“Yes, I tried to kill it, I want that thing dead. Put a hole in my head if you want, Kristine, I don't care.”
I trap her eyes with mine. Hers dance nervously. Mine harden, accepting the possibility a bullet’s hydrostatic shock will blast them from their sockets.
“There must be a way. Get it out of her. Please help me.”
“Shanna doesn’t exist anymore. She’s gone. I know it’s hard to face, but think about doing what's right. The right thing for both of us.”
That’s not what she wants to hear. The grip on my throat tightens for a second then loosens. I’m pushed away and the pistol flies across the room. An angry finger jabs my chest.
“There is no us.”
The words hurt more than a bullet could.
A Parasite has outsmarted me. It used my hasty attack to rip apart this tenuously renewed bond. I’m grudgingly impressed by its tactics.
Kristine doesn’t reappear. Another twelve hours pass and I know this is more serious than the silent treatment. However her absence can be used to my advantage.
I form a new plan and put phase one into action.
I knock on the door of the observation room.
“I won’t try to come in. I’ve brought food. I’ll leave it at the door.”
“Fine. Now go away.”
“Just tell me if you need anything or leave a note. I’ll bring whatever you need, OK? You can use the toilets across the corridor. I’ve put some containers of water in there.”
She’s so easy.
I wear her down with kindness. After a few days she’ll answer my gentle taps and quietly takes the tray. She makes a point of tasting a little of everything before withdrawing to feed Shanna. I believe that’s all she eats. No bones or other inedible bits are returned for my disposal. If the host is eating Kristine’s share too it must be ravenous. I include vitamins and health shakes on the menu. Kristine takes a token sip of each delivery, and a few random pills.
Alone, I carefully go over everything I know about Poppers. It isn’t much. I think they are proximity sensitive. They burst on demand whenever the opportunity to take new prey arises. If they are denied fresh meat I’m sure the destructive litters would chew their way out anyway. How long until Shanna’s body reaches that point I can’t estimate without seeing her. I had to get in there soon.
It takes another eight days before Kristine exposes a chink for me to exploit.
“There’s something wrong with Shanna. I think she’s dying! If you’ve poisoned her, you’ve poisoned me too.”
More accusations of misdeeds. Anything I say will only start an argument. I pick up a hamburger, take a large bite, and leave.
It’s tasty. I make a pretty good hamburger.
Hours later I return to pick up the tray. It’s in the corridor, empty.
Kristine hears me clattering about with the dishes and darts out again. She’s skittish and won’t meet my eye. It’s clear she’s at the end of her rope.
“Sorry about what I said...before.”
“I haven’t given you any reason to trust me, so I can’t get mad at you.”
“You can come in, but you have to promise not to hurt her again.”
“Why would I want to come in? It’s not like I can do anything, unless...”
“Unless what? Is there something you can do?”
Kristine would happily sell her soul for Shanna. I toy with her as the Devil of False Hope and she is undone by her naivety.
“There’s a chance...no probably wouldn’t work. Then again...”
I pluck at the few precarious strands left that bond us. She weakens from the unbearable tension within.
“Maybe I can help. What’s wrong with her?”
“She looks...she looks...pregnant but she can’t be...unless...”
My escape route is opened. I have to leave her wanting me to come back. I feign anger.
“What are you saying? You were going to blame me? I wouldn’t even touch it, let alone fuck it. I’m too busy at the moment anyway. Maybe I’ll come by later when you calm down.”
“No, I didn't mean...busy? Doing what? Please don't go!”
I keep walking.
Turning on her heel she yells at my back.
“And stop calling Shanna ‘IT’!”
The door slams but doesn’t lock. The cue I’ve been waiting for. This might be my only chance.
I wait until I turn the corner then break into a sprint. Down in the workshop I work for several hours, finishing the device that will clean up Kristine’s mess. I move the components upstairs, closer to the isolation cell. A large gas bottle attached to a sack trolley, plastic tubing, copper pipe and a flint.
I have made a crude, undeniably effective, flamethrower.
Phase two begins.