Valium rushes to compose overly tightened nerves. I crush eight Rohypnol into a jug and add two bottles of lemon, lime and bitters and a handful of ice, Kristine’s favourite drink. I gamble she’ll accept the jug as an attempt to curry favour rather than alert her with a bottle’s broken seal. As a paranoid I know how to fool my own kind, especially one who is new to the illness. I hope the salty taste isn't noticeable in the sweet liquid. She should be thirsty enough by now to drink a large enough dose. The previous feed consisted of chocolates, Coke and coffee.
I throw together a last meal for my enemy. Several health bars and a frozen pound cake. It’s the least I can do. The very least.
Before I’m completely ready, I stand at the door to the chamber of horrors. After knocking briefly, my hand reaches for the handle. If Kristine has had a change of heart and relocked it I’d return with a steel battering ram, welded together and ready for such a contingency.
The handle turns under my hand, dispelling dank thoughts of violent confrontations.
I step into a darkened room. Kristine is pressed against the glass. She doesn’t turn.
“Leave the light off. Shanna’s eyes hurt.”
The smell in here isn’t pleasant. I put the tray down, coughing and twisting my face at the eye watering stench.
I have to take control. It’s what she wants.
“Oh, God, fucking stink, I umm, need some light to examine her. You do want my help, don't you?”
“OK. But only the desk lamp.”
The hooded, low-wattage bulb reveals a scene inside the cell that is beyond foul. My eyes become fully accustomed to the dim light, revealing more detail. The floor is covered in faeces, urine, paper plates and the scraps of past meals.
Kristine’s belief that the light hurts Shanna’s eyes is more likely a fabrication to block out the transformed thing before her.
The beast lies on a mattress covered in dark stains. Sheets and pillows are bunched and torn. Its clothing is filthy. The exposed stomach, a place of obscene swellings draws a cringing glance before I examine the rest of the package. This once fine body is hideously deteriorated. It is skeletal; a pot-bellied starvation victim. The full breasts I’d so recently admired sag under a grotty yellow top. Veins stand out noticeably against an unhealthy pallor. Muscles have wasted until only stringy ligaments stretch caved-in skin off the bone close beneath. The death's head skull is hairless apart from a few clinging wisps.
I’ve seen them like this before. They don't last much longer.
Somehow it smells either me or the food. Crawling through the disgusting sewerage with effort laden thrusts brings it to the door slot to await its handout. Kristine’s blank eyes follow the dim movements before moving to the tray. She unwraps the health bars and cake, breaking them into small pieces and piling everything onto one plate. She picks at a few crumbs by habit before placing it in the food slot. The creature beyond reaches up. It is too far gone to grasp the edge, dragging the contents down instead. Food cascades to the floor where the host scrapes scattered pieces into a toothless mouth. The clawed hands flex weakly but this sustenance is not destined to strengthen it. The offspring inside will receive the full benefit.
With Kristine out of the way I move the desk lamp closer to the glass. The light reveals skin sores that have broken out all over the body. My mouth has too much saliva in it. I swallow the bile that surges up my throat.
“Can we clean her room? She’s too weak to hurt us. We can go in.”
“If we go in there, we’ll set it off. It’s waiting for us to make that mistake.”
For the last time I risk asking permission to end her lover's suffering. I use all the tact at my disposal.
“If you had an animal you loved, one that was suffering, nobody would think any less of you for putting it down.”
She shakes her head slowly, stubbornly staring through the dirty window.
“You said you could help her.”
An agreement to euthanasia would transform both of us. Kristine could grieve and I could mercifully dispatch the Parasites. Her stubbornness forces my underhanded plan forward.
“Yeah, I did, and I will. I’ll watch her a bit more first.”
As casually as possible I pour two cups of doctored tea. She drinks hers in large gulps. I refill it while pretending to sip mine.
The plan picks up irreversible speed.
Time ticks seconds away until the first effects show. I feel like the evilest bastard on the planet. Quite a distinct possibility given the reduction in population figures. My actions from here on will change us, possibly destroying one mind beyond repair.
I wish there were some other way.
“Are you sure Shanna’s not pregnant?”
“Don't start that again.”
“I’m not saying it was you.”
Humouring her is a welcome distraction while the drug is infusing.
“Good. In that case, let’s assume Parasites use male hosts to impregnate female hosts. It’s logical. They’re smart enough to use our physiology for their own designs, no different to us breeding animals to eat. Newborns would make convenient brand-new hosts.”
Kristine empties her cup again. She appears to be listening so I push a little harder towards the truth, pointing at the caged beast.
“This one's not carrying a human baby though. Look at the stomach.”
She won’t look, sitting instead with her hands covering her face.
“What are we going to do with a baby?”
This new fixation is another indicator of denial.
“There’s no baby.”
I’m quietly matter-of-fact with this diagnosis. The calmness holds back an urgency I should feel more acutely. But right now, if Shanna floated around the cell with flames shooting out of her arse, I wouldn’t even blink.
Valium is good like that.
The host finishes the food. Its swollen belly writhes with very active life forms as it crawls laboriously to curl up on the putrescent mattress.
Kristine’s mental state declines with the drugs depressant qualities. The sympathy she has for her girlfriends decaying body is distant and distracted, driving deeper into a state of denial while reality races inexorably towards her on a collision course. I fear the result when Shanna’s inevitable death crashes into her mind's fragile defences.
Kristine starts to nod off. She jerks her head up, blinking in confusion.
I cup her chin, steadying her to gaze into heavy-lidded eyes.
“What have you done to me?”
“I’ve drugged you babe, you’re going to sleep. I’m letting Shanna go now, you understand?”
She understood all right. Defiant tears bring a burst of energy from somewhere deep inside.
“No, no, no, not my Shanna. You fucking bastard.”
She slaps me hard across the face. The blow rocks me but I continue holding her shoulders carefully. I let her scream and sob; another punch winds me and drains too much energy. She collapses. I ease her to the floor.
“Not my Shanna. Don't take her from me again. I found her…oh…kill me…kill me too.”
She weakens with every word
“Let yourself go. It’ll be over by the time you wake up.”
“I don't want to wake up. I don't want to live without her.”
“She’s gone, Krissie. Has been for a long time, but I need you. I can love you.”
I’m whispering. Scared she’ll hear the words sneaking from my most private heart. She drops away.
I lay her down and scowl through the observation window. The host, all but a shrivelled corpse already, cranes to stare through the mirror with sunken eyes. They cut right into me, knowing something is amiss. Perhaps the psychic link it has forged with Kristine over the last week has warned it. The skin of her stomach is so distended it shines. Shanna's body lies back without a hint of pain or distress.
There’s no time to remove Kristine or make any further preparations.
With the lousiest timing, the bitch was about to give birth.