© Checkers -- all rights reserved
She turned her head, the only way she could look around as her eyes were now completely stationary on top of her head. She couldn't see too well anyway; according to what her father had read to her, it was lucky she had eyes at all. Her sister was a vaguely pinkish blob with brown on top, some grey-blue 'round the bottom, and waving pink noodles that Mary knew were arms. Not that she could see them properly anymore.
Most of her family seemed to hate the way she looked at them, though maybe they were more unsettled by the way sunlight gleamed off of the hard keratin surfaces of her head and body; or the fact that her once-normal body now had over two hundred spiny, hair-tipped legs; maybe they were more put off by the way that her multi-segmented body coiled around, over two meters of hard-shelled joints and legs and pincers. She was just damn lucky she could still talk with her stiff mouth parts and clicking mandibles, the fact that she had trouble with vowels nothing next to the fact that she could still prove that she had a mind.
“Uhm, Mary,” her sister said, in the same nervous tone that had plagued her voice for the last three months, “Do you, uhm, need anything?”
Mary shook her head before realising the gesture meant little now; “Not,” she managed to sound out slowly in her rasping click of a voice. “Itt's lright. Eat soon?”
“There's still that fox in the fridge,” her sister said, “that Dad found by the side of the road, you know. It's kinda – uhm, I don't know, it's getting kinda grody so you should probably eat that pretty soon.”
“Can't,” Mary clicked, wishing she could still sigh. “Can't op'ning 't.”
“Claws.” Mary waved one of her first set of legs, trying to figure out how to remind her sister that she wasn't too able to open doors anymore – she didn't have anything resembling the maual dexterity. When the situation was dire she could occasionally get a leg wedged into the refrigerator door's handle to pull it open, but it required some awkward manuevering and was only successful if she was lucky.
“Huh? Oh, oh, right, can't open the fridge anymore. God, you're so ... I, uh – so you – when do you want that?”
Mary tapped one leg against the ground a few times as she thought. “F'fteen min'ts?”
“Wait. You want me to get – ew, god! You can wait until Dad's home, right? Ew, oh my god, ew. Ew. I can't even – oh my god, I hate this. You're so ... ewwww, why couldn't you have turned into something normal? I mean, I know the Flu's a problem and anybody can get it and it's not your fault but – people are supposed to turn into foxes and wolves and nice animals, not ... stupid things like centipedes or whatever you are. Oh my god. I hate it. I hate you. Why couldn't you have turned into something cool?”
Mary let out a low whirring sound, coiling her body into a ball on the ground. She wasn't fond of her new form either, but it wasn't as if she'd had a choice in the matter.
“God,” her sister went on. “I mean, we're supposed to treat you like you're still normal. You can't even finish a sentence! I mean, you're practically retarded now. Why does Dad have to be so nice to you? I mean, if I was him, I would have, like, turned you over to a shelter or something. Do they have those? I don't know.”
“Not I's f'lt,” Mary clicked, not moving to look at her sister, though out of some of the facets of her eyes she could still see the girl pacing and waving her arms angrily. The difficulty with certain sounds was grating, especially when trying to deal with her sister, who got like this more and more often as time went by. She still knew the words, could still think them, but there wasn't any way to get them out. She couldn't write, couldn't hardly speak, couldn't do anything.
“What are you even saying? God. Okay. Okay, I am going to open the refrigerator and then I'm leaving. I know Dad said I was supposed to watch you today, but oh my God, no way. I gotta go see a movie with Chris anyway.”
“Yeah! Just because nobody wants anything to you doesn't mean I can't still get laid.”
“Great.” Mary let out a raspy, angry series of clicks before frantically cleaning her antennae with her third pair of legs. “Great. F'ck.”
Her sister was true to her word, though, swinging the refrigerator door open for Mary, who had to wriggle her long body toward it and stick her head in to get at the fox carcass at the bottom of it – before her sister slammed the door shut on her head. She let out several startled clicks, her hard shell taking a nasty hit from it and stunning her from a moment.
The door slammed on her again before she was able to pull back, whipping around to slam several of her rear segments against her sister, knocking the other girl to the ground. She was faster than she'd realised before, and was on top of the still-normal girl in a heartbeat, mandibles at her neck. “F'ck! Got,” she started, desperately hunting for words she could still manage. “Us, kin. Not hate.”
“What? No, I hate you! I hate you! You've ruined my life, you stupid goddamn centipede!”
“Not cent'pid. Mm, mm--” Mary couldn't even manage to say that she was a millipede, a fucking millipede -- “Not cent'pid,” she repeated, voice hissing and clicking worse than usual in her anger.
“Get off of me,” her sister said, shoving at her; Mary's weight was too great for the younger girl to shift, though, her multisegmented body too massive. “Oh my god, oh my god, this is, oh my god. You're so, ew, ew.” The girl's breath was coming faster and faster as she began to hyperventilate. “Oh my god, you're poisonous, aren't you, you're going to kill me. My own sister is going to kill me. I hate you so much. Oh, god.”
Mary lifted the first few segments of her body so she was better able to stare down at the confused, babbling blob of colours and shapes that was her sister. She let out a long hiss before scuttling backwards, long body shaking.
“Not sta'ing,” she managed. “Lit Rick – not sta'ing. Te-ill.” Rick being her father, whose name was actually John; his middle name was Richard, though, and it was the only part of his name she could still manage to pronounce.
She didn't know where she was going to go even as she started leaving; she just knew she couldn't stay with her family much longer. Her dad treated her with a sort of bemused benevolence, doted on her the way one would dote on a mentally challenged cat; her mom had left because of her; and her sister had been getting more and more frustrated with Mary's problems as time went on.
She didn't know what else there was for her, out in the great wide world – she'd had plans, before, for college and a career. She'd had a boyfriend, who her sister was dating now.
Now she had two hundred legs and bad eyes.
She didn't know what there was out there for her to do. She just knew it had to be better than this.
Website Copyright 2004,2005 Michael Bard. Please send any comments or questions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org