GETTING TO KNOW YOU • by Brian Dolton

Be quiet in there! Hush, please! I can barely hear myself think, over all that screaming.

What happened? I absorbed you into my underbrain, that’s what happened. And we’ll have plenty of time to talk later, but I have to unfurl my sails and set my next course, so please be silent.

No right to tell you what to do? No right? You’re my food. I think you’ll find you are the one who has no “rights”, little human!

Oh, please! Yes, I ate you. What did you think had happened? What’s the last thing you remember?

Absolutely. My teeth. They’re very good teeth, you know. I keep them clean and sharp. It’s important to be able to divide one’s food up into all the right components, when one is a psychovore.

A psychovore. An eater of minds. Oh, I’m not solely a psychovore. I mean, I ate your body as well. Sustenance for the body is important, as well as sustenance for the mind!

Oh, don’t be absurd! How special do you think you are? I’ll have you know, I have ingested more than three thousand sentient organisms. Of course, you are my first human, so I imagine it will take you a while to understand them.

Because I, my dear, understand you. Do you think I merely happened upon your tin can, floating in the wastes of your solar system? I came here for a reason. I pride myself on being something of a… collector. I have one of the Schen Ko in here, you know. And forty-seven Murr forms, which is of course only a fraction of their possible instars, but nevertheless provides me with an extraordinary insight into their nature. And then there are the Vost, and the Ebbarranjji, and…. ah, but you’re human. You won’t know the Ebbarranjji.

No, you aren’t dreaming. You’re awake, and to all intents and purposes, you’re alive.

Well, yes, I did eat you. Your body is completely macerated. Your entire ship, for that matter. I have consumed what I can, and excreted the rest. But the essential you? That, I have absorbed, into my underbrain, along with all the others. Except the Kabachi. I tried to consume a Kabachi once. It… disagreed with me. I was ill for centuries.

Yes, absorbed. My species has a highly developed underbrain, in which we can store entire psyches, such as your own. You see, travelling in space without the means of faster than light travel is extremely tedious, and it does so help to have company.

No, you haven’t gone insane. This is all perfectly real. You all go through a phase of denial. The Schen Ko refused to accept the situation for, oh, I would say about four hundred thousand of your years, if I judge it correctly. I’m sure you’ll settle down soon enough.

Yes, I did mean human years. That’s nearly… oh, a quarter of my lifespan so far. But I’m still in the prime of my life, so don’t worry. You’ll have a million years of this. More, if you’re lucky.

Don’t be like that. Yes, I suppose you can claim you are technically “dead”, and you’ll probably never meet another human being again; not unless your species is one of those that actually lasts more than an eyeblink in the life of the Universe. But think about it. You’ll travel, amongst the stars, as part of me. You’ll see things, learn things, know things, that the rest of your species could not imagine. You will live, to all intents and purposes, forever. With me, and all the others I’ve eaten, and all the others yet to come.

Oh dear. Are you going to start up that screaming again?

Brian Dolton‘s fiction has appeared in Abyss & Apex, Flashing Swords, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, and Intergalactic Medicine Show, among others. He has been writing for many years, and will continue until they pry the keyboard from his cold, dead hands. PS. If any of you know who the “they” in questionare, he’d love to hear from you, so he can make suitable preparations.

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