Too scared to unclench my senses, I tumble along an alien conduit tightly wrapped as a ball of insubstantial matter. I feel packets of pure thought crowd past and hear snippets of their contents when they zip through my floundering, cloudy essence, tearing more pieces off my whole in their headlong rush.
Something big and dumb moves in to sort through the clutter created by my blundering interference. Assimilating my armoured and unresponsive consciousness into the flow proves to be too difficult to deal with. I’m shoved into the break-down lane of this information highway and left to eddy in the wash of a nearby energy stream.
Emotions settle in topsy-turvy and back to front guises. A fire’s heat and glacier’s cold replace sight and sound and even those sensations dim. Terrified of losing my identity along with the bits torn away by passing Parasite thought particles, I blindly send out a call for them to return.
The specks of me clump together but the resulting wholeness is unwieldy and causes a chokepoint in the conduit. I burst apart again under backed up pressure.
Panic is short lived when I realise this weightless, dimensionless space requires no such coagulation. The dimming sensation is not a lessening of my ‘self’ but the first signs that I am acclimatising. No ill-effects follow the second dispersal and the free-floating bits don’t go far.
The invisible force bulls into me again, obviously keen for me to move along. I produce enough thrust to wriggle slowly away. Once more the heavy-handed concierge assists my vagrant presence from a busy sidewalk with a hefty kick.
Regardless of existential status, a determination builds not to be man-handled. I buck against the trend, projecting a cloud of my consciousness into a spearhead. Borrowing the propulsion method of an octopus I pierce the flow, sightlessly thrusting upstream.
Fatigue drags at the substance I’ve become. I am hesitant to sample the energy saturating this place, but when my movements slow to a crawl I sip at a few stray flickerings of light.
I take in some more and wonder about the imprecisely controlled generator supplying this power. Random spikes and dips are off-putting in an otherwise rigidly structured place.
I let an antenna out to play in the high-gain static fuzz and visualise the huge, ponderous maker. An organic machine with a rudimentary brain bred for one purpose. The provision of energy. In fact everything here has a single purpose. It’s an Army of the Dumb and Stupid following orders.
The energy is distributed without regulation and burned in large quantities by another large being that busily manipulates and marshals the thoughts of many thousands of minds.
If I take a little, tiny bit they shouldn’t notice.
Temperance has never been a trait I could take pride in owning. Gluttony overtakes judicious sipping. I rampage off the information conduit into a crackling stream of raw power, stealing great Groper gulps, as if racing to claim a share of an all-you-can-eat buffet before fat people arrive.
The newly bridged brain node approves of the greed. It comes alive, soaking up more and more energy until an inevitable backlash builds.
Overindulging brings violent regurgitation even in this strange place.
Oh, God, it’s an epic purging. Vomiting sparks I’m propelled through several hard objects and beyond. Darkness descends, similar to the spiralling decent into unconsciousness after an all night drinking binge...
...I awaken well and nourished; no hangover to speak of. The node in charge of my psychic abilities gives the impression it has watched over me as I slept in a curled up protective ball, nose to tail like a frightened echidna.
It is comfortingly dark in this closed up state. The questions of whether I’m dead, alive, or somewhere in between come up and are deemed unanswerable. All I know is drifting aimlessly far from the energy streams in a zero-g absence of pressure won’t get me anywhere.
After a moment of considering the consequences I peek outside.
The Void awaits.
A cavernously empty space, recognisable as empty by the glints of light in the very far distance.
The expected incapacitating fear does not crash down upon me. The delayed reaction to all that has occurred is conspicuously absent. I feel a sense of wary wonder instead and ponder the problem of transportation across such a large area.
In reaction to my timid acceptance of the bizarre and mind-blowing, the Other-brain gives me a nudge. It holds the handle bars of the ultra-safe tricycle built around my uncertainty and stands by patiently, instilling confidence.
Nervously I settle on the contraption and pedal.
This analogous method gets me moving. As I pedal faster the trike morphs into a motorbike, and then becomes a car as I gain speed. Releasing these images altogether the shapes and colours of this new plane of existence accelerate towards me.
Navigating the remaining distance of empty space in effortless grace I slow to hover outside the Parasites' busy thought processing conduits and snarl of transmission lines. Bolstering a newly formed resolve and courage; stuff not available to the flesh body I own; I extend a toe and dip it into their waters.
The Hunger. It is all about hunger here. The sensation overlaps every thought. Ninety per cent of the current is hunger suppression and monitoring. The rest contains instructions to find food.
Quite clearly the Parasite brain’s ‘full’ signal has been switched off. From what I remember from the newspapers, the unnatural motivation to eat continuously is due to genetic modifications. The biologists and scientists involved with the Parasite project pulled out all the stops to maximise production of that fatal cure, the elixir of life.
Taking a deep mental breath, I release myself into the flow and disperse into the hive's consciousness.
I am like oil in water, lessening concerns of total absorption. I can change shape at will and use this ability to sieve the whizzing comets of data to discover their contents. Emotionless orders and dull affirmations tumble by. I grow bored with the repetitive nature of the Watchers and Seekers and explore further.
The rhythmically pumping fog dispensers hanging in their nets around the Mother’s room by the many hundreds bore me too. I leap between a hundred thousand tendrils stabbing host’s heads delivering those monotonous orders and retrieving data of tasks completed and areas surveyed.
I move with them, streaking through repeater stations of immobile hosts, picking up hunger status reports and the plotted positions of Creeps to be shifted. The outer forages are always within reach of the hive’s consciousness.
I flow outwards, leapfrogging minds against a rush of messages reporting a target. I experience a fearsome attack on a small group who fight and lose. Reports of all-clears and requests for a meat pickup squad flash back to the nest. I tag along with an information packet and find myself in the mind of a Sorter so immersed in data it doesn’t notice my entry.
Being ignored is a rudeness I can’t abide. The urge to meddle also might help these latest victims get away.
I bite off more than I can chew when I swoop at the Sorter. It draws me into its workings without pause and begins stripping me to my core. It’s like being pulled into a threshing machine. I’m unravelled and collated. It slows the usual pick and flick of incoming data to intensify its capabilities. I have a lot of information it finds interesting and the Sorter is up to the task.
I’m spat out the other side, drained and flattened, missing nothing of importance.
What the hell just happened?
Plunging into the outgoing data stream reveals the magnitude of my error.
An army of hosts are ordered to march on the Detention Centre.
I’ve given them every detail of my entire life, including my home address.