20 February 2012

Chapter 78 - Into the Collective

...I awaken feeling well and nourished; no hangover to speak of. The node in charge of my psychic abilities is alert, giving the impression it has watched over me.
The manifestation I am has slept curled up in a protective ball, nose to tail like a frightened echidna. It is comfortingly dark in this closed up state. The question of whether I’m dead, alive, or somewhere in between, are asked and deemed unanswerable. All that I know drifts aimlessly inside of me, and I decide to stay here forever.
After an eon has passed I grow bored with my sloth. Peeking outside I am confronted with the immensity of the Void’s empty space. The expected incapacitating fear does not crash down upon me. Instead, I feel a sense of wary wonder and ponder the problem of transporting myself across such a large distance.
I pick out glints of light, a galaxy away. I presume this is the Parasite mind-bridge that I was ejected from. I timidly accept these happenings when surely I should be having a brain explosion.
Capitalizing on my detached acceptance, the Other-node nudges me. It holds the handle-bars of an ultra-safe tricycle, intending to inspire confidence around the uncertainty I radiate. The node stands by patiently as I nervously settle on the contraption and begin pedalling.
This metaphorical method gets me moving. I pedal faster and the tricycle morphs into a low slung motorbike. Accelerating once again the motorbike changes into a sleek car. I gain speed exponentially and then release those worldly images. The forces that power me through the shapes and colours of this new plane of existence are mine to direct, and I navigate immeasurable distances with little effort.
By the time I approach the Parasites’ busy thought processing conduits and snarl of transmission lines, my amazement and exhilaration has abated. I slow and examine their construction. It is a ragged, messy knot in an otherwise immaculate space, and it definitely does not belong here.
Bolstered by untested feelings of invulnerability, I extend a figurative toe and dip it into their waters. I feel the unnatural hunger and shiver at the strength of frantic directives to seek food.
I know the reason for this. I recall reading newspapers articles, before the world collapsed, which explained the Parasites’ unnatural motivation to eat continuously. Clever biologists and scientists had rewired their brains to bypass the stomachs’ ‘full’ signal. That way they could maximise production of that perfect elixir; that fatal cure.
The randomness of the Parasites’ evolutionary direction is evident. Instead of breeding this compulsion out, they have breed support mechanisms to allow for it. I have a moment of reflection and consider the possibilities of how more dangerous these intelligent creatures might be without this heavy obligation to feed.
But knowing how their hunger controls them, and will be their eventual downfall, is not comforting. Their extinction will come about long after man-kind’s.
Nice as it is here, I can’t stay in limbo forever. Taking a deep, mental breath, I release myself into their flow and disperse into the hive’s consciousness. I take the precaution of imagining myself as oil in water to lessen a brief concern of total absorption.
A shape-changing talent allows me to sieve out the passing, whizzing comets of data to discover their contents. For a time I scan emotionless orders and dull affirmations before returning them to the stream.
The repetitive nature of the Watchers and Hunters offends my short attention span. I explore further and discover the rhythmically pumping fog dispensers which I’d seen hanging in their nets around the Mother’s throne room. They are even less stimulating.
I begin taking larger leaps, sweeping across their hundred thousand tendrils, only to be bored by still more monotonous orders and repetitive answers. I streak through repeater stations of immobile Hosts, tracking forager Creeps until I reach the outer reaches of the hive’s consciousness. Their territory is constantly expanding, in slow, shuffling steps.
My tedium is disturbed by what passes for Parasite excitement. I flow outwards, leap-frogging minds against a rush of messages that report human targets. I experience a fearsome Parasite attack on a small band who fight and lose. The surviving Hosts report their success and request live Meat pickup squads.
I seize my chance and tag along with one of these information packets. Thusly I am delivered to the mind of a Sorter. It is so immersed in data my intrusion goes unnoticed. The urge to meddle is in my nature, and I gallantly extend a helping hand to the latest victims by blocking the information. I quickly find I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.
The Sorter takes hold of me like any other data, and draws me into its workings without pause. Like being pulled into a threshing machine, the organic machinery unravels and collates my form; stripping me down to my core.
I’m a complicated packet but the Sorter is up to the task. I’m spat out the other side, drained and flattened, though seemingly missing nothing of importance.
What the hell just happened? I plunge and swirl in the outgoing data stream and scramble to reveal the magnitude of my error. The packets around me are specific orders. I gather some of them and recognise the Detention Centre in their description. It is a primary target for all Creeps in the area.
They’ve not only taken down every detail of my entire life; they also have my home address!
Killing Kristine’s girlfriend has already stretched the boundaries for that powerful word ‘sorry’. I wonder how I can possibly apologise for leading Parasites to our very door.
Since the Parasite mind-net is laid out before me, I borrow the eyes of a thousand Creeps, hoping this nightmare will not be confirmed. My heart sinks as I intercept a priority call from a reporting Host. I flash to his mind and see through those eyes. He clings to a familiar high fence. The distant, grey concrete building the Parasite’s attention is fixed on is unmistakably the bunker I call home. The Host pulling at the wire is joined by a second, and then another.
Unhappy concern washes over me for the woman I’ve accidentally betrayed. I’m the reason she lies sick within; unprotected and oblivious to all but her own pain. The deep feelings I have for her are overwhelming; strong enough to repel the suppressants of this plane that work to water down my outrage and guilt. I hold onto these unnecessary and irrational feelings for the single reason that they make me human in this inhuman place.
Other Creeps are drifting towards the Detention Centre. I jump from one to another, impelled by each new signal of ‘target acquired’. The fence-line collects them like windblown leaves. Their weight stresses the wire and weakens it by degrees. Sooner or later they’ll be inside, prying at the doors and windows; hunting Kristine.
As futile as it may be, I about face the Creep I inhabit then leap to another, ordering it to depart also. They obey, but the eyes of the third Creep show me how many more are coming. To dishearten me further the first Host returns, his original orders reinstated. Engaging them one by one isn't going to work. To turn this tide I must hack into the source of the instructions.
Infiltrating the Mother is something easier said than done. A thousand mechanisms block my route. I carefully dodge the ones designed to clean and sort reports. That last sorting experience has wrung me dry and I don’t wish for a repeat of that treatment. By back-packing on the forwarded distilled data, I circumvent the hunger management bottle-necks and travel a maze of outer channels and byways.
Unusually clear-headed and analytically precise, I consider a plan of attack while hitchhiking through their labyrinth. Incredibly, the desperate situation does not involve any ultra-violent over-reactions. I’m slightly confused by this calmness as I am quintessentially a man of thoughtless action.
The Mother’s mewling hunger is the beacon I race for. I make great headway until a sudden repulsion halts my advance. I lean into a force-field of dark beams, recognising them as projections from the dark orbs that hang above the Mother’s physical body, like Satanic Christmas ornaments. The same orbs that had assimilated me now reject me totally.
To get into the Mother I must circumvent blockade. A desire to use those seductive centrefold girls is revived. This time for reasons other than sex. I figure I can gain access to the Host through their tendrils. And then, maybe, I can return to my body via theirs. From there I would have to wing it.
I picture Miss June’s glorious curves and instantly flash down the corresponding tendril. Kicking in the doorway to her mind is an unsubtle entrance. Her Parasite is startled by the intrusion but bows to my authoritative air.
In a stunning discovery I realise the lengthy visit to the Parasite mind-field has taken mere seconds of real time. Miss June has only just recovered from a fall, although she has taken possession of the silent baby. April is still busy crawling towards my loose-limbed, comatose body. January’s nasty tumble has left her twitching on the floor.
I’m prompted into moving June towards my body when April begins yanking it across the floor. I can only guess what lies in the shadowy recesses she heads for. Concerned for my life, and my arm’s shoulder joint which is being unmercifully tugged at, I leap for my head. And fail! An unexpected force field restrains me behind June’s eyes. It must be those pesky dark beams denying me access. No amount of exertion will let me escape this Host’s head.
The rules of this psychic plane conspire to use my ignorance against me. Brute strength is all I know when the results I desire are denied me. If these beams obstruct me, they must be removed. And the only weapon I have that will damage them is... the baby girl!
I direct June’s eyes upwards and we examine the black hole pods hanging above. The Host’s modified eyes see into the orb better than my own. Slightly appalled, I recognise a jumble of limbs within each of them. Newborn infants; like preserved fruits packed into glass jars! Some are barely weeks old judging by attached umbilical cords. All are conscious. Those whose faces are pressed to the outer wall watch me with worldly, slitted eyes. The Mother’s influence is strong in there and their tightly reined minds amplify Her will. She is not thinking nice thoughts about me.
Miss June is ordered take the baby away. I look through her eyes at the sleeping child nestled against her breasts and then redirect her from the Mother’s undulating skin. As we walk around the Mothers’ tail end, I see Her hindquarters disappearing into a large hole. How much of it fills the level below I have no way of knowing. Besides, the part of Her I can see up here is frightening enough.
By the time we reach her, April has only dragged my worldly shell a few metres further. Instead of wasting time with a discussion, I take control of June’s fist and swing at April’s jaw. It’s a knockout blow, which causes great consternation for the resident Parasites involved. I ignore their twitterings and concentrate on using June’s hands to place the child gently on my body’s chest. Even though my physical form is unconscious I manipulate the shield to enclose her.
She wakes, screaming, and the Parasite minds cringe in fear and pain. I tilt June’s head to see the effect on the orbs. The babies inside are crying out in amplified sympathy. A wave of sound reverberates until the air shudders like thin glass in a strong wind.
The Mother rears up in extreme agony, looking for the culprit. She spies our quartet with enormous, black, lidless eyes. June lets me appreciate how very unattractive the Mother really is. She is a massive worm; a sickeningly bloated larvae. And… I’m about to be eaten by it.
The giant worm-beast opens its mouth wide and descends from above. A cylinder of flesh slams down to enclose us in a cave of one hundred thousand nubbed teeth. They close on us from every side. We’re inside the Mother’s mouth, and the darkness is total.

(Chapter 79) 

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