The following text is an excerpt of the 2020 zine Fear Community, a self-published
collection of fanfiction exploring personal reads of several horror films. The full zine,
including exclusive spot illustrations, is available for purchase here.
Thank you for your support.
ROYAL WE (THE THING)
You’ve never thought you looked human. Since you were old enough to know who was staring back at you from reflective surfaces, the meat never sat properly on your frame. There’s something wrong and it’s so glaring you don’t understand how you’ve moved undetected this long.
Photographs of you look like ghosts trapped on film. Your face still has thin ghosts of pockmarks from when you’d obsess in mirrors when you were younger, nails digging at the flaws and mutations that no one else would acknowledge. In your whole life no one will do you the kindness of telling you they know you’re inhuman.
It almost makes you want to force the others to see you now. You’ve been fantasizing about so many things lately. The idea of locking someone in a room alone, holding them down, letting the thing festering inside you twist your face beyond recognition until he sees you as you are...it’s exhilarating. Snarling gore, snapping jaws. Unrecognizable as a man inside and out.
Not that you’d do it, though, and not that your companion would do it for you. It’s not working on any agenda of yours.
You don’t mind—there’s nothing left for you out here anyway.
There’s a type of suicidality that permeates the air at Outpost 31. You’re something to the tune of 14,000 kilometers away from America as the crow flies, so who among you hasn’t already come to grips with the likelihood of dying out here?
MacReady, definitely, and likely Childs as well. They’ve taken so strongly to fighting back that it’s amusing—though it’s possible that your passenger’s amusement is simply bleeding into your own head now. It’s been long enough that you’re distantly aware of it wallpapering over your thoughts in places. Your muscles, too.
Sometimes, sitting in hunched and tense silence with the other men, your fingers twitch involuntarily as it tests out your movements. Bad heart, you mutter, when the others catch you jerking and rubbing at your hands. Play for sympathy. Poor thing, with your pin–and–needle aches and rotting body.
The whole place is turning into a torture chamber of paranoia, but trot out your pre–existing medical condition and you’re out from the spotlight. Just as long as you jump in the line to accuse whoever is on the chopping block at the moment. More make–believe, happily playing at being afraid.
It practices walking you around for no reason other than to do it.
Your body, thick and traitorous mass of flesh that it is, feels heavier all the time. It’s a strange conflict. Psychically, emotionally, you’re lighter than ever.
But the thing inside of you is nursing its own mass, changing your body into denser and denser tissue like an animal packing on weight for the winter. This is the exchange for not killing you instantly; it sits behind your eyes to study the roles it will pantomime when it takes your coworkers, it sits in your body cavity to patiently gestate tumors of undifferentiated cells. It allows you to revel in becoming a walking hive, rotting, expectant with horrors that would make God himself avert his gaze in disgust.
As if it knows what’s on your mind, there’s a painful heave inside your viscera just then. It’s growing into your nerve endings, picking around inside to make a nest like a dog turning three times. The pain is satisfying, though, the same aching pleasure that comes from holding a cigarette to your palm. The body disgusts you and it feels natural to punish it. Flesh should suffer the way the mind suffers. The stranger is a gift to you.
When you speak, it listens. Not psychically—it’s no mind–reader. Perhaps in a few days it will eat enough of your brain to understand your electricity inherently, but for now the spoken word is your tie to it. So you send out your signals, when you need to.
With a hand cupped over your mouth you whisper beneath your blanket at night or into the collar of your coat when you’re alone, speaking thoughts you’d never voiced in your life. Evil, hateful, entirely true things. It doesn’t respond. It doesn’t matter. Your cancerous companion understands you perfectly and that’s all you need.
It really is smarter than anything. It picked up and taught itself your human sounds before it even came to your base. Norwegian, English, pristine recreation of foreign tongues in foreign mouths. Stunning. Would you learn this fast, you wonder, if you hadn’t been forcibly predetermined into this body? Maybe in some other life your clump of cells never differentiates, and you learn to take forms the same way as your passenger does. Then again, perfect imitation of a human is something you yourself have learned to excel in.
You resent that deeply, but it is what it is. Some skills aren’t ones you’re proud of. You’ve agonized over ice cores and minute fragments of mineral till your eyes ached. You know the landscape of Antarctica as intimately as a surgeon knows a cadaver. You’ve been complimented for your work, for ’all you do for the expeditions,’ but you’ve been alive much longer than you’ve been a geologist and subjecting yourself to the world has been the worst learning experience of all.
But the agony is getting easier. There is an end in sight, finally, one infinitely more satisfying than the tired inevitability of death. It sprung from such a tiny, miraculous chance.
The stranger came by to kiss your face, sloppy and enthusiastic just the same as any of the other sled dogs at the outpost. It was still learning its mimicry, trying to be ’dog’ without access to the human expectation of what that meant.
It was enough. The transfer of a few cells was all it took, after all. Less than a cheek swab’s worth of DNA, and within a few hours something made itself known. There was a tumor–like throb in your gut, in your brainstem, and in a way you already knew that was the end for you. After that little wriggle, cuddled up by your heart, it was only a matter of time before you consented to communion. Maybe God smiled on you for once, deciding that after forty–odd years of fleshbound agony you deserved a good sendoff as a reward. There was no greater joy than when you watched and learned how it would end for you; a body destroyed, ripped apart in ways you fantasized of but could never in a thousand years realize on your own. No human could undo you this way.
So salvation came to you as an animal.
Later, when you watch that mangled beast body burn, there is an unpleasant frustrated twist against your ribs. It’s the first time that the transformation becomes painful—the little flash of frustration at a loss. It stops shortly, though. It’s still sown itself into you, still has the chance to bide its time. The dogs served their purpose and in time, you will too.
It’s hurt you more since then, but you take it all in stride. It’s deserved, in the end. How much time have you spent in miserable fantasy, imagining peeling your whole face away like a wet slab of vinyl? You could do that now, if you really wanted.
Your connective tissue doesn’t work quite the same anymore. When you dig your nails into your wrists—old habits die hard—every now and then bloodless clumps of skin come away.
Sometimes, you become ever so slightly aware of its throb inside you, when its blood pulses just a little bit out
of time with yours. Your stomach ripples outward with foreign flesh, feeding on your own. Thankfully your wardrobe is all shapeless, warm things, concealing the distortions and swells. Everyone keeps their distance—they’re too vigilant to spot the danger. Since the stranger’s arrival, all the men have been too locked in their own fear to allow skin–to–skin contact. But it’s fine. If they touched you, they might feel the baby kick.
The last little while, its new occupation is squeezing your lungs, bit by bit, hour by hour, and the slow dizzying of oxygen deprivation would make you panic if you hadn’t welcomed it with open arms.
(You liked getting choked, when you could tolerate fucking. What is happening now is Nirvana compared to that.)
You’re certain that your body is going to die before you’re consumed completely. It’s likely that your companion will replace your decay, swap that rotten shit out for a museum–quality heaving and breathing replica.
That’s where the better part of you has gone already. After that it won’t be long until there’s so little human left that the slightest provocation will cause an outpouring of offal, a surge of perfect adaptive flesh ready to kill anything that might mean harm.
Exciting, isn’t it? The prospect of turning from the inside out, like a rotten peach waiting to burst into putrescent sweet sludge the moment some fucker is unfortunate enough to bite down.
God, you can’t wait.
In the frenzy of attacking MacReady, something inside your chest cavity pulps itself.The hydrostatic pressure crushes organs in a shower of gore against your ribs. You drop like a stone, blind, paralyzed.
The whine of a defibrillator clues you in on what’s coming next, though. The stranger has taken the reins for good now, and you lay sprawled across the floor as it burns the last vestiges of your soul from this meat. Your vile humanity is gone at last, eaten away to nourish the life you’ve tenderly nurtured within.
All this worthless flesh belongs to it. It’s happier with your carcass than you’ll ever be, and you know that now. You can feel it inside of you. It’s taking your brain at last and it’s all blind delight.
Your friend has spent so long in the ice, it’s eager to draw as much awe as repulsion. You would envy that beauty, if you weren’t already the well–prepared canvas for its masterpiece. Time dilates in your final seconds of independent thought.
Copper is bringing the paddles down. You are alight, omnipotent, your nascent rise to perfection complete. Both of you, all of you.