“What kind of hint am I supposed to take in that case then?” Space Janitor (051-060) asked.
“That I don’t want to be turned on. Do you get what I’m saying? Let me sit this one out. I’m bored, it doesn’t interest me. Oh no, you, on the other hand, have got your own ideas. You want to make sure that I am involved in this whole foolishness.” said the Spenglactic.
“We are a team, aren’t we?” Space Janitor responded.
“Are we? What can I say mutt, I thought we were to, but it seems like you’ve got your own ideas about what makes the team. You see a team to me is someone who makes allowances to certain other people. You know like say for example something were to not interest you. For whatever reason, we want to take a little break. I would respect that, not because you’re better than me. No, because I think we should all be entitled to a little time to ourselves. Don’t expect you to understand. Just thought I would make myself clear. If you want to be selfish, I guess I have to make my peace with that. I thought we were a team.”
The Spenglactic went quiet.
“I understand that. However, understand that there is also a giant glob of gunk bearing down on us wanting to digest us. It felt like a time to put you to use.” said Space Janitor.
“Use? Oh, I see. I’m glad you decided to lay your cards out on the table. At least I know where I stand, or hang with you. I’d never use you. Again, you might argue that it’s because I can’t, you can think that. I, however, want to point out it is because I respect you and value your feelings. Do you understand that?” The Spenglactic asked.
“I understand what you are saying well,” Space Janitor responded.
“Then what’s the problem?” asked the Spenglactic. Space Janitor was puzzled by how it came to be that Spenglactic was not able to see the issues he was having. Being eaten being Space Janitor’s concern.
“We’re about to be absorbed by whatever that is coming towards us,” Space Janitor said back.
“Trust me when I tell you that I am very much indigestible. If you’re worried about my safety, let me save you some time. You don’t have to. I appreciate the concern, but really I’ll be fine.”
The gunk could be heard slithering towards them. In the distance, there was the occasional illumination of Shep’s pack. At least he was still alive.
Every second Space Janitor wasted arguing with his pack lessened chances of survival.
Space Janitor felt a heat build below his fur. Was this rage? Was this his fault? How could he get it to go away? Space Janitor noticed the gaps and depth between his breath had shortened. He looked over to where Shep was.
“I may not survive, did you notice the other janitor with me?” asked Space Janitor.
“All you cleaning dogs look the same to me” Spenglactic blurted out.
“I thought you would have said something like that. The dog is, Shep, you may not have heard of him, but he knows of you. So if I get eaten and you’re left sitting then you know what that means? Shep will have to tell me what happened.” As Space Janitor spoke the information on procedure came flooding into his mind. Was it all encoded? Some kind of latent memory? He could see it all even though he had not lived it himself. Procedures and protocols all in his mind.
“What are you saying?” asked the Spenglactic.
“What I’m saying is as follows.” Space Janitor cleared his throat.
There was the sound of tipping and crashing getting even louder now. There was no way for Space Janitor to hasten the process and the heat from within built up again.
“Get to it” demanded Spenglactic.
“Here’s the thing, you and I are not going to speak to each other like that,” said Space Janitor.
“You don’t get to order me about,” said Spenglactic.
“I understand that, and you don’t get to order me either. You and I are going to treat each other with something resembling mutual respect. At the moment, it looks as if I’m not going to make it out of here but Shep will. If you do not power up at least, I’ll make sure Shep instructs base to perform a full memory wipe on you. Then where will you be” Space Janitor finished speaking.
Warmth still burned below his skin. A fire so intense his body was shaking but the nature of the flames had changed.
Space Janitor was nervous.
This was the first time in his recent memory he had ever been assertive in asking for something.
“You see if I get a memwipe, then I’m going to forget about those bets I placed. I could be sitting on a couple of quads without me knowing. Then would I be a pack without a strap.” Spenglactic sat quiet a moment. The alcove they had taken refuge in was being pushed as the gunk was now closing in on them.
“We don’t have time,” said Space Janitor.
“Computing” Spenglactic responded.
Space Janitor went climbing. The smooth finish of the giant salt and mineral shakers meant his progress was nullified.
“Well?” Space Janitor shouted as the gunk found them. Pouring in the side.
“Are you there?” Space Janitor shouted. The gunk was almost on him.
“I guess we can work out the particulars later,” said the Spenglactic.
Space Janitor smiled and took the nozzle in his hand. There was a lever he could grasp.
“What do I do?” asked Space Janitor. There was the gunk at his feet again. Ready to pull him down. Space Janitor looked up. There was gunk descending the sides.
“What’s the problem?” asked the Spenglactic.
“What do you mean what’s the problem. It’s the gunk, the gunk,” said Space Janitor. It was taking hold of him. The gunk above pulled up. The gunk below pulled down. “It’s going to tear me apart!” Space Janitor yelped.
“I can’t see properly. You’ll have to describe it to me. What colour?” Spenglactic inquired.
“Does it matter?” said Space Janitor. The gunk had now made contact with Space Janitor’s head and was descending down his face.
“It might,” said the Spenglactic. The gunk was close to covering Space Janitor’s mouth as it took a solid grip of his head.
“Green, green for the love of all it is green,” said Space Janitor.
“Oh, OK, you’re good to go in that case,” said the Spenglactic.
Space Janitor squeezed on the handle. There was a low hum from the back that changed in frequency until it went through the scale. A choir of heavenly angels readying themselves for the aria. The gunk around his feet shrieked a scream from a mouthless hole. It slinked away. Space Janitor could wiggle free.
He used his weight to pull himself down to a seated position. The gunk that covered his head stretched thin.
Space Janitor pointed up and hoped his head would not be cooked in the blast.
“How are you getting on?” the Spenglactic asked.
“Mmmmm,” said Space Janitor. He wasn’t enjoying a delicious meal you understand? His face was covered in gunk. While the tendril that had him was thin getting thinner, he still had not released him by this stage.
Space Janitor pointed the nozzle in the direction he hoped would ensure his release. There was a snap. All of a sudden, the gunk went loose, and Space Janitor could feel himself free.
The gunk still clung to his face. He could feel the heat of the nozzle and singed off what he could. Space Janitor could see again. The mouth was next. Space Janitor could speak again he exercised that ability.
“I’m doing better,” said Space Janitor.
“Hooray, you’re alive,” said Spenglactic. It was probably the circuit strain that made Space Janitor sound flat and monotone.
“I can barely see,” said Space Janitor. There was the light amplifier, he swung it round to better his chances. In the absence of light particles, there wasn’t much to be seen.
“If vision is a problem, try using short contained bursts.” said the Spenglactic. Space Janitor did as he was advised. He pointed it aloft and squeezed. The brief burst of heat provided illumination.
The green gunk was a tide on the table. Something was different, it was thinner now. It knew it was in trouble. The gunk was a tide going out, and Space Janitor wanted to hasten its retreat. When he could, he would ward it off.
Space Janitor could hear the blasts coming from Shep’s pack. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw that there was a pile of utensils. Half eroded from the acidity of the now-vanished gunk. It didn’t look stable, but Space Janitor needed to meet back up with Shep.
“Where are we going?” asked Spenglactic.
“We’re going to help Shep deal with this” replied Space Janitor.
There was a sense of trepidation in his voice. Would they be able to deal with this, he thought to himself. What if this could not be dealt with? Space Janitor would fail in his mission and let down those who deemed him worthy enough to exist. Worse, he would fail Shep who so far was the only one to spare Space Janitor some kindness.
This would mark the beginning of him having to prove his worth to Shep. In many ways his own fraternity of pooches. While his interactions had been limited, he knew he didn’t want to let the side down.
Space Janitor made his way to what resembled a stairway that would lead him to the higher levels. He wanted to be reunited with Shep. While the Spenglactic provided detail to get him through, there was something else. A mechanism of thought in Space Janitor’s head that told him not to trust the Spenglactic.
The slithering and sloshing of the gunk could be heard all around him, his heart sank a little further. Ahead of him, he could make out some kind of movement. There was no blasting, there was no sound. Was Shep up ahead or was Space Janitor walking into a trap?
Space Janitor crept forward.
“What’s going on? Are you dead yet?” the Spenglactic chirped in.
“No, keep it down. I don’t know what we’re walking into yet,” said Space Janitor.
“What’s happening, what do you see?” asked Spenglactic.
“There’s no sign of Shep.” Space Janitor said.
“He’s dead,” said Spenglactic.
“No, he’s not. He wouldn’t go out like that, I’d know for sure. There would be some sign.”
“Are you sure about that? I mean, what would the sign be?”
“I don’t know what the sign would be, but I know in my heart that it’s not the case,” said Space Janitor.
“You’re heart means nothing. Don’t rely on it for anything. Look at me, I don’t have a heart. I’m getting on, OK.” chirped Spenglactic.
“Is hopelessly dangling from the back of some, as you put it, dumb mutt, really the enviable position?” asked Space Janitor.
“At least I exist. Which is more than can be said for your friend, if you want to call him that”
“He’s been more helpful than you have,” said Space Janitor. “I owe it to him to at least find out what’s going on.”
“You don’t owe him anything. Listen to the sound of the gunk creeping all about. Your friend is dog meat. I mean he always was dog meat, I guess, but you know what I mean?” said Spenglactic.
Space Janitor ignored Spenglactic. Made his way further forward.
There was no sign of Shep as gunk closed in. Had Shep been taken. Fully digested and absorbed by the intelligent gunk. The strength of the emotional blow made Space Janitor fall to his knees. He used his hands to keep himself from lying down face flat. The thought of allowing himself to be absorbed crossed his mind. His arms shook. Space Janitor couldn’t help but be reminded of how weak he was.
A solitary tear-filled Space Janitor’s eye. It was shed not for Shep, not even for himself but the overall patheticness of the circumstance.
In that tear something reflected into Space Janitor’s eye. While the gunk continued to seek him out, Space Janitor saw something he had not seen before. He blinked several times and focused in.
“Hold on,” said Space Janitor.
“What is it?” Spenglactic demanded.
“There’s a small chance that it might be something,” said Space Janitor.
“Well, tell me, and I’ll give you a calculation,” Spenglactic chirped.
“Let me follow it. Somehow it feels as if your calculations may be designed to dissuade me.”
“Who me, never,” said Spenglactic.
What Space Janitor saw represented the briefest glimmer of hope to him. It was a trail of gunk. Too thin to warrant any of its own consciousness. Space Janitor wanted to find out where it led as the hope of him finding anything of use in this main hall were slim.
Space Janitor could feel a presence build behind him. The soft lapping and sucking of the gunk were transforming. It was becoming louder. More prominent in the background. Space Janitor followed the trail, leading to a small alcove. The alcove seemed to be a path. It would be a tight squeeze even for the diminutive stature of someone like Space Janitor. There was a path for him to go down. Space Janitor stood at the entrance.
What if the gunk was way smarter than him, and this was another layer of deception?
Was Space Janitor so tasty that it would concoct a ruse of such depth?
The sound of the gunk behind him was getting louder still. Space Janitor turned to look. While he couldn’t make out the detail, what was becoming evident was the size. It towered above him, several levels. It almost cracked the ceiling. A disgusting cathedral. Only cathedrals remained stationary. This did not. It writhed and wriggled. A large tentacle. Like a cathedral, it held tables, chairs and people. Unlike a temple, it kept them in stasis various degrees of digestion. Slow bubbles peeling away at the layers of those within.
Space Janitor wondered should he try and take it on?
He abandoned the notion as little jets of gunk shot out at him attempting to get a grip on him.
Space Janitor entered the alcove. He could feel the closeness of the gunk as he struggled to make his way forward.
The alcove was narrow. Damage done to the building made it tighter. Space Janitor pushed and shoved his way forward. His progress was slow. Space Janitor knew that he would have to push harder. Things shifted suddenly. The encroaching gunk helped him. The gunk impacts behind him reverberated down the small sliver of the corridor. Debris dislodged clearing a path. Space Janitor forged ahead.
There was a chill in the air, and Space Janitor shivered. He felt the wetness on his nose into sharp relief. The slurping and squishing of the gunk fell further behind him. Was the cold the weakness for the gunk. Space Janitor hoped this was the case. He hoped to find Shep too.
Space Janitor thought that he was safe for now.
The area he was now in was freezing. Illumination lit the area. Better than the dining hall. Light snow fell to the ground. Ice had formed on walls and as stalactites above him.
Space Janitor tried to work out where he was. There were footprints in the snow. The footprints led up and into a vault-like structure. It was well fortified and could let in something ten times the size of Space Janitor.
The temperature dropped further. Space Janitor hugged himself and walked toward the vault entrance.
Footsteps led straight ahead. Dim wall lights provided little illumination.
How far did this go?
Space Janitor realised that it went far deeper than he realised.
The footprints went on deeper and deeper. Space Janitor was thankful for the light that gave his eyes some form of respite from the darkness.
Space Janitor walked. He saw shelves and shelves of all different food types. Veichels and moving mechs. All abandoned in panic. Space Janitor wondered if they would still work. He kept an eye out for any kind of overall. Space Janitor’s breath became a thick fog on every exhale.
Space Janitors joints became stiff, and he slowed right down. Eyelids heavy, desire for sleep crept upon him.
“What’s going on, buddy?” Spenglactic chimed in.
“It’s so cold” replied Space Janitor, he felt himself trip.
“Use me to provide you with some warmth at least. Where are we anyway?” asked Spenglactic.
“It’s some kind of freezer, I think. There’s a lot of food and shelf space. The footprints go off to the side.”
“Are you still looking for that mutt? You’re not going to find him,” said Spenglactic. Space Janitor was not ready to admit he was right. Not yet, at least.
Space Janitor ventured down an aisle. Following the footprints, he thought to himself. Space Janitor may have been following someone else’s prints. If he had, it would definitely spell his demise. Space Janitor shuddered.
There is one of the shelves Space Janitor could make out the distinct shape of a pack. Shep would have to be close by in that case, wouldn’t he?
Space Janitor got to the pack and looked around. There was a big pile of boxes forming something resembling an igloo. Space Janitor pulled away at the containers revealing Shep. Shep was very still.
Was Shep dead?
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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