Friday, April 17, 2015

Epidose: Twenty-Two

The sucking feeling was the worst part. Whatever organs and juices filled Horatch's Great One now clung to her arm like a wet sheath, dragging at her but sealing the wound around her probing arm. Milyi hoped that was a good thing. She prayed silently that Horatch had been correct, that the mammoth arachnid beneath her could not move, could  not suddenly spring back to life an devour her for her trouble. 

Because her fingers could almost reach it. 

She leaned in, let the warm inside of the spider reach an inch higher, closer to her shoulder. The tips of her fingers brushed against something different, cold and pulsing. Something too soft, too stretched to be part of its surroundings. She touched the Wisp egg, and her fingers curled away, recoiled despite the fact that this was the object she sought.

"I can feel it." She told Horatch, spoke it aloud to make it real and to force her fingers to unclench. "It's deep."

 "Can you grab it?" The T'rant paced a funny pattern between the Great One's toes. 

He'd meant for her to kill it, and maybe she should have. Touching the egg again would be gross enough. Pulling it out, the idea of that, gave her shivers. The alternative was to let the Wisps win, however, and if Milyi knew one thing, it was that those red devils were the enemy. She hated them, the sound they made and the cold way their eyes stared at you. 

Cold like the egg.

She stretched her hand open and felt it again, slick and squishy, too smooth to grasp onto easily. Inside, the life of a new Wisp pulsed, throbbed with the promise of more evil. Milyi pinched her fingers together an felt thick membrane between them. She closed her eyes and pulled.

At first, the egg resisted. It too was caught in the warm hug of the Great One's insides. Milyi leveraged her free elbow against the slick carapace and jerked at the thing until it moved. Then, she hauled it slowly up, one wet inch at a time. When she pulled her hand free, she nearly dropped it. The sight of the ghostly, translucent material, the wiry veins and soft, red sheen beneath the surface made her fingers tremble and risk dropping the mass back inside.

She flung it instead. Her arm jerked out and the egg, an oblong package the size of a loaf of her grandmother's bread, flew away. It landed on the vines with a sickening splat. Milyi turned away, looked down and gasped at the flood of fresh fluids seeping from the Great One's back. 

"Horatch, quick! He's bleeding." It was almost blood, had to be the arachnid equivalent at least. Milyi's whole arm was heavy with it, but the new flow drizzled across the Great One's surface, pooling in the divot where Horatch had suggested she stab the monster. 

Now he leaped up to help. Milyi's hands wiped at the blood and Horatch found a dry spot to attach his webbing. He spun and danced from one side of the wound to the other, and all the while his round butt bobbed and spewed his sticky substance. They made a crude bandage of it, a lumpy stopper of webbing that stemmed the tide of fluids once they'd managed to cover the wound. 

Through it all, the Great One held still. Not a bristle twitched and Milyi couldn't say if the monster even felt the wound, her probing, anything. He might have been dead already.  Hadn't Horatch said as much? It's too late. 

"What do we do now?" She marveled at the tremble in her voice. Once, she'd have been horrified by the very creature she sat upon. It hadn't been so long ago, had it? Today it felt like a century. 

"I don't know." Her companion failed to present a solution. "No one has ever tried this before, Milyi. And the Great One is paralyzed."

"Can't you speak to him?"

 "Perhaps." Horatch jumped away. He landed beside the Wisp egg and dove on it, driving his fangs straight through the disgusting membrane. 

Milyi's stomach squished into a nauseous lump. She tasted bile and turned her face away, looked down an saw the goo encasing her arm. Just as gross. Sticky things she didn't want to identify clung to the little hairs on her forearm. She scooted to the edge of the monster and swung her legs over. Then she dropped to the vines in its shadow. 

"I need to wash up."  She tried not to see him eating the thing. "I'm going back to the river."

"Be careful. Stay where I can hear you."

"Okay." Milyi already worked her way to the clearing's edge. She needed not to see him eat it. She needed to scrub the goo from her skin and forget what she'd just done as soon as possible. 

She kicked her way into the fronds and blazed forward until they closed behind her, until the gory scene-- the punctured Great One, the dead Wisp and the T'rant devouring the pulsing eggsac--was blocked from her view if not from her memory. 

Some things, you just never forget. Still, Milyi shook her head as if to dislodge the images and trudged on, following the path they'd made from their camp and finding herself back at the tree quickly enough. From there, it was a simple thing to slip down the animal trail to the bank of the river. 

The water flashed and sparkled in the light of a dawn that had crept upon them sometime during the battle. Milyi crouched beside the current, felt the rocks shifting beneath her thinly wrapped feet. Her legs trembled. The fight had taken more out of her than just her stomach.  

When she splashed the liquid over her arms, little bumps lifted along her skin. The chill felt good, soothing and clean. And she longed to be clean. Her fingers scrubbed away the goo, dug at the bits of Great One and rubbed her arms until they were raw and tingly. She splashed water over her face as well. 

When she finally sat back, she felt nearly herself again, could almost imagine it hadn't happened. Milyi sighed and watched the water ripple downstream. She turned her gaze to the sun, and then upstream just in time to see the body floating in her direction.

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