We dawdle over lunch in our kitchen, conversation hampered by the revelation below. We’re at opposing poles as the fallout rains down. I let the pieces patter around me for the mental janitor to sweep up and toss into the ‘Not My Problem’ pile. Kristine carries a world of guilt on her shoulders and prepares for a blow up or breakdown. I’d prefer anything over the slow clink of knife on plate like she’s been doing for the last ten minutes. It’s getting on my nerves.
“There’s a good view of town from the roof, we can have a look tomorrow if you want.”
“Can we go right now? I need to see the sky and breathe fresh air so I can think about things.”
Sitting around getting drunk is what I’d rather be doing, though one action needn’t cancel out the other. Grumbling under my breath, I pack beers and chocolate bars into a cool bag with an ice brick.
Supplied and ready.
Kristine watches these preparations with arms folded and thin lips. She unzips the bag and tosses in a water bottle.
“I don't want that.”
“It’s for me, you pig.”
I’m still expected to carry it.
The route to the rooftop involves trekking deep into the maintenance corridors. More staircases burn complaining leg muscles. Before I proceed outside I select tinted safety glasses from a PPE station. It also dispenses earplugs, sun-cream and hand-wash for past maintenance workers. Stepping onto the roof is a squint-able affair of glaring reflections from a white-painted roof. The sunnies cut the worst of it.
The roof itself is a boring, flat expanse but the view is commendable. Smog free air brings the city skyline into sharp relief and even sprawling suburbia is a riot of fresh colours.
Kristine wanders around, looking down into the central garden we’d recently come from, then walking the perimeter to emplace car parks, generator block, maintenance shed and vast lawns.
I head for the only structure. A short brick house for the lift motors. One side is covered by a tautly tethered sail; guy ropes stretch to a head-high wall of twenty litre paint tins. A few odds and ends are stacked beneath this cool wedge of shade. Plastic chairs, several large stainless steel tool chests and a tripod.
Kristine decides to be sociable by the time I’ve rummaged about in the boxes and set up a telescope. One of several items I’d removed from a camera shop in town to amuse myself, surveying my kingdom.
It takes seconds to screw the most powerful scope to the tripod and wave a hand in invitation for Kristine to have a play. I crack a beer, sit, and tilt my chair against the wall contentedly. Kristine fidgets with the eye piece, orientating herself with quick glances into the distance.
“Hey, look, there’s a naked woman down there,” she exclaims, turning the focus. I leap up and thrust my beer in her hand. The lens is focused on a manikin I’d set up a couple of kilometres away to range in a sniper rifle. There were no holes in it, but the trees around the plastic-breasted beauty are missing large chunks.
“What are you on about? That’s a dummy.”
“You pervert. Shoulda seen the way you moved just now.”
Kristine laughs and swigs from my bottle. I swing to slap her. She skips out of reach. Bitch.
“Keep it then. I opened it with my arse crack.”
Falsely reporting nudity and stealing beer. Hope she likes loud heavy metal tonight when we go back to our rooms.
I fish out a fresh beer. She reclaims the scope and casts around. There’s a pin prick of movement on the street running along the front of the grounds. I point it out and she zooms in to report a tight formation of shuffling people.
“Creeps. Crap, hope they can’t see us.”
“That’s why I keep the scope under shade. Sun doesn’t reflect off it and if you don't wave your arms or shout they shouldn't pick us out.”
There are naval binoculars within arm’s reach. I use them to see what she sees. The magnification brings a Creep disturbingly close. I find it hard not to duck when one stares straight at me in that ultra-slow survey they do of everything they pass. I’d named their dead panned faces the ‘we are not amused’ look. Kristine laughs when I share this.
Sam the comedian.
The hosts are in pretty good shape for the most part. There are no fat ones. Parasites must be supreme dieticians. None have obvious sores or diseases. The Parasites liking for raw flesh hasn’t been detrimental to their health.
I bring out a notebook where I’d jotted daily entries for a while. Descriptions of host movements and behaviour.
“See that. One just peeled off from the pack. They scatter themselves like ants, foraging, leaving sentries along the way to keep an eye out and to call others if something interesting, like us, comes along.”
“You think they’re that smart?”
“I know they are. I’ve been putting it together for a while. It hit me when we were having that nice walk back from town. I saw some stuff that explains a lot. Really got me thinking. Those sentries, they’re repeater stations, passing on signals to somewhere central. All’s well, all’s not well, food here, that kind of stuff. And signals come back. Go here, go there. Whatever sends those signals, I haven’t seen yet. Don’t wanna neither. They recognize each other too. I can tell you from past experience, they instantly know I don’t have a Parasite in me.”
Probably my scared little face staring back at them and the way I run like a cheetah. I keep that part to myself.
“A signal? Like telekinesis? Really? That’s kinda ‘out there’, Sam.”
She should talk. Bloody hippie chick.
“I saw a pack of dogs attack one once.”
I flick pages to the entry and read it out.
“Host grabs dogs by muzzle. Breaks neck. Other dogs bugger off.”
“They’re stronger than you’d give them credit for. Those elderly ones. They kick arse. Lucky they don’t possess animals, we’d all be dead for sure.”
The setting sun is interfering with the scope and I’ve run out of beer. Kristine needs a toilet break and won’t follow my lead in urinating off the side. We troop down to construct dinner to return an hour later with another six-pack. A night-sight scope pulls in starlight. We spot more Creeps and discuss the unseasonably good weather we were having. The monstrous and mundane combine as we wile away the evening.