Why’d I ever doubt her? Of course she’s come back to save me. Again. It’s me who runs in terror at the snap of a stick. I’m devastated by loving relief. Cheery hope is revived, dusty with disuse, to see what the fuss is about. Kristine levers me to a sitting position and examines bloody hands.
“I can’t see the rope. Your skin's all swollen and there’s lots of blood.”
“S’not rope, cable ties. Gotta cut between my wrists. A knife. There’s three of the frigging things around here somewhere.”
Kristine finds the bluntest, shortest, most useless knife, and saws delicately between blood-slicked wrists. My hands fly apart; releasing spring-loaded lightning bolts that shoot into clumps of cramped muscle.
Numbness eliminates the dexterity to cut the two embedded bands myself. I shove puffy sausages at Kristine.
Her tentative probes with the suddenly razor sharp knife are recipes for slashed arteries. I pull away with a yelp. The truck’s tool kit might hold less dangerous tools. I run to the passenger door.
“Quick, open it! Tool box! Get out of the way!”
Floppy, unfeeling, fingers dive into the container. Hammer, wire, screwdriver. I can’t grip anything properly to acquire what I want.
“Kristine. Side cutters, side cutters!”
I yank useless digits out of the way. It’s urgent; they’re going deep red, almost black.
“This one? This one? This one?”
Kristine has no idea what side-cutters are. She shows me each tool and flings it aside at negative groans. Finally the right one appears.
They were at the bottom.
I ignore painful nips as flesh is gouged in search of the tough bands. The left snaps under a two-handed grip and the right is dealt with more confidently.
I clasp freed wrists with opposite hands, gasping as blood rushes into and over the freezing balloons they’ve become. Heat and painful pins and needles reassure me sensation will return.
We wonder why the squealing noises from our attacker have dropped significantly. A spear of sunlight spotlights the far off, limping figure in a fluke of shifting cloud. He’s saving his breath for hobbling.
A third host joins the hunt. It’s an enthralling sight.
“Oh dear. He’s putting up a good fight. Nope. They got him. He’s screwed.”
I leave them to it.
Gathering weapons to fill a lightened belt concerns me more. After careful checks, the gun with the misplaced magazine is found, with bitter sweet undertones, to be singular. A dishonourable stay of execution is nothing to crow about. I cage it with my other secrets.
Kristine’s heroism is supported by the crutch of imperative action. Settling heart rates kick that crutch out. I pick up the dropped ‘hero baton’.
There’s no one else to take it.
Shivers wrack her body that could be blamed on cool winds and ripped clothes. Shock crashes her functionality. I hug her semi-swooned body roughly to me and shake alertness into glassy eyes.
A hoarse cough sprays flecks of blood over dry lips. I set anger to slow burn for the violent creature who did this. She’s suffered while under my care. Putting that right stimulates a vengeful blaze in my gut. She leans on the truck while I retrieve a parka from the cab and dress her like a sleepy two-year-old.
I needlessly cycle another round into the shotgun, forgetting it’s already cocked and chambered. There’s significance attached to the unused cartridge spinning away under the truck. I take it as due warning; bad luck has returned swiftly.
Shit, now I’ve only got seven shots.
Sore, unpredictable hands shouldn’t be trusted to hold the boom-stick yet. I put it aside and cajole Kristine into helping me throw the last load into the truck. Keeping her occupied might stave off the shock a few minutes longer and I refuse leave behind anything. We’ve paid over the odds for this stuff.
The last item to be scooped up is the wok. That bony knee did zero damage in return for the heavy blow. I’m going to frame it.
The ramp retracts and the shotgun is grateful to caressing hands that cradle it.
I usher Kristine into the cab. Having her drive would be agreeable to my invalided state but catatonia is setting in.
Running wide around the truck, shotgun levelled, I expect opposition from every side. The slightest movement gets a face full of double-O buckshot. Shadows squirm with phantoms. Deceiving targets play with my under-medicated mind. An often ignored acquaintance, Will Power, is called forward to restrain the unloading of a wasteful lead-storm.
I spring into my seat and slam the door. The door handle hits the soggy knife-wound in my arse cheek. I hiss and punch the lock hard then lunge across Kristine’s stuporous body to secure hers.
The truck starts with heartening reliability. It rattles gently at idle while I catch hold the tail of escaping courage and consider alternatives to running scared.
Side mirrors attract questions. Weeping wrists burn.
Are the Creeps eating their prize, or has a Parasite crawled in him?
Can a Parasite access a host’s memories?
Mythical Vampire lore has flimsy yet disturbing connections to our very real situation. I speculate in absence of hard data. Essentially, it’s come to a gut feeling.
Alive, that debased psycho has an invitation to, and knowledge of, our home. If the end result is a distressing visit some dark night, from either the supernatural or the genetically modified, I find prevention to be better than cure.