If Dee had 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, her ascendance would be delayed 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 came to a stop 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 seconds, then his gaze settled on Gonzo’s corpse. The giant red holes, the wriggling worm-creatures burrowing through flesh, bone and armor….
“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 wriggled into her mouth. Her cheeks bulged wide as she gulped and swallowed. The tail-end of the braid disappeared, and she closed her eyes in unabashed pleasure. Fresh misery was coursing through her being. Delectable.
“Aaaaah.” She smacked her lips and looked at Hank, who was leveling the end of his ridiculous metal weapon at her. It had several energy manipulation devices mounted on its rails, but her auric sight informed her they weren’t dangerous; they were solely for the purposes of optical enhancement.
“You know what’s going to happen, right?” Her form had solidified; she now looked like a pretty teenage girl in a black goth getup. Ricky’s psyche told her Hank was a soldier—he’d been heavily indoctrinated in the concept of “target identification.” Unless push came to shove, he wasn’t going to kill a teenage girl.
Hank struggled to process his situation, then his eyes hardened as his critical thinking overrode his training. She was impressed; she’d crushed entire civilizations through the pull of dogma. The fact that Hank could adjust this quickly meant he was a formidable human.
“Yeah.” He centered his holographic sight 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. I’ll go down fighting.”
A respectful nod. “At least you’re honest about it.”
“All I was doing was telling my guys to walk in a circle.” A slight grin. “May seem weird, but this is a welcome change.”
“Maybe we should thank each other.”
“Not how this works.”
Hank unloaded, emptying his clip in a matter of seconds. He kept the rifle exactly where it was, sighting in on her chest, then ejected the mag with his support hand and grabbed a fresh clip out of his harness. He jacked it in, released the bolt—it slammed home with a crisp-sounding chank—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 her palms were turned outward.
She pulled her hands out 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 appear as if his face had been mutilated with a razor-edged ice cream scoop.
Mmmm…Dee licked her fingers clean. Yummy. She extended her senses and felt a wave of relief—the aetheric tides were still quiet. So far, so good—she hadn’t been noticed by any other entities. Out-fucking-standing, she thought.
Because Ricky’s psyche informed her that more food was on its way.
Half an hour later, four vehicles parked by the guard shack. SRU, according to Ricky’s assimilated mind. 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 got to their feet and began moving 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 displayed them as 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. Dozens of rounds later, 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.
“Repeat.” A tinge of hysteria crept into the squad leader’s voice. 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 Ricky-pedia) and yelled: “Back to the trucks, no peel!” For a second Dee was confused—“no peel?”—then the Ricky-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 landscape with wild, frenzied bursts. The muck to her rear exploded with divots.
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, causing it to pinball into another 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 acrid 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, 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 rat’s nests 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, sliding shhlllPP.
God DAMN that is tasty. She wiped drool off the edge of her lips.
Who knows? she thought as she slid into the front of an intact car.
This could be fun.
She gunned the engine and drove into the night.