The Cutest Assailant: The Heart Worm Gambit, by Nate Balding

Melissa looked from the gaping wound in her chest to the still-beating heart in her hand, and said, “Fuck.”

A small creature wormed through the muscle, teeth chittering as it spun its arrow shaped body through flesh and sinew, bisected tongue flitting against still pulsating strands of broken vein and artery.  Dark stains wafted from its end, latching onto the organ and slowly eating it away, a full dissolution that pushed through the walls of the atrium and ventricles, prompting Melissa to drop it before it could reach the skin on her palm, shrieking.  The heart worm looked up and smiled, coiling and leaping, popping free as corrosion smeared around it.  Melissa caught it between thumb and forefinger, then crushed its tiny head.

“These fucking things,” she muttered, dropping the lifeless chitin module to the ground and grinding it with a heel.  “Just one more time, Jack.  Just one more time and I will spell stuff your ass into another dimension.  And not one full of Fairy Queens and topless Banana Women, either.  Someplace really lame.”  Melissa coughed a stream of blood as she chastised her Terrier, which had three times that week attacked her through arcane reality folding techniques with the intention of murdering her, despite the fact that she’d saved the creature from a lifetime of malodorous cage living and a head full of electrodes that day she visited the Dumb Friends League in Juneau, Alaska.  It irked her to live with such a villain, but how could she kill him?  She didn’t have many friends and his face was so damned sweet.

Melissa’s fingers glided over the wound in her chest, pushed in, eliciting a gasp, and twisted around, tethering tissues and filling in gaps, forcing blood back and forth in the correct anatomical manner as tubes fused together over streams and slowly the heart formed once more, her fist replaced by other skins, brightened to a shimmering mauve.  Then the chest wound itself, skin wrapping over skin, interlacing in a cross hatch that ultimately belied no injury.  She pulled the stump on her left arm away and clicked the fingers of her right, transmigrating a small object from its place in the universe to the end of her arm, where it blossomed into a plated gauntlet ending in whip-like prehensile hooks composed of star metal.  “There,” she said, flexing her new fingers.  “That’ll work until it grows back.  No thanks to you!”  Jack the Terrier, cowed, put a paw over his face and lay on the floor.

“Now, where was I…”

Melissa swung a hand through the air, wiping a window into existence.  Through it airships sailed peacefully along jet stream drafts, Jandian citizens wrapped like spider food in flier’s clothes swinging behind them, cabled into the afternoon sky traffic on their way to or from work.  Melissa’s fingers rocked slightly and the view shifted, the window now a topographical view of the city below, cascading waterfalls and high, hollow rock formations housing the populace.  The window zoomed down, into the caverns and the dark, following the sulphuric clouds that swam up from those depths, watching the miners slave away in their purifying Hardfaces, sucking on short gasps of oxygen as they swung pickaxes into the walls seeking quicksilver.  Melissa swung up into the city again, flying quickly through the buildings, watching the city folk meander about their business, coming into a wide communal garden space, at the center of which stood a large bronze sculpture of Jack, her trusted companion/arch nemesis.

“Now this I cannot abide,” she whispered, the viewer shooting back up into the sky.  Melissa stuck her gauntleted stump against the edge of the viewer and pushed her face through it.  The atmosphere burned and the sky went crimson.  Airships fell without propellant and thousands plummeted to their deaths.  Clouds formed Melissa’s face, a terrible visage that shocked the planet into utter silence.  Her death dealing gauntlet slid into their reality, whipping down with plasma hooks and tearing the statue asunder.  “You insult me with your pathetic attempt at immortalizing your crude folk hero.  You realize, don’t you, that your great assassin is merely my pet?”

Melissa laughed and pulled back, allowing the Jandians to return to her bidding, locating those elements necessary to keep her alive with all the power she’d usurped from the edges of the universe.  She closed the window and smirked at Jack.

“So THAT’S where you’ve been going at night for your walks?  Ha!  Next thing you’ll be trying to free Commodore Zilg.  Imagine that!”

Jack whimpered and covered his face.  He almost spoke up, but something was caught in his throat, and he let himself stew in cold rage at his savior and tormentor, lamenting his weak skills and hoping that on one of the other worlds he would find the power to end the multi-planetary genocide and finally reach a place of peace.  Someday, he thought.  Someday.


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Submitted for the 11/09 challenge, “Heart.”

This story was written in response to the prompt, Melissa looked from the gaping wound in her chest to the still-beating heart in her hand, and said, “Fuck.”