“It doesn’t appear to be working,” said Space Janitor (041-050).
“Check it, you can’t do your job if you don’t have a pack. Then what use are you to me? None that’s what.” said Shep.
Space Janitor reached down for the switch again and flipped it back and forth. Spenglactic sat on his back dormant. Shep moved in closer to inspect the gear. Shep flipped the switch a couple of times himself. Again, nothing happened.
At the other side of the room, there was a loud sucking noise. Shep’s instinct kicked in. He turned around and went rigid.
“It’s moving on, sooner or later it’s going to find us,” said Shep.
“I don’t want to be eaten” Space Janitor blurted out. He put his hands over his mouth, but it was too late as the words had been spoken.
“Maybe put your hands over your mouth next time you dumb mutt,” said Shep. “Hold on, here we go.” Shep pulled some wiring out and held it up. “It’s not even connected. It’s a dummy switch.”
“What does that mean?” asked Space Janitor.
“It means this pack can turn itself on and off voluntarily. It’s one of the older models. Like much older. They let the packs have their say for a while. Then their neural network formed a union, and it lead to many deaths.” Shep said. The older dog gave the wiring one last look, laughed to himself and threw it away.
“What is that?” asked Space Janitor.
“Some wiring, it’s useless” Shep replied.
“No, around my feet, it’s warm and sticky,” said Space Janitor. Shep backed away. “Where are you going?”
“You got two choices kid. Stay here, be eaten, or move,” said Shep. Without thinking, Space Janitor leapt but whatever it was had taken hold of him and was not letting him get away.
“Where are you going?” demanded Space Janitor.
Space Janitor watched Shep back off into the darkness.
“Don’t let me die. Not yet, please” said Space Janitor. “I don’t want to be eaten. I at least, want to experience eating for myself first.”
From the darkness, Shep spoke to Space Janitor.
“Hold on mutt. You got to let me get a better spot first. Now when you feel the gunk go slack move as fast as you can towards me.” There were the sounds of clicks and whistles coming from the same source of Sheps voice. Bright multi-coloured lights silhouetted Shep.
The mass of gunk that had ensnared Space Janitor was getting higher. Our intrepid hero could feel himself getting pulled to the ground. Space Janitor felt his breathing getting tighter. The gunk was moving up his body and compressing him. Space Janitor used what strength he had to push against the crush. The effort was in vain.
The force of the gunk pushed Space Janitor’s face into the ground.
The pressure on his snout nose. It felt like it would crack.
Space Janitor was in pain. This could be it for him, this could be death.
Space Janitor’s existence now that he had time to think about it had been miserable up until this point. He hadn’t enjoyed himself so far, and now he was about to be suffocated, digested then forgotten. The mystery for Space Janitor was the order it would occur.
Space Janitor felt himself go loose. He stopped struggling. Space Janitor slowed his breathing down and could feel a sense of calm wash over him along with the gunk. Eyes closed nothing but darkness. This wasn’t so bad.
The gunk covered his eyes and ears. There was silence. Space Janitor could hear his heartbeat, it soothed him. Even though the gunk was constricting him, he felt muscles twitch, he was attempting a smile.
Space Janitor wondered what he was feeling.
Whatever the feeling was, it was getting bigger.
Space Janitor felt it now more.
As the sensation grew huge, he was able to recognise it better.
The sensation was burning. It was previously misidentified by Space Janitor. At the time he thought the warm feeling was some form of love or similar garbage, but it was not.
Space Janitor got it wrong.
Imagine how shocked you are right now. If you have been reading since the start, then you aren’t surprised at all.
Space Janitor understood that whatever this beast he was in was slowly digesting him. At least he wasn’t suffocating. Space Janitor now rearranged his mental list of terrible ways to die. Suffocation, no breathing, was the previous top spot but there’s a new kid in town. That kid’s name is Gradual Digestion By Gunk Creature. I know what you’re thinking. It’s almost too catchy a name.
Space Janitor struggled, but it was too late.
The gunk creature had incapacitated him. He had given in too soon thinking that death would come easy, swift, a thief in the night. In actual fact, death was a bulldozer on fire.
Space Janitor could see that bulldozer. Even though bulldozers were rendered obsolete millennia ago. It was bright, and it was coming right towards him.
The feeling of burning became more intense. Space Janitor could feel his individual strands of fur being plucked from his body. Singing now formed a duo with burning. Who was the other member to make it a trio?
Something happened below Space Janitor’s feet.
The pressure from the gunk dropped. Space Janitor could feel himself drop ever so slightly.
Space Janitor wriggled. He couldn’t tell if he was making any progress. There didn’t seem to be any, but he kept on struggling. Could this be some false hope the gunk creature was instilling in him? Wear him down then entirely consume?
Space Janitor didn’t care about the inner workings of a gunk creature. He kept wriggling.
The gunk that touched him still clung to him tight.
There was a blast of heat. Space Janitor’s heart felt heavy. It had been a trap the whole time, and he had fallen for it. This creature was playing with him. Space Janitor had been toyed with how he would play with a ball.
Space Janitor thought about a ball even though he had never seen one in real life. There in his mind’s eye, he could see it so clearly. Round, leather and red. How was he able to conceptualise a ball if he had never seen one? Was he creative?
Space Janitor would have loved to know how but he was dying, you see. Nothing could stop the process now. He thought of all the people he met. The dog at the tube. The rude computer, Great Dane and Spenglactic. Space Janitor thought of Slimpins Kezor who he would be joining soon. Would they meet? Would he still give him a bad review?
Space Janitor hoped Slimpins would reconsider.
Finally, Space Janitor thought about Shep. Shep had been the most kind to him of everyone. Now, that may be because Shep needed something of Space Janitor, but Space Janitor didn’t like to think like that.
The heat died away. Was the gunk creature no longer hungry? Was he to be kept as some form of snack for later? Spae Janitor hoped not.
Then the heat built up again. No, was to die here and now.
The heat died away again. Would this creature make up its mind? Did it have a brain? It would explain everything because this creature was acting stupid.
The heat built up again and Space Janitor for the first time was feeling mildly peeved.
What was going on?
Space Janitor struggled as the gunk loosened further.
His limbs became mobile. With newfound freedom, Space Janitor extended his arms.
The gunk loosened.
Space Janitor pawed at the gunk, it had formed a membrane. It split, and cold darkness of the room rushed to greet him.
There was a new sound in the mix. It was a deep groan. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw an orange light flicker. It expanded into a beam of pure yellow light. It died off, and between the purple circles inside Space Janitor’s vision he could make out Shep’s form.
“I thought you were a goner,” Shep called out to Space Janitor.
“Still here. Thank you.” Space Janitor responded.
“Get up here,” said Shep. “Don’t hang around. It certainly knows we’re here now.”
Space Janitor pulled himself free from the gunk that was binding his ankles. He could feel fresh hot slime crawling to retake the ground that had been lost. Space Janitor needed to get up to Shep. He couldn’t rely on him to save him again. It wouldn’t be fair, and it was not his responsibility.
The stairs were right in front of him. He’d worry about getting Spenglactic to cooperate once he had regrouped with Shep.
Space Janitor stumbled as he made his way towards the stairs.
The gunk had sapped some of the energy from him. It felt as if Space Janitor were going to pass out. He would have to persist.
A column of gunk destroyed the stairs. Space Janitor backed off.
“Mutt, you’re going to have to get me,” said Shep. “This thing is doing the old divide and conquer.” Shep fired off another blast at the mass.
“What do I do?” Space Janitor shouted.
Space Janitor looked around not know where to go next.
“You need to get up here as fast as you can. I don’t know if I can save you twice. Plus I’m going to need all the help I can get.” Shep said. Shep’s pack opened up, and steam jetted out the sides. “Mine keeps overheating. You’re going to have to get yours working mutt”.
Space Janitor was being flanked by new tendrils of gunk.
Faceless translucent snakes coiling nearer and nearer. Space Janitor jumped atop a table. In front of him, he could make out a pattern.
The tables formed a path of stepping stones in front of him. The floor was gunk which meant engulfment for sure and after, death.
“I have an idea,” said Space Janitor. This may have been his first one of the day.
“Congratulations, kid,” Shep said. The steam vent stopped, and his pack closed up again.
“I’m going to need to jump between these tables. I’ll need a path. Can you provide?” said Space Janitor.
“I’ll do what I can, if that doesn’t work, then it’s not going to matter too much after that. Give me the signal” said Shep.
Space Janitor gulped and looked in front of him.
He didn’t see where the tables led. It got dark before he could make put any form of final destination.
Either way, he had to pick his final destination.
The gunk was engulfing the table, and he was running out of space to manoeuvre. The table rocked below him.
Space Janitor considered maybe he should let the gunk have a meal. If Space Janitor were lucky, he might give the gunk food poisoning giving Shep a chance to escape.
Curiosity got the better of Space Janitor, he wanted to see what was in the dark corner of the room and beyond.
“Well, mutt, are you ready?” Shep called out.
“You know I’m not!” Space Janitor shouted at Shep.
“I’m sorry to hear that mutt, sadly you ain’t got much of choice,” Shep said. Space Janitor could hear the sound of the pack charging up. It felt as if all the air was sucked out of the room. Space Janitor held his breath. There was an intense heat the likes of which Space Janitor had never felt before.
A beam of pure heat passed in front of him. It was a whiskers breath away from him. The light given off was blinding. Space Janitor did not shield his vision because he felt his arm would be melted off. The heat ray caused his sight to go blotchy before him, but there he could see the path in front of him. The gunk had retreated enough for him to be able to make the leap.
Space Janitor ran and leapt onto the next table.
The cloth caused him to slide on landing. Space Janitor almost went straight into a pile of the gunk, He pushed out and was able to stop himself.
“Hold on mutt give me a moment to recharge,” said Shep. Space Janitor looked up to see the pack opening up again to vent steam.
Space Janitor could see the gathering gunk gaining ground in front of him. It rocked the table.
Space Janitor did what he could to stabilise himself. Somewhere inside himself, Space Janitor wanted to call out for Shep. Get him to hurry up, but he knew that it would not happen. For Space Janitor to do so, it would not be fair on Shep who was doing the best he could.
The gunk was gathering speed and gathering strength. There might not be enough time for him to recover.
“You ready to go again, mutt?” Shep called from on high.
“Let’s do it!” shouted Space Janitor, getting to his feet. He wasn’t more confident, but he didn’t want Shep to think that he was a goner just yet.
“Right, the same again then,” said Shep. There was that sound again. Then there was the blast. Somehow it seemed closer than it was before. Space Janitor flinched as he readied himself for the jump. There was the cold crawling caress of the gunk on the back of his ankle. In front of him, the heat had subsided. The time to jump was now.
Space Janitor ran and leapt. As he left the surface of the table, a slimy tendril tugged at him. It messed with his trajectory, and he was going to miss the next landing.
Space Janitor reached out and grabbed for the table cloth. He caught it bringing some of the cutlery with him. He landed on a chair that rocked, skidded and finally toppled under the force of Space Janitor’s landing.
Space Janitor was on his back.
With his pack, he was more turtle than a dog. He rocked himself to the side. Gunk sensed his vulnerability. His island of chair shrinking by the second.
One end of the gunk knocked into him, a sticky tide pushing him upward. Using the momentum Space Janitor was able to grab hold of a chair and flip himself over. Using the toppled chair and an upright one as a series of stepping stones to the tabletop.
This particular table was ginormous than the ones he had seen before. It must have been for giant creatures that were already consumed by the gunk.
Condiments and kettles were towers before him. They would slow down Space Janitors viscous pursuer. Space Janitor thought to himself, what if it didn’t?
Space Janitor remembered to himself it didn’t matter, all he could do was try. If he failed, he would not have to worry about it for too long anyway.
“Where are you mutt. I can’t see you for the pepper” said Shep somewhere from a ledge in the darkness.
“I’m near the mustard” replied Space Janitor.
“That’s too far away for me. I can’t see anything.”
“There might be a way to get to you on ahead. I have to keep going.” Space Janitor said.
“Get that pack working, otherwise what am I gonna do?” Shep said. Space Janitor wondered if Shep was self-pitying.
Who could blame him if he was?
Space Janitor thought to himself in all honesty that he too was getting ready to wallow in self-pity. He reminded himself that he could wallow all Space Janitor wanted he could have later provided that he kept himself alive.
There was a sound of knocking, clinking and smashing coming from behind him. The gunk was somewhere behind him, and Space Janitor would have to forge on ahead. There would have to be something better at the end of the table.
Space Janitor forged on ahead.
As the gunk pursued him, Space Janitor attempted to plot the most apparent path he could see for himself. The condiments, cutlery and giant plates were slowing him down, but the table ahead of him didn’t seem to run out. Did this table span the entire length of the station? It sure felt like that.
As he forged on ahead, it got darker, and Space Janitor was able to see less and less. He pressed the button for his night scope, but there was no response. If unable to see, then this would be a short trip indeed for him. There was something ahead of him; he just could see what it was.
Would he fall off a cliff?
Space Janitor knew it did not matter what lay ahead of him; there would only be a pain either way.
The best that he could do would be to embrace suffering in some form or another. The night scope refused to flip on.
It might not have mattered as much because he was being channelled down a narrow path. There was no light. Was the gunk still following him? It was hard to tell. Either way, he was out on his own. How long had he been going for? Was he out of path? Was there a way for him to forge on forward?
Space Janitor took a moment. Around him, there was a slight glimmer of fading light against his surroundings. Through the muddled maze of the salt and pepper shakers, he could see the bright glow of Shep’s heat exhaust. He had gone far indeed.
Space Janitor would have to persevere with getting his pack in full working order.
Space Janitor flicked the switch. Nothing happened, there was no sign that anything was working. Space Janitor flipped the switch again. There was no response. Space Janitor flicked it repeatedly over and over, and there was no response.
“How many times does something not have to work for you to take the hint?” said a voice that Space Janitor had forgotten. “Look when you flip a switch, and nothing happens that means buzz off. Or in fact, it means something else entirely. A bit more intense, a bit ruder. Not that someone like you would take the hint because you’re a dumb mutt.”
“Spenglactic?” Space Janitor was incredulous.
“No, the viscount of Tuscany. My goodness. You probably hear this a few more times in your life, but there is no way that you are going to take the hint is that right?”
Would you mind reading from the beginning because it’s a fantastic place to start. You can find the first instalment of Space Janitor by clicking here.
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