TW: Violence, Stalking, Adult Language, Body Horror
It was around two in the morning when Adam crept out of the shadows of the parking lot. Long, pale limbs reaching at the edges of concrete, pulling out the rest of his well-muscled, if gangly form. Other flesh-molders usually got fancy with their bodies, pushing at the limits of function for the fun of a stranger form. Anything to appear artistic, anything to stand out. Typical artist shit. But standing out wasn’t useful to Adam. Form for the sake of form was idiocy, no matter how advanced one’s skills had to be to achieve it.
Better to ensure a strong heart, strong muscles, long limbs. Ferrari Roma quality in a Chevy Malibu wrapper, as his idiot coworker Richard had once put it. Inane as the technically inept murderer’s metaphor was, it was incredibly apt. No bells, no whistles. Just a peak human form with… upgrades. Nothing fancy, nothing counterable and gimmicky. Just good bones and good flesh. Sourced from the freshest specimens possible.
In fact, it was the pursuit of freshness that had brought him to his current quarry. Some out-of-town anartist by the name of Ember Matsutani. Made some pretty interesting stuff ; mostly to do with sound reflection and complex structures using strange non-melting ice. Definitely someone to look out for in the coming years. Unfortunately for her, however, this was the night her career would end. Harvested into un-ageing biomass. Perfectly in line with the Sisyphus Theorem.
So Adam stuck to the shadows, traveling behind them with Cosmos’ power, poking his head out in brief moments, following the woman as she made her way to her car. She was stumbling - likely drunk. Perfect.
Honestly, half the time he nabbed someone, it was hardly his fault. If people were more vigilant, he’d have a much harder time with the old grab-and-drag. And people still felt the need to get all self-righteous about it. Born victims, people in this day and age. Disgusting. So Adam slithered through the lot, pale body visible deep in dark spots, only for seconds. For a borrowed ability, it felt so right to move this way. A whole world at his fingers, only needing something to block the light. From his semi-real perch, he watched Ember shamble over to a dark red beater. Driving in that state… probably a dead woman anyways. If anything, he was prolonging her life at this point. Then he noticed something that made his face split into a grin.
It seemed that Miss Matsutani’s car was in a blind-spot for the security cams. Again, a simple look around would have let her know it wasn’t a good place to park. But nobody noticed things anymore. It was all… tech. Dominating their minds like nothing else. The dopamine surges of notifications. It made him want to vomit. Still, he couldn’t help but be grateful for the idiot-boxes. Made sure that he would be a lucky boy tonight. The specimen literally kept herself chilled. He practically had to shut off his salivary glands as he watched her drop her keys.
It was time.
Adam made no noise as he appeared right under the car, his six-fingered hand reaching to grab the woman’s ankle, pulling her down to the knee into his shadows. From standing to sinking into shadow. He heard the clatter of the woman’s glasses as she fell flat, her sense of balance suddenly no longer equipped for the world her leg was being pulled into. Shadow-travel was disorienting for first-timers. It gave him an edge. He didn’t worry when she yelled, when she plunged her arm into the darkness, when cold fingers wrapped around his wrist. Touching a flesh-molder without gloves was a fatal mistake.
The skin beneath his victim’s fingers liquefied and turned to piercing tendrils, shooting into her hand to find… nothing. No flesh. Just more of that freezing cold. A shiver ran up his body, deep. As he felt his new appendages start to go numb. His grip loosened for a second. Ember started to yank her leg out, grunting in frustration, heavy boot sliding out of the shadow.
“How are you-”
A steel-pointed stiletto heel dug into his eye, making its way to where his brain should have been with a wet crunch. He screamed out, unable to leave her grip, unable to work the sharp point out of his skull. He couldn’t feel his arm, but he didn’t remember turning off his pain sensors there. Blood streamed down Adam’s face.
“My hand… it-”
The anartist dug in her heel, laughing. “That’ll be the frostbite, you fucking chode.” She grunted in exertion, slowly working on pulling herself out, and Adam with her. “I’m pretty candy-coated in most places, but that arm’s the real deal. Ice around a creamy rotten center. You’d have gotten me if you just kept chewing. Adam.”
Rage flared. Being stabbed, being mutilated, it was all par for the course. But the disrespect in her voice. Adam let out a rasping, bubbling roar. His vocal chords melted away, his throat turning to bare bone as he redirected flesh into his free hand, making a knife where he should have made a scalpel. Flashy. Stupid. But he was running out of time. He brought it down on his wrist, only for it to clang off. Shit. The frost. It was…
“Use a hammer, asshole! Come on! Put some pepper into it!” Ember screamed at him, eyes wide as she struggled against his weight. She pulled her heel out of his head, trying again to grab onto something, anything. Rips in her jeans - if he could just - she was digging for something in her purse. The heel came down on his head again. Breaking his nose this time. Tears filled his eyes, before he reabsorbed them, before his nose melted away, before he moved that mass into his hand to take Ember’s suggestion. The cartilage-bone-muscle hammer was sloppy, brutish. But it was heavy. Much heavier now than he needed.
He could do this. Just had to hit the frozen part. And he could get away.
Ember’s high pitched laugh was starting to bounce off the walls. Part of him wanted to rally, to teach her a lesson of messing with things as old as him. He winced as he let his pain come back online, so he could make out in the inky shadows just how much of his arm was already lost. The frost, he quickly realized, was up to the bicep. It was beginning to dawn on him that he could die here.
“F-fucking monster bitch, I should-” He raised his arm, bringing it down hard on himself. His one intact eye screwed shut. Stars flooded his vision. He did it again. And again. Until finally, finally, he started to fall into the inky mire behind every shadow.
“You should what, fucker? Get your ass kicked again? I’m keeping this free sample, baby. And I’m going to find you and fucking filet you. Got it? I’m going to flash-freeze you like some fucking tuna and make steaks.”
He sank, pushing down the urge to vomit as he emerged on the other side, halfway across the city, in an alley behind an old diner. It was a sensory overload as his body regenerated itself, redistributing biomass.
All too much. The odor of rats and fry-grease. The sound of his flesh re-adjusting. Of his new eye growing in. But more than anything, he couldn’t unhear that laughter. Couldn’t unhear that woman mocking him as he broke his own arm off to escape. That last thing she’d said, as she faded from his punctured vision. Those manic eyes peering into his face, looking at him with the same disgust he reserved for stray cats and real estate agents. The satisfaction she’d shown when his arm came off in her grip. The absolute malice in her words as she informed him what she was going to do with the “free sample” he’d given her.
It wasn’t really the malice of her words that had gotten to him, though.
It was the certainty.