Carbon Copy Demo

This utterly disgusting body horror piece is intended to be expanded upon. I'll do that eventually. Then it'll just be "Carbon Copy."

Quill gained consciousness vomiting on the cold tile of the post office floor, surrounded by a crowd of shouting, puking people. His sick burned his throat and nose as his lean body retched and thrashed uncontrollably, spewing sour liquid in a messy arc around his head. The hot smell of his own vile spittum threatened to overwhelm the scent of the rapidly spreading pools of blood and acid the others were expelling.

Thick, black, coagulated chunks of what Quill guessed had once been his stomach caught on his teeth as he choked on the sour mixture of digestive fluid and liquified organ. Rubbery balls of something that tasted like rotting fish and felt like tapioca ruptured in his mouth, squirting an uncomfortably hot fluid all over his tongue. Spitting hysterically, Quill managed to roll onto one side to dig at the slick husks of flesh that had ruptured in his mouth like awful black cysts. Though it only took a few moments for him to clear his maw, the flavor of his own putrid organs seemed to last for an eternity.

Still spitting and gagging, Quill managed to rise to his feet. His vision swam as he staggered over weeping, groaning people, dying in pools of dissolving organ and semi-digested lunch. To his left and right, only check-out counters stained red and black with gore. Straight ahead, however, daylight streamed through a pair of slightly smudged double doors. Agonized moans trailed after him as he burst through the doors onto the sidewalk in front of the post office, where he stumbled and fell, rolling onto his back as he did.

"Woah, easy," a man in a jogging outfit said as he approached Quill's stricken form. "What's happening? Did someone go-"

Quill interrupted him by gagging briefly on a slurry of blackened, marble-sized orbs and stomach acid before spilling the mixture down his chin. The man uttered a choked combination of an expletive and a scream, recoiling from Quill as his eyes rolled back and the remnants of his gastrointestinal tract made their way out of his mouth, covered in a foamy layer of aerated blood and malformed shit. Color drained from Quill’s reality as his consciousness faded. Laying on his back on hot concrete, rapidly digesting organ steaming on his chest, Quill entered the last few seconds of his life twitching in soundless agony. Death seemed to abandon him for these seconds as every sensation transformed into a pinprick of white-hot pain across every inch of his bleeding form. Then, mercifully, when there was nothing left for his brain to process except terror and a suffering he quite literally would have previously been unable to even imagine, Quill finally experienced the endless exhalation of dying.

“Which one was this one, again?” murmured muffled Male Voice Number One.

“Thirty-six,” replied a similarly muffled Male Voice Number Two.

“Jesus,” muttered One. “Are they all, y’know,” he trailed off, then made a strangled retching noise.

“Uh-huh,” Two grunted back affirmatively. “Corp says all of ‘em need to split ‘n’ scan. And FRCA says I don’t have to anymore.”

“Yeah, great,” One said. “Get outta here. Leave me to do the back-half alone. Asshole.”

“Far as corporate’s concerned, it’s a disability, same as yours,” Two barked. His voice was distant now.

“Nicotine addiction is not a disability!” One shouted as a door opened and shut. “Fucker. Whatever,” One said to himself, “guess we better get to work, eh, sport?” He slapped the bodybag containing Quill’s remains affectionately on the shoulder. “Ahhhhh, Jesus,” he sighed as he reached for the zipper, “I gotta file for a transf-”

One froze as the zipper passed the bridge of Quill’s nose. Something about Quill’s body spooked him, but for a moment, he couldn’t quite grasp what. Then, a hypothesis: One grabbed a flashlight off the instrument tray beside him in a hazmat-gloved hand, and shone it in Quill’s eyes.

Quill’s pupils contracted, and One’s eyes went wide behind his single-panel glass faceplate. He took a step back and reached for the radio strapped to his toolbelt with a shaking hand. He had almost reached it when Quill’s body suddenly jerked sideways, startling One so badly that he backed into the occupied autopsy table behind him.

One’s backstep put his rear foot over the crossbar connecting the pairs of wheels at the head and foot of the table. When he shifted to put his weight onto it, his front foot came up and his lower back collided with the table’s edge. Off-balance, One fell backwards, pressing all his weight onto the edge of the table, which pivoted at the fulcrum created by his boot and the crossbar pinned in front of it. It hit the ground first, spilling its disemboweled occupant onto the floor moments before the small of One’s back smashed into the metal bar that formed the table’s frame. A sickening crack rang out, and One screamed in pain and surprise as he realized he could no longer move his legs. Through his sudden panic, One was able to slide into a seated position, back to the underside of the now-horizontal autopsy table.

Quill’s curious hands pulled at the zipper of his bodybag until he had a half-torso sized hole through which to climb out. The air smelled harsh, sterile. The unmistakable, overwhelming smell of bleach and antibacterial spray flooded his sinuses, sending sharp pains up through his already sore forehead as he emerged from the bag. Rank fluid dripped from him as he stepped free and rose to his feet to look down at One, who was now pushing his panic back down into someplace manageable.

Quill watched as One’s fingers clasped around the radio, and then he felt a sensation. At the base of his skull, a tightness suddenly formed. A strange kind of twitching ran up his arms in waves. His vision changed, and the world around him seemed to suddenly wash out, except for One. He was almost too bright. He was glowing, vibrant. Quill’s flesh bristled all over as the hard-coded human instinct to pluck a fine, juicy fruit from a low-hanging tree took control and he darted forward to grab One’s wrist. Their gazes locked through One’s faceplate, and if anyone were able to ask him later, he would have described Quill’s gaze as inhumanly hungry.

Quill wrenched One’s hand off the radio and up, over his head. One swore and swung his opposite fist up for Quill’s temple, where it collided with a meaty thud.

“What the fuck?” gasped One as Quill, utterly unaffected by the impact, held his gaze. Then, with an insectile quickness and precision, Quill snatched One’s fist and wrenched it around above his head too, next to his opposite hand.

Quill cocked his head curiously and stared down at his subdued prey. This was the first time he had ever done this, and no one had trained him in it. In fact, he realized, no one had ever trained him in anything that he could remember. No schooling, no parents, no mentors, no friends, no family - Quill’s history had suddenly become an empty book. Even knowledge of a self - an identity of any kind - was absent but for a name: Quill Burnes. But, he realized, shaking his head, it didn’t matter. Universities didn’t offer courses in indulging overpowering urges anyway.

The tightness at the base of his skull had begun to tingle like an erection. A new physical need had sprung up in Quill’s body, one just as demanding as arousal. Just as demanding, he determined, as hunger. In the same way that his stomach once told him he needed to eat, Quill felt some new flesh living in his upper vertebrae tell him he needed to meld, to join, to coagulate and yield and take. One’s vulnerable body felt to Quill like it was vibrating at an impossibly high frequency, sending thousands of tiny waves of muted pleasure up his arms from where his hands held One’s wrists. On instinct, he squeezed them a little, and a sensation very much like that of a building orgasm began to form between his shoulderblades.

One shrieked, startling Quill from his reverie. In so doing, though, he only made Quill grip harder, which made the burning sensation around his wrists much worse. Every nanometer of Quill’s skin burned One down to the bone as if he wasn’t wearing a hazmat suit - or anything else, for that matter - at all. Face contorted in pain, One stared up through his glass faceplate into Quill’s eyes as he tried weakly to shake his arms free. But all he saw there was a lust that knew no satiation.

Something was flowing out of One and into Quill, of that Quill was certain. His growing spine-orgasm and tingling sense of tightness in his skin assured him of that, but it wasn’t enough. He needed more. Growling, overwhelmed with desire, Quill squeezed One’s wrists until his knuckles went white, eliciting beautiful, agonized, throat-tearing screams of terror and pain. The space between his shoulderblades throbbed once, twice, then twitched and wrenched into an orgasmic cramp. Warmth and pleasure flowed forth from Quill’s shoulders, down his rapidly melting, shifting arms, and into One’s wrists, which were now also Quill’s wrists. In mere seconds, his hands had melted into a grasping putty, and when his spinegasm began, they sank into One’s wrists, melting them too, bringing them together.

One was staring up at the (wound? seam? appendage?) place where his hands once were. The fire that ran inside the bones in his arms had spread to those in his chest and abdomen, and were quickly making their way through his pelvis to his legs. This was when One learned what it is to truly suffer. Every fiber of his being was experiencing the invasion of Quill’s aberrant flesh, and not one single cell of nerve would allow him to forget. Mouth locked open in a scream that made his throat bleed, One felt the burning turn to suction as it reached the tips of his toes. Just as suddenly as Quill’s hands had melded with his wrists, One became aware that his meat was being sucked into the space where his bones had once been. Quill’s searching tendrils had devoured and replaced every bone leading down from One’s hands to his feet, and now those same tendrils were latching onto, dissolving, and suckling down his flesh. The last coherent thought One experienced was the realization that his boneways had been fully transformed into an external digestive tract for the ex-corpse called Burnes, Quill. After that, only terror and agony in their purest, most distilled forms.

Each ounce of One’s pureed flesh made Quill’s upper back throb with pleasure. The concoction of liquified human life nourished and filled him, made his skin feel tight and his newly acquired desire fulfilled. He found himself unable to look away as One began to turn inside-out from the feet up, boots, hazmat suit, and all. As his hips and pelvis disappeared into the sucking maw of his own chest cavity, One had his last coherent thought and was then reduced to a gibbering pile of twitching, soon-to-be-consumed meat. Then, with anticlimactic suddenness, the maw reached One’s collar-bone, precisely between each shoulder, and stopped. The head that One’s shattered consciousness was trapped within was pulled taut between the two competing arm-probosci for a brief second before, with a wet cracking sound that made Quill’s hips shudder in unison with his spine, it split vertically in half. One was set free at last from this Earth as his skull was ripped asunder, tearing his brain and sending each hemisphere splattering to the tile floor below. Each half of the carcass dangled and flopped wildly as Quill’s arms slurped them up like cheap spaghetti.

Pleasure faded from Quill’s arms and back as his hands reformed from the gelatinous substance that now composed him. But as he looked down at the halves of One’s brain, still shiny-slick with brain juice, a new desire pulsed at the very center of his own skull. Giving in to instinct, Quill knelt and examined the wrinkled grey matter before him. It seemed to whisper One’s voice. Without his noticing, Quill’s fingers began to quiver and stretch, reaching and grasping for the meat all on their own. It was only when they had nearly touched the damn thing that Quill noticed. He swore and shook his hands, causing his fingers to snake dejectedly back to their rightful size. But after a moment’s contemplation, Quill concluded that they were probably correct, and grabbed the last traces of One’s existence in each hand. As his palms softened to absorb the brain, Quill learned that One’s true name was Secil Freemaster.

A childhood marked by tragedy, Secil had been eight years old when he watched the beloved family dog get smashed by a garbage truck at the local park. Sobbing, he had scooped up the dog’s remains and run home, but arrived to find his parents dead too. Purely coincidental, of course - an unrelated robbery gone wrong - but trauma rarely tries to remain coherent, and Secil’s was no exception. So began a lifelong fascination with death, one which continued two years later when, after being taken in by his aunt and uncle, Secil’s aunt was killed when a drunk driver t-boned the family station wagon on the way home from church. Wife and faith alike slaughtered, his uncle shot himself in the head six months later. Secil had stayed home from school by hiding on the roof, and was thus given an accidentally perfect vantage point to watch his uncle blow his brains out in the back yard.

He lived with his grandparents until he was seventeen, when he came home from school just in time to see his grandfather emerge, on fire, from the burning home. Grandfather’s screams would echo through Secil’s head every time he heard, saw, or smelled fire for the rest of his life. Grandma’s charred skeleton would later be recovered from a windowless bathroom she had inadvertently become trapped within. His eighteenth birthday occurred before CPS had time to rehome him, so he crashed on friends’ couches until his first semester in undergrad started. He had known immediately what he wanted to do: Criminal autopsy. Figure out exactly how the victim died, exactly how long they suffered, and exactly who did it to them.

He had only become licensed a year prior. Still wet behind the ears when Quill showed up. But his youth and naivete made him sweeter, Quill thought, as Secil’s memories were tucked away.

Quill was still squatting next to the fallen table where Secil had died when he heard footsteps approaching beyond the double door entryway to the examination chamber. Secil’s memories told him that these footsteps belonged to Kenneth Brant, who Quill knew as Two.

“Shit, shit, shit,” Quill hissed as he glanced around for somewhere to hide. All the autopsy tables were hollow beneath, and the only contents of the room were the shelves and counters along the walls. With a shrug of chagrin, Quill stood to jog over next to the double doors, hoping to catch Ken unawares. As he stood, however, he caught a glimpse of something blue on his arms. Closer inspection yielded no insight; his arms looked just as fleshy as they had before. He was just about to abandon the endeavor when he noticed his skin rippling with each step he heard Ken take. Further, he noticed that when he breathed deep and let go, the ripples got bigger, seeming to tear and writhe on their own. Beneath them lay the blue hazmat suit Secil had been wearing.

Glancing at the doors, then back at his arms, then back at the doors, then down at his arms again, Quill decided to take a gamble. He shut his eyes, took a really deep breath, and tried to think Secil-y thoughts. He thought of Secil’s favorite professor (Dr. Czernobog, who was an asshole with a heart of also asshole, but who was also a genius), he thought of Secil’s favorite food (eggplant ravioli), he thought of Secil’s favorite girlfriend (his left hand), and when the double doors banged open, he opened his eyes and looked through the glass faceplate of Secil’s hazmat suit to catch eye contact with Ken.

“Goddammit, dude,” Ken yelped at the sight of the room. “Are you fucking drunk? What’d you do, push that one over? An-and, God, and for fuck’s sake dude, it had to be one of the finished ones, didn’t it? Fuck!”

“Sorry,” Quill said, his voice alien and Secil-y sounding. “I, uh. I fell.”

“Oh yeah?” Ken barked exasperatedly. “Look, I’m not cleaning that shit up.”

He was approaching Quill now, gesticulating as he walked and talked. Quill’s eyes locked on to the closest hand, and his mind stilled. Now he would keep Ken talking until…

“You hear me big guy?” Ken yelled. He snapped his fingers in front of Quill’s face and said, “I swear to God, I’ll file a rep-”

Quill snatched Ken’s snapping hand and yanked on it, pulling Ken into his chest. They fell together as they collided, and when they landed, Quill wrapped his arms and legs around Ken as tightly as he could.

“What the fuck, man?” Ken shouted as he tried to squirm free. “Are you some kinda fuckin’ pervert or somethin’? What the fuck, what the FU-

Ken’s voice had risen in volume and pitch as Quill’s fleshy facsimile of Secil’s biohazard suit softened and started to reform Ken’s body everywhere they touched. Just like Quill and Secil’s agonizing deaths, Ken felt each of his cells turn to searing pain hotter than the depths of Hell, one after another as Quill’s flesh digested and absorbed his own. In a way, though, he was far luckier than Secil: Quill’s new technique for subduing and digesting worked much, much faster. Ken’s sanity shattered almost immediately, and though he did get to experience having his every sense turn to the most excruciating, pure, unavoidable and unmanageable suffering, Quill managed to make his way all the way up into Ken’s skull and brainpan within about thirty seconds.

Something pricked Quill’s mind when the devouring process consumed Ken’s throat. He didn’t stop screaming as his vocal cords were melted, producing a distorted, animalistic squeal that burned itself into Quill’s memory. Quickly thereafter, Ken’s memories flooded Quill’s mind, too, and in only a few seconds more, all traces of Ken and Secil’s human forms were mere nutrients for Quill’s exotic new existence.

From their combined memories, Quill learned that he was in a morgue owned by Silfina Industries, a biotech company focused on producing vaccines. Their lives yielded no suggestions as to how he had gotten there, but they did suggest that a third coworker, Mr. Srinivasa, would be coming by for a shift change soon. He would enter the hallway outside the morgue from an elevator that led up to the ground floor lobby, where a security checkpoint would stop-and-frisk any personnel entering or exiting the building. Shit, he thought. Getting out would require him to hold Secil’s form through the search, in enough detail that his pockets could be checked. Would they even let him leave in the hazmat suit? After a moment’s thought, Quill concluded that he would need to take a new shape to leave the building. One in business casual, ideally.

The morgue was on basement level four. Basement level three was, according to Ken, a “boring place for boring people,” which his visual memories yielded to be a wind-pattern analysis lab. Floor two housed a set of office suites - populated with “the pointy-haired bosses,” Secil chimed in - and floor one was used as storage. So, seeking a pointy-haired boss to emulate, Quill found himself wearing the Secilsuit, experimentally shifting his hands from his, to Secil’s gloves, and back again as he rode the elevator.

A ding sounded, and a mechanical voice informed Quill that the elevator had stopped at “Level. Three.” Wary, he shifted his hands back into Secil’s and waited.

The doors slid open with a soft rustling sound, and a gorgeous blonde woman wearing a white labcoat and small, circular glasses stepped aboard. The nametag clipped to her lapel read “ALBERTSON, CHRISTINE.” A glance down at her waist informed Quill that she was loosely carrying a manilla folder labeled “AERATION TRIAL PT. 1.” She bumped the button for the lobby, then took position next to Quill, each staring straight ahead.

Tension jangled up and down Quill’s nerves. His heightened sense of smell informed him that Christine had eaten an omelet for breakfast with ham, cheese, and peppers; that she was about thirty years old; and that she was currently menstruating. The coppery scent of her blood made his spine ache, and it took everything in him not to simply devour her right there and then. But this was too risky, he had already decided. Ken had been relatively clean, but Secil had left a huge mess behind. Even if he managed to get her completely absorbed before the elevator doors opened next, odds were decent that her death would splash blood on the elevator walls, and that certainly wouldn’t go over well with the security team at lobby-level.

They had reached floor two, and Quill had taken a full step out of the elevator when his concentration broke. Something rippled through his back foot. He prayed Christine wasn’t looking down, but-

“Careful big fella,” she said. “That boot’s gonna trip ya.”

Quill’s pulse thumped loudly in his temples as he pulled his back foot out of the elevator and glanced down at it. She wasn’t using a euphemism; “his” boot really was untied.

“Thanks,” he grunted over his shoulder before taking a knee to re-tie it as the elevator doors slid shut behind him. It was only after fumbling the knot twice that he remembered that all of his clothes were part of him, too. A moment’s impulse made the laces shoot back into the boot before re-emerging, tied, with a wet squelch. Footwear situation thusly resolved, Quill stood back up and inspected his surroundings.

He was standing on a thinly carpeted floor in a rectangular chamber. Two elevators were laid into the wall behind him and the wall directly opposite. To his left was a wall with a bulletin board on it (populated with neon-colored fliers advertising things like “company volleyball,” “corporate meet-and-greet”s, and “range-day rebate”s) and to his right, a T-intersection with hallways leading off on either side. Signs indicated that suites 0201-0217 ran down the left corridor while 0218-0238 ran down the right. With a shrug, Quill chose the 0218-0238 block, and turned right.

The hallway proceeded about fifteen feet before turning left. After the turn, the corridor stretched far, far away. The carpet pattern and the distance combined to give Quill a brief touch of vertigo. As he walked down the hall, he glanced at the crack under each door, searching for one that was occupied. Finally, suite 0233 gave him what he wanted: light streaming through underneath promised prey within. He knocked a short rhythm on the door.

“Come inside, sit down,” called a male voice from within. Quill obliged, pushing the door open.

The office space was not large, but it was home-y. A large wooden desk occupied much of the space, strewn across with papers and piles of folders. Pens, paperclips, highlighters, and loose sticky-notes littered the surface. Behind the desk, sat in an anemic-looking office chair, was a middle-aged man wearing a black polo and khakis. His hair was buzzed down into a military-style high-and-tight that failed utterly to conceal the streaks of grey that had begun to form. Enormous biceps pulled his sleeves taut, and just below the sleeve line, a barbed wire tattoo circled each arm. His hawkish face was thin and wrinkled with scowl lines, and a five o’clock shadow ran from his cheekbones to the underside of his jaw. A placard on the desk indicated that his name was Bryan Ironsides.

“Any relation?” asked Quill as he entered the room.

“What?” barked Bryan, face contorting into the scowl that his lined face strongly suggested was his default expression.

“The actor,” mumbled Quill - though Secil’s baritone made it more of a growl - “Michael Ironsides. Any relation?”

Bryan rolled his eyes upwards as if seeking aide from heaven. “No, Cutter. I, associate director of Silfina’s public relations and general punching bag of the c-suite am not related to famed Canadian actor Michael Ironside. Singular.”

“Oh, I see,” Quill accidentally growled again, “my bad.” He swung the door shut behind him.

“No, no,” said Bryan, “leave it cracked.”

“This conversation is privileged,” Quill growled once more, this time intentionally.

Bryan raised an eyebrow. “What could the autopsy team possibly have to tell me that’s privileged?”

As the door clicked shut behind him, Quill’s upper-spine “erection” began to tingle again. The tightness at the base of his skull was back, too, and his vision washed out but for Bryan, who glowed all over like an angel. He took a shuffling step towards the desk, jaw working left and right, eyes unblinking, locked into Bryan’s gaze.

“Cutter,” said Bryan, a warning tone creeping into his voice, “I need an explanation.”

Quill slouched, and his arms hung limp from his shoulders as he shuffled his way to the desk, staring Bryan down the whole way. When he arrived, he leaned forward on his hands, his whole upper body hanging over the desk, forcing Bryan to crane his neck upwards to look him in the eye. Quill’s entire body was trembling with anticipation now. An excitement that couldn’t decide if it wanted to be hunger or lust was pulsing through his being. Bryan smelled of sweat, whey protein, and waning testosterone. His musculature seemed almost effervescent, bubbling and twitching beneath his thin dermal layer with each pump of his heart. Quill’s jaw went slack, and a dribble of saliva slipped off his lower lip, dangling by a thin string of mucus.

“I’m gonna call security,” Bryan said as he went to reach for the desk phone. “You’re clearly having some kind of episode, and-”

Quill lunged for Bryan’s hand, flinging himself bodily up and onto the desk. He caught Bryan’s hand and rolled with it into Bryan’s body, knocking the chair backwards and onto the floor. Bryan shouted something as they fell, but Quill wasn’t listening anymore. As they landed together, Quill yielded his flesh (Secil’s hazmat suit, his own threadbare hoodie, his torso, Ken’s torso) and sank his grasping melt-flesh into Bryan’s vulnerable body. Bryan managed to scream for roughly half of a second before Quill melted his way through Bryan’s ribcage and consumed his lungs, putting a stop to his noise-making capabilities forever.

Bryan was acutely aware that Quill’s digestive tendrils were spreading all throughout his flesh. Muscle, bone, and nerve seared with a hideous pain he had never known as his body was dissolved from the inside-out. Each second seemed an eternity as Quill ate through him; first through his torso, then down, through his genitals, his legs, and then, at last, up his throat and into his head. In his final moments, Bryan’s world was one of endless suffering.

Quill shakily stood as the last remnants of Bryan’s skull sank into his body. Then the memories overpowered him, and he fell, nauseous, sweating, and trembling to his knees, clutching his head. His brain ached. Pulsing waves of pressure rolled through it as Bryan’s life integrated into his (and Secil’s and Ken’s).

Bryan was ex-military. He had served in the Gulf War, and had a head for combat. No-nonsense, no feelings, no-nothing but devotion to his cause. He had taken pride in his dedication to his orders, to his tasks. Although he never rose beyond petty officer, Bryan spent twelve years shooting at foreigners for Uncle Sam. Killed more than his fair share, too. Repressed memories of a tooth-necklace he had made as a trophy tickled the underside of Quill’s brain.

Said tooth-necklace was what wound up getting him out of the military. Turns out, commanding officers aren’t particularly fond of war crimes. But his CO respected him (weird and frightening though he was) and managed to convince him to retire when his tour ended the following month. Honorably discharged, Bryan was hired onto Silfina’s security team as a squad leader. That position lasted one month. During the shift that would end up being his last, Bryan was taunted by a teenager on the street outside the corporate headquarters. According to Bryan’s most recent memory of him, that teenager was now paralyzed.

Seeking to retain their asset but protect themselves against liability, Silfina’s c-suite moved Bryan to the public relations department as a form of ironic punishment. That led him to work on marketing for the Divinity Program, which in turn meant he had to regularly meet with the Program’s department heads. Drs. Evans, Phillips, Yuri, and-

The ache in Quill’s skull became a sharp bolt of agony. It seemed as though his brain would split, explode, self-obliterate from the inside as he probed Bryan’s memories of the Program. Then, just when he thought he could bear not one second more, Quill saw, and Quill knew.

Doctor number four’s full name was Dr. Quill Burnes.

The next thing Quill knew, he was regaining consciousness on his back on the floor behind Bryan’s desk. As he sat up, he looked down at his arms and saw that they were thick, muscular, and each had a barbed wire ring tattooed around the bicep. Apparently, he assessed, he had become Bryan during the feeding. This was convenient, since he intended to wear him out of the building. It did worry him slightly that his body hadn’t shifted, by default, into his own form, but he chose to ignore that fear for the time being. He stood, rubbing his temples and blinking hard to get the sleep-goop from his eyes. Then, with a start, he realized that Bryan’s eyes weren’t goopy. They were near-sighted. He must have been wearing contacts, which were now almost certainly being gently expelled from his body as dust somewhere. Fuck, he thought to himself. This threw a wrench in his whole plan to use the Bryansuit to get past security.

“Whatever,” he grunted aloud, trying out Bryan’s voice. “It’ll be fine. Just head through the security line, get patted down, and walk right on out the front doors.”

Even to himself, this sounded unconvincingly simple. But, lacking any other plan, Quill made his way out of Bryan’s office, down the hall, and into an empty elevator heading up to the lobby.

Upon the opening of the elevator doors, Quill found that the lobby was a large, open, oval space with a high ceiling, easily several stories high. The elevator bank was at the back of the lobby, behind a small check-in counter. Occupying the massive space in front of the check-in counter was the security checkpoint, which was composed of a series of extendable cordone-belt posts, arranged to create “in” lines and “out” lines, and several metal detectors. Armed security personnel filled the area, lining the cordones and staffing the metal detector. Quill decided, from a quick estimate, that there were easily twenty guards present. With a nervous sigh, he emerged from the elevator in the Bryansuit, and entered the left-most “out” line.

Getting through the line took some time, and Quill was quite anxious by the time he arrived at the metal detector. If he had still possessed a normally-functioning human body, he would have been sweating bullets. As it was, though, his impossibly clean skin oozed nothing from the pseudopores dotting its surface.

“Put any metal items in the tray,” a bored-looking security guard ordered him, holding out a small plastic bin. After a moment’s hesitation, Quill fished in his (Bryan’s) pockets. It was only with great effort that he was able to hide his surprise at finding that, although there was a hole in his (Bryan’s) pants, what lay within was not a traditional pocket but rather a stretchy, humid “womb.” It contained no metal objects, however, so he pulled out his empty hands and held them out, palms-up, to the security guard.

“Walk through the metal detector with your hands at head-height,” intoned the security guard. His eyes were half-lidded, and he looked to Quill like he might fall asleep at any moment.

Quill obeyed, and took three slow strides through the device with his hands up. The alarm triggered, and he looked over at the exhausted security guard inquisitively.

“Do you have any metal body-parts, such as a replaced hip, knee, or other joint?” asked the guard. His lines were well-rehearsed.

“I do,” Quill lied. “Metal hip. Still gives me fits when it rains.”

“Really? Huh, always thought you the athletic type,” said the guard. “Wait here for just a moment. You’re not in trouble, but I do need to go get the wand-detector.”

As the guard wandered off, another took his place to continue passing other employees through the line. Quill watched the guard trundle away, and, noting a limp, mentally assigned him the name “Limp.” Even before his bout with amnesia, Quill was never a creative man. Not that he knew this, of course.

Mildly impatient interest turned to worry as Quill saw the guard stop for a conversation with a much larger, bulkier guard. The two kept glancing over at him, and after thirty seconds or so of discussion, Limp hurried off towards the check-in desk and Big Guy strode purposefully towards Quill across the lobby.

This, Quill thought, was a bad sign. He’d been relying on his physiology being close enough to Bryan’s to not raise suspicion, but clearly there was something metal in his meat that had not been in Bryan’s body. His eyes darted nervously back and forth, scanning the lobby for an escape route. He was already on the other side of the checkpoint, mostly. Maybe if he just made a break for it-

“Mr. Ironsides,” boomed Big Guy as he approached. “Didn’t know you’d gotten that hip replaced. Me, I just got done paying for my ma’s hip swap.” He sidled up to the other side of the cordone barricade next to which Quill stood. “Hell of a healing time on it. ‘Pparently she’s not supposed to walk on it for at least a month. How long did it take you?”

Quill (Bryan) swallowed. “Just a couple weeks,” he choked out.

“Ah, lucky fella,” said Big Guy. “Say, though - it’s a little odd that your shiny new hip hasn’t pinged the metal detectors before, ain’t it?” The hair on the back of Quill’s (Bryan’s) neck stood on-end. Very suddenly, he realized that the situation had slipped out from under his control. Struggling to keep his voice even, he replied, “Yeah, I suppose it is, isn’t it?”

“Now, Mr. Ironsides, I’d never want to call you a liar,” Big Guy told him, “as that would be quite the accusation for me to make against an associate director such as yerself.” He dragged out the word “director” so that it instead became “die-rector.”

Quill’s eyes flicked wide for barely a quarter of a second, but even this tiny tell was too much. Understanding settled on Big Guy’s face, and his eyes narrowed.

“That being said, I’m gonna need you to turn out your pockets, sir,” Big Guy ordered. “I hate to ask this, of course.” His face suggested that this was a lie. “But it’s procedure.”

“I can’t,” Quill said slowly, “they’re sewn to the inside of these pants. Sorry.”

“I see,” replied Big Guy. There was an awkward, momentary silence as Big Guy looked Quill (Bryan) up and down, clearly sizing him up. “I’m gonna have to frisk your pockets, then,” he decided, and he set to unclipping the cordone barricade to step through.

The cold rush of panic shot up and down Quill’s body. Yeah, he thought, the situation was firmly out of his hands now. Nothing left to do but decide: Run now, or run later?

Big Guy had gotten the barricade unclipped and retracted by the time Quill made his choice. He bolted, and was immediately tackled by Big Guy, who was yelling something he couldn’t make out. He fell face-down, with Big Guy on his back. His teeth clacked painfully together as his chin slammed into the tile floor, breaking it. A brief second of terrible pain shot through his jaw, but only a brief second. Gooseflesh ran over his body as Quill realized his jaw had knit itself back together in less time than it took for him to fully comprehend that it had been broken in the first place. Perhaps, he thought, he was less vulnerable than he had initially assumed.

Big Guy had gotten ahold of his wrists, and was now brutally yanking them behind his back. If his body had been what it once was, Quill was sure his shoulders would have been broken. A flash of anger and predatory hunger flushed through his system. How dare this man - no, this insect - lay a hand on him? Everywhere their bodies met, Quill’s flesh softened.

Big Guy so rarely got to indulge in Security Work. The PD had rejected his application due to an adverse mental health report. Personally, he had resented this fact. He hadn’t even been diagnosed with a full disorder, just a borderline one, and even that was just a personality disorder, nothing serious. If he was just on the borderline, why couldn’t they just look past it? This resentment fueled his career working for the Silfina security team. Now, he got to let some of it out on Bryan Ironsides, Squad Dickhead Extraordinaire. When first hired on, he’d been placed in Bryan’s squad. In fact, he’d tried to handle the Rude Teenager Incident - that ultimately saw Bryan reassigned - himself. Revenge had never felt so sweet. As he sat on Bryan’s back and yanked his wrists around, he felt a burning pleasure forming in his groin and hands. Ahh, he thought to himself, this was what he wanted to do with his life. Take the freedom of other men.

It was only when he tried to release his grip with his right hand, so that he could reach back for the handcuffs on his toolbelt, that pleasure turned to pain. The burning that had felt so good a moment before was suddenly quite painful. Worse still, it kept getting hotter, and he couldn’t seem to pull his hand away. He was sending the command to release his grip, he was certain of this, but his nerves weren’t responding. It felt like being electrocuted: muscles painfully taut, unable to stop seizing.

“Backup! Backup! I need-” his call-outs terminated in an abrupt yelp as the burning sensation in his hand increased tenfold. Looking down with wide eyes, he found that Bryan’s wrists and his own hands were melting, melting together into a single mass with no beginning or end and-

Big Guy was screaming, and Quill had a spinerection. With perfect precision, he could feel his own flesh digesting, dissolving, and integrating Big Guy’s hands. First the skin and meat was dissolved, then the bones, and then their arms were joined as one, giving Quill two skin-lined tunnels to worm his digestive tissue through. Up, up, up Big Guy’s arms he went, pureeing muscle and tendon and bone.

Agony of this type was something for which Big Guy’s brain was fundamentally unable to prepare. Although he took great pleasure in getting to slap around the occasional rule violator, Big Guy had never tried to think too hard about what it must feel like for any of said violators in his whole career. After all, they deserved what was coming to them. This meant that now, experiencing the terror and excruciation of being digested from the inside-out, Big Guy had no response prepared except an animalistic squeal. And squeal he did. Like a wounded sow, Big Guy jerked and thrashed atop Bryan’s prone form.

Other security personnel were rushing to the scene, weapons drawn, but Big Guy’s howls of agony were reverberating distractingly off the tile floor and hard concrete walls. Even if he hadn’t been distracting them, none of them knew what to do when they couldn’t determine where the target ended and their colleague began. One of them had to vomit when she saw Big Guy’s mouth start spraying blood through his screams.

What she didn’t know, but what Big Guy was acutely aware of, was the fact that his internal organs were being liquified. The blood making its way out of his mouth was from the dissolution of the organ that had once been his stomach. His body felt like it was burning from the inside out, as if someone had opened a gateway to the sun in the pit of his stomach. Even worse, despite having no idea what Bryan was or what he was capable of, Big Guy could feel the meatshake inside his skinbag sloshing within. A mental image of a fully-wrapped fly being liquified for consumption by a spider was all Big Guy could think about as his spine and ribs were dissolved, and, lacking a skeleton to maintain its structure, his existence was transformed into that of an agonized skinsack of organ-remains. Like a beanbag chair, his body collapsed on top of Bryan. Still alive, still terrified, and still trapped in agony that covered every speck of his being, Big Guy found himself face-down in Bryan’s hair, unable even to continue his panicked shrieks due to his lungs having been pureed.

Quill yielded his flesh where the skinbag that had been Big Guy touched. They melded and became one, with no tearing or seam. The sack of digesting human being on his back that housed a still-conscious Big Guy perfectly joined with Quill’s form, spilling not even a single drop of precious human life. Realizing how the situation looked for the rest of the security team, Quill got an idea.

When his skinsack joined Quill’s form, Big Guy was made privy, briefly, to Quill’s consciousness. Although Quill was unaware of it, and although his flesh, once fully consumed, would retain no memory of it, Big Guy got to briefly see Quill’s true nature before the digestive flesh that had wormed its way around his skull beneath the thin skin covering it managed to work their way through the bone. All human faculties destroyed, Big Guy was in for one final torture before he would receive the mercy of death: slow dissolution of his brain. Through their shared consciousness, Big Guy was informed that Quill’s anger was slowing the digestive process. Big Guy’s very existence, his sense of self, his memories, his personality, were all being melted away as Quill’s enzymes worked their way through his grey matter. Like whittling layers off of wood, layer after layer of tissue was dissolved, and as it went, Big Guy’s very essence felt like it, too, had been thrown into the sun. Searing agony bored through his brain, shattering whatever remained of his sanity, before he finally perished. Big Guy died an animal, with no brain tissue remaining beyond a small knot at the base of what had once been his skull.

Blissfully unaware of Big Guy’s agony, and in fact, lost in the near-orgasm his upper-spine was undergoing, Quill was trying out his idea. By stretching Big Guy’s skin over his own body before integrating it, he hoped to seamlessly transform into him. It seemed to be going fairly well, too. He felt the skin mold and integrate with his own, covering him. He felt his features shifting and changing beneath his new meat, altering to match Big Guy’s bone structure. By the time Big Guy’s misery finally ended, Quill was Big Guy, whose name he learned was, defying all belief, Thorn. Specifically, Johnathan Thorn, though his memories indicated that he would not answer to his first name or any variant of it. His memories also indicated that he had a particular hatred for Bryan, which, Quill considered with some chagrin, did explain why things had gone downhill so suddenly.

“Let me see your fucking hands!” screamed a male voice, originating about fifteen feet from Quill’s head, breaking his reverie. Slowly, he obeyed, sliding his hands from his sides, where they had landed during the digestion process, along the tile and up, in front of his head.

“It’s me,” he tried out, in Thorn’s voice. “Don’t shoot.”

The security team glanced at one another nervously. What had just happened in front of them was quite beyond their comprehension.

“Mr. Thorn?” one of them asked, hesitantly.

“That’s right,” Quill responded, cautiously lifting himself up onto his knees, hands still up by his head. “I’m fine, I’m fine,” he said, doing his best to sound winded and shocky, but otherwise unharmed.

After a beat, a young guard took a shaky step towards Quill, and asked, “What the fuck was that?”

“I don’t know,” lied Quill, rubbing his temples. That’s right, he thought. Put on the “exhausted colleague” routine. “Listen,” he said, kicking one foot up to put his weight on, “I need you to-”

“Don’t you fucking move!” echoed a much deeper male voice from behind the security team. “I’ll handle this mess myself.”

Looking out, over the heads of the security team, Quill saw a giant. At least, he saw a man built very much like a giant. A security man wearing a blast-proof flak jacket with limbs like tree-trunks was approaching the scene. He towered over the others, reaching easily eight feet in height, but was still so wide that he did not appear lanky - the opposite, in fact. The man was the closest thing a human being can be to a tank.

“I don’t know what the hell you are, or what the hell you think you’re gonna do,” the Tank’s voice filled the space. “But here’s the deal.” He pushed two security team members out of the way by their shoulders. His hands were bigger than their heads. “You’re gonna stand up, and you’re gonna come with me. Then we’re gonna go back down to the labs to have a little debrief.”

Quill stood, rising to Thorn’s full height, which suddenly felt very short indeed. “I outrank you, shitheel,” he tried.

“The fuck you do,” Tank replied, continuing his gorilla-swagger to Quill. “You’re coming with me, little man,” he grunted as he reached for Quill’s shoulder.

Rather than sticking around to find out whether he could consume someone so large, Quill chose the path of tactical retreat. In a flash, he had turned and was sprinting for the glass doors and enormous windows that composed the front of the facility. The ground shook behind him as Tank took off after him, and frantic gunfire rattled off behind them.

Tank was gaining on him, Quill knew it without looking back. The booming footsteps were getting so much closer, so quickly. Although he would later discover he didn’t need to breathe at all, the basic biological instinct to breathe more heavily when running nonetheless triggered anyway.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck,” he huffed to himself as he ran.

Then Tank roared and crashed to the floor behind him. “You fucking morons,” he heard Tank shouting. “When I figure out who just shot me, I’m gonna take you apart by hand-

Tank was interrupted by the shattering of glass. Quill hadn’t even tried to aim for a door. Instead, he shoulder-checked his way through one of the giant window panes, and took off down the street. By the time the security team had left the building, he was around the block. Although Silfina security personnel spent the next eight hours combing through the surrounding area, they never did manage to recover Thorn’s body.