The human body is vulnerable. It lacks the natural defenses other creatures have; the thicker hides, the hard scales, the protective shells.
Mankind knew what it lacked, so it crafted unnatural defense to counter natural offense. Thus Civilization rose from Nature. Humans had no claws, so they crafted knives. Humans had no fur, so they crafted clothes. Humans needed a way to kill, so they made guns.
At the moment, Bonnie had none of those. In many ways, she was in the worst position a human being could be in when facing a horror. Bereft of weapons, exposed to the elements, naked in all senses of the word.
The snail was no mere snail now. It was a colossus, vast and monstrous, a thing of spirals and stripes that gleamed with light unholy. Foul, rather than fair.
The faces along its slick, dripping body sobbed and screamed and laughed. Hands began to extend from its flesh, grasping and seeking, reaching to cling and crush and choke. What indolence was natural to the creature faded entirely as it reared up, baring an underside of yawning abyss, an endless sky sinking into the depths of a soundless sea.
Its flesh was vast. There was no simple end within its gullet, but an endless fall, an endless sinking, a distance unfathomable wherein none would ever escape.
The sky was not meant to be there. It was a curious realization, a surprising one, but one that made a strange sense. The snail was the sinking of the sullen, the loss of hope, the loss of feeling. A succumbing to isolation and a surrender of action.
The sky should not be there. Not in a thing that was clinging muck.
The snail lunged with the speed and ferocity of a pouncing predator. There was no slowness, no indolence, no lethargy here. Merely the act of consumption from a monster seeking to sate its hunger.
It was easy. Luring, tricking, consuming. Simple. Easy, really.
The snail’s bulging eyes throbbed as a claw punched through its head.
There was a moon in the sky. One whose light reflected off of Bonnie’s sharpened teeth as she touched the sky and ripped straight through its membrane.
Voices screamed, squealed, fear and rage echoing through a dull landscape of a dull mind, bored and tired of the sensation of pain ripping through it as claws and teeth took to its body. There was a desperate pleading in the snail’s mind, trying to tell it that it needed to fight, yet it was tired and bored and sleepy, and really, it didn’t have any reason to stop the monstrosity in its belly from ripping it apart.
To do otherwise would be–
The snail’s head ripped free of its body and the stalks began to struggle. The worm inside wriggled, it couldn’t be eaten like this, it was trying so hard for something greater, something bigger, it just wanted the power, the way to feed–
It squealed as the beast grabbed the stalk it was hiding within.
Bonnie regarded the wriggling thing in her grip. It looked like a caterpillar. She knew of stories of the carrion feeders, the king of vultures and the queen of worms, but she hadn’t heard of a parasite like this.
She disliked being big like this. She hated how big her teeth were in her mouth. She was tempted to eat the thing in front of her, to tear into its flesh and see how it liked it, but that felt like a foolish idea.
She held it still, keeping it trapped, and glanced up towards the bastard that sold her out.
She found a cat instead.
A black cat with emerald eyes, studying her curiously, until its mouth opened in a cheshire grin. Its fur was pitch and ink, like clinging tar and endless night. No stars shown aside from the depths of viridian it allowed to shine in the jewels that were her eyes, marked by single lines to denote pupils.
A paw gently nudged her off the snail’s head. A claw pierced into the decapitated head and lifted it to an emerald eye, glittering with a faint curiosity.
The worm wriggled, struggled, this time to seem enticing. It did not expect to be smashed into the table and seared away in a burst of emerald flames.
“Filthy little thing. To think you allowed things to become this infested. You really should turn over this lounge of yours to someone more worthy of it,” the cat crooned, feline eyes regarding the carcass of the snail.
Though “carcass” was perhaps the incorrect word.
Before Bonnie’s eyes, the torn flesh of the snail sunk into the spiral of its shell and the city it was built from rumbled with noise. Something akin to…construction?
Then a new snail poked its head out of the shell, its clean and clear eye stalks turning with an uncharacteristic curiosity, before settling on Bonnie again. Its flesh was free of faces and she could see dreams passing through its body, thoughts and feelings shifting in sleep. It was not kind, it was not pure, but it was not foul as it had been. It was fair again.
“Oh, hello, you are new. Did you eat me?”
“She didn’t, little sibling. She’s a hunter, she tore free your newest parasite.” The cat smiled, amusement and surprising affection gleaming in her needle teeth. “You really must fix that problem of yours. You know they’re only truly interested in brother’s beak.”
“Ah, I see, I am sorry. They are very forceful.” The snail regarded Bonnie again, and bowed its head. “I am in your debt. It is rare for that to be so. Ask a boon, I will give it.”
Bonnie tilted her head. Half of her felt it too convenient, that there was a parasite, that the evil done was unwilling, but then it wasn’t as though she could expect remorse from a snail. The fair did not work on the same rules as those they called faint. They played at politeness, but it was a game in the end.
Humanity made rules based on moral beliefs. Law came from the idea of how things should be.
Fae made rules because they did not care, and that lack of care would see them all dead if they did not have anything to bind them in place.
She had a question to ask anyway. If what was done to her could be undone.
“Ah, no, sorry.”
“Say more than that, little sibling. She doesn’t understand.”
“Oh, yes, understood. Your curse is fundamental. The condition has to be met, it has not, thus it remains. Speak with those who cursed you and you will have better luck.”
Nothing she didn’t know. Could she find the woman that cursed her here?
“Uh, perhaps, maybe? Can she?”
“She can.” The cat stretched, languid and amused, before offering a cooking with her tail. “Eat, little hunter. Your night is not over yet. And I do care for this little fool, so I owe you as well. Do not fear, I will see you duly rewarded.”
Bonnie was not in a particular mood to trust. Yet she bit down on the cookie regardless.
Growing to her normal size did not bring her clothes back, though her curse receded.
She flexed her hands, bereft of claws, and looked at the cat, who was staring back at her with open amusement.
“Ready, are we? Then come along. You look more fit for the serpent’s den, but I can be kind, should I choose.”
The cat smiled again, its teeth glinting as the sky faded into a ceiling and the worms in the water began to cook as it boiled.
“Just don’t waste my generosity.”