The Infected One, relying only on his heart for moxie, steps out into the penumbral hallway. It looks exactly the same as at home, just darker, indeed made from some dark brown material he cannot exactly identify. He touches it and lets his hand glide along it as he walks towards where the kitchen should be, up ahead to the left, just before the living room which also opens to the left and connects with the kitchen in an open, crippled U shape. Instead of a balcony the Infected One and his friends enjoy a mutant strain of winter garden. “But beware” he admonishes himself, an older superego speaking to a younger Id “you are not at home…any more”. Wall feels like cardboard precisely, sounds like it when he raps his knuckles against it, most likely is. “This is not so good” he thinks or whispers.
The Infected One calms himself with a thought that occurred to him in the course of his numberless readings: that he is only a character in a book, in a story and that, should he suffer, it is but fictional and will end as soon as the reader puts aside the book. This calms him a little but only for a second, then a splinter pierces his naked sole and the reality of the pain makes him yelp like an injured puppie.
– Izzz zhat juh Zzemzenee?
The voice is moist, sharp and high registered, an enormously unwelcome sonic presence, thinks The Infected One. Easily the most unpleasant voice he has ever heard, which as a matter of how-things-are is very befitting: first fetor for the nose, now clamor for a voice. A great day in the making, certainly
– Uhgm, yeah.
Saying all this as he strides semi-confidently towards the kitchen area where the disagreeable vocalizations of the others are coming from. Having turned the corner 90 degrees, the Infected One freezes up in mid-step and fights down the overwhelming impulse to turn back around and run as fast as he can. That would be, as animal documentaries have taught him his death sentence: rule number A) running from an animal or beast or whatever-the-heavens this is always activates its predatory instincts, no matter how phylogenetically outdated; rule number B) animals are always fast… and rule number C) …er than you.
Thus he stands in place on his own cool like a floe the exact size of his feet, surrounded on all sides by an ocean of predators.
– Juh look fffery zzzrange fffriend. Like, I don’z know… larfal zzztadium. Juh reeeverzed? ZZhhiaz, look like recend ekdeezzzyz comrade!
The sound that follows, following logic, must be either a chuckle or a laugh though it could just as well serve the purpose of destroying a biotopical enemy’s auditory organs. The Infected One opens and closes his mouth to decompress, then gazes at the multiple mandibles and the twitching antenna with an extremely thin veneer of calm. Before him a six feet long cockroach [or a very similar insect] is scuttling around enervatingly. He scrambles for an explanation that will get him out of this jam
– Of course it’s me. This is just…
He gestures down the length of his pale, slightly haired body. It’s only now that the Infected One sees that he’s wearing nothing other than skivvies, below and above which his sinewy physique is showing. He hadn’t realized not just because of the fetor but also because it is warm, very warm and humid too. “Tropical” sums it all up. Meanwhile the excuse has congealed at the back of The Infected One’s brain
– My new body. Had my monthly Metamorphosis you know. I know it’s a bit on…
The word is somewhere right there, he just needs to snatch it up as it flits by.
– …on the bipedal side of things. And light. But I wanted to give it a try, see how it works out. Metamorphosis man, little bit of change never hurt anybody. Not really, I mean, apart from post-metamorphic Amnesia. Ugh.
The caramel-brown insect rears its front section to address him directly.
– Juh are nozz fffeeeeling whell, of coarse. Zzzooo much cheynsch izzz no guhd eizzzher. Bezzzer zsu go zsu work, bezzt medicazion.