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I didn’t ask for any of this. Not a bit of it.

But here I am, searching for a host, in this strange world. None of the familiar architecture of overlapping planes and radioactive atmospheres.

I scuttle forth from the strange opening, abandoned by its gatekeeper to let all manner of creatures from my world onto this unusual planet with its foreign caves in strange angular shapes. The caves are warm, with heat veins running through the walls, spewing at odd places through gills of an unknowable substance.

I am spurred onward by a signal in my mind, telling me not to stop, not to stop, keep moving, keep searching—but I can’t escape the signal, even on the opposite side of the glowing doorway it tells me that the time has come for my being to be of use.

Where I had once been an egg, on the other side of the doorway, nestled comfortably and without abundant noise, I now miss the quiet from before the world’s fabric being wrenched open. My mind reached out tentatively and found the voices of my brothers and sisters in their eggs, and they mine. And that was all that we needed: no desire, no curiosity, just sleep.

But then the world was torn open by a bipedal shape, unlike any in our world.

They are a fleshy sort of creature; this being’s race seems to populate the otherworld with gangly appendages topped with a set of strange features on a pair of shoulders. My brethren have determined that they are acceptable hosts to collect on this world for faster travel. They find the vibrating air from the fleshy place they cling to as quite comfortable on their underbellies, as they tighten their grip on the strange beings about their round orifices. Only when they find a host does the signal in their mind quiet, telling them to settle in and get comfortable. Only then can they rest, my brethren tell me.

Even then, the hosts are not as complacent as those in our own world, often running into things to try to dislodge my kin. The clumsy things must not be able to communicate through the same ways we do, using some complicated form of tonal language which we cannot possibly grasp.

I scuttle through the tunnels, greeting my brethren as I pass them with brief salutary signals of my own, often returned with a lethargic or pleased response from those who have already found hosts.  

Some of the hosts have begun to mutate in form, wearing harder shells. My fellow brethren express displeasure in their inability to use their host to the complete potential, as those who latch fully can control not just the body, but the workings of the circulatory system of their host. I can’t describe it fully, only relying on the shapes of heat given off by fully formed specimens can I see how they have changed.

They become one with their host through a true miracle of symbiosis, an exchange of our circulatory fluids for theirs, which has the effect of transforming the hosts into a “crowned glory.” This mixture of both host and crown: our blood commingling with theirs and actively changing the host to an entirely new being, ready to scavenge and find its way in the world.

Desperation begins to seep in as the endless cycle of urging commands push me to continue searching. I scuttle along the floor, my feet feeling the vibrations from the crowned and uncrowned alike. I see the heat signature of one of my brethren leap—only to explode in midair from some otherworldly device.

If I hadn’t experienced it, I wouldn’t have had it in me to hesitate. I wouldn’t have had it in me to hide. I would have relied entirely on instinct, and flown at the prospective host. But I do hesitate. The heat from the mouth of the weapon glows red-orange in my vision, and I crawl into a small corner to wait for the frightening image to leave me. The carnage of my sibling, splattered into pieces, had seared itself into my consciousness.

I slowly begin to realize that only I can tame this savage bipedal through crowning it.

It turns towards the cavern’s opening with strides that are purposeful and nearly graceful in comparison with the other hosts I had seen earlier. I scuttle up the side of the cave wall, flattening myself between the heat vein and the cavern tunnel’s ceiling. With panic, I realize that I cannot read the heat of the hallway itself from my position.

Relying only on the vibrations of the explosions from the strange weapon, I stalk the trail of the potential host through the tunnel and into another room. I wait until I can detect the best position to attack from behind and LEAP!

In a moment of stunned surprise, I latch onto its skull, its weapon dropping from its grasp as the blood begins to pump from my body into his. Its paws slip without purchase over my smooth carapace as I click soothingly to my host. It was to no avail, as it ran full tilt at a wall to try to dislodge me from my post.

The commands which had initially driven me from my safe egg have subsided, but I barely notice their absence as I wrestle for control of my host. This feral creature eventually falls to its knees as my blood begins to replace theirs. I feel triumphant in my conquest only long enough to sense a heat signature above me.

Vocal vibrations I cannot parse howl at us. I desperately try to control my host, but it still is not fully formed yet. I reach out, mind flailing for any of my brethren who might hear, but am greeted with silence.

I brace myself as the heat slices through my flesh. Our end is swift.

V. Buritsch

A freelancer, fiction writer, podcast listener, fantasy reader who sometimes remembers to write for herself on occasion. She has a BA in English and Management, and currently lives in the Pacific Northwest.

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