Reverse Metamorphosis by Stephen Prime

One day, a cockroach awoke from uneasy dreams to find itself transformed into a giant human. It lay sprawling on its face, dirt and filth found its way into the human’s mouth and it choked on the particles of detritus and coughed. This caused it to spasm, and it quickly started flailing around, thrashing its arms and legs in confusion. In doing so it disturbed many of the thick, shiny brown bodies of its former colony. The other bugs started fleeing from the thrashing human, and although it was dark, the new human was able to see them all scuttling through the gloom. Even though just the previous day they had been its family and colony, upon seeing them now the new human was filled with revulsion, and instinctively tried to crush the invertebrate swarm. Soon its hands were covered in thick brown viscous entrails and squashed insects, and the human began to puke. Since the human was still trapped in a strange crawl space, this vomit had nowhere to go, and ended up running back onto the human’s face, stinging its eyes. The new human started to get desperate, and naked though it was, it began to crawl furiously through the dirt and filth and out towards a beam of light some way off in the distance. After a long crawl the new human found a small crack and was able to haul itself out of the cockroach colony’s den and into the bright, confusing world of New York City.

The first thing the new human did was to almost get hit by a yellow taxi as it ran out, naked and covered in sick and filth, into the middle of the road. The horns blared at the new human and it backed away, colliding with a couple who had been watching from the pavement. They were horrified at the naked ex-cockroach, and pushed him away. One of the couple, probably the girl, kicked out at the ex-cockroach and he felt a jolt of pain sting him in the crotch and buckle him over, but he was too confused and started searching desperately for the crack from which he had initially emerged. He couldn’t find it. He scratched desperately at the walls and fled back into an alleyway, knocking over dustbins and upsetting some stray cats.

Finally, the ex-cockroach found a quiet place to sit. It sat, hunched up somehow instinctively in an upright foetal position. He had never sat like that before, it felt odd and yet comfortable. Its mother had been a roach, but it had never known it or seen it or if it had it hadn’t recognised it to be its mother. It had never considered the concept of ‘mother’ before, and now all of a sudden, the ex-roach wanted its mother. However, the revulsion it felt towards the colony flashed back in its memory. The ex-roach was shocked, having never had anything like a memory or the ability to think in any abstract way before. The thoughts rushing into its head were sickeningly fast, rapid. Like laser beams, light and colours, it could almost sense each neuron bouncing off the grey-matter contained in its never used before brain. It wanted to say something, to open its mouth. It opened its mouth and muscles in its brain caused parts of its mouth and throat to move in an odd sequence which produced a very specific array of noises, which if written phonetically spelled out nothing intelligible but would basically mean
“oh fuck, help me.”

Then it screamed. It screamed a long and anguished scream. It screamed like a normal person would scream if they nailed its hands to a wooden cross. It was a bloodcurdling scream. How horrible it was to be a human.

The ex-roach was cold, and started to shiver. It had never felt cold before, it had never even known the idea of anything other than ‘eat’ and ‘search’ and ‘breed’. Now its head was full of language and ideas and, worse of all, burning questions about the exact nature of its existence and purpose on earth. It started to have a seizure, its heart was pumping so fast and its breathing was coming out so quick, it could hardly sustain all its vital organs. Yet still the brain used up most of the oxygen and energy, burning up every calorie with illogical and irrelevant urgent questions. Its heart stopped and the oxygen stopped being passed to the brain. The shock of being a human was too much, the stress too much to bear. The brain died, but the paramedics arrived in time to save the body. After a few months, they decided to switch off its life-support system and donate its organs to people who could be saved by them. No one ever identified the ex-roach or learned where it came from. No one wanted to know.