Continuing my love of people being pregnant when they’re in school (because they can’t leave, can’t rest, and there’s always judgement, etc.)–Catholic high school that has an urban legend about the sea creature in the pipes. Rumor has it that it worked its way up from the coast a handful of miles away and got caught in the school’s piping, but if turn on the shower at the wrong time it will come out and strangle you. (Because school urban legends always end in death, don’t they?)
Of course it’s just a legend, so our protagonist doesn’t think anything of it when he goes to shower in the locker room after his early morning run on the school track. Not until something cool and slimy wraps around his ankle and the dark black tentacles are suddenly all over him. He can barely even process what’s happening–just that he can’t scream, he can’t run, and christ that hurts something has penetrated him. But even then, as soon as it started it seems to stop, and outside of some minor pain in his ass and a surprisingly loud gurgle in his belly, he isn’t even sure it happened.
Tentacles made of wire writhed madly in small bathtub. Ports sparked with the smell of burning metal and singed flesh. It was almost a relief. If he had flesh, it wasn’t too late. I stepped into the room. A single movement and his head raised up. Every implant had been replaced. Feelers reached out from what had been a nose, a mouth. I shuddered a little despite myself.
“Elim.” I did not make it a question.
Staticky breaths punctured the air. “Wenjar?” It was a question, the voice a pulse of data laced with contagions.
“It has been two weeks.” Two weeks since I told him it was me or the infection. Since I made him choose between being the virus and anything else.
Elim makes a sound, spasming at some flow of data. “You don’t understand. Can’t. Join,” and his body tries to stand, writhing toward me.
I palm a Data Recovery Matrix. The AI that sold it to me claimed that DRM was a joke, but it was so old I knew nothing of it. And would have cared even less. I pressed the activating switch. The DRM is so old it needs a physical interface. Data pulses in the air once, twice, a third time.
The screams that come out of Elim don’t sound human at all.
He moves toward me, as if trying to threaten, but the virus is shattering,. Failing. Signals turned into nothing but noise. I watch what remains of my best friend collapse onto the ground. There is no blood. That might be the worst thing. I send an urgent request for a medbot through System.
I’m amazed he’s alive. Even more amazed when he somehow is able to manage a whisper from what remains of his throat and mouth. “Hate you.”
The medbot enters the room before I have to reply, breaking in through a wall despite my having given it access codes. A medisheathe snaps about the remains of Elim’s head and torso, carrying them directly to a waiting ambulance and the hospital.
I stare at twitching tendrils of wire and connections on the ground of the bathroom. I pull out a small pill of Erase – entirely illegal in this solar system – and drop it on the ground. Everything in the bathroom is dissolved a moment later as I walk back out. Nothing is left, but even Erase can’t get rid of memories. I seal the unit with Elim’s passcode and walk away.