The entity crawled out of the cavern’s opening, pulling its bloated body forward. It had extracted itself soon enough, finally being free as the crevice behind it vanished and moved on. The creature knew its purpose as anything knows its purpose: it had been given the opportunity to form. It could both find its form useful for existence and prosper; or, it could find itself inappropriate and incompatible, and die. This was a standard affair, really, for a world in which life grows and proliferates in the forgotten corners of the universe like a rot on bread when given the opportunity. And so the organism set out to, as organisms usually do, create a humble little niche in which it could live.
The creature raised itself upon its legs, walking on and finding itself on the edge of a mountainous forest, upon a widespread, stone surface. A watcher might have found it vaguely muscoid in appearance, with its wings a clever derivative of the typical insectoid structure. Four primary wings attached to the centre of its back, surrounded by smaller, broader protrusions which would allow it to adjust its direction – from the veins extended small, flat growths, serving as feathers do, particularly exaggerated around its lower, peripheral appendages. It is through this apparatus that the organism lifted itself from the ground into a meandering, hovering flight, before landing on a rocky outcrop, settling itself comfortably into a collection of ridges in the approximate shape of a human hand.
There it sat, scouting the environment. To the east was the start of a forest, to the southwest a long grassland – the north being largely obscured by a close waterfall feeding into a river running south. As it lay there, this creature decided its next action, and the instinct which prompted it was developed. It set off, flying towards the forest in search of prey; whatever variety it may find.
Aimlessly it glided, stopping occasionally on the ground or a tree-branch when it became too exerted. After some time, it came to land above a pack of grey wolves in the busy process of eating. Its eyes lingered on the alpha male, who was gorging himself on the carcass of a deer as the six lesser wolves loitered around the edge of their small territory. The watching fly stared, before raising itself from its elevated position and gliding into position over the lead – then, still unnoticed except perhaps mildly by the hungry, waiting beasts, it folded its wings and dropped on to his back.
Within seconds, the little patch of land was a-flurry with action: those yet to eat, with their senses sharpened by hunger, drew the fly into their full attention and brought themselves into a defensive posture; the alpha female, closest to the predated male, snarled and whipped around from her chosen chunk of carcass, her sight drawn to this alien black thing which presented as clear a threat to her as any carnivore can comprehend of; the male on which the creature had landed, briefly startled – but only, and I must stress this, briefly, for any apex predator so easily sent into shock does not enjoy the luxuries of being alive for long – bit round with his teeth flared at this unseen attacker.
The creature itself, strangely for the source of so much excitement, was largely calm. It wrapped four of its legs, strong and thick limbs at the anterior and rear of its body, around the abdomen of the beast below it, with its less pronounced and fragile midlegs trailing uselessly to his sides. A seventh appendage, attached to the base between its head and thorax, rather similar to a butterfly tongue, reached out and curled itself around the wolf’s neck. He, as he flailed about in his panic, felt a slight irritation as the fly’s mouthpart dug into his back. The insect’s gnawing was a futile attempt, it seemed, as the its crudely formed, soft teeth were only poorly derived from the traditional proboscis, proving – while apt for the process of feeding – useless for any form of offensive weapon. As it burrowed into the furry, flustering carnivore, it failed to do anything but nibble slightly at the tissue around his spine. Ultimately, however, that didn’t matter.
There was some struggle from the circling inferiors after this, but for all their efforts, the fly kept its hold on the alpha’s back. Deeper into the forest this victim escaped, his malicious rider kicking at him as a man might kick at a particularly stubborn horse. After a while of this, the wolf tripped. His left foot had, in the prompted madness, kicked out randomly against an upturned root. Lying pitifully and feeling vulnerable despite his progressing calm as he became used to the organism which had taken up residence on his back, he attempted to stand again before his neck twitched the right – ever-so-slightly, yet noticeably. He stood, hesitated, then launched forward, curving to the right uncontrollably.
After a while the wolf came to a standing stop. Indeed, he would have doubtlessly began to make peace with his unseen parasite had the wounds along his body not been so very sharp; instead, he stood pathetically trying to quell his tortured moaning.
Suddenly, as the frenzied hormones in his system tired, a piercing cold crept into the alpha’s body. A whelp rose in his throat as he collapsed. For several minutes he lay on the forest bed, convulsing as his suffering grew worse until, ultimately, the last remnants of movement faded and finally stopped. For a short time, the clearing that the wolf had carelessly blundered into was quiet, before the creature lifted itself from his back, skittered to his belly and sunk in its mouth. Successfully tearing open the soft skin, it proceeded to – for the first time – gorge itself. The cold meat would likely have caused it to shiver if it weren’t so numb to temperature extremes, one of the many flaws of its development: as was the slow rate of eating, that deviant proboscis of its proving unsuited to chewing the remains it was being used to consume.
It is entirely possible that these aforementioned flaws would have eventually resulted in the organism’s death and the prevention of its species as a result – that is, depending on whatever dietary requirements it had, and how regularly it needed to eat. While it was not affected by its own property directly, second-hand exposure could cause what had affected so many others to repeat, that this example would fail to speciate in whatever strange and illogical way a single member of a sexually reproducing organism managed to. In the past others would simply appear nearby once the original individual had established itself, along with evidence of their having existed for longer.
Fortunately all this was not a concern, since the remaining wolves tracked down the creature a short while later and killed it.
That may have been rather abrupt. It really doesn’t matter, since what happened then isn’t as interesting as what happened next: it was, after all, a simple matter of the somewhat stealthy alpha female wolf pouncing on the fly and biting down on its torso hard enough to leave it dead before fleeing from the area.
With its abdomen now damaged so, the creature began the slow, gradual process of decay – its wings and midlegs, as a result of their fragility, were lost entirely, the rest of it decomposing in a rather strange manner. As the bacteria swarmed on its surface, its chitinous exoskeleton softened into a fibrous, flesh-coloured layer; its interior, as a whole, was changed into a simple, white, fuzzy fluff altering its body into this permanent, semi-inorganic structure. It lay there for a while, inedible, unappealing, small and undisturbed, for god knows how long.
The merchant was returning from the traditional trading journey into Edinburgh, with enough wealth to support him for the coming days – provided his habits didn’t get the best of him again. He was making the journey on foot, given the expense of using carriages for such a common trip as well as the surprising deficit of local bandits. Besides, his home was only a short meander through the woods, and rumours of roaming predators failed to frighten a sceptic such as him – he was far too confident in success of the success of the recent mass wolfhunts.
As he was walking that path he’d so often walked, a sight caught his eye. Veiled in the brush and the foliage was… something. Something small. The man, curious, decided to delay his walking a little to investigate. As he approached this thing, it became clear what it was: humanoid, a rounded head, cloth… it was a doll. A little rough yes and he found it difficult to explain why it was laying there- but then… ah, it occurred to him! Perhaps it was lost through the window of a passing coach, presumably one carrying a young girl of upper class. Seemed reasonable enough. The doll laying on the floor below him reminded the man of something: his youngest daughter, who he’d always had a certain… special affection for, had been asking recently for such a thing. Being a kind father, he had, of course, considered those for sale in town – all too expensive, or otherwise forgotten as the man distracted himself with other, more personal pursuits. For weeks she’d been asking, and he’d never managed to get anything for her. But now, now the opportunity – a perfect opportunity – presented itself. Decisively, he lowered his hand and picked up the toy, placing it in his coat pocket for the rest of the journey.
As he strolled back, he couldn’t help but be proud of himself, perhaps irrationally, for finding it. Truly, he thought to himself, she’ll certainly enjoy it. What a wonderful father you are.