I am a monster. My brothers and sisters scurry around me; they have brought me crumbs and bit of rotten vegetables, the only thing they managed to get from the masters today. They climb on me and deposit the food in my mouth, while my arms and legs wave helplessly in the air.
It’s dark here, dark and damp, and warm. I can hear them all whisper around me. They think I cannot understand them, because my voice is a strange senseless gargle, but I can. They say I am growing too big, that I eat too much food.
I killed my mother. This I have also understood from their mumbles of my family. They say I was already too big then. Sometimes I close my eyes and the images come: my mother’s belly distorted and almost bursting, strained to breaking point; her flesh tearing at the moment of birth.
I have been growing since then, growing and changing. My skin has a taken on a strange hue: behind the grimy black of my family’s skin, something raw and tender is appearing. I am shedding anything that made me like them and something else is appearing underneath. They say I am different, that I am cursed.
I cannot get my own food: I cannot walk fast enough, scuttling hurriedly like everyone else does. My family do not want me out of the darkness. We must never be seen, never be heard. God knows what the masters would do if they caught me.
I have been learning to walk in the dark passages hidden within the house, in the dark hours while my family is out stealing from the masters. I crawl and sometimes walk a great lumbering, hesitant walk, holding myself up against the walls. My eyes are not as good as my family’s, and I am almost blind in the eternal twilight of our lodgings. I have never been as far as the entrance to the masters’ quarters. Most of the time I stay in the room, and sometimes I can hear the muffles voices of the masters; I hear their heavy weight on the floors, hear sounds of water, feel the small breathing life of the house. I listen and listen to the masters.
I am growing too big for our one room. I can barely stand up these days.
My family now has to crawl over and under me when they go to sleep, taking shelter in the nooks and crannies of my large body, brushing against the strange pinkish folds of flesh. The younger children crawl over me as if I was a giant toy, a living climbing frame. I try not to hurt them. But some of them, especially the older ones, refuse to touch me. I have heard the elders talk; they say I look like the masters, with their grotesquely distorted soft mouth, their watery eyes. I would like to see the masters, once; I would like to see their face and see whether I recognize something in there. I would like to see myself.
Sometimes I see my mother, when I close my eyes. I dream of her scurrying around the house; I imagine her feeling her way around in the darkness, meek and officious, gathering food. My family hear me whimper, and have to dart away when I toss and turn. I cannot ask them if they see my mother too, or if they dream. I don’t think they do.
I keep on trying to walk, further and further. Now I can follow my family’s smell almost to the exit of our little burrow, with only a thin wall between me and the airy, daylight world of the masters. But I get stuck. If I grow any larger, I will die here.
My siblings have brought back dead worms with their flesh falling off. They tear into them, their little mouths chewing and sucking. I have to hide my disgust for the taste and texture and smell.
They eat what comes out of me.
I think the elders want to kill me. I have heard them speak. My movements are too great; I could smash them with one step, one careless fall. I am so big, and getting food from the masters is so dangerous. I think I would be a feast. I am so soft, soft like the masters.
They are trying to smother me. They are on top of me, crawling all over, biting, getting into my mouth, my nose, stopping me from breathing. I wriggle free, turn over, squashing a few of them underneath me. They smell of fear, and hunger. In the dark I cannot see who I am fighting; it could be my brothers, my sisters, but they all look ragged and small and dirty, and army of dark shapes swarming over me, their sweet prize. Some of them, mortally wounded, crawl around with their head half crushed, and still hone in on my smell. I cannot beat them all. There are too many of them. I do not want to kill my family.
I get up and stagger down the passages, occasionally dropping on all fours, out of exhaustion and dizziness. They are afraid to see me on my legs, rearing above them. I can feel a few of them crunch beneath my foot. I tear my naked flesh against a ragged wooden corner, and the whole floor is awash with my fluid. They cover the sea of red in a second, licking.
I find the exit and throw myself against the thin wall. I come out in the daylight. I see the masters, and my throat makes a strange sound I have never heard before. I can see they are soft and pink, too, underneath their soft black exterior. They are making sounds I have only ever heard muffled before, but that I can almost understand. I sit and blink at them, pink and plump though the grime. They smell different. They smell like me.