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"Oh!" Kassie exclaims, her trowel half-buried in warmth, "Mx. Squirmy Wormy! I didn't realize you were here!"

The worm bleeds, not especially politely, as Kassie pulls her trowel back out. Its bifurcated halves squirm; its eyes brim with pain.

"There's no need to be rude, Mx. Wormy!" Kassie lowers her voice, eyes flicking across the variegated heap. She's pretty sure none of the others can see her; all she can see of them is wingtips blazing with light. "It was an honest mistake."

The worm doesn't believe her.

Kassie doesn't speak worm, of course—what sort of gutter-witch do you take her for?—but she can tell even so. The way it's moving, the look in its many eyes, the gestures its little stubby-toed legs keep on making in her general direction ...

And all that blood!

It hates her.

She knows that it hates her more than she's ever known anything in her entire life, and SHE HATES IT TOO. It's the worst. That worm is the most disgusting thing she's ever see, squirming and bleeding and crying, acting like it has any hope of reconstituting itself—

"I'm sorry, Mx. Wormy," Kassie whispers, "but this is the end for you."

Its skull shatters as she drives the tip of her trowel through one of its horrible, pleading eyes; bloody brainmatter clings to the clean metal as she pulls it out and drives it through the next—

It's a long, hard process. Even cut into the smallest pieces she can manage the worm continues to struggle for life, its cells stretching grasping, oozing cilia out towards their fellows—

Kassie hates it so much. She hates that she has to do this, she hates that it deserves it!

She hates that it's making her do this! It's horrible and it should have just not gotten in her way and it's the worst the worst the worst the worst the worst thE WORST—

Her halo blazes with light.

When it finally fades her eyes hurt; the ground around her is glassy and smooth.

"... oops."

At least the worm is gone so thoroughly that not even ashes adulterate the ground beneath; the only trace she can pick out is the scent of burnt meat tickling her nose.

A bit of drool dribbles out of the side of her mouth and sizzles on the ground.

Kassie glances around incautiously. Surely someone must have noticed, right? Surely that light and noise will draw the attention of the rest of her flock, surely she'll be punished for her sins even without the worm here to testify to them—

But no.

Everyone else remains sequestered in their own private tasks, safely out of sight, safely ignorant (or pretending to be: she won't really know for sure until one of them threatens her, or spreads a too-true rumor, or destroys her life with no thought to mercy).

Kassie sighs.

It's going to be a long time before she can next let her guard down.

Not that she's been able to for a long time—not that life with the flock is anything but constant hypervigilance, desperately trying to ferret out the slightest hint of weakness—but ...

Well, it's different now.

She can already feel her sin sprouting inside her, fleshy and horrid and all-too real. Soon she'll have to tear it out, and pray that she heals without a scar; soon she'll have to lose herself for long enough to make herself clean again.

But not quite yet.

Right now she plunges the trowel into the ground once more, already dreading the effort it will take to conceal every last trace of her wrath—

It's times like this that Kassie wishes that she had a bigger shovel.