Part of me still hopes this is a hallucination, that my dying brain is having me on one last time. But the rest of me hopes it’s real, because that means I’m still alive.
For how long I don’t know.
What it uses for a name is a long clash of syllables with less vowel sounds and more glottal clicks than I’m used to, but it tells me I can call it John.
“I don’t know,” I say. “Sounds to me like you’re trying to use me.”
“Of course we are,” says John. It’s a hive mind, it told me; this body is one of many templates it keeps handy, to talk to other species. It showed me another template, not unlike a squid, all tentacles and immense eyes.
Try another tack. “You’re taking advantage of me.”
“Of course we are.” Its eyebrow ridge wrinkled. “Are we experiencing a language barrier?”
“Look, John, I’m not going to do it.”
“All right,” it said. “We’ll drop you back off on the road. It saddens me that you’ve chosen to die.”
“Wait,” I said. “Maybe I was hasty.”
“You’ll do it?”
“Yes,” I say. Like I’ve got a choice.