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The Shivering Skin

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Excerpt of Journal, Unknown Author, Written in 1874

The following is an account on which the circumstances may be found to be unbelievable. I express my deepest condolences with Peter Kregg’s family members or friends or anyone who knew him who has happened to come across this document. Peter Kregg was my associate. We had attended the same school of medicine in New Hampshire. At first, he came off as an odd fellow, those of you who know him know that he liked to keep to himself unless you were somehow beneficial to his studies. Over the years I grew to appreciate his work from afar. I noticed his diligence and endless perseverance to keep up his work regardless of the obstacles or unfortunate circumstances that somehow were constantly thrown into his path. Eventually, this admiration could no longer suffice my curiosity and I approached him after one of our early morning lectures. It seemed that he chose to ignore me, but I persisted that he respond and allow me to participate as an assistant in his studies and various experiments. After what seemed to be weeks – or months – of pestering, Kregg gave in to my desires.

Starting as an assistant with Kregg held many similarities to enrolling in a new school of medicine. Gone were the methods of practice on examining cadavers and studying the anatomy of the human body. Phosphorous liquids that glowed an unnatural red and strange jars of blue dust filled my days of study. I never once asked Kregg what medicines or resources he used throughout our experiments out of the fear that he may forbid me to participate in any further activity.

For those of you whose minds are beginning to wander away from my vague ramblings, let me interlude to briefly explain what it was that Kregg and I were studying:

  • The integumentary system of the human body was our prime subject. The purpose was to take skin, which is the largest and one of the most important organs in the human body and attempt to reanimate the dead tissue. We did not want to start with cadavers or dead subjects yet, just dead skin. If we were able to reinvigorate the skin cells and bring life back, we would be one step closer to finding a solution to death.
  • The effect of temperature on the skin was another essential experiment. One of its functions is to regulate body temperature by sweating when hot and shivering when cold. We concluded that if we were going to try and experiment on the skin in the humid chambers of the Library’s West Tower, the skin could produce sweat and get out of our grip. It is difficult to explain when I state that the skin could get out of our grip.

Kregg believed and I should have agreed with him, that the skin could become sentient. He hadn’t the faintest idea of the effects of his formula on human skin, so he took every precaution. Due to the skin’s tendency to produce sweat to cool down in hot temperatures, we decided it would be safer to experiment in the archives located in the library basement.

We took to action at once. Kregg sent me on a supply run throughout the school. I became drowsy due to sleep loss from the constant raiding of university classrooms night after night. Eventually, I hoarded enough supplies to carry out the experiment. I met Kregg in the bowels of the library at two in the morning. All of the lights had been blown out, so I had to carry my own lantern. As I stepped deeper and deeper into the blackness, I felt an urge of excitement. The excitement could not be exactly attributed to one emotion or the other. I felt inspired; I felt nervous; I felt frightened.

The worst of it came when I had reached the door to the archives. I held the lantern at my side, illuminating everything within a ten meter radius. I could not bring myself to move. Whatever lay in store for me and my future was beyond that door. This was the night I would either be deemed a part of scientific advancement or of catastrophic insanity. Right then, the door swung open to reveal a disgruntled Kregg standing in the dark. Light flickered off his eyes and in the most ironic way, created a sinister appearance. My paralysis broke and I followed Kregg through the archives until we reached the small table in which he had set up the equipment. A small wooden table, roughly six feet long and two feet wide lay next to his collection of liquids and powders. On the table, lay a cadaver. I noticed a minuscule patch of skin had been removed, just above the elbow.

The skin in which Kregg had cut out of the body sat on a stool. Nails were driven into each corner of the square to keep it on the wooden surface. A small candle sat nearby and I placed my lantern next to it. The combined light from both sources created just enough luminescence for Kregg to work, but not for me. Kregg told me to stand by and watch. He handed me the journal in which I am writing this document and to record my observations.

I watched as Kregg took a razor and very carefully removed the hair from the skin. Any remaining hair was plucked out with a pair of tweezers. The purpose of this action was to remove any particles which clung to the hair resting on the flesh’s surface. This hair caught these particles and protected the skin, but once there was no hair, the skin was vulnerable.

Kregg set down the tweezers and picked up a small syringe. He stuck it into one of his many vials of colored liquid and filled it to roughly halfway. The receptors on my skin alerted my body of the temperature and I shivered; it was cold in the archives and my hair stood up on end. It did not stand on end from the temperature however, but the sight before me. Kregg slowly stuck the syringe in the skin and just gave a small dosage of his formula.

Nothing occurred. Sweat dropped from Kregg’s brow despite how cold it was. A single drop landed on the patch of skin. Suddenly, it began to convulse. The outside of the skin bubbled and the sweat glands released what little sweat was left in the skin. The sebaceous glands that produce oil released what little oil was left. It all came out at once and made a thin, liquid membrane on top of the skin. Then it stopped.

Kregg began to furiously whisper in great frustration. I asked him what had happened, if the skin had been alive. Kregg explained that the skin had been alive, yet it believed that a harmful chemical or bacteria was trying to enter the body. It was of a kind the skin had not dealt with before, so it released everything it had to fight it off. Kregg began to shuffle. The main issue in the first trial was that there was not enough skin for cell life to last long enough.

Without hesitation, Kregg filled up the syringe completely. He spun around and bent over the cadaver. I could not see what he was doing until he moved around to the other side of the cadaver. He was injecting the formula in various points throughout the corpse! I meant to speak up, but my cowardice and natural hesitation got the best of me. I could only look on in horror. No precautions had been made, not a single restraint lay on the corpse. We did not know how a large section of skin would react from such a large dosage.

The body began to convulse. Kregg stepped back. I peered closer. It was not the body that convulsed with such violence, but the skin. A horrifying ripping sound began to slowly fill the room. The skin was tearing itself from the cadaver. Kregg could not move. I only saw the back of his head and his frozen body. A loud humming filled the room. It buzzed and rang in my ears. I felt my bones shake. The more it continued, the lower it got. I realized it was not a humming, but the skin moaning. The skin continued to moan until it completely tore itself from the body. It flopped up and fell to the floor, continuing to flail helplessly. Kregg slowly bent down and reached out to pick it back up. The skin latched onto his arm.

Kregg screamed. I could not move. The skin slowly crawled up his body and began to take his form. His screaming became more and more frenzied. I could not stand the sight or sounds before me. I quickly picked up my lantern that lay next to the work table and threw it at Kregg. He stepped towards me, limbs flailing, engulfed in flames. The screaming became a high pitched howl. The thing that was Kregg stepped back and knocked over a crate of old documents. The crate went up in flames and so did the shelf that held it. The banshee-like wail refused to cease and something gave in. My instinct of excitement and survival told me to run. I had no light by which to guide me, but I ran.

I felt myself exit the archives as the warm air from the corridor blew into my face. I fumbled through the dark, hearing cries of hate and pain not too far behind me. I arrived at the stairs to the main level of the library. Quickly, I ascended. I could not waste a single second. Once I reached the top of the stairs, I realized I could not let this creature, this abomination reach the outside world. Despite how I had set it afire, it still came. The cries grew closer as I saw the flickering flames bounce off the stairwell walls. It ascended the corner. I grabbed the nearest large object I could find. It was a chair. I lifted the chair above my head and aimed for the monstrosity. For a brief moment, I made eye contact with the creature. I hoped to see a troubled Kregg, begging for mercy, but all I saw was disgust and a fierce hatred. I threw the chair at the beast and it fell backwards down the stairs.

The flames from the archives caused a section of the library not too far from me to collapse. The building’s destruction was now inevitable. I ran out the doors and into the university courtyard. The flaming building lay behind me; my scientific ambition lay behind me. I swore to write this down, despite how illogical and fearsome it may seem. I swore to document what happened. I planned to take off running into the night. I set a new goal to run, to run from science and the horrors of whatever that flesh became.

The more I live on the road though, the hungrier I get. I stare at my frail, dirty hands and think back to the mess they took part in. I think to how the skin rebelled and fought for its life. It became a new creature of unspeakable terror. I think to how my hands have skin on them as well. My entire body is covered in skin. My entire body is covered in horror.


Written by Zach Zeman

aka The Hooded Werewolf

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