Interstellar soup part II

I landed so hard that C’s glutinous form almost encased me entirely. As grateful as I was that he broke my fall, I could have done without being coated in festering slime. His suckers left burning red welts as I peeled them from my face. Above us, the skeletal demon continued to wail. Its screeches ricochet off the wet stone walls making it sound much closer than it actually was and making the hair on my arms stand to attention. I glanced up to make sure it was still watching us from the broken cell wall above before giving it the finger. This was my first mistake. The demon narrowed its pale eyes and dragged its raggedy frame through the opening, apparently unfazed by the jagged shards of glass slicing through its abdomen.

“Eerm… C?”

C remained behind me, engrossed in the task of gathering himself from the floor and reforming his usual shape. He was blissfully unaware that I’d just pissed off one of the only things in this place that was potentially more dangerous than him. The demon lurched forward until it was pressed, head down, with its bloody belly to the rock face. It tilted its head, surveying its prey and began to crawl down the side of the canyon. Its limbs cracked and creaked with every jagged movement.

“C? Hey, buddy, we’ve got a little bit of a problem here.”

C’s last tentacle straightened itself out with a disgusting snap and crunch. Upon seeing me pointing frantically at the monster charging towards us, he growled like one of those felini creatures of Tabdy nine and lunged forward. Whether C devoured this creature or got his gooey ass kicked, I was about to witness the fight of my life. From behind the relative safety and shadows of a massive boulder, of course. The creature snarled, and saliva dripped from its jaws; it landed on C’s torso and immediately, his skin began to sizzle. He let out a screech that echoed around the cavern. Miles above us, hundreds of prisoners jeered in response.

“Hey idiots, what are you doing?” An animal I immediately recognised as being from the Rattus galaxy from its pointed nose and sharp claws emerged from a crack in the rocks, making me jump and distracting C. He screamed again as more of the demon’s acidic drool splashed and burned his tentacles. The rat-like creature flinched at the sound.

“That thing will eat you both alive. Get in here!”

The demon and C were seconds from colliding. Their battle would undoubtedly be epic, a once in a lifetime show, but then it might very well mark the end of my lifetime. I muttered some choice words before running towards the wall and grabbing C by one of his disgusting back tentacles. He growled and tried to shake me off, but my arm had made contact with one of his suckers, and I wasn’t going anywhere. Even if I wanted to, and believe me, right now, I wanted to.

“C’mon, C, this isn’t a fight you’re going to win. We’ve got to go.”

C continued trying to shake me loose. Goop slopped onto my face and into my mouth. It tasted strangely like a dessert I’d once shared with a Galorian female. She had shaken me loose much quicker than C was managing. I coughed, spluttered and spat the goo. It might not have tasted so bad, but it still came off the back of a giant angry octopus. The demon was close enough to see my own screaming face reflected in its eyes.

“Now, C, or we’re both gonna die.”

When one last flick of his tentacle that felt like it snapped my spine didn’t free me, he finally relinquished and dragged me, screaming through the dirt and into the rodent’s cave.

“Help me with this, will you?”

The rat strained to push a massive round stone over the entrance to the cave. The demon had reached the canyon floor, and its red eyes glowed as they grew closer.

“Do you two have a death wish? Hurry up.”

C pushed the rock into place with one tentacle, severing the arm of the demon that was inches from finishing us off. I breathed a sigh of relief. On the other hand, C decided that the severed appendage was too intriguing to pass up and picked up the arm. Immediately it swiped at him, digging its dirty claws deep into his flesh. He writhed around, throwing around tentacles, which I swear multiplied well beyond his original eight. The rat was knocked into the wall. I somehow managed to get a hold of the arm. It felt like rotting wood; my fingers even dug into its surface as I pulled C free of its grip. I threw the arm against the boulder, where it immediately began to tunnel under the stone, desperate to be reunited with its master. C wined and patted the deep bloody gashes on his appendages. The rat got to his feet, nursing a fresh lump behind his powder pink ears.

“You two really are fuckin’ stupid. Follow me.”

C growled. I shook my head.

Jars of glowing liquid lit the way through damp tunnels littered with bottomless pits and arthropods the size of your fist. Every single one of them that skittered across the ground or up the walls made my skin crawl. Not C, though. Oh no, he thought they were the tastiest little snacks he’d ever seen and spent the entire journey the happiest I’d ever seen him chasing and munching on the gross mites and millipedes. His favourites seemed to be the spiders, which he suspended by a single thread of their web above his beak before lowering them to their doom. The crunching sound was sickening. The rat didn’t seem to notice.

“What the f-“

I stopped dead at the tunnel’s end and stood on the edge of a cliff overlooking a giant underground chamber. C, too distracted with chasing his latest prey, slid right into me, almost sending us plummeting to our deaths and covering me in disgusting goop. Again.

“Welcome to Marauder’s Metropolis. Judging by your jumpsuit, you’ll fit right in.” We followed the rat down rickety ladders and across bridges of frayed rope through narrow alleys walled by gravity-defying buildings made from scrap and determination. C clicked his beak as we passed a market stall selling grilled spider skewers. Finally, the rat led us into a building filled with shanty music and more than one brawl. Those that weren’t fighting or singing sat around tables drinking cups of a thick, dark liquid that looked like used space engine oil. Most sported the same jumpsuits as myself and C, although mostly filthy and with many more holes. The rat cut through the crowd towards the bar. A humanoid woman passed by with her jumpsuit tied around her waist, and I almost got lost in the crowd.

“Evenin’ Joe. Got a couple of newcomers in need o’ lodgings. Got any beds spare?”

Joe wasn’t humanoid. I’m not sure what he was. He looked me up and down while dirtying a glass with a filthy polishing cloth and raised what I assumed to be the equivalent of eyebrows at the rat. He then directed his attention to C, nodded and handed the rat a set of keys from underneath the bar.

“Don’t make a mess,” he called after us as a glass of used oil narrowly missed his head and shattered on the wall behind him.

Rat led us through the back door and up a winding staircase. The commotion below, although muffled, could still be heard, even as we reached the corridor at the top. The rat opened our room and allowed us inside. It was a little dusty, and there were some concerning scratches on the walls, but there were a couple of beds and whole blankets that I wouldn’t be spending the next week weaving into escape rope. I wrapped myself in the cleanest looking one and turned to see the rat slipping out of the room and hear the lock click.

“Hey, what are you doing?”

I rushed to the door and twisted the handle; it rattled but wouldn’t open. Panting slightly but still wrapped in my blanket, I rushed to the window and threw open the curtains. The action released a cloud of dust that choked both of us. When it finally settled, we were able to make out that beyond the dirty glass panes were several vertical iron bars with gaps in between just large enough to get my arm through.

“Rat bastard! C, that rodent just locked us in.”

An hour later and the commotion below us hadn’t settled. When there is no day and night, I suppose it’s always party time. As for myself and C, we might as well have been back to where we started. I lay on my bed, thinking up escape plans and trying not to question the history of my stained mattress. C was by the window relentlessly pecking at the glass.

To be continued…

By Stacey Potter

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