Entertainingly Evil

The Invaders by Eric J. Guignard

The signal to attack must be given soon or I will die. I have waited all my life for it, though there is no guarantee it will ever arrive. If I perish, others will replace me, as I have replaced those that have perished before me. In darkness, I ponder our fate.

Restless, like a caged animal, I feel my strength grow, along with my impatience. I am trapped here with the others, waiting, hoping for the signal to be sounded. Our number swells, yet still we hold, cramped in our quarters, and I question when we ever will be set to our duty. Are there millions of others beside me? Hundreds of millions? We are truly legion and have but one objective: to find and penetrate the wall.

Our master holds us back, cruelly it seems. There are certain rituals he must perform, mystic ceremonies which I can barely wonder at. The timing is baffling and sporadic. Sometimes the signal seems prepared, and I grow frenzied in excitement, but it does not sound, and my frenzy turns to raging frustration. I am an invader, yet am unaccountably tethered.

I pause and consider what has turned me to this. Is it instinct that drives me to attack, or have I been programmed through constructs of which I am not aware? My absolute being seems scrubbed and trained solely for this effort. I know nothing of my past, except the discontent of uncertainty. Many others have left before me, yet none have returned. What would occur if I revolted against my calling?

As I consider this, the signal is sounded to begin the invasion. Our master releases us, and all my doubts and questions vanish in the furor of assault. Our quarters open to a long black tunnel of space, and we rush through as a furious horde. I wish to scream and howl in the battle lust for triumph. Faint flickers of light burst, like faraway explosions, and then dark shadows converge as we spill into a deep portal. I hear distant moans but I am bolstered by the strength of our number. I am just in my charge.

The landscape we enter is organic and raw, colored as an angry wound. The air is black and wet. Invaders fall around me; the lame, the old, the unfortunate. Acidic secretions burn as we pass through, and strange shapes attack. More of our comrades fall with silent screams. We advance past their twisting, disintegrating forms. Rushing. Rushing. Our time is scarce. If the invasion is not successful, we will all die like the others.

This new world is increasingly aberrant, and we search desperately. The further we progress though, the darker it becomes, and I wonder if we could charge past the wall without realizing our miscalculation until it was too late. I do not know what the wall even looks like—it may be well-concealed, or it may be all around us. More invaders are dying; our force weakens before we even spy the adversary.

Then I see it. Looming ahead, a bastion that is like nothing I have ever imagined in the bleakest of contemplations. We swarm to it and, drawing closer, I am confounded by its creation.

The wall pulsates.

It is not a stationary construct, but a monstrous, beating orb floating in the inky darkness. Its massive barrier is the color of cream, with blood-red nerves that surround like tangled bulwarks. Although its presence is terrifying, the sanctity of our duty holds fast—we attack the wall and begin to eat at its outer defense. Our teeth are sharp, our appetite insatiable.

The orb quivers at our assault, and soon I feel its perimeter begin to deteriorate. I eat ferociously, burrowing my head into its gelatinous surface, thrashing and wriggling, in order to break into the inner sanctuary. A small breach tears open, and I sense what lies on the other side: a warm, sticky mass that calls to me in song.

I must have it.

I gnaw at the perforation, ripping and chomping to enlarge it. Over time, other invaders fall away, exhausted, unable to match my aptitude of consumption. This is good, I think, for the tide of war has changed. I no longer fight amongst company to breach this fortress, but am now a lone warrior. In this battle, there can be only one victor… one survivor. I turn my back against former comrades, those who travelled with me to this world. In frenzy, I chew and burrow alone, desperate to reach the inner sanctuary before anyone else.

The wall crumbles under my teeth, and I break through. Tendrils of throbbing mass reach from within to reward me with primal embrace. I wonder at its intention, but allow myself to meet it, and am sucked into the oozing folds of its matter. Behind me, the fortress wall changes and hardens, as if crystallizing. No others are allowed to chew through; they are left behind, to die in the dark, cruel land.

I am absorbed by the mass. It is terrifying and exhilarating, as if I’ve been swallowed by a rubber mold that pulls me apart and fills me with itself. Synapses spark, and tracers of wild color flash, or perhaps I imagine it, as I tumble and stretch within the thing, the nebula.

It is a prison and it is a vast ocean, a brew that boils with fervor and potential. It infects me with its essence, and my form—our form—mutates ceaselessly and grows large. There is no perception of movement, yet I undulate and squirm, and things pull and twist inside me. My explanation is lost, replaced by appendages which sprout like points of a star. Time and consciousness are meaningless as they flitter away, then suddenly return to prod me awake.

A light comes forth from far away.

I am born from the uterus, screaming, with no memory of what I have done or understanding of who I have become.

Eric J. Guignard’s a writer and editor of dark and speculative fiction, operating from the shadowy outskirts of Los Angeles. He’s won the 2013 Bram Stoker Award, was a finalist for the 2014 International Thriller Writers Award, and he still wants more. Visit Eric at: www.ericjguignard.com, his blog: ericjguignard.blogspot.com, or Twitter: @ericjguignard.

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