He awoke in darkness. Heavy, invasive, it was a physically oppressive blanket that wrapped around him and threatened to choke him if he let it.
Soon after, there was a great, blinding light from high above and he found himself wishing for the darkness again. The previously shadowed world was stripped of its coating and he heard others cry out around him.
As his eyes adjusted to the light, he looked around. He and about a dozen others were in a vast room. It stretched from one end of his sight to the other in smooth metallic panels, boxing them in without an exit.
“What’s going on?”
The person who’d spoken was a relatively tall man, with sharp dark eyes and a scowl so familiar he’d seen it in the mirror.
The clarity of that last thought had him double-check the stranger and realize he wasn’t a stranger at all.
The stranger had his face.
He jerked and cried out, stepping back in shock.
Twelve people, including him. All wearing the same face and all uncomfortably naked under the pressing heat from above. A lifetime of dreams flitted through his mind in the span of seconds, but none reached the bizarre reality of seeing himself a dozen times over in another person.
A shadow appeared, blotting out some light. He and several others looked up, covering their eyes against the intense shine. A vast flesh-toned mass crested the top of the walls boxing them in, and some vestigial remnant in his hindbrain made him freeze at the sight like some deer in the headlights.
The blur faded and the shape became distinct, revealing a hand - a massive, truck-sized hand - with long, thin fingers that would have been considered dainty had they not been as thick as his torso.
The hand hovered over them, fingers playing the air atop their heads like a gigantic pianist. Everybody stood transfixed. Mesmerized. Up above, the light blinded him to the hand’s owner.
Suddenly, the hand plunged down, instantly locking onto his position. It moved fast, like some gargantuan serpent, and before he could react he was enveloped in the heat of something human and alive and immeasurably larger than himself.
He screamed, too late to fight back against the massive limb. Panicked, instinctive noises rose from his clones as they yelled or ran away from the hand.
The fingers gripped the length of his body, thumb pressing down on his head, sliding him inwards and palming him fully. His spine shrieked with something raw and agonizing as his head rattled against the digit; no matter how much he kicked and struggled, it was useless.
The hand clenched in warning, and something in his leg let out a single sickening crack. He cried out in sudden hot shock from the pain.
His ears popped as the pressure changed quickly, and then vertigo hit him a second later as his body surged upward, carried via G-force speeds. The air was driven from his lungs, and the tight grip on his body was the only thing that stopped his limbs from being ripped out in response.
The journey lasted several seconds. Halfway through a high-pitched ringing started in his ear, and a splitting headache formed at the base of his neck.
Eventually he was deposited somewhere cool and solid.
He rolled onto all fours and came to on a varnished wooden surface. The striations in the material were now obscenely immense before him, distorting his depth perception the longer he stared. His thigh throbbed painfully and he bit his hand to control the pained hiss when he touched his ribs. It took all his will not to whimper from just breathing.
The shadow, same as before, returned. It dwarfed him by a mile, and though there wasn’t any sound signifying movement, he flinched. After a minute of stubborn still silence, he grit his teeth and turned onto his back, glaring defiantly up at the shape above.
A warm, heart-shaped face gazed down at him. Dark olive skin accompanied by a set of eyes that were too large and perceptive to mean anything safe. Soft, low, cheekbones. There was a small but distinctively pale scar beneath her right eye standing in stark contrast with the rest of her unblemished face.
“Hello,” she greeted. “Do you know who I am?”
He stared. Of course he knew her. He last remembered ordering her a special gift.
“Dora,” he gasped, looking her up and down, or as much as he could without moving too much.
“Good!” She beamed. Something crawled inside him and died at the sight. Smiles were much scarier when the teeth were so much larger. “And what’s your name?”
He thought for a moment, floundering, and as the seconds wore on, he saw her posture shift.
“James,” he blurted out, noticing the way her lips pursed and changed from a smile to a frown. “I’m-I’m James.”
“Really now?” she said. She tapped her lips in wonder, making a show of every tap to her mouth.
The frown vanished, gone as quickly as it appeared, but the impending feeling of something stayed with him. “It’s nice to meet you, James.”
James nodded, not trusting himself to say anything else. He knew her, but the recognition was tainted, polluted by something dangerous and predatory.
“Do you know why you’re here?” Dora said, taking a seat on a massive sofa behind him and leaning over. Dark locks of hair hung down, framing her face in a lovely fashion. James remembered falling asleep thinking of her looking like this many times before.
“...no,” he said at last, craning over his shoulder.
“It’s rude not to face someone when you’re talking to them.”
The words were lofty, but the implication was there. James forced himself upright and turned, wincing and keening as his body vehemently protested the relatively simple movement.
Her grin sharpened like a knife on a whetstone. It took a supreme effort of will not to shudder at the sight.
“So you don’t know what you’re doing here?” she asked again, now tapping the surface close to where he sat. The ensuing vibrations traveled through the wood and jolted his body with small tremors.
He hesitated, before chancing an answer. “Dora, babe, I’ve got-”
A finger flick as strong as a shotgun suddenly skimmed the top of his scalp, whipping his head back violently and nearly concussing himself against the surface. Next, a boulder-sized fist came smashing down beside him, crashing into the wood like a thunderbolt. Impact tremors like cannon fire sent him reeling as the pain in his body flared into a supernova.
When it was all over, he was breathing in sick, wet, gasps and trembling uncontrollably as he stared up at the enormous woman.
Dora’s expression was flinty before it blossomed with a beatific smile. Spring on what had been a snowy peak. “Only my husband gets to call me that. Understood?”
She was incomparable to him in size, and yet those words were the most unapproachable yet. “I...Dora...”
He closed his eyes, heart pounding painfully in his own ears in with each stressed syllable. She had a soft, velvety voice, but it rang like a clarion in the deafening abyss around him. He cast a furtive glance to the side in misery.
“Good,” she cooed. She fucking cooed.
Sullen, ashamed, and terrified all at the same time, James heaved and tried not to let the carved trench in his chest hurt too much. There were nightmares, and there was hell, but this? This was torture.
She rose from her seat in one smooth motion. It was like watching the sun rise over the horizon. Instead of the lumbering, ominous movement he’d expected from their difference in size, she sprang to her feet like a ballerina and walked over to a table the size of an apartment complex. She crossed open fields worth of floor between the sofa and the table, and it was that fact that hammered in just how disparate they now were.
She reached into the box, and he imagined he could make out the undeniable chorus of shouts and yells. All in his voice too. He’d be right there with them if it didn’t hurt to breathe.
With a delighted gasp that left his stomach churning, she pulled her hand out, holding something. Her face was flushed with something not unlike pleasure but infinitely more disturbing.
“I just need something to relax sometimes,” Dora said byway of explanation as she returned to the massive sofa once more. “My husband is often away, y’know?”
James’ eyes burned, following the way she waved her hand to and fro. There was a person there, in her hand. One who looked and sounded just like him.
“Curious?” A slow, sensual, and languid smirk formed on her face. Dora scooted closer to the edge of her seat, and leaned forward, drowning him in her shadow once more. She brought the hand closer, holding it a mere inch from his face. James twitched.
The sound was muffled, but there was no doubt that was his voice screaming.
James looked up at Dora, realizing he had to crane his neck to see her now from her exaggerated hovering.
“He gets me such wonderful gifts,” Dora explained. She sounded so fond. “I usually pace myself with them, since they’re expensive, but sometimes...”
Eyes he’d once dreamed of waking up next to now fixed solely on him and his quivering form. Slowly, he placed both hands behind himself and started crawling backward.
The hand holding his clone followed. High above, her tongue reached out, licking her lips.
“Sometimes I just need to vent.”
And then the fist tightened past recovery. A final, surprised squeak was all James heard before a ruthless, crunching and nauseatingly squelching sound replaced it. A series of muted pops, and a dribble of crimson formed under her hand.
James forgot all that at the delicious sigh Dora released.
“Oh my,” she breathed, “I guess I got ahead of myself there.”
She shook her hand out, dropping the corpse right on top of his lower half, prompting an involuntary shout at the sudden unbearable weight on his injured leg. Vomit threatened to overtake him at the sight of his mangled body lying atop him.
“Dora!” James begged, mind near breaking. “Dora, it’s me!”
Interest alit within her eyes. “Hm? Yes? What is it, James?”
“It’s me! I’m your husband!” Atavistic terror grabbed hold of his brain and it was all he could do not to start gibbering. “Please! I’m- I’m not one of them!”
He’d been crawling back as he spoke. Instinct governed him and yet still his heart warred with his body.
Her index finger, still drenched in the blood from his clone’s corpse, settled on his chest. He fought the pressure as hard as he could before his arms gave up and he collapsed back, spread eagle, finger pad holding him down.
“What’s the name?” she whispered. She wasn’t even looking at him anymore. Instead, she’d was now inspecting her other hand’s nails.
James tried, and failed, to push up against the pressure on his chest. Dora responded by carefully and deliberately pressing him down harder, just enough to drive the air from his lungs, but not enough to kill.
She’d done this before.
“What’s my husband’s name, then?”
Her tone was mocking. Surely, she knew the answer, didn’t she?
“It’s-” he choked out. She increased the pressure. Such deadly, overwhelming power, all concentrated in one finger. “It’s James!”
She paused, and then, she snorted.
“Wrong. Always wrong.” She laughed. “That’s not his name.”
“What?” James paled. “No!”
Dora frowned. “His instructions did say there might be some defects.”
“Dora! Babe, I-”
Any protest died in his throat as slowly and inexorably the pressure increased tenfold. As his gasps turned wet, and his thoughts turned to wool, the last thing he saw was his wife’s pitiless angel’s smile.