sediment in the soul – 19.12

Content Warnings

Body horror

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And so, in the morning, with a little help from my friends, I grew a new tentacle.

Well, actually I modified an existing tentacle; fresh pneuma-somatic generation would not only require the use of brain-math, but would probably also draw on the spongy and tender vulnerabilities of my healing bioreactor. Nonetheless, by the time the work was done, the tentacle in question felt like an entirely new organ.

Compared to the previous morning, I practically bounced out of bed like an over-active child with a digestive system full of sugary cereal. I woke before true dawn and then lay there, filled with dull bruise-pain, omnidirectional anxiety, and a kind of nervous excitement I had not felt in a very long time. Dawn broke behind the curtains, washing my bedroom and the rest of the house with slow grey light, so I squirmed out of the covers before anybody else could wake up. I still ached from head to toe, but my body felt flexible, refreshed, hungry for motion and use and life; if I hadn’t been so excited over the tentacle-work ahead, I would probably have dived back into bed and snuggled up against Raine and whined for sex. My dozens of tiny bruises were turning a fascinating and colourful array of weird hues, my joints hurt but no longer felt like they were stuffed with gravel, and my skin had relaxed so it wasn’t a size too small for what it contained. I’d spent the night dozing and dreaming, my subconscious mind chewing over the proposal I’d made last night, already brimming over with half-formed concepts to write upon my mutable flesh.

I started the pneuma-somatic modifications alone, downstairs in the kitchen, before anybody else appeared for breakfast, outrunning even Raine as she washed her mouth out in the bathroom and followed me down. I couldn’t control myself, couldn’t have stopped or slowed even if I had wanted to; the end result was tantalising, yes — the prospect of real communication with Mister Squiddy — but the journey was almost more important.

Changing my body at will was a kind of euphoria all its own, whatever the purpose.

Breakfast was a non-negotiable requirement, however. I laid my chosen tentacle over the kitchen table, then had to get up again as my stomach rumbled loudly enough to hurt; my body knew what I was about to do, so it demanded building materials. I returned with two lemons, one clutched in each fist.

“Dual-wielding for breakfast, heeeeey,” Raine mumbled sleepily from the doorway.

“Mm!” was all I could manage. “Mm, need them. Mm.”

Raine helped. She cooked me a bowl of rice and a plate of fish fingers, ready as soon as I had finished skinning and devouring those lemons. I surely looked like a starving rodent, juice all down my chin, sucking fragments of lemon flesh off my fingers. But my body demanded more. And Raine looked at me like the most beautiful girl in the world, even when she slipped on the modified glasses so she could see the parts of me made of spirit-flesh and desire and hope. I sat there cutting fish fingers into tiny pieces and dipping them in soy sauce, chewing with relish as I lay a tentacle back across the table and began the work.

Others drifted in and out as the house woke up around me. Kimberly appeared bright and early, ready to go off to work like we were all normal people; she bid us good morning and made herself some toast, none the wiser to the pneuma-somatic biology experiment, churning and roiling only a few feet away on the table. Felicity turned up too, then vanished with Kimberly again, on escort duty so Kim’s normalcy and safety could remain assured. I barely paid attention to either of them.

Zheng crept in like a cat, in comfortable stealth. I paid plenty of attention to her.

“Shaman,” she purred. She cupped the back of my head with one massive, warm hand, watching the process for long seconds. I could feel her satisfied grin, dark and shark-like. “You grow.”

“Trying to,” I said. “Would you like a fish finger? I have too many.”

“Mm, no. Fish meat. Huh.”

Zheng did not stay long; I would have liked if she had, but the hunt called her more strongly than the desire to watch me prod my own flesh.

“Shaman, you are in safe hands — your own. I trust no others better.”

“I know, I know,” I sighed. “It’s just … be safe, Zheng. I love you.”

Raine caught her at the back door. I overheard Raine’s voice drifting into the kitchen: “You’re the only one who can cover all that ground safely, on foot, and fast as well. I get it, I’m not trying to stop you. Just don’t try to face down anything alone, okay? I’ve got your back. Call us if you spot anything. Especially if you find the house. Good hunting.”

“You have my back, little wolf.”

I could have squealed in delight at that exchange, but I was too focused on the work. The work was all that mattered, writing on my own cells and tissues and membranes. By then I had started to drift into an almost trance-like state, consciousness totally focused on the process of visualisation, my body demanding water like a thirsty chain reaction. Shafts of morning sunlight glowed across the sink and the kitchen counters, a throbbing aurora in my peripheral vision.

Evelyn stomped into the kitchen a little while later, with Praem trailing behind. She stopped and stared — at my food.

“Fish fingers and rice. For breakfast.” She sounded vaguely disgusted. “Heather.”

“I’m fine!” I chirped, feeling like Lozzie. I even giggled. Evee’s golden hair caught the sunlight. Her hunched pose and kinked shoulders invited a hug, beneath layers of comfy clothing, her dressing gown, and a shawl.

“I know you have unique dietary requirements now, but that has to be too much salt.”

Raine said, “As far as I can tell, she’s doing alright with it.”

“Still,” Evelyn sighed. “Fish fingers in soy sauce? Bloody hell.”

Praem said: “English sushi.” Evelyn let out a sigh like a dying tractor and looked like she wanted to return to bed.

“Sooooo,” Raine said, idly making a round of tea as Praem helped Evelyn sit down at the kitchen table. She didn’t look at Evelyn. “How’s Twil?”

“Sleeping,” Evelyn grunted.

“Where’d she sleep last night?” Raine asked, brimming with faux-innocence. “Didn’t know she was staying over, is all.”

Evelyn didn’t answer. Neither did Praem. Raine made an expression of private amusement. Part of me wanted to ask — part of me was dying to ask. But the work came first.

I had decided not to use the same tentacle which had served as the injector — the one I’d used on the Forest Knight, the one which had spontaneously re-formed a bio-steel needle and liquid delivery system when I’d thought Nicole’s life was in danger, the one which maybe, possibly, perhaps some part of me wanted to sink into Evee, sexually or otherwise. Medical equipment or quasi-genitalia, whatever I had turned that tentacle into, I didn’t want to risk cross-contaminating purposes; that tentacle was normal again now, the needle merely a memory of hard tissue inside soft flesh, but I didn’t want to compromise my maximum-security contact device by building it around a bespoke sexual organ.

The obvious modifications came first, arising from the smooth, pale, supple surface of my chosen tentacle with barely a conscious prompt: thicker skin, leathery and resistant; protective sheaths for the nerves; armour-plates in chitin and bone, laced through with iron and crystalline structures and tiny veins of conductive material — I silently thanked a Youtube video about deep-sea snails for that one. Marine life was such a wealth of ideas.

My bioreactor glugged and pulsed in my gut as I worked, responding in sympathy as my pneuma-somatic flesh readjusted itself into new forms. Since the previous day and my gorging on lemons and salt and proteins, the bioreactor had woken up just enough to contribute a token effort. It ached and throbbed like a sore muscle, unfolding like a bruised flower, making audible liquid noises like an exotic new stomach. But I made no effort to interfere, to coax it back down into silence, or bring it out of semi-torpor.

Technically I didn’t need the bioreactor for any of this. The process of crafting existing pneuma-somatic flesh into new forms was mostly about proper visualisation, something Kimberly had taught me how to do, in great detail and with a wealth of knowledge. I had no doubt she was much better at this than what little skill I had managed to practice. But even a little was enough. By thought and imagination and a little popular science about marine life, I could summon the forms of the abyss into human flesh — or at least their pale shadow, slowly and painfully. Pneuma-somatic matter did the rest, reshaping itself under the influence of my trembling will as I slipped over the edge of a trance.

If I had wanted to forge a new appendage, or grow myself a fresh pair of knees, or turn my head bioluminescent, I would have required brain-math, if only to flick the single value from a zero to a one, from non-existence to pneuma-somatic reality.

But my bioreactor was warming up and glugging away all the same. I relished the chance to stretch the muscle. Though I had to keep stopping whenever it sent twitches and stitches up my right flank.

“Take it slow, Heather,” Evelyn grumbled, watching me from the other side of the kitchen table, her arms folded and her jaw set. Her own breakfast lay abandoned in front of her, in the shadow of a pill bottle. She wore her own pair of modified pneuma-somatic glasses, watching my tentacle with a growing frown. “There’s no point rushing. You’re going to have to test all this before using it anyway, so don’t get your heart set on anything.”

“Heart set,” said Praem. “On pretty tentacle.”

“Yes, yes,” Evelyn sighed. “It’s very impressive.”

After that the work required more experimentation. I needed active protection as well as simple bulwarks, in case Mister Squiddy turned out to be worse than we expected.

Inside the thickened layer of mushroom-pale skin I added pockets of acid and enzyme, of paralytic toxins, and strange offerings from my bioreactor that I didn’t understand: layers of semi-liquid material that would flash freeze a physical intruder, or colonise hostile flesh, or repel attacks in mediums that could only be expressed in hyperdimensional mathematics, not the conscious human mind. The tentacle ached and throbbed, heavy with potential, swollen with structures beneath the flesh. My vision swam and blurred. Time seemed to drip and slide and crawl. At some point, Lozzie and Tenny wandered into the kitchen, but they must have left again, because when I blinked clear and alert, Twil was standing there in a long t-shirt and borrowed pajama bottoms.

“Doing alright, Big H?” she asked me.

“She’s doing just fine,” Raine said. “Let her work. Heather, you’re doing great.”

“Cool, cool.” Twil shot me a grin and an awkward thumbs-up, then turned to Evee. “We still on for—”

I slipped back into the trance of bio-adjustment for maybe twenty minutes. I couldn’t be sure.

When I surfaced a second time, Twil was gone, but Lozzie was by my side, in her poncho as usual, sporting a halo of wispy blonde. I demanded water and Raine pressed a cold glass into my hands. Heaven slid down my throat and elicited a garbled explanation from my own lips that even I couldn’t understand. I hiccuped and babbled and tried to explain what I had done, my words overlapping, my new tentacle twitching.

“It’s better safe than sorry!” Lozzie chirped.

“That—” I croaked. “That made sense to you?”

“Mmhmm!” Lozzie nodded.

Evelyn said, “Better safe than explicable, more like. Lozzie’s here because you were … drifting.”

“I was,” I said, blinking hard and grounding myself in the kitchen. My lungs expanded, sharing air with the house. “Sorry. This is complicated.”

Lozzie nodded as if this made perfect sense. “Gotta listen to your body, even if it’s not using words. Very important! Mmhmm!”

“I’m trying,” I murmured — but by then I was mostly trying not to let the pain show on my face.

The quasi-trance of biological focus had numbed my conscious mind for a while, but the tentacle hurt.

Not since building the tentacles themselves had I performed such detailed, slow-going, intentional modifications. The full-body changes I’d undergone in order to fight Ooran Juh, or the berserk state I’d entered two days ago, those had been mostly instinctive responses, running on pure gut feeling, a lack of inhibition, the need to protect my friends, my family, my pack. But to grow new kinds of nerve-endings or plate my tentacle with iron-laced chitin, that required a constant push against all my anxieties about my body, about the limits of what I could achieve; every tiny change brought a twinned pang of longing and euphoria — and also a deep-muscle ache in the tentacle itself, stinging and burning all the way down to the roots inside my flank, anchored in my mortal flesh. The result lay fat and limp across the table. And it hurt.

Lozzie must have noticed. As early morning light retreated across the sky, replaced by dull-soft summer blues, Lozzie reached over and held my hand. I nodded a weak thank you to her. She smiled back, sleepy and delighted. If Lozzie approved of the biological work, then I knew I must be on the right track.

Raine noticed as well, but she was less subtle, slipping on her own pair of modified glasses so she could inspect my handiwork. She let out a low whistle. “Very flash, Heather. Very flash. Looking sharp.”

I sighed. “Flashy or not doesn’t really matter. The function is what matters, and it’s not finished yet. I know it looks … rough.”

Raine laughed. “Naah, that’s nonsense. Form always matters! It’s part of you, right? So of course it’s going to be mega flash. You’ve blinged out your tentacle, Heather. Shiny plates and cool go-faster stripes, and gold lace too!” She winked and shot me a grin. “Love it.”

I blushed slightly. “Raine. T-thank you. I think.”

Lozzie giggled. “Bedazzle that tentacle!”

Raine shot a finger-gun at Lozzie. “Eyyyy, Loz. Great minds think alike. Heather, can you make it glitter? Sparkle in the sunlight? Disco-ball style, right? Do the gold veins light up?”

I rolled my eyes. At least she was helping me ignore the pain; I knew what Raine was doing and Raine knew that I knew, but we both went along with it, like we always did. Amid all these changes, amid any changes, Raine was always my rock. Raine’s affection would never falter. I blushed and flustered and tried to sharpen my mind to concentrate on the next step.

Laying across the table, twitching and flexing as changes roiled and rolled beneath the surface, I forced the flesh of my special tentacle through one last process, the most difficult to define, the one I couldn’t put into human words. And as I completed that process, the tentacle took on a further aesthetic change, one I had neither expected nor intended.

“Neon purple glow?” Raine asked. She raised her eyebrows with a wicked grin. “Nice choice.”

“It’s pretty!” Lozzie chirped.

“Party tentacle,” said Praem.

Raine was not exaggerating; the usual slow-strobing soft-rainbow effect had been replaced with a dark and heavy neon purple, like a colour one might see through cephalopod eyes at the bottom of the ocean, or in a particularly seedy nightclub, or in a dream about explosive headaches. The colour had arisen all at once, as I’d shunted nerves around and created artificial bundles, to hold signals where they could be examined before continuing upward toward my mortal flesh.

I croaked, hoarse with effort: “I-I didn’t mean to do that. I … aha, ah—” The tentacle both ached and tickled at the same time. I gasped and winced and blinked away the kind of tears that usually accompanied the plucking of a hair. “I don’t know why it’s done that. All I did was gate the nerves.”

Evelyn sighed sharply. “Yes, that’s the important part. Forget the light show. Heather, is it complete?”

“I think so.” I raised my aching, throbbing, tender flesh from the table, lifting and supporting the experimental tentacle with two others. The skin itself was both dull and over-sensitive at the same time. The feeling was like nails down a chalkboard, making me shiver and wince.

Raine said, “Heather, you alright? You with us?”

“She’s fiiiiine!” Lozzie chirped.

“Um, yes,” I said. “I think. All the safety procedures are in place, Evee, yes. A-ah. That’s … weird. Gosh that feels weird. W-weird.”

Lozzie reached out with one hand, half-tucked inside her poncho. She met my eyes with a silent question, delighted and curious.

“It aches,” I said. “You can touch, but be gentle.”

“Mmhmm,” Lozzie breathed. Gentle as a feather, she cupped the curve of my experimental limb. The flesh shuddered, then relaxed. I winced slowly. “Good Heathy,” Lozzie whispered.

“Trying my best,” I croaked. “I think this is it, I think this is the right tool.”

I half-expected Raine to make a dirty joke, something about Lozzie hogging all my tentacles for herself. But Raine simply looked on, happy to leave this one as entirely innocent. I liked that. It was a good choice.

Evelyn shifted forward in her chair. She still looked dead-eyed with exhaustion, even two days after the spell at Geerswin Farm. Late-morning sunlight fell across her back. “Heather. Explain. No need to get technical, just plain language.”

Her bluntness knocked me down a peg. “R-right. Um. Ahh.” I flexed my modified limb, moving slowly and carefully; I reached down toward the table and picked up the edge of a plate, but I almost fumbled. The nerve connections were so slow and different now. “The entire length of the tentacle, barring maybe a foot’s worth at the base, is now gated off from the rest of my nervous system. Not completely, or I wouldn’t be able to move it at all. But there’s now … security checkpoints? I’m sorry, it’s hard to put this in simple terms.”

“Keep trying,” Evelyn grunted.

“Okay. The nerve signals go into special bundles, filled with … abyssal … stuff, from my reactor. They get checked, approved, then translated into nerve signals the rest of my body can understand.” I pulled an awkward smile for Evee. “If Mister Squiddy tries to do anything unexpected, he won’t get very far.”

“Damn right,” said Raine. “No possessing my girlfriend. Only I’m allowed to get up inside her.”

I huffed. “Raine, please.”

Evelyn ignored the dirty joke. “Yes, that’s the idea,” she said. “Good. You’ve turned a limb into a giant security checkpoint. And you better hope it works.”

“It will,” I said. “It feels right. Numb and slow, but right, and—”

Evelyn snapped, talking over me. “Because we’re going to test it first. Heather, you’re not going anywhere near that demon blob in the corner of my workshop until I am one hundred percent satisfied by that tentacle of yours.”

Praem opened her lips with a prim click, and intoned: “That’s what she said.”

Lozzie and Raine both found this hilarious; Raine snorted and Lozzie giggled so hard I thought she might pull a muscle. I blushed beetroot red and hid behind one hand. Evelyn shot a dark glare up at Praem, but the doll-demon returned the look with her usual placid stare.

“Take care with words,” said Praem.

Evelyn replied through her teeth. “I will. Thank you, Praem.”

“You are welcome,” said Praem.

Raine cleared her throat and stopped laughing. “Seriously though, you’ve given yourself artificial nerve damage. Sort of. And it’s reversible, hey! Amazing work, Heather. You are incredible, you know that?”

“I don’t feel incredible, but thank you. I think.” I laughed weakly. My new tentacle twitched in the cradle of two others, sending strange sensations into my flank, muted and dull like quiet echoes. “I’m sure it’s going to work, whatever we throw at it. Like I said, it feels right. It feels correct. Might need time to settle, I suppose.”

Evelyn snorted. “I’ll be the judge of that. On your feet.”


Evelyn’s testing process was far less enjoyable than the embarrassing novelty of Praem making a dirty joke; I had vaguely imagined the ‘tests’ might involve Evelyn tapping the tip of the tentacle with a little hammer, like a doctor checking my reflexes. Or perhaps it would be some kind of dexterity challenge, like that time I’d played chess against Tenny several months previously, to flex and exercise the tentacles before I learned to fully control them. My new experimental contact tentacle would have failed such a test a hundred times over: it was slow-moving, heavy, numb, and highly imprecise. The modified nerve system made it difficult to manipulate, like an arm suffering pins and needles, wrapped in electrical tape, and dunked in freezing water.

Evee dragged us all into the magical workshop — myself, Raine, Praem, and Lozzie — but not before I could grab another lemon and start eating it. Mister Squiddy was still quietly slopping away to himself in the corner, confined to his bucket, either biding his time until he had a chance for mischief, or none the wiser about our plans, or simply looking forward to a chance to communicate. I had no idea which, none of us did, not until I actually went through with the plan. Evelyn ignored him completely, left his flap of tarpaulin up, and had me sit at the workshop table. She fussed around for a bit, sorting through old pieces of canvas and magic circles on bits of stiff card, fussing and huffing and displaying signs that she was feeling even more short-tempered than usual. Eventually she had Praem drag out a specific ancient design and unroll it across the tabletop.

“Oooooh,” went Lozzie, leaning forward for a look

“Breaking out the classics, hey?” said Raine. Evee didn’t respond to that.

The magic circle was so old that Evelyn had to refresh it with a marker pen, the muscles of her hand tense and tight as she went over the lines. It wasn’t special, not compared with the complex monstrosities and mind-bending designs I’d seen over the last year: just a single ring with a jagged star around the edge, frilled with a few accents of looping Latin and a single word in Arabic. However it functioned or whatever it did, the circle didn’t make my eyes water or prod my stomach with nausea. If I’d seen it adorning the cover of one of Kimberly’s new-agey magick tomes I wouldn’t have given it a second glance.

“Evee?” I asked, tilting my head. “What does this do?”

Evelyn added the final touches to the edge of the circle, careful not to smudge or touch the canvas. Then she sat back in her chair with a pained grunt, grasping for her walking stick. Praem caught the pen and clicked the cap back on.

Evee said, “It hurts you when you touch it.”

I blinked, cradling my tentacle in my lap. Raine blew out a sigh as if she’d expected better. Lozzie said, “Ouchies.”

“That’s it?” I said. “It … it doesn’t look like much.”

Evelyn held my gaze, grey around the eyes, and for some reason deeply unimpressed. “It doesn’t have to be ‘much’, Heather. A little sting, that’s all. No real damage. Just direct stimulation of the nerve endings. It’s a hell of a lot safer than a taser.”

Raine laughed, once, but there was no humour in her voice. “Evee, Evee, Evee, it better not be at the level of a taser.”

Evelyn huffed and rolled her eyes. “Do you think I would want to hurt Heather? Really? No, it’s more like a wasp sting. I can crank it up for you, though, if you want to slap your hand in the middle and discover your own pain threshold.”

Raine gave her a wry smile. Evelyn glared back, as if daring her to say more.

I looked at the circle and gulped, half-expecting it to be shimmering with invisible heat or crackling with electricity. But it just sat there, seemingly inert, waiting to inflict pain.

“Evee—” I said.

She sighed sharply. “Just touch it, Heather. It’s perfectly safe. I wouldn’t make you do something dangerous.”

I hiccuped. “O-of course you wouldn’t. I trust you. But—”

Praem reached past Evelyn’s shoulder and toward the magic circle. Evelyn flinched as if to stop her, but Praem was too quick. One pale, soft fingertip pressed against the surface of the blank core of the pain-infliction device.

Nothing happened.

“Oh for fuck’s sake,” Evelyn sighed. “Don’t tell me it’s not working. I am not digging up the notes on this. I am just fucking not.”

“Ow,” said Praem. She withdrew her hand. “Functioning.”

Evelyn scowled at her. Praem stared back. Evelyn’s scowl died and she looked away, as if Praem had a better point than she did, or as if Evelyn was being petulant and difficult and Praem had just called her out.

Lozzie had a quick go with the circle too, poking the middle with her index finger. She let out a little “Yaaah!” and whipped her hand back, giggling and shaking her finger, then peering at the unblemished tip. “Ouch, yes!”

Evelyn sighed at Lozzie too, though far less sharply. “Yes, we can all stop testing now. Heather, please, let’s get on with this.”

“Evee,” I repeated, “I don’t understand what we’re doing here.”

Evelyn closed her eyes slowly, as if she was counting to ten before opening them again. “You are not touching ‘Mister Squiddy’ until you can touch that circle and feel no pain. Understand? Your control needs to be perfect. No mistakes. You are not going into this with an untested method of protecting yourself. We do this right or we don’t do it at all. I insist.”

“You insist, okay. And I’m hearing you, but … ” I stared at the circle. “Couldn’t you just poke me with a fork or something?”

“Forky friends,” said Lozzie. But she sounded uncomfortable and distant. I doubt she had expected this situation to get so serious so quickly.

“Yeeeeah,” Raine added slowly, stepping forward and putting her hands on my shoulders. “Look, Evee, normally I’m all for directly stimulating Heather’s nerves—”

“Raine!” I squeaked. Lozzie giggled like a little teapot reaching boil. We both needed that.

Raine continued, “—but I know enough about magic — your magic — to—”

“Bullshit!” Evee scoffed.

“—to recognise what you’ve got sitting on the table there. Don’t pretend like I don’t know.”

Evelyn held Raine’s gaze for one long, uncomfortable moment, lips pursed, breathing a little too hard through her nose. Then she looked away, angry but muted.

“Evee,” Raine said, gentle and goading. “Come on, hey?”

I sighed at both of them. “I’m feeling a little out of the loop here. Please don’t slip back into bad habits, you two. What are you talking about?”

“Yeah!” Lozzie chirped. “I have no idea what that means either! Booo!”

Raine cleared her throat and gave Evelyn a meaningful look. “Better if Evee says it herself. Not my place.”

Evelyn gritted her teeth, grumbled something under her breath, and glared daggers at Raine. She spat: “I don’t care what tools I use, Raine. There is no such thing as the tool of the enemy when it comes to keeping Heather safe — when it comes to keeping any of us safe. I thought you would agree on that point of philosophy. I thought you had no limits.”

“Hey, I do agree!” Raine said. “But at least be honest with yourself. And with Heather. Kinda unhealthy not to, yeah, in this particular case? ‘Cos from where I’m standing this is like seven different kinds of fucked up.” Raine glanced around the room. “Apologies to Sevens, if she’s listening in. Random number, I swear.”

“Evee,” I said, trying to suppress a sigh. “What is Raine talking about?”

Evelyn finally lowered her gaze to meet my eyes. It took a visible effort of will from her, like she felt terribly guilty and couldn’t bear to see her own reflection in me. She swallowed, ran a hand over her face, and gestured at the magic circle on the piece of canvas. “It’s a component from my mother’s work. Because of course it is! Because so much of what I do is built on what she left me. Happy now, Raine?”

“Nope,” said Raine. “This is hurting you badly, Evee. I don’t even know why you’re doing this.”

“Oh,” I said as realisation dawned. A cold feeling settled in my belly. “It’s part of a torture device. Isn’t it?”

Uncomfortable silence settled over the magical workshop. Lozzie shifted in her chair next to me, staring at the thing on the table with an unreadable, heavy-eyed look, pulling her pastel poncho tighter. Raine just rubbed my shoulders gently, kneading the tension deeper into my flesh. Evelyn couldn’t meet my eyes.

I took a deep breath — and reached toward the centre of the circle with my modified tentacle.

Evelyn snapped, “No!”

She almost exploded out of her chair, which was deeply uncomfortable to watch, because that mostly meant she scrabbled at her walking stick and lurched forward. Praem had to catch her and stop her from banging her head on the table. “No!” she repeated. “Fine, we won’t use it! Praem, get rid of it, please. Just burn the thing, forget I—”

“Evee,” I said. “It’s fine, I understand—”

Evelyn slapped the table so hard that I jumped and jerked backward. My modified tentacle flopped against the wood. Lozzie yelped and then fluttered back down into place, like a jellyfish in a column of warm water. Raine clicked her tongue in sympathy.

For a long moment, Evee just stared at the table. Then she lifted her hand and said, “Ow. Well, there. Now I’ve hurt myself too.”

“Please don’t, Evee,” I said.

“Mmhmm,” Lozzie added in a sad little voice. “No ouchies.”

“No ouchies,” echoed Praem.

“Evee, you can just poke me with a fork. It’s fine. We can stop this.”

Evelyn sighed. She wouldn’t look me in the eyes. “Fork-poking is not reliable,” she muttered. “We need a baseline.”

I glanced up at Raine, then over at Lozzie, but both of them looked deeply uncomfortable in their own separate ways. Lozzie was biting her lip, with a look like she desperately wanted to retreat from the room and pretend none of this was happening. Raine squeezed my shoulder and gave me a grin, but had nothing for Evelyn.

“Evee,” I tried again. “I know you don’t fully approve of this.”

“Bloody right I don’t.” Her eyes finally snapped up to my face. “Heather, why are you doing this?”

“Excuse me?”

“Why now? Why today? Why like this?”

I stared at her puppy-blue eyes and her set, hard face and her bone-deep worry. “I don’t … I don’t understand. I … well, because we don’t have anything else to do but wait. Because we need to find Edward’s house, so I need to do better brain-math. I explained, I—”

“No, Heather,” Evelyn sighed. “That’s not what I mean, and you know it. Raine? Raine, for once, back me up on this, please.”

Raine sighed softly. “Not sure I follow either, sorry. But you know I’ve always got your back.”

“Evee,” I repeated. “If you’re worried about me getting hurt, I’m not going to put myself in harm’s way. I promised, I made a really serious promise: no more self-sacrifice, no more—”

“Oh for fuck’s sake,” Evelyn sighed. “Heather, I’m not worried about you self-sacrificing. I’m worried about you biting off more than you can chew.” She gestured with one hand as if wiping cobwebs out of her own thoughts. “Felicity was right. Don’t repeat that to her — that includes you, Lozzie, please — but she was right. About that thing we’ve been keeping.” Evelyn jabbed the head of her walking stick toward Mister Squiddy in his bucket, tucked away in the corner beneath a piece of tarpaulin. “We don’t know if that came from the Eye. Maybe it did. Maybe it didn’t. Maybe, maybe, it was sent by your sister. Maybe!” Evelyn raised a hand before I could protest. “But we don’t know. And Heather, for fuck’s sake, the last time you risked contact with the Eye, when you helped Badger, you almost died. It set off a chain of events which we are still dealing with.”

“Extra girlfriend,” said Praem.

Evelyn laughed, actually laughed, with a worrying enthusiasm.

“Evee?” I said.

“Sevens is the least of my worries!” Evelyn said. “No, if this goes ahead and the worst consequence is Heather coming back with a clay-based slime-girl concubine, fuck it, fine. I’ll throw a party. But no, that’s not what worries me.”

Raine said, gently but firmly: “What worries you, Evee?”

“What do you think? We are exhausted. We are locked in combat with a mage. We have no idea what might be on the way here, right now. I’m betting on Zheng finding that house for us. It’s the safest way. Heather is option number two.” She looked at me again. “So, yes, I don’t understand why you’re doing this.”

“Because I can’t keep looking away,” I said. “Because sooner or later I have to stare back.”

Evelyn’s face crumpled into an avalanche of worry. “Oh bloody hell, don’t put it like that.”

I almost laughed. “Sorry, Evee. But it’s true. I could end this conflict with Edward, right now, If only I was better at brain-math. And I think that proper communication with Mister Squiddy is the only chance I’ve got.”

Or scrub the Fractal off my arm. But I didn’t say that out loud.

Evelyn sighed. She glanced up at Raine. “And you’re on board with this, really?”

Raine shrugged. “If Heather thinks it’s best. And I agree. The quicker we can end the mage punch-up, the better. She’s got a point there.”

I spoke up as well: “But I agree with you that it’s worth doing right, if it’s worth doing at all. Evee, I will go through any tests you think are necessary. Magic or otherwise. Poke me with a fork, chase me around with a branding iron. Whatever you think is needed.”

To my surprise, Lozzie rose from her chair and tiptoed forward, fluttering the hem of her poncho and creeping over to Evee. Evelyn watched her approach, unconsciously bracing as if to get shouted at. But Lozzie just smiled.

“Evee-weevey,” she said. “I’m here too. I’ll watch Heathy. I promise. I’ll go in with her. I’ll be right there!”

Evelyn looked up at Lozzie with a strange and pinched frown, like she couldn’t quite believe her ears. “You will? You, well, of course you know what you’re doing, but—”

“Sometimes you have to do dumb things!” Lozzie chipped, nodding along.

Evelyn sighed. “Sometimes we do, yes.”

“Evee,” I said. “I’m going to go ahead and touch the circle. Unless we want to do this another way.”

Lozzie and Evelyn stared at each other for a long moment, Lozzie letting that strange little smile trip and bounce across her lips, Evelyn stony and dark and very unhappy with all this, but clinging to something in Lozzie’s expression. Lozzie bobbed on the balls of her feet. Evelyn grumbled something under her breath. But finally an understanding passed between them, something that was not for me, which I did recognise.

Lozzie touched Evee’s shoulder with the lightest brush of her fingertips, so feather-soft that I doubted Evee could even feel it through her clothes. Evelyn sighed and turned to me — and reached out for my hand. I took it without reservation.

“Alright then, Heather,” she said, blinking a little too hard. “Not like we have anything else to do all morning. You may begin when ready.”


“You have complete and total permission to interrupt this,” Evelyn said three hours later. “Veto power. Once this begins, you say stop, and it stops.”

Lozzie nodded, bouncing on her chair in time with the motion of her head. “Mmhmm! I have the big no! Power!”

Raine added, lounging by the doorway, “Should think we all have veto power.”

“You do,” I said, a little tighter than I’d intended.

A new kind of exhaustion hung heavy on my shoulders; the last three hours of testing had been unpleasant, but not torturous, but the constant readjustments had dragged me back and forth between normal consciousness and the trance-like visualisation, over and over again. The skin of reality felt thin around my senses.

Evelyn hissed, “Of course we do. But none of us is going to understand what’s happening once it begins. Lozzie, I am asking you, not as a mage or as Evelyn Saye, but … ” Evelyn trailed off, chewing on her lower lip.

“Evee,” Lozzie chirped, after waiting to see if Evelyn would resume by herself.

“Yes.” Evelyn sighed. “Lozzie, I’m asking you, between the two of us. If this starts to go wrong in some fashion, you pull her back out.” Evelyn jabbed the head of her walking stick toward me. “Don’t hesitate, don’t second-guess yourself, don’t worry about justifying it to me, or Raine, or least of all to Heather herself. Just do it. Pull her back out. Promise me. Please.”

Lozzie nodded. “Promise!” Then she leaned sideways in her chair and put her head against my shoulder, blonde hair spilling down my arm. “I’ll look after Heathy!”

I felt like a very naughty puppy who’d made a mess on the carpet: the topic of discussion but not part of it, distant and floaty. I sat there and endured the sensation, secretly savouring the time to rest and recover, cradling my newly aching tentacle with two others, coiled in my lap. The morning had already been an exhausting ordeal — not the kind with adrenaline and fear and running about, but the kind with painstakingly slow adjustments and fiddly delicate problems, like threading dozens of tiny needles over and over until one’s fingers are cramped and one’s eyesight is askew, while wearing a sensory deprivation helmet and a muzzle.

“Thank you,” Evelyn said to Lozzie — then to me: “And you, Heather—”

“Evee,” I sighed. “I know, we’ve been over it.”

“No, you listen.” She thumped the edge of the workshop table with the head of her walking stick; Mister Squiddy’s big bucket of clay sloshed ever so slightly up on the table top.

We had spent the last three hours testing the tentacle into oblivion. If it had been my hand, my fingers would be stripped to the bone and the bones would be spider-webbed with fractures, like I’d been fed into a meat grinder. Blocking pain signals was one thing — I could simply close off the nerves and thicken the skin and plate the flesh and that was that. But knowing the pain was there, gating it away while having my newly minted nerve-trick examine and pass it as safe? That had taken hours to refine, to make perfect. Because Evelyn would not accept anything less than perfect.

Nor should she, I was forced to admit. She loved me very much. She wouldn’t let me hurt myself. And if that meant hounding me until I got this right, so be it.

Eventually we’d finished, cleared away the pain-circle, and broken for lunch: normal food for everybody else, more ‘English sushi’ for me. But that was merely a brief reprieve before the main event.

Mister Squiddy now sat on the workshop table, safely contained inside his bucket and a magic circle. The operation to put him there had taken another hour, mostly done by Praem and Felicity, who was back from escorting Kim to work. Mister Squiddy flapped and slopped, a bucket full of rotting squid, happy and senseless and wet. Praem had dug out the copper cable we’d used last time, along with the old CRT television, and hooked him up to it all over again. The logic was simple: if he showed us anything out of the ordinary, anything suspicious, or angry, or uncertain, then the experiment would be called off.

So far he’d been showing nothing but abstract shapes, with many dozens of sides, rotating slowly against a background of flickering static. It was quite beautiful, like shadows moving across water at twilight. But it was also utterly meaningless, even to Lozzie.

I sighed and rubbed my eyes. “Evee, you’ve said it over and over. It’s not like I don’t enjoy listening to your voice, but—”

“Don’t distract me with flattery,” Evelyn snapped. “You’re lucky we’re doing this at all.” She huffed, averted her eyes, and waved a sort of apology gesture in my general direction. “No, no, I didn’t mean that, of course we’d still be doing it. But listen all the same, please. Even if just for the sake of my frayed nerves.”

I nodded, numbed by guilt; even after our brief and difficult heart-to-heart earlier, Evelyn seemed more on edge than when we’d started. Me experimenting with brain-math was apparently more terrifying than going up against an ancient and experienced mage.

Evelyn leaned closer. Her eyes blazed into mine. “If Lozzie says ‘out’, then you get the fuck out.”

“Yes. No question. Understood.”

“If you two come out of this and she tells me you resisted the request to stop — even if it works, even if you’re safe — if you refuse to stop when asked, then … then … ”

Praem finished the sentence for her: “Very disappointed.”

Evelyn sat back, eyes heavy-lidded, deflating slowly with one huge sigh. “Yes. That. And I’ll force you to watch the worst anime show I can think of. And I can think of some really shitty anime shows, you better believe it.”

Raine snorted. “Everyone else gets threats of violence, Heather gets threatened with harems. Seems fair.”

“Shut up,” Evelyn said.

I smiled one of the most awkward smiles I’d ever achieved. “I understand. If it starts to go wrong, then we end it. I promise.”

Felicity cleared her throat from down the other end of the table, where she was sitting with her hands together and her head bowed. She seemed almost as exhausted by all this as Evelyn was. “End him, more like.” She nodded at Mister Squiddy, quietly rolling in his dirty bucket of clay.

“That,” Evelyn grunted, “is a worse-case scenario option. Do not. Unless I say so.”

Twil hissed through her bared teeth. She was sitting on the sofa up against the wall, looking mightily uncomfortable, and still wearing clothes not-so-subtly borrowed from Evelyn. I wished I had the energy and spare mental bandwidth to ask about that.

She said, “I thought the worse case scenario option is the … you know. Amputation thing.” Her grimace worsened. She fiddled with the modified 3D glasses in her hands. “Right?”

Felicity mumbled, “That’s not actually a plan. It’s madness.”

“Yes,” Evelyn said. “For once, Felicity is correct. Twil, I specified that amputation is a distant, distant possibility. If we’re all screaming and vomiting up live toads while bleeding from our eyes, then yes, go ahead and rip Heather’s tentacle off. But I only mentioned it as a precaution. I want it in your head, in case. That’s all.”

Twil pulled an expression like a very distressed basset hound, which was quite a feat on such an angelic face. Her dark curly hair hung down and framed her eyes, giving her a haunted look. “Yeah, well. I wish it wasn’t in my head.” She glanced at me. “Fuck, Big H, I can’t think about that. I can’t pull your fucking arm off.”

I smiled back as best I could. “Just think of me as a big lobster.”

Twil’s expression changed in the exact way to make me feel like I’d just shouted at a small dog.

“I mean,” I added quickly, “it’ll grow back. You won’t be doing me any permanent damage. I am ninety nine point ninety nine percent sure that I can speed-regrow a tentacle if I have to. And, well … ” I looked down at the tentacle coiled in my lap, glowing neon purple, plated and gnarled and ridged in toxic gold. “With everything I’ve done to this one, regrowth might be necessary anyway.”

Twil didn’t look the least bit reassured. She put the 3D glasses on the sofa cushion next to her, then picked them up again, put them down on the other side, then locked her fingers together.

“Twil,” Evelyn sighed, “you’re not going to have to do it. Relax.”

“Yeah, yeah,” said Twil. She tapped her feet on the floorboards, shifting uncomfortably. “Wish you’d asked Zheng to stay this morning. She’s a lot more qualified for pulling off limbs than I am. It’s kind of one of her things, you know? Pulling bits off people? I’m under-qualified for this.”

I kept that awkward smile plastered across my face; truth be told I hated the emergency amputation fall-back option too. It took all my self-control not to raise my tentacles in a protective cage when Evee had first mentioned the concept. Part of me wanted to hiss at Twil, screech and kick and threaten to bite, even if the plan was for my own good.

Also, I doubted even Twil’s strength could get through the tentacle, but I kept that bit to myself.

Evelyn said to Twil, “Your qualification is physical strength.”

“Hello,” said Praem.

“You too,” Evelyn sighed. “But you already know that. We need multiple back-ups, in case something does go wrong.”

“Greeeeeat,” said Twil. I’d never heard her so sarcastic. “Me and Praem, fuckin’ ripper squad. Great role. Thanks for this.”

Evelyn shot back, “This is for Heather’s safety. You know that.”

Twil blew out a long breath, unconvinced.

“Settle down, puppy,” said a voice like rusty plates dragged across gravel; Aym was standing a few feet behind Felicity, head-to-toe in black lace, all except her pale face and long black hair, lurking like an evil sprite in her victim’s shadow. The effect was somewhat spoiled by Seven-Shades-of-Sanguine-Goblin standing right next to her, holding her hand, wrapped in voluminous and glowing golden-yellow robes — the physical manifestation of the promise we shared.

Evelyn snapped, instantly: “Do not address her. Twil, do not respond.”

“Alright, alright,” said Twil, hands up. Aym cackled like steam escaping a pipe. Sevens went glurrrk and yanked on her hand. Aym hissed softly and they both snapped at the air in front of each other’s faces for a moment.

I cleared my throat and began to uncoil the special tentacle which lay in my lap. “None of that is going to be necessary. This is going to work. It is. And if it doesn’t, Lozzie will be with me.”

“Right on,” said Raine. “You can do this, Heather. You can. I know you can. I believe in you.”

Lozzie giggled, head on my shoulder. “It’ll be fiiiiiine.”

Twil said, “Hope so.”

“Best of luck,” Felicity murmured.

“Luck and love,” gurgled Sevens. Aym said nothing.

But Evelyn snorted a single humourless laugh. “Heather, I appreciate your attempt to reassure me, it’s very sweet. But don’t lie to yourself. You don’t even know what this is going to do. This is a shot in the dark.”

I did my best to summon up a mote of Raine-style beaming confidence. But Evelyn wasn’t staring back at me with clinical, cold disapproval; she wasn’t being Evelyn Saye, Her Mother’s Daughter, The Mage. She was wracked with worry and concern and making very little effort to hide it. Dark bags ringed her eyes from lack of sleep and bad dreams and terrible fears. She’d been downing coffee and painkillers all morning, and only Praem’s unrelenting insistence had seen her eat anything except paracetamol and caffeine for lunch.

I’d done this to her, though I hadn’t intended to. My attempted smile dribbled off my face. My bioreactor grumbled in my guts, gently flaring with a painful throb of energy, unasked for and unanswered in kind. I winced at that, but then took a deep breath and nodded to Evee.

“It is,” I said. “But I’ve taken a lot of shots in the dark. Some of them have paid off pretty well.”

“Huh,” Evelyn said. “I suppose they have.”

“And I promise I won’t hesitate if Lozzie says stop. I promise, Evee. Even if this is dangerous, we’re going to be careful.” I finished uncoiling my special tentacle, stretching it out across the table; pneuma-somatic muscles ached and complained, inflamed and stiff with change. “After all, isn’t that what this is about? Oh, um,” I flapped my hands. “Sorry, I mean, my tentacle. That’s what all the tentacle-work was about.”

Evelyn sighed and slipped her own magically modified glasses back on. She looked up at the tentacle, then squinted. “I suppose it is impressive, yes. Well done. But does it have to glow like that?”

Lozzie giggled. “Blinged out Heathy!”

“It’s a side-effect,” I said, then cleared my throat awkwardly. “I said before, I didn’t do the neon on purpose.”

“Suits you,” said Raine. “Maybe after this is done we could swing by the shopping centre, get you some classic raver gear. Hair dye, glow-in-the-dark wristbands, light-up shoes.”

“Party Heathy!” Lozzie giggled.

I sighed and rolled my eyes, but my smile felt an inch less forced and fake. I knew what Raine was trying to do. It worked.

“Party tentacle,” I muttered, staring up at my handiwork. “No, I think it’s rather the opposite.”

“Party time,” said Praem.

The final preparations took only a few minutes. Praem fetched a pair of magic circles; one went beneath my chair, ringing me with protection, and the other went beneath Lozzie, as a second passenger, only semi-connected to this unwise spelunking experiment. Everyone else backed away, beyond range of any accidentally flailing tentacles. Lozzie settled in next to me, a subtle smile on her lips. I wrapped myself tight with all my pneuma-somatic limbs, a ball of physical comfort and security.

Just before I turned to Mister Squiddy up on the table, Sevens trotted forward, dragging Aym by the hand. Aym hissed and grumbled, but Sevens removed the shining yellow robes from her own shoulders, and settled them about mine instead.

“Thank you, Sevens,” I said, deeply touched. “I love you too.”

The words came out without even thinking; I was too exhausted and excited, and in too much euphoric pain to self-edit. Sevens bobbed her scrawny shoulders and nuzzled my arm. Aym looked on with a strange expression. Then the pair retreated as well, slipping away with everybody else.

Raine gave me a thumbs up. “Want a countdown?”

“T-minus 5,” Twil said, with a token laugh. She cleared her throat when Evelyn glared at her.

“In her own time,” Evelyn said. Then she repeated, to me: “In your own time, Heather. And you can back out whenever you like.”

I nodded, throat dry, pulse thumping, and turned to look at Mister Squiddy in his bucket.

Discard the cutesy name. Discard the bucket, the circle, the copper wire, the old television, the geometric images on the screen. Discard the clay, the squid-tentacles, the rotten sheet layer of false flesh. All of this was illusion over the truth. I wanted to speak to the truth.

I raised my numb, aching, special tentacle, reached past the circle and the bucket-rim, and touched the tip to the roiling clay mess, possessed by we knew not what.

At first nothing happened, just the sensation of wet, cold clay on my thickly armoured tentacle-skin. Mister Squiddy reached up to engulf several inches of tentacle, but he was neither aggressive nor cautious, more like magnetic putty enfolding a metal tube. I shuddered slightly. Seconds passed. My bioreactor gurgled in anticipation.

“He’s not trying anything,” I murmured. “Nothing’s trying to invade me.”

“Good,” Evelyn whispered from the back of the room.

“Shouldn’t he be sending signals? Like with the copper wire?”

Lozzie whispered: “Bodies are different.”

“Do you think I should say hello?” I asked. “Or ask a question? I thought there would be—”


A hot sizzle of electric-meat, flesh burning on a grill over a dead sun; a billion writhing flies in the rotten aftermath, rising in a cloud from the echoes of thought; a shape with six thousand six hundred sixty six point six sides; wet; and wet; and wet; rotating past the point of no return into a void of light where the seeker cannot see; a mote of motion in a sea of stillness; wet.

Nerve gates passed me information, not invasion, not dangerous. But it was nonsense. Overwhelming nonsense, flooding my mind with image-sensation. Not even hyperdimensional mathematics.

I gasped, tears jumping to my eyes, my brain juddering back and forth in my skull with a rattle-rattle-rattle of information poured into the gullet of my mind. I twitched my tentacle upward, about to disconnect.

“Oh!” came a familiar chirp. “No, that’s silly, we can’t hear you like that!”

Lozzie’s hand closed around my arm — and my consciousness closed up with a snap.

The last thing I felt was my head lolling forward

as I simply



Previous Chapter Next Chapter

Mmmm, bio-hacking! Delicious! Evee’s not a fan of the neon purple glow, but Lozzie sure is. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that amputation plan. Icky.

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Next week, it’s time for The Dream Quest of Unknown Lozzie.

17 thoughts on “sediment in the soul – 19.12

  1. I really do wish Heather was more curious about the lives of the women she loves. Would also like to know what is going on with Evelyn and Twil? I’m also starting to realize my idea of what a Poly is might not be the universally accepted idea of what a Poly is.
    Next week’s chapter is going to be weird but great. Nice job so far author.
    Thank you for the chapter.

    • Heather usually is very curious, she’s just mentally and physically preoccupied right now! I’m sure she’ll be asking what’s up, when she’s a little less tentacle-y. I’m curious what you mean by your idea of a polyclue, though!

      Yup yup, things are gonna get weird.

      And you are very welcome indeed! Glad you enjoyed the chapter! Yay!

      • I always thought Poly was the opposite of a harem. When instead of one person being the center focus for many, a Poly was where everyone loved each other equally. Turns out that is not the case. It can branch and be quiet open with some members having no interest in other members of the Poly.
        Kind of a letdown when I realized, not to mention I am now stuck searching the Internet for the name of what I had previously envisioned. ( With not much luck.)
        Katalepsis is good, I really like it, and in no way am I badmouthing it. To each their own.
        Thank you for replying.

      • Ahhh, that makes a lot of sense. I think both definitions would technically be a “polycule”, even if not all members are equally in love with each other. Such a situation would have to be very finely balanced indeed.

        Still, there’s a lot of overlapping relationships in the story which will get a lot more focus in Book Two, I think! Stuff is certainly branching out beyond just Heather herself, at long last.

        And no worries! I didn’t take that negatively at all, you’re fine. And you’re welcome!

      • Replying to gothiccatalyst. Polycules may take different forms, I don’t know much about that, but I think you have a point: what Heather has is better described as an open relationship.

        Raine made it clear from the beginning that she was OK with the openness; it was Heather who had a hard time believing it could be OK.

        I don’t think Heather or Raine, etc have ever referred to what they have as a polycule. It’s been others using that term, maybe loosely, maybe because they don’t have a clear idea what’s going on.

      • Yah, calling it a “polycule” has only come from Stack, Praem, and then Evee (once, I think). A lot of readers on the discord semi-jokingly refer to the main cast as “the spookycule.”

      • Thank you for replying Fionag11.
        Heather’s relationship is open but, it is a type of polycule also. Hungry did a good job of balancing it. It is the only story I have read that has come close to what I’m looking for in a story that has multiple women in a relationship.
        Also I think Heather and a few others have referred to it as a polycule, but I’m not really sure.

    • Very true. No plan survives contact with the enemy (and no outline survives contact with the the page, or the characters.)

      And thank you! Glad you enjoyed it! I always like it when there’s a bit of tentacle talk.

  2. I know it’s not possible but I keep thinking how hilarious, in a totally not funny way, if Mr. Squiddy was Maise. Also Heather saying I love you to Sevens made me squee.
    Thanks for the chapter!

    • Haha, just imagine if Maisie has been in the corner of the workshop all along, vibing and relaxing and waiting for somebody to notice. That would be rather an anti-climax, but very funny.

      Heather does love Sevens! She said it! No take-backs!

      And you are very very welcome indeed, glad you enjoyed the chapter!

  3. Let’s not forget, Mr. Squiddy was sent by the Eye to possess Evelyn and put her in a coma. He is not a benign entity, despite his cutesy name. Maybe he is a slave. It will be interesting to see what he has to say for himself.

    • Indeed; we still don’t really know why he was sent, or what his true purpose was. Evelyn’s altered biology (from her first possession, in childhood) meant that Mr Squiddy couldn’t carry out his purpose; whatever she was meant to change into didn’t happen, it didn’t work.

      Then again, he might not have been sent by the Eye at all. We’ve already seen Maisie hijack the Eye’s vectors once before, waaaay back at the beginning of the story, with the demon messenger.

    • Oop, thank you for spotting that!!! Much appreciated, well done. My workflow is pretty different these days, more tools for spellchecking and grammar checking, but some still slip though. Thank you again!

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