As a reminder of their prejudice against me, a heavy mental weight drapes itself across my shield. I push back and feel a concentrated will-power surge. A vast, yet weak presence lifts from my bubble and a tendril is sent instead to swipe and batter at my barrier. It seems angry when no port of entry is found. My mind strains at the sensation of fury.
During this mental attack I forget to enclose the child. The snaking cable finds the baby’s connection and enters. Cursing, I leap for her mind, barging into the child’s serene head, prepared to evict the intruder with all guns blazing. But the tendril’s tip is already exiting like a scalded cat. I sense its distress and make a split-second decision to grab onto it. Immediately we are integrated and the foul sensation outdoes my past panics and high anger.
‘This is new-birthed-Meat. It has no Katall! Why is it here with the shielded one? Deepen the trance!’
Haltingly, I reach into the cottonwool pressure all around me. I decipher the alarmed Parasite Mother’s speech and realise She does not know I have latched onto Her mind. I’m curious to know what causes such fear. I’d love to use it against Her. Why is this child dangerous to them? Why do they hate the sound of her crying even more than I do? And what the hell is a Katall?
Hyper-alert and ready to sever contact if discovered, I expand my consciousness into their very disorientating world. I suddenly have a multifaceted vision of a thousand viewpoints. The goings on of the hive’s many workers, guards and overseers are mine to view. I play with instinctual settings and dial down the intensity of output. One of the screens zooms in on my emptied husk. It shows a black tendril stealthily inserting itself into my guide. The touch completes a circuit that I hurry to be privy to, and a Parasite’s mind booms into mine.
‘... the disruptor of the collective, the Meat that will not trance?’
The Creep guide replies in fast picture-based telepathy. My mind goes into overdrive to convert the information into a format I can understand.
‘Yes, Mother. This Meat blocks the trance. It thralls the Workers with mind-touch.’
The second voice is whiney and subordinate. The first is laden with lazy arrogance and power.
‘All Workers warped by the Meat are cleansed from us. We find no tampering in your mind.’
‘It does not communicate, Mother, and it could not influence the Younglings. Should we not consume it?’
‘Yes, it shall be consumed. It is weak after the mating act. We saw it join with the Fruiting Meat many times.’
I feel violated. These Parasite perverts oversaw my love-making.
‘All Meat shall be consumed.’
The Creep speaks this phrase ritualistically and includes a gesture of pleasure. The Mother speaks again.
‘The Katall begins the Melding now. Let the Meat enter our chamber. Bring fruiting Meat to occupy its desires. When it spasms seed it will be weak and its mind can be devoured by the Melding then give the new-birthed Meat to the Katall for implanting.’
I struggle to catch up, missing important nuances when certain abrupt and highly illustrated images stream past me. The ‘Katall’ appears to be a deathly silent contingent of Host children. A ‘Melding’ cannot be interpreted; it is a swirl of colour and light. Then I come to the ‘Fruiting Meat’. The women shown are straight from the pages of a classy pornographic magazine. I dwell on these visions when I should be concentrating on the complex soup of the Mother’s mind-speak. She is giving additional orders while I lust over perfectly formed bodies, barely dressed in Victoria’s Secret’s finest lingerie.
Paranoia’s disinterest in sex has its uses.
“Hey! Snap out of it. The Parasite is trancing you. Get back in your body!”
Grudgingly, I blink and rush back inside myself, shaking from the after effects of processing those supercharged thought processes.
There’s no time to belabour a decision to run. I turn on my heel, ready to sprint. Entering the cave of the Parasite Mother is suddenly the very last option on a very long list.
‘If it tries to escape, let the Younglings… incapacitate it.’
The casual violence behind the attached voice-pictures seizes all the muscles I need for sprinting. Incapacitation in the manner she stipulates is unnecessarily horrific. Flickering torch-light reveals how many Younglings have closed in. Like fleas on a dog, they infest the netting overhead as leaping, scampering specks.
The very last option is now the only one. I must enter the throne room and face the ultimate nightmare.