The Reificant - Part Two: Collapse 02.10.12 - Zack - permalink
I AM. again.
Thought into being. Manifested like morning's frost.
The golden fire of my inner being spreads to new flesh. It motivates new limbs.
Before you now as this luminous husk, forever as you will be, doomed as you will be.
To warn. To recall.
I AM prisoner of the many surrounding me. Weaklings. Traitors. Their numbers carry me from the depths of the traitor queen's spire.
The sky above is smoke and storm pulsing with the crackle of violet lightning. Distant mountains split with fire. I take wing, drunk on the pheromones of my enemy. I rise above the press of workers and warriors. I cleave my freedom from their fragile bodies.
Higher. Above the stench of TREASON. Beneath the rolling smoke. Battle is above. I can feel it in my lymph. Burning foes plummet through the umbral ceiling by twos and threes, in whole and in pieces. They light this world like dropped candles in a darkened chamber, landing among the teeming masses that fill the boulevard.
My wings trail smoke as I beat through the haze of mountain's fire. I must know. I must confirm what I fear. My QUEEN...
War is the assertion of two realities that cannot coexist. War without victory is madness. The last of my QUEEN's swarm is in disarray. The marshals are dead. Confused by the abundance of enemy pheromones, the scattered survivors are retreating to the great spire. I can see it looming in the distant haze. A shadow redoubt.
The enemy is not in coherent pursuit. They battle one another or find combat with small, black-winged creatures I do not recognize. These beasts are an annoyance to me. I swat them away and split open their screeching bodies. To the lesser warriors they are a danger. I watch as the pale body of an enemy is caught up in a whirlwind of snapping jaws and flapping wings. The panicked song of its quills ends abruptly. Its spiracles whistle with the pain of its death.
The closer I fly to the great spire and do not scent my QUEEN, the greater my fear. Without the beacon of her pheromones, my lesser brothers collide with one another or with the upper levels of the spire. They fall in tangled groups and leave smears of softness upon the once-pristine stone. The spire quivers from the movement of the earth.
My QUEEN is silent. Her odor is like dust upon the floor. Her spire is violated. Her chamber crawls with the lounging grotesques of the traitor's guards. Their abdomens are distended. Their segments bulge. Some wriggle upon the floor. Some amble slowly among the comb, seizing the soft bodies of the young and devouring them.
TREASON must be answered with VIOLENCE. There is no great pleasure to this task. The foe is languid and unconcerned. I dash their heads upon the decorative stones. I spill their softness into the comb. They roll about like disobedient workers drunk on the honey of the secretors. Their quills mock me with laughter at their own deaths. I disarticulate their limbs. I crush the hemispheres of their eyes.
My QUEEN is dead. Her beauty is scattered and befouled. Her split extravagance is host to the vilest of these traitors. They lie in her hollowed shell, bathed in lymph, gnawing the last, hanging scraps of her meat. Such is the violence I inflict upon them that I cannot even recall it clearly. I am only violence. There is no mind to it.
Her last brood is dead. Her winnowers helplessly slaughtered. Her jelly eaten. No new queen can be nurtured to take her place. Though it yet stands, my spire is at its end.
I find myself descending back through the smoke. The smell of the traitor queens is everywhere now, as if carried by the fires. The garden is dying. Unhealthy white grows upon every branch and flower. The fleshy fruit the workers once harvested is now putrid. Things I do not recognize scuttle among the dying groves, like crustaceans of the sea, jellies and creatures made from black wires that stalk among them, so slow they almost do not move.
I discover a great heap of dead workers. I do not know if they are from my spire or another. Their bodies are covered in soft, white moss. Pale stalks rise from their spilt shells, topped with luminous, blue fruit that gently pulses all around me.
I come across warriors of a spire that fought on the side of my QUEEN. This white moss clings to their shells. They lift their heads at my approach and plead for help. The sickly dirge of their quills is repellent. I give them the mercy of swift death.
The sound of battle recedes to nothing. The world is muffled. There are alien calls through the smoke. Vast shapes move and scatter the monuments built to honor past queens. I am alone with this strange place.
I am too weary to take wing. I walk through the dead groves and flowers and I am drawn to the soft lapping of the Surata upon its shore. This familiar sound is all I have to guide me. I emerge from the smoke and to find that the coastal spires are gone. These were the homes of lesser queens who gave their labor to the Surata and brought back its bounty to trade. They are no more and the stones of the dockworks are fallen to ruin.
I often contemplated the dark waves of the Surata. I imagined its surface as a door and on the other side another place existed, like my own, where soft-bodied swimmers and glowing jellies obeyed the commands of the unseen queen of the depths.
The Surata's waves are no longer dark. The foulness in the air belongs to inner softness. Pierced shells. The waves are pallid. The water is like that of the cavern beneath the traitor's spire. The tide breaks against the corroded pilings of the dockworks, uprooting octagonal paving stones like loosed teeth of mammal stock, frothing fingers scouring away decorative pillars.
Pale, fleshy things roll upon the tide and are deposited upon the shore. These are like organ sacs and they move and change shape with inner life. Clawed hands tear open these membranes and from within, a clattering call. A slender, pale-bodied biped rises from this discarded membrane. It is joined by others, snapping jaws, swinging their heads from side to side as their bulging blue eyes absorb their surroundings. They move swiftly and as a group, up from the fallen dockworks, into the corrupted brambles of the garden. Their unfamiliar gait is disturbing. They see me, but do not seem to care.
A host of unnatural life is being birthed. Not only these pale bipeds, but other things, slinking, crawling, unraveling upon the shore. There is no limit to their numbers or variety. I feel hopeless in the face of such an ending. My QUEEN is gone. My spire is fallen. I want to throw myself into the Surata and drown.
One of these organ sacs rolls in upon a wave and adheres to the stones near to me. It is large. Limbs stretch the surface. Tears appear. Hooked claws like those at the end of my own limbs widen the tear and allow for a creature to wriggle out. I see it is a warrior of my kind. I do not recognize the markings of its spire, perhaps it is from a much lesser or distant spire, but by its pattern it is a scout.
I strum my quills in challenge.
"Who is your queen?"
It cocks its head, studying me, and then strums a reply.
"She is Queen. Who is your queen?"
I do not answer. I strum another question.
"How did you come to be here?"
"Died! Died. Died." It answers me quickly, as if annoyed, and beats its legs against the stones for emphasis. "We find water. We bring to Queen. One of many, now many of one. She true queen. We destroy all weak spires. Like yours."
I am not angered by his simple strumming. I quill a reply, beating my limbs only once for emphasis.
"Look around you," I say. "This place does not belong to you any more than it belongs to me."
My point is proved that very moment. A thing weighing many tons heaves up from the putrid water, shedding its membrane with a great splash. It strides ashore on long, thin limbs. It is so tall its body, bearded with tendrils, is barely visible in the smoke overhead. I can feel each step it takes in my antennae.
I begin to walk to the Surata.
"Where are you going?" asks the scout.
The water burns where it touches my feet.
"I do not want to be here any longer," I say and submerge myself in the water.
For a moment there is agony. For a moment I am with my QUEEN and all is forgiven. For a moment all of my failures are undone and I have another opportunity to save her.
For a moment, I am no longer.
Only for a moment.