by J. Bowers
Excerpted from "Anima," a novel-in-progress.

I will feed. I will feed on this, and grow strong. I hunger. I wrap my new tongue around damp, yielding flesh, for there is something warm here, something sweet I can suck into myself. I feel it reeling through my bones. It should strengthen them. Maybe they'll stop bending soon, stop all the other things squirming and writhing against me, help me to rise above them.

There are others, and we are rivals. But I feel safe near them, safe and cutthroat. These hot, sweet mouthfuls have become everything to me, everything, and I must kick and scratch to maintain my share. The others will not listen to reason, and I have no way to reason with them, nothing to do except eat, and eat, and grow strong.

So, this is what being newborn feels like.

I do have a tongue. I've moved it against my gums, but I am toothless. I've tried to grab the flesh of my neighbors, but I don't seem to have hands anymore. And I have gone blind. There is nothing but pink, and beyond that, I sense darkness, endless darkness, and great space. But I have my mouth. I do have my tender mouth, and an inexhaustible supply of this strange elixir, provided that the large, soft mother-thing doesn't leave me again.

Sometimes she does leave, and our mouths are left empty, straining and dry, our velvet-skinned bodies left to wriggle against one another, shivering for warmth. There used to be more of us. That meant more comrades to bed down beside, and more rivals to kick away. For a long time, perhaps days, there was a particularly fragile body piled against my own. He felt like a heap of bones, but he was warm--I could hear him breathing, feel his soft mouth tugging at my skin, desperate, trying to feed. But I grew accustomed to his misguided efforts. I wormed my body against his, and took comfort in its frail heartbeat, until that gentle, skinny being was yanked away from me, snapped up by a force greater than either of us.

It was the mother thing that did it. The creature providing us with heat, and shelter, and nourishment--I sensed her breathing above me, and for a moment, I thought she'd come back to keep on feeding us, to let us nurse until our bellies grow fat and warm. But then I heard bone breaking against bone, and felt the blood dribble onto my thin skin.

I knew it was blood because the scent was familiar, hot and sharp--the last thing I smelled before...before all this. And I know now that it was the blood of my fragile companion, because he never returned to me. He is gone, chewed and swallowed by the very thing that's protecting me, feeding me, helping me to grow strong. He is gone, gone forever--unless, by some bizarre coincidence, he is also juju man.

I do know one thing for sure. I am growing. Soon, I will become whatever the mother thing is. And she has eyes that work. I can tell by the way she moves among us--she can see. Soon, I feel certain, I will grow eyes of my own. I will discover where I am, what I have become, and what I must do.

But for now, I must eat.
Posted by: J. Bowers

Prose (February 21st, 2007)