ave / stories / You are on your own ch.13

Three bodies, approaching by foot. Two are more than human, chasing the first. The body stirs - it recognizes it. Irrelevant. There is malice in the other two, the eagerness of the hunt. They had been at it for a while. Such small-mindedness. The third one felt a mixture of the fear of the prey and something else. Curiosity? Recognition? Hope? Determination for sure, and not just to survive.

The latter two were becoming annoying. They'd be so much more valuable if they'd join us. We twisted, reached out from the ground with a million little fingers, making the ground sticky and alive, grasping for them and bringing them down. One of them reeked of blood. We reached into its wounds, spreading within its body as it thrashed around. The other stabbed it with a needle, and poison spread, our fingers dying off within it.

Inconvenient. We raised a swarm from the ground, surrounding the one who poisoned us and sticking to it, forcing it to breathe us in as it was heaving from exhaustion. It started coughing, stabbed itself with the needle, but it didn't work - our spores were stronger, the vial was almost empty, and in its lung, we could stay safe from the poison. Either that, or it'd choke on our remains and suffocate. Either way, another body.

We felt its panic, we felt its pain. It didn't want us, at first. It feared us - it didn't yet know what delights we offered. The other body pressed it down, shouted, started compressing its chest and forcing us out, stabbing it with more poison.

Perhaps subterfuge would be smarter here. We closed our spores, making them weaker, but much more resilient, and it could feel us no more. It took deep breaths, relieved from the pain, unknowingly driving us deeper. We didn't speak to it - better let it think it was rid of us. The other body grasped it and held it close. We could still feel it - it was relieved, it was glad, it was grateful. It felt very close and dependent to that other body. Guess they were a package deal.

The other body, the human one - the prey -, had ran far ahead. It was getting closer to our previous acquisition, which in turn was getting closer to our seed. Had it seen it yet? It cried out - it must have. We reached out, gently. Oh, it was feeling so much. We couldn't begin to unravel all that. It probably didn't even know what it was feeling itself.

We flowed back into our new body, rewiring nerves, connecting senses, reminding it what it was like to be a singular whole. It seemed to want to communicate with us, and that would be the easiest way without joining us. Human language was so vague and clumsy, yet still they tried, insisted even, to use it. Such a bother.

She ran up to our body, slowing down, dropping to her knees, shaking. She was crying, wasn't she. Ugh. The body, it remembered her. We filled it out, reanimated those parts we had had no need for, and took a breath. Almost as soon as we'd asked, there was a name on its lips.


She jumps back up, reaching out for the body - but holding back. She was crying and shaking so much more, now. It was almost entertaining, seeing how emotional and overwhelmed they could get, with their single bodies and limited minds.

"L- Lena! Lennie, you're still in there, aren't you? Please, please, for all that's holy, tell me that you're still alive! We, we can cure this, it's fine, we can get you out of this, you'll feel better-"

Ugh, all that talk of healing it. How could she understand that it joined us on its own accord, and that it was so much better off with us? Hm, maybe we could let it speak for itself. It's always such a mess, figuring out which thoughts and memories went together...


"N- no?"

"It chose us on its own, and we accepted it. The Lena you speak of is a part of us, now."

She hesitated, being overwhelmed by emotions again. With shaking hands, she reached behind her back and withdrew a gun, raising it towards the body but not managing to aim it at it. She still thought it was her friend.

"No. No no no. You're not Lennie, are you? You're that monster, aren't you? You posessed her. You . . . you speak with her voice . . ." It raised the gun, aiming true this time. "Let go of her, you fuck!"

Concentrate. Reflect. Thought was flowing freely through this body, in its every tendon and tissue, on highways of mycelium, having spawned from its imperfect host and long outgrown it. But, somewhere in the brain, there was still a spark left of whatever it had been before.

It was going to be such a hassle to put it back together.

"We can bring her back. It is her you want, isn't it? Lena Giles."

Belinda's hands shook as she pointed the gun. It was not her, she kept telling herself, it was a monster, a Z like all the others, and like all the others, she should've shot it and desecrated the corpse and ran away. But it looked so much like her, below the layer of white cilia and the ghostly white eyes, and it spoke like her, or with her voice at least, its words devoid of feeling . . .

"It is not too late. She can still be with you."

Her arms fell down. She couldn't shoot her oldest friend, her bestie, her . . . She wiped tears from her face. "What do you want?"

"Come join us afterwards, if you want. As you are right now, you can not understand us. Understand why she wanted to join us."

"Just, just bring her back, okay? I don't care about any of that . . ."

Lena - or whatever it was - shuddered. Its chest began heaving, breath being forcibly sucked in and out, the head looking around, eyes suddenly blind and filled with fear.

"It's so cold," Lena whispered, voice shaking.

Berry dropped her gun and lunged, cradling her face with shaking hands. The skin stuck unpleasantly to her fingers, oily hair tangling in hers, but none of it mattered to her as a shaky, broken hand reached out for hers.

"B- Berry? Is that you?"

"It's me. Lennie, it's me, baby, I'm here. Fuck, I've been looking for you for so long, I'm so glad you're alive . . ." She hesitated. She wanted nothing more than to pick her up and hug her tighter than the world and never let go, but having survived so long had taught her that some things were dangerous to touch. That, and she wasn't sure how much her ribs could hold as they were now. "We uh. We have to take care of you. Rae had fungicide, I could go over and-"

"What?" Despite her blind eyes, despite the paralysis in most of her face, Lena's frown managed to feel more painful than any knife or bullet. "Berry, I don't need saving."

"Wh . . . what? Lena, please. You are dying."

"I. Don't. Need. Saving. I wanted this. I need this, Berry, I've lived in this hellscape for so long, and I finally found something that was worth it. I need to go back to them. You can't imagine how good it feels, how amazing it is to be with them, you can feel so much, your mind is so free-"

"Lena!" Belinda's scream was more of a hysteric screech, but she didn't care. "It's a drug! It's poisoning you, and you are dying from this! Please, come back with me. We can still save you."

"No. This body is too far gone anyway. I don't care anymore, I've lived in it long enough. I want to go back to them. Berry, come with me. We can talk so much. You can tell me about all you've been up to. It'll feel good, I promise."

Belinda felt empty. Even her tears had stopped. She had imagined this moment a million times in a thousand different ways, and this wasn't even close to anything she'd expected.

"Lennie, I . . . nothing can possibly feel better than holding you in my arms. Please. Come back."

"Oh, but it can." She reached down to her abdomen, pale flesh parting bloodlessly as the broken hand reached in and retrieved a pale white fruit. She extended her arm, offering it to her companion. "Take it. Come join us."

"Lena no." Belinda shook her head, but the eyes were white and empty once again. She pushed the hand aside, cradling her, grasping her, hugging her close, even as she felt the sticky hair wrapping around her and the wispy skin folding under hers and the frail frame cracking from neglect, her mind racing, grasping for straws on how to bring her back, convince the fleeting soul to stay with her one more moment as her own body fought the prickling infection and screamed with pain to get away from her and leave her and run.

A thought came to mind, a memory. A sleepover, long ago, in times long forgotten, when things still made sense. A record player, a shiny black plate with a royal emblem on it. She swallowed, shut her eyes, felt the cilia digging into her skin, the spores choking her lungs - and sang.

"There's no chance for us, it's all decided for us, this world has only one sweet moment, set aside for us . . .

Who wants . . . to live . . . forever . . ."

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