If Dee simply ended his pain, she wouldn’t maximize her nutritional intake (she hadn’t been able to resist bolting down the first one; she’d been too damn hungry). Fear and suffering were her meat and potatoes.
So she pushed her prey below the surface of the muck, reveling in his wild heartbeat, his frantic moans. Every so often, she’d let him up for a gulp of air—he would take in a great, shuddery gasp that was almost a wail—then she’d push him back under. His panic was delicious but she had to be careful. Eventually, other entities would sense her activity, and in her weakened state, she wouldn’t be able to fight them off. If she got in a scrap with Abraxas or Memnoch, she would delay her ascendance by several millennia.
The sound of an engine rumbled through the air. Dee looked toward it—at the hill to her right—and saw a pair of headlights blaze into existence.
Her right hand formed into a two-foot long, spiny proboscis. She plunged it downward, into her prey’s brain (Ricky, she realized as her mental siphon connected with his psyche) and sucked his consciousness into her being. The truck stopped a dozen yards away.
“Ricky! Gonzo! Where are you?” the man in the truck (Hank, she realized, courtesy of the incoming data from Ricky’s psyche) screamed. “Come on—let’s GO!”
Hank looked around for a couple of seconds, then his gaze settled on Gonzo’s corpse. The giant red holes, the wriggling worm-creatures burrowing through his flesh….
“Oh my…oh my…FUCK!”
Dee summoned the worms with a mental command. [Return.]
They slid across the grass, braiding into a thick, gleaming coil as they crawled up her neck and squirmed into her mouth. Her cheeks bulged wide as she gulped and swallowed. Fresh misery coursed through her being.
“Aaaaah.” She smacked her lips and looked at Hank, who was leveling the end of his ridiculous metal weapon at her. Energy projection devices hung off its rails, but her auric sight informed her they weren’t dangerous; they were solely for the purpose of optic enhancement.
“You know what’s going to happen, right?” Ricky’s psyche told her Hank was a soldier—he’d been heavily trained in “target identification.” Unless push came to shove, he wasn’t going to kill a teenage girl.
Hank struggled to process her appearance. Then his eyes hardened as his critical thinking overrode his training. Dee was impressed; she’d decimated kingdoms through the pull of dogma. The fact that Hank could adjust this quickly meant he was a formidable human.
“Yeah.” His sights steadied on her buxom chest. “I’m pretty sure I know what you’re about.”
“So why fight it?” She cocked her head, curious.
“I am what I am.”
A respectful nod. “At least you’re honest about it.”
“For the last four years, I’ve been telling my guys to walk in a circle.” A slight grin. “May seem weird, but this is a welcome change.”
“So thank me.”
“Not how this works.”
Hank unloaded, emptying his clip in a matter of seconds. He ejected the mag hand and grabbed a fresh clip out of his harness. He jacked it in and released the bolt, but before he could fire she blurred toward him, gouging his eyes with her index and middle fingers. Her right fingers went in his right eye socket, her left fingers in the other one. Both palms were turned outward.
She pulled her hands to either side, extending her arms in a wide, sweeping slash. Hank’s skull blew apart. Chunks of brain trailed her fingers, marking the air with red-speckled gore.
He slumped to his knees, then on to his side. The wounds in his temples—craters filled with curdy red slop—made it look like his face had been gashed with a razor-edged ice cream scoop.
Mmmm…Dee licked her fingers. Yummy. The aetheric tides were still quiet. So far, so good—she hadn’t been noticed by other entities. Out-fucking-standing.
Because according to Ricky’s psyche, more food was on the way.
Half an hour later, four vehicles parked by the guard shack. They were SRU, according to the Rick-i-pedia. This was confirmed a second later when a squad of kitted-up operators poured from the cars. They dropped to a knee, weapons shouldered, and scanned their surroundings. After a moment the squad leader signaled, and the rest of the men repeated the gesture. They rose to their feet and made their way forward in a double-file column.
One of them saw her and called, “12 o’ clock, 50 yards, teenage girl.” The rest of them spread into a horizontal line and raised their weapons, painting her body with invisible lasers. Her auric sight rendered the beams into a glowing network of dancing lines.
“Weapons free,” the squad leader replied.
A barrage of slugs plinked off her skin, causing her clothes to jump and quiver. The team leader called, “Stop.” His men repeated it, and the fire came to a halt.
Dee stood tall. Urgent murmurs—shit, what the fuck—rippled through their ranks.
Hand-loaded ordnance washed over Dee, enveloping her in a blanket of snaps and pops.
The squad leader let his rifle droop. He was wearing a balaclava, so his features were covered. Nevertheless, Dee could see the fabric around his mouth dimpling and quivering as he struggled to express his disbelief.
A moment later he pointed his rifle toward the sky (a high-port, according to the Rick-i-pedia) and yelled: “Back to the trucks, no peel!”
Dee was confused—“no peel?”—then the Rick-i-pedia informed her that under normal circumstances, they would have retreated in an orderly manner—a “peel”—which would have allowed them to maintain a steady rate of fire and make it seem as if they were a larger force than they actually were.
She waited patiently, watching as they piled in their vehicles and started the engines. As they took off, they leaned out their windows and began shooting at her. This time it wasn’t nearly as disciplined; they tore apart the ground with wild, frenzied bursts. The muck to her rear exploded with divots.
And then she was moving.
Everything slowed—she could see each bullet streaking through the air, the armored tires cycling round and round. She slammed the nearest truck with her right shoulder, sending it spinning into a sister vehicle. Both tumbled off the road. The other two trucks were gaining distance; the men inside probably thought they were going to escape.
Dee raised her right hand, clutching the air like she was holding a baseball at arm’s length. When her telekinetic freeze hit the vehicles, their reinforced tires spun and screamed, churning up clouds of foul-smelling smoke. Shrieks erupted from inside the cars.
Puny meatlings. To think you can fight me with metal fragments…ridiculous. Utterly ridiculous.
She drew them in, slowly but steadily. The doors popped open, and men poured out. They tried to run, but Dee’s mouth yawed wide, her lower jaw reaching down to her knees, and—
—unleashed a torrent of segmented coils, each capped by an eyeless, snapping head. They lashed through the air in whip-like twists, coating the men in a rat’s nest of tentacles. Sharp-fanged mouths latched hungrily on to gear and flesh, reducing the operators to a writhing pile of bloody food. They’d arrived as warriors, but she’d revealed them to be human, and now, meat.
As it should be.
Once her worms had stripped the men of flesh, she called them back. The last tentacle slid in her mouth with a wet, slippery shhlllPP.
God DAMN that is tasty. She wiped the drool off the edge of her lips.
Who knows? she thought as she sat in the front of an intact car.
This could be fun.
She gunned the engine and drove into the night.