The shame is short lived. My head rises and I stare into the mirror. The face there comes into focus. I see a remnant of the old me. The one with drive, determination and pride. The possibility of his comeback seems remote.
He takes advantage of my sobriety and judges me harshly.
Jee-sus, you’ve run this body down pretty far for someone in their early thirties. What are you, forty odd kilos overweight? Look at your dull eyes, long tangled hair and scruffy beard. Why don’t you tidy yourself up? There’s a healthy young female in the next room which may spell the end of DIY sex if you stop moping around and filling yourself with drugs.
I resent the self criticism. This female presence is exposing inadequacies I’ve worked hard to bury.
Dressing for her company is a new requirement. I’d recently embraced the latest fad of walking around the place starkers. That would have to be discontinued unless Kristine joined me in some all over tanning sessions.
My groin stirs when I think of her naked, then I look down at my gut.
Shit. Forget it.
Getting blind drunk and stoned hasn’t substituted for a healthy exercise regime. I vow to start doing push-ups.
The depressing thought kills my erection.
Clothed in shorts and shirt, I shuffle out of the bedroom to peruse my collection of controlled substances. Something to fix these aches and pains for the rest of the day. Kristine hears the groaning that accompanies every movement.
“How come you got power?” She calls from the kitchen.
“Power’s included in the rent,” I yell back.
I’m so funny.
An intolerant grunt replaces the expected polite laugh.
Rough audience. Better lay off the gags.
“They got their own power plant here. Big genset. I brought in heaps of fuel. Enough for a few months.”
“Wow. You’ve been busy, especially doing all this by yourself.”
She’s impressed at last. Maybe I’ve taken a minor step up from the slobby deviant she’d probably been imagining.
My chest puffs out a touch. It’s on the tip of my tongue to brag. I shut my mouth, remembering the trials of starting the backup genset for the first time. That was after curling up in these rooms, living like an animal, in the dark, scared out of my mind that any noise would attract Parasites.
A week of no ventilation, no cooking, no lights or flushing toilets soon took its toll. This animal prefers more than the basic amenities.
I’d found the remotely housed generator block on a facility map. They’d made it easy to operate. A stencil detailing the start up procedure for the monstrous, twin turbo, V8 diesel was engraved next to a big green start button. I’d pressed it and the engine had roared into life, billowing black smoke from the exhaust stack. Just before I finished shitting myself, the load kicked in. I froze my finger in its jab at the emergency stop. The revs dropped.
From the outside I noticed a minimal heat plume coming from the stack, undetectable from more than a few dozen metres away. The insulated door cut ambient noise to a muted hum.
Then there was the fuel. Relocating the diesel fuel tanker here had taken more guts than I gave myself credit for. Aside from the obvious danger from Parasite hosts prowling around, I hadn’t driven a semi-trailer rig since I was a young bloke. Luckily I wasn’t being graded on the gear changes. I found enough of them to get the load back here.
Best not to ruin a good story by telling her how many attempts it took to reverse the trailer into position or how much fuel I lost when the adaptor I made broke. In fact, best I keep the whole episode to myself.
The power source had been secured. That was all that mattered.
I complete these deep thoughts in the middle of the lounge, gradually becoming aware of the changes that had been wrought around me. Kristine’s been a busy girl cleaning up. I don’t think the place was this tidy when I first moved in.
The tidiness extends to the coffee table in front of me. A clean, shiny, empty coffee table.
My inner addict rushes forward, hammering me with an instant tantrum.
She’s stolen them. Stolen my hard earned drugs. Maybe she flushed them down the toilet or was keeping them for herself. I want them now.
The demon addict brought his mates, paranoid schizo and a grinding rage.
All that trouble and effort wasted. A fucking parasitic spider tore up my face! Anyone who takes them from me is going to fucking die!
A hand reaches down the back of a couch cushion and draws out a pistol.
Local gun shop, no money down.
Chips and nuts are stuck to the blued finish. I wrestle to control a mind over fifty per cent unhinged. The demon uses a strangled version of my voice.
“Kristine, where’s my stuff?”
“What stuff? You mean those pills you threw everywhere a couple of days ago?”
A couple of days ago? What the fuck was she talking about?
I wave the gun at the innocent TV, confused. What does the voice want me to shoot?
“No! Yes! I need my fucking stuff!?”