The zondroni (/ˈzɑndɹoʊni/) is a diminutive grey stranger, identifiable by its blue eye markings and its three mouths. Each of these rubbery sets of jaws is rowed with evenly-spaced, hard white teeth, and contain a lolling, pale blue tongue. Its mouths connect to a series of throat-like structures, leading to a wet inner cavity; this chamber is lined with ridged blue tissue capable of pulsing, tightening, and expanding as needed. It can open only one mouth at a time.
The zondroni's forelimbs taper to tips, while its hind limbs end in hand-like appendages. Its exterior is greasy enough to the touch to leave a sensitive's skin lightly oily, but it does not expel this faint and colorless residue on any other substance with which it comes in contact1. The zondroni's inner flesh matches its eyes and gums in coloration, and its consistency recalls uncooked poultry flesh. This rubbery meat does not regenerate from wounds, nor does the zondroni's soft skin offer much protection against wear-and-tear.
The strain's grating, harsh voice emanates forth from its throats, rasping and warbling as though clogged by mucous. When squeezed, struck, or dropped, the zondroni squeaks.
The zondroni generates specifically in non-verdant environments. The more estranged from plant life a locale is, the more likely it is to host a zondroni infestation. This strain tends to appears in clusters, and in abrupt, but finite, waves of generation. In unpredictable spots (where wall meets plywood floor, beneath the steps of a rusted fire escape, behind a purring generator, or between uncollected bags of trash), the zondroni appears first as an empty, wrinkled skin, its inner flesh absent. This pile flounders upward in sporadic leaps, each flail filling it with flesh slightly more, and its motions becoming more confident and animate in turn.
Initially, minuscule pores dot the zondroni's skin in close arrangement. Any touch, however, causes these pores to close up permanently; even feather-like tickles from the most careful sensitive leaves the zondroni smooth. During generation, the strain also possesses a pungently plasticine scent, but as its surface smooths, this odor fades, and by the time it becomes active, much of the zondroni's body has already become rubbery and toy-like, devoid of signifying scent.
The zondroni's disposition is impetuous and aggressive. It scampers from landmark to landmark, making no effort to conceal itself, and darting at a brisk stride. Though certain jumps and impacts elicit a squeak from its body, its travels are, for the most part, silent. It is aggressive towards most stimuli; it chases at lights with a snarl and a scramble, shreds fallen leaves, and assaults those animals smaller than itself. Because of its flimsy form, however, the zondroni does not represent a threat to most non-insect animals. Even a rat is often able to defend itself from the diminutive and small-toothed predator.
Despite the zondroni's irritability, it does not aggress others of its strain. Individuals engage in their respective patrols, and return to a shared roost (such as a cabinet or closet) in areas of dense population. While at rest, the zondroni even forsakes its usual pugnacity to engage in some "social sweetness" with others of its kind, laying atop its companions, or gnawing on their snouts, tails, or limbs with gentle care.
When encountering another strain, the zondroni watches from afar, scampering towards crevice-or-cover once this distance is encroached. When it encounters a stranger that displays aggression towards it, the zondroni tends to have aftereffects. Within a day, its skin develops white and phlegmy bruises which spread in clusters, and it becomes flesh-like, decaying alive. Other zondroni avoid their sick once-companions, which appear at first stupefied, then wound-down, before they keel in a stiff jerk and become inert.
Despite its picayune size, the zondroni is as vicious as could be expected from its class. It pursues any sensitive it sees, snapping at the heels and calves or (if able) the hands and face. Its bites are forceful enough to draw blood, leave rough gouges or sharp puncture wounds, or even tear out small chunks of flesh. While does not attack in coordination with its companions, groups swarm, and a zondroni's cry is quick to summon forth more of its strain.
Though the zondroni normally growls and barks as it attacks, its aggression has a listless component in approximately one-ninth of individuals, with these zondroni making no noise, and behaving as though acting upon routine impulse, rather than territorial hostility. These "roten zondroni" are treated no differently by their companions.
The zondroni is at first capable of verbalizing only wordlessly; the frantic snarls of a human being imitating an animal. Once it encounters a sensitive, though, it begins to speak. The more sensitives the stranger encounters, the larger its lexicon grows (reaching a maximum lexicon of 450 words), though it cannot mimic normal grammar and syntax2.
Though not dissuaded by strikes (such as kicks, slaps, or impacts via weapons), when grabbed or choked, the zondroni becomes limp and rubbery, any threat neutralized. Once made harmless, it reacts to no further action. In addition to cutting, shredding, or other such overt destruction of form, a limp zondroni can also be killed via strangling, yanking, twisting, or punching, despite the lack of visual indications that would denote injury.
Initial proximity to the zondroni causes a weak but distinct desire to engage in compulsive gnawing of the inner mouth. This influence, while constant, does not tempt the sensitive to bite hard enough to break flesh in most circumstances. Though this desire is at times unpleasant to fight off (with avoidance of the action leading to some nausea and tension in the jaw muscles), it is not prohibitively so.
The zondroni's full effect sets in shortly after an encounter. Upon next rising (following the first frantic, nightmare-drenched sleep cycle) the sensitive becomes unable to suppress themselves from verbally stating nearly all internal thoughts that cross3 their mind. This constant verbal broadcasting occurs during all waking hours, regardless of the sensitive's wishes towards reticence or modesty, and with no need of an audience. Attempts to remain silent inevitably elicit a compulsion to bite the inside of the cheek hard enough to break flesh, with the compulsion — and the bite itself — growing stronger each time the urge to speak is resisted.
Though socially debilitating, the zondroni's effect ceases abruptly after exactly seven weeks, at which point the sensitive appears inoculated from any further disruption by the zondroni or its sub-strains.
As the zondroni ages, it grows less mobile. Its movement stills to a minimum, until its life fades without complaint. Flesh becomes rubber and loses all organic qualities, with even the zondroni's hard teeth growing flexible. This "toy-like" corpse can remain for years. It grows more brittle only by the decade, and maintaining some flexibility even after a century or more.
Other zondroni may idly chew at the thinner flaps of skin when encountering a corpse, but tend otherwise to ignore these remains.