Of course she isn’t happy! You ruined her proposal.
There was nothing to do but run.
For the second time that day, Heye tore through the shrubbery, pelting through the trees and bushes as fast as he could, the meter-tall blue man following shortly behind.
The screaming got louder as they approached, terrifyingly relentless. Maybe it was better if they kept screaming? Heye tried to convince himself. Maybe it hadnothing too bad had happened to them?
But as it became louder and louder, Heye was sure it couldn’t be anything but bad.
I did it for us! That day you left— you’re birthday, my dad got a new job outta state!
Finally, panting, the the pair rounded up onto the same thatch door Heye had stood at when he first came falling from the side of a building, oh so long ago.
Sam pushed it open.
They saw the source of the screaming.
Hunched over in a sickeningly tight curl was a clearly a Sokotian. She shrieked, an ear-shattering sound, as she convulsed, her expressions far too alive, the very image of prolonged agony shifting endlessly on her face. Her entire body contracted and jerked, as if she was moments away from belching. And hands came crashing against the side of her skull, accompanied by a jerk in the sound of the scream. Then they gave up, and pressed against her hands ears like they were pistons.
What is going on?
Said Abuela Madrigal inside of Heye’s brain, as he looked upwards and saw carnage. Littered above was a terrifying concentration of bugs. Dozens, hundreds, thousands, swarming in between the dozens of Sokotians Heye now noticed. Wretching, screaming, grasping at their heads.
Heye froze, his features tatooed onto him as he gazed at the horror.
Was, was this Floop?
UGH! The bugs dipped towards him, as though aiming for his head. He swatted them away and shedded his jumper, wrapping it around his head, covering his ears, which were probably his best enterence.
The girl in front of him let out another strained shriek, and Heye snapped back into focus. He darted forward and down, close to her now, his ears throbbing with the noise of her screaming. He wanted to ask how he could help, but the screaming didn’t stop. He got his hands and pulled back from her ears—
And inside they were crawling with bugs.
Thousands of small black creatures crawled inside hear ear canal, packed like sardines and squirming as they dropped and crawled over themselves.
Heye fell backwards, almost vomitting.
What the FUCK!
How… how deep did they go???
How far do these bugs go down?????
He gagged, and could barely stand the thought of it, but knew he had to get on with it. He went back up, pulled out his finger, and put it into the girls ear. She barely noticed as she screamed, and Heye felt the bugs. Cool and mechanical as they crawled over his finger. He shivered. He tried, in the absence of seeing what he was doing, to scoop them out, and he successfully pinned many against the wall. But they simply crawled over and around him, ignoring him completely.
He took out his useless finger, and looked back at Sam.
And Sam was idly watching, a swarm of bugs swooping down and aiming right for him.
Heye screamed himself, and flung himself at the alien, savagely pushing him out of the way.
And the bugs swooped into his ear. Deeper, and deeper they went.
Once apon a time, Heye had been a doctor’s appointment where an examination of his throat had been required. The doctor had taken out a worm like object, and informed him that it would be a weird sensation. And he had taken the worm, and funnelled it through his nose, and down his throat. It was easily the most physically uncomfortable he had ever felt.
But this was far, far worse.
The creatures tunneled through, violating every defense mechanism and physical barrier his ears had in place like they were cling film. He squirmed and shivered uncontrollably, feeling so very powerless as they rooted through his ear canal.
And finally they stopped.
Heye paused, appreciating the halting of the sensation.
And then they began to dig.
It was a tearing, horrific sensation. The unmistakable feeling of having your skin peeled off before your very eyes, excepted protecting by your swatting by occuring in the caverns of your own skull.
He shrieked, the searing pain exploding on the sides of his skull.
He could feel them burrowing through his flesh and skull, round the side of his head, to… his eyes?
And though he had been paying absolutely no attention to the visual input he had been receiving, it was all to clear as he felt a million cold legs crawling over his cornea, joined by a team right behind his eyeballs, almost as though they had hooked into the very electrical signal that made up his retina…
The pain suddenly stopped, the bugs stopped moving.
The pain switched off light a lightbulb. He could still feel them inside of him, but they were still, as though they had reached the place they wanted to be. His hearing had been completely disabled, the sounds of screaming were just a memory. Because his sense of sound was just like his sight, then. Absolute void, because of the bugs.
“Not bugs, Heye. Nanobots.”
Everything inside of Heye dropped to absolute zero.
“Correct!” the voice boomed inside the darkness, once again not waiting for Heye to even bother to say anything out loud, carrying on the conversation like he could read his very thoughts before he even formed them.
Heye could almost feel himself swaying. It didn’t feel anymlike he was in a village with nanobots over his eyes. It felt like he was in a void, nothingness stretching out for infinity in every direction.
And he spoke into the darkness.
“Floop! Can you stop? Please? I just want to read some articles.”
And Heye could feel himself… shrinking… in the darkness. Getting smaller and smaller.
“Give me a reason to Heye.”
The voice was behind him now, cascading through the emptiness in mighty, unceeding waves. He turned within the nothingness, and saw the largest creature he had ever seen — Floop. blown up to the size of a mountain, a building, a giant — peering down at Heye with a sickly grin and delighted eyes. He looked almost like a schoolboy who’d finally outsmarted his teacher.
Heye felt his an incogruence with how he aught to feel and how he truly did. He’d interfaced too much with VR. A part of him too fundamental knew that it was all an illusion.
And yet, he felt something drop deep within his belly as it dawned on him that this was not like any illusion he had ever experienced before. He had not chosen this one in the slightest, not donned a helmet that could be slipped off just as easiy as it had been slipped on.
There were nanobots burrowing through his skull.
Nanobots manifesting a giant man, and the giant man had just raised a giant hand, the non-existant floor somehow shaking inside the darkness with the gesture. And he spoke.
“Give me a reason to, Heye!” he said again, absolutely delighted, like it was all a game. “Give me a reason why this doesn’t make perfect sense.” A delighted, impatient, insane smile.
“They hate it,” Heye said simply. He didn’t know what else to say.
He almost seemed to truly ponder, and yet behind the sloppy mask Heye could still feel the giddiness bubbling through. “Do they?” asked the giant. “Do they really? Or do they just hate the transition? Isn’t every transition painful, Heye? Isn’t that how we grow? Moving between stable states necessitates instability, does it not?”
And what they saw was carnage.
“Not bugs, Heye. Nanobots.”
Swarming within the walls at a terrifying concentration were bugs. Dozens, hundreds, thousands. They moved almost independently, almost in formations too mechanical to be organic. And beneath the spotty black swarms were hunched blue people.