The wire fencing’s integrity is tested at every point by diligent Creeps. Tightly woven shade-cloth hides me from sight, but, like wild animals using primal awareness, they are certain prey is near.
How they know this is subjected to an overactive imagination’s flirtations. Are the sentries I pass on the road alerting more than their closest neighbour? Does their information cross a web of interlinked minds, leapfrogging data to something for analysis? Have these soldiers arrived to investigate for a higher power’s curiosity?
It’s the science-fiction, telepathy part I’m shy of accepting. I shouldn't be so obstinate. I’ve wronged my eyes by discounting the evidence they’d gathered in the past and now I suffer the regrettable consequences.
A pointless and rare admission of error leads to a catalogue of other failings to be unfurled. A sycophantic minion of my alter ego scampers to read from a prepared list.
Shouldn't be on a mission; too stoned.
Using a noisy forklift instead of quietly breaking my back.
Poorly coordinating said forklift; creating noise and damage.
Failing to secure an escape route.
Acting on a reckless impulse, with scant regard for ramifications, to win a woman’s favour.
Several other pertinent points are interrupted by unpatterned thumping. I hurry into the shop front and pull a swift one-eighty. The display window is filled with fists and faces. The nearest are smeared into skin flattening poses, pressed hard to the glass by late arrivals.
Rigidly I hold loose fibres of control together and duck into the kitchenette, making for the employee’s entrance. Here too, the door vibrates under a fleshy assault. Constant shifting movement is visible through the jambs of an ill-fitting frame.
Surrounded, I return to the plant graveyard and dither at the rear of the truck, listening as Creeps push and fumble around me. I clutch the gun hard to cancel out a sudden and urgent need to crap.
The options are few. The fact is I should not have dallied so long. A childhood taunt, coulda, shoulda, woulda, is balefully accepted.
There comes an urge to dash wildly for freedom. Second thoughts are close on its heels. Breaking the cordon and trespassing across host feeding grounds on foot has no appeal. It’s a long way home and I’d be greatly disadvantaged without the power of my steel and glass battering ram.
Anxiety brims, undiminished by fading drugs. Hatred, excited by fear, is so powerful I’m immobilised. Thus stricken, time is spent contemplating the unfairness of this situation instead of preparing for the inevitable battle.
I find myself seeking any alternative to fighting.
A cabinet to hide in.
A helicopter extraction.
Surely this selfless mission for Kristine’s benefit should be rewarded by a miraculous escape. So what if her desired recovery will return a bias of her attention to my needs?
To get a handle on this deteriorating situation, I argue that I’ve escaped worse situations. Those who have died at my side and in my place might point at luck and sheer arse, rather than skill and daring.
I heave a sigh perfected by the unjustly persecuted and take stock. Fortunately the truck’s rough entry into the yard favours my protection. The mangled fence pressing against one side prevents human passage. The other side is a tight squeeze. They must come at me in single file.
I have a chance.
Patting leg pockets in a tactile estimation of ammunition, and counting shadows that loom in the immediate vicinity, I apportion two Creeps to each cartridge. That ratio, turned on its head, would better serve a fair to middling accuracy.
Shrugging shoulders to ears several times won’t unlimber the muscles I need to nestle a frightened shotgun’s stock. It stops shaking when tucked beneath a sweaty armpit.
We await our first customers.
The hosts at the front of my truck are like a cloud of blowflies butting against a holed insect screen. Eventually one of them finds the gap and others gather at his back as if in response to a compelling, silent, shout.
The lead man’s clothing is outrageous. A garish, oversize, hand-knitted jumper straddles comic relief’s border incongruously enough to extract a disbelieving laugh from me. His Parasite deserves to be shot solely for making him wear it. The choices of colours are appalling. They are the scrapings from the bottom of an old woman’s left-over yarn basket. A technicolour yawn of lemon yellows and bright oranges scream of a disliked son-in-law’s gift.
Using dubious snooker skills I aim at his head, cleverly angling for a ricochet into an attractive, large-chested blond woman close behind him.
A two-for-one effort to improve my odds.
The hosts blink curiously when the gun booms. I've shot between them and neither target falls. They are not so much as scratched.
Now the ratio is complicated by a decimal point.
Following the Rule of Engagement to retain a fully loaded firearm I fumble to reload. Hostile fingers brush my arms as the shotgun is brought up, separating me from the Creep with the length of its barrel. Fairly certain of a hit in this case I stare into emotion-free eyes and gaping jaw.
“You want something to eat, Arsewipe? Taste this.”
The shotgun kicks a solid projectile into a hollow chest. The Creep recoils. I notice the obscene sweater catching fire around the large entry wound.
I insert another cartridge while watching the blonde lurching at me with outstretched hands. Her shirt pulls tight, halting her mid lunge and accentuating assets I’d be interested in examining at any other time.
Torn fencing wire ensnares her. Instead of using its rudimentary intelligence to extricate its host, the Parasite continues to make her reach for me. She blocks the path for other eager contenders. They bank up, pushing rudely. Her shirt rips down the back.
I’d almost forgotten about the host at my feet. His throat distends with an unhappy Parasite’s struggles. The gun lowers and recoils again, dealing decapitation for the corpse and disintegration for the creature inside.
The now shirtless blonde is shoved forward. Her breasts bounce most distractingly. She should be wearing a bra to support that magnificent weight. They are, as far as I can tell, untouched by surgical scarring.
Although murderous in my intent I can still appreciate a fine set of knockers and can’t bring myself to damage them. I aim lower, at her stomach. The gut-shot is messy. Her subsequent fall and exploration of the wound with fluttering hands covers the alluring nakedness with blood and innards. Released from her bosom's spell I fire again. Expending another cartridge further indebts me to the use of sharp steel to finish this fight.
Another victim, a woman of advanced-age with less appealing physical attributes, doesn’t pause to reflect on her counterpart’s fate. I blow a hole in her chest with fewer concerns regarding the state of her anatomy.
Bobbing heads and shuffling feet march on my position forming a neat line for execution. I gain hope as bodies pile up, one upon the other, to form a crude barrier. That hope is tempered by the fact I remain at the wrong end of the truck.
My shoulder aches from fifteen kicks or more.
I look down to reload. A gore-streaked Parasite I’ve missed climbs onto my boot’s toe. I fire without thinking. The Parasite bursts as does boot leather. Extreme agony of the highest order prevails. I hop backwards sucking in a huge breath intending to release it by wailing loudly.
I trip over Spew-Coloured Jumper Man and fall, whacking my head hard on the concrete. Wavering figures approach, then fade into blackness...