Twelve retches in the dark; something cold and slippery crawls up the inside of your throat. Aquamarine scales glisten in the half-light and a tentacled head worships as you pull it out of your mouth. A child laughs in the corner as you sob from relief, calls you stupid, walks to pull you by the ear with surprising strength, over rusted metal, out into blinding sun. A handful of gold cubes are tossed after you. They all manage to clatter against your skull.
Desert sand sears your sides as the ship soars deep into arid blue in the three hot breaths it takes to get your vision to adjust to the outdoors. You cough and spit out streams of yellow that sizzle and squirm on the fire of baked sand.
Stand up. Your bones knock against each other as you sway drunk on fatigue. Your spirit swims like fry in the ocean of the waves of heat that pour off the desert beneath you. The worm has fed upon your flesh, your fat, and your bones. It doesn’t drink blood, the man who gave you the cup of amber liquor had said. In it had swam a pearl that he called an egg. Nineteen half-fortunes to be a womb to an alien life-form for eight days. You would be doing the New World some good. Those things secrete a white fluid that can cure all ailments of the blood, but they can’t grow in animal bodies, or dead bodies, or sedated bodies, only living conscious male humans. You had been trawling the glass and steel ruins of past modernity for one year when the ship had landed outside the rusted carcass of the skyscraper you called home, where you had been on a strict diet of cockroaches and raw tomatoes and saltwater.
The man walked in on the heaviest white space-boots and his broad angular face cradled those big yellow circle x-ray specs. He hands you the cup and says drink. You ask how he found you and he taps his glasses. You say you want to go off-planet with him and he says he’s at full passenger and crew. You insist. He takes you onboard. After you see the flaking blue chrome interior, he says he’ll take you on, if you can sleep on the floor and act as lookout, which means sitting on the exterior of the ship, in this shaky box, wearing an oxygen bulb over your head and looking out into space with those hot-red binocular glasses, looking for pirates and other cosmic predators. You say yes, and drink the amber. It is peppery hot and sweet as death as the pearl goes down like a pill. The man puts his finger to your neck and pushes a ligament. You fall into the abyss of mind.
You wake up three days later, the egg has hatched and baby squid is feeding on you. Swimming inside your belly like a hunger. There is the gentle pull of its tentacles as they latch and suck hard on your innards. There are bites of pain, the dizzy drug of emptiness that follows after, then the slither as it swims and curls itself near the heat of your heart to sleep. You can’t scream when it grows big enough to distend your stomach visibly with its motions. Your mouth feels like a very heavy hole. You flit between states of unconsciousness more times than you did when you were living in the office cubicle with nothing but a tomato plant and a pool of tsumani water.
Day 8 and a child with a bulbous silvery arm as big as his whole body comes into your cell. He tells you to go into a crouch. Time to deliver what you signed up for. You do as he says. You don’t know why you can’t fight against all these happenings. Maybe all the tomatoes and saltwater have been diluting the depth and capacity of your brain. Anyhow, the thing starts swimming around like mad, and your belly is bubbling like a witch’s cauldron and you feel it slide up your esophagus. The most disgusting feeling since you had your first raw cockroach and tomato salad. You begin to retch. The maggoty motions of your gut extend into parts of your body that you didn’t know existed. The squid moves up and expands your throat. You retch.
The cyborg boy calls you stupid, but still pays you your half-fortunes.