📅 Published on July 18, 2020


Written by S.R. Underschultz
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 9.75/10. From 8 votes.
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Sickness overcame Emily without warning. While we strode, arms linked, through downtown after a late movie, taking turns trashing it—Emily became silent, and stopped walking.

I thought maybe she’d stepped in gum, or forgot something at the theatre, but on her face grew an expression signaling something far more severe—face pale, her pupils, unfocused, roved side to side, her mouth agape.

The action of my heart increased and against the back of my mouth I tasted the smell of wet pavement. People walked by—their footfalls so loud each step stung my ears.

My arm moved around Emily’s shoulders. “Are you alright?”

Her eyes flared open wide and darted up to meet mine. “Jacob…” Her voice came out strained, panicked.

“Emily, what’s wrong?”

I fought to keep cool, to pretend my palms weren’t sweating. I’d never seen her like this—every muscle in her face tensed, her body rippled with tremors. Frantic, I scanned the street, for what I don’t know—for help, for a hospital, a cop, anything.

Her head jerked into my chest and she clutched my sweater.

“Something’s…in me.”

“It’s okay sweetie, it’s okay. I’ll call an ambu—”

A violent paroxysm jolted her. It stole my breath; blanked my thoughts.

Hands wrapped around her belly, she slowly, painfully, doubled over.

“Jacob…help…” she said, barely audible.

Before I could reply, she looked at me again, and I saw it. Being a foot taller, I had a clear view into her mouth as she opened it.

I can scarcely believe it was real.

So shocked, I froze, my eyes unblinking, mind locked.

A hand clawed and scratched its way out of Emily’s mouth from inside her body. A human hand. Quickly joined by another. Emily could do nothing, her eyes wide as eggs, unable to utter a sound, her body convulsed and her throat bulged as the strange hands gripped both rows of teeth and pushed her mouth open wider and wider, until, with a bone-splitting crack, her jaw unhinged.

Emily collapsed into me. The oddly heavy weight of her body I couldn’t brace, so I broke her fall onto the sidewalk, and helped her lay on her back. Gaining enough of my senses to make noise, I screamed for help, for someone to call an ambulance, and looking up, realized a small crowd had formed around us—their phones held up, filming.

Several heavy cracks, like breaking ribs, drew my attention back to Emily.

The blood drained from my head, my stomach knotted, and I nearly fainted, so traumatized by what I saw.

Arms, slick with blood and viscera, reached through Emily’s mouth, bent at the elbows, and with its hands, found purchase on Emily’s shoulders. Like a snake shedding its skin, the creature, which seemed an adult human, kicked and yanked the bloated, disfigured, body of my girlfriend off itself. The screams and cries from the crowd were lost on me—the connection between my mind and body short-circuited, my consciousness able only to witness the horror unfold.

From the enormous hole that moments ago was Emily’s mouth, a head emerged, glistening with blood and mucous. Half out, the naked, blood-covered creature sat upright and pulled Emily’s lifeless body (now reduced to a hollow sack of skin and bones) off its legs like a pair of pants. The creature wiped a thick red webbing of mucous from its eyes, and opened them. It glanced up, and our eyes met.

No, it can’t be, I thought.

It was Emily.

* * * * * *

After the incident, the creature that came out of Emily’s body, the thing that outwardly seemed identical to her in every way, was taken to the hospital and quarantined. Countless tests were done on it. Meanwhile, I tried my best to answer questions the police and FBI asked me. There was plenty of footage for them to look at—so many witnesses had filmed the gruesome scene, and each had gone viral by the time I got home.

Of my Emily, the woman I’d known and loved, there was nothing left, except the bloody pile left on the sidewalk by the strange imposter. In shock, I barely spoke and didn’t eat for several days—my mind reeling with unsolvable thoughts, and, like the rest of the world, unable to process what happened. The media attention astronomical, I avoided everyone and refused to leave the bedroom of my apartment. Without showering or changing clothes, I developed a putrid stink, as I waited for news from the doctors about what happened.

Finally, when the doctors did have news, it provided no comfort. According to them, the creature lying in the bed of its quarantined hospital room—was Emily. Right down to her DNA. She had Emily’s memories, and apparently, under rigorous interrogations by doctors and FBI investigators, she could recall the details of her life with great accuracy. In fact, the only memory she didn’t have was of the horrific event itself. This imposter recalled everything up until feeling sick outside the movie theatre—when, according to her, everything went blank.

“What about Emily’s body?” I asked the doctor over the phone. “The real Emily’s body, the one on the sidewalk.”

”DNA tests prove that’s Emily too,” the doctors said. “At this time, we can’t explain her transformation. Not without more tests. I know that isn’t what you want to hear, but obviously this epidemic is unprecedented.”

My brow furrowed. “Epidemic? What do you mean?”

“You haven’t seen the news?”

“I guess not.”

“Transformations like Emily’s have been popping up all over the world. But it appears as though, Emily was the first.”

My jaw clenched. I couldn’t speak. I’d been so wrapped up in my own pain and shock and grief I hadn’t had the strength to see another screen with a story about Emily, so I’d turned off my phone and went completely offline.

“But,” the doctor continued, “you’ll be happy to know, Emily is completely healthy, and cleared to leave quarantine. Would you like to see her? She hasn’t stopped asking about you.”

“See her?” I muttered. What was she? How could I face that thing again, after it literally ripped my girlfriend apart, then, somehow, stole her identity. Legs weak, palms soaked, I could barely grip the phone. The sour stink from my armpits nearly made me gag. I was a wreck. Now this thing wanted to see me.

“If there are more of these things, couldn’t they be aliens? Or some disease that could be contagious?” I said.

“There’s no evidence it’s contagious, or aliens,” assured the doctor. “Every case so far has been isolated incidents, with no contact having occurred between victims. Emily has been quarantined for three weeks, and shows no signs of ill health or further mutation.”

I rubbed my head. “Three weeks? No, it’s only been a few days. Hasn’t it?”

“You were in shock,” the doctor said. “After such a traumatic event it’s not surprising you lost track of time.”

“Wait, so what do you want me to do?”

“Jacob, the hospital is full and we’re in desperate need of beds for regular patients. I have no reason not to discharge her.” He paused to issue a long sigh. “We realize this is a difficult time for you.”

I cleared my throat. “A difficult time…”

“But, Emily’s ready to go home.”


* * * * * *

Outside her room at hospital, I stood immobilized—wondering whether I could go through with it. Could I really let this thing into my apartment, and live with it? I’d finally caught up on the news, and the doctor was right—what happened to Emily had happened to hundreds around the world, more every day. So many ‘births’ had been filmed and had gone viral.

Mouthborn, people called them. They seemed normal, did interviews with the news and everything, all stating the exact same thing as Emily, that they remember everything about their lives, except being mouthborn. Even couples, like Emily and I, had been interviewed—seemingly accepting the new mouthborn member of the family—no doubt making a fortune along the way. I’d been offered a million dollars by a journalist on my way into the hospital for an exclusive with me and Emily—the first mouthborn.

Am I making too much of this? I thought. Shouldn’t I be happy Emily is alive, in any form? The other mouthborn seem like regular people, she probably is too. If I can’t distinguish between the new Emily and the old one, what’s the difference?

Slowly, I pushed open the door and entered.

In a hospital gown, on the bed—there it was. It looked exactly like Emily. Just as I remembered her.

Its face lit up at the sight of me. “Jacob! Oh, thank goodness you came. I missed you so much.”

It … she … welled up with tears and held a hand out toward me.

A few steps from the end of the bed, I remained standing, unable to speak. It looked and sounded like the Emily I’d known for so many years. I wanted to rush up and hug her, but something held me back. The memory. That night, outside the theatre, seeing the terror in Emily’s eyes—that was my Emily. Not this thing, with no memory of the night at all, the worst night of our lives.

“Sweetie it’s me, I swear it’s me,” Emily said. Her wet green eyes pleaded. She shuffled forward. “I know you’re freaked out. What happened is super weird, I know, but you have to believe it’s me, Jacob.” She was crying. “I need you, so badly. I’m scared.”

She reached out again.

I swallowed hard.

Emily hugged her knees. Her cries broke into sobbing.

No longer could I fight the urge to console her. Maybe this was Emily—or at least, enough of her was, enough for me. Tears streamed down my face as I moved next to the bed and sat down. Resting her head gently on my shoulder, she uttered tender cries of relief.

“I missed you so much,” she said between sobs.

“I missed you too.”


* * * * * *

Two months have passed since Emily was mouthborn. We’d signed an exclusive with a news company and did an interview for a million dollars. We even signed a book deal. It seemed too good to be true, but it was happening—we were rich, and we had each other. Our shitty jobs behind us, we were able to move into a fancy apartment and fill it with the highest quality furnishings.

But, sitting with Emily at the breakfast table, aimlessly scrolling though the news, I couldn’t help puzzling over little details, little inconsistencies that nagged my brain like a splinter. For example, when I’d asked Emily if she wanted to go to a movie on the weekend, she didn’t want to and preferred staying home to watch trashy reality TV, which she’d become glued to, day and night. Before, Emily hated reality TV and loved our movie nights. But, she’d been through a traumatic change, whether she remembered it or not. Who was I to judge how she processed it?

Another thing worried me though. Emily had taken to drinking. Every day since she got out of the hospital, she started at about sunset and kept going late into the evening. A bottle of wine disappeared in no time at all, and then she’d yell and curse at her shows, and laugh so loud I couldn’t get to sleep. Emily never used to drink that much, only on social occasions.

This morning, when I looked across at her, she gave a sad smile—her lips curled at the edges in a way I’d never seen before, and I got a sinking feeling—that there would never be an explanation for what she was, or for any of the thousands of mouthborn out there.

“How are you feeling?” I asked.

She shrugged. “Fine.”

“Not hung over?”

She shook her head. “Don’t get hangovers.”

“You used to.”

“I know.”

“You drank a lot last night,” I said.

She issued me a cold stare, got up from the table and went to the couch without saying another word.

“I’m worried about you,” I said. “Can we talk?”

She spooned some cereal into her mouth. “What about?”

“Everything happened so fast, we haven’t discussed your transformation. I watched you get ripped open from the inside. I mean, the other you.”

Emily didn’t reply. Instead she turned on the TV and kept eating.

It didn’t add up. Emily and I used to talk about everything. Two open books. No, this mouthborn thing in my house wasn’t Emily—it was an imposter.

“What are you?” I said.

Again, no response. Expressionless, she remained glued to the screen.

“Will you answer me?”

She rose from the couch, lifted the cereal bowl above her head and smashed it on the floor.

“I’m sick of this!” Nostrils flared, she glared daggers at me from across the room. “Everything I do now, you’re like ‘you didn’t used to do that’ or ‘you used to do this’. You’re suspicious of every move I make.”

She gave a long exasperated sigh and pulled her hair. Her hands trembled.

“There’s nothing is there?” she said. “Nothing I’ll ever do to convince you it’s me?”

My stomach knotted. Scrubbing a hand over my face, I cursed myself for being so stupid, so mean. What did I expect, that she’d be just like before?

“You’re not the same either you know,” Emily said. “You haven’t been sleeping or eating properly, and…and you’ve barely touched me.” She sucked a breath, holding back crying.

Dullness filled my chest. What kind of life would I have if I didn’t accept Emily? What was the point of staying together if I didn’t trust her?

“You’re right, we’re both screwed up,” I said. “But I’m the only one being an asshole.” I smiled at her lamely. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said those things.”

She nodded.

Across the carpet we padded to each other and embraced.

* * * * * *

That night we’d become intimate for the first time since it happened. Afterward, encouraged by a powerful appetite, I padded to the kitchen and made myself a sandwich. Munching and sipping from a can of beer, I felt giddy with happiness. Everything’s going to be okay, I thought. Who cares if Emily’s mouthborn? She’s my partner, and I’ll always love her, no matter what. Like everything else we’ve faced, we’ll get through this, together.

Polishing off the beer, eyelids heavy, I looked forward to finally getting a good night’s sleep. I threw the empty can in the recycling, cleaned my plate, shut off the light, and went into the hall.

Walking down the hallway, my gut ignited with sharp pain.

Moaning, I barely took another step before doubled over by a wave of searing muscle spasms in my abdomen. Adrenaline shot through me.

No, this can’t be. It can’t be happening.

Inside my gut formed a solid mass that quickly animated, and, like a caged animal, it churned my insides, as if searching for an escape route, all the while growing larger and larger, bloating my stomach. My vision blurred. The hallway tilted beneath my feet, and I braced against the wall. Heart pounding, my mind overwhelmed with terror, I rushed, fast as I could, into the bathroom and flicked on the light.

I needed to confirm this wasn’t what I dreaded. No, I’m just sick. Something I ate.

Hands clenched to the edge of the sink, I leaned towards the mirror and opened my mouth. An involuntary whimper escaped my lips.

I ceased breathing.

From the darkness of my throat crawled out five human fingers.

I tried to scream, but found no air to do it. The creature’s hand gripped my tongue. I shut my mouth tight as possible. The thing inside yanked my tongue, trying to pull itself out of me—the pain, unbelievable. I nearly collapsed, but fought through it.

I didn’t want to die, and I refused to let this thing win.

No time to think of what else to do, I ran into the kitchen, took a long paring knife from our knife block, and went back to the mirror. The hand fingered my teeth, trying to gain purchase, but I ground them together.

No air could pass the arm in my throat.

I was suffocating.

Paring knife jutted an inch from my mouth, I stared at my reflection—a panicked man, sweaty and wide-eyed, mouth bulged.

This is it—do it now!

Unclenching my jaw, I let my mouth snap open. The hand lunged—into my paring knife. It retreated in pain. I stabbed at it—jabbing over and over, so frantic I sliced my cheeks and tongue. Strings of bloody saliva dripped from lips. The hand retreated down my throat as I stabbed deeper. It retracted far enough for me to squeeze some air into my lungs.

Globs of blood soaked flesh spilled into the sink as I lowered my head, exhausted. My whole mouth stung. Tears streamed from my eyes.

“Sweetie,” a familiar voice said.

I turned and there was Emily, standing in the bathroom doorframe.

“It’s okay,” she said. “Let him out.”

Rating: 9.75/10. From 8 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by S.R. Underschultz
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

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Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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Severus Snape
Severus Snape
3 years ago

WTF ? Would have loved some clarity ….
Well Played anyway !

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