“hEy, WhAt’s WRoNG?”
The thing holding Ryoka’s arm bubbled. A clicking, jittery mass of flesh wobbled, gripping her other arm.
It made a sound that screamed in her ears. She had already begun screaming.
“don’T yOU wANT to CoMe iN?”
The first asked. Ryoka looked ahead and saw.
The vast, insectile hive bloated itself on the corpse of the building. Layers of wax and skin and detritus had built up, the product of such things overflowing again and again. Each dark charm she had taken for windows revealed itself now, gaping holes by which things stared down at her.
Each one salivating, each figure twisted as the first. They gibbered and clicked and beckoned, mimicking the acts of friends as they led her inside.
For one moment she caught a glimpse of what lay beyond. She saw what had been tables and chairs and dining utensils to reveal themselves to her in all their gruesome truth. Eyes stared at her from beyond twisting forms which scrabbled themselves forwards with such intensity and longing that they made her sick.
Flesh scraped against the ground as it pulled itself forwards. Inside, she saw twisted forms, grasping hands, the only logical shapes in the world—like hers—
Upon the tables. She gazed at the two holding her and screamed once more.
They realized she saw them at last. The buzzing grew louder. Ryoka tore free, leaving part of her skin behind in one of their grasps.
She turned to run, and the hive exploded with shapes. They oozed from the windows, poured out of every opening imaginable. Calling for her to come back, come back!
Join us. She ran, screaming, as the wind, which had muted itself due to the power of this group, now howled, trying to pull her free. But they were still—
Fae. And the wind tore at her. Their fingers pulled at her. Be with us. Become us. Feed us. Let us v$#H!d with you—
Ahead of her, the wall stretched ever higher. How had she bypassed it so easily? The figures could not get past it—nor could she.
Ryoka ran left, down a street, pounding ahead as the shapes poured after her. She looked back and saw how they did not fit this—
She nearly vomited from the sight of them but kept running. Their natures slowed them, but they didn’t move right. They slipped across the ground, across the walls of the ruined buildings, through cracks—
She heard the roar. But she feared what the Dragon was, too. Was this the reality? Was Ivolethe…?
She had not gone far into the city, or so she thought. Ryoka ran past a broken light, beholding it now in truth; an empty sac, the glowing mucus spilled. The streets were flesh! There were eyes between the cracks!
The sky was watching her. Beyond the curvature of the world, it stared down at her. Ryoka screamed and ran and ran and—
The forest was no better. She halted as she left the outskirts of the city and beheld the trees. It was crawling from everything! Tiny pieces of the trees and leaves scuttled around. She had walked through them! Ryoka saw the mob following. No! No! She ran towards the trees since she had no choice.
“i hAvE y—”
One of them caught her. Ryoka saw the mouth open and open and open a third time as the head unfolded. She shrieked—
The spoon descended and smacked the fae off her. Ryoka saw Nama stride forwards and the gibber—the creature of—
The round, furry woman waved her spoon around and the horde of things halted. Ryoka stared at her.
“I heard the little one roaring. You fool! Why did you not heed him? And why are you looking like that?”
The woman turned. The figures lunged—she smacked one and it screamed. The spoon raised like the wrath of cutlery and the entire horde…retreated?
Back, into the city. Ryoka Griffin saw the ground itself slithering back around—
“Enough of that. Look at me.”
Two furry hands seized Ryoka. She cried out, struggling against what she knew was—
“Look at me.”