A gurgle rose from deep in my stomach. A belch escaped my lips. Everyone could hear. Searing heat spread like lava flowing through my veins into my heart, pumping the molten liquid through my arteries out to my limbs, setting them afire. I hunched over and screamed. The robber took a step toward me. “What the—?”
I screamed again. My knees buckled. I clutched my stomach. Something grew inside of me, pushing its way out. My body twisted. The woman shrieked. Her eyes bulged in horror at whatever was happening to me. She turned her head away, covering her face with her hands.
“Holy crap.” The clerk bent over as if to vomit. His chest heaved. Lips parted to let out the spew.
A muffled cry escaped my throat. God, make it stop! My bones cracked louder. What had I done? What beast had I unleashed? My pain subsided. Gasping for air, I glanced up.
The woman fell to her knees. The clerk gripped the counter with both hands. His arms trembled.
The gun-wielding punk slumped against a display of potato chips. His mouth agape in a silent scream. He staggered to his feet, gun aimed at my head. “What are you?”
“I… I don’t know.” My voice sounded gurgled, like I was speaking underwater. Instead of arms, I had four long green tentacles covered in suction cups. A security mirror on the ceiling revealed the rest of my transformation. Bile rose halfway up my throat. I was going to be sick.
My hair fell away. Lizard green scales covered my bald head. I no longer had a nose—just two tiny slits. My brown eyes, larger and spread farther apart, glowed yellow. I’d become a walking squid, a new horror even for me.
A round exploded from the robber’s gun. The bullet pierced one tentacle, plunging deep into my flesh. Blood spewed. The tentacle recoiled from the pain, ten times worse than any wasp sting. I drew shallow, quick breaths through clenched teeth. “Uhhhh!’
An animalistic desire for survival took over. I became the prey facing a predator in the ocean deep. I should flee. I didn’t owe the others trapped in the store anything, especially my life. Squids are loners. We save ourselves.
No, I couldn’t abandon them. I had to become the predator. I launched my tentacle arms at the gunman. Two wrapped around each of his hands. I squeezed until he yelped, dropping the gun. The weapon clattered to the floor. With my other two tentacles, I grabbed his shoulders, then dragged him closer.