CHAPTER TWO – The Cargo Ship

I woke with a start, heart pounding, sweat pouring off me and feeling a great panic. It felt like something had hit me in the back as my body jerked awake. An alarm clock was ringing and my head was pounding. Opening my eyes, I could feel I was back in that luxurious bed. Weird sounds were coming from the main room and started up the spiral staircase. My eyes were out of focus, but I strained to look at the door, waiting for something to happen. My mouth was dry and my head was spinning. The door burst open, and I had to rub my eyes for a moment. I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing. I thought I was still dreaming. There was an enormous ant like creature standing in the doorway. It must have stood well over two metres and was rubbing its limbs together like it was preparing to eat me. However, I heard what sounded to be clicking sounds coming from the rhythmic movements of its limbs on one another. The sight of it terrified me, but at least I realised perhaps it wouldn’t be eating me.

I gawked at it for a moment. Without me even seeing it reach for me, it seized my leg and pulled me to the ground. My heart began pounding harder through my chest as I was kicking and screaming, trying to get free. I grabbed anything that could keep me in the room, but it was all pointless. The mattress of the bed just came with me as it was yanking me out of the room. This terrifying creature threw me to my feet in one swift movement, grabbing one of my arms and letting my foot go. The woman from before ran in front of us and was clicking furiously at this creature. Following her was this hovering dome that had tentacles hanging down from under it. It looked half-mechanical with a polished metal dome head, reflecting the world around it and the tentacles looking very much like it belonged to an octopus.

Before I could think, this large insect creature had forced them both back down the spiral staircase. I then plummeted to the lower floor with the creature holding my arm tight. I remember screaming so much and feeling so powerless, uncertain what would happen next as this ant-like creature was tugging me across the room. We rushed to the front door of the flat; The door was wide open, waiting for us to go through. 

The ant-like creature threw me towards the door. I spun and saw the dome-shaped, half-mechanical creature grabbing one of the large insect legs and pulled hard. It was an abrupt stop for the insect creature and a great fall for me tumbling backwards. I rolled out of the door only to find that there seemed to be no usual floor outside. I should have landed flat on my back and stared at the ceiling above the door. Instead, I kept falling round. I got scared, wondering where the floor was and how deep this apparent hole was. But it wasn’t a hole. My feet stayed at the entrance of the doorway as I spun round, ending up landing with a great thump against the wall below the door. I should have been upside down in relation to the flat. However, I wasn’t staying in that place because my feet got stuck, rather; I was staying there because gravity appeared to have changed. Pulling me into the wall. I looked around and realised perhaps it wasn’t gravity at all, since the wall I was lying on was the inside of this great cylinder with many doors. I guessed the cylinder may had been spinning, allowing g-forces to take action on my body. Looking in both directions, the cylinder didn’t seem to end.

I stared at this long shaft in the center of the cylinder. It looked to be cluttered with different mechanical devices. There must have been thousands of the dome like tentacle creatures working on it along with the ant-like creatures fighting them. I sat up, wanting to get a closer look at it, still expecting resistance, only to find it was easy. I could hear fighting coming from the flat and peered over the edge. It made me feel dizzy as my head came up from the bottom of the door and the perspective seemed all skewed. They were walking on the flat floor, which appeared to be a wall from my perspective.

I could see the dome-shaped creature fighting with the large insect creature. The woman had clambered onto the ant with her arm around its throat and appeared to be attempting to strangle it or something similar. The ant moved side to side in an attempt to throw the woman off. But the dome like creature kept the insect in its place, making it very difficult for him. I glared at them. They seemed not to notice me as I attempted standing. I felt unsteady because of the unnatural way I could stand up on the cylinder wall.

I looked down into the flat and felt vertigo from the obvious difference in gravity direction and the great distance down to the window of the flat. So I looked up at the mechanical shaft that ran down the center of this cylinder. Squinting a little, I could see tiny figures of the large ant like creatures ripping out technology. Moving my eyes down, I was astonished that I couldn’t see the end of this cylinder. Doors littered the walls for as far as my eyes could see. Coming out of the doors, other large insect types dragging different looking aliens in tow. I remember thinking to myself, what the hell is going on? I would have thought I was dreaming if it hadn’t had been for the pain I felt in that moment. Being thrown about does some terrible things to the body.

The insect creature came up behind me as I stood there goggling over the sheer size of this place. Then, once again, I was being thrown about. It threw me onto its back and began moving along the cylinder wall. I looked behind to see the woman crawl out of the flat. She stood up onto the cylinder wall and then begin her slow pursuit of this insect creature, not able to keep up.

As we were moving, I couldn’t help but focus on the variety of colourful doors that laid along the cylinder wall. Each door differed from the last. When I say different, I mean very different. Each of them a different shape, unique design and made of what appeared to be very alien materials. When I glanced around, I could see many other aliens being treated the same way I was. Most of them being carried like rag dolls being thrown and manipulated by some aggressive child. I stared at them, uncertain what I was seeing was real or not, gripping onto the insect’s back as it carried me.

In one swoop, the insect twisted into a room without a door. Once again, the change in gravity direction made me feel sick. I recognised the room. It was the one I thought I dreamt, part of my nightmare where I was in so much real pain. I felt my stomach drop as if everything in my body had just gave way. Soon I had spewed up the breakfast I had when I first met the woman all over the insect creature. The insect creature didn’t seem to make a sound or make any reaction as his back became a disgusting mess. It just grabbed me from its back and threw me into a strange area of this white room.

The force of me landing on this strange platform crumpled me in a heap. Looking up, I could see many large turrets facing me. I got up onto my hands as I saw the insect creature type something into what seemed like a little touch screen device strapped to its arm. There was this field that enveloped me and I couldn’t move. Just before it paralysed me, I turned my head to see the woman had just caught up and had entered the room. The woman was clicking as to be shouting at the insect creature as she entered. The insect kept her back by pinning her to the wall with one of its many legs. On closer inspection, I could see there were hand like limbs on the end of each of these creature’s legs. I remembered how that seemed to freak me out more than this large sentient ant-like creature existing at all.

Then there was this dreaded sound, like a vast amount of powerful lights being turned on. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught one of those turrets that aimed towards me lighting up. The horror began setting in as I laid there in a crumpled heap. I attempted to move and found it near impossible. I couldn’t move at all. It was as though an invisible, weighted blanket was keeping me in place. I heard this whistling sound and recognised it; It was a very distinctive mechanical sound of wind, like a fan speeding up. Just like I recognised the room from a flash memory that happened before the penthouse, I recognised this sound. I tried closing my eyes, but this field holding me in place seemed to not even allow me the luxury. A headache formed and became more and more intense. My head was burning from the inside. 

The agony was continuing for what seemed like an eternity and I sought to scream out in pain. Not a sound could leave my mouth. Just then I heard the machine power down, and I could blink. I curled up in a ball and held my head as the pain subsided.

“Do you know what you have done?” the woman was now saying to the insect creature.

It shocked me to find I understood the ant-like creature, “He needs to understand us!” 

“.. you learned about this technology, what, five minutes ago? You don’t know what you are doing! We don’t comprehend his biology. You could have damaged him! That’s not to mention his violent tendencies! His species is far too dangerous for him to learn the truth. He does not need to understand us!”

“His species is weak!”

I was standing up at that point, staring at them with a puzzled look. The insect creature let the woman go, snatched my arm, and picked me up from the floor.

“What could he do?”

The beautiful woman smiled a smile of someone with the upper hand. I heard that sound of powerful lights being turned on again as me and the insect froze in our position. Then I heard a very different sound. It was a sound of an explosion and I looked down, finding I could move. The insect creature had blasted a hole in the floor with what looked to be some blaster he held. 

He had pointed the blaster thing at the woman. Coming quick through the door was a dome-shaped creature. It knocked straight into the blaster as it was being set off. It caused a hole to form through the floor. For a moment, I saw stars against a black background and felt a rush of air exit that hole. The insect creature’s grip held me from being sucked out of the hole. The dome shape creature ended up being sucked into the hole and sealing it with its metallic dome-shaped body. 

I heard wind again. This time it was different, this time it was consistent. Looking around, I saw a jet of light coming through the insect’s chest. I looked behind and saw the source of the light stream. One of the wall turrets had activated and was ripping through the ant. The insect collapsed to the floor as the beam cut cleanly through its body. 

I had landed on my feet, but my knees buckled under the weight of the insect’s body, pulling me to the ground. Its dead leg-arm still gripping to me. Staring at the floor for a moment, I felt a large tug as the woman had grabbed insect arm, pried the fingers off and pulled it hard off of me. I got to my feet as she threw the leg-arm to the side. “You’re a mess!” She said to me. I stared at her, not feeling anything, not thinking anything. She looked alarmed. “Damn! The core! We have to go!”. I didn’t have a clue what she was saying. She took the blaster from the insect creature and exited the room. I got to my feet and stood there for a moment, looking back at the mess that was the dome creature and the insect. I had never felt as sick as I felt right then.

“Follow me!” she came back to tell me. I looked back at her with a blank expression, then she gave me a gentle nod that made me feel more relaxed. She took my hand and led me back to the cylinder room. With her free hand, she was firing the blaster she had pulled from the insect, shooting down other insects. It seemed to create some plasma that exploded on impact. It created holes in anything it came into contact with. “Come on!” she ended up shouting as we ran. We came to an open door that was a very bizarre uneven star shape.

As we entered, we twisted round as gravity changed again and found ourselves in a forest full of plants with red leaves and black stalks. The heat and humidity hit me with such a strength, it felt like I couldn’t breathe. There were other creatures running through, all going in one direction. “Come on!” The woman was shouting back in an irritated way as she tugged at my hand. It was easy to find the trodden path made that way by so many others that had already gone. I looked to my right to see a strange creature attempting to overtake everyone through the thick woodland area. Running fast, I saw it overtake and then disappear down to the ground. I guessed it had tripped, and that was the moment I stumbled. The woman pulled me up, then we continued running.

While we were running, I heard the faint sounds of explosions that sounded like a battle. I just dismissed it as another weird thing that was happening, and I didn’t understand. It wasn’t long before we reached a point where the forest seemed to end at the bottom of a cliff face with a hole in the bottom. It looked like there was an enormous cave within, much larger than the cliff face looked. A variety of creatures surrounded the hole with several of the dome-shaped creatures setting up portable versions of the turret things that blasted me in the other room. They had ten groups of six turrets. The six turrets all faced a single point in the centre. It was all held up with thin scaffolding, barely noticeable. I looked at them for a moment, thinking about how they could have been hovering. The woman made me feel stupid when I mentioned it and brought the scaffolding to my attention. The sound of wind filled the air, clouds of dust covered the area and constant flashes lit up the woodland. Creatures were having contraptions materialising on them that appeared to help them breathe. Each device was unique depending on the anatomy of the creature. 

The woman pulled me into the center of where some of these turrets were facing and told me to hold my arms out and keep still. Not having a clue what was going on, I obeyed. The temperature rose as I stood there. I heard wind once again and there was this intense feeling of heat that seemed to settle into a weird, warm sensation on my back and around my mouth. I took a deep breath and found I was breathing out of a mask. Equipment materialised on me just like the other creatures. The woman grabbed me to throw me to the side and went into the same spot I was just standing. I watched as equipment materialised on her. 

Looking over, I saw one creature enter this large cave without apparatus. It entered the hole breathing for a while, but then it collapsed and began having a seizure. I watched as its twitching stopped, and then insect creatures appeared from behind the opening. They had been waiting on either side of the hole, standing behind the cliff face in the cavern. They picked up the now dead creature and pulled it to the side of the opening. That weird sick feeling was back and my stomach was churning. I held my sick back for a moment while I looked at the sight with shock and numbness that I had never felt before. 

The woman was speaking in a casual tone, “Do not let any of these creatures steal that device!” I turned to look at her. “You don’t know how any of these will react once we are inside the Myrmeke,” she continued. I looked at her diver’s tank equipment for a moment, then nodded in agreement. She looked at me for a moment, took my hand and pulled me over to the hole in the cliff face. I watched her as she took a deep breath and said, “trust me”. It took a moment for the situation to registering in my mind, “wait, you want me to go into that cave?” I said to her. “We have to. You will be safe with me!” I remember thinking about that word ‘safe’. So far, everything had felt like it was anything but safe. “There is no way I am going through that hole!”, she looked at me with great irritation. “What the hell is a Myrmoorke, anyway?” I asked as my numbness subsided a little to leak out a little resentment. “James, we don’t have time for this, we have to go!” at that point she began pulling at my hand.

“Answer my question!” I demanded as I pulled back. “If I do that, will you come with me?” she asked in response. I looked at her for a moment, feeling so confused. She may not have been a great companion. But I felt she was the only one around that I could trust enough to get me through this bizarre situation. After a moment of looking at each other and her thinking on what to say next, she then said “please trust me, you can you know!” I took a deep breath and agreed. 

She gripped my hand hard as we rushed through the hole. I panicked when we passed through, my heart in my throat. It was the weirdest sensation. For a minute or two, it felt as if there was an invisible field attempting to rip my body apart. It was such a shock. I only realised where I was when the stench in the air seeped through my mask and I almost made me throw up. It was even hotter in this place and not somewhere where I would want to stay long.

When I passed through, I saw the Insects were standing on each side of the entrance as if to stand guard watching as the various creatures enter this great cavern. It was huge and filled with hundreds of unique creatures, hundreds of the dome-shaped creatures and hundreds of insects. The ant-like creatures either herding everyone along like cattle, doing something with the wall or carried bits of the ship we were just on through this large chamber. There was a mucus substance covering the floor and the ceiling. It felt sticky to the touch, and I struggled to get it off my hands when I touched it. The floor felt bouncy and soft, like some foam mattress laid beneath our feet. There was no difference between the walls and ceiling as the ceiling curved round into a giant dome above our heads. Apart from the floor, everything was round in design and looked organic. It was like we were in one giant organic sack full of stale air and disgusting mucus. Towards the other end of this room were these large doors that allowed the width of at least 6 or 8 people side by side through at a single moment. They seem to contracting and opening like a muscle in the body, stopping some substance and then letting it through. I was in awe, shock and still felt numb. I did not know what to make of all of this.

“Come on!” I heard the woman say, muffled under her mask. She took us to the side, away from the chaos of everyone trying to get into this horrible place. Creatures poured in, and the Insects pushed them through as they clambered in through the hole we came in. This place had an eerie feeling. There was this slight mist that hung above the floor and relative darkness that filled the room. The only lights available were what I can only describe as strange-looking veins that glowed. I looked towards the side of the chamber where those weird doors stood. The insect creatures were rounding the other creatures up and taking them in groups through those large organic doors.

“I’m Caroline” I look at this woman for a moment and even though we were in this awful situation, she had a way to soothe me with her calming voice. She smiled through her eyes and the sudden comfort took away my numbness. The distant sounds of explosions continued and seemed to echo in this chamber. They were also perhaps a little louder than the other room. Then one of the explosive sounds sounded much louder coming from what sounded like the wall of this chamber. The ground felt like it shook beneath our feet. I grabbed hold of Caroline as I almost fell onto her. She held me while I looked over her shoulder. The insect creatures were sealing the hole we came through. Looking through the hole, I could see what I can only describe as the hull of a large ship sitting in the vast ocean of space.

“We’re in space”, I whispered under my breath. “Yes,” Caroline ended up whispering back. “Why are we not getting sucked out into space?” I asked, leaning back from the hug and looking at her, confused. “I don’t know. The Stilla were never smart enough to operate this technology,” she replied. “What or who are these, Stilla?” I was asking as I felt the fear and panic of not knowing enough about this situation. “Us!” I turned to see an insect creature standing over me like some great giant wanting to intimidate us. “We are what you know of as Stilla!” it says as it pushes me and Caroline towards those strange doors. “Now you need to move!” For a moment, I was confused and then I realised it was this insect creature that was telling me these words. I looked back at it in complete and utter disbelief. “Move, little ant, otherwise I will squash you!” The irony of it calling me an ant is hilarious to me now. As this giant, strange-looking ant-like entity distracted me, Caroline pulled me towards the large doors.

I looked around, and there were many creatures all looking anxious in their own unique ways. There was anger, upset, paranoia and even a creature producing the oddest sound I have ever heard at ear piercing levels. We were all feeling afraid. Caroline burst out crying and then said “oh my god!”. She looked at me with terrified eyes and turned as white as a sheet. I looked back at her, confused. Then it was like a switch had gone off in her head and she was back to being this calm and calculating person. She then rushed to catch up with the group of different creatures we had ended up with.

“How can you deal with such intense emotions?” Caroline asked me, looking sincere in her question. “Excuse me?” I asked, confused at the question, “How are humans able to process such intense emotion?” I looked back at her in disbelief, not understanding what she was talking about. She looked back at me and asks me again “How do you do it?” Trying to process everything, I was trying to think why she would ask such a thing. My brain didn’t function at all during that stressful situation. But since I knew we were in space, surrounded by strange creatures, I felt it was only fair I asked this simple question. “Are you not human?” she looked at me for a moment, thinking about her response. “No, I am your companion,” she said in a flat like tone. At that point, we reached the strange-looking door that looked like it was made of muscle. Then we stepped through. 

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