As June’s eyes dilate I have a chance to appreciate how unattractive the Mother really is. A massive worm. A sickening, bloated larvae.
And now? Well, SHIT! I’m inside a host inside a Parasite. The argument that there’s a first time for everything is now proven.
And I don't feel overly clever about using the child either.
The kid was supposed to save my arse, not get me eaten.
As the huge circular mouth folds around us, our bodies are gummed over the worn down stubs of teeth. They do not grind our limbs into digestible chunks. Apparently at this stage of growth, tasting the food that fills its stomach is less important than swallowing.
Using June’s sense of touch, I feel the velvety softness of the mouth that closes around her. A softness that would be all well and good without the huge dollops of saliva lubricating the path to its gut.
Vertigo assails June when the Mother lifts its head. The four of us take a wild ride down the slick throat. The fall separates the howling baby from my shield, silencing the heart-felt screams.
The dissipating echo frees June’s Parasite. It shakes off the stunning effects of the child’s agony and frantic survival instincts kick in. Its doomed host’s life functions will soon cease and it must escape. Sharp pincers dig and tear through the woman’s stomach as it burrows out.
I too escape June’s dying body, latching onto the withdrawing tendril’s tip. Neither of us wants to be around for the coming death.
Careening down Parasite conduits once more I drive into the baby mash, this time crashing through the pod’s lowered defences. The babies have not settled enough for the Mother to resurrect the force-field.
Inside it, I slow to a casual saunter, very quietly checking out the fantastically irregular brain pan.
Wow! There’s a lot of spare capacity in here.
I’d expected to be in the presence of a super-intelligence, but I am disappointed. This space is filled with one horrendous craving.
Food is its desperate need.
The demands to be fed pump along well-worn conduits, jammed with unchecked signals. No data returns in the opposite direction which I find unusual so I slip along the back-trail of burning appetite.
I discover the source. A scarred and twisted lump of brain is the squirming node responsible. A geneticist’s plaything running on full throttle with the brake disabled.
It is now I understand what makes them so dangerous to us.
I delve into the nodes wiring, feeling the Mother’s starvation. Despite the non-stop feeding she will never feel full. Its gargantuan hunger can never be assuaged. As fast as the Creeps fill its mouth the next needful impulse hits.
I am almost sympathetic, although this feeling cannot be made whole while my body forms part of its sustenance.
The Mother’s head falls, exhausted, returning to a position of open-mouthed eagerness. The never-ending banquet resumes, delivered by an endlessly cycling string of Creeps. I use the Mother’s multiple eyes to watch the meat train feeding its open maw, at the same time extending feelers to track my body’s journey to the gut.
Multi-tasking is easier without flesh.
The last mouthful of me, the hosts, and baby, are being squeezed into the stomach in weak swallows. Tugging on different neurons slows the rate but can’t stop it completely. I’ll have to work fast if I’m to save my body from sitting in an acid bath.
Or drowning in one.
But I’d never been in an actual Parasite brain before; I’d always shared a host’s brain as separate entities to the Parasite owner. I can’t help but poke around this one a bit.
Senses don't work the same as outside this plane, but I feel a reptilian watchfulness eyeing me. There’s no happiness or sadness, no hopes or dreams. Just a brooding, black awareness, constantly interrupted by an unending hunger. There is no element of evilness that I’d expected. Just an intense animalistic self-involvement, not far off my own.
My previously skewed prejudices cannot intrude strongly here. I accept their instinctual craving to kill and fight with no middle ground of compassion or rational thought as a hardwired fact of life. Continued survival is key to all our actions after all.
All of which raise another point. These references to ‘the Mother’ I’d picked up are misleading. She’s androgynous. An eating machine with zero sex-drive. This bloated body doesn’t even have reproductive organs. It is a singularly stupid animal preoccupied with filling its belly. Even defecating isn’t a conscious act. It gets full and it shits.
The question dawns on me like a slowly blossoming nuclear blast.
So where are the instructions coming from?
What truly runs this hive?
Something I haven’t seen? Something of high intelligence; not focused on food?
I scan questionably and sense hovering sensors hiding from my scrutiny within a veil of shining mist. I am alerted to the sudden withdrawal of the liquid limbed tentacle away from the brain. Its direction of travel tells me I’ve been wrong all along.
Parasites aren’t mankind’s greatest enemy at all. There’s another intelligence in here directing their vicious attacks. A controlling force that enslaves the Parasites will, as much as parasites enslave our bodies. Some manner of creature the Parasites would sooner be free of so they can live their own simple existence of killing, eating and mating. Their bondage to a host is as unnatural to them as having one inside is to us. The co-operative interaction they endure would never be tolerated by natural selection.
Something is using the parasites far outside their normal behavioural traits.
The slim dark tendril withdraws faster as I follow. It pulls away from me into an area of the flabby body that Second sight is powerless to see behind.
A brightly lit mind-wall.
I focus my thoughts into a sharp blade which can pierce the glowing bladder. Inside I feel myself in the presence of an incredibly reactive fluid. The stuff that fills ninety percent of this oversized Parasite body is sentient and very still in thought and form.
It waits for my move.
In its brilliant stillness I know the grey goo I've seen on the gum's of every host actually is the telltale footprint of a microscopic living creature. It is the mark of a mastermind behind the Parasite's brutal reign. I have broken the seal to an inner sanctum.
And I am privy to an appalling secret.
There is a parasite inside the Parasites.