It wasn’t supposed to happen. Allen was an unremarkable man, as inconspicuous as his job as a quality-check assistant at a home guard uniform factory. He wasn’t even a gear in the huge machine of war and religion men called the Imperium, he was the greasing. He had no partner and few acquaintances. His two ageing and estranged parents lived with a sister he had never met in a distant sector of the city.
It might have been a contaminated batch of vitamins. He always took some to stay healthy. One day he woke up with an itching armpit and it seemed like his tongue had swollen. The next day he was trembling with fever. He had an horrible, stinking bubo under his arm. His tongue was burning and scorched with blisters, it was getting so big that he was having trouble keeping his mouth closed. He could not ask for a sick leave, of course. They’d just have fired him. Or, if they had suspected anything more, the parish would have sent a priest and he would have been put to the stake. His only chance was to go through it alone, and hide it while he kept working.
He had to buy perfume to cover the stench coming from his rotting armpit. He never spoke much, so that helped him. The first day passed without incidents. His colleagues must have thought he had met a woman, or just ignored him. The second day, though, he had to leave his post three times to spit blood, and that must have looked suspicious. When he woke up on the morning of the third day, he could not breathe unless he stuck out his monstrous tongue. He let it dangle out like the tendril of an octopus, oozing a thick mixture of blood and saliva. When he reached with his fingers to the thing growing in his armpit, he encountered another touch, a sensation like when you join your palms together. There was no point hiding it anymore.
Crying, but also strangely elated, he packed a bag of essentials and left home for the last time, covering his features in a blanket. He bought a gun and knife in a shady weapon store. Then, on an inkling, he went back in and bought a second gun.
At times now, he feels a numbing sadness at the thought of all he has lost and that had made him a person: faith, property, the integrity of his body. And yet, despite everything, he never quite lost his mid-hive mannerisms and conservative quirks, and he often wears what once was his blue uniform, now in rags, with a starched white collar, as the last signifier of his lost humanity.