First voice. Three yards directly ahead. Steady timber. A leader.
"Cut out his eyes."
Second voice, one and a half yards to the left. High pitched. Shrilly.
"The eyes are too salty. Take his tongue first. They live
for a long time without the tongue. We must play with him before
he runs dry!
Third voice. Directly behind. Slow, labored. Experienced.
"Poke him full of holes. We'll slake the whole clan's lust
on his wounds. We can use his bitch as scripe bait."
"No," first voice again. "We're sending this one
back. Sending him back blind, as a warning. Stay out! The Tower
is our world! Our home!"
"Agreed. Let them know their weapons and powers mean nothing
here. We rule by steel and bone!" Third voice.
"Blind the warlock pup and send him back to his masters!"
Second voice. "Tear out his eyes!"
Dashiel Word opened his eyes. He relaxed his neck and adjusted
to the blood flooding through his head. He turned his head to the
side, seeing Agent Emma Kessler also hanging upside down beside
him. Thick, slimy, cords bound her body as they did his. He flexed
once, arching his back and hoping the sheer force of his ample musculature
would burst the bonds. It did not.
His captors paced around him slowly, with an awkward gait. Like
horses dragging crippled legs through mud. Their eyes were large
and reflective, even in the dim light. Eyes like hard boiled eggs,
throbbing with webs of cerulean vein.
Three, just as I thought, he thought. How did three meager Tower
Rats overpower two Elite Agents? No, there were more. I don't know
where they are now. Not a priority. The priority is Agent Kessler.
No, your first priority is you, Dashiel. Secondary objective, rescue
Xerxes Agent Conrad. Then, if possible, Agent Kessler, he thought.
"Get my carving knife."
It was tough enough to get his bearings without almost no light,
and harder still hanging upside down. It seemed the only light in
the chamber trickled in through large holes in the chamber ceiling,
likely leading to a serious of tunnels full of mirrors that reflected
the sun miles above.
As the ugly Tower Rats discussed his fate, Dashiel closed his eyes
and began compartmentalizing his thought layers. Already using one
layer to analyze his captors and surroundings, and a second layer
to communicate, he tasked a third layer with calculating how long
he and Emma had been hanging. His limbs felt thoroughly drained,
hollow slabs of cold meat suspended above him, straining his ligaments.
Must have been at least an hour. He twisted and turned as much as
he could. No sharp pains. No fragments. Still good. Muscle response
not optimal, but still far above average. Sympathetic nervous system
"Emma," he whispered.
The lead Rat leaned in suddenly. "Your bitch is dead, pup."
Dashiel gagged and twisted away from the face. Snuck up so fast.
No wonder they got the drop on us.
They move like coked up mongoloids.
He heard Emma mumble his name.
"Emma!" he turned wildly toward her. His momentum caused
him to sway back and forth erratically, jerking up and down and
side to side as he swung in the humid cave. His captors danced around
in the dark as best they could, swatting at him and cackling. He
was like a trapped moth, wingless, molested in the cocoon.
A terrible roar tore through the chamber, momentarily breaking
up Dashiel's thought patterns. The three captors scrambled into
the darkness. Hot air came bellowing down from above, coating them
in a rancid stink. Dashiel curled his neck forward, pushing his
chin against his chest, trying to see what was above. He felt his
What the holy hell
he thought. They pulsed again. The ropes
"Oh. Shit. Wake up, Emma! Wake up!"
He couldn't see her now. His momentum had ceased. She hung behind
him, helpless, unconscious.
I have no idea what that is, but I'm damn sure I'm hanging from
its mouth, Dashiel thought. He took a deep breath. Actually, it
is a Terriatic scripe, mutant variety, Dashiel thought. The words
tumbled from the deepest recess of his mind, echoing out of the
inner void. They came as distant waves, pushed by an alien moon,
invading his mind with his own voice.
A byproduct of the Terror Legacy. This kind of beast never existed
before the first hundred years of the Terror Wars. Normally, they're
about the size of a horse. The one you're held by is five times
the size of normal scripe, judging by its ability to hold both you
and Agent Kessler. This specimen most likely grew so large due to
the high levels of toxic and psychic radiation permeating the Tower.
You are hanging from just two of a vast number of tendril like appendages
in the scripe's mouth. Apparently, the Tower Rats have some means
of controlling it, for by all accounts the scripe should have devoured
you alive by now.
Dashiel shook his head, disoriented by the sound of himself.
Thanks, Clive, Dashiel thought. Good to know you still got my back.
Even if I'm just in the back of your mind, Dashiel thought.
"Fucking Monads," Dashiel said. "Hey, you ugly sons
of bitches! Where'd you go? Scared of a little scripe? What? Did
you pussy out? I thought you were going to pull out my eyes!"
They came slinking back out of the darkness. One drew closer, a
long rusted blade clutched tightly in its fist. The blade was curved
like a spine, with sharp spikes clasping over the knuckles. Nine
inches long. Dashiel focused on the hand. Thick and gelatinous,
fatty tissue full of tumors. Biting it wouldn't do much to loosen
the grip on the knife.
"Silence," the Tower Rat said. He lifted the knife slowly,
waiting for the stink of sweat and fear to pour from Dashiel Word.
"Ugly inbred radio-active wastoid," Dashiel said. Um,
Clive? I could really use a fucking plan right now, he thought.
I'm working on it, Dashiel, he thought. I don't have a lot to go
The Tower Rat slid the knife across the scripe's tendril, just
beside Dashiel's neck. Up in the abyss, the scripe bellowed in rage,
shaking Dashiel and Emma, causing them to knock against one another.
The Tower Rat reached out and grabbed Dashiel, halting his swing.
"We'll send you back as a warning," the Tower Rat said.
"Sorry, I can't hear you through all the spit in that disgusting
thing you call a mouth."
The Tower Rat leaned closer. "Your pretty friend will mother
our next brood. We'll eat bits of her flesh over time, keeping her
pregnant and crippled like her foolish partner!"
Dashiel let the hatred flow through him. His heart became a volcano,
his ribs a furnace. Anxiety and concern were shattered on the floor
of reason, pooling together in a pulpy, sticky mass of hate. He
channeled it, using it as fuel, holding it as his multi-layered
consciousness continued its work.
As the Rat continued to taunt him, a fourth layer of thought toiled
fervently. He was rapidly forming a mental map of the most likely
configuration of the scripe tendril he hung from. It was based on
levels of moisture, heat, and compression that he felt across his
rapidly numbing body.
"And when we're finished with her corpse
" the Rat
"From hell's heart I stab at thee," Dashiel growled.
The veins in his neck shook with rage. His words rumbled forth like
a distant knell of thunder. He screamed. "For hate's sake a
spit my last breath at thee!"
The Elite killer's will rose from his core. A sudden tensing of
the rotator cuff, improper flexing of the deltoids, and a jerk in
an odd direction, and Dashiel dislocated his own right shoulder.
His body fell a half foot before the scripe's tendril could adjust.
Within a half-second, and that half-foot of space, his left arm
shot free, grabbing the Tower Rat by the throat.
The Tower Rat shrieked. His last bit of air rushed out of the collapsing
windpipe. With one hand it clutched Dashiel's stone wrist, with
the other, it plunged the blade deep into the center of Dashiel's
His scream rose through the Tower, like a soul fleeing Hell. It
burst past the hungry scripe, tore through the miles of hollowed
out caverns and armies of Tower Rats, twisting, speeding, echoing
ever upwards. It echoed through the halls of the Toxic Tower, reaching
the ears of the man Dashiel was meant to save. The Agent Conrad
lay huddled in the dark, flayed and limbless. The sound of Dashiel's
pain released him from his own torture, if only for one brief, rapturous,
Dashiel's cry rose through the massive crater, out into the dry
sands of the desert. Miles above, on Arcturus Command, Dr. Clive
Gohinn was shrieking on his laboratory floor. His assistants desperately
groped at him, trying to restrain his wild thrashing before he destroyed
vital equipment. Two knelt on his arms, a third pressed down on
his waist, and the others quickly scooped up all the vials labeled
"Monad-Symbiote: Sigma Brood".
"My eye!" Clive screamed. "Oh god I'm blind! They
cut out my eye!"
NEXT TIME ON WORD OF THE PSYCHIC BUG:
Hunger and Desire: Who shall prevail?
The Psychic Bug splinters a precious mind!
The Cyclops murders a shackled god!