Chrysalis - Chapter 466

Published at 27th of February 2020 06:40:09 AM

Chapter 466

I have to wonder what the minders are doing whilst Sarah and I engage in a mental conversation . I mean, are they listening in? I suppose it's possible . I can't sense them at all, but I suppose that isn't any sort of guarantee, considering their higher Skill levels . Perhaps this is all just part of their research, learning about people like me and our monstrous transformations . I can't afford to care too much about it, since this is such a rare opportunity .

Perhaps I've been away from the colony for too long . It's nice to have a conversation with someone who is able to reciprocate my human culture . I've still spent longer as a human than as an ant after all, and the humans I've met here on Pangera have been … a bit odd, let's put it that way . Sarah on the other hand, seems quite normal, all things considered . Despite freely acknowledging being a bit unbalanced, she comes across as well spoken and measured .

[I wasn't always this steady,] she confides, [in the first few years it was rough, as I'm sure you know . After my … death … on Earth, and being reborn here… It's hard at the start . You know what I mean . ]

[You're referring to the terror and existential dread of having to fight for survival in a strange world of death?]

[Exactly that . ]

[Yes, I recall . I mean, I was a tiny little ant monster . Just about every monster I saw was able to rip me apart . You started out as a bear! It can't have been that bad . ]

It's odd to think of a bear giving you the stink eye, especially a giant, elephant sized bear with a distended maw that housed teeth as long as a human forearm, but here we are .

[Look, Anthony, I didn't start this size . I didn't even start as a fully grown bear . I was a cub! A little harmless bear cub!]

I'm immediately suspicious .

[Just a cub eh? A harmless little fuzzy ball of fluff, with the claws, and the fangs . How large were you exactly? Somehow I don't think you were just an average, Earth sized cub…]

[I … might have been a touch larger than normal . ]

[Just a touch, huh?]

[It's not like you were a normal sized ant!]

[How the heck would I have survived if I was a regular sized ant?! Not to mention, I was born outside of my colony! Without it's colony, a regular ant will die in a day!]

[Is that so? I wonder why?]

I will never turn down the chance to educate someone about the glorious world of ants!

[You need to think of individual ants as cells that make up a larger organism when they work together . One ant is not capable of surviving, it needs its brethren to work together to provide context, decision making and safety . ]

[So… ants are weak?]

[No . Ants are sophisticated social creatures who are mutually dependent on each other!]

[But an ant on its own can't survive…]

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[Not the point!]

[You're a bit weird Anthony,] Sarah laughed at me .

It'd been a long time since I'd heard such a relaxed, earnest laugh . Something about it just helped the tension to unwind a few notches in my non-existent shoulders . It helps a lot that Sarah is such a friendly, sociable person . It's hard to believe that she was deemed nuts enough to have her soul ripped into this planet .

[I don't know what it is, both you and James have such weird pets . No wonder you both ended up in such odd species when you were born here . ]

[Odd? He's not another insect is he?]

I will brook no competition for the throne of the greatest insect!

[What? Oh, no . I won't tell you, I don't want to ruin the surprise . They'll probably bring him out to meet you next time . They tend to be a little precious with us . The Shapers, I mean . ]

That sends my antennae into the air a little .

[Precious? I've been informed that I'll be fighting to the death against other monsters that they've nurtured . It doesn't seem like they're being all that careful with me . Some might say, just the opposite!]

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Sarah's big bear head slumps to the ground and huffs with irritation, sending a cloud of dust swirling from the wind of it .

[I know,] she sighs, [something has gotten right into their heads . They've been so nice to me you know . I was half insane by the time I made it down to the second strata . I was lonely, blood crazed and starving . The isolation and constant fighting starts to chip away at your mind and before you know it you're a screaming loony . If I hadn't gotten picked up by a patrol of Shapers by chance I don't know what would have happened to me . ]

[What happened?] I was curious to know .

[It was quite surprising to me . At the time I was so on edge and ready to fight, the first time they made contact through a mind bridge and tried to talk with me I went completely mental . I thrashed around, trying to find them but they just backed off and waited until I calmed down before they tried again . It took them three days before I was able to talk back to them, then another three before I agreed to meet them . After that I decided to take them up on their offer and came back here with them . They put me up, feed me, converse with me, taught me all sorts of stuff . It's been great . ]

[So why the death blender now? Seems like there has been a clear shift in policy . ]

[I know and they just won't talk to me,] Sarah huffs, clearly frustrated, [I've been told that I won't be part of the 'selection' but that they still consider me a strong candidate . They won't even tell me if James will be thrown in! He better not, that would be barbaric!]

[Isn't the whole thing barbaric? I mean, I'm in it . ]

[Well, yes! Yes it is! Because we are people, not just monsters! They can't do this to us!]
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Even after decades as a monster, Sarah still seems to cling to the idea of herself as being something different . A person, a human, a creature who is valued and has worth . She might have been here being coddled by the Shapers for too long . I've already had to learn the lesson, monsters are not the same as people . We're spawned from the Dungeon and that makes all the difference . Other than the ancients, the rest of us are just resources to the surface people . In the end we can only count on ourselves . At least I have my family, the colony, that I can lean on . Sarah had nothing . I feel sorry for her, to be honest . She had to lean on the Shapers to stay sane, but they've made her lose her edge at the same time .

[They absolutely can . I can't break out of here on my own . I've tested a few things already and they are watching me like a damn hawk with binoculars . They can easily force me to fight . Just knock me out, drag me out here and wait for me to wake up . Or not, just leave me here unconscious to be free experience and Biomass to their pet favourite . ]

[They aren't bad people, Anthony . ]

I shrug my antennae .

[It doesn't matter to me if they're bad or not, I couldn't care less . My only worry is surviving . ]

[Time's up . ] A new voice broke into our mental communication .

Clearly the Shapers had been listening the entire time if they were able to break into our conversation so smoothly . Spying? Just keeping tabs or were they trying to learn something? The other question, did Sarah know about it? My guards are already gesturing for me to return back the way I came, the gate opening wide for me to pass through into the tunnel back to my cell .

[Nice meeting your Sarah . Hope we get another chance to chat soon . ]

[You too Anthony . Stay safe . ]


I can't help but bark out a bit of a laugh at that . Stay safe? It's not really up to me now, is it?