/lit/ - Literature

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Uuugh, my story fell off the end of the list again. I continue to patiently await the day the staff get around to changing /lit/ to not do that, hint hint nudge nudge wink wink stab stab.
In the meantime, enjoy reading this story again as one massive wall of text with no formatting! xP


Tonight was the night - I could feel it in my gut. The night I’d finally go all the way with her. We’d been flirting off and on for weeks, and gone out a couple times, but never really done anything. But after the sickeningly romantic events of this evening, it was all but inevitable.
The minute school had ended, we had met up and spent the late afternoon going through every attraction the town had to offer, ending with a picnic of sorts under the waning spray of Mount Eri. It wasn’t really a mountain - people just ended up calling it that - but rather a geyser that erupted like clockwork twice every day, so regularly the villagers had come to use it to tell time. While the water coming out was extremely hot at the beginning, after a few minutes of erratic bursts it would lose some of its power, and by the time the water droplets had drifted through the air and returned to the ground they were at a very pleasant warmth. In the current situation it was making both of us feel very aroused.
“The food’s gone soggy,” I commented casually.
“So it has. I guess we didn’t really think this through,” responded my girlfriend.
“Guess we might as well do something else.”
I’d said exactly what she wanted to hear and I knew it. Within moments the ruined snacks had been swept away and I found myself lying flat on my back under her. Her hands began to wander across my naked skin, exciting me even more than the tickle of the water droplets had. One found its way to my face, while the other drifted down, lower and lower, across my belly and toward my legs.
One hand brushed against my eyelash while the other was beginning to probe my crotch, when suddenly she drew back in horror.
“You! You haven’t… What am I doing?” she exclaimed, aghast. “You haven’t blossomed!”
“What? No! Don’t stop!” I begged her, suddenly irrational and desperate. It couldn’t go wrong now, of all times! I grabbed at her arm.
“Get away from me! I’m not a pedophile!” she shouted, and then she ran off and disappeared into the darkness.

I arrived at my house in tears. I didn’t even care how many people had seen me trudging dejectedly through the streets of the village - I was consumed by despair. I’d invested so much, emotionally, in that relationship only to have it fail so abruptly right at the worst moment. My mother needed no explanation - my appearance said it all. She shooed me into the bath, worried I’d catch a cold since I was still dripping wet from the geyser.
After crying my eyes out in the tub, I felt marginally better, at least insofar as the shock had worn off. I remained depressed and worried though. I was already seventeen and not only was still a virgin but hadn’t even blossomed. If something didn’t change in the next few months I’d become a pariah, shunned by the other villagers and doomed to live in poverty, grow wrinkly and hideous, and die alone. They didn’t banish the unblossomed, but the topic was brought up at every town hall and sooner or later would probably become law.
My sister was far luckier. She slept soundly on her side of our shared bedroom, right in the middle of her transformation into a woman. I didn’t resent her, but I couldn’t help wondering why - why did she get to do it first? She was younger than me! I’d been waiting years longer than she had, growing ever more anxious, and yet she got to start before me for no clear reason.

I couldn’t sleep that night. I tried the old cliche of crying myself into unconsciousness, but it was no good after I’d already let it all out in the bath. That, plus the growing worry.
My mother came to check on me after a few minutes. She leaned over me and gently ran her hand through my hair in a gesture of pure motherly love. I knew she’d always love me, even if I never blossomed and became an outcast.
“I can’t sleep,” I blubbered.
“Why don’t I tell you a story like I used to? Long ago, when the village was new, some children were born with a gift called the Vision. It was like an extra sense, allowing them to perceive distant objects and people...”
As she droned on about the old legend, sure enough her tactic proved successful and I found my mind wandering. My last memory before falling asleep was of tracing my fingers along the rim of the small circular hole above my bed, said to be a portal to let the Spirits in.

I rose the next morning filled with determination. I was going to make myself blossom, or else find out why I couldn’t. My mom wouldn’t have the answer - she’d just tell me something about how everyone was different and to just wait for it to happen naturally and not feel ashamed. But I was running out of time - action was needed. So I set out for the shrine where the village elders lived. Surely they could tell me something useful.
“Odd, for a child to appear here in the morning. What of school?”
I had decided to skip that day. Shame over my harsh rejection aside, I had much more important business to address. I ignored the elder’s question and posed my own.
“I’m going to turn eighteen in three months, and I haven’t blossomed. I want to know if something’s wrong with me.”
“It is indeed unusual, but not impossible for a child to blossom at such a late time. Why not be patient for a while longer?”
“I’ve been patient. It hasn’t worked. My younger sister’s already started, but I haven’t. All of my classmates have, and I lost my girlfriend yesterday when she found out I hadn’t. I want her back!” I hadn’t made the strongest of cases with that rambling argument, but it seemed to work anyway.
“Come inside. There is something we can try.”
The shrine was a surprisingly small building - barely two rooms. It was just enough to keep the elder alive for the few years she would spend there before joining the Spirits herself. At the back of the main room was a door that led to the Spirits’ Pool, where only the elder was allowed to go.
“There is a ritual we can perform that will help you blossom. It’s a last resort we try not to use, but with any luck it should solve your problem. However! You must promise never to tell anyone about it, or about anything that happens during the process.”
I was all too glad to acquiesce.
“You must sleep in the Spirits’ Pool. If you give yourself, body and soul, to the Spirits, then they will descend upon you during the night and one of them will possess your body. If you don’t blossom then, I fear there may be nothing that will make it happen.”
I was worried by the finality of his last statement - if this trick didn’t work, that would be it for me. Was it perhaps better to wait after all?
No! I had resolved myself already. I would do whatever I had to do, and thus did I tell the elder.

That evening, after taking some time to prepare everything and make sure my resolve was solid, the elder poured me a cup of fragrant potion. Despite being told to sip it slowly, I was so impatient I could scarcely keep myself from chugging it all down at once. As soon as I finished it, I began to feel its effects. My body felt hot and vitalized. My senses were heightened, and smells and sounds that I had before barely noticed became pungent and cacophonic. Most of all, though, I felt so very, very relaxed. I knew I’d happily do anything anyone told me at that point, no matter how shameful or dangerous.
I wasn’t sent on any absurd stunts, though. The elder guided me to the back of the room and through the door. I climbed the steps into the sanctum where the Elder Spirits dwelt, and where scarcely anyone besides village elders had ever gone.
The Spirits’ Pool was a large pond filling the bottom of a cavernous chamber whose ceiling was covered in thousands of needle-like stalactites, which muffled the echoes from my breathing and footsteps. Nevertheless, the sanctitude of the place compelled me to minimize my presence, shuffling my bare feet ever so gingerly across the floor and breathing quiet, shallow breaths.
The elder had prepared a raft on which I was to spend the night. It floated in the center of the pool, tethered by a rope to keep it from drifting to the side. I clambered awkwardly onto it, lay down, and waited for something to happen.
For what felt like hours, nothing happened at all. I was excited near to the point of restlessness, but the drug I’d been given made it easy to lie still. Eventually my senses became dull and reality began to fade in and out, but I didn’t fall completely asleep - rather into some sort of dreamlike trance.
A few minutes later I started to feel the Elder Spirits around me. They had left their human bodies long ago, dwelling now in the waters of the pool, through which they undulated, gently rocking my raft. Some of them began to touch my body, sliding smoothly across it and leaving cool trails of moisture in their wake. As time passed, I could feel more and more caressing me, until I was covered head to toe in their seductive touch. They wrapped around my arms and legs, around and between my breasts, and even around my neck, but not tight enough to strangle me. They felt so soft and tenuous, yet solid. The moisture they left on me soon covered my entire body in a thin film. I was feeling as aroused as ever, yet still utterly relaxed and calm. It was wonderful.
After a time, though, just as my consciousness faded away into sleep, I could feel them sliding away back into the pool, leaving me once again naked and alone on the surface.

I awoke the next morning filled with despair. Nothing had happened during the night - I was sure of it! I touched myself all over and confirmed that I hadn’t started to blossom at all. Other than being slightly sticky, I was exactly the same as I had been when I came in here. Why? Why had the Elder Spirits forsaken me? Had I done something in my life to incur their scorn? Was I simply never meant to become an adult? Had it always been my fate to become an outcast? I started to cry again. It wasn’t fair! I’d never done anything that bad - there was no way I’d committed any horrible sin that everyone else in my school hadn’t. I would have known, for sure!
Protest internally as I might, though, I could feel that the Spirits’ judgment was final. I had given myself wholly to them, body and soul, and they had wholly rejected me. I could weep all day, but it wouldn’t change my fate. Briefly I considered jumping into the pool and drowning myself.

Then something incredible broke my melancholy. The ceiling was rent open with a deafening cracking noise. Rocks fell all around me, plunging unceremoniously into the pool. And out of the hole in the ceiling came something I’d never encountered before - in fact it was certain nobody in the village ever had.
The hole in the ceiling was pouring forth some abominable energy that burned my eyes. Even if I turned away, it spread all over the chamber and assaulted me from every angle. The objects it touched - rocks, stalagmites, the occasional mushroom - were transfigured by it into terrifying shapes. I was terrified, and I jumped from the raft and ducked behind a rock as fast as I possibly could.
That wasn’t the end of the horrors coming down from the ceiling, though. Amidst the burning energy field were humanoid figures, lumpy, fuzzy, and each adorned with a device on its head that blasted energy out in front of it. What were these terrible creatures, I wondered as I cowered helplessly in my hiding place.
As the creatures descended, they encountered the Elder Spirits, who had understandably been agitated by the sudden intrusion. The Spirits tried to ward them off, but the alien creatures easily drove them back, mercilessly injuring them and probably killing a few. I observed the fight, knowing I was powerless to do anything to help them.
It wasn’t long at all before one of the aliens found me. I protested and shrunk back from it, but it didn’t seem to understand. The aliens spoke to each other in an unfamiliar, incomprehensible language, and likely were unable to speak mine. Still, by its mannerisms I could glean that the one closest to me was trying to act non-threatening and coax me out. I hesitated, but I knew I had little choice. If I fought them, I would be beaten just like the Spirits had, and if they could blast through solid rock I had no chance of escape. So I stood up and nervously stepped toward them.

Before I knew what was happening I was being led upward, through the hole in the ceiling and through chamber upon chamber above it. Everywhere I went, the alien energy touched everything, pouring not only from their heads but seemingly from the chambers above - and as I ascended, it only became stronger.
The aliens had insistently wrapped me in a blanket, which I realized was made of the same materials that were covering them. I wondered if, underneath layer upon layer, they had the same human bodies I and the other villagers did, or if they were some other freakish abominations. Probably the latter, as if they were humans, why would they wrap themselves up in blankets like that?
Ever since the aliens had first entered the Spirits’ Pool, something else had been bugging me as well. The energy they brought with them, while painful, was allowing me to sense things I never had before. I could perceive every detail of every object in every chamber we entered, be it big or small. I realized that I could also tell the differences between the materials and textures just by facing in their direction. I thought back to the story I’d half listened to the night before last. Could it be? Did I have the Vision? All this time I’d thought of it only as a legend, and as something that might have happened amongst the ancient people in a fashion but never in the modern world. But I had no better explanation…

As we climbed ever higher, I observed that the air was becoming very cold, and just as I started to wonder if we would climb straight into outer space, the chambers came to an end. I found myself in the aliens’ world. It was absolutely huge! The ceiling was so high I couldn’t make out a single feature of it, save for tiny pinpoints that made themselves known only through the Vision. To the sides, it and the floor seemed to go on forever, as if there were no walls at all and one could simply walk in a straight line for eternity.
No walls… a world that goes on forever.
I thought back again to the legends I’d heard. All signs indicated that this was the fabled Overworld. And if that was true, then there was also no ceiling. When I faced upward I was in fact leaning into an infinite vertical abyss. I suddenly felt very small and vulnerable. Despite my mistrust, my fear made me cling to one of the aliens for safety.
When I did so, it wrapped one of its arms around me, squeezing the blanket tighter and infusing me with warmth. Still, it did little to block the intense cold from outside, and the freezing, tumultuous air still bit just as strongly at my face and feet. The ground was also covered in a bizarre soft material that made a crunching sound underfoot and was painfully cold to touch. It was a harsh world in which the aliens lived, that was certain.

After a short while we arrived at the aliens’ base. They had erected shelters, no doubt to protect themselves from the terrifying abyss above. We entered one, and inside I was relieved to find the air once again warm and still. They spoke among themselves for a few moments and then ushered me into a small room. They closed the door behind me, trapping me inside.
Just as I started to panic, the door opened again and one of them appeared carrying a bundle of cloth adornments similar to what it and the others had wrapped around themselves. It held them out to me as if I was supposed to do something with them, but all I could do was sit there puzzled. I’d never seen anything like this before! How was I supposed to know what any of it was?
The alien reached up to grab its head. I noticed that the energy emitter had apparently been deactivated - while the mysterious energy was still flooding the room, there was no longer a beam of it coming out of the device. The alien pulled off the covering and revealed, to my slight surprise, a human face.
It wasn’t completely familiar to me - its features seemed in a way harsher, and I still wasn’t used to the way the Vision presented things to me - but I could tell instinctively that this was a human fundamentally the same as myself and all the other villagers. If the aliens were human, then, why would they cover their entire bodies in layers of cloth? I imagined it provided some protection from the cold, but here inside the shelter it was warm - not quite as warm as the village was, but certainly not cold enough to hurt anyone.
My pondering was cut short when the alien started to speak. I still couldn’t understand it - or her, I suppose I should say - but apparently she hadn’t figured that out just yet. She gestured to herself while saying a particular word - I guessed this must have been her name. She then gestured towards me, so I introduced myself in kind. This evidently pleased her, as she noticeably relaxed.
The alien offered the bundle of cloth to me once more, and I did my best to convey my cluelessness. In response, she gulped, as if nervous, and then started to unpack the bundle and try to put the pieces on me. Of course, our communication barrier made it awkward, but soon enough I was able to discern that it was important that I let her cover me the same as the other aliens.
When the process was complete, she awkwardly left the room again and appeared a few minutes later with a plate of hot food. I hadn’t been in a mood to eat all morning, but now that my situation seemed a bit less dire I realized I was indeed rather hungry. The alien left the food with me and went back outside once more, where she engaged in an animated conversation with the others about something. Based on their tone, it was clear that something very unusual and unexpected was going on - probably me being here, as far as I could guess. They didn’t seem hostile, evidenced by the fact that they hadn’t attacked me yet, if nothing else, but I remained worried about what they would decide to do with me and if I’d ever get to go home.

Several days went by with no sign that I’d be allowed to return. By the end of the second day I’d been let out of my room and shown around the base. It consisted of a number of adjoining chambers with artificial walls laid out in a crisp, rectangular fashion. They sported artificial ceilings as well, all of which featured energy-emitting devices embedded within or hanging from them. It became apparent to me early on that all of these Overworld people possessed the gift of the Vision and used it as their primary sense. I was fortunate to be blessed with it myself, as it made getting used to their routines and lifestyle significantly easier.
I also learned early on that the Overworld dwellers placed a great deal of symbolic value in their body coverings. Multiple times I tried going about the base in my natural state, and every time they reacted with shock upon seeing me and within a minute the one I’d befriended would appear to cover me, lead me back to my room, and make me put the coverings back on. The only times it was permissible to take them off was when I was alone in my room or a bathroom.
After the first few days I took to experimenting a bit, seeing whether I could leave out any of the coverings. Apparently there was no need to keep my head or arms covered; while they reacted strangely to my feet or belly being uncovered, it didn’t seem important; but my breasts, crotch, and butt apparently needed to be hidden with utmost priority. Thus the norm for me became one piece that covered my torso down to my waist and a second piece that covered most of my legs.

I concluded that the most expedient way to get them to let me go home was to learn enough of their language to explain my situation to them, so I spent most of my time accompanying groups of them during meals and other gatherings. I managed to glean meaning from some of their vocabulary and sentence structure before long, and within a week I was able to ask simple questions and make basic statements about common topics. I tried to get answers about things like their body coverings - which they called “clothes” - and about where they’d come from, but they weren’t able to make me understand things in much detail.
I also turned up another odd mystery about the Overworld dwellers. The person I’d first met, who had retrieved me from the Spirits’ Pool and later given me food and clothes, apparently belonged to a special variety of human called a “man.” She - or rather “he,” I was told - insisted that humans naturally came in two types, even though everyone in my village had been the same type. A man was a human who had the stockier build and more rugged features that this individual possessed, while a woman had the body type with which I was familiar, and which also belonged to me. Pressing him for more details, I was told that pairs of a man and woman were necessary to produce children. I objected, saying that in my village everyone was a woman and that children were produced through people’s Spirits, but he was just as adamant that that was impossible and I had been fooled all my life. We remained at an impasse until I dropped the subject.
All this time I was also learning a lot about the Vision. I confirmed that the Overworld people were indeed all in possession of the Vision, and that the devices on the ceilings and which they sometimes wore on their heads were tools that allowed them to use it. The Vision, it seemed, could only be used in the presence of this “light” energy that the devices produced, so since they depended on the Vision for daily tasks they had made sure to include a light device everywhere they went. They hadn’t been attacking my village after all, it turned out - the beams of energy they had brought with them were simply to help them move about, and the fact that they were painful to me and the Elder Spirits was an accident.
They also claimed that they hadn’t meant to attack the Elder Spirits. They seemed bewildered at first when I tried to tell them what the Elder Spirits were - apparently to the Overworld people, the Spirits reminded them of monsters they were used to having to fight off. Indeed, I hadn’t found a single sign that any Spirits lived in the base or had ever even been there.
As for their reasons for visiting my village, they claimed that their entrance into the Spirits’ Pool had been an accident as well, or rather that they meant to enter the chamber but had no idea of its significance. As a young and open-minded individual, I could forgive them for that, but I worried that the other villagers wouldn’t easily do so.
My attempts to explain the role of the Spirits’ Pool and the Elder Spirits within it were made especially difficult by the Overworld people’s lack of understanding that my village existed. When they found me in the chamber, they said, they couldn’t find any entrances or exits, so after searching it they had concluded I was the only person living there. I tried to convince them otherwise, but they seemed reluctant to believe anyone would live anywhere other than the Overworld, and seemed to think I had deluded myself, even as I insisted that the doorway must have been blocked by rubble and that there were in fact many other chambers.
By the end of that night I had convinced them enough that they decided to go on another excursion the following day. When I went to bed, though, I suddenly felt a sickening fear. I remembered how violent my original encounter with the aliens was, and how powerful their weapons, and thus I wondered if I might have accidentally doomed my village by informing them of its existence. The other villagers would be terrified upon seeing them, for sure, and something could easily go awry and lead to a deadly conflict. It took hours before I was able to fall asleep.

The next day I awoke filled with worry. I had asked the villagers if I could go back to the village before, and they had always refused to let me leave the base. They didn’t seem to treat me as a prisoner, but nevertheless kept me locked in. Thus the only way I would be able to warn my village would be to sneak out.
After confirming that the expedition team hadn’t left yet, I returned to my room and put on a complete set of clothes. I didn’t have a head covering, but I did cover everything below my neck, including my arms and feet, and also wrapped myself in a blanket to protect myself from the bitter cold outside. I then had to find an opening when none of the Overworld people were watching the exit door. In order to not seem suspicious, I wandered around the base a bit, returning to my room a few times, only briefly checking the exit on my way past it. As time went by, the moment of their expedition drew ever closer and I became increasingly nervous, but just as I was starting to lose hope they all happened to be distracted by something or other at the same time. I made a quick retreat to the exit and slipped out as quietly as I could manage.
The outside world was even more hostile than I’d remembered. The temperature was about the same, but today the air was blowing past me forcefully, sapping my body heat. Worst of all, far off in the distance was some mysterious apparition that blasted out light energy more intensely than anything I’d encountered so far. Using the Vision during my time in the Overworld had made the energy less painful to me, but at this level it was even worse than before. I couldn’t bear to direct my eyes toward it for more than a second without it hurting to the point of tears.
I had no time to worry about the distant mystery, though. I had to get to my village not only before the expedition team did, but before someone noticed I’d left the base and came to get me. I ran as fast as I could manage through the powdery white terrain and toward where I remembered coming out of the Spirits’ Pool.

I managed to make it back without incident, and while the Spirits’ Pool remained severely damaged, I discovered that the entrance had been cleared of debris. I went through it and rushed down the stairs into the shrine.
The elder seemed to be out for the day, so I made my way straight to my home. If nobody else, I had to ensure the safety of my family first. Just as I left the shrine, though, something grabbed my arm!
I hadn’t heard his approach in my haste, but the Overworld person I’d befriended had run after me and followed me all the way here. He huffed and puffed, and he emphatically expressed his worry. One thing became clear to him, though: my village was real. The finely crafted staircase, the archway into the shrine, and the interior of the shrine itself made that obvious.
He was very reluctant to turn off his light device, but I was insistent that it would terrify and hurt the other villagers, or at least any children who had the Vision. With some work I was able to gain some of his trust and convince him to turn it off. He took my hand, needing me to lead him around, as he found himself unable to find his way without any light energy.
We had to walk slowly down the road to my house on account of his disability, ruining my hopes of warning people quickly. I noticed that nobody was around on our route - even in the middle of the night, it was usually common for a few people to be up and about here and there, but the street seemed deserted and silent, as if everyone was hiding. I could hear muffled noises of activity inside a few buildings and homes, but every door within earshot had been closed and there wasn’t a soul to be found outside anywhere.
When we finally reached my house, after an initial moment of shock my mother was elated at my return. She hugged me as if it was the last hug she’d ever get. Then she took notice of my companion.
“Who - is this one of them?” she asked. “Stay back!” She pushed me behind herself and
took up a defensive posture as though we were under attack.
“Stop! He’s with me!” I protested.
“Er, this person is with me. He’s a normal human! He’s just covered his body in cloth.”
“What do you mean this person’s with you? Did you get brainwashed by the aliens?”
“No! Not at all! They were kind to me and let me live in their base for a while.”
“Why didn’t you come back sooner then? We were worried sick!”
We? I then noticed my sister was awake, standing shyly in the corner of the room, trying in vain to breathe silently despite her fear. I ran into the house unceremoniously and seized her in a huge hug.
“You’re awake! You finished blossoming! How did it go? When did you wake up? Did everything turn out okay?” I bombarded her with questions, unable to contain my excitement for her. As we continued to embrace - somewhat awkwardly on her part due to surprise - I ran my fingers over her face. As they passed over her eyes I felt a soft, flower-like structure where her left eye had been. Figured - she’d always been a right-side sleeper. I caressed its subtle curves and evaluated its shape - it was absolutely beautiful. I was instantly envious. I of course still hadn’t blossomed yet, but whenever I did I seriously doubted mine would be this pretty.
“Sorry, you probably want me to explain everything before talking about anything else,” I said. “Hey! Let him in!”
My mother, who had blocked the Overworlder at the door and refused to let him enter the house, grudgingly moved aside.
“Come, sit down,” I said to him in his language, leading him to a chair. Once I’d gotten everyone to sit and calm down, I explained in brief where I’d gone and what had happened to me at the base. I had to reassure my mother and sister several times that while the Overworld people had strange customs, they weren’t hostile and hadn’t hurt me. Eventually I even convinced my mother to prepare some dinner to share with our guest. Once she and my sister’s nerves had calmed, they both became very curious about him and his clothing. Like myself, they were confused as to why he and his people would cover their entire bodies inside their own homes.
On the topic of bodies, they were also very curious about the body of a man. It was all I could do to keep them from tearing his clothes off and examining it in detail, and even then it seemed like only a matter of time.
As far as the Overworlder’s curiosity went, he seemed to fixate on the concept of blossoming and what had happened to my sister. The more we told him (I did my best in the role of interpreter), the more worried he seemed to get for some reason. When I guided his hands to my mother’s and sister’s face so he could feel for himself, he suddenly started to act very guarded and was hesitant to speak to them or answer any further questions.

All of a sudden we were interrupted by a knock on our door. To everyone’s surprise, the village governor and several of her assistants had come over. Apparently someone had reported my arrival alongside one of the aliens, and the news was not going over well with the community.
Long story short, a collision of cultures was in progress, and for the time being the alien was not wanted in the village. The governor gave us a harsh verdict: Both I and the Overworlder I’d befriended were banished from the village indefinitely unless both of us blossomed that night and thereby became full adult citizens.
Both of us were immediately filled with worry, but for different reasons. I had no reason to trust that I’d blossom tonight when I hadn’t blossomed any other night over the past eighteen years. The Overworlder, on the other hand, seemed to hate the idea of blossoming at all and, to my surprise, wanted me to go live with him and the others in the Overworld and never return to the village. Despite my protests, he forcibly led me out of the village and all the way back to the alien base. By the time we arrived, I was in uncontrollable tears.

Everything had gone so horribly wrong. All I ever wanted out of life was to grow up and be happy like all the other girls - get a girlfriend, graduate, get a fun job or something… and all I had to do was blossom like everyone else did. But for all my efforts what I had got instead was to be abducted and then ostracized, and to be helpless to save my village from mortal danger.
For the time being, things hung in a delicate balance: the villagers didn’t seem to need much warning in the end, being paranoid and mistrustful enough already; and the other Overworlders had canceled today’s excursion after my friend and I had run off. But I knew it wouldn’t last long. Soon enough they would inevitably visit the village again, and it was all too easy to foresee mutual fear leading to violent conflict - and what I had experienced so far made it clear that the Overworlders would win. Everything I had known would be lost!
Understandably, my friend had given me some much-needed space. Even spiraling into despair as I was, nothing anyone here or at home could say to me was likely to fix anything. To my surprise, though, after a few hours he came in to check on me. I should have cried myself to sleep after this long, but given how early it was in the day that wasn’t about to happen. I had, however, at least progressed from sobbing into a subdued melancholy.
He found me sitting on the bed facing the wall in silence. I had cast off all of my Overworlder clothing and more or less rolled into a ball, my head cradled in my hands and my elbows propped up against my knees. He sat beside me without a word, took a deep breath, and rested a hand on my shoulder.
After a minute or so he spoke. “This room’s kind of dreary, isn’t it?”
True enough, my walls lacked any form of decoration and the floor was spartan. There wasn’t even so much as a rug on the floor. The utilitarian format blended well with the rest of the base, but wasn’t reminiscent of a teenage girl’s room by any stretch.
“Tell you what. Why don’t we go get something to eat together and take your mind off all this business for a little bit? Nothing’s going to happen for the rest of the day, so we can worry about fixing this whole situation later.”
I whirled about, almost striking him. Was he trying to belittle my problems? Suggesting I just take a break from worrying about my family and everything I’d ever cared about?
But the last several days of using the Vision had given me the ability to read people’s faces, which told me a lot more than I could glean from the sound of his voice alone, particularly because I wasn’t in any mood to touch him. I could tell from his expression that he actually did care about my feelings - and in fact, taking a break from them probably was the best plan after all. Sometimes a distraction is just the thing someone needs to solve a tough problem.
I swallowed my emotions, rubbed the tears off my face, and stood up. He waited while I put on a minimal ensemble of clothes, took my hand, and led me to the dining area. We arrived toward the tail end of breakfast hours and enjoyed a simple meal together. In my time at the base I’d eaten both alone and with large groups, but never in an intimate two-person situation like this. It was strange and probably would have made me uncomfortable with anyone else, but somehow this person’s presence was soothing to me. The meal, and in turn the rest of the day, ended up going by at a quiet, leisurely pace.

Toward the end of the evening we found ourselves in his room huddled together on the bed. I had this weird feeling like there were two people in my head - one who was confused and had no idea what I was doing, and the other who seemed to know exactly what I was doing and kept driving me to do more. In an unfamiliar and inexplicable sense, I wanted this man. In fact, I came to realize, I desired him in a way that wasn’t too unfamiliar after all. It was the same way in which I had desired that classmate of mine before I had first left the village. Now that I thought about it, I realized how long it had been since then. My heart was probably yearning for affection.
All the same, my feelings for him weren’t on the same level as my feelings for her had been. I had wanted her, but in the end it was really just me wanting someone to call a girlfriend. Perhaps I really just wanted to have one so I could be like the other girls. Little wonder then that our relationship was so short and easily ruined.
But this man next to me was making me ravenous. He was like a meal I’d been waiting to eat my entire life but couldn’t taste no matter how much I starved. And as far as I could tell, he was at least receptive, if not just as ravenous for me.
My body grew hot and sensitive. I could feel whenever any of our skin touched that his was growing hot as well. I was helpless as that other girl inside me took my clothes off one by one. As I did so, he did as well. Since he was wearing several more garments than I, it took somewhat longer for him to finish, and in my impatience I was climbing all over him well before they had all come off.
As his bare chest pressed tightly against mine, I took his tongue into my mouth and caressed it all over as if my own tongue were some kind of tentacle. Our lips hungrily sucked one another. Our hands were constantly moving across every part of each other’s bodies. He ran his fingers through my hair and down the length of my spine. His warm palms slid across my ribs and onto my belly, and then worked their way up toward my breasts. Meanwhile I was feeling the contours of his arms, shoulders, and neck. Just as his fingers started to touch my nipples, I reflexively clutched his head and pulled it toward me. I found myself sniffing his body, and he did the same with my hair. Somehow the smell of his skin made my desire even stronger, as did knowing that he desired me to just the same degree.
I discovered something quite odd at that moment. Everyone else I had known had the same thing between their legs - a vagina. But the body of a man, it turned out, was markedly different. What my mother and sister had been denied the chance to examine was now plainly displayed before me. Between his legs was a soft, wrinkled sac covered with coarse, curly hairs. Just above it was an organ that, oddly enough, vaguely resembled one of the Spirits, at least in its general shape. The details were very different though, and something unfamiliar and fascinating to me. Most of it was rigid, with a thin, soft outer layer and something seemingly hard just beneath it. On the end it had a softer part that was slightly wider and had a small hole on the end. The entire thing was riddled with veins and capillaries, as if it had swollen from some horrible infection. Yet something told me this thing was perfectly healthy. In fact, I wanted it badly - out of any part on this man’s entire body, this was the thing I desired the most at the moment.
Driven by instinct, I stopped feeling it up and guided it between my legs. I didn’t know what I was doing, yet somehow I did. The slit in my crotch was dripping wet and slippery, and I began to realize that the hole within it had the perfect properties for this man’s sex organ to slide into it. So that’s what we did.
Suddenly it hurt! I was worried for a split second, but all the same it didn’t hurt enough to make me want to stop. We lay still for a few breaths, and then he began to slide himself out of me. “No,” I thought, “don’t take it out!” But just as the tip was about to come free, he slid it right back in. The soft skin rubbing against the delicate skin inside me felt exquisite, and the rigidity forcing the walls of my vagina apart drove my emotions even wilder. I involuntarily let out an impassioned sigh, and in response the man made his sex organ become even larger and harder. He began to push and pull even harder with it. I soon found myself thrusting my pelvis against his in a matching rhythm.
While this experience was more than exciting enough for me, it seemed as though he wanted even more. While continuing to thrust violently against me, he pushed me upright and clear off the bed so that I stood upon the floor. He continued to push me until my back was pressed against the far wall and then placed his hands on either side of my head as if to trap me in place. Ordinarily I imagine I would have been scared by this experience, but illogically I found myself excited by it.
Sex between a man and a woman was something similar to, yet quite different from, sex between a woman and a woman as was commonplace at home. I wished that everyone in my village could experience this. Perhaps some would prefer it the other way, but as for me I knew it would never compare. In one dose I had been hooked.
Soon my own sexual desire was becoming just as vigorous as his. We ended up rolling our bodies across nearly every surface in the room, doubtlessly making a great deal of noise as we knocked things over. By the time we had started to tire ourselves out and slow down, the place was a complete mess. Pieces of paper from the desk had been strewn all over the floor. As we lay with our sweaty limbs tangled together and I began to fall asleep, the Vision in me fell upon one of them. Just before my eyes closed, I was able to read the first few words of it.
And in one intense instant, my fatigue was gone, replaced with chilling horror at what I read:

Special Report: Days 12 - 64 (draft)

On the morning of Day 12 our excursion team was tunneling at the bottom of a natural cave found near Site B when we discovered, to our surprise, an inhabited underground village. Previously it was believed with a great deal of confidence that this continent had no permanent human residents, but it would appear this was not the case. While it remains unknown what the continent’s full population is, what is certain is that at least one underground village has existed at this location for a long time and that there is a possibility others exist as well.
The specific sequence of events began when a minor cave-in occurred and revealed an additional chamber, which had been speculated to exist for some time. Fortunately none of our team fell in and there were thus no injuries. Within minutes we were able to rappel down into it, at which point we discovered the chamber to be partially flooded and occupied by a number of large black worm-like creatures. A few team members panicked when the creatures came in contact with them and, regrettably, all of the creatures either were killed or escaped, preventing us from obtaining any live samples (as much as we could find of the dead organisms was collected and brought to the base for later analysis, to be detailed in a forthcoming report).
Most notably, however, the underground chamber contained a single living human occupant, a teen-aged girl to be referred to henceforth as “Girl A.” She was without any form of clothing and appeared scared of our presence. The team members unanimously thought at first that she had originated from our base and hidden here - possibly a stowaway or a kidnapped individual brought here by one of the researchers.
This turned out not to be the case. It was evident almost immediately that the girl did not understand our language. Additionally, the room contained a number of artifacts of an obviously artificial nature, for example a large doorway surrounded by carved columns; an attempt would later be made to explore what was through the doorway after the rubble blocking it was cleared. The girl was brought back to base, where, for the moment, we still presumed she had originated. Since then she has been kept under supervision by one of our researchers, with whom she seems to get along relatively well; details to come in another forthcoming report.

The following days, 13 through 20, were spent collecting data on the known parts of the cave and the single newly-discovered room in order to ensure that no further unanticipated cave-ins were imminent. The rubble was also cleared from the doorway, and preparations were made to mount an expedition to explore the other side, which began on Day 21.
On the other side of the doorway was a short tunnel whose floor had been carved into a staircase. It led to a shrine-like structure, beyond which was what for all appearances was a normal village, save for the fact that it was shrouded in complete darkness. No forms of natural or artificial illumination were to be found anywhere, which led to the initial suspicion by a few team members that the inhabitants, if there were any, had been blind.
At first it was assumed that the village was deserted, but to our surprise we discovered after a short time that it was inhabited and had flourished to the present day despite the darkness, isolation, and unforgiving climate. The network of caverns in which the village was built was heated geothermally and prominently featured a large geyser that regularly emitted steam and erupted on a roughly 13-hour cycle. Residents were found to use this geyser as a timekeeping mechanism in lieu of a sun.
Extensive analyses were made on the village’s architecture and layout, and a number of its inhabitants were captured and brought to the base. Initially it had been planned to release them after a few days of examinations and possibly questioning, but unfortunately with the exception of Girl A, every inhabitant recovered from the underground village was found to be infected with one of the worm-like organisms found in the first chamber, which we have determined to be a parasite. If not for her rescue on Day 12, it is safe to assume that Girl A would have been infected as well.

A total of five villagers were captured for study in addition to Girl A. All appeared mostly normal at first, save for their lack of clothing. All five were female, as the team was unable to locate any male specimens during the excursion. They were immediately offered clothing to protect their modesty, but seemed unfamiliar with it and made no efforts to put it on until coerced. It has been suggested that the village is inhabited by nudists, which would be consistent with the warm and humid environment provided by the geyser.
Immediately noticeable in all five women was that one eye was covered in a dark, opaque fleshy layer while the other was missing entirely. In its place was a flower-shaped protrusion, which responded to touch and appeared to be extremely sensitive. Subjects would immediately recoil if the protrusion were touched, seemingly to protect it as one would an eyeball. It was determined after some experimentation that the protrusion was not sensitive to light and that the opaque layers over the women’s eyes blocked light entirely, leaving them completely blind.
One subject was sedated and an effort was made to excise both the fleshy layer and the flower-shaped protrusion. It was found that neither could be removed without highly invasive surgery, and it even appeared that both the fleshy layer and the protrusion extended deep into the subject’s skull and probably into her brain. Ethical concerns were raised, but the consensus among the medical staff was that these features were indicative of a severe infection of some kind, and if not removed as soon as possible they would lead to a very painful death. Thus the risk of accidental death was accepted by the surgeons, and the protrusion was forcibly removed from the subject’s skull.
It was revealed that the protrusion was in fact the anterior end of the same worm-like organism discovered alongside Girl A, which we have decided to call an “Elder Spirit” after the phrase was repeatedly used in reference to it by the other subjects. The subject’s braincase was found to have been occupied completely by the worm, with the brain having been entirely replaced. The fleshy layer, conversely, was found to be the posterior end, which had assumed the shape of the subject’s eyeball after infection. Unlike most species of worms, the Elder Spirit appears to have only a single orifice, at the anterior end, which initially serves as both mouth and anus but appears to lose both functions after infection.
Studies on dead Elder Spirit specimens have given some insight into its life cycle and mode of infection. It appears that the Elder Spirit begins life as a small terrestrial larva, which is birthed live from the parent’s anterior orifice and lives for only a few minutes before infecting a host. It does so by inserting itself under an eyelid while the host, preferably an adolescent, is sleeping - usually that of the eye nearest the ground if the host is sleeping on her side - and releasing a strong natural anesthetic, which keeps the host unconscious while infection continues. The worm proceeds to stretch its body around the eyeball, engulfing it, and then starts to follow the optic nerve into the brain where it begins to feed. It feeds extremely slowly, gradually consuming brain tissue in a winding path, growing while it does so. After roughly one to two weeks, the Elder Spirit reaches adult size, consumes the remaining eyeball, and its head emerges from the eye socket and transforms into a flower-like organ presumed to be some form of gill.
During its long feeding process, the worm appears to be able to absorb neurological information from the brain cells it consumes and then to connect itself to the host’s nervous and circulatory systems, allowing it to absorb nutrients from the host’s blood and also, seemingly impossibly, to control the host’s body. Shockingly, the worm seems able to replicate the host’s original behavior to a remarkable degree of precision. Infected hosts seem to act as completely normal healthy humans, and even claim to retain their memories from childhood, before they were infected. Captured villagers behaved as if aware of the presence of the worm and unconcerned about the states of their bodies - or, conversely, the worms, acting through their human hosts, seemed to identify as the original humans their hosts had been. They made claims that other villagers were aware that they had been infected and continued to treat them as ordinary human beings nonetheless. In fact, at one point a subject claimed that villagers who had not become infected were the strange ones and that the village had traditionally shunned those who reached adulthood without infection.
Due to the disturbing accuracy with which the worm seems able to replicate human behavior, it has become clear to all involved that it is an extremely dangerous organism. It appears possible to avoid infection by making sure to never sleep near one of the infected, but should this parasite spread to the rest of the world it could still easily become a pandemic. It is thus advisable to quarantine this village and make efforts to ensure that any other such villages are found and quarantined as soon as possible. The village itself appears to have been lost, as the team members present are currently too few and unprepared to take care of the entire population of uninfected children in the village, and ethical concerns are prevalent in regard to an invasion and extermination of the infected adults. Please advise when possible.

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