Remember how eight days ago I said the next post would conclude this story? Wasn’t that funny? I think that was funny. Anyway, here’s the conclusion!
Robert’s suit exploded outwards around his test. Branching tendrils, some feathered and some tipped with suckers, tore through the thin synthetic fabric, clawing at the air, struggling to free themselves and grasping for William in equal measure. The world remained dark and blurry, but William’s form jumped into sharp relief as he hesitated, screamed, and tumbled over in an attempt to backpedal away from the monster before him. His face, his chest, and his groin glowed bright, a heat map of terror.
“Always stumbling over yourself, Doctor Masterson,” Robert said. His voice was strange in his ears, high and piping, as if he’d swallowed helium. As if his vocal chords had been stretched taut and thin. As if the mouth he’d spoken through and the ears he’d heard with were no longer his own.
He was only dimly aware of the differences in his sense. All but a tiny sliver of his attention was focused on the prone, mewling man before him, frightened and–
–squirming like a fish caught in the grasp of an anemone.
“Speak, Doctor Masterson. Have you nothing to say for yourself? No pithy comment on the situation you find yourself in? No last words?”
Robert’s face twisted up in a sneer. William was so clever, so witty, so charming. Where was that now? Where was his grace and poise in the face of the alien and the absurd. It pleased him to see William so helpless. Meanwhile another part of his brain was cataloguing the scene, coldly observing his own actions and emotions, William’s reactions, the way William’s hand was groping desperately along the floor for something.
William’s fingers wrapped around the flashlight. He swung it up and out and turned it on, and Robert roared in agony, but he could still see the prone man, still sense his fear, taste the epinephrine coursing through his body.
He fell on William like a tidal wave. Tendrils shattered bones, wrapped around William’s neck and squeezed. Serrated teeth tore through the fabric of his suit and bit into trembling flesh and drew blood. “Asteroidea are voracious eaters, Doctor Masterson. They are so very, very hungry.”
* * *
The ones in the tank would not survive. It would not survive either, of course, but it had made it farther than its brethren ever would. It had seen what had become of this world, seen the hideous creatures of meat that dwelt on it now. It had fed on them, and in doing so it had touched their horrifying minds, alien and unfocused and utterly insane.
It would die. It would die alone and removed from the cities that filled its genetic memory, great reaching towers built underwater, on plains of ice, within jungles that likely no longer existed. But its brethren would survive. There were too many of them not to.
Even now they were awakening, shedding the weak forms they’d been forced to adopt as their civilization fell. Those most unfit would tear themselves apart, and the strong would feed upon them. They would feed, and they would grow, and they would reclaim the intelligence and the strength and the science that was their birthright, and then they would reclaim this world once more. After all, ambition was as much a part of its race as their wings, their eyes, their bones.
Ambition and hunger.