The lume (/lum/) is a stranger characterized by its top-heavy, short-legged proportions. Its ruddy-colored body is soft and faintly warm to the touch, with a tendency to be perceived as cooler in temperature the longer that physical contact occurs, even though no loss of heat physically occurs. Its flesh is pinkish, while its body cavity is filled with a grey tissue that resembles human brain matter, albeit with greatly enlarged ridges and folds. This brain-like structure lacks all nerve endings, has no electrical activity, and is only slightly above lukewarm in temperature. When injured, the lume heals at a rate ten times slower than that of a healthy human being.
All lume are accompanied by a severed human head, which drifts and bobs around the lume's body at a slow, weaving rate. The head shows no outward sign of life, and never blinks or changes its expression in any way – its only reflex, an ability to sweat in high enough temperatures.
Each head's appearance varies enormously. Some are old and homely, while others are young and attractive. The eyes are often heavily bloodshot, with entirely red sclera in 13% of individuals. Lume accompanied by these red-eyed heads are known as "coercive" lume.
The severed head maintains a constant internal temperature of 96°F, and is thus warm to the touch, while still being slightly colder than a normal human being. Although minimal electric activity occurs within the brain, these activations are random, and are not indicative of any kind of ordered consciousness. The head drips blood from its neck at a rate of one drop every two to eight seconds, and these droplets disappear within six to eight minutes. Rotation is observed in 2.8% of individuals, and the head completes one revolution every two to ten seconds.
The lume and its severed head behave as a single unit, and as such, the head should be thought of as part of the lume's body. The lume cannot survive without it, and dies when the head is destroyed, drowned, or moved more than ten feet from the lume's body. It can be plucked from the air with little difficulty, and, as long as it is not moved more than ten feet from the lume, can be released to float by its side once more.
When the lume first appears, it starts off as a small, undulating mass of flesh and arms, which rise upward in a squirming, twisting motion to form the body in a process that takes only a few seconds. The lume's ubiquitous severed head is generated within the lume's body shortly afterwards. While the lume itself generates in several seconds, the head may take anywhere from two minutes to one hour to fully form, and develops faster when around other lume. The head starts off as a small, bead-sized, teratoma-like lump of hair and flesh inside the widest section of the lume, and expands in heartbeat-like throbs. Upon growing to completion, it emerges from the back of the lume's body, leaving no hole behind.
The lume is born without an accompanying human head 23% of the time. These headless lume are able to survive several hours, but never any longer.
Unlike strangers which are generated within a specific environment, the lume is generated by violence, and appears in sites of violence within one week to 1.1 years after these incidents have taken place. Car accidents and murders are two of the most common inciting events, but the site of any violent action can generate a lume under the right circumstances.
The lume appears on its own 66.5% of the time, and in groups 33.5% of the time. The lume tends to appear around other lume, and thus, populations grow outward in clusters. Lume populations within a city tend to hit a maximum level of one hundred to two hundred individuals, thus preventing indefinite population growth.
The lume possesses a dim-witted and unsubtle nature, and moves with clumsy, shambling motions. Although it does not appear to possess vision, it can react to sound, moisture, and temperatures, and thus avoids potential dangers in its vicinity.
Although the lume does not engage in social actions, groups tend to form as individuals seek out and move towards the same events (see next section). Any social structure is incidental at best, and groups disperse when not in pursuit of a goal.
The lume is specifically drawn to sensitives who have suffered injuries as a result of accidents and acts of violence, and does not reveal itself, otherwise. It appears, for example, on isolated highways following car crashes, at the side of mugging victims, or around sensitives who have fallen from a great height. The lume circles the wreckage of these accidents, and pulls and lifts lightweight plates, opens askew car doors, and pushes around debris with clumsy carelessness1.
The lume attacks sensitives who are on the brink of death. Although the lume possesses relatively little physical strength, encounters can nonetheless prove fatal as it strangles and smothers weakened individuals.
"It was so weak, but then again, so was I. It put its hands over my mouth, the way a toddler might flail at an adult during a tantrum. Please, he might scream. Just five more minutes. I'll be good. How dare you. I hate you.
And I saw the light diminish from my view." source unknown
The lume also attempts to suffocate any human corpse it finds, using the same methods it uses to kill injured sensitives.
"That was the only way she was able to get away from it. It kept cramming its fingers into her fiancé's mouth, and the few remaining teeth, they tumbled down his cheeks. The beast kept going, and seemed to grow more frantic, more fixated – why wouldn't this one die? For it just didn't know that he'd gone; it knew only that it wanted a reaction so much.
The severed head turned to face her for a split second as she peeled the doorway off of her, and her throat pinched her breaths so tight, but she was alone as she staggered through the street, slamming windows, slamming doorways, and the streetlights pooled around her just like butter." Fox, Vancy. The Midnighted Varietie, 200
Although the lume itself is blind, its severed head appears to possess vision, and thus, the lume uses the head to track and follow individuals who attempt to crawl away. It is dissuaded only when violently attacked, or when it witnesses its target's death, at which point it nods its head with a succinct acceptance and shambles away.
Coercive lume, with their red-eyed heads, have a mesmerizing effect on sensitives, and their presence appears to compel individuals to follow them.
"You've been doing this for a while – doing car crashes, on purpose, to get them to show up. You've seen them and survived before. These things were all show – they'd try their best to be murderers, but they went down easy, once you got that head out of the way.
This one was different, though. You've never seen one with eyes so red. With the flames from the car engine reflecting against them, they seemed to glow, those eyes – and you stare at it, and you can't move. And this one doesn't do a thing, doesn't lay a finger on you. No, you – you pull yourself from the wreckage. And the head, it faces somewhere far away from you. And you follow its gaze, then you follow its trail, lume and all; pied piper pulls you from where they'll spray the luminol. And you can't explain what comes over you, but it'll lead you somewhere, right? It has to. Your guts, they trail behind you. Like cans and streamers tied to the back of a car that reads "just married" in white marker on the rear window.
They'll find you ten miles down the road. It'll be four weeks after the accident, but you won't have decayed one bit (but, you will). You'll be a real mess. They'll never figure out your identity. Goodbye." Scotchi, R. Untitled IV, 57
When a sensitive dies around a lume, nearby lume have a 3.7% chance of generating another severed human head inside itself, which, like the initial head, grows to completion before emerging outward from the back of the lume's cranium. This head takes on the appearance of the deceased sensitive at the time of death, as such, the duplicate often presents as wounded or misshapen, all injuries replicated. No lume, however, generates more than a single additional head in this manner, and destruction of the second head causes it no harm.
The lume appears to be a short-lived phenomenon, and it dies without warning or fanfare, its severed head hitting the ground with a thud. The lume's body begins to disintegrate immediately, drying out and turning to a waxy substance that crumbles away within the hour, while the head decomposes at a rate consistent with a human corpse. Any nearby lume's severed head turns to face these corpses, but the lume themselves do not react in any way.