SHORT STORIES: ‘Satisfaction of Mercy’
It covered her body in thick, mucous-like strings. It plastered her hair to her face and ragged clothes to her body.
She stumbled along in the sewer, tripping occasionally over rocks and rubbish. Filthy, toxic water lapped up against her ankles. Still, she continued along with her unsteady gait, pulled forward by a longing in her gut she was unable to name.
Not that she could name anything else. Words escaped her, down in that darkness. Feelings, though, feelings she could understand.
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The longing, the ache, in her belly drove her on. Now and again a low moan escaped her lips. Slime dripped from her fingertips and disappeared into the dirty water with soft plopping sounds. Rats skittered around her bare feet. With surprising efficiency, the woman – at least, she was still partially a woman – reached out a clawed hand and grabbed one of the rats. Her jaw opened abnormally wide and with her sharp, elongated teeth, she bit the head off the creature; chewed, swallowed. Briefly, her eyes glowed bright green. Strength and power lit her insides, but the snack did little to quell the aching in her stomach. A dribble of blood ran from her mouth and settled in a cavernous lesion where part of her chin once had been.
The rats scattered.
But they didn’t move quite fast enough.
The streets of Detroit, Michigan, were lined with bad decisions. Houses gone bankrupt, neon signs with only partial words lit, hardened women with craggy faces and short shorts.
Below the streets, the monsters gathered.
Deformed once-humans, the creatures congregated in the sewers. The ones who had been there the longest remembered who they had been, before.
When they had lives and jobs and dreams, before unfortunate circumstances had left them for dead, dumped into the toxic waters of the underground.
They huddled in masses, their grotesque features mostly covered by the film of darkness. They accepted one another for the monsters they had become, and formed a shared hatred for those who lived above.
Above, people had laughter and dreams. They had warmth.
It was so cold, in the sewer.
It took time after an awakening for a creature to remember words. It took time to remember how they had come to be down there; changed, monstrous.
When that time came, plans for revenge began.
Their voices were croaky and slow. A clawed hand slapped the shoulder of a comrade. The shells of rodents littered the ground near their feet. The rumbly din of their conversation drew the staggering woman toward them.
Her neon green eyes shot rays of light through the murky and perpetual night. She moaned. Grunted. Stumbled closer.
One of the creatures, a male, spoke up. “She’s awake. She can feel it.” He made a throaty sound like phlegm over glass shards. In another time, it could have been laughter.
Another watched the woman lurching forward. “Watch her go. Someone will be begging for mercy tonight.”
As it happened, her name was Mercy. At least, it had been. Once upon a time.
The others, they knew how difficult the awakening could be. How painful. The insatiable hunger.
They remembered the raw agony in their bellies; the magnetic draw toward the outside. The creatures stood against a slime-laden wall and let the woman pass.
She struggled with the iron ladder. Gripped the sides, took a step. Slid. Grunted, shrieked. Took another step. Her slippery hand shook as she climbed upward; her clawed hand clamped tight to the rusted rod. Pure instinct kept her moving. The pain in her gut had grown until it was a roiling flame, churning and spreading through her insides. Finally, she made it to the top, and pushed the manhole cover up and out of the way.
Crawling onto the hot summer concrete stung her knees. Even in the night, wisps of smoke rose from the pavement. The darkness was lighter aboveground. She blinked a few times until her vision adjusted. The flashing lights hurt her eyes, and she raised a slimy hand up like a visor.
Words continued to elude her, but the pulsing heat in her stomach led her onward. Down the main street and left onto a smaller side road. Her gait had steadied. She walked straighter, taller, as she turned up a gravel driveway that led to a small, dingy house with a sagging front porch. Gravel dug into the soles of her bare feet and she grunted. The three steps up to the porch took great effort, and she paused to lean against the rail for a moment. The pain, the fire, in her belly was stronger. She was so close.
The doorknob presented a challenge. It was unlocked, but the woman struggled to wrap her hand around it; struggled to get a grip, to twist. Some tiny piece of memory broke free of the gauzy film in her mind and shot a message to her hand. Finally! She pushed the door open.
A shirtless, overweight man with a scruffy face was sleeping on the couch. He leapt from his prone position at the sudden noise of the intruder. “Get out or I’ll call the…” he shouted, before a horrified look of recognition passed across his face. “M-Mercy?”
She was closer then, no more than a foot away from the man who had been her husband.
The man who had promised to cherish her forever.
The man who had hit her over the head with a hammer, and dumped her into the sewer.
The speed with which she moved was surprising. With one step, she had her hand wrapped around his neck, squeezing, as her claw plunged into the flabby skin of his belly. Viscera filled her claw as she removed it from his stilled body. She shoved her claw in again and dragged it upward, exposing the entirety of his innards. The man dropped to the floor. Blood pooled around him.
Heat pulsed throughout her body, leaving her blazing with need. With hunger.
The woman crouched on the floor, running her tongue up the length of a tibia. Once it was clean, she tossed it into the pile of bones stacked up near the couch. Her eyes glowed green.
She staggered to her feet and headed back to the sewer.
Back to the place she belonged, now.
“Home,” she said aloud.