, there was something to be said for removing sections of the porcelain until the consciousness of the mask no longer existed.

I did wonder how much of Dỳo had to exist in order for it to possess a host, and at one point I had worried if breaking it into shards would be enough. The solution I came up with was simply to reduce it to a gravel-like material; small enough that it would not be able to properly stick to a host, but large enough that it couldn’t be picked up by the air.

Just before I’d fully detached the mask from its host, it used the larynx to say one last thing.

“This won’t be the end, you know. I have a will.”

“And I have a way,” I responded as I threw the piece of porcelain to the side. It clattered on the floor, and I stood, peering down at the object. Blood smeared across the bathroom’s tiles as it slid, dark and vile, but the gory sight didn’t even remotely compare to what it’d done to the one I cared most about.

My heel came down on it, and a great, disembodied shrieking sound emanated from Dỳo’s form as it broke into shards. And again, and again, until it was a pile of sharp pebbles. I ground my boot into the remains of the grotesque abomination, relieved that hundreds if not thousands of years of malevolence and tyranny was finally put to a close.

I knew it expected me to feel something greater. Shock, possibly regret. Contemplation over whether my hatred towards it justified taking its life. Even a panicked attempt to piece it back together, or to throw myself sobbing at its remains.

It would be foolish to think such a thing. Every move I took was calculated, precise as the incisions I made during surgery, and I would never bring so much intentional and methodic suffering to someone if I had the slightest bit of affection for them in my heart.

I closed and locked the bathroom door behind me– it wouldn’t be enough to stop a highly motivated person from simply breaking the hinges, but I doubted anyone would come looking. Anyone unfortunate enough to know Dỳo would be relieved in hearing of its passing.

The air was fresh outside the house, crisp. Light. It was turning to fall, and that meant weather that my patient was more accustomed to. We would be able to go outside more, take walks, maybe even drive around to see what sights the area had to offer.

So, despite just having committed a severe crime, I walked home with a smile on my face.

My palms stung from the ritual I’d carried out, but the feeling soon subsided into more of a tingle. Anxiously, I reached for the small animal in the cage on my desk, a young rabbit. My hands hesitantly contacted its pelt, then sunk in until my fingers touched its skin.

It sniffed my wrist, then tried to squirm out of my grasp. I let it jump around for a moment, then tried again, and again. The animal wasn’t very happy that I kept poking at it, but the important thing was that it was alive. Alive. I hadn’t killed a living creature through direct contact with my hands, miraculously, for the first time in my entire life.

I felt like sobbing from relief. I’d used it as a tool, but after all, it was a curse. Try as I might’ve, I was unable to control the ability, which brought the unfortunate end of many lives.

But now? Now it was gone, vanquished.

I hastily brought the rabbit outside, released it into the wild, then hurried over to my alien’s room. It was finally time, my time, our time. He would be the first one to hear the good news, the first person I’d touch with my own skin.

I was done with the pointless killing, the curing. I was done trying to fix the world, focusing on all the horrible and disgusting things in it, when I had the fix right in front of me. He was why I wanted to get better, what I wanted to live for. So I would, I finally would, and I’d do it with him.

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