I depressurise rapidly as the pills dissolve. Standing upright will need most of my concentration any moment now. The microwave dings. I take the popcorn into the lounge room and pour myself onto the couch.
Kristine washes the dishes.
The elevator to Smashed town takes me down. It’s an express trip.
I zone out.
My new roommate finishes cleaning and brings two glasses of water out. She puts them on coasters and sits directly opposite me.
I guess this is a precursor to talking. It’s a novelty I hadn’t experienced for a while. I peruse the room blearily for a subject to break the ice. Obviously she likes cleaning, I’ll start with that.
“You’ve been busy while I was sleeping. How long was I out?”
“Let’s see...what time is it?”
She looks up at the clock.
“I’ve been changing your nappies for about 34 hours. That’s after I dragged you out of the shower and spent ten minutes giving you mouth to mouth, while you vomited.”
She crosses her arms and sits back, waiting for a reaction. I can’t think of anything to say for a moment. The aggressiveness of this statement takes me by surprise. Gratitude finally overcomes humiliation. I feel ripped off that those lips had been against mine and I didn't know about it.
“Um...really? That can’t have been pleasant.”
She doesn’t accept these thanks gracefully. I continue quickly to smooth over the awkward silence.
“I don't remember too much. That bug fanged me a heap of times. Must have a toxin, an immobilising agent or something, that helps Crawlies get inside us.”
The theory forms as I speak.
“You know, so they don't have to worry about our sharp teeth and gag reflex.”
“Oh…nothing to do with you overdosing then? You chucked so many pills down your neck all the way back here, I thought you’d die for sure,” she says bitterly.
“Don’t even try to imagine how scared I was, or how ‘unpleasant’ things got. You’d miss the mark by a mile.”
“Hey, wow man, I appreciate everything you did but I couldn’t have made it without those drugs. That thing fucked me up. Didn’t you have any reaction to your bites?”
A shiver runs through her.
“It got me a few times. Guess it must have used most of its venom on you. The places it jabbed me were numb for about eight hours or so. I dozed for most of yesterday but I had to get up every hour to mop up your ‘accidents’. Everything was just running out of you,” she said, less angrily, amused at my scrunched up face.
A veil slips from between us. The salesman in me can see her deciding to forgive and forget. She wasn’t the sort of person to hold grudges. A person the old world would have taken advantage of. She changes the subject.
“It’s so great having a running shower and toilet again. You do that?”
I nod and smile, pleased she’d noticed and grateful I didn't have to think about her wiping my arse any more.
I ramble on, detailing the difficult job of plumbing the rainwater tanks and installing a pressure pump.
Our conversation comes around from the usual ‘getting to know you’ stuff to the ‘Final Days’. I’m careful to avoid specifics. We don't know each over well enough yet to lay bare my feelings of utter terror and loss. Restricting ourselves to filling in the blanks around the circumstances of the parasite's takeover is safer.
Another viewpoint on the subject might be interesting since no-one in authority had time to collate the facts. Most of us only heard a few patchy Government issued lies and, without anything concrete to report, the media made shit up. Depending where you lived everyone had a different story to tell.
I give her my version.