First Draft – Pt. 2: The Transcendent Insect
Kem’s body shook and cold sweat dripped from his brow, stinging his eyes, yet he did not let this distract him. He continued the Grand Rite of Cultivation.
The Nectar of Ibaz had done its work. He circulated the energy throughout his physical and energetic bodies, directing the process of refining the base physical energies into more subtle forms, converting nervous energy into spiritual power, and then stored it in the sacred vessels of his energetic body.
The abnormal physical symptoms could come from only from one source: poison. He suspected as much when the High Prax had offered the Nectar and knew his body well enough to know he was not ill. Motivated by fatal urgency, he diverged from the accepted practice of the Rite.
“I do not know how long this physical form will last,” he thought, “so I must utilize it as much as I can while it still has strength, converting as much energy from the Nectar of Ibaz as I can.” The physical body, though gross in form, was necessary for this practice, without it, conversion of physical matter, such as the Nectar, to spiritual form was impossible… at least for a being at his level of progress.
The problem was the more he cultivated the more he could feel his body deteriorate.
“What an insidious poison!” he thought.
He accepted the immanence of his death. The best course of action was to reinforce the body of light, which, properly developed, could bring his ego, mind, and memories intact into the next realm. Then, once in the mystery, well… who could say what then?
As he worked, he heard a buzzing which echoed throughout his chamber. A presence, a warmth and feeling of spiritual power emanated in the air ahead of him. Through his closed eyelids, he could perceive a radiance of golden light. Looking upon it with his inner vision, he saw a form of dense geometric shapes written upon space with lines of brilliance. Circular waves of energy radiated outward from it. Bright pulses raced along the lengths of the circles.
A buzzing voice called his name.
“Hallucination,” he thought, and he feared the end of his material form was near.
“No hallucination,” said the voice. “Open your eyes. Look. I bring hope!”
Perhaps out of a fatalistic urge, he did so.
A small golden insect hovered in the air before his face. An iridescent, multi-colored sheen covered the golden carapace. Formidable, bright eyes faceted with pentagonal shapes and reflecting every color stared back at him. They contained a cool, alien intelligence. The air throbbed around the creature, creating a sensation of wavering pressure, thrumming to a steady rhythm which was hypnotic.
The anthropomorphic bug gave the impression of a curmudgeonly old man.
“I am Ajuk. Aspirant of the Clear Fire,” the buzzing voice wavered in synchronization with the hypnotic pressure-waves. “I have attained the Ninth Level and possess Clarity and Power. I am here to sacrifice my physical form so that you may save yours.”
Though dizzy and bewildered, his physical senses failing, he could recognize the creature. “You are xing-fly!”
“That is what your species call my kind, yes.”
“Your color and shape are odd,” he said, becoming dizzier, “but you are a xing-fly.”
“The form of the Aspirant changes as he or she moves along the path. But this is unimporant. You have ingested a poison. This poison must be counteracted. When I instruct you, you will reach out to me. You will then pluck the eyes from my face and, after, consume my body. You will experience a tremendous heat. At the peak, crush my eyes and rub them into yours.”
“Doing so would expedite my passing. Your kind are toxic for people to eat. I may still yet cultivate and store more, and I must strengthen the body of light…”
“My kind are not people? Do not be so prejudiced. And, no. It will not expedite your passing. True, we are toxic to species you label mammals, but you have drunk the water which drips from the stone of this chamber, carrying with it certain minuscule particles which alter the body. And you have ingested yet another toxin with the Nectar. Consuming my body will interact with these elements, creating an antidote, and this will also force the parasite from your brain matter and out of your body.”
“Parasite?” Kem almost laughed as he said it. This must be a hallucination. He started to go back to his practice of cultivation, deciding to ignore the sensory illusions no doubt brought about by his advancing physical degeneration.
“Fool!” Ajuk buzzed loudly. Kem felt a wave of spiritual force strike his being, causing him to open his eyes in shock.
“I am no apparition of your deluded psyche or polluted body! I have sworn to sacrifice my life to you in service of a greater cause, despite your ingratitude and foolishness. Quickly now, I must explain a thing: the parasite has been introduced into your body by the High Prax. The High Prax has enslaved this disgusting creature and commanded it to control you. You have, up until recently, been a pawn of the proxy of the High Prax. The insect resides in your brain and feeds upon your cerebral-spinal fluid. The fibers of its proboscis branch out and control the tissues of your brain, manipulating your thoughts and actions. When you consume me, it will force him out. You must not destroy this abominable creature but instead negotiate with it. I will quickly instruct you as to how. Are you prepared to listen?”
Overwhelmed by these events and debilitated by the poison coursing through him, he almost laughed at the absurdity. But he contained himself, and nodded to the thing. With his inner vision, he perceived something in front of him. Whatever it was, it had the quality of a transcendent being.
“Good. Listen well: the foul being, once evacuated from your flesh, will crawl upon the ground, debilitated by the substance of my body. You must speak with it. Know this: it is bound to its mate, which is held captive by the High Prax. It is through coercion that the High Prax controls this thing of corruption. Every moment spent away from its mate is agony to this creature. The female of the species dominates the male and injects a fluid which changes the male’s bio-chemistry. It becomes imprinted with and addicted to her unique pheromone signature. It finds her feminine effluence intoxicating and suffers terrible withdrawals when deprived of it. Right now, the little beast is in an agony of torment, yet it persists, for it knows it will soon be reunited with its mate. However, the females of this species are malevolent, selfish, and sadistic. The males hate the females, yet cannot resist them, as they are compelled by their biology.”
“A terrible predicament, not unlike some situations among my species,” Kem said with amusement. “Females are notorious sources of the forbidden Kamalah. We Praxes have transcended this lowly form of slavery through mastery of our physical and emotional selves…”
“Indeed. And that is a great boon to you and will be the secret of your freedom from this place.”
“How…” Kem reeled. “The poison…” he thought, “not much time left. I hope this is no hallucination!”
“There is much to say and little time to say it! Attend! Using the energetic teaching method, you will instruct the thing how to overcome its attachment and the physical pain of withdrawal. Worry not! You will find yourself infused with power upon consuming my body and able to communicate with the creature. Convince it of the values of your training. Offer it freedom from the tyranny of its appetites and the oppression and control of the High Prax and its revolting consort.”
“Hurry now. First, pluck my eyes, then consume my body. You will undergo a variety of sensations. When the heat reaches its peak, crush my eyes between thumb and forefinger of each hand, creating a paste. Rub this paste harshly into your own eyes. I, Ajuk, sacrifice myself to you and the greater good in the name of the Clear Fire! Now, about your work, young Prax! Slay me so that you may live!”
Clumsily and with blurred vision, as the poison was nearly finished with him, he reached toward the most solid-looking of the many xing-flies which spun around each other.
He plucked the eyes. If Ajuk felt pain, he showed no signs protest. He then put Ajuk into his mouth and chewed. Oozy and flaky, fibrous textures and a strongly bitter taste filled his mouth. His tongue felt dry. No matter. He chewed and swallowed.
As Ajuk had said, a variety of sensations flooded his body. Fire and chills. Pressure and release. Lightness and heaviness. Tingling, stinging, spasms… He began to feel a steady heat increasing with each breath. Hotter and hotter. His flesh burned at greater and greater levels of intensity. He felt his body hit the floor. A blinding field of white light seared his visual field though his eyes were closed.
“When,” he thought, “is the peak?”
Trained to not simply endure pain, but to, upon reflex, transform the sensations before they reached even the most primitive reptilian aspect of his mind. Even so, he had never encountered sensations this intense. It threatened to overcome his conditioning.
He felt faint. This was beyond his training. Peak or not, he must act now. He crushed Ajuk’s eyes as instructed and then rubbed them into his own. Something on the surface of his eyes began to penetrate and move inward. As they did, a display of unearthly, dazzling colors and shapes played across his vision. And then a shroud of pure darkness as his body lapsed into unconsciousness.