...Owww, shit, my foot hurts! And my head is pounding. What the fuck’s going on! The sudden awakening to pain is not helped by the disorientating swaying motion I’m being subjected to. My entire body is being held suspended, face down. The unsupported parts of me sag in all the wrong places. My neck and back are killing me. The escalating pain of this superman pose is quite unreasonable.
I struggle to free myself from iron manacles that clamp my biceps and thighs. These fasteners tighten at my gyrations, and it is this realisation that someone’s hands hold onto me that prompt eyes to open fast. A resigned sense of horror floods over me as all is revealed. Four burly Hosts are carrying my prostrate form.
The Hosts’ synchronised march minimises my jostling but numb extremities flop about loosely. I’m being carried along a twin track, well-worn from what I suspect are repeated Host-carrying-prey journeys. They are the delivery trucks on this Creep highway. I suspect our destination is quite unlike a place I might enjoy, say, like Nymphomania Island, where the sun and sea are warm and the women don't wear much.
The full horrific-ness of reality fights against a persistent mistiness. I am unaccountably calm. I cast my mind back to recall the confrontation, and that clumsy trip over a dead body that left me unconscious and in the hands of my enemy. The total dismay I should be feeling about my plight is thread-worn. So, now, at last, they have me. God, if you are real, kill me! Right – fucking - now.
A bullet from heaven hits me in the back of the head with a wet smack. After a fearful second that my disbelief in God all these years has been a mistake, I giggle and repent my close call of religious epiphany. T’was only a rain drop. I squint my eyes, which partially relieves the constant pressure inside my head. The ground racing beneath me, and the Hosts’ monotonous pace conspire to lull me into an unlikely doze.
I wake with a scream as a particularly large rock in the centre of the tracks bashes my injured toes. The agony momentarily ejects the insidious pressure in my mind and I am quick to welcome the substance back when it returns to soothe my pain. The thought-foam has no physical qualities. I let it unhurriedly ooze through my minds’ grasp and feel the flow numb the sources of my discomfort. I sigh in contentment as flaming nerve endings are pinched off by its pressing presence.
When I am sufficiently awake, I fight against the dopey calmness and learn that it will back off. But it is a fluttering blanket that will not be denied, and besides, the constant, gentle pressure is pleasant. I’m too lazy to continue resisting it for long. Eventually the patient demand to nap cajoles me back into a stupor.
Through heavy-lidded eyes I watch as the track we traverse, widens. Traffic increases at each intersection as other Creep freighters join our route. I count a thousand mismatched boots, shoes and bare feet stamp in the other direction before the frightening numbers become merely boring.
The path here is alternately stripped down to rocky outcrops, or churned to muddy holes by many feet. Obviously road-maintenance is not a Parasite priority. So far I’ve been lucky; my Hosts’ lock-step has never missed a beat. I commend them as I am no lightweight, and a stumble on their part would slam me face first into the ground.
My distracted thoughts are interrupted by an urgent call.
“Hey! Hey! You! Dude!”
I look up as best I can, and cast about for the speaker. Another prisoner has drawn alongside, held similarly to me.
I’m not in the mood to chat. Besides, the mind suppression pressure has grown stronger and resisting it brings on a migraine.
“Your knife! On your boot! Can you reach it?”
I’d forgotten all about that weapon. The chance to break free lifts my spirits to a heady point. That is until a Parasite picks up on our excitement and rummages around my brain for the reason. I’m a bit crestfallen when a leg-holding Host summarily removes the blade and tosses it into the bushes.
“Hey, moron! Thanks! I’m sure these fuckers appreciate your help!”
My angry yell falls on deaf ears. The man who’d called to me looks dazed; an expression that I too adopt as my fury fizzles under concerted Parasite mind-suppression. I let the heaviness drop over me and wallow in the calmness, reverting to the flopping rag-doll they prefer us to be.
Pain-free and fueled by that squirt of adrenaline I quickly become bored. To entertain myself I turn inward, seeking out the persistent thing that clamps my will so clumsily. The cobweb-thin force tears easily under my attention, but shows no resentment at my vandalism. Its repairs are effortless, and fast, and its ministrations on my mind are relentless. Once more I slump under its weight, finding it easier to tolerate rather than fighting. It curbs my cares into contentment, and slows each of my speeding thoughts with a heavy hand.
I wake again at a change in my entourage’s pace. We have slowed to enter a deep, cool shadow. The shade sucks at my eyes as we approach a familiar wall of garbage. If this is the same mound we drove through on our rapist tracking quest, they sure have been busy. It’s nearly twice as high as back then.
The lines of Creeps around compress to pass through the singular, skinny gap. We move forward in half steps, politely merging in a zipper-like coordination until the Creeps are tightly packed, ten abreast. I dully suffocate in their unwashed stink of dirty groins and sweaty armpits. Craning my neck upwards I uselessly examine the structure as we inch through its mass. It has the consistency of a rotting carcass and a smell to match.
The widespread foul odour is bad enough, but is worsened by a Creep directly in front of my nose who releases a magnificent fart, brewed from an all-meat diet. The only other sounds are the occasional descending, dreamy wail, or cough and sneeze from the assorted prisoners scattered throughout the massed Hosts; otherwise the lengthy silences are highly discomforting.