We roll Shanna to the suicide cell. She waits limply for me to remove her ankle restraints. I’m leaning over slipping the buckle of the thigh belt when her knee connects with my nose. Kristine is unsympathetic to the dance of agony. Fleshy blood runs freely when I take pressure off my nostrils. Angrily I hit the lever to collapse one end of the gurney. Shanna’s feet crash down. Kristine dithers and shrinks from my roar of effort when I heave Shanna upright.
Occupying Kristine with the teetering gurney I circle around to snarl my displeasure in Shanna’s face.
“Payback time, bitch.”
Blood sprays from the violence of my words. Shanna’s tongue extends, licking at the droplets spattering her lips. The reptilian reaction subdues the fist I raise.
“What are you doing? Don't hit her, you bastard! Help me. I can’t hold this up.”
Kristine is struggling. Stepping back to watch them topple forward is almost irresistible. Smashing Shanna’s face, even temporarily, would be satisfying. Passing it off as an unfortunate act of gravity would drain the dregs of our friendship.
By the time I take hold of the frame Kristine is red-faced and wild.
“Leave her alone, she can’t help it.”
“Fucking bitch wouldn’t have felt it anyway.”
We walk the gurney forward to the doorway, leaving nowhere for Shanna to go except into the cell. Kristine undoes the chest and neck restraints. The wrists are freed last. We pull at the buckles in unison and I slam my shoulder into the gurney. Shanna staggers forward and the door shuts with a bang. My damaged nose hurts less when the lock snicks into place.
Kristine goes to the one-way mirror and places a palm against the glass. I hover behind her, searching pockets for a tissue. Shanna rises from hands and knees and turns slowly, perusing every part of the cell.
“Do you have to be so rough with her?”
“What about my fucking nose?”
“Should have kept your face away.”
Shanna’s Parasite sees movement in the one-way mirror and moves to grab at the reflection. Her eyes widen slightly then return to normal as it encounters the glass. My gut clenches as it slides the hand across to flatten directly opposite Kristine’s. Fingers turn to claws and scratch several times.
I watch nervously as they gaze at each other.
Somehow those hard eyes pierce the mirror. She marks me with a quick glance then returns her attention to Kristine’s face. Bitter thoughts march unhurriedly behind that expressionless face. Her other hand tugs the gag from her mouth.
In spite of the icy dread, parts of me react uncomfortably to Shanna’s naked body. Those firm breasts and erect nipples.
“She must be cold.”
“Stop looking at her.”
I shuffle my feet so Kristine thinks I’ve turned away and resume watching from the corner of my eye.
Shanna’s parasite loses interest in us and moves to the bed. It examines the clothing then begins to dress. The clumsy remote-controlling of her hands is fascinating. Underwear is ignored as too fiddly but the short skirt and top are pulled on untidily. The Parasite has no interest in adjusting the clothes to suit modesty or fashion. Protecting this body from the cool air is its only aim.
“What now? What’s the plan?”
Kristine shrugs maddeningly. I know she hasn’t thought any further than this.
“It’s not Shanna. It’s a body you recognise with something foul living in it, controlling it.”
Kristine shakes her head.
“Stop saying that. And stop calling her ‘it’. She’s sick. We have to make her better. She’ll come back.”
A gut feeling says there’s no coming back once a Parasite embeds itself inside us.
“She’s not sick, Kristine. She’s very healthy because she’s possessed by a Parasite.”
Now that Shanna is where I want her, I concentrate on cracking Kristine’s delusions.
“Come upstairs. I get the feeling these things understand everything we say.”
Back in our quarters I lay out my best ideas.
“Drugs! Overdose her...it comes out...kill it...revive her. We’ve got all the gear.”
Kristine is dubious about our resuscitation skills.
“Starve it out.”
I’m down to the messiest choice.
“That leaves surgery. I’ll pry the bastards out.”
“How would you find them?”
“I know where they live. I never told you this, but that host we brought back from your shopping trip...I cut him up...found where the fuckers hide.”
How’d you do it?”
“Chainsaw and ratchet loppers.”
I almost laugh at her horrified look.
“I’d use a less invasive technique this time. I can get them out with less damage.”
“Can Shanna survive that?”
“Maybe. I’d do everything I can to save her.”
I’m lying through my teeth. There is absolutely no chance she’ll survive my butchering. Getting Kristine’s go-ahead is a devious way to share the blame around after the fact. Shanna would die from shock or blood loss. When the Parasite came out, I’d kill it. Problem solved.
Kristine shakes her head repeatedly.
“You’re not cutting her up.”
“What are you going to do then? Keep her in that cage like a pet? What if some part of her knows what’s happening to her? What if she’s screaming inside? Screaming for you to kill her. If you love her, put her out of her misery.”
“Maybe there’s nothing left of her mind to save. Assuming I get the Parasite out, and assuming she lives through the operation, she might be brain dead. There’s no fucking happy ending at the end of this fucking fairytale. Let her go. I’d want you to do the same for me.”
“I’ll do it quick. She won’t feel it...”
“NO! Stay away from her! Get away from me!”
Kristine screams with rage, attacking me with windmill slaps, driving me out the door. Huge tight sobs tear the anguish from her in chunks.
I leave before the fight escalates, afraid the cracks in her mind are widening to chasms.
The garden I retreat to is a peaceful place though its charms are already tarnished by the enemy’s presence.
I think of it sitting passively in a cell, waiting for an opportunity to kill.