"Ah, Jon, just the person I needed to see."
Jon glanced up flatly. "Elias, what do you want?"
Elias stood, perfectly poised, against the doorframe, his suit a dazzling contrast with the dilapidated walls and his smug smile gleaming despite the low light.
"I believe I sent you a message, Jon. An invite to my office for a bit of, shall we say, private time?"
Jon scowled. He had received that email, along with a barrage of others requesting his presence. Each had landed firmly in his deleted folder.
"I saw it." He said curtly.
"Well, I suppose you must be busy. One request is certainly just a drop in the ocean." Elias' impeccable smile widened a touch, the edges curling almost to his cheekbones.
Jon nodded stiffly. "Yes, work is quite– quite demanding."
"Nothing more than you can handle, I presume?"
"I'm handling it fine."
"Good, good." The sharp inflection of the words clearly implied that failure was not an option.
"Did you need something, Elias?" Jon asked, his rising irritation with the conversation far outweighing it's worth, especially as Elias' smile glittered in the dim lighting.
"Yes, well, there was one thing I've been meaning to inform you of." Elias nodded, dipping his jaw in an elegant motion.
Jon stared flatly.
"I imagine you have been feeling rather off lately, possibly a bit unwell?"
Jon sat stiffy in the against the chair, staunchly refusing to respond to the prodding.
Elias merely arched one brow, "Interesting. I would have thought you would be in quite the discomfort at this point."
He tilted his head faintly, the inquisitive gleam that laid in his irises unnervingly sharp.
"I'm perfectly fine. Not that you have the right to ask as my employer."
Elias chuckled. "This isn't about your ability to fill out paperwork, Jon."
"What exactly is it about, then?"
"There are many steps to devoting yourself, Jon. And you have only scratched the surface of the process."
Jon scowled. "Again with the cryptic answers, Elias?"
"I suppose I'll come back when you're writhing on the floor in pain, then? Or when your heart stops. Would that be more convenient?"
Jon snapped his jaw shut. Infuriating as Elias was, the process so far had been physically trivial. Yet, the other avatars were as inhuman physically as they were in spirit.
"Fine." He spat. "What exactly is it?"
Elias smirked, the corner of his grin pulling smugly to the side. "Just a ritual of sorts. To allow you to reach a higher level of power in your transformation. I would say that you would have been feeling awfully ill lately. Burning pains? Unexplained fevers? Fatigue, even for you?"
Jon froze, the chair emitting a deep creak as he stiffened.
The burning sensation under his skin had persisted for weeks now; yet, he had assumed it to be an autumn flu. Along with the aches and exhaustion, he had dismissed it. He was still able to work, albeit with higher and higher doses of paracetamol to quell the rising pain.
"I see." Elias chuckled. "A flu, you thought? Awfully early for flu season, Jon."
"What's going to happen?" Jon demanded, swallowing against the sudden thickness in his throat.
"A few minor changes. I'm sure it will all seem clearer once I'm finished."
"The Eye creates an avatar, not you. What are you going to do?"
"I can make the process smoother. Streamline it a bit, shall we say." Elias mused, his steely eyes gleaming with the words.
He fingered something in his slacks, the object pressing sharply against the outward seam.
"What exactly are you saying?"
"The process can be quite painful. I can smooth the way, make it far less agonizing than it would be any other case."
"What process? What are you going to do to me, Elias? I want a straight answer."
Elias sighed, his breath gusting out in a sharp stream. "You are coming into your power, Jon, developing beautifully, really. Soon, your physical form will reflect that. The first of these changes is the addition of several more organs for sight, spread out across your body for a greater field of vision."
"I'm going to grow more eyes?" Jon asked flaty. The word games were exactly as expected from Elias, yet the deception and the smug twist to his grin were still infuriating.
"Not simply eyes, Jon. Rather, organs that can both see and hold your knowledge. They only need to be, shall we say, released."
Elias fingered the object in his pocket; twisting it so it bulged out from the seam.
"Well, there are several–"
"You're going to cut me open?" Jon snapped, a sudden image of the blade concealed within Elias' slacks appearing in crystal clarity.
"That's a rather crude way of putting it."
"It's true, though." Jon snarled. "You're here to cut me up for the Eye."
"Not for the Eye. For you, Jon." Elias said, his eyes brimming with faux compassion. "Soon you will be in agony, and I hope to avoid that. That being said, I believe if you sat still this would be far easier."
He advanced, in one smooth motion drawing the knife from his pocket and stepping fully into the office.
"Your assistants are all tied up right now, and will be busy until far after we have finished. Screaming will only make things for you, I'm afraid." He said casually, slamming the door shut with one decisive click.
"Stop." Jon growled. "You– you won't get away with this. Not if you leave me alive, and I know that you need me. You can't do this without my power."
Elias laughed, the sound deep and dripping with condescension. "Jon, this will happen whether you want it to or not. This is simply an act of mercy; so you won't suffer as if you would alone. And besides, when we are done no one will believe you, at least not without fearing you."
"I'm not letting you butcher me." Jon snarled, shoving his way out of the chair.
He didn't rise mere inches before Elias shifted. One second lounging against the door, the next his weight pressed down on Jon's narrow chest.
"I don't believe I gave you a choice." He whispered, his chilled breath ghosting against Jon's face.
Jon growled, shoving violently at his silk of his perfectly tailored suit and kicking his legs erratically against the desk. "You can't– you aren't going to get away with this."
Elias chuckled. "You'll thank me later."
In a fluid motion he drew the blade from Jon's jaw down his throat, halting at the hollow between his prominent clavicles.
"Yes, good. Get it all out, Jon. We're only getting started." Elias nodded, a hint of amusement buried deep within the slate grey of his irises.
In a second smooth incision, he slit the skin from the sternum down to the center of the ribcage, slicing cleanly through Jon's thin dress shirt. A scatter of buttons ripped off to land dully on the carpet as the blade cleaved through to the delicate skin.
Jon screamed again, the sound raw and agonized.
Vainly, he clawed at Elias' suit, fingernails shredding the fabric; yet doing nothing to halt Elias' fluid movements.
From the first incision, blood began to flow rapidly. It soiled his clothing as it dripped in a sickly trail down his chest, painting both his and Elias' shirts with a sticky scarlet. Each smear soaked deeply into the fine silk of Elias' immaculate suit, forming tiny puddles where the fabric had saturated. It absorbed thickly into his own clothing, the cheap cotton drinking up the fluid easily.
Elias hummed. "You'll thank me soon, Jon. Pain now will save you from agony later."
With the words, he began slicing in earnest. Each cut performed as fluidly as the first, effortlessly slipping through the thin layers of skin to expose the layer of fat beneath.
He worked with an almost elegant perfectionism, each slice angled cleanly and sharply over the convex portions of the body. Clavicles, sternum, ribs, hip bones, elbows, wrists, knees, and ankles, with multiple incisions scored into the larger areas such as the hips and ribs, along with any and all major organs within his grasp.
Then to finish, palms and cheekbones. As if he were a Renaissance scientist, exploring the limits of humanity simply by dissecting.
Jon wailed, inhumanely raw, and went limp.
The massive puddles of blood pooling beneath the desk, in conjunction with the agony of the incisions, dipped him into a world of hazy apathy. The dim glow of the fluorescent lights above danced in his vision, the steely grey of Elias' eyes swirling among the beige of his office and the violent red smeared over everything casting itself to a horrifying finger painting.
Dazedly, he lifted one hand, his fingers coated in slick blood and the tips tingling faintly.
"Oh, no, no." Elias whispered, pushing his hand down gently. "Don't move, or they'll be positioned wrong to emerge."
Jon complied. Too hazy to understand the implications of emerging, he simply allowed the limb to fall limp again.
"Good." Elias crooned. "That will make this far easier."
Jon watched through half lidded eyes as he set the blade down, swiping it absently along a stack of paperwork.
He smiled– almost with the faintest tinge of regret– before plunging his fingers deeply into the first incision.
Automatically, Jon arched off the chair, an involuntary cry piercing the air as his body contorted far beyond human limits.
"Yes, there. There it is." Elias muttered, prying open the cut with a sickly squelch.
A satisfied smirk split his face, the gleam of his teeth a bright spot in Jon's hazy vision. "I knew you were going to be perfect."
Without hesitation, he dove into the next slice, thin fingers sliding deftly under the skin.
Again, a sick, liquid squelch echoed throughout the office.
Jon fell out of reality.
In one breath he was trapped within the chair, Elias' slender fingers probing under his skin, the next he was ensnared by Mr. Spider, only a child yet fearing for his life. In an inhale, his grandmother, scolding him harshly for running away from home again. An exhale, the haunting words of The Anglerfish, still begging for a cigarette. In a horrifying breath, Georgie's parting words as she terminated their relationship, her frustration and hurt screaming despite the quiet of her voice. All the traumatic memories of his life played out in a vivid technicolor.
Between each breath, a world darkened by shadows flashed before his eyes, pitch black and devoid of any life.
Yet, somehow, those flashes of blackness were the most peaceful he had ever felt.
Elias' snap brought him back to the present; his blood stained fingers held mockingly in front of his grin.
"Back with the rest of us, Jon?" He smirked.
Jon groaned faintly, the sensation of fire burning along each inch of his skin overtaking rationality, and the shreds of his pride falling away as if it had been stored in the skin that had been stripped from him.
"The process was a complete success." Elias smiled, the expression eerie alike to his quarterly expense reports. "I imagine that when you are lucid again you will realize how unpleasant it could have been without this intervention."
He paused, his stone harsh eyes sweeping downward. "Now, they will heal, however, I'm afraid that they will scar. But truly, what's a few more in your collection?"
He chuckled darkly at his own joke. "I will see you later, Jon. I have no doubts that you'll have questions for me."
With the statement, Elias stepped neatly out of the room, his bloody shoe prints leaving a sticky trail with each footfall.
Jon gasped– the abrupt slam of the door jerking him out of the stupor.
He sucked in a heaving breath through the haze, forcing it out only when the burning in his chest grew too great to withstand.
Repeating the cycle, he panted harshly until finally his body's screaming for oxygen abated, leaving him limp and dizzy.
Fitfully, he raised his head to stare around the room.
Every surface was covered in slick, glistening blood, no surface untouched by the droplets. Without moving his head, he could feel the rapidly congealing puddle soaking his socks where the majority had pooled beneath the chair. As well as see the still dripping splatter across his own desk and walls; the stains spread massively across the ancient wallpaper that had always adorned the office. So many liters spilled across the room, he wasn't even sure if he had contained that much in the first place.
Certainly an amount of blood no human would ever withstand to lose and still live, much less retain consciousness.
Clinging to that thought, he raised one shaking hand, twisting it to see the lacerated palm.
The little blood that remained in him drained from his face.
Nestled within the skin was an eye. An unblinking, acid green eye that twitched within the incision to face him as he stared at it.
Choking, he forced himself upright to heave up the few remains from his stomach.
Deep within the cuts on his hip bones and knees laid another symmetrical set of eyes. Unblinking. Acidic. Secured deep within the layers of mutilated skin.
In each incision laid another, identical iris, a sickly green color that burned itself into his mind, even with his own, human, eyes closed.
He gagged weakly again, strings of bile dripping out from his chapped lips.
The monstrous abilities inside his mind had spread, almost like an infection, to the physical form of his body. Marking him irrevocably as inhuman.
The thought brought a burning to his core.
It could have been hallucinations from the traumatic injuries, he forced himself to believe.
Or the emotional trauma from his flashbacks, or even the trauma of being assaulted by someone he trusted.
Shock and cognitive complications from blood loss were common in severe injuries, often producing a mild psychosis that in severe enough cases that could include body distortions.
Even without the Ceaseless Watcher's whisper of untruth, the rationalizations rang false.
Jon fell back, his spine colliding with the sharp metal of the chair as it gave a strained creak.
Inhaling, he screamed.
Exhaling, he crumpled to the ground, allowing the tacky blood to absorb into his skin, as if the humanity could seep back into his being.
And as he screwed his dark eyes shut, dozens of adherent acid green eyes closed in unison, their lids smeared with blood.