So, let’s walk through what happens next. The first thing to remember…
Are you just going to sit there stifling giggles? May I remind you that time is of the essence here. Take a look in the mirror. Your host is on the brink and trust me, you do not want to be left hanging. And the time will come when you’ll be helping your own progeny through, so you might want to listen up instead of pratting about.
Oh for Christ sake, show some control. I look like this because I’ve borrowed Great Aunt Marjory. Marjory. Had a real soft spot for your host back in the day, expired ages back…and there we go, yes: the one with the fluff-covered caramels. So get over it and listen up because this is Lesson One.
I can use Marjory because each of our host bodies are surrounded by the imprints of ‘loved ones’ that have gone before. Yes, it is a nauseating expression. Anyway, these memory traces provide a breach making it easier for us to communicate. And they carry an energy residue too, which is always useful.
Mind you, this connection can, at times, permeate the consciousness of the host and create a visual impression. No matter how faint, you can guarantee they’ll get over-excited about ‘seeing’ ex-Uncle so-and-so or a dearly departed spouse. Occasionally, it’s just some random trace linked to location rather than family; cue even more confusion when your host starts babbling on about the old woman at the bedside or the young soldier in the doorway.
Mostly though, there’s no visible projection. If you’re feeling bored, you can have a bit of fun using the trace self to move shit around. Just screw with them a bit.
But it’s best not to waste too much energy.
You’ve got good mileage out of this one. I know we weigh just a handful of grams but, Lesson Two, our time in residence always destroys them. You’ll find some tolerate us longer than others, so point of failure can be really unpredictable. If you get a particularly susceptible one, it’s an early bath. Hmm? It’s a football reference. Yeah, I forgot your host was a science nerd.
Anyway, in contrast, some seem infinitely capable of housing us whatever they do. You know the medical saying “some mend because of treatment, some regardless of treatment and some despite”? Well, I’ve had the odd one that did everything they could to destroy the vehicle and it just got stronger. Go figure.
Watch though; they can wear down by stealth too. This current lot have a real penchant for creating diseases, or enduring habits such as drugs, smoking or alcohol. Yeah, you’d think, but it’s not as fun as it sounds. In fact, it can be a total pisser, especially if you’re getting really comfortable. We put so much into substitution it’s maddening if they then go and move the goalposts. Huh? Yeah, football again.
Still, you wouldn’t believe the changes I’ve seen. Today’s models last so much longer with all the new medications, surgeries, even transplants to combat the inevitable decline. Yeah transplants can be awkward. An extended lease is helpful and small parts like a pancreas or a cornea don’t generally cause any issues, but hearts are a completely different matter. With them there’s always the risk of importing a remnant of the previous occupant and no-one wants a turf war.
Soooo, Lesson Three. Geography of…
Would you leave that drip stand alone and pay attention.
Thank you, Now, where was I? Oh yeah, geography of re-entry is important. No not that way. Where is your mind at? Actual geography, countries and the like. You won the lottery this time with a first station in what they call the ‘developed’ world. Yes, that one is genuinely funny. Being located here means you’ve benefited from all the wealth this half cheerfully misappropriate from the other ‘developing’ cohort. Exactly how they get away with it is something we would embrace, if it wasn’t all falling apart so spectacularly. Point is, things might not be so cushty next time.
Talking of their divisive ways, wars can be tricky. Cue Lesson Four. When this lot go barking and start running at each other with weapons it creates a flitting clusterfuck. Floods the market with millions of us simultaneously scouting for new homes. We’ve had some real corkers: trench warfare in the First World War; challenging times to find a new host.
Science alert. Ha, now you’re listening. Apparently these conflagrations could actually be our fault. Recent research suggests that as we’ve devoured their husks, fragments of our DNA have leached into their fibre and the more they absorb us, the less human they become.
Thought you’d like that.
Similarly, we can develop a temporary affinity for our vehicles but that’s just sentimental hooey, a kind of meta-version of the way hosts develop attachments. Throughout my cycles, I’ve been at countless thank you parties for the corpses of others. Fashions change, as do regional customs, with all sorts of chants and rituals, but it always comes down to the same thing: bury or burn.
That said, I have seen some outliers: one got sent off on an ice flow, whilst another was burned, crushed then tossed in the river. And there was one group with a particular penchant for pointy brick edifices…
But I digress. Ergo, Lesson Five, if you get a say, burning offers the quickest escape. Burying isn’t that much slower but you have to get out before one of their embalmers pickles the exit routes.
Regardless, transition will take a lot of effort. So here’s the trick. Just before the carapace goes down, withdraw all your energy from the extremities and concentrate yourself into the core. Pull yourself together as the humans say.
Don’t science nerds do funny?
Yes, time is pressing. At last, you’re catching on. Okay, Lesson Six. If you remember nothing else, remember this. It’s easier if you behave like an imploding star. Push all your energy out with a concerted heave and the rebound will make the final contracture so much easier. Ironically, this surge fleetingly revitalises the host so they appear to rally just before snuffing it. This often gives a bit of false hope to their nearest and dearest but so what? It’s a mother of a process and we live in a throwaway society.
But then you’re out and, Lesson Seven, it’s time to start shopping around. Admittedly selection can be hard when all you have to go on is a ball of cells. That’s why some of us wait till they’re a bit more formed. Then at the very least you know whether it’s male or female. Gender can make a world of difference in what you have to put up with, believe me.
And be careful. Host development is a complex process and the massive rush of energy as we take up residence can send things awry. I’ve melted a few genes
across the ages, I can tell you. Too much enthusiasm and you’ll be looking for a new home before you’ve even got started.
But when all goes to plan and you’ve relocated, you can just sit back and enjoy it. The early days are my favourite, everything is so fresh and full and giving.
You might not remember it yet, but re-entry is a blast.
Sheila Scott is part writer / part scientist, but most enjoys turning idle thoughts into narratives and illustrative doodles. Based in Glasgow and an MLitt graduate, she’s had work published in Causeway and Qmunicate, has an intermittently hyperactive Twitter account (@MAHenry20), and is currently working on a short story collection.