Hot, congealing blood showered down on me as I was yanked off my feet.
“yOuR VOlunTarY cooperation is not necessary,” the Cancer—what had it called itself?— gurgled in my ear. “WE ArE authorized to proceed with force.”
Well, hey! At least I wasn’t hearing freaky voices in my head anymore!
“Are you sure about that?” I stammered, squeezing an arm between the tentacle and my neck before it could tighten. “I used to be, uh, a clerk, you know, and it’s always good to double-check this kind of paperwork before doing anything too… permanent.”
The tentacle slackened, and I sagged with relief. Maybe that had worked…? Then in an instant it slipped under my arm and wrapped more snugly around my neck. The overpowering stench of gore flooded my nose and mouth. I gagged, struggling for air, and clutched at the tentacle. For a second I succeeded in prying it away from my neck, and then it surged free of my grasp. Now I was being strangled in earnest.
I had to talk my way out of this. I hastily crafted an eloquent and persuasive argument to win the abomination over to my side, and opened my mouth to speak.
“…Urrhrk,” I managed to say as my throat was crushed further. My breathing turned to wheezes as my trachea compressed. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get enough air.
Time seemed to slow down as adrenaline swamped my brain. This was the part where my life flashed before my eyes, right?
I guessed that doesn’t really happen. The disappointment was almost as crushing as the tentacle choking the life out of me. I’d wanted to at least see a highlight reel! G knows it wouldn’t be very long.
The tentacle squelched as it tightened and sharp barbs cut through my jacket, stinging viciously where they sank into my skin. My feet kicked reflexively and I clawed at the tentacle. Its rubbery muscles bulged through my grasp but I refused to let go.
I kept struggling though my arms were starting to get weak. My lungs burned. I seemed to spend most of my time in these kinds of situations, I realized. I’d wind up clinging to some miniscule change of survival when the signs all pointed to giving up.
Even when my entire team had been killed, I’d stumbled onwards through the miserable wastelands.
Even when all I had was a roll of scribbled-on toilet paper and a sign taped to my butt, I’d kept on.
Even now, being slowly strangled by Cancer itself, I was fighting the inevitable.
Why bother? I thought. Wouldn’t it be easier to be flesh puppet like those dead soldiers? Why not just let go and be done with it? No more stupid missions. No more getting hassled by Pilot. Dark spots swam across my vision. I dimly realized that this time I might not have a choice in the matter.
Wait…Pilot… a couple of synapses sluggishly fired in the back of my brain. Something about Pilot… something important… relevant to this situation… what was that, something about a mirror?
All at once, I remembered. I let go of the tentacle with one hand and began rummaging clumsily through my pocket with one hand just as I lost the ability to breathe at all.
“gOod, ChaRleS, JuST rELax. LeT GO wItH YOuR oTheR hAnD NoW. LEt Us pRocEed. iT iS yOuR DesTiny.”
Screw my destiny, I thought, and in my pocket my hand closed around the thing I’d remembered.