The pepperdroli (/ˈpɛpɚˌdɹəʊli/) is a bony, gray stranger than can characterized by both its large hands and forelimbs, as well as a similar pair of "arms" that emerge from its mouth. The pliable grey skin of the pepperdroli's body wrinkles when touched, over flesh the same shade as its monochrome its skin. Both the forearms and "arms" are human-like, with skin, fingernails, cuticles, and fingerprints. The color of these forearms and "arms", as well as the stranger's tears and gums, vary between individuals. Further, no two pepperdroli's fingerprints are quite the same — but whether they appear as logarithmic spirals, grooves that criss-cross, or loops like a child's scribbles, all ten fingerprints are always identical to one another. The muscles within are similarly human-like, though lacking nerves and veins. The "arms" (the base of which merges seamlessly with the pepperdroli's gums) are typically tucked within its mouth, and extend only during certain situations.
The pepperdroli's mouth leads into an interior that is lined with the same skin as its hands. These inner walls grow sweaty in response to temperature or stress, the sweat drying, but not disappearing. Older individuals, in particular, can be identified by the rank stench that wafts out of their mouth.
The pepperdroli's grey flesh cannot rejuvenate when harmed, unlike the arms and "arms", which regenerate from injury in a manner consistent with that of a human being. The recovering wounds are prone to infection, but unlike human beings, septicity causes only superficial swelling and discharge, and is not an impediment to regrowth, nor does it inflict scarring.
The pepperdroli's voice is muffled, emanating from the back of its throat. Though its cries are always garbled and raspy, each pepperdroli speaks with a different emotional tone. A great majority are some degree of frantic, desperate, or pleading. There remain, as well, those outliers whose demeanors are jeering, or confused, or shivering and pleading, as though compelled at knifepoint to stammer out a script.1
The pepperdroli generates outdoors. It shows strong preference only towards unpainted cement, flat earth, and filmy windows. Beneath a rickety stairwell, behind a forgotten mall's back entrance, or atop a pile of abandoned plywood, it fades in, small enough to fit on one's palm.
In this newborn stage, the pepperdroli's forelimbs end in nubs and it lacks markings, with the eyes, hands, and "arms" developing as the pepperdroli grows. Its posture limp and unresponsive, it swells to reach full size within the half-day. The "arms" are the first thing to gain animation, marking the pepperdroli's maturity as they extend forward, spread out, crack their knuckles three times, then tuck themselves back into the mouth. It is only once this initial stretch is complete that the pepperdroli begins to move.2
Though the pepperdroli never show up in groups, individuals tend to appear near one another, leading to the occasional overlap in range. Its propagation, however, is limited to no more than 250 individuals within the largest infested city. This population peaks following the strain's initial appearance, with new individuals gradually generating less and less frequently. Once the pepperdroli goes extinct, it does not return.
The pepperdroli is a demure and insecure strain. It shrinks away from sudden lights and sounds, its cheeks darkening and tucking its head beneath its body. It is also averse not only to nudity (which brings about a blush and a sweat upon the palms and "palms"), but any imagery which could be (even subtly, at times) perceived as sexual, including some predominantly innocuous objects such as popsicles or peaches. This shyness also extends towards a handful of entirely unrelated objects (bandaids, tire irons, and crushed tin cans, among others).
The pepperdroli keeps a territory of thirty or more square miles, within which it roams with clumsy stumbles. It at times manipulates its hands with difficulty, and as it walks, sometimes rolls its wrist, twists its thumb backward, or slams its palm against the ground. Each accidental slip and misstep draws forth a disconcerted wince.
Despite the strain's bashful nature, it regards its surroundings with curiosity. It sometimes likes to flop its hand against boxes, push its face against window-fronts, or on the rare and daring occasion, climb over or atop simple obstacles such as dumpsters or traffic barriers. It doesn't take long, all the same, for the pepperdroli to grow bored of these (often unsuccessful) endeavors and return to its stroll.
Certain environmental details, however, do draw the stranger's interest more acutely. It may become fixated on a bent corner of a photocopied show flyer (adjusting it over and over), a jutting nail (flicking it with its fingertips) or a piece of rope tied around a traffic pole (twiddling the frayed end).
Once a pepperdroli has found one of these "compelling particulars", it cannot be distracted. Even direct physical interference causes only temporary interruption, but no severance of focus. It grows sated only after 50-310 hours, with most pepperdroli freezing, blushing, and moving on without warning, abandoning that area of their territory.
These "compelling particulars" cannot be predicted, and no pepperdroli engages with a detail that has also drawn the interest of another of its strain.
Though the pepperdroli takes interest in a wide range of minutiae, there is nothing that fascinates it as much as the folds, creases, and ridges of another pepperdroli's body. During rare meetings between individuals, each pepperdroli becomes infatuated with the other, and performs the same stereotyped behaviours that mark their interest towards the details of inanimate objects3.
A pepperdroli grows sated with this contact only after 500-1,900 hours — which can be troublesome when one grows satiated before the other. In such an event, the unsatisfied individual continues to follow the more readily fulfilled one, using any resting moment to continue poking and fiddling its companion. The sated pepperdroli, meanwhile, ignores this attention as best it can, often becoming engrossed in its own further distractions. The follower eventually does grow bored, and returns to its own territory, following a period of extreme confusion and modesty in the event of significant dislocation from its former range.
Though the pepperdroli is primarily docile, it shows abrupt hostility upon meeting another predator-class strain, first assuming an aggressive and animal-like posture, then lunging towards its newfound enemy, which it bites, claws, and strangles. As the pepperdroli attacks, the voice within its throat grows fiercely maniacal as well, though the "arms" remain firmly snug within its mouth.
In spite of its frenzied brutality, the pepperdroli is rarely the victor in a skirmish. Its unwieldy, feeble onslaught only poses a threat to far weaker strains.
The pepperdroli's "arms" emerge only when a sensitive is in the quarter-mile radius. Their flailing, struggling movements — in tandem with the stranger's muffled gurgles — create the illusion of a person trapped in the pepperdroli's mouth. The pepperdroli itself, meanwhile, seems fearful of the sensitive, and when approached, tries to back away with short, timid steps. Its sheepishness does little to steady the gesticulating "arms", which try new gestures4 should their struggling display prove unsuccessful in drawing a sensitive's attention.
Should the sensitive come within range of the "arms", the arms grab onto their victim and pull them into the pepperdroli's maw. Though the stranger itself is weak (able to lift only 73 pounds), its "arms" are stronger than any known human's. A captured sensitive can only escape by destroying the flesh of the stranger or its "arms". The "arms" only rarely pull their victim into the inner cavity, and instead hold the sensitive within the stranger's mouth and throat. Death thus tends to come via suffocation or starvation, rather than trauma.
The pepperdroli, meanwhile, behaves as though an unwilling participant in this exchange. It flails, chokes and sputters, or tries to yank the sensitive from its mouth with its large hands; ultimately, its strength proves futile, often serving only to injure the sensitive further.
Within ten minutes of a sensitive's death, the pepperdroli drops the corpse, and the "arms" recede once more. The pepperdroli invariably exhibits fascination with some detail of the corpse – twiddling the right ear, pushing a finger into the mouth, or rubbing the fabric of the sensitive's clothes – and grows bored only once advanced decay sets in.
The pepperdroli's shyness deepens as it ages. The same visual material which had once elicited a colorless blush instead causes the stranger to curl up upon itself, hands overs its eyes. As more triggers develop, so too does it become self-destructive, and responds to embarrassment by scratching at its face, breaking its own fingers, or ripping its own flesh against sharp surfaces. When it can no longer withstand the suddenly obscene world that surrounds it, it wraps its large hands around its neck, and strangles itself. Though its voice becomes frantic, the pepperdroli itself dies with relief, its body slumping peacefully to the ground.
The grey parts of a pepperdroli's corpse dissipate to a clear gas, while the hands and "arms" remain, decaying as would a human being's own flesh.