At this point I forlornly release Hope from the box I keep it in. We’d never been the best of friends anyway, yet a tiny part of me always anticipates Hope will get together with Luck and pull my sorry arse out of the troubles I get myself into. It sure beats coming up with a plan of my own. Luck, however, seems to have scarpered and Hope follows eagerly. They know there’s no escape for me this time. They say good riddance to a burnt out case with a very short future.
I am now in the perfect mind-set to kill myself, preferably before these beasts feast on my brain. I have enough drugs in my pocket to drop an elephant. Without thinking too much, I flex my arms into a muscleman pose and reach inside my jacket for the pill case. It’s fortuitous that the Hosts have slowed as I’m able to tip the entire selection into one palm without dropping too many. I slap the remainder against my mouth and chew what does not go down my throat with a sensation of glee and an expression of bitterness.
The mind-sitter sweeps my thoughts but I hide this act and concentrate on the baby-stepping trudges of my carriers. They are conveying me through that busy, stinking slit of quiet darkness. The gap is inconsistent. It tightens where junk has fallen from un-engineered placement. I peruse the array of goods and chattels we’d once thought indispensable that form a collage of interwoven leftovers around me. While waiting insipidly for the drugs to react I calmly catalogue some of the items that make up this mess. A child’s pram, a stack of buckets, rolls of wire, a dog’s kennel, a dancing teddy bear with glowing red eyes.
Uh-oh. That last one was strange. I feel a familiar stirring inside of me as the drugs begin to grate against the restraining blanket of calm.
We pass from the dark gap into sunlight; splitting seamlessly from the throng to follow another worn track at a quicker gait. This less compacted line is only for the carriers of meat. Live or in pieces, each Host bears an offering.
My curiosity is heightened, and inhibitions lowered, by the chemicals that wreak havoc in my bloodstream. The Parasite suppressant tries and fails to combat the current randomness of my mind.
Dribbling a little, my eyes wander over their squat, rubbish-laden heap, sliding along the squiggled line of gentle, collapsing curves and unregulated height. I scoff at the architect’s sloppy attention to detail. Whatever lays claim to this monstrosity had no benefit of a laser-guided level or intelligence superior to our own.
My careless arrogance flags me for special scrutiny. The evil presence I am being borne towards has grown darker and more powerful by the step. My porous thoughts grow more confused as something insistent pries at me.
As I die the Hosts’ plodding steps become a pleasing metronome that measures my slowing pulse. My heart-beat becomes erratic and lazily skips a few. I give in to the grey veils that layer upon me until the darkness is total. As if awaiting this cue, their most inquiring mind descends.
The invasion of my head is slightly premature. I was just about to vacate my earthly form, having already slipped my small hand into Death’s bony one, when the visitor arrives. Blocked from our exit, Death and I face down the presence. It is not concerned. It gathers my aura effortlessly from Death’s grasp and uses it to rifle ungently through my past memories using a sharp comb of enquiry. The answers it seeks are openly pilfered and the spaces of my mind are sullied with the greasy marks of its lumbering passage.
I’m a bit put out by its overly familiar treatment of my very personal stuff. I am particularly offended when its emotionless search uncovers buried images of Parasites and Host’s killed by me. I would rather those memories stayed hidden. Each death is examined and passed on to another mind, beyond my reach. Each find causes a fractional twitch in the unhurried dissection. The one that interests them most is widened and copied for many to view. I am shown the young girl whose Parasite touched my mind when Kristine and I stumbled upon their nest.
‘Yessss. This is the destroyer of Queen spawn. It’s mind is undone. It is of no use to us.’
‘Take it to the Food Pit.’
The soft hissing thoughts contain malice and boredom in equal measures.
I imagine the Food Pit is not a place where humans are fed. The images I am privy to are filled with blood and torn body parts. Well, I don’t care. Emboldened by my self-inflicted death, I jab a figurative finger at the conglomeration of minds that agree to my disposal.
‘Hey! This is MY head, get the fuck out!'
The conduit recoils as if slapped and then streaks from my mind. Pleased and confused at its eviction, I float up to the point of its exit and look out of my head; and into a vast void.
Due to my increasing drug use I have been subjected to a few disturbing experiences in the past. I’ve spoken to gods and demons, and walked on strange planets, but none of those hallucinations compare to the vista I currently face. In my pre-deathly state I drown in the magical dream reality of this endless place. Before me lies the other half of our cosmos. It is the infinite space inside of us and, once acknowledged, it is likely to cause instant insanity. Luckily, my twisted state of mind copes admirably.
The Parasites have made this hidden place their own. I see their influence growing across this trans-dimensional gulf, with criss-crossing threads linking dimensions between the brains they possess. The threads gather and lead to a powerful, distrustful presence. And it is here that my inquisitor runs to after my banishment.
As it recedes, something considerably nastier is let off its leash to deal with my threat. I cockily ready myself to reject its advances as I did the other. My cockiness falters at the creature’s violent assault. It squeezes through my undersized entrance and, once inside, my essence is crushed by its bulk and I haven’t the strength of will to oust it. This entity has a cruder method of interrogation. It tears strips from my consciousness and pinches nerve bundles for fun. It digs and scrapes, chopping and hacking in a practised assessment, rewiring my most sensitive places to cause extreme pain.
Of course I scream uselessly. I scream myself inside out. It is a razor blade death under vinegar rain. Every injury and emotional hurt ever inflicted upon me is revisited by this Parasite’s expert attention. The creature gloats over my cries.
With mental strength dwindling I summon a last catapult of resistance not yet smashed by its torture, and load myself into it.
I fling my Self into the terrifying murk of the creatures’ substance, and scream a cry of rage as I fly. It lifts a dripping snout as the echo of my mind-shout precedes me. My spirit strikes its scaly hide, and I cause it to hurt, on some small scale. It hesitates, unaccustomed to attack, before rising fear makes it swiftly depart. Alone once more I fumble at the stretched mental doorway in my mind and shrink it closed as best I can.
But they aren’t done with me yet. Before I can seal myself from that empty place, still stronger forces are sent. A legion of them slam through my head, bringing thin whips to thrash whoever dared lay hands on their Beast. An accumulated layering of cold minds crushes against mine, compacting me.
But they have erred. Each attack has made me stronger, though my pain threshold is at its limit. Finally I recognise the immeasurable power around me, but my capacity is frustratingly small. I fill my hands with the stuff of imagination though, as a novice at this black art only minimal damages result when I fling it at my enemies. A rage-built nitro-bomb sputters and fizzes in their faces. An inferno’s blast kisses them with heatless light.
These mysterious invocations, though not lethal, still seem to concern them. At this point of their domination over us they are used to their preys’ submissiveness. Therefore, as it is with all base animals, they avoid what they cannot comprehend. My violators flee, but not before a giant voice booms into my skull. I feel its fear and impatience, and shake off its liquid tones.
‘It is dying. Dangerous. The reweaving has awakened its Other-mind. Have the Gatherer’s end it quickly.’
I don’t actually understand the alien words, more accurately I sense their meanings through images. They demand my death at the fingernails and teeth of my carrier Hosts. I have no way of stopping them unless I can revive myself. And fast.
Although badly rattled, I am suddenly aware of how to reset my blood-chemical levels. There are miracles being released inside this Parasite-raped brain and I cast myself into a pit of torn memories to find them. The bugs have dug into my library of thoughts most crudely. Frayed connections that control my flesh are failing fast. My separated mind is breaking away and I drift closer to empty void of chaos that will be mine forever.
Death returns to claim me. It is a much stronger opponent than the Parasites could ever hope to be, though it is a patient spectre. It takes my punches, kicks and choked cries of defiance stoically while each contact with its non-matter sends a mental explosion ripping through my core. I do not give up and I refuse to be thwarted.
Death shrugs at my contrary nature. So often have I sought it out and then left it lonely. Once more it lets me return to my pain, giving my vitals one last vicious twist as a lesson, on exit. My mind whites-out in a blast of mental feed-back.