Each layer went on easier than the last, cloying red salvation closing over your bare skin, burying you deeper and deeper. At first the brush's rough hairs hurt, tore your skin and sent your own red welling up, but by the third coat you could hardly feel a thing.
The pain brought to mind her warnings, that she would not be gentle and that this would hurt–that your claustrophobia might make this process unpalpable, that if you broke the cocoon she would not be able to wrap it around you a second time. Hurt filled you with fear.
Yet when it faded, when crimson sheets bound you too tightly for you to move or see or feel, so too did your fear. You drifted there as she worked, almost outside your body; thinking of it only to idly consider how much of the process might yet remain before you.
After a time, you did not even think of that.
In empty freedom you thought of what you had hoped and bargained for, of this last chance to claim a body that would not fill your reflection with barely hidden disgust, that would not make every day a struggle–
You thought of what it might be.
She had not asked you, not tried to tease out the details that you could barely even admit to yourself; when you haltingly tried to explain she stilled her ears and hushed you, sending you cowering before her icy gaze.
It was not without tenderness that she explained why, that for you to have a proper chance to choose she needed to enact the ritual without knowing what you wanted; that any preconception or images she might have would overwhelm your own spark's desires.
It made sense, at the time.
But the void does not come with a user's manual, or even a helpful set of buttons and menus.
So you drifted and thought as the red seeped deeper and deeper into your body, as it began to unravel you, as your cocoon hardened and weeks passed.
When you woke, you didn't know how long it had been; even what had happened felt hazy and amorphous, impressions not quite gelling into memories.
All you know was that you were trapped inside stiflingly red darkness.
You were stuck.
You tore great gashes out of the hard shell enclosing you; your claws slid through it as easily as they would through wood or flesh. You struggled and struggled and tore yourself free and found yourself huddled on the cold floor, limbs akimbo, shaking with adrenaline.
Your many eyes darted around the room, searching for meaning–and then a door opened and you lunged, new instincts filling your mind with threat–kill–tear–rip–eat, acid and poison pooling in the hollows of your long claws–
And blinked in confusion as you floated in the air.
Before you, mussy-haired and sleepy-eyed, stood the witch you had sought out; the same being as you had met and paid before, but glowing with intricate bands of power which you old eyes could never see, her defenses flaring to life before your attack.
“Finally awake, huh?”
You struggled against her magic, against your body; but your mouth would not open and your lips would not form words. In confusion you poked at where you thought your face must be, unknowingly careful not to cut your armored skin.
“Yeah, uh,” she peered at you, “I'm not sure you're going to be able to do that? Maybe it's something that will come in time. Still, that's an impressively violent thing to want to become.”
She began to reach out to touch one of your claws, then thought better of it; yet your eyes still latched onto her extended finger, onto the glorious crimson just below its surface, deliciously thick salty metallic salvation–
She waved her finger in front of you, watched your eyes follow it.
“Ah. Craving blood? Yeah, that should fade soon, it's just a side-effect of the process. Gets about one in four. Just stay right there and I'll get you something to take your mind off it.”
She wandered off, rubbing the last of the sleep from her eyes, as you slowly rotated in the air, as you began to take stock of your new body–powerful and deadly, sharp and dangerous, each movement right in the way your old body had never been.
A few minutes later she returned with a steaming cup of tea and a bottle of glorious, wonderful red, which she tossed vaguely towards you. You tore it to shreds, of course, but the liquid within still floated in the air, still flowed down your maw so beautifully, but–
“Oh, yeah, it's just fortified beet juice. Did you really think that I kept bottles of blood around outside of rituals?”
You growled weakly, just enough of your mind focusing on her words to be irritated.
“Yeah, yeah. Not what you want. But it'll take the edge off.”
She was right. It did.
“You can stay there for a bit, though, just in case. I'm going to drink my tea and then we can figure out if I need to teach you sign language or if you've got a voice somewhere in there, and then we can talk about what you're going to do next.”