First Draft – Pt. 3: Conversation with a Brain Parasite
Kem awoke on the floor to a throbbing pain in his head and a faint sound of scratching.
He opened his watering eyes. A blurry black spot on the floor wavered in front of him.
He instinctively drew back from it and rubbed his eyes. Focusing better, he identified the object on ground before him as a grotesque, black bug.
No larger than the top joint of his index finger, its beetle-like, tear-drop shaped body (tapering in the front) bore six very thin, crooked, long, and spiked legs. Two black, beady eyes peered at him from stalks. Long antennae waved about. A strange, sinister-looking, thin proboscis stretched out from its head, more than three times the length of its body.
It attempted to move about in a slow, clumsy fashion, but failed. The black insect appeared too weak to be ambulatory.
“Incredibly selfish!” it piped a small shout, “You have rudely evicted me from my delicate, cushiony, and warm heaven of soft brain tissue, interrupting my intoxicating neuro-chemical bath and the sweet, soothing, tantalizing electric pulse-storms therein!”
Kem was surprised the insect could speak and that he could understand it, but then remembered Ajuk.
“Surrounded by such a dazzling cocoon of pleasure…” it said and trailed off dreamily, and then, as if rudely awakened from the reverie, exclaimed, “All gone because of your selfishness!”
The black thing clumsily and weakly yet indignantly moved its legs to turn its body so that it faced Kem squarely. It made Kem think of drunken oarsmen pulling black, misshapen oars in a small, black boat.
It continued its tirade, “Fiend! You had a tumor, did you know that? To think I saved your life by eating it! Is this gratitude? Look at me! I shiver on this cold, hard floor, sickened by whatever drug you took, which I can only guess was to force me from my rightful home. Who died and made you Pan-Creator, most holy judge of all? Do you think your flesh is just for you? You disgustingly decadent narcissist!”
As repulsive as the thing was, Kem could not help but smile at its ridiculous outrage and had to stifle a laugh. But one thing the bug said had concerned him.
“You expect me to believe that your intention was to help me?” he asked. “What tumor? You lie.”
At first, the bug reeled in surprise at Kem being able to speak its language. Kem was almost as surprised too, hearing the strange noises issue from his throat. The thing’s surprise did not last, however, as it was overtaken by self-righteous indignation.
The black insect gesticulated in agitation with its spiked, crooked front limbs, as if frustrated by Kem’s stupidity, “What do I gain from a lie? I suspect you will simply step on me no matter what I say. What a loss! Such a magnificent, rare life-form as me… winked out by a degrading gesture from an ignorant giant! Is the bottom of your foot to be my resting place? Perhaps you’ll scrape me off on some edge somewhere, and that will be my grave… What a tragedy and insult! For your information, you walking, talking hotel of meat, I did eat a tumor. It was a nasty one–small yet malignant–right next to your thalamus gland. Delicious, too, I must add. I was hungry, and it was there. So I ate. But that is of no matter. There was no harm or malice in my action. I did you a favor!”
Kem began feeling concerned as an unpleasant line of reasoning presented itself. “And did you eat anything else?”
“Not one tasty morsel did I consume! I have been a mountain of forbearance!” it exclaimed. “As I had promised.”
Realizing its mistake, the bug hesitated and then wiggled its antennae and forelegs, chittering nervously. “A manner of speaking, nothing more.”
“Perhaps promised the High Prax?” Kem asked, and raised a foot, menacingly.
“Do not squash me!” it pleaded. “Damn that High Prax to a thousand hells! He coerced me! I harmed not one precious, delicious cell in your big, lavish cranium! He made me promise not to! The tumor was nothing valuable… to the contrary! He said nothing of tumors! I did no permanent damage to your savory brain meat or its functions! I saved you from certain painful death and mental ruin! That tumor would have killed you for sure! Have mercy!”
It lowered its front half and raised two of its forelimbs in a gesture of groveling supplication.
“Saved me for what, inevitable death?”
The insect’s eyes wavered back and forth on their stalks. It grabbed an antenna with a front leg and began nervously cleaning it with its mandibles. It seemed indecisive to Kem, as if trying to choose between difficult options.
“Death comes to us all, sooner or later,” it muttered petulantly, and then self-consciously stopped cleaning itself.
Kem looked down at his foot. “For some of us, it comes sooner than others…”
“Your fate is not my responsibility! Only yours! Each must attend to his own interests! The High Prax threatens the life of my beloved Klk’Klk! If I did not obey him, he would kill her! Never again would I breathe the sweet vapors of her effluence! I would die a death of horrible agony! You do not know how it is for we males of my species… to be separated from your bonded mate is worse than death!”
Its legs twitched uncontrollably, and its body shook in small spasms.
“Even now, exiled from the bliss of your delicate tissues, I experience tremendous, worsening pain… though whatever noxious drug you took has has left me somewhat numb. For that, at least, I am thankful. But the pain will return… and worse by the day!”
It paused, thoughtfully, and continued, “Perhaps you should kill me. I fear the High Prax’s wrath! He will never again let me know the sweet bliss of Klk’Klk. I have never met a more perverted sadist!”
Remembering the words of Ajuk, Kem said, “Your supposed romantic bliss sounds to me like an ongoing torment. You say the High Prax is sadistic. What of this Klk’Klk you adore? It sounds less like love and more like enslavement, although it asserted among we Praxes that the two are the same…”
“I bless her and curse her in the same breath! She is abominable! Her demands are constant and her satisfaction is as a wink of one of your meaty eyelids. She is a creature of contempt. Her means of abuse are myriad and numerous! Nothing I do is enough. She pushes and pushes, and if I utter a word she simply waits with smug superiority as my withdrawal agony grows. Then she emits but a puff of her glorious aroma and a command… and I lack all will to resist! I obey! But what is a male Ch’k’t’t to do? I am bonded, along with the others of her harem. I could almost sympathize with my brethren if I didn’t hate them! Deceitful and loathsome, the lot of them! She keeps us in constant competition for her affections and at each other’s throats. Though I understand all this, I am helpless to act against it…”
Kem smiled inwardly.
“What if I told you that you could be free of your bondage? To be free of the chemical sorcery of Klk’Klk would to be free of the coercion of the High Prax, Never again would you be enslaved! You would be free!”
“Could a Ch’k’t’t dare dream it?” asked the bug. It stared at Kem in silence for a moment. “This supposed freedom, how could it be achieved, and at what cost?”
As if a quiet inner voice urged him, Kem suddenly felt an inspiring impulse.
Kem nodded. “As you know, we Praxes can overcome pain. It is not a matter of tolerance. We subvert the very sensation before it is felt. It is nothing to us. This method could be taught. You could overcome your addiction to the wiles of the female tyrants of your species. Never again would you be called slave.”
“I am trapped. I need to escape. Perhaps you could somehow help? I could teach you the first lesson now, which would allow you to achieve some relief. With further training, your life would be yours. Your actions dictated by your own designs and desires, instead of those of Klk’Klk or anyone else.”
The bug issued a buzzing “mmm” sound as it thought, as if it were savoring the flavor of the proposal.
“Freedom… but to never again feel the bliss…”
“Freedom is its own bliss. But think on this: perhaps the tables could somehow be turned. Do not the female Ch’k’t’t have dependencies? The sacred teachings of the Prax elucidate the dangers of Kamalah. The mistress owns the slave, true, but in turn the slave also owns the mistress. This is a great secret. If all males of your kind shared this sacred knowledge, no female could again enslave a male… at least not through the threat of pain. And in any case, there is always deception and manipulation. You could trick her. Otherwise, what is given willingly may also be taken by force.”
As the Ch’k’t’t thought on this, Kem found himself shocked at his words. These were not the words of a Prax! From whence did they come?
As Keg looked at the insect, for a moment he began so see colored shapes, like luminous shadows and ghost images, form around objects. It was as if another visual perception of his surroundings was superimposing itself on his own. He rubbed his eyes and the phenomenon vanished.
“I am willing to do this thing,” said the bug, “teach me your methods.”
Unbidden and of themselves, ideas and plans began to unfold in his mind.
“I will,” said Kem, “but first we must discuss the means of my escape and your role in it.”