Depeche Mode vs. Madonna – Like Jesus or Not mash-up…
“Eggs,” Crispin confirms. “But not Sea Centipede eggs. These are laid by another parasite – one that needs underwater carrion to incubate its clutch. The small amount of heat given off during decay accelerates the development process.”
“What are they from?” Ace asks, prodding another, with the toe of his boot.
“Hermit Squidmorphs,” says Crispin. “They go through a series of parasitic stages before becoming fully mature and independent.”
“Let me guess,” Carvery suggests. “The next stage after the eggs is the vampire face-hugging phase, yes?”
“No,” Crispin looks a little offended, through his diving-helmet. “Squidmorphs are not facially-orientated in the slightest. Quite the opposite, in fact.”
“Alien anal probing?” Carvery remarks.
The radio silence between us all becomes distinctly more unpleasant.
“I think we should keep moving,” I announce, my voice higher than Salvador Dali on LSD.
Ace and Carvery are both looking at the floor with concern now.
“Good idea,” Ace murmurs. “Don’t think I want to meet a vampire butt-hugger either.”
We try not to jostle one another in expressions of blind panic as we continue through the gut of the giant centipede carcass. A few more eggs get stepped on in the shambolic rush, releasing their premature black squid-ink into the water.
“Are there likely to be any more of those Rock Scorpions down here?” Carvery’s voice comes across the radio again, as it seems to get inexplicably darker. Damn this ink – it doesn’t seem to disperse at all…
“Er, no,” Crispin replies, from up ahead. “They will not enter the nursery when hatching is due. Hermit Squidmorphs are not fussy about the species of host they occupy.”
Holy Mother… I saw the armour-plated shells on those scorpions! Even Homer, in front of me, seems to double the pace of his mincing strut into an underwater scurry.
Thankfully, the knee-high eggs start to thin out from what I can see of the ground underfoot, and we start to climb a little as the terrain slopes upward.
“What?” Carvery wants to know, and I stumble into Homer’s back. “Why are we stopping?”
There is a pause. I glance behind us, my own insides fluttering with adrenal abuse.
“Underwater landslide,” I hear Crispin say, grimly. “Our exit is blocked.”
I push past Homer, determined to see for myself.
A wall of rubble marks the end of our path. Jagged segments of centipede armour are either side, allowing only a narrow current of water and silt to drift through.
“Let’s have a look,” says Carvery. “I’ve demolished almost as many walls as I’ve had to put up.”
I wonder how much of that involved the interment of his ex-girlfriends?
He assesses the slurry of mixed shapes and sizes of rock, before apparently picking a few at random and pulling them free. Dust clouds billow into the seawater, but the rest of the rock-face holds.
“That’s as many as we can safely move,” he says at last. “It’s like Jenga. Pull the wrong stone out, and the whole shebang comes down.”
“Man, we still won’t fit through there,” Ace tells him, patting the surface. “It’s like a cat-door.”
“How far are we from the surface, Crispin?” asks Carvery.
“Fifty feet – perhaps sixty,” he says eventually. “At a slight upward angle, through these rocks and out the other side. We will find a stone platform just beyond, with a steel ladder embedded into the rock, leading up to it.”
“Reckon we could make it without suits?” Carvery suggests.
“What?!” I gasp.
Take off our breathing apparatus? Is he crazy?
“It is possible…” Crispin ponders. “But during hatching, the Squidmorph eggs release acid into the water as well as ink. We will have to work fast.”
“Cool.” Carvery seems decided on the matter. Since when was he in charge? “Homer – you’re the thinnest of us. You go first.”
“Ho-ooo-ome?” Homer asks, doubtfully.
“It’s quite all right, Homer,” Crispin reassures his zombie brother. “Mr. Slaughter is thinking clearly. Nice deep breaths first. Like Bette Midler, before a Vegas show.”
“Gooooood,” Homer agrees, and we all hear his lungs creaking and whistling like a frog on a night out with the lads, as he dutifully exercises his diaphragm before reaching for the clasps on his suit.
“Fuck,” Ace curses. “Forgot about the kimono.”
Homer is still dressed as Madam Butterfly underneath the diving-suit. Between them, Carvery and Ace quickly pull apart the bulkiest parts of the sash, bow and bustle.
Finally down to a scrap of embroidery, Homer makes for the opening in the rocks, and darts through, with a kick of his heels.
God – not much of a gap there…
“You’re next in size, Sarah,” Carvery says, turning to me. “Deep breaths now.”
“Why is it in order of size?” I demand, feeling panic rising up my gullet like a victory flag.
“Smallest go first, less likelihood of dislodging any more rocks on the way through,” he reasons, with perfect logic. “Come on. Less talk. More deep breaths.”
I do as instructed, filling my last lungfuls of air from the gas-tanks. Blessed gas-tanks – how I will miss you…
“While we’re still young, Sarah,” Carvery prompts.
“Yeah – I think I just saw one of those eggs wriggle,” Ace chips in. “I think something else’s young might be joining us quite soon.”
“Aim for the ladder straight ahead as you exit the rock-slide, Sarah,” Crispin tells me. “When you feel the rungs in front of you, head straight upwards – do not hesitate.”
“No chance of me hesitating,” I say, and I mean it. “Don’t worry about that.”
I reach for my clasps. One – two – three on the front of the diving-suit. One – two on either side of the diving helmet. I brace myself – and I am free…
The cold water gurgles instantly into my suit, and slaps me about the face. Aargh! It’s gross… I dread to think what living or dead particles are finding their way into my eyes and ears and nose already…
Even more gross is feeling Carvery and Ace both shove me towards the opening in the rocks, and the grating of my Naval uniform gold-gilt buttons from the Great Nematode u-boat, as they scrape along the surface. With one last glimpse of Crispin out of the corner of my eye, I am fully inserted into the hole…
I have a little elbow-room, and can kick my feet to propel myself forward – but the channel through the rock-slide is longer than I thought. I squirm my way along, my throat burning as I struggle to keep what air I have in my lungs.
And yes! I can see a blue-tinged light at the far end! That must be what Crispin was referring to earlier – we are near the surface, at last. I push forward, dog-paddling my way through the tunnel.
My eyes must be suffering from the dirt in here. It’s getting cloudy…
…But then I see the cloudiness billow, and the opening at the other end of the tunnel turns briefly black…
Oh my God – parasitic alien butt-hugger squid eggs…
They must be on BOTH sides of the rock-slide!
I can’t go backwards in this channel. For all I know, one of the others is already behind me – and back there – no escape. Just a mile of Giant Sea Centipede alimentary tract, leading out onto the Deep Ocean Trench, populated by recently-armed Fish-Man. And me with no diving suit on…
I shut my eyes tight – and various other orifices that I can think of – and swim forward. As fast as I can…
Something hits my nose, and I almost forget myself by opening my mouth to scream. The taste of rank seawater and battery acid rushes in. My hands shoot up to meet my face protectively – and snag on a rigid metal bar.
Do not hesitate, Crispin’s voice echoes in my mind.
I kick my way up the underwater ladder, my fingers finding more rungs as I try to increase my ascending speed. Surely this is more than sixty feet from where I started?
Just as it seems my bursting lungs are about to tear their way out of my chest, the water breaks over my head – and my brain sloshes painfully at the unexpected loss of buoyancy.
“Gooooood,” Homer’s voice greets me, grabbing my arm.
“Homer!” I cry in gratitude.
As manfully as he’s possibly ever done, the skinny gray zombie hauls me up onto the strange, livid green stone of the subterranean platform. We are still underground – but high overhead, daylight filters down from the top of a tower-like stairwell.
We’ve done it – we’re here. I’ve never been so glad to see the sky as I am now…
I’m barely taking my first full breath, dragging myself onto the cool and welcome flat surface – when something closes around my left ankle – still overhanging the edge – like a bear-trap.
“Owwww!” I yell, and try to snatch my leg in towards me – but whatever has me caught in its embrace is firmly anchored.
And it tugs…
I look down in utter dread, in time to see a third coil of red speckled tentacle loop around and up, aiming for better grip below my knee. My foot is already obscured by some horrible, barbed, knobbly, eight-fingered, arachnid claw…
And boy – do I scream! Maybe because Carvery Slaughter is nowhere near – I really let one rip.
“Geddoff!” I shriek. “Off! AAAAAAARRRRRGH!”
Bless Homer – he bravely goes for the tentacle lashed around my shin, and bites and bites it. It squirts black ink over his head, and I promptly vomit in turn.
It tugs again abruptly, and I shoot backwards, suddenly back in the water up to my waist. Homer grabs my hand, as I scrabble for any purchase on the stone ledge.
“Please help me,” I beg, already knowing that Homer is losing the battle, with all of the undead power in his pathetic, weedy, cross-dressing physique. “I don’t want an alien butt-plug…”
Another lash of the horrible tentacle suddenly whips around my neck, and its barbed little hooks bite into my flesh like burning needles of red-hot ice. It makes the suckers on Lady Glandula’s weird appendage in the Five a.m. Lounge seem almost an attractive prospect in comparison…
“Homer…” I sob.
I see the despair in his black eyes, as I recede helplessly back into the deadly water. I feel it lapping at my ears, the smell of battery-acid already corroding the hairs on the inside of my nostrils…
Suddenly I feel my trapped leg jerk abruptly, and a mouthful of the vile seawater makes its way down my throat – before I realise that my neck is now free once more.
Homer gives a heave, and I progress forward slightly, like a Tug O‘War rope. Oh God – please let me live… I’ll never lick another pizza box again…
Another strange tearing sensation underwater, and my leg is also free.
Homer heaves again, and I slither the rest of the way back onto the stone platform. Thank God – thank God…
“Thank you…” I blubber, not sure how much of the damp on my face is tears, sea-gunk or snot by now. “Oh, thank you…”
…And Carvery Slaughter bursts out of the water, hopping up onto the platform from the topmost rung of the ladder with ease.
“Carvery!” I gasp.
“Shotgun works underwater,” he remarks, brandishing the remains of the tattered waterproof holster. “At least, while it was inside this. That was one ugly calamari, Sarah.”
Ace appears right behind him – minus his jacket and shirt.
Oh, boy… I’ve gone from All Systems Panic Stations to All Hormones Conception Stations in four seconds flat.
“Tight squeeze,” he says, by way of explanation. He shakes the water from his spiky dark hair, like a Davidoff model. I’m glad I’m still sitting on the ground, as I don’t think my legs could stand the moral challenge of such a display. “I don’t envy Crispin, trying to squeeze through those rocks.”
“Did you see any more of those squid eggs hatching down there?” I ask Carvery, nervously.
“Too dark.” Carvery tips seawater out of the shotgun barrels. “Too much squid ink.”
We all look down at the swirling surface of the water, and wait.
For old times’ sake – the original ‘Alien’ trailer – enjoy 🙂
More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum
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