She crashes so fast I lay aside guilt for not prescribing drugs before scrubbing her raw nerves. Cleaning a collapsed girl in the shower is not something I have experience in. Second-hand moans are all she can manage when turned onto one side. The sheet sticks to clear plasma weeping from abraded skin. Glowing, red marks are widespread. An entire tube of anti-septic cream is gone by the time treatment is pronounced finished.
The dreamy state she’s attained would be rather nice to own a share of. Morphine is too close by to resist a sample. I take just one.
I know her slitted eyes watch pretty colours from a far-off place as I lay a light sheet over the battered body. There’s an effort made to touch my face.
“Love you, Sam. You’re good friend. Face is a mess; I fix it for you.”
Her concern is confounding. She can’t even focus.
“Think I look like shit? I’ll fetch you a mirror.”
Oblivion claims her.
I wander away, losing myself in the lounge room. Events the average mind shouldn’t be asked to deal with are catching up. A drug activated dampener slam lids on frothing upwellings.
Unpeeling sodden leather is liberating. Dumping jackets and pants in a coil on the floor is habitual. The untidy pile of skin represents past happenings, to be left behind and forgotten. I can pretend to relax here, in the safe womb of the facility. This is the only way to prevent a full contraction into the huddling paranoid pose. Cool air from the air-conditioning goose-bumps my skin. I towel off and wrap shivering shoulders with a blanket.
A drink made stiff with hard spirits lights a speck of white medicine in an otherwise empty stomach. Bedraggled nervous tension smooths to a consistency of crumpled silk. Each tiny cut and scratch on my body gets the signal to blow knock-off whistles on pain production. To speed the process I reach into the sedative side of the bottle collection, swallowing several downers with a beer; chased by liquor.
The kitchen window flares. I shut off lights and pull aside the blackout blinds to watch an impressive lightning display scorch clouds and arc to ground, not far from here. The building shakes with the muted concussion of booming thunder. Rain batters the thick glass in solid sheets. Excluding the furious storm from our home comforts a vulnerable disposition.
I dial a single light to low and sit gingerly. Back muscles knot and lock; resisting every other movement.
The egg-sized swelling in the stabbed butt cheek is a fiery cavern. Even pharmaceuticals don't completely erase its deep throbbing. Sitting halts the trickle of blood running down one leg.
Pen and paper are beneath my hands. A debrief appears page by page in automatic writing, heading off the deep, healing sleep lobby group. There’s an underlying importance to what we’d seen. Something containing intrinsic, valuable information. The nib is relied on to print legibly at high speed.
An open city map, left from our preparations to go shopping, is soon encompassed with concentric circles. The most central of these is the location of our rude attack. A presumptuous and unscientific shift of that known point to the massive shopping plaza nearby is conjecture. It is unlikely an eyewitness will prove the nesting site’s location with greater accuracy. Regardless of exactitudes, we’d touched an outer perimeter of a widespread and very active community.
They’d chosen their hive well. Kilometres of underground shop-lined thoroughfares, fed by dozens of stairwells designed to entice and expel high volumes of humans. That temple of consumerism now contains horrors beyond a daring mind’s conjurations. If what we’d seen is only a tiny percentage of their true numbers, what would it be like down there?
Ground zero must seethe with a cast of thousands. Hosts and Parasites bumping around in pitch-black darkness. Breathing thick, hot, uncirculated air; foul with the stench of human waste and dead bodies. A deadly, quiet lair, rustling with the rub of skin and clothing. A palace to house a Queen who procreates and radiates telepathic orders. A war-room full of child-embodied Generals formulating unspoken plans, directing lieutenant’s against the few of us who are left.
My head dwells on imagined scenes monster-movie scriptwriters would find too fantastic.
I can’t forget the high-ranked girl-child host. I gauge her Parasite’s authority by the deference given by other hosts. If Parasite communities are hierarchical it stands to reason the highest-ranking Crawlies would choose the youngest, healthiest bodies to hole up in. Maximum life-span. An uncluttered, loosely wired brain to experiment with.
Its gestures when directing that unnerving spell into our minds is spine-tingling to recall even now. How long before those clumsy suggestions and subtle thefts of our thoughts become undetectable? We won’t be safe anywhere.
I wish the girl had been closer. Unlike our soldiers who’d died under attack from children they’d refused to shoot, I had no such compunction. Kiddies were fair game if Parasites occupation is evident. Strangely, youngsters have been conspicuously absent from the general population lately. The youngest host I’d seen in recent travels was teen-aged.
There’s a lot to come to terms with on these bits of paper. Since the very first Host appeared and upset all my misconceptions about what can and cannot be, I’ve been floundering. And now my natural inclination to scoff about the mind’s extra-sensory abilities is on permanent hold. However this is no story taken from some National Enquirer reporter’s filler folder.
I’d been there.
I’d seen unexplainable things.
I’d felt that liquid touch inside my head.
I wish Kristine was awake to bounce these outrageous ideas off. She’d come out with some unfounded guesswork that I delight in shooting down with pragmatism.