The Winds of Change

There is, in the secretive basement laboratories of the Monsters, Inc office building, a certain Division.

The potential profit from each individual child being so high— and the risks equally high— it is profitable, of course, to keep each individual child in the scream database for as long as possible. It’s generally accepted that, after a certain point generally correlating to the age of the child’s puberty, the screams are no longer an effective form of power for the city of Monstropolis.

It is only known by very few researchers— those tasked with implementing algorithms that predict when each child will need to be removed from the system— that the effectiveness of screams does not change dramatically at any point in a human’s lifespan. The point that a child needs to be removed from the scream database has nothing to do with the effectiveness of their screams. It’s just that, at a certain point, the children stop screaming.

And given the toxicity of the human child’s touch to a monster, it is imperative that each child be removed from the database before the age at which they cease being frightened of the monster under the bed, and start trying to fuck it.

This research, due to its sensitive nature, is kept strictly confidential. The rank-and-file monsters of the company trust the labs down below to do their jobs and keep workers safe. And they do. Usually.


Hannibal Lecter is not a top-ranking employee of Monsters, Incorporated. He’s respected, to be sure; he has seniority with the company, younger scarers who look up to him, respectable numbers. But he’s never made Top Scarer, never broken the top ten in scream canisters per day. He’s never even tried.

No. Hannibal is an artist, and every scarer on the floor knows it. Middle management knows it, too, which is why he’s received steady pay increases without any corresponding increase in responsibility. Hannibal’s niche has been, and always will be, the tough cases: the children who, despite obvious fear, simply will not scream.

At least, not until Hannibal is in the room with them.

“This is a good one, boss.” Frederick Chilton slaps the frame as it lowers down into the cradle, and hands the file over to Hannibal. Chilton is a scrawny, slimy little monster. He has dozens of eyes distributed pretty much evenly over his body, but seemingly only in locations where they either fail to see what they should be seeing, or are placed in the path of every obstacle that the monster can find to hit them on. Hannibal has accepted that having an assistant who spends half his time running around whining “I stubbed my eye!” is simply the price of also having an assistant who, for reasons that are not entirely clear to anyone, always manages to come up with the strangest, most fascinating and challenging doors for his scarer.

“Kid named Will Graham,” Chilton narrates as Hannibal flicks through the pages. “Eleven years old. Thing is, the actual fear readings are off the charts. Never seen anything like it. If we could just get him to scream, he’d be powering the whole block for a week.”

“A shy boy,” Hannibal murmurs. He holds the file in his lower set of arms and stretches out the upper set, twisting his serpentine spine around and feeling the joints crackle and pop.

“Blue,” calls Chilton, starting Hannibal’s warm-up. “Yellow. Paisley. Polka-dot. Invisible. A different paisley. Three different paisleys at once.” Hannibal complies, switching colours effortlessly. Chilton walks around him, admiring the clashing patterns on his head, belly and tail.

“Gorgeous,” Chilton sighs, and Hannibal rolls his eyes when the assistant isn’t looking.

The scare floor is chaotic. Most scarers pump themselves up before entering a new door, ready to barge in and tear a scream from some bug-eyed, snot-nosed infant as quickly as they can. Hannibal’s routine is quieter, centering. By the time a door makes its way to him, every enormous, hairy, toothy piece of nightmare fuel that the company employs has already tried their luck with the kid on the other side. The nightmares that Hannibal constructs are subtler and more lasting. He’s the glimpse out of the corner of your eye, the terror in the night when you wake up with the knowledge that you are being watched coursing through your veins like fire. He’s the words whispered in your ear by someone who can’t possibly be there, can’t possibly know you the way they so clearly do.

Hannibal slithers through the door, and into the dark interior of a musty trailer.

He looks around. Most scarers will retreat right back to the scare floor if the child lives in close enough quarters to a parent; it’s practically impossible to startle a proper scream out of a kid who can run crying right into the next bed. Hannibal is more judicious; he’s willing to work around the presence of a parent as long as they’re as sound sleeper.

There is nobody else in the trailer with Will Graham, though. He sleeps on a small cot in the corner of the living room area, while the tiny closed-off bedroom is messy with the detritus of obvious alcoholism, but currently unoccupied. Hannibal has the boy to himself. It’s perfect.

Perfect, that is, until the boy sits up in bed.

Will Graham has the kind of cherubic face that senior management at the company would probably plaster on some sort of public-service poster reminding employees that even the most innocent-looking children are still deadly. He also has the vaguely unwashed look that only comes from actually being several days without washing, and he looks more tired than any eleven-year old should have a right to.

He tilts his head to the side. Hannibal had entered invisible, and he stays invisible as he slowly advances on Will. The boy’s eyes are wide wide with fear, but it’s an ancient and weary kind of fear, one that was around long before the company put his door into rotation and will be there long after.

Hannibal is leaning over him, invisible to the eye but threatening in presence, when Will reaches out at the speed of light and places a hand on Hannibal’s face.

Hannibal gasps and shoots backwards. He is not an alarmist, but he is risk-aware. Being a scarer is inherently risky work, and Hannibal has always embraced that risk wholeheartedly. He should go back now and call a 23–19.

Hannibal doesn’t. He doesn’t because Will is staring at him, and Hannibal realizes that he’s reverted to the three-paisley pattern in his shock. He quickly switches to his preferred default shade of tasteful purple, and he realizes that the place where Will’s hand touched doesn’t burn. His skin isn’t flayed off the bone; he doesn’t feel like his organs are shutting down from the inside.

And Hannibal stares back, and then suddenly he knows he isn’t going to call a 23–19. Because he can see fear in Will Graham’s eyes, but it’s a kind of fear Hannbal has never seen before. It’s mingled with excitement, and something deep and strong and enticing, and Hannibal can’t leave the human world without tasting this fear.

Screams are a necessary fact of life; without them, the energy economy of Monstropolis would shut down. But they are a gross, earthly currency. Fear is beyond that, and Hannibal is willing to sacrifice a scream in the service of something higher.

“Come here,” says Will. “My new nightmare. I want to meet you properly.”

Following a child’s instructions is definitely not in the employee handbook. But then, Hannibal never had much use for it in the first place. Will is shaking, the force of his terror buffeting his body like gusts of wind, and Hannibal slithers forwards, then extends his neck to enjoy the scent of pure animal fear. Will’s sheets and pyjamas are already soaked with sweat, and he smells good enough to eat. Hannibal wants to eat him, probably would if he weren’t so curious about where this is going.

The boy is too thin for a human child. His wrist is small and delicate, and Hannibal swivels his eyes around to watch it as Will reaches out his hand again and gently, tremulously, strokes down the scales of Hannibal’s belly.

He yanks his hand back almost as soon as he touches, the cold slick feeling of the scales evidently too much for him to process. Hannibal grins, wide and sharp, and in an instant he is up on the bed, feeling a strange sense of euphoria. A child touched him, and he is perfectly fine. If human children cannot hurt him, a dizzying world of possibilities has just opened up. Will desperately scoots back, away from him, but there’s nowhere to go besides off the bed, and he is quickly trapped up against the wall by two pairs of Hannibal’s arms. Hannibal flicks his tail up: the very thinnest point, lithe and tentacle-like. Will’s mouth is hanging open in a silent scream, and Hannibal is all too aware that it’s unlikey to turn into a real one, so he presses the tip of his tail against Wills bottom lip.

Will tries to press his mouth closed, but it’s too late. The tip of the tail pushes in, and when Hannibal finally feels the boy’s lips giving in, a sound rings out in the room.

Not a scream. Not even a loud enough sound to register on the canister, probably, But it’s a different sound, low and frightened and desperate.

Hannibal pushes his tail as far into Will’s mouth as it will go, and Will moans around it.

The sensation around Hannibal’s scales is warm and wet, strange but not unpleasant. Surprisingly pleasant, in fact, especially when Will collapses back on the thin mattress and Hannibal and climb completely on top of him, keeping the tip of his tail in the boy’s mouth but allowing all four sets of arms to brace themselves around the scrawny torso. Hannibal teases a little, just to see what will happen; pulls himself out, allowing Will to breathe, and then thrusting back in until he can feel the very tip brush against the back of Will’s throat.

The sound Will makes at that is louder, maybe even loud enough to register as a small scream, but Hannibal no longer cares. Will is wriggling ineptly beneath him, and Hannibal has the sudden urge to show him how it’s done. He removes the tail from Will’s mouth, pushing himself up a little higher over the boy’s torso, and then curves sinuously down into him. Will’s mouth stays open, either in invitation or in pure shock. When Hannibal’s emerging hemipenes grind down into the bulge in Will’s pyjamas where the human’s torso and legs meet, he can practically feel the shock wave going through the kid. The feeling is like fear but hazier, and it wants more, and Hannibal wants to give his kid as much as he can handle.

Hannibal’s fingers are not quite as advanced as a human’s, but having eight arms has its uses. He disposes of Will’s clothes in a few easy seconds, flicking the t-shirt away with one hand and the pyjama pants with a flourish of his tail. Will’s hands are outright shaking, now, which Hannibal can feel because they’re on his back, now running nervously over the slippery scales and pulling Hannibal down into him, trying to get more of the rhythm and friction that Hannibal had started.

Hannibal is aware his smile is one of the more disconcerting aspects of his form, and he uses to to full advantage, showing a wide grin that only falters for a moment when one of Will’s hands slips down to feel around inexpertly for Hannibal’s twin hemipenes. The kid bites his lip.

“Come inside me, nightmare,” he whispers. “I want you to. Just do it, so I know I was right to be scared of the dark.”

The tip of Hannibal’s tail is still slick from Will’s mouth, and Will’s legs have fallen open from the undulation of Hannibal’s body between them. Hannibal curls his tail around and down and feels at Will’s cock, small but rock-hard, then down until he can tickle at what is clearly the entrance to a human body. Hannibal doesn’t much care what arrangement of parts any given child has; it’s not something he’s ever given much thought to before. But he seems to have located the right place, because Will arches up and says “yes, yes, hurt me, I’ve been waiting for you to for so long,” and when Hannibal pushes the tip in, the sound Will makes reverberates through Hannibal like something electric. It feels like the exact kind of power that Hannibal knows a human child’s cries really do have.

He wants to hear more of them. Hannibal pushes his tail in farther and uses a few extra arms to flip Will over, giving him access to acres of skin across the kid’s back and rear and legs. A tiny shriek escapes from Will, and Hannibal sees his thin fingers claw for purchase in the sheets. Holding on, holding still.

Good boy,” Hannibal purrs, and it’s the first thing he’s ever said out loud to a human but he knows that this extraordinary human is the one who should hear it.

Hannibal does have claws; short ones, that take some effort to coax out of his fingers, but perfectly serviceable once he gets them stroking up and down the entire posterior side of Will’s body, drawing tiny, oozing tracks of blood. Will is alternately thrusting down into the mattress and back onto Hannibal’s tail, and Hannibal has to strain to hear what he’s panting: “This is real— nightmares are real— they’re real.

“Nightmares are real,” Hannibal agrees, “And you’ll know it tomorrow, when you wake up with this.” He gives a jerk of his claws to draw a slightly deeper cut, and that’s when he feels the boy’s muscles clench around his tail, and Will screams as he thrusts into the pillow one final time, then goes still.

Hannibal withdraws the moment he realizes what’s happened: Will’s full-throated, terrified wail hangs in the air, and Hannibal knows that on the other side of the door, a scream canister is newly charged.

He should dive back out the door and see for himself the power of Will Graham’s fear, but he lingers. Will is panting into the dirty sheets, his sweet, vulnerable face wet with tears.

Hesitantly, Hannibal reaches out and extends his tongue to catch one straight from Will’s lashes. Will opens his eyes.

“Will you be back, my nightmare?” he asks.


On the other side of the door, Chilton claps Hannibal on the shoulder in the exact way Hannibal hates the most. “Another tough nut cracked,” he says triumphantly. “We’ll put this one in the regular rotation.”

The door lifts off and goes back into storage. The canister joins the hundreds of other screams being produced on the floor, and Will Graham sleeps.