Sorry About All The Shit And Puke!
Extreme violence, mindcontrol, dubcon and noncon. This is an excerpt that functions well as a standalone piece.
This section has already been banned at multiple different platforms including some subreddits and Literotica.
Please read with caution and do not read if you are easily triggered!
Aetherwyrm wanted to die.
Aetherwyrm wanted to kill.
Aetherwyrm circled the classroom with his arms crossed. Scratching his shoulders, popping his jaw, and salivating whenever he crossed the blood trail. His footsteps had thoroughly smeared it, but he knew it like he knew the greasy cunt of a fifty-year lover. The windows cast cage-shaped shadows all over him. He was small. His ribs were all greyhound-like. The prisoner's jumpsuit billowed over his bones. But still, he had barricaded the doors with the desks.
He paced like some mad, threadbare zoo creature.
Winding over the ring of rubble he'd built again and again. The soles of his feet hurt. Hurt from the whipping. They tried to stop him from running. What the fuck did they know about running? He could run for decades. Centuries. He could regrow anything he wanted. He would always come back, like a thistle through the razor wire. He was immortal. He was Aetherwyrm, lord of gods and men. He limped a little while he paced.
Aetherwyrm's mouth was dry. It tasted like the chalk dust strewn everywhere when he had jumped the girl. The fucking bitch. He eyed the blood smear. Wasted opportunity-he could have licked it on the floor there while it was wet.
Two days since he last drank anything. He put his hands together, wrung them over each other. Sometimes pain would shoot up his asshole while he paced. He'd squeeze his thighs inward. The pain was good. He reminded and reminded himself, a holy mantra. Pain was real. Realer than nothing.
There was a bang against the window glass.
He cocked his head to the side, still pacing, one eye fixed upwards like a lizard spying a spider in a neighboring branch.
Did someone dare taunt him?
No, and not someone.
A dirty gash in a nauseating pink gown with uneven tits and a face like an uncooked roll. The schoolmistress. She watched him pace; she'd been watching him the whole time. Her dark eyes had some silly emotion behind them that Aetherwyrm didn't want to think about. Every once in a while, she'd turn away, waving her hand defensively, the other still balled in a fist against the glass. Better to keep the children away...
Aetherwyrm circled faster.
He could hear himself moan. A one-note meditation, peppered with exclamation points whenever he stepped on a blister. His hands covered his face now. He wanted dizziness. He wanted oblivion. He wanted that same nothingness that was inside the skulls of the men that had visited him in the barracks latrine that morning. It was in their hearts too. In their pricks. Now, inside of him.
Nothing, nothing, nothing!
Nothing had happened to him. Nothing had been happening to him for weeks. Or was it months? Nothing visited him; he was chained there by the hole in the ground. Morning, noon, and night.
Crowds of green-uniformed nothings and non-uniformed little nothinglets. Bigger crowds on state-sanctioned holidays and at the closing of the officer's pub at night. Nothing like that could ever happen to him. The Imperial Dragon would never trade nothingness for food, for a jacket blanket, or for a drink of anything. Anything at all. Water, wine, piss.
The chalk dust tickled him, hurt his leather mouth.
He wanted blood. To drink, maybe. He wanted to masturbate and fill the knife-gouged pit between his ears so he could hear himself think. His heart rattled around his chest. He could feel the pulse at his wrist, prodding into his nose. He reached out and bit himself. He pressed his jaws together as deep as they would go.
She turned away from the window and frowned, deep creases covering her unfortunate face. She spoke to someone out of Aetherwyrm's view, her words muffled by the glass.
"Why are you here? I didn't call for you. "
Silence. The shadow of a person crossed over her face.
"I called the medics and Comrade Governor Arakhnov directly."
Aetherwyrm could sense something coming.
He stopped his pacing and backed towards a corner of a room at the edge of his circle. Aetherwyrm was the king of Gods and men. He was immortal. But when he heard the words, I called Comrade Governor Arakhnov directly, he shivered.
A knot formed at the bottom of his stomach.
The schoolmistress was agitated, her words a little louder.
"Of course I called him; the boy in there belongs to his department. Not to yours! "
She banged the glass again in frustration. She made a wide gesture towards the scrawny little thing cowering inside her classroom.
"He needs medical attention. He's clearly insane and isn't even human. That's Strna's department."
Her eyes flashed with anger. She gestured at Aetherwyrm again.
"Of course, I care about the girl. The other teacher is with her. He's also been trying to hurt himself. Why would I leave someone like that alone?"
There were footsteps away from her. Then, there was a loud BOOM, at the front doors.
The noise shook the windows and rattled the pile of desks.
Aetherwyrm fell backwards and slid further into the corner. He made trails in the dust as he went.
Aetherwyrm could hear the schoolmistress, but her words traveled through him without sticking.
"Easy on the door. Don't hurt him!"
Aetherwyrm couldn't understand why she even cared.
But there wasn't time to ponder the wailing of females. Men were at the door. Men who wanted to hurt him again. There was a log from the stove he'd used during his frenzy against the girl. It was right beside him, smeared the same as the floor. He grabbed it quickly. Then he stood and faced the oncoming attack.
The doors swung open, moving the piles of rubbish and paper like match sticks. Two skinny nothings in green uniforms entered, and then they dashed to each side of Aetherwyrm. He went pale. He almost felt sick at the sight of them. The smell of the latrine tickled the back of his mind.
He immediately swung the log right, left, and right again with both hands. It was like he was back on top of the girl and bashing her bloody. It was like the nothings were on top of him, trying to do whatever they pleased.
A very large man in a black greatcoat entered. He stepped over a few fallen chairs carefully in his steel-toed patent shoes. Thankfully, it wasn't Strna. He was too blonde and too nice in his features. Too alive. Strna would have had to duck under the doorway to fit.
The man went directly between the two People's Justice pigs. He spread both his hands out in front of him in a stop gesture. His voice was quiet and friendly.
Oh, so careful. -
"What's happened here? Why are you tearing up the place?"
Aetherwyrm immediately eyed the electric baton holstered at the man's belt. He swung the log again and kept swinging it. He swung even as he panted, and his hands shook. He made an arc of force around himself with it and kept against the wall.
The man took more than a few steps forward.
"Easy, now. Put down the weapon."
Aetherwyrm shook his head, then bellowed out,
"FUCK YOU, COCKSUCKER! "
Aetherwyrm swung once more, directly at the man as threateningly as possible without actually making contact.
The interloper wasn't dissuaded. He got closer still and even smiled. His voice went firm but still wasn't loud or accusing.
"Put down the weapon, boy. You don't want to do this, and neither do I."
Aetherwyrm saw red.
He approached the man himself, the log held over his head, his eyes black like a shark. He screamed into the man's face, his voice hoarse and his chest wobbling.
" I WILL KILL EVERYONE IN THIS ROOM! I WILL BURN YOUR BONES AND PISS IN YOUR WIVES' MOUTHS! I WILL LAY GENERATIONS OF DEAD BABIES OVER YOUR GRAVES. GET. THE FUCK. AWAY FROM ME! GET AWAY! GET AWAY!"
Aetherwyrm's screaming became more like an injured cat's caterwaul by the end. The man didn't even flinch. He just kept smiling. He placed his hand on the electric baton over the on switch. Then he looked at each of the People's Justice men pointedly. He said to Aetherwyrm,
"Sorry about this, pal."
The two little nothings grabbed each of Aetherwyrm's arms.
The prisoner fought and kicked his feet. He made scuff marks on the walls and ceiling. His grip stayed tight on the log, even now as it was being pulled from him.
There was the sudden flicking sound of a switch. The low hum of electricity. Aetherwyrm saw a purple flash and felt pain knock into his stomach like water through a burst pipe.
The Justice men let go of him, but the man in the black coat didn't remove the baton even as Aetherwyrm fell forward. Instead, he let it simmer on Aetherwyrm's belly until the log rolled away from the captive's flopping hand. He kept twitching for a long while after the switch was flicked off again.
Aetherwyrm was quiet for a spell. There were no sensations or feelings. He didn't even think. Was it death? Oh, how he hoped. It was all for naught, though.
The next thing Aetherwyrm heard was the clicking of handcuffs. He squirmed because someone was touching him. The front of him had gone cool and tingly. He wondered, with dull horror, if he was back at the barracks. His eyes opened.
He was on the ground just outside the schoolhouse. He looked up and saw the schoolmistress sitting next to him. She was rubbing some sort of cream or ointment on to the burn at his stomach. He flinched away from her; his eyes wide in shock. The man in the black coat was standing over him. He took Aetherwyrm by the arm and pulled him up.
"Alright. Come on. The Comrade Governor wants to see you."
Aetherwyrm was cuffed behind his back, and the cuffs were attached to a belt at his middle. One of the People's Justice men buttoned up the front of his jumpsuit.
Then, Aetherwyrm was pulled again.
His armed justice escorts dragged him from the nearly empty school grounds. Outside the fence, the whole village had gathered. This time, nobody was laughing or jeering. Behind the crowd, a girl's bloody legs stuck out of an ambulance.
They pushed him towards the deserted highway to Strna Arakhnov's torture nest. One man was behind him and kept pushing him with his gun, the other would look behind him every so often and bark at him.
"Keep moving, you imperialist maggot!".
The man in the black coat had his arm around Aetherwyrm's shoulders, keeping the prisoner bent low. Every time a Justice Man taunted him, the man in black would scowl. They walked like this for what seemed like an eternity.
Aetherwyrm looked up after a while. He spotted the house in the distance. They had changed one of the two propaganda signs to the side of it. A black and white cow and a female dressed as a milkmaid smiled at the view. Red text at the bottom informed them:
A COW ON YOUR FARM WILL ASSIST THE STRUGGLE IN FOOD INDEPENDENCE
The females' bland, painted gray eyes reminded him of Strna's.
As they approached the yard, he noticed another difference. The grim little path to the depravity closet had trays of sod grass growing every few steps. It was strange, as the grass in the trays appeared no different than the grass that had already been growing out in the yard. There were eight of them in total.
His escorts halted him, and the man in front opened the gate. The guy behind him gave an utterly baffling warning:
"If you try to run, we will shoot your fingers off and use them as garden fertilizer."
The man in the black coat shouted at the guard, his grip on Aetherwyrm's neck tight.
"Alright, that's enough!"
He very quickly undid Aetherwyrm's cuffs, and let him stand normally. Even he knew there was no escape.
Grimly, Aetherwyrm walked over the property line. The gravel path was curved and would have almost looked friendly if it was any other front yard in the world. Something about the grass trays, the propaganda sign, and the threat he'd just received all gave him an especially foreboding knot in his guts.
The door, as usual, gave off a metallic clang of bells upon entering.
There was a different, bigger medical bag underneath the bed. It was absolutely stuffed with implements. A pair of brown-stained pliers stopped it from being zipped closed. There were heavier straps on each bed post. There was a metal bucket on the floor. There were spare linens folded on the desk. The clock on the wall was missing. Aetherwyrm's stomach clenched with anxiety at the sight of it all. He sat on the edge of the bed.
He had to think of a strategy, even now in his state. He was willing to accept that he was physically vulnerable against Strna's tactics. He needed to mentally detach himself. He couldn't get rooted to the ground like last time. He couldn't be mesmerized or overtaken. He wouldn't allow that horrific scab of a man to get to him. He heard footsteps. They didn't come closer right away. They paced back and forth, from one far edge of the house to the other. Then there was a distinctly metallic jingle.
Aetherwyrm's heart started to pound. His mouth went dry. Dew formed on his brow. There was still a lingering echo in his mind and body from the last time they had met. He crossed his legs tightly to keep it under control.
Suddenly, the door swung open, and Aetherwyrm jumped from surprise. He kept his eyes low, but he could see that Strna had an entire extra bag slung over his shoulder. He dropped the bag next to the bucket as he closed the door.
As usual, Strna was the first to talk.
"Good, you're sitting civilized this time."
He sat in the chair across from Aetherwyrm with a creak. He had a thick folder of pages in his hand.
His voice was eerily grim. There was a slight furrow in his brow. So Aetherwyrm didn't know what to think when he heard Strna say,
"You're clearly hurt, even if you won't let anyone near you to check. Other than this morning, I've heard no incidents from you since our last meeting. I'm not going to drain you today."
It simply did not register. If no blood would flow, what would they be doing today? Why were there heavy restraints? Why did he bring extra gear with him? Why was there such a huge bag of medical supplies under the bed?
He didn't dare look Strna in the face to see if he was serious or not. Nothing about this made sense. He traced his own eyes along the bottom of the far wall and passed over Strna's boots, the legs of the desk, the leather bag, the metal bucket.
Strna, being a scholar of suffering, had saved the most important detail for last.
He continued, with a hint of mischief in his tone,
"...But you escaped from the barracks. When you were caught by the schoolmistress, you went on a misogynistic tirade. You failed three times to correct the ideological error in how you refer to women. You failed to criticize yourself in front of the schoolwork group at their re-education session and identify the key features of this error. "
Aetherwyrm closed his eyes and gave a deep sigh as the hope left his body and the dread seeped in.
Strna's voice became louder; it cut through Aetherwyrm like a jigsaw.
"Then, you chose to disturb a thirteen-year-old girl of an ethnic minority in our region because our attempts to correct your errors in ideology angered you. You-"
He licked his finger, then flipped to a new page of his report and coughed. As he read, he raised his eyebrows. "You knocked over her bucket of snap peas and threw it on her head. You called her an insolent gash, a red whore, and a bitch. You then beat her bloody with a fire log. Am I correct in all this? "
Aetherwyrm opened his eyes again. He looked at the document in Strna's hand. The angry, fierce photo of him they took when he was first captured was fixed to the front cover by a clip.
He simply nodded.
"It was recommended, therefore, that since during your tirade you also used three erroneous words in addition to the three that brought your initial ideology mistakes to the instructors attention..."
He let his words hang in the air briefly. Then he smiled.
" That you are subjected to three days of Advanced Social Thought Reform."
Strna closed the report and rested it on the table.
His words were a bomb. Aetherwyrm needed a moment with the shock wave. He said nothing. He fidgeted with his sleeve and kept swallowing the lump that was in his throat. His eyes were on his own feet. Three days of Advanced Social Thought Reform.
Strna folded his hands together.
"So, you understand, then. When those guards change their shift, they are leaving you here in my custody."
Aetherwyrm flinched as though he had been punched.
"...and when I am done with you, you will gladly apologize to that girl. You will happily criticize yourself in front of everyone. They will all know what you are."
Strna leaned in closer, grinning with his bad teeth.
"Because I'm not going to drain you, I'm going to cure you of whatever sickness made you strike that child."
Aetherwyrm stood. He couldn't possibly know what remedy Strna had in mind. He wasn't about to find out. He knew what the fix was for this situation - bullets. He would sabotage his captors' plans by firing squad. He'd go to the hospital. He'd be buried alive in a grave and have to dig himself out.
He'd rather be anywhere but in this room at this moment. There was no eye contact. There was no spell he was under. He was small and physically weak. But he could be fast when he needed to be.
He bounded towards the exit. The door had just a crack open.
Aetherwyrm pulled the knob.
His escorts saw him.
They raised their guns.
This was it. A small oblivion awaited him. Then he'd either escape a hospital or a boneyard.
He was suddenly pulled. The movement threw off his stepwork. There was a tiny amount of stretch in his jumpsuit fabric. When it tightened, he bounced backwards.
Strna could be fast too. He had Aetherwyrm by the collar of his uniform. He threw his prisoner behind him like he was a sack of pigshit. There was a bang and a yelp. Aetherwyrm held the back of his head. It had struck the far door. He was now on the floor in front of it. Stars flickered at the edges of his vision.
Strna shut them in, and the light retreated back outside along with Aetherwyrm's plan of daring escape. He then produced a set of keys from his pocket and locked them up. Trapped inside.
Strna stepped over to Aetherwyrm's crumpled form.
He sounded positively giddy.
"We're going to have fun tonight."
He crouched low, and Aetherwyrm became aware of the full weight of Strna's body-brutal, menacing, and healthy-pressing him to the floor by his knee. One of Aetherwyrm's hands was trapped under both his own body and his tormentors. The other was being held by the wrist behind his head.
Aetherwyrm finally spoke up, with his eyes strained shut.
"If you're that desperate to fuck me, just do it. Get it over with. "
He struggled to get a breath in from underneath the behemoth of a man.
"But you'll never make me a collectivist. You'll never get me to spew bullshit in front of that rabble you call your people."
Strna chuckled, and the warmth of his breath tickled at Aetherwyrm's ear. Aetherwyrm could feel his cock waking up from the sensation.
"I don't want to fuck you, my boy. I am going to correct all your maladies. I'm going to start by getting you to look at me when I speak. "
Aetherwyrm barbed up at that. He tried to push out from under Strna,
"I'm a man."
Strna, in response, just pressed him harder.
"You're a boy. What man would torment a young girl that way? And, haven't you noticed everyone there is younger than you, but better at even the most basic tenets of our way of life?"
Aetherwyrm really started to struggle. He tried to wiggle, to put Strna off balance. It was no use. The man never even adjusted himself. He was as solid as a serpent swallowing a rat.
Aetherwyrm protested again.
"You just want me to look at you so you can get your wicked claws into me! You people are all the same. You can't admit your way of life doesn't work, so you have to strong arm your way to compliance."
Strna started to turn Aetherwyrm's wrist backward. When it went back as far as it could go, he twisted Aetherwyrm's entire arm.
"What if I told you I could rip off your whole arm from the root?"
Aetherwyrm gritted his teeth. His face had turned red from the strain of it all. Sweat poured out of his brow. Still, he resisted.
"I'd say I can't be killed; it will grow back."
Strna was undeterred by this.
He laughed again and wrenched the arm a little further.
"Of course, but you don't understand. I am the Special Governor of Social Thought Reform for this district. I can tell the authorities to keep you here forever."
He squeezed Aetherwyrm's wrist between his fingers and his thumb, adding to the agony.
" I can tell them that since you can't die, I will keep twisting off your arms every time one grows back. I'll feed them to my dogs each time. I'll make the bones into soup and feed them to you through the hole in the little box I'll keep you in. You'll love it. It will make what we have here so sweet in comparison. You can't die; why do you need to stand? Or sleep? Or even breathe like the rest of us?"
Strna was murmuring this directly into Aetherwyrm's ear. His grip on Aetherwyrm's wrist was unrelenting. Aetherwyrm could feel his arm starting to falter. The tendons were begging to snap. Pain was building at his elbow and his shoulder. His hand was going numb. His hair and his cock stood on end. Tears were starting. He tried to swallow them back from falling.
"And I can say to them, well, you won't use your eyes properly... What if I just... plucked them out once in a while? Grabbed them with the pliers I brought today. I could inject something fun from my medical bag into them. I could put them in the soup. I could make you fight my shepherd dog, while blind, for the privilege of eating them."
Aetherwyrm's lips quivered. He shook all over. He had his eyes firmly shut, but they were watering in horror. He was sniffling in despair. He was ashamed of his strange arousal.
"When you're blind and mutilated, you'd take up a lot of my time. I'd have to spend hours with you. It would get lonely. When you don't even look like a person anymore and you can't remember your name because it's been months since you had a thought other than pain, then I'd fuck you! And I'd make you come! "
Strna then leaned his face in and licked Aetherwyrm. His spit was warm and slippery. His tongue went from below his captive's jaw, up to savor the saltiness of his tears, then up to his hairline. The movement put yet more pressure on Aetherwyrm's arm. Aetherwyrm whimpered. The tiniest drop of precum formed at the tip of him. It never happened like this in the latrine.
When he was finished, he spoke again.
"But... I don't want to ruin your body. And you would be a terrible conversation partner in that state. So why don't you just ease up, and learn what I have to teach? Look at me, boy."
Aetherwyrm was trembling. His breathing was hollow. He nodded weakly and relaxed his face. He turned his head, and then through his tears nodded again, more enthusiastically. He needed Strna to see him. He then peeled his eyelids back.
Strna slowly untwisted Aetherwyrm's arm and rolled off of him. He kept his hand on Aetherwyrm's wrist and used it to guide him into sitting up. When they were sitting together, he pulled Aetherwyrm to hold him. He went from cutting off the circulation in his captive's hand, to massaging the redness from his wrist.
Aetherwyrm accepted the small scrap of affection. The cold grayness in Strna's eyes stabbed through Aetherwyrm. It was a color not from nature. If getting your head crushed with the sole of an army boot every hour of every day for ten million years had a color, then that's what color Strna's eyes were. The color was the distilled essence of whatever jinxed being Strna was when he came crawling to earth from a crack in hell's basement.
And, once again, the Grayness had infected Aetherwyrm. It punched him right in the mind.
Strna asked him, in a sickeningly sweet voice,
"When you kicked that poor girl around, what animal did you feel like?"
Aetherwyrm flinched at the question. He had rested his exhausted head on his overseer's shoulder blankly. His answer was robotic-something given purely to avoid the tiny box he had been warned about.
Strna shook his head. He spoke slowly, as though Aetherwyrm was new to the language. "No. You didn't feel like a dog. Dogs are loyal to humans and brave. I'll ask you again, what animal did you feel like when you kicked that girl?"
Aetherwyrm was getting nervous again. He wasn't sure what would be worse: too many wrong answers or the correct one. He tried another.
"No. Pigs are intelligent. They would have never knocked that much food down. You didn't feel anything like a pig."
Aetherwyrm started to sweat. He was getting the same feeling as when Strna had told him he wouldn't be drained.
He tried a completely different kind of animal. He stuttered a little.
"Uhm... a snake?"
Strna's voice became solemn again.
"No. A snake is a majestic animal with an honourable history. I want you to know that you will never be able to guess how it feels to be a snake."
He smoothed Aetherwyrm's hair with a caress of his hand.
"Get on your feet. I'll show you how you felt. And I'll make you feel like it again."
The color drained out of Aetherwyrm's face, but he stood as though it were a long-rehearsed action. Strna stood with him.
Strna took a few heavy boot steps to the extra bag he brought. He zipped it open and revealed a big, ugly chain. There was a leather loop on one end, and a heavy-duty clasp on the other.
He showed Aetherwyrm the partial length of the chain. It was about seven feet, with each link about an inch thick. There was a little metal weight at the clasp end.
Then he motioned to the prisoner, "Come here, please".
Shakily, Aetherwyrm complied. It took him a lot longer than four steps had any right to.
When Aetherwyrm got to Strna, it happened as fast as a breath.
Strna grabbed Aetherwyrm by the cheek, put the tab of the clasp down, and pulled his head forward.
Suddenly, Aetherwyrm was leashed.
But he wasn't leashed at the collar, by the neck.
It was the huge iron ring they put in his nose when he was sentenced, in order to keep him small and human. One of his piercings, the reason he avoided mirrors. Something he preferred to keep out of his mind.
Strna held Aetherwyrm's head in his hand as he informed him,
"You felt like a cow. A big, stupid piece of meat that your empire farms and then consumes. A docile breather that works for its cause and doesn't think deeply beyond what it's told to do. You didn't feel like a bull, either. You felt like a cow for your gods and your empire. You're going to become an ignorant, greedy, docile cow again, but for me this time. "
Strna pulled the leash. He made a couple loops on the end of the chain until it turned tight and tugged on Aetherwyrm's nose ring. It was shockingly painful for what it was, and immediately brought him forward a step without time to complain. Aetherwyrm snorted as a reflex.
"We are going to walk outside. You're lucky we are only going to see your friends from People's Justice with their guns."
He guided the leash forward. Even though Aetherwyrm was nervous and meek, he still squeaked out before following him.
" You're completely insane. You're a lunatic."
To which Strna shot back, "Nobody is going to care that I'm leading you! It's my job. I've done worse things to people in this yard. They will be looking at you as crazy. For being that big, tough child beater and then loving it when I treat you this way."
He pulled the keys out again and unlocked the door. When he was finished, he opened it and gave a wave to the confused-looking Justice escorts.
He stepped outside, and Aetherwyrm went to follow. Then Strna turned back at him disgustedly. He looked Aetherwyrm up and down.
"What do you think you're doing?"
Aetherwyrm replied, skittishly.
"I'm letting you take me on a walk? "
Strna pointed at the ground.
"What kind of cow walks on two legs? And why do you think you're 'letting me' do anything? You're a cow. This is your life, this is what you love most."
Aetherwyrm turned deep red.
"You're fucking.... I'm not doing this. This is utterly psychotic." He stood motionless in the doorway and let Strna pull at him, even with the pain.
Suddenly, something pricked Aetherwyrm's heel in his shoe near a welt. He jumped in surprise. It was an odd feeling. Another poke got him in his other heel. Each poke got a little stronger, and each one that appeared didn't fade over time. In fact, they multiplied until he had the unmistakable sensation of stepping on glass shards. Each stab of the shards made his ankles weak. The glass shards crawled all over his feet like spiders.
He couldn't keep his bruised and battered footing any longer. He fell forward out of the house and into the gravel path. The rocks scraped his face. When he tried to stand again, the spiders spread above his ankles.
Strna pulled on the leash harder this time, and Aetherwyrm had no choice but to crawl on all fours behind him.
Aetherwyrm's voice was nasal from getting pulled from the nose first.
"What the fuck are you doing to me?"
Strna looked down at him pitifully. "I'm not doing anything to you. You're doing what's proper for a cow. It's so very painful for a cow to try being a man! They don't speak like men speak either."
Aetherwyrm dragged against Strna's pull and crawled as slowly as he could in utter revolt. Then, he'd get a feeling like his nostrils would split open, and he'd fall into line again. The closer they got to the guards, the more he struggled. It was because as they drew nearer, he felt peculiarly inflamed in his mind and body by what was happening.
Strna drastically shortened the leash by looping it around his arm. Aetherwyrm didn't just have to crawl. He had to crawl-run if he wanted to keep his cartilage intact. Strna had pulled the leash so short that Aetherwyrm's head was craned upwards into the sun at a steep, uncomfortable angle. He sat tall like a showdog being displayed. He was directly beside his tyrant now.
Something sharp in the gravel sliced his knee.
There was an abrupt, unusual noise. It wasn't quite a moo. It was a moo twisted around backwards, then filtered through a head injury and the moan of a whore. Aetherwyrm stopped again when he comprehended what had happened. In his sheer panic, another yammering cry rang out.
It was coming from him. He couldn't speak. He couldn't say anything. He couldn't even control the volume of his own voice. Any sound, no matter how small Aetherwyrm had intended it to be, came out in the same miserable way.
In a most degrading manner, Strna patted his little cow head. He looked down at his cow with mock surprise.
"What's the matter-something bothering you? Don't worry, we're almost at our first stop."
Aetherwyrm kept calling out. He was practically hyperventilating. It was so loud that birds flew away from their telephone poles down the street. He could see the look of shock on the faces of the armed guards. He hoped they could understand his plea for help. He was desperate for rescue. But then one of them snickered at him. In the end, he stayed a small man in an open field, making deranged cattle noises.
Strna gave him one more tug forward, and they stopped at one of the sod grass trays. Aetherwyrm looked at it; it seemed much bigger than he had thought, now that it was so close to his face. He could see endless tiny movements on particular blades, followed by flashes of light from insect shells. He could see a hairy spider. There was a bird feather with a piece of desiccated flesh still attached.
Strna crouched down to his level.
"I think I like you better as a cow. You see, a cow wouldn't have knocked that bucket of snap peas over either. It would have rather eaten the whole thing."
He put his face right next to Aetherwyrm's face.
"That's what you're going to do right now. When you're done, you will go to the next ooneand eat that patch of grass too."
Aetherwyrm cried out in resistance, but just as his ability to stand and speak were taken from him, so were his inhibitions around food. A terrible thunder ripped through his stomach. His mouth bled with saliva, and his eyes widened. The smell of the soft grass wafted into his nose. He was being absolutely compelled. There was no room in his mind for resistance; there was only the terrible grayness and an urge to obey.
Strna said, "Go on, then!" and swatted him on the backside in encouragement.
Aetherwyrm tore chunks of the grass with his teeth and swallowed them-bugs, spiders, feathers, and all. His stomach curled and complained, but every time he swallowed, felt a lightness. Something in him was changing.
The yard lost its menacing quality and became just another pasture. The whole of his vision took on a green filter, with the other colors fading into muddy tones until they disappeared. The propaganda signs on each side of the road lost their messages and were now scrambles of lines and shapes. There was just an ocean of grass, the endless rhythm of slow chewing, and black cotton over his thoughts. In his mind, he was a cow. He had always been a cow. Being a cow satisfied him.
There was neither the buzz of human thought nor the emotional turmoil. If anyone spoke to him, the concepts drifted from his skull as though they were leaves gusting through a canyon. A deep stillness settled inside him that was the twin of idiocy and first cousin to death. He was completely certain in each movement that yesterday was the same as the day before, and tomorrow was beyond his reasoning. It wasn't that he was complete; it was that he no longer knew what it meant to be broken. There were no eleven hundred years. There was no struggle. There were no politics. There was no tomorrow. He was at peace.
When he had finished grazing the first tray, he was the one who pulled Strna to the second. He bellowed with deranged contentment and immediately set out to stuff himself. He finished the second tray of grass as quickly as the first.
They were closer to the guards now.
The two of them had amazed expressions. The man in the black coat had gone. One of them said something to the other-to try and test how much of animal Aetherwyrm had become. They opened the gate to the property and stepped aside, watching with bated breath. One of them even gestured, laughingly, for him to walk through.
None of it stood out to Aetherwyrm.
He couldn't register their faces in his memory because he had never known what a "face" was. In fact, the pattern of the fence being disrupted by the open gate disturbed him.
He turned his body away from it and sounded out to let any other cattle in the area know.
The fifth tray made him start to feel full. He finished it slower than the others. He dragged his hooves when he was lead . He needed another swat on the rear to forget why he was complaining in the first place and get on his way again.
He was eventually so full that he stopped and complained again to the farmer when they had gotten to the eighth tray. The man pushed Aetherwyrm's cow head down closer to the tray, and his endless desire to chew took over.
The eighth tray was the final one. He had to be scolded for trying the grass on the ground. His stomach had visibly bloated; passersby could easily assume he was a pregnant woman instead of a brainwashed man.
His farmer tussled his hair, said he was a good cow, and hitched him to a fence post. He beamed from the compliment, and blushed.
Then the farmer went inside the home. When he came back, he had a metal bucket and a bottle of milk.
Aetherwyrm wailed. No, he couldn't have anymore! He was full up. His stomach felt like it was full of sand. But he was just an animal. He operated on urges and instinct. When the nib of the bottle went into his face, he sniffed it. He then suckled from it with robotic intensity. He would have taken anything into his mouth that Strna gave him.
Suddenly, his whole abdomen cramped up. Bilge filled his mouth, and he coughed away from the bottle.
Whatever curse that had been placed on him broke. He realized he was suckling a bottle of milk from a bureaucratic psychopath in front of two guardsmen who would certainly gossip in the village.
The bile-tasting liquid breached his throat. It forced its way out of his nose. Grass-green froth dripped down his face. He saw the leg of the spider come out of his nostril with the rest of it.
He retreated from the bottle, then looked down into the bucket. He vomited a foamy slurry of milk, grass, bile, and dead insects. He was flooded with memories of eating all manner of little things and creatures alive in the ground. A second helping spurted out of his mouth and nostrils. The feather appeared in the bucket, but the bird flesh was long gone.
He saw that the light around him was dimmer now. It was early in the evening. The laughing guards had gone home for the night, and new ones were in their place. He was sunburned. His knees were covered in blisters. He had a shameful, unmistakable hardon that pushed at the leg of his uniform. Had it been hours? He tried to piece it all together, but more vomit left him.
He hadn't drank much of the milk, and the bottle was very large. As Aetherwyrm emptied himself, Strna removed the squeeze nozzle from the bottle and dumped the rest of the milk onto Aetherwyrm's head.
Strna's icy, cruel laugh fluttered in the air around the two men.
The prisoner puked more than he ever had in his eleven-hundred-year lifespan. He had touched death itself, something he had always considered forbidden.
When he was done, he stayed knelt down by the bucket for a second. He had a miles-away stare in his eyes and croaked,
"Oh my god..."
Before he let himself fall beside it.
The milk stung his eyes. It was only now that he noticed that it tasted like medicine. Bits of half-digested grass hung out of his nose. He coughed raggedly.
Strna lay beside Aetherwyrm in the yard. He pulled the miserable, dripping white face right next to his own five o' clock shadow.
He asked sedately,
"What animal did you feel like when you abused that little girl?"
"I... felt like a cow."
Strna nodded at him, his hand firmly holding Aetherwyrm's head.
"That's right, you did. If you ever bully or hurt a child in this village again, I will make you into a cow right then and there. I will keep you that way until the child grows up. When you're a cow, you're safe for everyone. You don't even hurt yourself unless I play with your food, like we did today. You make a single child cry, and I will make you the most well-fed cow in the entire republic."
Aetherwyrm was a ragdoll on the ground. His face was dead. The stars above them in the sky were flickering into life. If only he could be one of them, instead of in his wretched, cursed body. The air was crisp around them. He was still learning how to think again. He sounded completely detached and frozen when he remarked,
"I wish I could die. When you die, you become human."
A shooting star passed over them. Strna was silent for a moment.
He then sat up and delicately unhooked the chain from Aetherwyrm's nose ring. He shook the hanging drips of vomit from his hand. He seemed totally unbothered by the soupy splashes of indignity that were speckling his black dress uniform.
"Now you know what death is, and you'll think twice before bringing it to any child."
"Come, boy. Let's get you all cleaned up for tomorrow."
The captive was too exhausted to be frightened, or to resist. When those strong hands pulled him to stand, he simply followed on rote.