Fukua knew the look, knew the clothing. She may have been tailored in a lab but that didn’t mean she hadn’t spent enough time perusing the zeitgeist of society to recognize a coif and veil. Of course, she’d also spent enough time among the killers and fiends living beneath it to recognize a fellow predator when she saw one.
The woman who stood across from her now wore the skin of normalcy as much as Fukua herself – a competent disguise provided you didn’t know what to look for. But Fukua did. There was something too straight, too ordinary about this nun’s posture. Her hands were folded politely in front of herself, her head bowed and face frozen with the chaste calm of a corpse . A plain enough sight to see knelt within a rank and file of fellow sisters at the city’s Church of Martyred Saints. But she was here. Alone. In the lair of one of the city’s most lethal assassins – one who’d just been devoured scalpels and all not minutes earlier.
And she knew her name.
“I am Fukua.” Fukua confirmed , turning and surrendering the briefest of nods. Her stomach swung with her, gurgling. “And this is not my home.”
The nun took a soundless step forward, her eyes closed and thin mouth turning lightly up at the corners as she spoke. “Is that Valentine within you now ?” She said, “Is she alive?”
A flicker of surprise passed through Fukua’s thoughts. She’d devoured quite a few girls by this point – sometimes two at a time if the cards were in her favor - and if there was one thing she could rely upon, it was that the sight of a human engorged belly never failed to elicit a certain type of reaction. Screams. Jaw-dropped shock. More than a few soiled undergarments. But the nun showed none of these, her expression remaining as calm and condescendingly unmoved as a mother listening to a child’s confession of stealing a cookie before dinner.
Had Fukua innate human sentiments, she may have been insulted at the lack of recognition for her talents.
“This woman betrayed my creator. A creator who was decent enough to gift me with the means of taking from the world what-“
“Is she alive, child?” The nun took another step. The light reflected strangely on her face. Her eyes remained closed though her smile had widened just enough to expose a row of wet, strangely small looking teeth. A little too white. A little too straight.
Fukua frowned, taking a step forward herself. Unconsciously answering the challenge of this unhesitating and unnatural opponent. And they were opponents. The energy between the two of them was palpable and incompatible to all the niceties of normal, human interaction. Their mutual and dangerous natures hung over the two of them like great storm clouds, each ripe with the rumblings of their respected capabilities.
“For the moment.” Fukua responded, thrumming her fingers over the curved posture of the fetal-folded nurse in her belly. “I’d yet to allot my full attentions on digesting her. Though I can assure you, I defeated this woman fair and square – her flesh is mine to assimilate.”
The nun was still for a few moments, unreadable and unnerving as a cherub on a headstone. Then she took another step. Or so it seemed. For the life of her, Fukua couldn’t make out any footsteps as the woman moved. “No. That will not do.” She said. “Valentine and myself are associates. We work for common ends. I do not wish for her to be killed at the moment and thus I will ask you to release her. Now.”
Fukua felt her nerves tighten at the paucity of this nun’s acknowledgement of the situation. The arrogance to presume negotiation when in the shadow of a true predator! One that’d so recently and so clearly proved its potency! “You’d do best not to associate yourself with the girl in my belly.” Fukua replied, meeting the nun’s advance with a step of her own. “She was a traitor. If you are in league with her, that makes you an asset to her treachery. You should not wish that.”
“I’ve already told you what I wish.” The nun retorted with a pleasant tilt of the head. “And I will ask it one last time.”
She had no scent. Her heartbeat was either too weak or too slow to register through her paper white skin. If she had a Parasite of her own, its presence was seamlessly merged with that of its host. So much of this nun didn’t register as a threat. In fact, so much of this nun didn’t seem to register at all. She was a suggestion of a presence – carefully composed but hollow as a bullet casing. Or so it seemed.
Fukua refused to be frightened – it’d been years sense she’d emboldened such feelings. Instead, she took a deep, slow breath and lowered her gaze to the floor. Muscles rippled. Her body shifted slightly. And in a rush of constricting, rending biological processing, Fukua centered the entirety of her strength and focus onto the task of digesting her prey. It took quite a bit of energy to accomplish and would leave her more than a little vulnerable, but the statement it’d make would be more than potent enough to end this negotiation.
The sounds of bones popping from their sockets rose like a dark chorus, a slow and lavish series of life-long architectures splitting apart under the crushing walls of the living tomb containing them. Had Fukua’s body obeyed the pedestrian laws of physics, a fountain of gore would have come exploding out of her and decorating the floor with a carpet of partially liquidated human debris. But Fukua was beyond this world and there were deeper, darker pockets within herself in which the savage form of Valentine could be stored and processed. Blood and other fluids were juiced from their gelatinous organs, channeling down the dark quagmire of Fukua’s innards, reducing the swell she had made in her killer’s belly inch by inch like a draining boil. Within a minute, Fukua’s tummy was flat and firm once more – the jealousy of any young woman on the eve of beach season. There was nothing but Valentine’s emptied clothes to give testament to the horrid fate their owner had endured.
Fukua turned to the nun once more, raising her brow and pursing her lips in the detached condescension of a monarch watching the head of a rival bounce about in the guillotine’s basket. But the nun had not recoiled. The nun hadn’t even moved – no fury, no disgust – Fukua ’s execution of Valentine had all the impact of a failed attempt to pull a rabbit out of a hat.
A silence fell over the two of them, a silence that – unlike the one shared with Valentine not ten minutes earlier – was not one Fukua could claim as her own. She was the one who’d been surprised. She was the one who had no idea of the capabilities of the woman facing her. But she musn’t fear – fear was for her victims. Fear was for those with flesh to lose.
Fukua worked her jaw for a moment and then spat the two knee binds Valentine had been wearing onto the floor. The nun’s white eyes traced down to them for a moment, an unreadable twinge of sentiment emerging from and promptly vanishing beneath the still sea of her countenance.
“She was important to me. Not many people are.” The nun said, almost to herself. “I hope her death was just as important to you.”
Fukua wiped her mouth and grinned. “Who are you?”
A ripple, an actual liquid ripple, glided up the woman’s flank. Small, tiny things seemed to be moving beyond the dark folds in her robes. Only now did she smile fully. Her teeth were daggers.
“I am like you.” The Nun said without moving her lips. Something cracked within her. Then again . “But better.”
The lights overhead flickered, throwing the room into stark shadows – a darkness in which the edges of the woman’s silhouette seemed to expand inexplicably outwards. Shapes, impossible shapes, began spreading like a bacterial growth across a petri dish. Noises accompanied them, wet and inhuman as jets of air were and expelled through countless malformed orifices. Long, segmented bone-like limbs emerged beds of writhing tendrils, mounds of flesh blossomed with eyeballs and manes of long, sharp teeth. A briar-patch of inconstant flesh forming and abandoning countless simulacrums of human and animal forms alike.
Most prominent of all, however, was the mass that centered this ghastly bladed garden. Somewhere within Fukua thought she could see the pale moon of the Nun’s face watching her, surrounded by a living kaleidoscope of teeth and claws. It expanded, towering to at least ten feet tall and layered with layers of glistening musculature that primed themselves into a predator pouncing stance. It wasn’t expecting a fight. It was expecting a chase. Fukua was prey to this beast, or at least so it thought.
And for Fukua….perfect Fukua. Apex Fukua….
….she found herself unsure whether or not she agreed.
She knew that among the girls she’d made meals of all throughout this city, she was the greatest and last nightmare they’d ever have the misfortune of facing. A fox in the henhouse. That’s what she was – what she always was. But this….this thing in front of her….this was a Great White in a kiddie pool . Something that shouldn’t be here, shouldn’t be anywhere within this world. Parasites bent the laws of what a human body could accomplish , but not measure of genetic or alien modulation could justify allotting existence to such a grotesquerie as this. Fukua had faced down the worst of human evils, the worst the gangs and corrupt cops and militarized blacklist secs had to offer. And she’d beat them. Because they were something less – they were human. She knew how to kill humans.
But what faced her now was outside humanity. Outside the food chain.
There was no victory to be found here.
So she ran. Ran for her god damn life.
In a flash her Parasite shot out a tendril that wrapped around a nearby gurney of Valentine’s medical tools and hurled it across the room towards the nightmarish shape the nun had become. A diversionary tactic – with any luck the beast was still rearranging itself into its combat form and wouldn’t have the wherewithal to-
The gurney split in half before it even reached its target. Fukua saw only a metallic flash and suddenly the steel cart was bisected into two pieces, each spiraling to either side of the monstrous Nun in a shower of scalpels and bone saws. The shape was moving. Lunging.
Fukua’s shoes pounded across the tiled floor, Shamone extending four long spider-like legs to help ferry her across towards one of the tall, tinted windows that lead to the rainy streets beyond. Valentine’s lab had been on the third story of the abandoned hospital she’d set up shop within, but a thirty foot drop was the least of her concerns at the moment. With a flick of her neck, Fukua had her parasite launch herself into the air, her body bracing for the impact and her mind already mapping out the quickest escape route once she hit the streets.
Like the gurney, though, she never reached her target.
There was a hissing noise from behind her, a sound none too dissimilar to the flight of a heavy ballista bolt. Something wet and living impacted the small of Fukua’s back, something that immediately seemed to bloom like a grotesque flower against her skin and grip her hips with muscled, needle-lined petals. The blow robbed Fukua of her momentum and instead of breaking through the window caused her to merely blat against it like a moth on a windshield. Her cheek smushed against the glass, her arms and legs spread almost humorously outwards as her eyes stared wide and uncomprehending to the rainy streets beyond. She glanced over her shoulder and visibly winced at what she saw –
Gripped around her hips and buttocks was a rapidly developing ring of teeth, a maw connected to a long cord of flesh that extended form the monstrous Nun’s body like the striking tentacles of a colossal squid. The tendril was twice as thick as a telephone pole and was ribbed with muscles and plumping veins as it prepared to reel in its prey. The Nun’s face was still visible from within the mire, her skin and blank expression like a white pearl in a bed of writhing worms.
“You will not escape this.” She said simply. “You will not survive this .”
Fukua struggled, hands pounding on the glass as her mind sent command after command to her Parasite. Shamone, however, had ceased responding. In fact….Fukua couldn’t register her companion at all. She was aware that Parasites were capable of detaching from their hosts, but she’d never imagine such an event being so…immediate. She raised her hands to her scalp, fingers rifling through her lush, jade hair only to realize that her locks were now utterly lifeless – exquisite, but lifeless.
She managed one bewildered glance upwards, catching a departing blur of motion as a mop of clumsy tendrils retreated into the shadows of the ceiling…. like a cockroach from the light, like a rat from a sinking ship….
Shamone was gone. Her Parasite had abandoned her. And just like that Fukua was alone.
Well, not quite alone.
The maw around her hips tugged back, yanking the doomed girl from the window and sending her sprawling onto the floor. Without Shamone, it was a clumsy impact. She grunted, rolling painfully onto her belly and pushing herself up to her knees. Two drops of blood ticked softly on the tiles below her. It took Fukua a moment to realize they were hers. With a shaking hand she prodded the skin beneath a gently bleeding nose and marveled at the color on her fingertips as a long shadow fell over her.
“Valentine was not yours to take.” The nun’s voice said, echoing now as if rising from the bottom of a deep, deep well. “She had purpose. She had responsibilities to the Trinity, the organization that I too am beholden too.”
There was the sound of flesh sliding across the floor and suddenly the grip on Fukua’s bottom pulled taught. The teeth pinched against the skin of her back and thighs, gripping the fabric of her skirt and pushing her buttocks against a widening ring of muscle that she was terrified to realize was the top of a throat.
Lords…..this monster was going to swallow her whole….
Fukua wanted to plead, wanted to threaten or beg or negotiate but no words came. The calm and collected chic of the predator mindset she’d enjoyed for so long had retreated from her, left her naked and vulnerable as a chick in the shadow of an unsupervised and merciless barn cat.
“Wait…” she whispered at last. “Wait…wait….”
The Nun said nothing as n othing Fukua could say or do would register as consequential . Not to the soulless machinery that was at play. The crown of teeth encasing her hips tightened, breaking the skin as the feeding tendril began retracting back into the monstrous morass beyond. Fukua was pulled back, her legs stretched out straight in front of her, cute brown shoes raised towards the ceiling. She must have looked like a child in a sandbox, bent forward, hands between her knees.
How weak. How vulnerable.
The flesh of her thighs squeaked on the cold tile, her fingertips scrambling and failing to find purchase as they went. At first glance Fukua’s expression looked serene as a death mask, however it only took a moment to register the tightening of her lips to a thin line and eyes sweeping tightly about as they grappled with these unprecedented and fatal circumstances. She’d never known danger like this. Never known fear like this. But she’d certainly seen it before it. Not ten minutes ago. On Valentine’s face.
The ring of teeth shifted for a moment, then expanded. On either side of Fukua’s field of vision she could see the writhing base of the mound that was the nun’s central mass, countless structures all yawning open to receive her like the hands of hungry, wretched lepers. The teeth encircling her hips began creeping further up her body, hinging her torso forward and slowly beginning the horrid process of folding her in half. Fukua felt her muscles strain, her the sockets of her joints sizzling with discomfort as the ring of teeth continued their slow march up her skin. Still, her mind could barely make sense of it. Still, the extent of her protests could to amount to little more than a breathy pout and a continued, miserable chant of -
The Nun’s towering body blocked out the overhead light, the cavernous maw of her main body continuing to widen like an opening ribcage. Small, tendon-like tentacles writhed about beneath the skin of Fukua’s legs, their thin tips pulling and probing at the green, thigh-high stockings as they passed before slipping to her shoes and easing them off one at a time. Fukua didn’t resist at watched her stocking clad feet retreat from where they lay.
“I am glad you granted Valentine a swift death within you.” The Nun’s voice said amid the carnal chorus of shifting flesh and writhing flagella. “But I cannot grant you a similar mercy. What awaits you will be beyond human imagination.”
The Nun’s feeding maw gave a firm push and Fukua was fully bent forward, her chin impacting the floor and her hands plopping out in front of her. She could feel the teeth climbing up the fabric of her shirt, beneath the flesh of her thighs, their tips unthinkingly penetrating her skin and drawing beads of dark blood like the tip of a feathered pen might from an overgenerous inkwell. The pain hardly registered, even as she felt both her legs dislocate with a rolling pop and her stocking-clad feet gave a numbing spasm.
She grunted, the air beginning to flatten from her lungs and strangling her cries to a series of faint, retreating whimpers. Her hair fell down in front of her face, her bottom lip quivering as her eyes widened in final, full acknowledgement that this would be her last night. Her limp legs were drawn together, the bridge of her nose now cradled between her knees as the Nun’s maw reached the nape of her neck. Something in her spine seemed to give way. A rib broke. A glint of blood gathered and fell from the corner of her mouth. There seemed to be no end to the abyss she was being drawn into, the darkness of the Nun’s maw a seeming open gateway to a greater, unknowable fathom – the space that waited beyond all starlight. Primordial. Inescapable. Yet far from empty…. j
There be monsters.
Fukua managed one last whimper as she felt those teeth moving over the top of her skull. She watched as the edges of the maw oozed into her field of vision like she was trapped within some thorn lined draw string bag. She watched breathlessly as her trembling, blood flickered hands were squeezed between her upturned feet and all light began retreating into the writhing darkness of the creature’s gullet. Her mind fell away from all reason, her thoughts abandoning their native sensibilities in these final moments as the muscles of the Nun’s internal structures continued crushing the symmetries from her body. Most humans hoped for some departing wisdom to accompany their final moments, some dignified and centering statement to punctuate whatever stretch of years they’d managed to occupy in life. But Fukua was not human and had barely occupied what could be considered a full and accomplished life.
So she managed only a small hiccup of blood and a withering squeak of – “….please…”
The Nun’s body was beginning to retreat into itself once more, the underlying landscapes of her true self once again concealing beneath a curtain of human proportion. All save her front, the maw that was still gulping up the final remnants of the young girl it’d cornered and devoured. A pair of delicate fingers and two green stocking-clad feet were all that remained, cinched together at the wrist and ankle respectively like some sort of grotesque human bouquet. The Nun’s face rose like a ghastly moon up to the top of her re-assembling body, the gray eyes watching as the last of her meal was consumed. She reformed two human hands of her own and raised them to gently cradle the last of Fukua like one might a dying bird. Her thumb eased up the soles of Fukua’s feet, played with the limp toes in their silky coverings before ushering them bit by bit back and into herself. The last of the girl vanished with a departing slurp and the horrid maw that’d consumed them slithered back beneath a veil of swaying black cloth that adjusted themselves to the unassuming stylings of a nun’s robe.
Within moments the Nun stood alone within the flickering halls of Valentine’s lab, a pair of empty shoes and a few streaks of blood stretching along the floor to her feet being all that would remain of her victim. Despite this, though, her body showed no disproportion. No sign that somewhere within herself the body of the young woman known as Fukua was being rendered beyond cremation. No bones would be returned to the mortal world. Not even the metal buttons on her shirt. The Nun would keep it all.
She made no noise as she departed, all she had come to say and do having been completed. There were aspects of this world that had their functions, aspects like the Trinity. Like Valentine. The Nun appreciated functionality. It helped her make sense of things. She’d known of Fukua’s presence within the city for several months – knew that, like herself, the girl posed a unique threat to the balance of power she so carefully maintained. She should have anticipated that she’d come for Valentine sooner, perhaps then her comrade would still be alive. That would have been preferential. Until she served her purpose that is. Or became redundant. Then she’d have been removed. Like Fukua. Like countless others.
Nothing would ever be found of Fukua nor her parasite Shamone. In time, the struggles and skirmishes of the city returned to their standard, tidal exchanges as new champions came and took their respected shots at one another. And above it all, neither resentful nor joyful, neither recognized nor completely forgotten….the Nun watched. And waited.