The queens floated like zeppelins over the derelict conurbation. Their segmented stilt-legs trailed through the undergrowth.
Inside there was a stutter. The TV screen blanked. It was an outage in the reality programme linked into Liz’s head. She blinked. Her head wavered back and forth, as her mind washed clean. She turned to her husband, Pete, and said slowly, “The TV’s broken”
Pete’s chair was empty.
A pallid face appeared on the TV screen. A man. It was odd. Instead of a linkage tentacle there was a gaping hole in his forehead.
Where was Pete? Was he in the kitchen?
“Come quick,” Liz shouted. Where was he? “There’s someone on TV. I think he’s saying something.”
With a flick of her linkage tentacle Liz turned up the sound. The man’s voice was buzzing, like a distant un-tuned radio. Almost familiar. The sound was itchy, scratching into Liz’s mind, sloughing off old layers. Her mouth was bone-dust dry. She reached for her cup and took a gulp of tea. Was that tea? It tasted peculiar.
“. . . all prisoners. Tuned into an unwholesome wavelength,” said the man on the TV.”You have a choice. Join me.”
Liz watched the screen intently. An unseen door clattered open. The soldiers appeared. Their mandibles clicked wildly, as their seized the man and dragged him off screen.
“It doesn’t have to be like this,” were his last words.
“Programming will be resumed shortly,” said the smooth voice of the TV announcer.
Pete had missed it. Where was he? Was he in the kitchen? With a grunt, Liz pulled herself out of the chair. Her sacs felt heavy. She needed a good milking.
Her tentacle extended, as she stood. Where was the kitchen? The sitting room looked odd. Were the walls always hexagonal? Were they always made of wax? In the corner of the room, she saw his severed tentacle, writhing like an eel.
Pete. Her husband. He was the man on TV. She hadn’t recognised him. When was the last time she had actually seen him? It was terrible to be alone in a cell. Liz touched her husband’s severed tentacle. Alone. In this incredible, unreal place.
Outside the window, outside the transparent membrane to her prison, Liz watched the zeppelin queens floating. A host of smaller workers fed them honeydew from a billion sacs.
The ache in her sacs
Gods save the Queens.
The TV stuttered into life. Liz’s linkage tentacle pulsed. Pete had said something about a choice, hadn’t he? Liz made her choice. She crawled back to her chair, and let reality soothe and lull her. They’d send another husband.
Gods save the Queens.