He sat there in the subterranean depths of the city sewers, squatting in the collected filth of 840,000 different people. The walls dripped excremental condensation down onto the top of his head, and the quiet swish of slow-moving water echoed around him. It was dark, but his eyes had grown used to it. He could almost see, now. He rocked on his skinny haunches, not feeling the cold or the damp.
He would have been afraid before, in his old life, but that was before the whispers had started. The whispers told him not to be afraid; that they would guide him in the dark. And they had. They told him which turns to take in the black of the sewer tunnels, where to stop and rest, and wait.
He had been on his way back from his favorite sandwich place when he first heard the small voices chittering in the back of his mind. They said his name, mostly. He had tried pills, at first, antidepressants and the like, but nothing made the voices stop. His attempts to remove them only exacerbated their presence. They told him to trust them, that they were his friends, that they needed his help. He began to believe them after a while. They told him he was chosen for a higher purpose. He was going to spread the word.
They directed him to the manhole cover behind his apartment complex, and told him to go down it. He removed his shoes, socks, and belt and folded them neatly, placing them all together in a perfect little pile just next to the hole. Then he climbed down into the dark. He crawled for an eternity in those dank pits, never questioning the voices in his head.
When he found the alcove where he now sat, they told him to stop. And so he did. That was when the pain began, a stretching sensation in his guts, a pulling under the skin. They had told him to ignore it. And so he did.
The rats had stopped approaching him. They had been aggressive when he had first trespassed in their domain, sprinting forward and biting at his ankles. He could hear them skittering in the dark now, just outside the alcove, but they didn’t come any closer. It was like they were afraid.
He rolled his tongue around his mouth, prodding at his teeth. One of them was loose, lolling about on its root. Pull it, the voices said. With two fingers he took hold of the rogue tooth, and began to yank it. He pulled and pulled, tears forming unnoticed in his swollen eyes. It came out with a thunk and small outpouring of blood and something else that tasted bad. Throw it away, the whispers said. He tossed it into the outer darkness, scattering the congregation of rats.
The rest of his teeth seemed to relax in his gums, and he began pulling them too, tossing them away until his mouth was a raw empty hole in his sunken face. He spat onto the floor, saliva, blood, phlegm, and that strange foreign fluid all together in one putrescent blob.
It coalesced, and slithered away into the darkness.
He watched it go with his almost-sight, and all at once, he understood: he was a vessel, a holy receptacle for the seed of the gods of decay. The voices had guided him to a spawning place, a safe haven where they could be birthed into their new world. He smiled, his bleeding gums a hideous parody of mirth in the dark. He remembered, all of it making sense now, those strange things that the voices had told him to ignore suddenly clicking together in some mono-colored Rubik's Cube in his mind. How he hadn't recognized the foreign man who'd made his food, the way he had surreptitiously added something from his apron pocket to the meat and cheese. How the man had smiled, toothless, and insisted that it was on the house.
Yes, the voices whispered. You are the father of the new order. You will be our first prophet. His body began to surge then, the skin swelling, bones, muscle and sinew stretching, tearing, making way for some kind of unnatural birth. And then he erupted, his body splitting at every juncture, spilling forth thousands of fat, white worms into the water and shit that passed through the tunnel. They joined the flow, letting it carry them along in its fetid current.
Somewhere far above, the warm light of the sun shined down on a world that had no idea it had just ended.
Credited to GarbageFactory