Hybrid

Scampering on all fours, the deformed arch of his spine protrudes through his flesh, the flex and buckle of his bones twisting him painfully. Night has fallen but he can’t sleep or stop for long. They are hunting him, getting closer, the more they track him the more they learn about him. He keeps his mutating body shrouded, only in the most quiet and private moments can he bare to look at himself. He scuttles under his damp blanket through the dense shrub of the city foothills.

The worst thing is the hunger. A perpetual, insatiable hunger that festers within his empty gut and grates against his bones. A hunger he has only begun to understand. The last time he was inside a supermarket his desire for human food had almost diminished completely. He roamed the aisles, restless, agitated, trying to find something that looked appetizing. He dragged dirty fingertips along rows of tins and jars, everything was pickled in salt and sugar. He stared blankly at cuts of flesh packaged neatly in little trays. He stuck his nose into piles of fruit and vegetables, sniffing deeply, fascinated by the smell of pesticide and wax. Everything on display was rotten; toxic. How can people eat this shit? he thought to himself but he must have spoken out loud, a woman standing nearby gave him a sharp stare and stormed off. He scuttled over to the bakery section where he fondled the bread. He crushed a loaf in his hands, his fingers easily popping the crust and sinking into soft, white pulp. He longed to crush something alive, something with a still beating heart.
The store security guard appeared, strolling up to him casually. Crossing his arms over his bulging chest, the guard said, “I’ll have to ask you to leave now, sir.”

What is his name, what did they used to call him? He lifts his sleeve. The scar says ‘BEN’. He cut it into his flesh himself, clumsily, with a razor blade. They have taken away almost everything but he won’t let them take his name.

“Ben,” he mumbles to himself “Ben, Ben, Ben…”

It becomes a dangerous chant and he covers his mouth to make it stop. He must not let them hear him. 
He stops under low-lying branches, his stomach in painful spasms; he’s shivering. It has begun to rain softly. He picks up the waft of a familiar smell and he freezes, perfectly still, as the scent invades his flaring nostrils. Something to eat, something delicious, but he is too tired to move, to hunt, he needs rest. His eyes are so heavy, burning with exhaustion. Sleep circles him.

Rarely does he sleep, he knows better by now. When he does nod off, even for a few moments, the dream comes and it is always the same.

They are sitting side by side on the roof of a high-rise, their feet dangling over the edge. He is clean-shaven and dressed in a suit; his polished black shoes gleam. 
“Remember the lights in the sky?” asks the little boy next to him. 
He turns to glance at the boy but never sees his face, he is startled by the sound of smashing glass. He looks down to see the windows below him shatter one by one. Huge jagged shards begin sailing down to earth. Then the windows blow out in the surrounding buildings. He is watching a sea of falling splinters, glittering in the sunlight. The buildings begin to crumble, folding in on themselves and rushing toward the ground. Far below the people look like insects, disturbed from their ordered paths, they scatter chaotically. The little boy is laughing hysterically. The building they are sitting on begins to tremble.

He wakes sweating and dizzy with nausea; he vomits. He checks his scar to make sure he is really awake, ‘BEN’. The scar is the only thing he can be certain of, the only thing he can trust.

He was already a wasted man when the change began; who would listen to him, who would help him? Just another homeless drunk sleeping under the bridge, paranoid and hallucinating. That’s why they chose him. A flourish between his toes, skin dying and turning white, flaking off in patches. He didn’t pay it much attention at first, his body bore many scabs and wounds from living on the street. It spread quickly, crawling up his leg. It sprouted between his fingers, flowered along his arms. He scratched and clawed at the infuriating itch. A new skin was revealing itself as the old was shed. A smooth, slippery skin of tightly laced brown scales. Terrifying to look at and even more terrifying was the thought, the distinct feeling, that what was emerging was his true self; his real body. There is constant pain in his joints as his bones squeeze and knit themselves into new shapes, his feet and hands are now mangled claws.

Maybe it began long before these physical changes. He has vague recollections of his past, not that he can rely on the past, anyway. His drinking habit got worse; he began stumbling into work until they told him not to come back. His marriage collapsed; he didn’t fare well in the divorce. He ended up homeless with a box of useless stuff his wife left him: a hair dryer, a blender, a crystal vase, a few books. He pawned it all, enough for a room for a few nights and a bottle of bourbon.

There are a couple of earlier memories he toys with for comfort: looking up from his book in maths class, a girl across the room turns to him and smiles shyly, her blonde hair shining; playing football with his brother in the park, the ball sailing fast and hard into his face;  tucking a comic book into his jacket and making a swift exit, the bell ringing as he slips out the door. Through out it all, they were always there, sinister figures looming at the foot of his bed. He caught glimpses of them in those moments between sleep and waking. He remembers only what they want him to remember, he is aware of that, and it may not be the truth. Does he even have a brother? 
Stop thinking, he commands himself, keep moving. He stares at the name carved into his skin.

The delicious smell is coming closer. A dog wanders past, sniffing the ground. It spots him and lowers its head, growling. Without hesitation, he leaps the distance between them with ease and pins it to the ground. The dog lashes and snarls as it snaps at him; the battle is exhilarating. They toss in the rain, two desperate beasts. The dog lunges, sinking its teeth into his thigh. He pulls its jaw free then snaps its neck with a dull click. He is too hungry to waste any more time.

He bites at the dog’s stomach, spitting out mouthfuls of coarse fur. When finally he breaks the skin, he tears the body open with his hands. He scoops up the entrails, eating madly. He cracks the ribcage, chews on rubbery lungs, sucks the small heart still hot with life. Finally his hunger begins to subside. Panting, he crouches over the gutted dog; his face dripping gore. The dog’s blood is sweet and thick and he begins to fantasize about the taste of human blood. He clasps his claws to his face, revolted. He may be capable of anything, he doesn’t know what he will be compelled to do next.

As if to salvage some inkling of humanity, he decides he must bury the dog’s body and he begins to dig frantically in the mud. He manages a shallow pit and pushes the carcass into it. Something on the ground shines and flickers in the dim light, catching his eye. He stares at it suspiciously before he decides to pick it up. It is a round, smooth metal blank; cold between his fingertips as he wipes it clean. The tag from the dog’s collar. There is something etched on it and his heart begins to race as he holds it up. He knows what it will say. There in fine, elegant letters ‘BEN’. He wants to laugh, he wants to shriek. He emits nothing but a dry, lifeless chuckle. Clutching the tag with both hands and curling beside the remains of the dog, he begins to cry softly.

~ Magenta Nero

© Copyright 2014 Magenta Nero. All Rights Reserved

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About Veronica Magenta Nero

Veronica Magenta Nero spins fiction and poetry weaving with dark threads of horror and fantasy. She hails from Italy and currently resides in the Northern Rivers, Australia.

32 responses to “Hybrid”

  1. Craig McGray says :

    Reblogged this on From Bright Minds Come Dark Things and commented:
    Magenta Nero provides this week’s feast on Pen of the Damned, and a gory meal it is. Enjoy!

    Like

  2. jonolsonauthor says :

    I really enjoyed this one, Magenta! A tortured soul who despite his physical changes, still has fragments of humanity left to haunt him. Great job!

    Like

  3. jonolsonauthor says :

    Reblogged this on and commented:
    From Pen of the Damned comes HYBRID by Magenta Nero

    Like

  4. zkullis says :

    Magenta, such a great story! I could feel Ben’s emotions as if they were my own. The feeling of teetering on lunacy and the hunger pains are palpable!

    Like

  5. dylanjmorgan says :

    Great story Magenta. Really liked it.

    Like

  6. ladysknight says :

    I love the battle between the beast and humanity. In the end who or what wins out? Ben!!!
    Excellent – loved the market scene

    Like

  7. Hunter Shea says :

    Way cool story, Magenta! Right up my alley. I love the carving of his name on his flesh to keep from forgetting his name. Sweet ending.

    Like

  8. blazemcrob says :

    This story is great in so many ways, Magenta. I have many dreams of things such as this happening, to the extent of writing little tales about them. Different than this great one of yours, but I oft times wonder about the sorry state of the human condition and if people are not subjected to experimentation for a few bucks in their pockets which do not last them long. I must admit I was saddened by the ending: the two Ben’s.

    You did good, my friend. Damned good!

    Blaze

    Like

    • Magenta Nero says :

      hi Blaze, I always enjoy your thoughtful comments. I think we are all subject to to so many subtle ‘experimentations’ all the time, e.g. advertising, constant surveillance, which makes Ben’s nightmare is very relatable. I’m glad you felt a sadness at the end – like finding the humanity on the fantasy. thank you Blaze, 🙂

      Like

  9. Thomas Brown says :

    Such gorgeous prose, Magenta. Your writing absolutely sings to me. Transformation in its various guises is a theme that I love to read and write about, and this story is a real treat. From the out the reader finds themselves in the disturbed mind of your poor protagonist; we feel his plight and suffer his changes with him… Beautiful, sensitive horror.

    Like

    • Magenta Nero says :

      Hi Thomas, yes I love the theme of transformation too, my stories usually involve it in some way. I really like that undefinable in-between state of not being one thing or another which perhaps is the state we are always in.
      I’m so happy to hear you enjoy my work, thanks for your support

      Like

  10. moondustwriter says :

    M, I read this and came back to make a comment (needed time to digest).
    I took the simplicity in the back story where the creature sees in a moment the love that a dog has for his master (even as beast.)
    Humans can be such animals, yet our pets seek us out even when we are at our worst. They are the true heroes.

    Like

    • Magenta Nero says :

      I appreciate your sensitive thoughts Leslie. I don’t particularly like the dog scene myself, to me it signifies the chain of oppressor and oppressed, the extent humans will go to to dominate each other and nature; animals are always the innocent victims of this in so many ways. Thank you Leslie.

      Like

  11. marcus says :

    Dame M’lle Magenta
    Lady of the House
    Keeper of the Fortress
    Princess of literary genius-ness
    How your words move through a tale that floods with raw emotion
    By reading these words, your words. Thank you for making me feel, deeply this evening.
    HATFM (((Awhoooo)))

    Like

  12. Nina D'Arcangela says :

    Lovely, lovely, truly lovely torment here, my lovely lady! The first thought that struck me about your Hybrid was is he evolving or devolving? Then as I read further, I realized it didn’t truly matter, what mattered was his/its wish to hold onto humanity even as he/it was letting it go. Very nice departure for you, Magenta. A really well rounded piece, and told very nicely. Great job!! ;]

    Like

    • Magenta Nero says :

      Thanks so much for the feedback Nina. I very much enjoyed exploring my characters torment, there is more to this tale I think but for now I’m happy to leave him weeping in a ditch tortured by a transformation over which he has no control. 🙂 I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed it, thank you.

      Like

  13. Joseph Pinto says :

    My apologies for my late arrival, Magenta (obviously as you know I read your story some time ago)…but wow, when I first read HYBRID it left a wicked grin across my face and has succeeded in doing the same now. Your tale possesses all the elements great horror should possess; what a treat for us!! Wonderfully told!! 🙂

    Like

  14. Emma Audsley says :

    Reblogged this on The Horrifically Horrifying Horror Blog and commented:
    Excellent story…

    Like

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