The Secrets of Sake: Part 4, SANDAN-JIKOMI
(Part 1 is HERE)Their village demolished, Sakamai - the people of Tanbo - were tortured and twisted in strange ways, physically combined with tiny hive-minded creatures called Koji. As the two became one, these new "Koji-Mai" learned from the Koji's memories that their towering and unstoppable alien captors were "The Creators" - an alpha race who designed and cultivated all they had ever experienced, just for this. But these answers only begat more questions:
What would happen next? To what end was any of this happening at all? When would it be over? Would the Koji-Mai ever see the Sakamai they were taken from in their last steel prison? Even if they did, would their families even recognize them after yet another transformation? As usual, the Koji provided soothing thoughts of complacency:
"All is a cycle The Creators have planned for. We are not the first or even the thousandth, and we will not be the last. What comes is new to us, but nothing new to Them."
Gradually, the Koji-Mai became accustomed to the hot, humid environment Koji preferred. Under constant surveillance by The Creators, often dozens of Koji-Mai were scooped up effortlessly and brought close to The Creators' terrifyingly huge faces for inspection before being dropped back into the open-air cells. Sharing their personal being with the Koji symbiotes had become their "new normal", even as they continued to multiply, covering their bodies like freshly fallen snow. But like a predictably cruel joke, the sense of routine seemed to once again prompt the creators to change everything. This time, all of the new race of "Koji-Mai" were reunited with one another, wrapped tight, and transported to a deep, dark tank, and covered in more warm and nourishing water.
"This is much nicer than the cells," they thought happily as they cozied up with their fellow Koji-Mai.
"This is sweet."
The plump, engorged Koji-Mai felt a strange shifting from deep within. Like a long exhaling sigh, they felt their very consciousness sliding away. Slipping from their core and into their extremities, where the Koji had first taken root.
"Something else is here." They heard the Koji reflect as they continued to lose grasp of their physical bodies, the feeling akin to a whirlpool, spiraling downward toward a pitch-black sinkhole of unknowing. "Something small. Something different. Something hungry..."
The Koji-Mai were losing all sense of self, just as they had learned to live with the Koji. Their last sensation was not their own, but an invigorating feeling. A bubbling-up. A build-up of energy. This was what the Koji felt, and communicated telepathically before a final feeling: a release. Crossing a threshold, the Koji-Mai were cut off completely from any connection to their bodies, exploding out of the Koji, the Sakamai burst into a new state of potential energy.
Where once they felt a connection and sense of unified thought through the Koji's hive mind, now the link to Koji had severed, and they felt each other as a loose and scattered field, formless and free within the water. Like underwater waves, the minds of the Sakamai pulsated, rolling between their now dissociated bodies which the Koji still clung to like buoys on a stormy sea.
Surely by now, the Koji would have noticed through their psychic link, the separation from the Sakamais' thoughts. Maybe it was that lack of response, or perhaps out of some urge of competition with the "small" and "hungry" addition the Koji had detected, that drove them to devour the husks of their Sakamai bodies more ferociously than before. The Sakamai could now sense the presence of something else there in the water with them. Something hungry, and nipping at their edges.
As those lifeless vessels of Koji-Mai collapsed into mush, the Koji grew quickly, dividing and replicating. From above, many thousands more of their brethren were dumped unceremoniously into the water. Rather than seeing, the now formless Sakamai could feel these fellow villagers had remained the same as before, and without the enlightenment provided by fusing with the Koji, could sense the confusion they too once shared. But now in this tank, a cataclysm had been triggered. The massive amounts of Koji lept from the husk to fresh Sakamai. Fusing even more quickly, dividing, pervading, and devouring these new arrivals.
As this happened, the amorphous community swelled with the added minds of more Sakamai, floating ethereally in the waters. Each understood now what the others had experienced and learned. Having no physical bodies, the Sakaimai quickly lost all sense on individuality. Now they were of one mind, like the Koji, and although their consciousness continued to swell as their ranks grew, so too did the sense of something eating away at their borders. Before they even had time revel in this latest transformation, another change was occurring simultaneously. While they could feel it nipping and multiplying, not unlike the Koji before them, this presence was still so small, the Sakamai could barely perceive it all, like something motionless in ones peripheral. Ever the optimists, Sakamai decided the Koji was right. While living in Tanbo, any change seemed extreme, but now, whatever this invisible force was, it was not out of the ordinary any longer. Come what may, they would face the change head-on.