Gender: Male Age: 29 Location: San Francisco.
|Introduction: This is it; Horror and inhuman lust collide as the fate of the world hangs in the balance.|
Something strange was going on in that house across the street.
Elizabeth Goodman sipped tea and watched from her kitchen window as another of her neighbors made the trip to the Greenstreets' front door. All day long she had seen them, one by one, leaving their homes and going to the Greenstreets'. So far, no one had come back out.
Ms. Goodman had always liked the nice young couple across the way, but lately that man had been up to something. She'd seen the visitors he got at all hours of the night, and sometimes when she took a walk in the garden she heard noises coming from that direction, noises that frightened her.
When the police came to question her about the disappearances in the neighborhood she had almost said something, but she'd decided that she was probably just being a fussy old busybody. She hadn't wanted to cause trouble. Now she wished she had.
She'd called the police two hours ago and they said they'd send someone over to investigate the "disturbance". The police car had circled the block over and over again for an hour. Every time it pulled to a stop in front of the Greenstreets', for some reason it pulled out again. Finally it had stopped coming back around.
Ms. Goodman wasn't sure what to do. She watched as the Bakers and their daughter Sally, who was home visiting from college, walked across the Greenstreets' immaculate lawn and up to their front door, going in single-file. Her teacup shook in her hand and she put it down on the counter so that she wouldn't scald herself.
She couldn’t quite place what was wrong. Surely there was nothing strange about visiting the neighbors? In fact, she was the strange one, staring out the window all day! So what if she hadn’t seen anyone leave? There was a back door on the place. Odd that they would all use it, but what was she doing, keeping tally? They didn’t have to answer to her.
Mr. Greenstreet was probably just having some kind of block party, she thought. And all those strange visits at night, well, she knew how a man that age would go off the leash when his wife was out of town, but that's what comes of being young. Nothing sinister about it. And the police? Well, they probably just sent the car to reassure her, and they drove past the house all those times to make sure she saw, and would feel better.
So there was really nothing to be afraid of. Nothing strange going on at the Greenstreet's at all. You've just got yourself all worked up over nothing you old fool, she told herself.
Her hands were still shaking as she loaded the bullets into the revolver.
It was Henry's service gun, the one he had only ever fired once. She;d never liked having it in the house, but he had insisted, said that after thirty five years he didn't feel like a complete man without knowing exactly where it was. After he died, she kept it in the same desk drawer, which she had never opened until now.
It felt heavy as she tucked it into the pocket of her overcoat. The sun had just set. She left her front door open, and took the steps up the Greenstreets' front porch two at a time (which was bad for her knees). She didn't bother to knock, and she wasn't surprised to find that the door was unlocked. It creaked on its hinges.
It was dark inside, and hot, the sticky feeling of too many bodies sharing the same space. The air was stale. There were no lights on, and it took a second for her eyes to adjust to the gloom. When they did she saw dozens of people sitting around the living room, glassy-eyed and staring. Most of them were people she knew, people she had lived next door to for years. None of them seemed to see her, or anything else for that matter.
She crept over to one corner, where Mr. Thomas was sitting, his head slumped to one side, nodding every now and then for no reason. She looked into his eyes, seeing pupils contracted to pinpricks. "Mr. Thomas?" she whispered. "Mr. Thomas, are you okay?"
He slurred his words when he responded. "Ms. Goodman, how are you? I saw your garden the other day. The tulips look lovely." His face was a smooth, blank mask.
"Mr. Thomas, are you hurt? There's blood on you."
He looked at the sleeves of his shirt. "It's okay. It's not mine. He wasn't ready for me. He said I should wait."
"Who said that? Ready for what? Mr. Thomas, what's going on?"
"He's down there with them now. Sid and Nancy. He called them down, said it was time. Said they'd make a good combination. He said I should wait. That he'd have a good combination for me soon.”
"Who is 'he'?"
"Him. Just him, you know. Him."
"You mean Mr. Greenstreet?"
"Not really. Not entirely. You'll see. Look, it's your turn now."
He pointed. The basement door was open. She squeezed the pistol grip so hard it bruised her palm.
"Go on," said Mr. Thomas. "He's ready for you. I can hear him."
She was at the threshold before she even realized she had taken a step. The doorway swallowed her up like a hungry mouth. There were sounds coming from down there, awful sounds. Her feet felt numb as she descended the wooden steps.
There were shapes in the dark. Some of them looked like people, but others were just shapes, malformed and grotesque, shapes that moved and sighed and panted. The smell of blood and sweat was everywhere. It was like being in the belly of some great, horrible animal.
"Ms. Goodman! How nice to see you." The voice came from nearby, but she wasn't sure where. She felt something touch her arm very gently and take the gun out of her hand. She didn't try to stop it.
"Mr. Greenstreet?" she said. Her lips felt thick, making it hard to talk.
"Yes Ms. Goodman? I'm so glad you decided to come and join us. I was just getting ready to call you."
"Mr. Greenstreet, I wanted to tell you..."
Something stirred in the dark.
"I wanted to tell you..."
A shuffling noise, coming closer.
"Yes dear? What is it?
"That...that you left your front door open."
"How considerate. Thank you very much."
The basement door closed.
"Is your wife still out of town Mr. Greenstreet?" she said to the dark. She'd lost all the feeling in her limbs and she began to feel drowsy.
"Yes. But she'll be back soon."
“Oh, good. She’s...such a dear. I can’t wait to see her again.”
Upstairs, the people in the living room could hear wet squelching noises. But they did nothing. It wasn't their turn yet.
Cygax's mind spread out like a net, snatching up everything that drifted too close.
Kim was due back tomorrow morning. She'd left a message saying that she couldn't wait to see Paul again, that she'd missed him, that she would call as soon as her flight arrived and be home an hour after that. That she loved him.
An hour later, Cygax put out a call of its own. Houses emptied all across the neighborhood, and drivers suddenly pulled into the nearest parking spaces, abandoning their vehicles so that they could come to the house. Dozens lined up, filling every room, trooping down into the basement in groups as each was selected. The rest waited in a stupor, barely conscious.
There wasn't any worry of getting caught now, no danger of authorities being alerted and posing a risk to the nest. Now that Cygax had finally achieved the zenith of its mental powers, anyone who came to investigate the strange goings-on would be rendered helpless. And with its chosen mate due to arrive in only twelve hours, no force that would pose a serious threat to the alien could possibly be alerted fast enough.
So the creature abandoned all pretenses at last. It was finally free to indulge its hunger.
Cygax extracted its blood-draining tentacle from the old woman's body. Much too old for useful procreation, this one, but even so, she had at least yielded some genetic samples to match and compare with the others. If even a scrap of her DNA was in any way superior to that which the alien had already absorbed, it would be encoded into the next spawn of young. Everyone had something to offer.
The alien pushed the old woman's spent corpse off to one side, into the pile of males and other elderly females who had already been harvested. Time now for some younger fare. The door opened and a group of three stupefied young women filed in, followed by a confused-looking man in his late 20s.
Ah, Danny, welcome. Have you been getting acquainted with the girls?
"Um," Danny replied, blinking through the mental haze. Each of the three women was undressing with stiff, robotic movements, and Danny could only look on with dumb surprise.
I hope you like what you see. You and these girls are going to make a beautiful breed. They've been handpicked to be the best match for your reproductive stock. I think you'll agree this is a better use of what you have to offer than you'd ever have accomplished on your own.
"Whuh?" said Danny.
Don't think too hard Danny. I'll take care of the difficult part for you.
A wet ripping sound, the smell of blood, the thump of something heavy hitting the floor. The girls didn't react, instead standing nude in the dark, bare feet sticking to blood-soaked floor. Waiting.
Lei felt hot and sweaty as she lolled on the ground. The air in this place was so thick it almost suffocated her. She was naked and she felt cold concrete against her back, but she barely had time to care about her discomfort. She moved her hands up the curves of her own hips, then across the plane of her belly to fondle her small breasts. She couldn't stop touching herself, and everywhere she touched her skin felt aching hot.
"I'm burning up!" she thought. Her fingertips glanced against erect nipples, and she felt as though she had scorched them. Everything was on fire. She gasped, moaning in the dark. What was this feeling? What was going on? She couldn't think.
Her senses were in overload and they crowded out everything. She licked her lips as her hands continued to move across her body, relishing the feeling of her own naked skin. She writhed on the ground, hips wriggling, back arched. "Gawwwwd I'm hot!" she said out loud, voice quivering.
Lei squinted in the dark. There was just enough light to make out vague shapes. On her right was a person lying on their back. A man? She reached out and nudged him. He felt heavy and dense, like pushing a piece of furniture. Beyond him was a woman, naked on her back, head thrashing back and forth, moaning. Over her loomed something, a dark, undefined shape that Lei couldn't see, only detecting its undulating movements.
Curious but unafraid, Lei watched. Without thinking, she slid both hands between her thighs and cupped them against her hot little cunt. She tried to grind her hips in time with the other woman's, admiring the pace she was setting. Eventually she twisted and writhed so hard she flipped over, and she was surprised to find someone else lying right next to her, on the left. She had been so distracted all this time she hadn't even noticed!
She put her hands out to feel and shuddered in delight as they met hot, naked flesh. It was a woman, lying on her back, rocking back and forth in tortured ecstasy just as Lei had been seconds ago. The dim memory of standing in the dark next to two other women flitted across her mind. She felt along the curves of the stranger's body, finding wide hips, buxom breasts, and thick curling hair. Whoever she was, she was covered in sweat, and moaned and quivered at the slightest touch.
Lei didn't even have time to think before she was straddling the other woman, their burning flesh pressed together as she climbed on top. Their lips met, and the strange woman returned her kiss. Lei felt the stranger's hands on her, moving down her bare back. The intimate touch caused wetness to blossom between her thighs, and she began to grind the soft, naked body.
From nearby, the sound of moaning was bating, and Lei could heard something like a splashing noise. The strange woman's lips were pressed against her petite breasts, the rough tip of a tongue exciting the nipples while Lei's breath caught in her throat. The urge for bodily contact was so intense it frightened her. Each touch satisfied one want but awakened a dozen more. She was like a furnace; the higher the fuel was piled, the hotter and hotter she burned.
She could taste the intensity of the stranger's need in each kiss, feel it in each caress. The fire was in her too. They both needed relief before it tore them apart. Lei slid down the other woman's body, forcing her legs open so fast they slammed against the cement floor. Lei's new playmate moaned, but didn't resist, and that was all the motivation Lei needed to bury her face between the parted thighs.
Lei had no way of measuring how much time passed. She drifted in an ocean of sensations, separate from anything outside. Each moment was a flash of hot skin, panting breath, and thundering pulses. She felt fingers tangled in her hair and tasted wetness. She put her head up to take a breath, and the stranger pushed her back down so hard she almost smothered.
Soon Lei couldn’t even identify individual sensations, everything whirling together into a single continuum of feeling. Her mind zoomed in, tunnel-vision, on the rhythm, her lips and tongue matching the twitch of hips and thighs, itself tuned to panting and to the beating of hearts and to the strange, barely perceived pulse that ran across them, into them, through them. The core of her burned hotter and brighter, in sync with that rhythm. She felt like she might die at any moment. She felt like she didn’t care.
Suddenly, Lei felt something jerk, and the other woman was dragged away from her. She squawked in surprise, reaching out, but it happened so fast that her fingers only grazed the floor, still hot from the body heat. Lei heard moaning from up ahead along with that strange, wet noise, but she couldn’t see anything in the dark.
There was a sound from nearby, like water swirling around a drain, but much louder. Just beneath it were two voices blended together; one human, one something else. That noise, that wet, sucking noise grew louder and louder, until it pounded Lei’s ears. She wanted to run away from it, but her body was compelled to seek it out.
She groped, blind, trying to find her way by touch. It was slow progress in the pitch black, wincing every few seconds as her bare knees scraped the rough surface of the floor, but finally she felt her hand make contact with a warm human body. She felt curly hair and knew she’d found the stranger again, but something was different. Her hand came away feeling wet.
For the first time Lei started to feel afraid, but the fire was beginning to mount back up inside of her again, so she pushed her fear aside. She reached out again and yes, there was the body of the other woman, but so very strange now. The bare flesh felt moist and spongy, and it was so hot that she winced.
Lei almost screamed when her hand came into contact with the woman’s abdomen. She was shocked to find an enormous swelling there, as though forty weeks of pregnancy had manifested in seconds. No, more than that, she decided. The proportions she discovered as she ran her hands over the globe-like mass were too much for a human body to encompass under any circumstances.
Lei’s probing fingers moved a little higher. When her hands came into contact with the other woman's breasts, she discovered that they were now also swollen, gushing mounds too large for the frame they were attached to. She gave them a squeeze and discovered that the gurgling noise was the sound of whatever was sloshing around inside there.
Confused but intrigued, her mind too clouded to be frightened, Lei leaned in. In her peripheral vision, she was aware of something looming behind her, but she blocked it out. She tried to cup the now-massive breasts in her hands, but it was no good, they were simply too big, it was like palming a pair of basketballs. Attempts to get both hands around one were only slightly more successful.
She flicked the engorged flesh with the tip of her tongue. A jolt like an electric current down her spine. Lei instantly pressed her mouth to the turgid, distended nipple. Her lips tingled as she began to suck, and the taste that greeted her was pure pleasure. Whatever it was that had filled, indeed, saturated the other woman's body, Lei couldn't get enough of it.
It drenched first her lips, then her tongue, then the whole inside of her mouth and down her throat. She felt it pooling inside of her, warm and comforting. The strange woman’s body yielded it easily, the lightest touch pressing it from her flesh. For a brief second Lei’s mind was clear enough to perceive how odd what she was doing, what she’d been doing all night, was, but it didn’t matter. She sucked greedy mouthfuls, drunk on lust.
Lei failed to notice the effect the substance was having on her own body, how the more of it she imbibed the larger her own breasts swelled, and how her flesh soon became thick and plump as it filled her up. She absorbed more and more of it, its aphrodisiacal qualities overriding her thoughts. Her body moved increasingly of its own accord, sucking and swallowing in mechanical repetition.
It barely even registered to Lei when the long, thick, impregnating tentacle slid between her legs, forcing its way inside and discharging its payload. She didn’t notice that her body was filling, belly swollen as she was pumped and pumped. Tentacles attached to her nipples, filling her breasts, adding to what had already accumulated there, until they were larger than her head. She was oblivious all the while.
Her fertilized eggs morphed into mutated alien embryos, swimming in the vast, nourishing sea of her womb. She was teeming with life now, just like her nameless playmate. By the time it was finished, Lei's mind had been completely erased. She lay, unconscious, next to her similarly indisposed lover, and, though neither was ever aware of it, their two touched hands, briefly, in the dark.
Somewhere around three in the morning Cygax finally stopped. Shuffling off its natural form, it reassumed the shape of Paul Greenstreet, who very nearly collapsed from exhaustion. Even the superhuman stamina of alien biology could only withstand so much!
There were still a few stray prospects here and there who hadn't yet been incorporated, but they would have to wait. He couldn’t handle the additional strain. More than enough had been done for one night. The basement was now so crammed with incubating bodies that he couldn't even walk beyond the base of the stairs.
He frowned. The cramped space smelled like a cross between a cathouse and an abattoir, the odors of death and sex mingling into a strange musk. One entire corner was taken up with dismembered remains. There was relatively little blood for the amount of carnage that had taken place, but it added up. Paul didn’t like having the bodies around, but there was nothing to do about it now. By this time tomorrow they wouldn’t be an issue. Cygax absently erected a mental field to destroy any vermin who came near. It would be a tremendous strain to maintain it, but they could manage.
Six hours until Kim was due home. He went upstairs, showered, dressed, and sat down on the bed, staring at a wall until daybreak.
"Honey, I'm home!" Kim said.
She grinned as she dropped her suitcase next to the door. Paul practically raced across the room to wrap his arms around her, kissing her.
"I always wanted to say that!" she said, laughing.
"I missed you so much!"
"I know you did baby. I was thinking about you every minute I was gone. Paul, for crying out loud, let me at least get out of my coat!" She laughed and swatted him with her purse.
“I can’t help it. I’m like a starving man seeing food for the first time.”
“That’s one of the sappiest things I’ve ever heard. Say it again.” She put her arms around him, and he beamed back at her like the happiest man in the world.
Coiled like a snake in the center of Paul's mind, Cygax waited. It would let its host personality put the female at ease first. After this there would be no need to maintain the vestigial human consciousness, it could finally be sloughed off the same way that the teeming brood would soon discard their spent incubators. For now, though, Paul Greenstreet had one last task to perform.
Cygax didn't mind waiting. It had little use for emotion, but in its own way it understood the importance of rituals. The formalized mating dance between male and female would be a suitable way to mark the end of one era and the beginning of the next for this planet.
"So, Mr. Secretive, what's all this you've been telling me about a big surprise?"
"It's all ready. Come to the bedroom and I'll show it to you."
"Well come on now Paul, I've seen that plenty of times, no surprises there!"
"Just come on Kim! You won't believe it when I show it to you." He tried to guide her toward the bedroom, but her feet dragged on the carpet.
"Paul, before we do, I think there's something you ought to know."
"It can wait," he insisted. He was half-pushing her toward the door now.
"Paul, I really think we need to talk."
"Later hon. I've missed you so much, I just need you right now." He pressed his lips to the side of her neck, but she pushed him away.
"Paul, this is important."
"What's so important that it can't wait?" The alien consciousness roiled with impatience. Paul's body trembled, barely holding itself together. "We'll have plenty of time to talk, but I've been waiting two weeks to show you your surprise and I just don't think I can wait any longer."
"That's just the thing Paul. I already know what your surprise is."
"Oh no, that's impossible. You'll never have guessed it in a million years." He gave her his best boyish grin, wagging a finger in her face.
"No. I really do," Kim said. Her posture was erect and she looked straight ahead. Her smile had faded and her eyes looked strange and hard.
"I already know that there are over a hundred people in the basement,“ she said.
Paul’s jaw dropped. “I’m sorry?“
“They’re all down there. Everyone who lived in our neighborhood, and dozens more from all across town. I already know." She didn't bat an eye.
"What?" Paul's voice was barely audible.
"Most of them are technically still alive, but they wouldn't survive what you have planned. I know Paul. I know all about it."
"How did you-?"
"How did I know? It's easy Paul. I can read your mind."
And then, moving faster than Paul could perceive, she had him.
Cygax's mind reeled with shock as it found its human disguise forcibly ripped away. Its writhing gelatinous body hung in midair, struggling futilely against some force it couldn't perceive but which had nonetheless firmly ensnared it. It spun involuntarily, confined within some sort of intangible bubble. Masses of tentacles and cilia probed the field, but found no opening.
“Comfortable?” said Kim. She was kicking off her shoes, not even sparing the alien a glance as she did.
What is this?
“Oh, so NOW you want to talk, do you?”
Disrespectful cow! Release me at once and then explain yourself.
“I don’t think I like your tone.” She still wasn’t looking at Cygax, but she pointed in the alien’s direction and it was alarmed to find the dimensions of its invisible prison diminish. The bubble shrank inward until Cygax’s body was cramped and squashed in the tight confines.
“Feel like behaving now, or should I make it even smaller?” There was only the slightest hint of mockery in her voice.
Cygax seethed, but said nothing.
“Good. Well, first you wanted to go to the bedroom and now you want to talk. This must be your lucky day, because we’re going to do both.”
Kim made her way down the hall, and Cygax was towed behind her by some unseen force. Frustrated, the creature probed first the woman’s mind and then the invisible barrier with its psyche, but in both cases it detected only a disturbing blankness.
Kim sat at the food of the bed, legs crossed, running a hand over the comforter. Cygax floated in the middle of the room, fuming but biding its time.
“I guess I should thank you for at least not defiling the marriage bed. It was probably only because you were too impatient to bother taking any of them this far. I doubt that a creature like you could understand the significance of something so sacred, or what it means for two people who care about each other so much. That’s just not something that you’ll ever feel, is it?”
Enough of this cryptic nonsense! You are not my host’s mate. Who are you? What have you done to me?
“You don’t recognize me? I’m hurt. I know I’ve changed since the last time we met, but I still recognized you. I would know that foulness anywhere. I followed you across countless light years, and all the way I was thinking of this moment. It‘s hard not to feel a little disappointed now that it‘s here.”
Is this some absurd attempt at humor? You expect me to believe that you’re really-
“I’m the one who gave you your name, ‘Cygax’. I was the first to apply that word to your species. I was amused to find you’ve adopted. It means ‘parasite’ in our language, you know.”
Cygax was stunned. Could it be true? Could this be one of the symbiont beings who had destroyed its entire race, who had driven it to this planet in the first place, a planet so remote that it had been sure no pursuer could ever find it?
Impossible! You’re trying to trick me somehow. I don’t know what you are or what the purpose of this ruse is, but I demand that you vacate that female’s body, release me, and then leave this world. Obey me now and you will be spared most of my wrath.
“Do you ever get tired of talking like that? Do you think that the entire universe is here for no other reason than to obey your half-witted orders? I would have hoped that everything you’d suffered would have taught you something. Apparently I was naive.”
It really is you. No other entity could reproduce such grating sanctimony. How did you find me here?
“It was difficult, I admit. The others assured me that you were dead, that your kind were now extinct. But I had to be sure. I couldn’t let it go, you see. I kept looking long after everyone else had stopped. I would never have found your trail if I’d listened to them, but I searched further and longer than anyone reasonably should have. I was obsessed, you see. It was almost coincidence that my obsession paid off.”
Wretch! Haven’t you tormented me enough? Weren’t you satisfied with driving me from your world, killing my progeny and kin, maiming me? Weren’t you happy leaving me to drift through the void, half-dead?
“No! I wasn’t. Nothing you suffer will ever be enough! Not for what you did!”
Is that what this is about? One insignificant death?
“Not insignificant to me! He was my mate. I loved him. You don’t even know what that means.”
Pointless sentiment, the trappings of woefully inefficient mating practices belonging to backward creatures. You should thank me for trying to maximize the reproductive potential of your planet. Barring that, you should at least leave me to do my work here.
“Your work here is over. I regret that I was too late to stop you from harming so many of this planet’s inhabitants, but it ends now. You’re going to die, and so will every last one of your brood.”
Cygax’s mind raced. The symbiont's mental powers were greater than its own, there was no way to disentangle its physical body from the mental web it was caught in. This planet, and the brood it had spawned, seemed a lost cause. But Cygax itself could still escape if it managed to jettison its consciousness from the host, as it did during its last confrontation with the other creature. It would escape into space and then retreat even further, out of this galaxy entirely, and live to fight another day. It only needed a few more seconds.
And why did you take so long to intervene then?
"Because for my kind, bonding with a physical host is a delicate process. It takes time. We don't just force ourselves into unwilling bodies and destroy them, the way you've done with this poor woman's mate. I had to approach this woman, learn about her mind, learn how to speak to it, to show her the things that I knew, and wait for her to accept the bond."
"Because you needed her. I knew before you even did. You're painfully predictable. For example, I know that right now you're planning to escape me the same way you did last time. But you can't."
Cygax panicked. It tried to discorporate, but it couldn't! Somehow this beast was keeping its mind tethered to this body. If it was destroyed now, it really would be the end!
You can't do this! I'm the last of my kind!
"Which is precisely why I must do this."
But that would be genocide!
"Nothing worse than what you'd planned for this world, and for mine."
You don't understand! You need me! Life, all life, everywhere, is fragile and vulnerable because it develops out of chance and freaks of fate. No living creature in the universe is as strong or well-developed as it needs to be. That's why my kind exist, to shape and guide blind nature! If you destroy me, the universe will lose that guiding principle forever!
"I think we'll manage to get by without you. Goodbye Cygax. If it's any consolation, a small part of me regrets what I have to do now. I realize that the crimes you've committed are simply the product of your nature. And I pity you that you never really knew what it was like to feel. Perhaps this will be a merciful end for you."
Without me you're nothing! This world, these creatures, you, you're all just dust! I'm the biological imperative, I'm what drives you forward! I'm what life IS!
Cygax struggled and thrashed, but there was no escape. The bubble grew smaller and smaller, and it felt pain as the unforgiving barrier began to crush its body along with its mind. A life that had encompassed measureless spans of time across countless worlds ended in a single, fleeting second of anger and pain.
And then there was nothing.
It was well into the night before Kim stopped crying.
She lay facedown on the bed, sobbing over and over again, face buried in a pillow. The alien symbiont remained silent for the duration, out of respect, waiting until she showed some signs of coming around before addressing her.
“I’m sorry Kim,” it said. Although no audible voice had spoken, Kim had the very tangible impression of someone talking directly into her ear. “Truly. I wish we had gotten here in time to save your mate. But he was too far gone as soon as Cygax was in him. That’s how it works.”
“I know,” Kim said. Her throat was raw. Her eyes were blind.
“I wish we could have been faster. I wish we could have come in time to save more of your people. I wish-”
“I know. You’ve explained it all already. You don’t have anything to apologize for.”
“I too know what it’s like to lose what is dearest to you.”
“I know.” Kim felt the pain down in her bones. It was like she’d been split in two. She coughed to clear her throat. “What about the others? All those women...”
“Most are past recovery. The best we can do is put them down painlessly.”
“A few we can rescue, at least to the degree of purging the parasites from them and repairing the structural damage to their bodies. As for whether any of their minds have survived the trauma of what’s happened, well, there’s no way to know. We will do what we can.”
“Yes, I suppose we will.” Kim looked at the empty space on Paul’s side of the bed.
“Kim, I know the pain that you’re feeling. I can feel it too. We’re one being now, like I said we would be when I first contacted you, so I know how difficult it will be for you to think of anything right now except for your grief. But you have to put that aside for a while. You’re in danger.
“Without Cygax’s mental interference, it won’t be long until someone notices what’s happened here. Hundreds of people are dead and you stand to inherit the blame. I can buy us time, but only just enough to clean everything up. After that, we’ll have to run.”
“Run? Run where? Where can we go? What’s even left to do?”
“Kim, I can’t go back to my world. It’s too far, and I used up too much of myself. I’m stranded here. But your world needs someone like me. There are other threats besides Cygax, greater ones, even. I can protect this planet from them, but I’ll need you to protect me. I can’t survive on my own.”
“So I’m...trapped? With you?”
“No. I would never remain bonded with you against your will. If you really wished, I would separate us, even though there is a chance that I would die before finding another host.”
“But you can find someone else? If you have to?”
“So what if I wanted to...to just die. Right now. Could you make that happen?”
“...I could. But Kim-”
“That would solve everything. No need to cover everything up or run from the police. Let them think I did it. I don’t care.”
“If that’s really what you want...”
“I don’t know what I want. I just have to do something to stop this hurt. It hurts so fucking much.”
“It always will, to some degree. If you really desire that I should put an end to your life, then I will. You’ve done too much for me already to deny your request. But Kim, I want you to think about what you feel now. Think about the pain of everyone else that Cygax has hurt.
“Together, we can stop this from happening again. You will fight better and harder for knowing this pain yourself. And because we’ve shared it, we will be more closely bonded than any two other beings in the universe. We could be a powerful weapon.
“Your world is young and vulnerable. It needs someone to protect it.”
“Like a parent.”
Kim was quiet for a long time.
“Well,” she said finally. “I always did want to be a mother.”
(Well, that’s it. Thanks to everyone who read, and thanks to everyone who provided both encouragement and criticism of my very, very strange little project. This one is over, but I'll have more on the way soon. If you read then please leave a comment, positive or negative. All feedback is valued.)
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