WIP Wednesdays | Dream Eater and Monstress Excerpt #5 | 8/30/2022

OHHHH YEAH, IT’S ALL COMING TOGETHER. I feel like I’m getting somewhere. The end is in sight.

Warning for some super mild body horror, just in case.

Sleep tends to be the time her body is the most out of control, so a change usually would not surprise her. But on this night…

She awakens to find herself to witness the result of the most flawless transformation she has ever had. The first thing she sees before her is a hand. A human’s skin, too sallow to be anywhere near healthy.

She knows it at once. With a jerk, she sits up and knocks the back of her head against the bars of the cage behind her. Hissing through her teeth, she touches the spot. Little spots of red human blood comes away on her fingertips somehow that does not stand out to her as distinctly as the hair that she had touched. It’s thick, full, softer than a rabbit’s fur. She doesn’t have to look very long at her skeletal limbs and torso to know the truth: this is King Blaine’s form. And it’s perfect.

Is this what humans feel like when they’re in their well-fitted garments? The idea of being so contented in this body disgusts her. And yet—

She allows herself to examine the body more perfectly discovers that the imitation is not quite so perfect as she thought. A remnant from a form she thought she shed a long time ago, a serpentine tail, juts from where his spine should end. It lays out behind her like a dead thing, a condemnation of her shapeshifting abilities. She almost wishes that it were not the only obvious flaw, though.

The king is the person that she has spent the most time with since her parents’ death. It only stands to reason that she would be able to shift to resemble him in a way that she could not manage to with other creatures. When she first dared to crawl into the Above, she spent as much time as she could with soft, kind surface-dwelling animals. Rabbits, birds, mice. They were all terrified of her, though, and she barely managed to do more than look at them before they ran away.

She’d memorized what few lessons she can recall from her parents about shapeshifting. Other things, too, the mundane activities of a child of the Beneath’s childhood; nibbling on nightblossoms, chasing other children, being careful not  to slip and fall in poisonous bogs.

“When you spend time with someone, you come to know things about them that they might not even realize about themselves. Not just the shape of their bodies, but the way that they look when they are thinking, the nervous gestures when they lie,” her mother said.

“When they lie,” she repeats aloud to herself, disturbed to find that her voice has shifted to sound eerily similar to his.

The Nightmare King never lies. The monstress does not know how she knows, but she cannot shake the thought.

She holds out a slender, manicured hand, resemblance to the real thing uncanny. Perhaps in a bid at self-comfort, she tries to tell herself that the resemblance was not all that close. She touches her face, trailing her fingers over her brow, nose, mouth, jaw, and neck. Her pulse flutters beneath her skin and she feels his throat bob beneath her hand when she swallows. On impulse, she closes her fingers around her neck, hard enough to hurt but not enough to truly cut off her air. After a long moment, she drags her hand down to the center of her chest, then curls it into a fist.

Lying to herself proved a fruitless endeavor. Tail aside, the imitation is flawless.

The irony of the situation infuriates her. All those years of trying to stay the course, to spend time with a kind, gentle creature that she wanted to become, wished to know, and this loathsome sunwalker manages to be the first she succeeded in changing into.

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