Tongues of fire lick at the rubble, discouraging the malaise that binds me to this spot. I look deep into Kristine’s sleeping face and wish for a new beginning.
Time does not reverse at my request.
Amidst the increasing pop and crackle of burning the spur needed to move is the crash of something fragile striking something that isn’t.
Placing Kristine’s head carefully on the floor, the weight of the world is heaved onto feet of clay. A nearby extinguisher surveys the wreckage, its eagerness to be used at odds with the holder’s slothful participation.
Clambering through the disarray, puffing cold vapour at red flickers is an extended tour of localised destruction. Structurally, this part of the building appears sound. More than a few offices will need a makeover.
A second extinguisher expires and drops from aching fingers. Rather than search out another, one last smouldering hot-spot is crushed under a heel.
I crash my way over broken office furniture to Kristine.
The familiarity of her body draped across my arms sparks déjà vu. Ill-treatment brought on by me the root cause each time. We leave.
In our rooms I put her to bed fully clothed, dirty boots and all. Her physical comfort will wait. I must return to the destruction zone to remove and bury evidence of what I’ve done. Even if Kristine never forgives me, I can spare her visual reminders of how her girlfriend died.
Armed with gloves and fortified by whiskey I toddle back, preceded by a wheelbarrow from the garden. I use it to bulldoze a way towards Shanna’s cell.
The reinforced room has remained relatively intact. The explosion expelled through the large observation mirror and the doorway that mourns the loss of its door. Blackened pieces of body parts have been contained. I reach for an arm. The feel of yielding soft flesh is worse than the hard, charred pieces I grub for in the ash. Cleaning up after corpses is becoming an unsavourily habit.
Burning these remains, as I did the other, is deemed prudent. No part of a host should be left intact. The flesh may harbour Parasite eggs. The risk might be miniscule, but without evidence to the contrary I prefer overcautiousness. Besides, my paranoia is always tripped by threats of the most diminutive nature.
It takes a while to find the smaller bits and pieces. I lay them out around the gaping torso like some deranged murderers jigsaw puzzle. The jaw tendons in her blackened skull pull the mouth open in a last eternal scream. To put her at peace I force the jaw shut.
Shanna’s cooked stench wafts over me as I push her in the wheelbarrow. The smell is a reminder of steaks on the BBQ, ruling out that pastime for the foreseeable future.
We enter the garden where I construct a fresh air crematorium.
It is a simple affair. A shallow hole stacked with alternating layers of timber and body parts. The end result is a respectably large funeral pyre.
Night-time’s gloom descends as I’m finishing. The garden becomes a less friendly place, the reversal of which requires copious amounts of alcohol internally, and a few litres of diesel externally. The grounds are soon brightened with a crackling blaze. It reflects from a thousand surrounding panes of glass.
It is vaguely beautiful.
Shanna is consumed and released in black smoke, billowing into the night sky. It should blend with other plumes occasionally seen rising from the suburbs. Hopefully no explanation will be sought.
The fire eats its feast voraciously, encouraged with additional splashes of fuel.
When the can is empty I walk away.
Once again I am Kristine’s nurse. Unlike physical hurts I can’t apply a bandages or cream to her injury. She’d slipped and cracked her mind, then fell and broke her heart. My doctoring has no cure-all for these ills.
I’m at her side when she rises from the drugged sleep, gasping with instant remembrance.
“Is she gone?”
Her small, child-like voice flays me with a guilty whip. I nod.
“It was quick.”
The boom of a solid door closing behind her eyes is almost audible.
She retreats into herself, sleeping eighteen hours a day, existing in a dream world when awake. I feed her anti-depressants and prompt short crossings from bed to table. Talking is reduced to single word responses to untaxing questions. I’d cope better with her anger-inspired silent treatment instead of this deep hopelessness and total surrender.
I talk brightly. Gel covered powders heighten my sense of humour. It rings of the false hilarity of a hospital visitor obligated to cheer the dying patient.
She is determined not to eat, barely picking at the smallest portions constantly offered. Her weight loss replicates Shanna’s wasting sickness.
The thought fills me with trepidation.