The Matriarch – Part 4

The fourth installment of a short story my husband wrote for Halloween. You can catch up with Part 1 here , Part 2 here and Part 3 Here.

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The Matriarch – Part 4

THURSDAY AFTERNOON

Ursula sped down the highway in her beat-up hatchback with a white-knuckle grip on the steering wheel. “God, those things are hideous!  Where did they come from?  How did they….”

“Not important right now,” Greg answered curtly.  “Their Queen is dead.  Without her, their numbers can only dwindle.  We need to keep them from getting their hands on this one.  I know a safe place we can go.  Once we get there, I can answer all your questions.  Or you can just leave, and you’ll never see either of us again.”

“Is that thing still alive?  Why don’t we just kill it, too?  Who cares if I never see you again?  I’m going to be wondering about everyone I meet for the rest of my life!  And about people I’ve already known for years!”

Greg sighed.  “Because, for lack of a better term, you could say we’re vegetarians.”

“Wait….what do you mean ‘we’!?”

Greg shook his head. “Homo Sapiens are omnivores by nature, capable of surviving on a variety of diets.  Like most predator species, they possess forward binocular vision as opposed to having their eyes on the sides of their heads like horses, cattle, or other prey species.  Their digestive tract benefits from the ingestion of fruits and vegetables, but also excels at digesting the proteins and fats from other animals.

“Many humans decide to forego their ability to consume animal matter, despite having the biological capability to do so, out of the belief that it is not ethical to consume other animals.

“Now, consider Felis Domesticus, the common house cat.  They do not possess such an adaptable digestive tract.  They are obligate carnivores.  They evolved to hunt, catch living prey, and eat it.  If there is not sufficient animal protein in their diet, they will die.  Perhaps it is a mercy that no feline species evolved self-awareness and sapience the way humans did.  If such a being ever felt guilt over their consumption of other animals, they would have to live with such guilt.  Or die from it.

“Miss Thelstein, my people are not obligate carnivores.  We are obligate parasites.  And the universe is cruel enough that we evolved to be intelligent enough to empathize with the suffering and pain we cause to our host organisms.  But we cannot survive without those hosts.

“Those of us that feel this empathy are a minority.  A hunted and persecuted political faction among our species.  The others happily invade and infest the human race with no reluctance other than being cautious enough not to get caught.

“But now that faction has lost their brood-queen.  Their time is over.  When they realize this, they will seek revenge.  I must keep my Queen safe until their death throes are spent.

“No.  Not dead.  Dormant.  In stasis.  I won’t wake her until a suitable host is found.  And she would not find you suitable.  For ethical reasons.

“The body I inhabit had already been taken by one of those who did not feel empathy towards our hosts.  When I destroyed him, the central nervous system of the host was too ravaged to survive without continued connection to one of our kind.  It was too late for me to help him, so I took the body.  Not ideal, but I can inhabit this body without violating our code.

“Violent criminals.  Those of your species who do deliberate harm to others.  If we are obligated to be parasites, we can at least take the ones you would be better off without.  No, it’s still not consent.  But they don’t get that from their victims either.  It’s as ethical as we are capable of being in order to survive.  It will have to be enough.”

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