As soon as I get inside I strain mightily to retreat, resisting the pull of an incredibly strong gravity. It is many times stronger here than the powerful Baby-pods outside. I claw at the nothingness to stay apart from the swirling luminous greyness but I am being drawn.
My sight zooms in on the thick liquid until I can make out the individual animals swarming in this soup. They oscillate before me. Tiny, hairy, light-grey circles, spinning madly in disarray.
They probably have a name like LVX-923 but I call it as I see it.
They’ve suffered a hefty setback from the child’s destructive cries. Huge patches of dead Sludge; trillions of tiny bodies.
Happy information I am quick to file away.
I watch carcasses being collected and corralled by the living. They use their covering of fine long hairs to propel dead neighbours out of the mass towards a sieve-like arrangement. At a guess it is an ejection point from the Mother’s body.
Busy with their clean-up the Sludge pays my slow and hugely reluctant advance no attention, but I notice their mass curves away from the fear and anger billowing from me in waves.
To be finally face to face with my true enemy is an inconvenient time to reconcile some of the half-truths and outright lies I’d been told about them. But the thoughts come unbidden.
These organisms have no genetic ties with the Parasites. These are the actual miracle-cure producers. The masterminds behind this organised planetary take-over bid.
Crawlies are a nasty species to be sure, but merely convenient vehicles, the lowly incubators to house and sustain this hairy-coated bacterium.
I hate these tiny constructions of mankind’s vainest, and maybe last, attempt at immortality. But however much I’d like to bash this blame I’ve carried for so long up someone’s worthy orifice, I cannot argue that their intentions are evil for the sake of being evil.
I do admit to myself that the Sludge Maintenance Corp has not rebelled. They’ve survived at our expense; an irony no less than we deserve, but they remain hardwired with rules their creators imbedded in them, and perform perfectly to specifications stitched into their genes.
Originally designed for maximum efficiency, they cannot be denigrated for fulfilling their nature. Nor can they be held responsible for escaping the lab in Parasite eggs. And the fact that those egg’s contents grew into the perfect tools to enslave us can only be put down to an evolutionary roll of the dice.
Even the latest bombshell, the bacterial Sludge unlocking our brain's latent telepathic abilities; well I hardly think that would have featured highly during high-level meetings about the creature’s control and measured dispersal of its valuable waste.
I stretch forth a probe which is sucked into the grey planet with a velocity I am powerless to slow.
Suddenly I am receiving the group mind’s transmissions. A shockingly cold plane of hard data is being channelled to a central core. Reproductive efficiency is currently a very high priority to replace the dead. Hunger suppression of their Parasite slaves and the maintenance of human hosts overfills, and strains, their remaining capacity.
No wonder they ignore me. They are barely in control of their army; besieged and ham-strung by their own compulsive behaviour. Focusing on growth, regulated only by the available food supply, they have reached a point where logistical problems have brought them to a stalemate position. And now they’ve been knocked back a step or two.
I am heartened by these revelations. Like locusts during harvest time they rise and fall on our ability to breed. They are not the all-powerful, psychic beast I feared enslavement under. That’s not to say I am any safer for knowing these factoids.
A thousand chattering organisms begin to increase and smooth out their activity. Raw data seeps in through the realigned Baby-Orbs in an ever increasing stream. Each one reacts to an information packet by instantly shoving it in a specific direction. Their reactive recommendations passing to a dominant central mass. That glowing ball of heightened awareness.
I keep resisting their pull, watching this grey sun of hyper-intelligence writhe. Pseudo-limbs reach and tuck back within itself. Messages once more shoot to the monster Parasite’s brain for transmission to the many minions.
Leaving this semi-emotionless place of punch-card austerity is impossible. I cross an event horizon that guarantees I am to be pulled inside and disseminated completely. I plunge towards their outer skin like a meteorite.
I have to get out.
But the only things leaving here are the dead.
Hmm. It’s worth a try.
I focus even more intently on the bodies being spat out. Some aren’t completely dead. Yet, even in their dying throes, unresentful of their unfeeling disposal, they are striving to help the group mind.
I reverse thrust to speed directly into the cold depths of the disrupted mind. Gouging a path into the dead cells is easy as the living part to let me through. With the rapidity of a Metalhead searching for a suitable CD in a Country and Western throw-out bin I find the one cell I want.
One linked to the baby.
A tiny thread.
I dive for that dying lifeline hoping my situation can’t get much worse.
Invariably bad luck will deliver one more hard kick when I need it least.
But I’m already disembodied and trapped in the mind of the stone-cold weaver of megalomaniac plans; the cause of all mankind’s downfall. A lousy microscopic goo with delusions of grandeur. A Petri-dish dictatorship to a communist collective monster.
What else could possibly go wrong?
The dip into their conscious pool wets me with cold thoughts even as I blast along the fading tendril's narrow passage. I squeeze past the lesser minds end-thoughts and steal its final message.
‘Suppress the newborn meat before the empty one damages the Melding further. Replace the used meat. Emplace the Melding links. Increase digestion. Sacrifice the transport meat. Consume more.’
That sounds ominous. I streak along the tendril and leap a gap as it dissolves from the main truck and feel the blackness close on me...
...I wake to a body’s heaviness and pain of its abuses. A stuffy, stinking gas presses into my nose. Rhythmically pulsing walls bellow in and out, washing the stench about in waves. A warm, soft floor is against my back.
So this is the Mother’s guts. Out of the frying pan...
Throbbing red flesh striated with fatty tissue curves overhead. My vision is aided by a luminously glowing jellied river that flows around me. I lift a hand with titanic effort to wipe fluid from my face. A disobedient arm slams that fist into one eye leaving me to look upon a charnel scene of split open children with the other.
They lie in relaxed poses, burst bellies gaping emptily. Some of the bodies bubble with a powerful acid. It restricts itself to dead flesh and does not burn me though I lie in the same stuff.
I look wildly for the Parasites that have escaped those bodies and see them also burst and steaming in acidic dissolution. I do not believe this isn’t the stomach of the beast though. It’s a holding chamber. Here lie the human batteries and amplifiers that power the Sludge’s mental chain of command.
Until the baby drove their Parasites insane and killed them.
Where is that little beggar anyway? I look further and see a larger human form. It isn’t being dissolved like the rest so it must be alive. His gut sticks out above the stick-thin children’s bodies around him.
He looks kind of familiar too.
Oh yeah, of course. That fatso is ME!
And I’m looking at me from inside that damn baby.