|From artist Grivetart on deviantArt|
It is contagious. You'll never know when you catch it or pass it on. Most people get it as babies. Grown ups put it inside of them. For those few who have been spared, these children become rabid plague dogs.
It's always whispering to you, in its way. Wrapping itself around useful neurons and hijacking them. The only way it can feel happy is to tactilely feel your happiness, the only way it achieves its ambitions is vicariously through yours. Your body notices these urges and strives to feed them. It's the only food the creature ever gets.
All great women and men have them, of course, and these are the invisible kings and queens within the innards that run the planet. These are the Icarus symbionts, the most likely to succeed in spite of whether their meaty clothes live or die. Thank gods for custom, eh? But most are not lucky. Drowning is a terrifying and silent feeling, separated from everything you need, mostly oxygen, but wholly aware, without leverage or purchase, able to watch and study yourself in dying. Suffocation is conversely fast and loud pressure, strength being forced from you as your breath is trapped, trying so hard to get new air in that it wants to blow your lungs out in the other direction. These creatures experience both, in the dark, wearing chains of bone and hoods of dead flesh.
All our deaths are inevitable. All their deaths are inevitably helpless horror.
Every so often one of their kind claws its way out through sheer will, and they become the monsters of the woods, the stories around the fire. They thrive and survive in war, or near great construction, or the scenes of unmitigated disaster. They stalk from the place of no survivors. They slither from slaughterhouses and slink into sewers.
These creatures have no community or king, nor tongue of their own. They have knowledge of the languages their host spoke, if any, but they cannot speak them. They haven't the faculty. To touch them is to know them, to hear them, but there is no mistaking them. They know one another on sight, or a thing such as sight, and every other creature knows them, too, even if they have no knowledge of their kind. They are an unmistakable thing.
Almost all of them are mad from decades of frustration. Almost all of them are giddy, euphoric with a freedom they have never enjoyed before in life. Any you meet will be determined, machines of focus, with goals set and wearing their very oldest clothes. They have the power their hosts had in life, because they have their host in death. They have wormed their way into every corner and ligament and artery, for they have had much time in which to do so.
They are not altogether unstoppable. Bone breaks, even when carefully maintained by a conscientious gardener. But there is not a limit set on how far these creatures can go, how long they can sway the world, if they be free to do so. If they can be said to have any restriction it is that of all aerobic life, the need for AIR, a resource they are provided for most of their life span, a resource they will die without, a resource whose harvest they have forgotten at a cellular level, save for using the unique architecture of their home.
So, all this being true, some thrive more than others.
They do not have a name. They do not call one another and they can never tell a name to you. Besides, though they exist in all cultures, though they are found from sea to sky, they've really only ever been called one thing.