Based on the web serial "Worm" by wildbow.
(January 10, 2011)
I stumbled out of the locker and fell into the sea.
A ragged gasp rattled out of my chest, catching on some of the bile and vomit still in my throat. The shock of ice cold salt water overwhelmed me. I jerked backward, limbs stiff from my confinement, banging against the row of lockers that held my own.
The hallway was a knee-high river.
If my voice hadn't been hoarse from screaming for I don't know how long, that would've set me off. I recognized, inwardly, that I should be terrified. And I was. Yet somehow I also took this impossible sight matter-of-factly.
Was I in shock?
If you were in shock, could you tell you were in shock?
I looked around, lost. I saw no one else. The school was empty and dark, the power off. Beside me were the ruins of my own fetid locker. The door had been half-broken by what I now realized was some piece of floating debris swept along in the flood, which had served as a battering ram against the thin steel, giving me a chance to bust out.
I lurched against the current. No reason. I felt the impulse to move, to get to safety somewhere. Hugging the lockers, using the dangling padlocks as handholds, movement was steady. Debris and other garbage in the water cut at my legs. I could only hope that my jeans blocked the worst of it.
"F-f-fuck this day. Fuck E-Emma and Sophia and Madison a-and all you bastards," I rasped to myself. More obscenities flowed from me.
Had to keep it together. Had to save myself. Nobody else would.
Get to the exit. Focus on that.
My initial fall into the water had cleaned the human waste off my hands. I felt safe pausing for a moment to wipe the tears blurring my vision.
That brief pause saved my life, and me from blindness.
A blur slashed down, smashing through the lockers and ceiling both. The blow was close enough to pelt my body with a shower of steel splinters. I fell backward screaming in pain and surprise.
Half-submerged again, my eyes fell to my left hand. Flesh still wet with tears, it now boasted a screw jammed through the palm.
I reached out with a finger, gently wiggling the screw. I barely felt any pain.
Probably not a good sign, I thought distantly.
Ahead of me, rubble blocked the hallway. I knew, as I forced myself to stand, that going backwards wasn't an option. I was bleeding all over from lots of small wounds. I already felt dizzy. I needed help before I passed out, and I was afraid it'd take too long to limp back the way I came.
But there was another exit: the new rip in the side of the wall. There was rain pouring through from the other side.
I carefully wedged myself through the gap, mindful of the jagged edges to either side of me and the uneven footing beneath. My breath came in shallow little hiccups now.
I stepped outside.
There were bodies. They were maimed and broken, staining the flood water with crimson. They were also wearing costumes. Superheroes.
That's when I spotted the monster.
It towered over the parking-lot-turned-lake of Winslow High.
The eyes I noticed first. They were a bright, piercing green that were perfectly clear even through the sheeting rain. They shone out from a crocodile-skin expanse of scale. Not a proper face. Just four cuts, really.
Its shape registered next. An inverted teardrop of muscle, and a long tail that slithered and twitched. Broken patches in its skin weeped ichor. I barely took in the outline of it before I recognized him.
I fell to my knees, in the process slicing open the side of my abdomen against exposed rebar. I didn't even care. All I could think was:
Emma left me behind during an Endbringer attack.
Followed quickly by:
Everyone left me behind.
Leviathan turned, noticing me.
At least something does, I thought bitterly.
He could've killed me without moving, I knew. He could smash all of Brockton Bay, sink the entire state of Connecticut, and sweep the rubble out to sea. Even a single flick of its long tail from this distance could have sliced me in half. It didn't do any of those things.
Instead, Leviathan almost sauntered toward me.
He got right up next to me, and leaned over. I could make out the irises in each of his four eyes. I could also see myself reflecting in his gleaming green eyes: black hair slick against my skull, clothes drenched, glasses frosted over by the wintery cold, skin pale from fright and blood loss.
If you could stare an earthquake in the eye, what would you see? If you could sit down to talk with the Black Death, what would it say? Mr. Gladly had introduced our unit on the Endbringers that way, even made us write a half page in-class essay on just that topic. It was a mawkish notion, but common. The Endbringers had faces even if they were forces of nature. That's why we talked about them as 'he' and 'she' rather than 'it'.
Well, here we were, face-to-face, and I looked into his eyes and didn't see an earthquake or a plague or anything like that.
Instead, I thought of Emma.
He's just another bully, I realized.
Leviathan reached out and wrapped one clawed hand around me. He picked me up. Behind him, I noted how his tail flicked back and forth excitedly. I entertained him. No, I was his entertainment.
He'll kill me, but first he wants to bully me. Why? Because he can.
My whole body shook. It w—
—asn't with fear.
I blinked away raindrops and the afterimages of twin... something?
That didn't matter. My anger did.
"You're pathetic!" I shouted at the Endbringer. His green eyes fixed on me. The way he was holding me, we were on level with each other. The storm above seemed to crackle and thunder with each shouted word of mine. "What the fuck is wrong with you, that doing this makes you happy?!"
My body continued to shake uncontrollably. My eyes, my bladder, even the blood in my veins thrummed. I must have looked like another
-meaty bag of mostly water-
easy mark. He would never let me go.
As if to mock my inner thoughts, Leviathan casually dropped me. I landed awkwardly in the shallow water, my left ankle snapping on the asphalt beneath. I didn't care. I was so far beyond caring. All I could think about was that I had posed just like this a few minutes ago when I had fallen out of my locker.
I might as well have never escaped.
I swept my arms through the churning water, a raw and inarticulate scream ripping its way out my throat. Leviathan echoed my cry back at me. The sound hit with a physical force. I felt my bones rattle. Hot blood dribbled down my nose, and I tasted it on my lips.
I hated the Endbringer. Hated Emma for abandoning me. Hated Sophia for coming out of nowhere to steal my best friend. Hated Madison for being their cutesy little tag-along pet. Hated the teachers for not helping. Hated my classmates for their silent consent. Hated the heroes who didn't save me and the villains that didn't kill people who deserved it like Emma. Hated my dad for being blind to my misery. Hated my mother fo—
—r leaving me alone.
I sagged nearly down to my chin in the flood water, overwhelmed. I... I had seen something important, bigger than me, but I could feel the memory slipping away like water seeping between cupped fingers.
I could taste it, on my lips. Not just from the flood, but in the blood there.
My tongue snaked out, the little red tip savoring the flavor of the copper and salt. My mouth flooded with salvia. It tasted – I tasted – like the sea.
The Endbringer cried again.
It didn't hurt this time. It was also richer, somehow. There were tones and slopes and variation. I wished I was into music, like my mom had been, so that I could put words to what I was sensing. But even without a proper vocabulary, I somehow... understood.
The Endbringer cried for a third time.
The thrumming in my body was one with the flood waters around me, and the blood spilt in those waters, and the rain pounding the water surface, and the clouds overhead, and somehow even flowing among the rock far below me.
I closed my eyes, and could imagine seeing as Leviathan saw. A world of water. It suffused everything. Even I, in its mind's eye, was little more than a bag of meat and minerals dedicated to keeping its water supply from evaporating. Even then, we were temporary things. Not like the oceans and the rivers and the rains. Brockton Bay and all the people in it... were a transitory soap bubble to Leviathan.
How bad did you feel when you idly popped a soap bubble?
Even in the depths of this strange vision, I shivered at its callousness. For all that Leviathan was utterly alien, he had sauntered over to me because I was of passing interest to him. A brief amusement between 'splash fights' with the parahumans who had assembled to fight him, and the climax of stirring up the water in the earth beneath the city.
Still a bully, but cruelty didn't even enter his mind. Not like Emma. Because how could you be cruel to a soap bubble? Yet despite my newfound empathy for the Endbringer, I wanted it to stop.
The pounding rain ceased in an instant, as if cut off by a knife.
I looked up at the overcast sky, gapping. Pieces fell into place in my mind.
Raise your right hand.
Pat yourself on the head with one hand while rubbing your stomach with the other.
Well. That was a sight.
Do the robot dance.
Okay, mostly the blood loss talking there. But I'd just gone from a surefire humiliating death on the worst day of my life to puppet-master of one of the 'big five'. My head threatened to split open if I attempted to touch everything Leviathan could via his power, to pursue the sensation of every water drop both across the city and out to sea. I could pick a small point and focus on that, though. Maybe no bigger than my school's campus.
What could I do within that limitation?
As an experiment, I commanded Leviathan to clear the cloud cover. Dutifully, a small patch of sky overhead parted to let the sun down on me. All while still doing the robot.
Through the Endbringer, I felt flying meat-bags of mostly water make a cautious approach to us. Parahumans. Like me, now. I could only imagine their bewilderment at the sight that greeted them.
"Any dance requests?" I asked, as the first capes landed.