Day 91. 91 pages, 38,705 words.
The Banthrap were an avioid species
Specifically evolved for survival
In the high-gravity environment
Of the Marshendi flatworlds. Avioids
In environments above fifteen times
Centre normal gravity are very
Rare and usually dependent upon
The Banthrap were an exception to this.
Unmade in Marshendi Experiments.
Predericon frowned vaguely as the quality of light around her shifted. She looked around, and up, unable to wince at the aching stiffness of her neck.
The Bookwyrm was standing above her, towering all the more imposingly for the fact that she was sitting on the downward slope of the archive where it began to steepen. As she watched, the mottled and twisted figure stepped around her, descended into the centre of the archive and stopped on the misty black disc of the chute.
Predericon opened her mouth but was unable to coax a sound from her parched throats. She tried to remember the last time she’d taken water from the condenser, but couldn’t even remember where the condenser was. Somewhere off to her right and up the slope towards the edge of the light, she thought. But wasn’t sure. She didn’t remember.
“You are going to die,” the Bookwyrm told her. “I did not understand before, the sustenance your biology requires. The ‘food’ your elder referred to.”
Predericon opened her mouth again. “I…” she managed to force out. “Hhh…”
“I can help you into the darkness,” it said, extending its left hands. It must have seen the fear in her eyes, or otherwise detected a shift in her involuntary functions or scent, because it lowered them again. “There is another way. I have been considering the problem.”
“Hhhwww…” she wheezed. “Hwwater.”
“The device appears to have shorted out,” the Bookwyrm informed her. “You were shaking it in your hand, some time ago, and then you discarded it. It is no longer operational, although perhaps there is a way to fix it. I have not considered this.”
She remembered now. The cobbled-together condenser had gone out of alignment and one of its components had begun to run down faster than the others, increasing the imbalance. Fixing it was a simple matter – or would have been, a week ago. Now, she could barely conceptualise the issue, let alone assemble the movements and processes required to make the repair.
In fact, all she could think was that there might be an answer in the archives. If not the decoy surface archives, then the real archives beneath. This was how she had begun to think of the archives hidden in the errors of the main data.
“You will not survive much longer,” the Bookwyrm spoke into her reverie. “You will not survive long enough to find it.”
“The answer you seek,” the Bookwyrm said, and gestured at the light around them. “All of the answers. You will not live long enough to find them.”
“Your examination of the archives leaves a trail,” the Bookwyrm said. “Footprints I can recognise. I have seen you circling the truth. Trying to find the way in. It will take more time than you have left.”
“No,” Predericon rasped. “How … other way?”
The Bookwyrm stepped forward, and raised a hand as it leaned in towards her.
“I can sustain you,” it said. “I have considered the problem. But you must accept it freely. You were not ready before, but now you have taken these important steps. Now it is necessity.”
Its hand moved back towards its body and its long, knifepoint fingers slid silently into one of the moving islands of churned meat that marked the shifting boundary between Flesh-Eater and the scaly whatever-it-was with which it had been melded. It curled its smooth white talon and withdrew it, holding … something. Something that writhed and squirmed and coiled around the Bookwyrm’s wrist as it raised its hand once again, smearing dark grey grease on its pale skin.
It occurred to Predericon, in a detached and listless way, that she didn’t need to endure every distasteful piece of sensory input as her body did what was necessary to remain functional. The escape hatch for her consciousness was right in front of her – was, in fact, all around her.
The Bookwyrm offered its sustenance, and Predericon let her attention shift back to the light.
– Posted from my Huawei mobile phone while on the bus.