I stalk along the corridor and blunder into an innocent rubbish bin. It’s in the wrong place at the wrong time. I violently kick the grinning chrome can. Though outmatched, it fights back. The rim gouges my shin as it buckles. Clutching bruised flesh I watch it skid down the tiles, spilling old world discards. The similarity to bursting guts jams my aggression into high revving neutral.
The sharp pain in my leg highlights how straight I’ve let myself become. Fizzling anger rekindles for the ungrateful bitch I’d assumed such an unencumbered state for.
Withdrawal brings itchiness and irritability. I limp upstairs for a measure of consolation.
Lithium calms the storm-front of depression.
I spend many hours in deep thought, Lithium’s more usable side-effect. Every second of Shanna’s arrival is reviewed frame by frame in a stilled mind. A growing certainty leaves me cold. Her presence, already rated as disagreeably as paddling in a pool of acid wearing radioactive swimmers, is far worse on conclusion. Now I just have to convince Kristine of the new danger.
Forgiveness, the nasty side-effect of swallowing additional anti-depressants, prompts a cooking spree. Opened tins of stew and soup litter the bench top. Providing enough for our ‘guests’ is the closest I’ll come to apology for my earlier display of jealousy.
Neither hunger nor Kristine’s dependable sixth sense in regards to my messiness has brought her to the kitchen. Eventually I load bags with Tupperware containers and bottles of water and cruise the bright corridors to the infirmary.
Kristine looks up when I enter, mildly surprised at my appearance and suspicious of the peace offerings I carry. I beckon and she leaves the trauma room, holding paper towel to her hand.
A disinterested query is drawn from seeing spots of blood seeping through.
“What happened? Cut yourself?”
“Shanna. She grabbed me while I was washing her. Almost broke my fingers. I didn’t think...her arms were broken...I thought she...the bones are healed already! Hope I didn’t rip her nails out.”
If I wasn’t so stoned I might have slapped her for being so stupid.
“Yeah, hope not. That would be terrible. Want something to eat?”
She wearily drops into a clerical chair. I unpack and arrange the food on the desk in front of her.
“Nice. Food. Hungry.”
She digs in hurriedly. It’s probably the first meal she’s had in twenty four hours. Dully chewing she talks around a mouthful.
“Everything’s better now. Shanna’s back. Had a hectic day. Need to sleep.”
One look at my pupils explains my unresponsiveness monotone. She sighs and points at the soup.
“Is that for Shanna?”
I nod vaguely, peering at the girl behind the glass, double checking my diagnosis. Shanna glares back.
“I think there’s more than one Parasite inside her? Look at her belly. You know what that means don't you?”
Shanna stomach is slightly swollen. The small imperfection obvious in an otherwise finely toned body.
“You didn’t put anything else in here did you? I’m eating everything she eats so you better tell me.”
She has completely ignored my question.
“I didn't poison it. You sleeping down here?”
Kristine nods without meeting my eyes. I hold out my hand.
“Give me your keys?”
“Your girlfriend there. Is. A. Popper. Sooner or later there’s going to be a bunch of baby Parasites running around in here. One or more will get into you, and you may get to me. Are you listening to what I’m saying?”
We’re both so calm and emotionless, the wrongness is palpable. We should be screaming at each other, fighting, crying, and coming to terms with the inevitable. The powerful force of denial tightens its screws.
“She’ll be fine.”
“She’ll be dead. And so will you.”
Guts clenched, I keep my hand out. I loathe myself despite the disassociation.
Without further protest she hands me the keys.
Dismissed, I leave, turning the solid lock with a loud clunk. We stare at each other through the wired glass for a moment. Kristine breaks eye contact first, turning to pick up the soup. She walks away to feed the beast.
I wander as far as the building will let me. Drifting in and out of dark, lonely offices, trying to marshal terrible fears that bank up and feed on each other.
The possibility I have incarcerated Kristine with a host as payback for hurt feelings has a well trained guilty conscience scurrying for cover.
I can’t possibly hate myself more than this moment.