The screaming girl kindly takes her struggle, and the parasite, away from me. Gratefully I cup my balls, welcoming the crippling, core deep ache. Even smashed testicles are better than fangs from a giant spider sinking into my face.
Numb fingers scrub cottonwool packed lips. They bump against the stump of a barbed leg imbedded in my nose. I dry retch. Getting it out involves careful gripping between nerveless fingers and a hard pull. Much blood results. I accept the damage and, mainly because no pain is involved, ruthlessly perform the same operation with the appendage in my ear. The pieces are flung far away.
Rebellious feet wobble beneath a giddily turning world when I get up. Weaving about presses urine soaked pants against my groin and thighs. I wince and fervently hope the wetness won’t be noticeable through the leather.
Worrying about impressing the girl who screams so loud and runs madly around in a hunched circle with a parasite shuffling around her head is wildly inappropriate. Not saving her gets a big thumbs-up and interferes with formulating a rescue plan. The creature is close to positioning itself over her mouth. Like me, she stops screaming about now and redoubles her gyrations. Snapping pincers parry grasping hands. Soon it will be inside her. That would simplify the options somewhat. I could wait then kill them both and be done with this problem.
Every cowardly part of me longs to depart the scene at high speed. Leaving the parasite to its new body is also preferable. It’s the most sensible thing to do.
The pilot light on my conscience flickers dimly reminding me she risked herself to help and I should return the favour.
Besides she’s far too close to my rucksack and I’m not leaving without it.
No one runs to our rescue. I check hopefully. The parking lot and adjoining street remain empty of movement. That’s one thing to be happy about in the midst of so much not to be celebrated. If I did see anyone coming this way I would most likely depart. My flight instinct was on a hair trigger.
I draw the lump hammer from my belt and hold it in a white knuckled, numb fist. The shotgun is gripped in the other.
I make an oath.
Under no circumstances will the monster be reclaiming its position on my face.
Approaching them hyper-cautiously I am tossing up whether to make a pre-emptive strike or not. It’s surgical imprecision is no reason to rule out using the shotgun first. If the girl must die to destroy the source of my humiliation so be it.
My abused nostril itches. Nerve endings fire up and shut down inconveniently.
Blood mists the air. More blood trickles down the back of my throat and flows through my moustache. My mouth is filled with a thick numb tongue that’s coated in mucus, blood and vomit. Bleeding lips flap uselessly when I spit. Stringers of red saliva dribble into my beard completing the drooling imbecile look.
A rage burns inside, tightening soggy muscles. They harden in fright as I step up. This creature is getting a flogging, make no mistake.
Bulging black eyes recognise the threat I pose. It focuses on the hammer held above my head as I manoeuvre to belt it. I stay behind the girl until she falls to the ground, rolling wildly. The parasite is wary. It shifts to keep me in sight, preventing it from depositing the numbing secretion on her mouth. An unblinking stare holds me at bay with some sort of hypnotic mind lock.
The girl turns over, attempting to regain her feet. The instant she breaks its line of sight I am freed to take my chance.
I stamp hard on her back. She collapses, landing roughly, winded. The parasite scuttles around her head moments before her face hits the dirt.
Damn. I was hoping she’d face plant it. I’m swinging the hammer down, even as the creature bunches its legs, ready to leap to MY face. I feel the metal slam into its body.
It pops, spraying whitish liquid. A shrill squeal of pain or anger marks its end.
The woman slumps, unconscious or dead. I raise the hammer high and aim the shotgun with a heavy forefinger poised to yank the trigger.
The squashed creature remains still.
So does the girl.