Chapter 1: Duress
the gay agenda
After waking up in an alien body she has no control over, Sue must persevere in a world that eludes her understanding, its monstrous inhabitants as secretive as they are kind. Finding herself stranded with no knowledge of either the locals or their language, and no recollection of how her ordinary trip ended up here, even the refuge she does receive feels uncertain- especially with nobody else here seeming to have suffered a fate like hers.
Or having to deal with their dreams being used by the local deities to try to communicate with them.
As Sue uncovers more of this place's scarred, troubled history and the traumatic impact it left on those still around, and is forced to confront her own, her task here becomes increasingly clear, as does its seeming impossibility. Despite that and her very limited grasp of her own abilities, she perseveres, for her goal remains the same-
To survive and make it home, no matter what.
Xenofiction Mystery / Slice of Life, told from the perspective of someone with no Pokémon knowledge at all. Major themes include self discovery, xenophobia, overcoming guilt, and forging one's own fate against all odds or powers that be.
Tags: Hurt/Comfort, Mystery, Friendship
Content Warnings: Mild Body Horror, Mild Gore
Cover art by the wonderful @anthrodyniacoms on Twitter!
Chapter 1: Duress
Each strained breath pushed Sue closer to awareness. More and more senses began chiming in, letting her piece together her immediate surroundings. The picture being painted, however, only piled fuel for the fire of growing anxiety.
The smell of wet grass and dirt from up close, inner ear telling her she was lying down, cold wetness against one side of her body. She must’ve been knocked out in the forest by... something, leaving her lying unconscious on some grassy mud. Trying to remember what happened before all this yielded nothing, not helping any.
Making her way through a hiking trail, looking around for a place to sit down and eat lunch. There was a loud bang some distance away, and then...
There was always a risk of unexploded ordnance in the area, but she didn’t remember getting knocked out by any blast. Though, if she’d been close enough to an old bomb to get blacked out from the shockwave alone, she was close enough to have taken a bodyful of shrapnel and not wake up ever again.
Pleasant mental imagery right there.
Regardless of what exactly had happened, Sue was awake now. Birds were chirping and leaves were rustling, so she had to still have been in the forest. Which just left getting up, checking for injuries, walking through the rest of the trail, and reporting this whole… blast event to some authorities.
And getting a bath. God, could she use a bath right now.
Well, no time like the present.
With a painful grunt, Sue took in a deep breath and reached her right hand in front of where she was lying on the ground for leverage, before slowly rolling onto her stomach and pulling in her legs-
An intense shock went through her, like she had gotten cold water splashed on her back, but from her front instead. It forced Sue to finally open her eyes-
And scream at what she saw.
There was a massive, red spike jutting out of her chest, fresh mud now staining its tip. It made Sue briefly think back to the idea of having her body filled with shrapnel. She attempted to push herself onto her back and get a better view of the grotesque spike- only to feel the same cold shock from behind, yelping involuntarily.
After craning her head to see what was going on between her shoulder blades yielded no results, Sue tried to reach back with her free arm, probe what was happening in there-
And instead froze at the sight that awaited her.
This was not a human arm. It was... green, a muted shade of green, the forearm wide and much thicker than the unnervingly thin upper arm. It had three short, currently mud-coated, fingernail-less fingers, the middle one sticking further than the other two.
With more than a bit of fear at what she might see, Sue attempted to clench her right hand, and the unnatural limb in front of her obeyed. Rightmost finger bent at an angle, akin to a thumb. The sensations of her thumb, index, and middle fingers rubbing against mud and each other brought on a horrifying realization that she was attempting to fight off.
A glance down revealed that this spike and these monstrous hands weren’t the only things that were utterly wrong. The body she was looking at was not human, and definitely not hers. Breasts being gone was the least of her worries at that moment, the sight below her waist particularly hard to wrap her head around.
There were... flaps?
Sue was too aghast to come up with any other word. Several flaps of the same white and sometimes green skin, most smeared with mud, long enough to cover the bottom half of her body and originating at the waist. Surrounded by said flaps were thin, white legs, feet tiny and hard to make out, with no distinguishable toes.
Sue had no idea what kind of bizarre alien body she was hallucinating, but it was just that. It had to have been just that, a vicious nightmare! She just had to wake up, and she’d be alright-
Her thoughts were cut off by a gust of frigid wind, her entire body feeling it. Her legs, her midriff, her three-fingered hands, the buffeting skin flaps brushing against every inch of her skin. Even the spike joined in on the fun with a reprise of its cold shocks, leaving her shaking.
The wind also helped Sue notice a sight that her brain blocked out as effortlessly as it did her nose. Namely, the lock of green hair covering the center of her vision. The intermittent gusts only swayed it lightly before it inevitably returned to its original position, gently brushing past her cheeks as it moved.
Her panicked mutter made Sue realize that not even her mouth was right. The different dimensions of it and her tongue left her briefly choking up as she clutched her eyes closed again.
This couldn’t be happening, this couldn’t be happening, THIS COULDN’T BE HAPPENING!
Any semblance of having a grip on the situation evaporated by the moment. Sue’s breaths became shallower and faster as the wind continued to barrage her body, warm tears beginning to leak down her cheeks.
But this wasn’t her body, her arms, her cheeks, none of this was hers, none of this was real! It wasn’t her; it couldn’t have been her; this was some Area 51 escapee whose eyes she was seeing out of!
She had a future ahead of her, a shaky one, yes, but a future all the same!
She couldn’t be this, this freakish creature…
Sue curled up and hyperventilated as she wept in panic, the wind continuing to barrage her. She had done nothing to deserve any of this, especially not this body she found herself in. The inability to recall just what had happened before only fueled her despairing rage, expressed ineffectually through slamming a deformed hand against the muddy forest floor.
Soon enough, she’d lost track of how long she laid there, with only mud and wind keeping her company. Despair and anger burned up inside her until there was only ashen numbness left, numbness and surrender.
Guess she was a freak of nature now. Some incoherent alien out of a video game, doomed to die in here-
Her body tensed up at the thought, a snarl twisting her expression. Sue might have had no one to live for anymore, but she’d promised herself that she would carry on and make the most of her situation, regardless of circumstances. She didn’t have “getting transformed into a mutant” on her bucket list when she made that promise either, but it didn’t matter.
She was stronger than this, goddammit!
Her dad would’ve wanted her to be, at least.
Capitalizing on this surge of anger-fueled motivation, Sue opened her eyes and tried supporting herself on her right hand again. Her muscles screamed in protest, but eventually yielded as she lifted herself enough to engage the other arm and pull her legs in. Very muddy, very sore, but an ultimately successful position on all fours.
Sue got an all too good view of her new arms as she gathered her strength. The sheer size disparity between their parts was unnerving, making her feel even more deformed than she no doubt already was.
Now to actually get up.
Continuing to breathe deeply, she started counting to three. After bracing for whatever might happen, she pushed herself up and rose into a kneeling position, legs wobbling painfully underneath. For a moment, she worried whether they’d be able to support her weight with their thinness.
Ultimately, there was only one way to know for sure.
Sliding one leg forward, Sue looked around for anything she could lean on in her immediate future, with a nearby tree looking like it’d perform that task splendidly.
Don’t fail me, tree.
With a loud grunt, Sue pushed on the ground as hard as she could, bringing the other foot into step- at least for a moment, before losing her balance. A few stumbled steps later, she’d managed to half lean on, half run into the tree she had previously eyed out. Thankfully, the laws of physics did not spontaneously break in these ten seconds, and the tree held.
And she avoided running into it spike-first, which, if earlier was anything to go by, would hurt a whole lot.
Her legs ached as Sue got her bearings. As much as her arms shook, they gripped the tree firmly, giving her ample time to think through her next steps.
Getting back to the trail was a straightforward enough goal to start with. Though, judging by her recent experiences, it would be no less of a struggle than scraping herself off the ground had been. The question of what would happen afterward didn’t arrive at anything pleasant, either.
Anyone else would be unlikely to react to her new appearance any better than she had. And, if the difficulty of basic movement was any clue, this body was about as suited for combat as that of an infant. If anyone, or anything, was to get aggressive with her in this state, she was as good as dead.
Maybe the green coloration meant that she was poisonous now? Not that it would help her while being attacked, but she’d take them down with her at least, eh?
If Sue wanted to avoid getting shot by the first outdoorsman she ran into, she’d have to convince them she was an actual person. Her previous attempt at speaking didn’t go well, but the situation demanded persistence.
Not that she had any other choice, anyway.
With a deep breath, she felt around the inside of her mouth out before giving speaking another go-
“Mhy n-nhame ish Shue.”
At least she wasn’t choking on her own tongue anymore. She figured she was somewhat understandable, even if far from perfectly clear. A few more attempts yielded largely the same results. Her new mouth was just different enough to make vocalizing the exact sounds she wanted a royal pain, especially when tired.
The chaos of realizing she was in a whole new body distracted her from many sensations; hunger and coldness chief among them. Though, far from all- and she had barely any idea how to describe some of the other ones.
It felt like... a multitude of light tuggings at something in her body. Faint and ineffable, pointed all around. Each with a different intensity and emotion attached to it, and she had no idea what any of it meant.
The more she focused, the more of these tuggings she sensed. Too many to investigate individually, but she could at least try to pay closer attention to the ones that stood out the most; hopefully figure out if they meant anything.
Something distant in the direction she was facing... maybe angry?
Another, way off to her right, afraid? Thrilled?
The sensations were almost beyond description. Sue could feel emotions, but these were not her emotions. It was almost as if they existed on their own, all around her, independent from anything physical.
Curiosity, nearby- no, not just nearby, behind her-
The abrupt realization made Sue look over her shoulder. Fortunately, it was just a sparrow or some other small bird sitting on a low branch, busy eying her out.
I know birdie; I look like something that took a bath in nuclear waste…
Guess the weird tugging sensations were nothing important. She’d probably just hallucinated them in her exhaustion, assuming her mind was unchanged between the two bodies.
She really, really hoped that assumption held true. Considering she wasn’t craving brains and/or whole human bodies, it most likely did, thank God.
The only thing worse than taking the body of a monster would be fully becoming a monster.
With a sigh somewhere between reassured and distraught, Sue braced herself for another attempt at walking, shifting her weight from one foot to another. Balancing on just two points proved trickier, much trickier than walking should be, but somehow, not impossible. Hopefully, she could maintain a regular pace, however feeble.
All that remained now was grabbing her bag and heading out on a trek... hopefully home.
Returning to normalcy in a body like this was out of the question, but catching the interest of some government agency or another beat trying to live as what was essentially a cryptid. Especially with this body having traded any ability for self-defense for... uh... yeah. With how useless she now was, there had to have been much less risk of being experimented on, right?
The world’s thinnest silver lining didn’t help much as she looked around in search of her bag. Nothing, just a monster-shaped imprint in mud and some shrubs; anxieties not getting helped any.
All that trying to shove her ID into someone’s face would accomplish is making them think she got eaten by this pale, spindly thing standing in front of them, and she was well aware of that. She needed it all the same, even if only for when authorities found her.
Had to find that fucking bag; her life might depend on it.
The extra bit of motivation was enough to make Sue finally move after a long pause. She only barely maintained her balance as she pushed forward, one step at a time. The resulting march was slow and painful, legs aching as if she’d run a mile.
And it would be at least half a dozen of those before she’d return to the nearest settlement…
Not letting that fact settle in, Sue continued to push ahead in an alien body. Each step was a minor achievement considering the circumstances- but an achievement she’d need many of if she wanted to get anywhere.
A visual scan of the nearby area only confirmed what she already feared; her bag nowhere to be seen. Time for Plan B- make it back onto the path and backtrack from there, maybe? If it was a blast that had knocked her out, her bag could’ve been too far away.
Though… she remembered wearing it before all this happened.
Considering she got turned into something halfway between a Martian and a cryptid, her tattered memory was obviously insufficient. On the other hand, it was the only thing she still had. Not even her clothes-
The abrupt realization made her stop in place as she processed the fact that she was, in fact, naked. There was no trace of her purple tee on her or the surrounding ground. Guess the clothes-likeness of these weird flaps must’ve deceived her consciousness into thinking they were an actual dress or something.
Not just a monster, a naked monster. At least she didn’t have any breasts to be hanging out for everyone to see anymore, but considering the circumstances, it wasn’t much of an uplifting fact.
Merely yet another bit of humanity taken away from her.
Gritting her teeth, Sue pushed on with renewed vigor. The surge of motivation mainly served to distract her from another breakdown, and pain worked just as well for that as anything else.
As she marched on, it soon became apparent that even her cobbled-together plan would have a spanner thrown into it. The nearby hill she was sure the path would be on ended up having none of the sorts, and neither did anywhere else as far as her eyes could see.
What she did spot, though, was much more disconcerting. A small group of gray… wolf pups off in the distance- something she’d rather not deal with even in her usual body, let alone in this freakish one. Thankfully, they didn’t notice her, allowing for a hasty-ish escape in the opposite direction.
Hope the path wasn’t that way…
Left with nowhere to go aside from ‘forward,’ Sue focused inward, splitting her attention between the indistinct forest ahead and the extremely distinct body she now inhabited. The more she looked at the jutting red spike on her chest, the more it felt like it wasn’t just some piece of shrapnel. It wasn’t bloodied, it had a somewhat regular shape, and it didn’t hurt when left undisturbed.
Sue took it upon herself to verify that last observation.
A couple painful prods later, she had confirmation that it was indeed the spike itself that hurt when touched. Its sensations felt like they came simultaneously from the front of her chest and her spine. An attempt to reach over to her back let her know that there was another, likely identical, ridge sprouting from her back.
All of which only raised more questions.
What kind of creature would just naturally grow extremities like that? What was their purpose, even? Could be that the answer to both was just “some mad scientists made it this way just to spite her.” Which, while unsatisfying, was as good as anything she’d arrive at through idle pondering.
Guess she could at least secure a double kill if she ran into something chest first.
The thought made her briefly chuckle by virtue of just how morbid it was. Shaking it off, Sue shifted her attention to her oddly shaped arms, the limbs looking no less misshapen than before. She was curious about why that was; her left hand reaching over to get a feel for her right forearm.
God, these fingers were so off-putting to look at. Why did they not have fingernails!?
As she kept examining her new body, a couple things quickly became apparent. One, the forearm was just wide and thin like that; there wasn’t much fatty padding anywhere. And two, this skin was smooth. Guess having no body hair at all would do that. Even so, the sheer... pleasantness of it all caught her off guard.
Her new superpower- being nice to the touch, as long as you didn’t prod the painful bit.
Her torso caught Sue’s attention as she glanced down at her lower half. The green skin on the sides of her chest and the arms made it look like some sort of cardigan. Which, as dumb as it sounded, at least fit into the theme of the natural appearance of this thing looking clothed.
It was also… really, really thin.
She was hardly overweight back in her human self, but this body almost looked like it was being bound with a corset underneath.
Curiously, it didn’t have a belly button, either.
An abrupt yank interrupted her mute pondering. She tripped, only barely catching herself before looking over her shoulder. The culprit turned out to be a small, prickly shrub on which one flap got caught on.
And, once she’d tripped, subsequently torn on.
Guess that answers whether these flaps felt anything. And also, if there was any magic in place that would make them not get stained with dirt and grime just by walking.
Negative, and negative.
Washing these wouldn’t be too bad of an idea if she were to find a stream. Though, was there even a point to that, considering they’d get dirty again in no time? Probably not, but if she was gonna be an alien, then at least she wanted to be a clean alien-
Above her, very alert.
The intense tugging sensation made Sue snap her head upwards. Before she could consciously process the feeling, the creature flying downwards towards her captured the entirety of her attention, startling her backward with a gasp.
Sue considered herself a relatively outdoorsy girl, despite her major. Most wild creatures were neat to her, even if she knew well enough to avoid most of them. Butterflies were cute, fluttering from flower to flower with their many colors-
Butterflies half her size, however, were fucking terrifying.
Especially the ones buzzing something at her. While she knew they weren’t known for being carnivorous, she wasn’t about to learn whether that fact extended to this mutated one. Sue took off with a frightened shriek, running as fast as her deformed legs would allow. Which wasn’t exactly fast at all, but thankfully the discount Mothra wasn’t keen on following her, merely sending her off with a low buzz.
Not that there was enough non-panicking brainpower left in Sue’s mind to notice that fact.
Her flight of fancy was cut short by the devious appearance of a tree root right in front of her. It was positioned perfectly to lay her out on the ground with a loud thud. Subconscious reflexes twisted her body to the side mid-fall, the spike getting spared from taking on the brunt of the impact.
She still hurt a lot, though, dull pain pulsing through her left side with every breath.
Judging by the lack of any further buzzing, flapping, or other animal noises more unnerving than birdsong in her immediate surroundings, she was in the clear now. Sue had absolutely no idea where in the forest she was, how she would get back to the path- or even if she was still in that same forest to begin with. One thought, however, occupied her exhausted mind most of all.
Was that .
Was her idea about getting dunked in nuclear waste true, and it happened to more than just her? Were there other mutants out there that wouldn’t be passive when confronted with effortless prey? Did she have any chance to survive in what was increasingly turning out to be hell on Earth?
Well, she was gonna try, no matter what. Being eaten wasn’t on her bucket list after all.
Still, the odds were getting more dire by the moment. There was always the possibility that the “butterfly” was just a one-off freak, just like she presumably was, but…
She had a feeling that wasn’t quite it.
Speaking of feelings.
The sensation she felt right before that thing appeared, that tugging she’d initially dismissed… Was it actually some kind of spider sense? There were many of these tuggings even right now, pointing all around and mostly too weak to make out. Did it point out threats? No, not threats, unless that bird near where she woke up was a threat. Living creatures?
On second thought, did that bird look normal? She couldn’t quite recall.
Sensing macroscopic living sounded accurate enough. It would be an oddly specific ability, and she had absolutely no idea how it worked. Regardless of how little sense it made, it could very well be her only saving grace here.
Behold the Spindle-Woman, whose power is being even more of a recluse than most computing science students.
The resulting dry chuckle only resulted in some further aching in her chest. An excellent reminder to get up and going again, lest something snuck up on her while she was enjoying the less pleasant kind of mud bath.
Well, nothing would truly sneak up on her, assuming her sixth sense worked how she thought it did. Still, if anything fast enough ran up to her while she was still scraping herself off the ground, she was a goner, anyway.
Not that she could move swiftly enough for that to stop being true even after she was on her way…
Let’s just... get going, try to push on and avoid everything that moves.
The soreness did not make for a good walking companion. At that point, however, it was either that or getting eaten by whatever else might have lived here. Maybe that blast she heard was a biological weapon now sweeping its way through the forest?
Sounded about as plausible as every other idea she’d had until now.
Limping and keeping mental watch for anything that moved made her already glacial pace slow down even further. She didn’t have a way of distinguishing friend from foe either, but it was doubtful she’d find many of the former in here.
What she ended up finding plenty of, mainly through an astonished realization followed by a stealthy getaway, were many more of those mutants, of all species and sizes. Caterpillars the size of her hand, slowly crawling up trees? Check. One-legged, red-eyed birds glaring at her every time she looked at them? Check.
Very poisonously looking purple rodents with fuck off big teeth scampering their way around? Check.
It seemed whatever messed her and that butterfly up had affected most of this place. Much to her continued existence, the resulting freaks were too small- or at least thought themselves too small- to try having a bite at her. In any sort of direct brawl, she was dead to everything that wasn’t one of those harmless green caterpillars.
And even that one would likely be a close matchup.
Eventually, growing hunger reminded Sue of its presence. The unpleasant sensation posed the question of what the hell this body even ate. Meat was out of consideration because of her not being in a state to hunt for any, plus without a fire she’d have to eat it raw and... no.
Not yet, at least.
That left either fruit or the relatively abundant greenery, and the latter wasn’t arousing any more eagerness in her than raw meat. She’d need to forage for berries, maybe edible mushrooms, without poisoning herself to death. Without any idea of what was poisonous to this body.
Still probably won’t go around trying to munch on a death cap.
Something colorful caught her attention while she pondered through the ethics of checking the edibility of wild mushrooms through feeding them to these purple rats. The stark stimuli made her briefly flinch before she could focus deeper-
At the very least, something that looked like peaches. Sue had no idea whether whatever the hell had mutated this whole place had also affected the plants, but she wasn’t gonna pass up possibly the only edible fruit in this entire forest. As she stared hungrily at the treeful of goods, a problem presented itself. One she was familiar with on account of her transformation having seemingly not affected her height.
She couldn’t reach.
Even the lowest branch was barely out of the range of her jump. If she still had her boots and gloves, or even just a body that didn’t feel like it’d break on a whim, trying to climb up the tree would be an option, but alas.
No fucking way was she walking away from here empty-handed, not with her life on the line.
A nearby stick would have to suffice as far as a Plan B went.
The branches just bent and refused to yield as she whacked them, determination quickly burning up into frustration. She tried again and again, accomplishing nothing except tiring herself more and more.
Just break, GODDAMMIT !
Sue put all the strength still left in her into her final attempt- and was rewarded. A quick step back let her barely dodge the falling branch, the entirety of her attention focusing on the mouthwatering bounty hanging off it. It wasn’t even the one she had initially aimed at, but that didn’t matter-
She was famished by now, and there was a feast to be had.
It could’ve just been hunger and exhaustion meddling with her perception, but she swore these were the best peaches she’d ever had. Juices dripped down her chin as she wolfed them down one after the other, relief blooming within with each bite. In no time, most of the branch was picked clean. Eventually, she remembered to keep sensing for anything that was possibly creeping up on her.
Back to eating now.
It took until just a couple of peaches remained for her to be sated. The goodness relieved some of the constant aching filling her body- though that might’ve just been her taking the weight off her legs. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply, trying to calm down as much as she could while continuing to keep track of other living things around her.
Some excitement a decent bit off to her left, but nothing else near.
Were these emotions she could sense... actual feelings of nearby creatures? It sounded like the most reasonable interpretation of that utterly incoherent ability. Huh. Maybe that was it. Maybe she’d been unknowingly thrown into the panels of the first issue of Spindle-Woman and was just waiting for an equally absurd-looking villain to present themselves and toss several pages’ worth of exposition at her.
Fantasizing these insane possibilities couldn’t have been good for her mental state.
Sue turned her head skyward, trying to clear her mind. She could just about make out the sun’s position through the treetops. Without cardinal directions, it was impossible to tell the exact time, but with how high the sun was, it had to have been close to noon.
Which… made no sense.
It was around two PM when she had taken a break before- before all this must’ve happened. Yeah, this was likely the next day.
Explains why she was so hungry.
The local fauna were taking all the changes like champs. A lack of self-identity or higher thinking capacity no doubt helped on that front. Plus, none of them seemed to have drawn the short end of the stick anywhere near as much as she has-
The sudden blur that had streaked in front of her knocked Sue onto her back, taking her out of any more pondering. Reflex made her twist her body to avoid landing on her spike as she tried to focus on a dark gray… fox? Wolf? Whatever it was, it had red accents in its fur, and-
-it was holding the branch with the remaining peaches on it in its mouth.
After some indistinct shouting in the creature’s general direction, Sue had to call it for what it was- an embarrassing loss. Soft rattling filled the clearing after she’d kicked what was left of her bounty away, furious at the little shit for nabbing the rest of her meal. With how hard it was to get just one branch down, securing another might not even be possible.
On second thought, strutting around with a branchful of food and precisely zero capabilities for self-defense was asking for trouble to put it lightly. It would let Sue finally achieve her dream of being a full walking meal with dessert for anything big enough to realize it could just run up to her and start chewing. And… so would staying here, right next to the abundant fruit tree.
Let’s get moving.
At least her legs didn’t ache as much anymore. Her mind immediately sprang to action, fantasizing about what might happen on her way through the mutant forest. Maybe she would end up being saved by some kind of special forces that wouldn’t gun her down on sight?
Before her imagination would swallow her, something else had caught her attention. Something very, very unnerving.
She didn’t sense that off-black fox approach at all.
Whatever her tugging sense was, it was downright screaming at her when that butterfly showed up, but it remained dead silent this time. And it’s not like it didn’t work anymore; she still felt it pointing all around. Were there creatures she couldn’t sense at all then? That was a scary enough thought with her frailty, but that one was also fast.
It could have easily caught up to her by now if it’d tried.
Mutants that not even the mutant-sensing mutant could sense, and fast enough to nibble all the meat off her legs before she could even try to kick them off.
With her speed disadvantage, her top priority was getting as far from the little dark-colored thing as possible. The peaches helped with her thirst for sure, but they didn’t come close to solving all of it, making finding something to drink priority number two.
The day might have still been relatively young, sunset a good few hours away at least, but securing a shelter was vital. With the danger around every corner, Sue was more than willing to play it safe on that front.
She wasn’t sure how a shelter like that would even look. A natural cave would work, but those were likely already inhabited, or worse- have their occupants not be immediately visible and crawl out at night to enjoy an alien-shaped takeout on their front porch.
Served with extra mud and half-digested peaches.
There wasn’t a whole ton as far as alternative choices went. Any burrow big enough to fit her would’ve similarly held something very poisonous, her claustrophobia aside. Trees weren’t known for having the space for anything bigger than birds to sleep on- not that climbing on one felt possible with how frail her body was to begin with.
Something more makeshift could work, a basic tent made of leaves. Just like what she heard her scout friends describe when she was younger. Gotta take it steady, and hopefully an answer would present itself.
The only alternative was panicking, and she’d had enough of that one for a good while after her breakdown.
With her stomach filled, Sue’s trek went by calmly. As she marched on, she realized that some critters she’d seen earlier were pretty common. No good purple rats, oversized green caterpillars, and these disturbing brownish squirrels with perpetually full cheeks.
Did every critter of a given species get mutated in the same way, and these overly-toothed rats all used to be the same kind of forest mice? And, more urgently, did that mean that other humans in the vicinity also became whatever she was right now?
Sue wasn’t sure which potential answer to that question filled her with more dread.
Finding a friendly soul only for them to be just as powerless as her and them dying together out there, or stumbling upon someone turned into something much more monstrous, much hungrier, and with much less of their humanity preserved.
Option A sounded less immediately terrifying, but it was nothing if not a close matchup.
Speaking of terrifying things, spiderwebs.
Sue didn’t think herself an arachnophobe or anything. At least, not a severe one. It wasn’t fear as much as it was... wanting to keep a respectful distance between herself and spiders. All spiders.
Thankfully, almost all she was ever treated to were the occasional landmarks of their presence. Glossy webs between flowers, in the bushes, or at the mouths of various small burrows.
NOT in between trees half a dozen feet apart, larger than her bed, and dense enough to immobilize her if she were to take a single step too far.
Just what kind of spider was even capable of spinning something this big!? The question made her mind feed her many a horrible sight, icy dread going down her spine. In hindsight, she probably shouldn’t have expected spiders to be excluded from whatever had befallen this forest. She only had her own mind to thank for that, for trying to shield her already tenuous sanity from the thoughts about spiders the size of her head.
And then, she looked up.
Several of them hung motionless from the thick canopy above her. Light green body roughly the size of her pillow, red mandibles, venomous to all fuck no doubt. If she got caught or bitten by one of those things, she was a flappy goner.
Even if the markings on their backs looked like smiley faces.
Thankfully, despite what had to have been the loudest gulp in history, they didn’t immediately all set upon her. Sue took the opportunity to shuffle off to the side and break into the second panicked sprint of the day, only barely keeping herself from screaming in panic.
She ran as fast as these legs could carry her until her lungs refused service, forcing her down to a crawl. A nearby tree eventually let her pause her bodily exertion- though not the mental kind, her brain still going a mile a minute about what it just saw.
Her already tattered sense of psyche didn’t take this place also having massive, lethal, and likely predatory spiders particularly well. The prospect of sleeping anywhere that wasn’t behind a multiply reinforced door suddenly became even less alluring.
And so did just walking around for that matter, since death could come from above now.
Sue kept her pace down even after she’d recovered her breath. Part of it was exhaustion, but some of it was wanting to continue scanning the area with her senses, juuuust in case there was another of these spiders waiting on a nearby branch.
The resulting paranoia did not make for a particularly good walking partner.
Thankfully, she wouldn’t end up running into any more sudden threats. The couple of creepier-looking insects were given a wide berth, uninterested in eating her flesh.
A distant noise eventually caught her attention, the kind she recognized well enough to let herself get excited in response. Her eyes went wide, her steps gained an extra spring to them, her mind even sobered up from its fearful haze, the sound she’d heard lighting a fire inside her.
The stream was tiny, but had enough depth to drink from. One quick tugging check later, she knelt on the stream’s bank and got to quenching her thirst, the water delightfully cold. The sixth sense warned her each time something approached down the river, making her back well off until it passed by.
A purplish serpent more than merited that response, but what followed it was much more… dubious. Sue could only blink at her newfound superpower warning her of a plant of all things. Still, she backed off a step. Her eyes were glued to the lily pad as she wondered if it would do anything but be an inanimate lifeform.
With a clear stream came an opportunity to inspect her new body some more. The lock smack dab in the middle of her face kept close to her head as she looked straight down at her reflection. Her attention was immediately taken by the sight of her eyes. Massive and fiercely red, not even in the fun, stoner way. The kind of eyes that, if she’d seen them on any other creature, she would’ve assumed it to be a demon.
Who knows whether that wasn’t what she was right now either, but at least she didn’t feel like one.
After she’d gotten over her infernal gaze, her attention shifted to the spikes on the sides of her head. Touching them revealed that these either were her ears, or that’s how her brain interpreted them. Despite them sticking out a bit like this, past experience let her know they could bend and lie flat against her head.
Trying to imagine how she would sleep if she could neither lay on her front, back, nor sides left Sue staring blankly off into the middle distance.
Guess at least there was that bit of mercy in her situation.
With her thirst sated and flaps rinsed off, Sue headed downstream. The tiny river provided excellent guidance towards finding somewhere to go. It might have been only about three feet across and shallower than most kiddy pools, but it would lead to larger and larger rivers down the line and, eventually, a settlement.
After all, that’s where they tended to get built.
Paying the modicum of attention in her lower high history classes finally paid off. Though, not even her sneering teacher would’ve preferred that knowledge to become relevant under circumstances this dire.
Maybe she could even make it somewhere civilized by nightfall!
Alright, that was way too optimistic considering her track record so far. The sober moment forced her to regain her cool, and put the warm hope back enough in her head to not burn her up in despair, but still close enough to keep her motivated. Eventually, she even stopped running away as critters swam down the stream beside her, though still kept a cautious eye over them and their emotions. They were curious and confused, fair enough, but a few were also… seemingly reassured by her presence.
The only creature that could’ve conceivably been reassured by her current appearance was Marvin the Martian, and only because it meant he could find himself a mate.
Strangling the part of her brain responsible for mental imagery like that just became that much more tempting of an idea.
Despite wishing she had mental eyebleach on hand, Sue couldn’t deny that the weird thoughts made the trek much less tedious. No matter how out there they were, they let her mind wander away from the bleak reality. All the while, the spindly creature she was controlling made its way forward on autopilot, only occasionally needing Sue to check her senses for any potential threats.
Sue sure didn’t expect most of her march to be so peaceful, considering the sheer outlandishness of the creatures around these parts. Not that she was complaining, of course. Guess since everything here was armed to the teeth with fangs, claws, or venom vicious enough to murder in one swipe, nothing wanted to be the initiator since it would get wrecked even if it won the scrap?
Mutually Assured, uh, Devouring.
Intense fear and predatory instinct ahead and to her right.
Just as she pondered about nothing having tried to eat her during the day.
Her breathing sped up as she turned to make it across the body of water, away from the encroaching terror. As tame and shallow as the stream was, its coldness didn’t help any, especially with how numb her legs already felt prior to that.
Before Sue could worry about the potential of hypothermia, she realized that the hunting sensations were getting closer and closer; her eyes shooting wide. Her body broke into a sprint on its own, mind barely paying attention to what she was even running into as she craned her head to keep track of the approaching chaos; the suspects soon presenting themselves.
Hey, it’s that dipshit fox thing that stole her peaches.
Whatever it was, it was running beside another fox. One much more eye-catching, bright yellow with a red tail tip and... ear fluff, a rather generous amount of it while at it.
If not for their situation, Sue would’ve stopped to consider the hygienic implications of such an unusual fur formation.
All that had to take a seat far back in her mind for the time being. The entirety of her focus was dedicated to running and panicking, and much the same was true of the foxes. Yellow one’s mind was filled with enough terror to freak Sue out, and she wasn’t even the one actively running for her life. The gray one continued to be silent on her inner radar, but a glance confirmed it was no less terrified than their companion.
She could only feel sorry for the two- or at least for the yellow one.
The sight of their pursuer made her legs feel weak.
The spiders she’d previously seen filled her with dread, despite being immobile. This one was much bigger, much redder, and even had a horn to underline just how much one should not fuck with it. Quite a few too few legs, too, though that observation was quickly pushed aside.
Sue was not interested in joining its prey in getting eaten, narrowly dodging a tree before deciding to hide behind it and observe the rapidly ending chase. The tattered pieces of knowledge she remembered from her biology classes included spiders producing their web from their backs, not mouths.
This one conveniently overlooked that fact.
It struck true with a glob of silk from its mouth, knocking the two foxes onto their sides, leaving them tangled and feebly trying to break the webs binding their limbs, screeches of fear from Sue’s sixth sense becoming almost deafening. The beast of a spider slowed down as it approached, savoring a successful hunt. Every part of Sue’s body wanted to take off and run for the hills, run until she couldn’t anymore, away from that beast-
But she couldn’t.
Feeling this tiny fox crying in fear for its life kept her from running. A deeply subconscious impulse she had no name for or comprehension of forced her to act, to do something, anything to help this little one in need. She tried fighting that impulse with every fiber of her being, tried to run away- but it wouldn’t relent, forcing her to take the shakiest and most dreaded step in her life, toward strife.
The foxes were already making progress in breaking out of the webs. They likely just needed that thing to be distracted for a moment and they’d be on their legs again.
Just a moment of distraction, which Sue could provide.
Fortunately for her conscious decision-making, currently feeling like it was trapped in a car with a maniac flooring it against the traffic, even this inner impulse didn’t force her to provide a distraction with her own body. A quick glance around her spotted a fist-sized stone, just right for the task at hand.
She didn’t expect to have enough strength in it to throw the pebble anywhere near as hard as it did, and certainly not enough to strike the fiend with any meaningful force.
Though she could only estimate the latter from the loud screech that followed.
She immediately ducked behind the nearest outcropping after committing to the throw, mind hoping beyond hope the insect would be too dumb to connect the dots. Mortal fear saturating her sixth sense finally faded as it ran away fast, getting replaced by an equally intense relief and joy.
But that wasn’t the sensation Sue was focused on.
Anger. Seething anger. Anger at a meal opportunity dashed. Anger at being struck off guard. Anger that was quickly making its way closer, dread filling her body at the realization.
Fangs dug into the mound of dirt she was leaning her head on mere moments before, moving just in time to evade the strike. The shriek of rage that followed hastened her further, panicking mind and a pursuing threat pushing her to run faster than ever before through the body’s exhaustion.
Nowhere near fast enough to outrun the fiendish spider.
Sue’s feeble last-ditch attempt to strafe around a tree was interrupted by the beast’s own lunge, knocking her out onto her side. Suddenly, all she could see was its screeching head towering over her body as it reared for a bite. She flailed her legs, trying to push it off her. Fear of death gunked her thought process, making her close her eyes and retaliate with one last kick through gritted teeth. Something hard cracking under her strike, an ear-splitting cry- a moment of triumph.
An instant later, all these sensations were eclipsed by the burning, stabbing pain in her other leg, spreading through her body with every heartbeat.
That’s what I get for trying to be a hero...
Soon enough, it all became too much.
The harrowing realization of her upcoming death filled what remained of Sue’s consciousness. It, distant cries, and nearby steps all faded into a muted noise that then flickered away, together with the rest of her.
And then, there was only darkness.
If you're confused about the species of the characters and want them spoiled, I've set up a page listing the species of all the featured characters in each chapter!
If you want to discuss the story, I've set up a Discord server for it! (and my other writings)
Also check out my other story, From the Vast!
If you want to discuss the story, I've set up a Discord server for it! (and my other writings)
Also check out my other story, From the Vast!