Ungainly in its proportions and draping in its folds, the horo /hɔɹoʊ/ is a brown, burlap-covered stranger whose body rests upon four thin and knobby-knee'd humanoid legs. The many fibers of its gunny-skin grow upward, mesh-like, from the flesh beneath, which is greasy, ropy, and brown-to-pink. Though new layers of burlap grow constantly, torn threads do not regenerate.
Within the horo's internal cavity can be found foul offal, bits of rotting food, and the rank remains of what might be roadkill, all of which coalesce and dissolve again in a slow-churning slurry. Unless the horo's inner chamber is breached, its contents do not fully rot. As soon as the horo is burst, however, it does decay — and garishly, with all wounds leading to the eventual degradation and death of the horo. Similarly, the stranger's legs, though lacking bones, do "break", and cannot heal once bent.
The horo's voice shudders out as a slow, heavy breath. Its body swells and contracts inversely to its shudder; the sound of an inhalation is accompanied by a shrinking of the sides, and its sigh-out is matched by distention. The horo sometimes strains as though trying to speak words, though language remains unobservable.
the scratch of strained respiration.
The horo appears in almost the same environments as the teredroni
, but with a keenness, instead, towards crisp and clearỈ
mornings. Along unpaved side streets or beside construction projects, it spreads upwards from a crumpled tangle, flesh and organs generating in small spasms. Its legs become erect as its body swells, like a balloon being inflated. Once the horo's legs are developed enough to support its weight, it stands up, and — whether it or the world is ready or not — begins to walk around, its body continuing to grow until maturity is attained.
Ỉ We're not in clothland anymore! 𐊄
𐊄 (rejected slogan for Crisp&Clear brand soap tablets' infamous final advertising campaign.)
The horo's disposition is defiant of any greater urge to understand the world around it. Its movements resemble those of two trunk-less, mechanical humanoids in a "horse" costume, and while its pace is quicker than an average walking person, it tends to skid on slick surfaces, and turns with difficulty. It generally both keeps its footing, and rights itself once it has fallen, though it can avoid only the largest obstacles, causing it to trip often. Most stimuli is similarly ignored, with the stranger remaining indifferent to the clanking of metal, blaring horns, and even calamitous events.
Thus showing only dim recognition of its world, the horo spends its life wandering, though even in exceptionally long alleyways, it travels no more than 0.4 miles from its point of generation. Corralled by eight-foot gaps and restrained by the alleyway's limits, its steps are haphazard, and its paths, aimless. Devoid of curiosity, zest, or social zeal, the horo's sole response is one of emotionless indignation towards any object that touches the stranger abruptly, throws it off balance, or becomes wrapped around its body.
The horo also destroys edible or near-edible food it finds (recognizing even packaged or concealed items), as well as, paradoxically, its own organs. Should an injury open up a rip through which these entrails spill out, the horo (aided by ever-ready companions) tramples them until it crumples, knees a-snap in unison.
Animals,Ϥ meanwhile, act as a source of fear and alarm to the horo, which winces, and attempts to stomp them should they come within one toe's length of the stranger's feet.
Ϥ You'll poison the dogs that rip you up.
The horo's paths drift towards any sensitive that it encounters, and within five minutes, it generally is close enough to press its nose against the sensitive's hip, or to knee their thigh with experimental timidity. Physical contact from a sensitive, however, seems to confuse the horo greatly. A pat on the head might make it freeze up, while a long stroke could elicit a spritely hop. Though at first loosely friendly, it grows bored and desists all curiosity within only a few minutes.
The stranger remains non-violent until physically attacked, at which point it retaliates by stomping on the feet of its attacker, with other nearby individuals taking little time in rushing over to assist in their companion's defense. The horo's response criteria for what classifies as an 'attack' upon its body can be quite vague, however, with even an errant, accidental push triggering this response on occasion.
An attacking horo is fervent, but not durable, and poses infinitesimally minimal threat to a sensitive, despite its size. Even an able-bodied child can knock it over, and almost all adults can jab or tear at it with enough force to spill its entrails.
The horo's greater influence, instead, becomes apparent when the sensitive next eats. The stranger's effect causes flavors to persist in the mouth until a new flavor is introduced. Only meat is exempt from this effect, with the consumption of animal flesh (even when accompanied by other flavors) causing a brief respite from this persistence of taste. The horo's effect disappears without warning after four to three hundred days.
A horo's body does not last long, with most individuals dying within a couple of weeks. The legs are the first to go — first one will drag, then buckle, and with the remaining legs unable to support the stranger's weight, so too will they snap one-by-one. The collapsed horo, once deprived of its mobility, ceases all further behaviours, and waits for death.
Upon noticing their fallen companion, nearby horo rush in to stomp, and disperse only once the corpse has been crushed to a pulp. Following their trampling, the survivors sniffle and hang their heads dejectedly, though this sentimentality does not last for longer than a few dozen breaths.
The horo's corpse decays entirely, with the flesh and organs softening first, and even the fabric breaking down into brackish sludge. Within five days, all that is left is a pile of uncertainly organic, brown-to-grey crud.