Image credit: Clemens Krauss via Berlinartparasites
It killed my grandmother.
That morning, my grandmother woke up early as usual. She made breakfast for the family and brewed some coffee. She put two sugars in my father’s, and that was when I realised something was wrong.
“Ah ma, this kopi is for Pa?”
“Yes dear, bring it to him.”
“Ah ma, daddy doesn’t take sugar in his coffee.”
My grandmother did not move. She froze with the cup of coffee still in her hands, and slowly, she smiled back at me, showing her yellowed teeth. Something was very wrong. This woman looked the same –kind brown eyes, thin lips, and curly white hair. She had the same wrinkled hands that had time etched on them. The same slight limp in her walk. But I knew she was not my grandmother.
“Ah ma is getting old. I forget some things.” She took the cup back into the kitchen as she poured its contents into the sink. After a brief pause, she said, “You were always the smart one, Grace.”
I whispered softly, “No, you never forget,” as I ran to my grandmother’s room.
I opened the door and on the bed was the mangled body of my grandmother. She lay skinless on the bed – pure muscle, flesh and bone. All the skin had gone and her eyeballs were exposed. I stared in mute horror as her dead eyes peered back at me.
That day, my father chased it out of the house. The Creature hid in the stairwell, but my father tracked it down. Using a special knife, my father killed it. It shrieked as he drove the knife through its heart. The Creature’s black mass shot out of the eye sockets and slithered away. My grandmother’s skin collapsed to a pile on the steps.
I hugged my dad and we sobbed violently.
That was half a year ago.
We sat at the dining table – Pa, Anna, and I, wrapping dumplings diligently. I taught them how to roll the skin to the perfect thickness, the amount of filling to use, and how to fold the sides. “The skin of the dumpling is very important,” I said. “If it’s too thin, it disintegrates easily after boiling. If it’s too thick, the dumpling becomes floury.”
I paused thoughtfully before saying, “Delicious fillings are nothing without well-crafted skin.”
Anna said, “This skin is perfect, Grace.”
Pa said, “Ah ma would have been so proud to see you make them.”
I didn’t respond.
My hands worked diligently, wrapping each dumpling meticulously. When the last of the fillings had been wrapped, I admired the rows of dumplings on the tray. They would turn out to be the most beautiful creations, I told myself.
I belong to a race that can never walk the earth in our natural form. We were genetically coded to loathe our fluid, black exterior. If the world was a vast blue ocean, we were a massive oil spill. We craved a body that did not resemble our own. Discrete boundaries with limbs, unlike the formless dark slime that we were. Beautiful velvety skin, unlike our wet oily texture.
Do we have to kill them? I asked. I was taught that there is no other way. We were wired with the DNA of hate and born innately despising our skin.
Those that could not bring themselves to kill or could not find hosts perished. For the sake of self-preservation, my people encouraged me to find a stable host and blend in. Stealing their identities was the only way we could live. And so we lived on borrowed skin, slithering from body to body, building our homes using other people’s faces.
The old woman was my first. And then her granddaughter, my second. They call me The Creature, but I have no name. I take the name of the person I kill.
Her name was Grace.
Right before her father stabbed me, I escaped out of the woman’s skin. I hid and I waited. And then I killed the daughter. I was more careful with the body this time.
I tapped into her memory to teach her family how to wrap dumplings. My new family.
I made a mistake once with the sugar. Now I have learnt. I am careful with memories and details. I adapt with time. I fit in.
Anna tells me that the skin is perfect. I don’t disagree.