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A boy wakes up to realize he has become one-third-centipede. Centipedes are his favorite bug because he is a meat-loving lad. A centipede has one-hundred legs. A millipede has seven-hundred-fifty legs. When the boy tries to wiggle his legs, he cannot feel even one-hundredth of them. But when he looks down, he sees many, so many different hairy limbs twitching and pulsating, and knows he must be wrong. He’s living a bug’s life—a disgusting vermin that crawls up walls and slithers between pillow cushions. Walking hurts with every move, slaps his many ankles with the roughness of sandpaper. He licks his palm and tastes sour-milk skin, like the bitter end of a piece of spoiled candy. The tiny hairs standing atop his goosebumps are rough and tender to the touch; if he breathes, they quiver like microscopic bird-feathers. Teeth—he jams a finger in his mouth, tastes only spit jelly, dozens of rows of ridged canines, and hastily pulls out. Maybe he’s looking at this the wrong way. Maybe he’s a centipede continuously waking up as a boy. This is all a bad nightmare. He will burrow himself into the folds of his cocoon bed, close his eyes, and count the knobby knees of sheep to bed.
A boy wakes up to realize he has become one-third-Goliath beetle. Goliathus albosignatus Boheman. When he opens his eyes, he tastes the sweet-gummy flavor of fruity candy still fresh on his tongue. He is disgusting vermin that crawls up legs and slithers between thighs. As he stretches from his bed, he rotates his wings and flexes them in the still, quiet room. Nothing moves; in his boredom he flicks on the television and watches Fraggle Rock. Bouncing happy puppets. He tries to follow them, but his six legs only twitch and wobble, sad and unhappy little muscles. There is a knock on his door, but the beetle-boy doesn’t answer it. Something knocks at the door again. This is the second day in a row where the door has knocked and he didn’t answer it. He raises the television volume: puppet-voices rise higher and higher until his antennae quiver with the frequency of the satellite installed outside his window. If he is quiet enough, still as a statue, he might hear the secret conversations between his lonely neighbors.
A boy wakes up to realize he has become one-third-garden snake. This is his least favorite animal—he despises being one-third of anything, much less one-third of what he hates. He has no arms and legs and must slap his stomach repeatedly against the floor to move—he has not yet grasped the mechanics of slithering. As he approaches the mirror, he sees his reflection and bumps his snake nose up against the glass. His eyes widen like fat stars as his jaw unhinges, ready to confront the intruder. Tackling the glass, it shatters across his feet, piercing the bareness of his knees and ankles. He steps back, touches his gum, and tastes the familiar flavor of blood. It is metal-fruit, acidic and wicked on his bruised boy-tongue. A human tongue attached to human limbs. It does not hiss but only unfolds itself across the new wound, split down the middle, and cries like a worm without a mouth.
A boy wakes up abducted by aliens. He blinks, touches the stitches on his abdomen, and wonders when the next episode of his favorite television show will air. The aliens shrug and shoot him.
A boy wakes up with his womb missing. He hunts in the fields looking for it, gripping the end of a phallic-shaped gun searching for a soft pink underbelly. Somewhere it is slithering, and when he finds it, he will shoot it on sight. Suddenly the grass rustles—a twig snaps and he cocks his gun, attentively bites his bottom lip, and prays for mercy. He wishes for this hunt to end smoothly, without excessive carnage, and to hang the rebel organ stuffed on his wall. Sunbeams trickle down on sour flakey sand. He finds it in every crevice and fold of clothing. If he whistles low, he hears the individual grains reverberate with glee. When he stops, he feels them drop dead, so he follows the trail of laughter until he spots the wicked mass of flesh shuddering alone. The womb glares back at him with burning rage. It will not forgive him for scooping it out and tossing it to the lions like meat. The wind rips through blades of grass; there are no predators here. He steadies the gun, squints through the scope, and pulls the trigger.
No cries, no blabbering from blood-pooled lips. He swings the organ over his shoulder and will feed the scraps to his hunting dogs. But the hole at the womb’s end quivers, wind flapping as though it speaks in lips, as though it houses a cyst with teeth and pus waiting to scream. As though it will never bite the boy’s hand and run far, far away, deep in the black thicket of the wilderness. The boy screams but nothing can be done—he doesn’t dare chase after the womb as the sun begins setting. He has his own settling to do at camp. He puts the bloodied hand to his own lips, kisses it, and snuffs the hot head of the gun into a mound. The earth is round and rolls for his body; there is a hole in his belly where he misses his prey, a hole without a nail. But he spits on the ground, slaps his side, and leaves the weapon buried while dreaming of lovely raspberry wounds. A blood-sack of womb howls like a wolf, sniffs for its pack, and will travel thousands of miles searching alone at night.
Blake Planty is a fiction writer currently working on a novel about the internet, the southwest, and vicariously living through role-play fantasies. His short stories and essays can be found in Nat. Brut, Waxwing Magazine, DREGINALD, Foglifter Magazine, The Fanzine, Tenderness Lit, and more. He’s the recipient of a 2020 SAFTA/Lambda Literary fellowship and studied literary arts at Brown University. His hobbies include writing overly sincere video game essays. His website is www.catboy.club
dev is 29 and can currently be found in new england in a nest of paper, books, & hamster shavings. their art explores transgender embodiment, body horror and transformation, corporeality, monstrosity, the occult, rituals and rites, fetishism, transgression and subversion, machine learning, and “old web” and bitmap aesthetics. Their website is http://flesh.direct.
Cover Photo Credit: Kylie Supski