For two very dissimilar people, thrown together by circumstance, we manage to exist together. It helps that Kristine is prepared to make more allowances for me than I am for her.
That’s not to say she doesn’t have her own annoying quirks. One of those includes insisting on discussing a subject I would run a mile to avoid.
The Parasites and I have come to a one-sided agreement. They stay outside, we stay inside.
Kristine’s curiosity is always bringing them up in what she terms, brainstorming sessions. To me, a brainstorm involves a lot of internal thunder and lightning and staring off into space.
“Why do you think infested people hang around places they know from before? Do you think they might have some sort of residual memory?”
“I do. You said you saw nurses hanging around the hospital, a cop still in uniform standing next to his police car, a whole street full of people hanging around front yards of houses.”
“Did you take notes of stuff I say or something?”
“I was reading your notes actually. They are really interesting and could be important.”
“That was a long time ago. I was really into recording that stuff once.”
“I want you to think about it Sam. Your brain can be useful even if you are trying to wreck it.”
“It’s pretty wrecked now, so don't expect too much. OK. If it will get you to leave me alone. Let’s see. Where did I leave my study aids? How can I find anything with the place so tidy?”
“I’ve sorted your notebooks into date order and put them into the bookshelf where they belong. Here’s the one I was reading.”
“Here, let me see. ‘I have come across several hosts, standing very still. They come after me but are slow and easily outrun or dealt with by headshots.’ No that’s not it. Where’re those examples of the nurses and that cop? Here we are. ‘I have noticed it takes a period of several months for the Parasite to imbed itself. During that time the host remains in a trance-like state and tends to gravitate towards a place of work or place of residence, as if seeking the familiar’. Not a very nice thought that they might know what’s happening to them on some level is it? After a while they wander off and join the other hosts doing whatever the Parasite wants them to do.”
Kristine grows quiet and distant in deep thought.
The following day starts normally enough. I wake late as usual, and bumble around making a liquid and capsule breakfast. Kristine is unremarkably absent. She likes to jog in the morning cool and exercise in the gym.
Her bunch of keys and a set of master keys are missing. Guns are gone from the pegboard next to the door too.
I frown. Did she go outside? There’s no need to. The genset isn’t due for a few more days and she promised not to open an outer door without me being with her. Maybe she’s out exploring. That curiosity of hers will bring trouble one day.
Lunchtime brings no sign of her. I take more pills on an empty stomach and soon after I am bent over the toilet bowl, throwing up toxic slime. The sickness enhances Kristine’s absence. Usually she’ll insist I eat enough to keep my stomach in check.
Sobered and worried, I pace the facility’s corridors, looking for her through windows, hoping to spot her sunbaking in the garden or napping in an office. Concern gradually winds open the panic valve as I puff my way through each wing, calling to her. I leave the roof till last and examine the grounds from each corner.
Something is out of place.
There, in the visitors’ car park, a red F100 is missing.
I try to convince myself she’s taken it to the workshop. There is no common sense attached to this but I don’t pretend to understand a woman’s thinking. I recheck the workshop from a back corner again. The truck isn’t inside. The doors are wide open from when I burned the body inside. There is no sign of the faded red utility nor do any tracks lead into the long grass.
Only one possibility remains.
She’s left the grounds.
I run back to the staff wing. The F100 keys are missing from the keyboard, yet her room isn’t stripped; all her stuff remains.
I fire questions at a numbed brain.
If she’s run away, why did she leave without her stuff?
Where did she think she was going?
Had I done something really flaky and scared her off?
No, I don’t think so.
I weapon up and plunge into the long grass, running towards the main gate. No part of me appreciates the exercise, or being out in the open. Creep activity has dropped off significantly and I see none beyond the wire. I am ultra-cautious anyway.
Rain has washed dirt onto the asphalt near the gate and fresh tracks are plainly visible leading through the heavy bars. My heart sinks. The fact that she’d turned left, away from the high activity area is not consoling. I approach the bars and cling to them, resting a heavy head on the warm metal.
I had to face it, she’s gone.