I look around the inside of my latest host.
No resident Parasite dominates her. Just that insidious, calming fog.
The baby’s mind is a tight new engine. I prod the starter and discover not all the circuit breakers are switched on. She is highly sensitised to touch yet can’t even move about to make herself comfortable.
She doesn’t even know what her limbs are for. Test-driving her legs results in spastic kicks; as reactive and controllable as an electrified dead frog.
I don’t have time for this. It’s impossible. Why the hell can’t humans bear young like the so-called lesser animals? I mean, for Christ’s sake, a Gazelle’s offspring are sprinting around the savannah after a few minutes. Sprinting for this kid is years distant and there’s less energy to draw on than I’d get from a ninety-year-old.
Just keeping these eyes open is a monumental effort!
I’d always thought babies were useless; but this helplessness, this paralysis, it’s so restricting!
No wonder they cry so much.
Makes me want to bawl.
So that’s it. I’m going to die locked inside a baby’s head. There’s absolutely no chance of using her to transport me to myself; no chance at all...
Wait a minute. What’s that?
There’s a wet, sucking sound of a large skin-flap opening in the stomach cavity’s lining. A rush of slimy spit precedes the delivery of another baby to this holding pen.
The first replacement for the children my baby has broken.
These Parasite’s parasites don't waste much time.
I raise my child’s head for a better look at the new arrival. A little girl.
Welcome to hell kid.
These neck muscles work, though my personal expenditure of mental effort is huge. I keep her head up as foul smelling, warm liquid trickles around us. It contains fresh enzymes that speed up decomposition of the corpses.
The renewed sizzling creates a wave of foam that I see dribbles down deep runnels in the Mother’s flesh to drain away. A low-set valve peels open to swallow the effluent then closes again.
So what? None of this is of any interest to me. I’m going to die here and that’s it.
These slitted eyes catch sight of something else which washes in with the newest arrival.
A black rock.
It rolls to a stop near my borrowed face.
It’s a Crawlie!
Tightly folded legs unlimber and raise the fat, ugly abdomen. Its multiple black eyes glisten; wide open and fixed on the child. I sense it sense me. I’m pretty sure my unsubtle passage was traced without much detective work on their part.
And I also sure this Parasite isn’t interested in possession.
It’s an assassin.
Pincers snap a semaphore of murderous intent to prove my point. The creature wriggles towards our face, slowed by the mire of running jelly.
Suddenly the impossible becomes possible.
I charge the circuit boards in her head and push all the energy I can muster to arch the girl’s supple back while kicking and swinging her arms. I’ve seen a performance this bad at a beginner break-dancing class.
Her movement is driven by my primal fear and the vow never to have a Crawlie on my face again.
Even a borrowed one.
Something sharp nips a soft foot. The dance-moves quadruple. I scrabble and claw a path over a dead boy’s liquefying legs, fighting the nightmarish heaviness that drags at her limbs.
I’m closing on my own battered, barely breathing flesh when I look back. A second Parasite rolls from the valve in another thick rivulet of gunk. Unhappiness with this duty is indicated by rapidly unfolding legs and the waving of those clicking pincers. It catches hold of a dead boy’s ear to halt it's passage.
The softening skin tears sickeningly as a flurry of sharp clawed legs rip into it to find purchase. The Parasite sits on the melting face, flicking fluid from its spiny legs one at a time.
I’m reminded of my pursuer by another sharp nip. I break that hypnotic eye contact and crawl my baby over another red-foamed body, feeling the bones crumble beneath her forearms.
One last reach forward and the girl falls against my lightly glowing shield. In my eagerness to be out I’m already butting against the mental wall that thins then breaks as soon as her head contacts my arm...
...at last! I’m back in my body!
My own blinking eyes roll in a concussed head, and my neck has been painfully wrenched at some stage, but I sit bolt upright without taking time out to adjust.
The first Parasite crawls up beside me, pincers raised and fangs extended, preparing to bite the child. Without time to consider other courses of action I slam a fist down upon it.
The abdomen bursts and it curls in a death spasm, giving that wispy cry I find hugely satisfying.
As it dies the second Parasite gathers spindly legs, ready to spring. Although forewarned of its attack method this doesn’t help me form an effective defence. Running away is always the first option for me.
I gather up the slippery child and raise her safely above my head while struggling to gain my knees.
The horrible thing leaps.
It misjudges the distance and lands between my splayed knees. I look down at it looking up at my soft dangling parts.
This most dire of situations calls for the use of any weapon that comes to hand. And my war-cry provides the red mist.
I slam the baby down; shrieking a little when my hands beneath her are stabbed by the Parasite’s bent and broken legs. I feel it pop and lift the baby for a quick underside inspection.
No obvious punctures. But she’s smeared with so much foam and goo I can’t really tell. That’s two ways I’ve used her as a weapon now. Maybe babies aren’t completely useless after all.
There’s no time for a closer look. Another convulsion spurts in half a dozen back-up Parasites and several more infants.
The way they enter is not the way I can leave.
...I dive for the skin flap behind me, blindly shoving the muscular flesh aside and sliding down the dark hole below, clutching the silent child to my chest.
The slippery dip ride dumps us in the true stomach without fanfare. The stench is odeur-de-garbage dump and the steaming fumes burn my eyes. The faint luminosity of the dying grey goo coats everything in here too. The sight of slowly churning people parts is a scene from a torture-porn horror movie. Everything is dissolving under the attentions of a more powerful acid than that I’d lain in upstairs.
I throw up. It’s unavoidable.
More bloody joints of meat fall in from a hole in the top of this saggy flesh walled room. Some of them are identifiable as human derived as they splash into the rolling pool of semi-digested meat.
Stuff comes in, so stuff must go out.
Taking shallow breaths I bull into the acidic pool, touching the wet gut wall as little as possible though I stumble and slip into the thick stew of floating meat pieces. Immediately my legs and nether region begins to tingle, then burn. I plunge into the grey-brown liquid up to my waist regardless.
The sheer quantity of body parts being delivered is a rain of flesh now. The Mother is being repowered for a new offensive. I wade as fast as I can to a row of bony plates. Some sort of crude separating device that removes liquid down two smaller holes and allows less digestible lumps and bones to tumble down a dark tunnel.
Well I’m already in the shit so I might as well go out with it.
I waste no more time in this suffocating atmosphere. Gripping the baby tighter we slide down the ribbed floor for a few metres then I have to use my legs to scoot my aching butt over the slippery corrugated floor. The tunnel reacts to our presence by contracting to hurry us along. We’re like toothpaste being squeezed out an almost empty tube.
I jam at a tight section and garbage collects behind me. I am suffocating, forced to breathe in the foul liquid. The air and fluid is then pressed from my lungs by full body palpitations. I am at the very limit of passing out when the Mother’s very relaxed sphincter allows me to pass out of her.
For a second I hang free in space before landing in a soft pile. To be sure it’s a pile of shit, but a soft landing is a soft landing.
I am free of the beast. It rejoices my passing by continuing to dollop my head with bones and liquid crap.
But, I’m out!