Shit. Free for five seconds and I’ve already lost control.
Like a trapped bunny rabbit turning into a wild beast I careen into the host’s mind and crash around, damaging whatever is blundered into, hoping to hit a release switch. After a few seconds of flailing the new powers dim. The mental strain requires a brief recess to recharge. It is while in this unprotected position the realisation hits.
There’s been absolutely no resistance to my vandalism.
The spikes and spinning blades of an overwrought aggression retract, and my antenna reception strengthens. The lowly, confused Parasite who owns this body is radiating a plea for reason. I absorb it.
It was simply following an instinct to restrain fleeing meat by clapping host hands on me. Instead of giving an order to desist, I’d barged in and messed up the place. The Parasite can’t comprehend its punishment.
Composure returning, I clear a mental throat and project authority.
‘Release the meat.’
The Parasite acquiesces, moving the host’s controls with a concert pianist skill. I’m baffled by fast forwarding pictures of neurons fired and nerves plucked.
A partial understanding is gained for the reason they inhabit us. Their mental control by itself is too weak to control our bodies properly. Hardwiring a Parasite soldier inside a host solves this problem. One puppet master can then control many thousands of Creeps.
Knowing they like reinforced orders, I repeat myself.
‘Release the meat.’
Fearful of being discovered as a fraud I then flit away, diving into my body even as the pinched nerve is freed, ungrateful when the returning pain and thundering headache hurts me anew.
I massage a sore shoulder and disdainfully squint up at the large pug-faced man who’d caused it. He’s got about twenty kilos and ten centimetres of height on me. I don't discount his high level of fitness from all the walking and carrying he does on such a high protein diet.
But I’d damaged him. One eye is bloodshot and a clear fluid trickles from his nose and out one ear.
‘Go away. Leave the meat here.’
The order is meant to dismiss them all. They sway like trees in a breeze but feet remain planted.
Do they need detailed instructions? I would give them some.
Very clearly I picture a place visited years before. A lookout about thirty kliks outside the city limits. I remember the one-in-twelve grade road boiling my car’s radiator. They could go for a nice hike up there.
‘Go to this place and wait.’
This time they form a line and march outside. The last guy is the susceptible one. I recant his instruction at the last moment.
‘Not you. Wait.’
He sees a picture of himself and stops while his friends keep going. By twisting the order in their heads I implant a continuous loop so I don't have to oversee them all the way. Whether this trial is successful will become clear later if they return for me.
I put them out of my thoughts and address the young man left behind. His tufted beard and overgrown hair hide his features. Dead eyes meet mine with compelling calm.
‘Do you have a name? An identifier?’
A sound chirps in my head.
Huh? What was that? Whatever. It wasn't worth wasting time on.
‘OK, umm, Cricket, you’re going to escort the meat out of here.’
By habit I have taken out two pill bottles, nervously shaking them like a pair of maracas. I look at the labels longingly before carefully putting them away. Staying clearheaded will be advisable.
I need somewhere to hole up and practise these new powers before escaping this infested mall. Somewhere not close to the food pit. The only other place I know exists is the breeding room. The place denied me that caused this brain explosion. Morbid curiosity and an overheated sex drive decides the matter. I could scope out the place on the way.
‘Take the meat to the breeding place.’
My pet Parasite is keen to please. I am gripped at the back of the neck very strongly.
‘Gently with this one, Cricket. Minimum harm. He is special.’
The hand loosens but I don't think it gets the special part. Later I’d have to find the word they use for ‘awe’ and ‘treat with care’ and apply it to my body.
We march out of our quiet corridor into the bustle of the shopping malls main promenade. I’m hobbling on my shotgun busted boot, pushed along by an ungentle hand. Skylights let in enough faded sunlight that penetrates thin cloud cover to illuminate hundreds of Creeps busily clogging up the place.
They have a human-like inability to stick to left or right sides for a particular direction. Unlike us they can maintain an organised flow in spite of this and we wend our way through the crowd efficiently enough. The flowing system of rivulets that cross and merge in strange patterns would be interesting to observe from above.
From behind a fifty calibre machine gun.
We never collide with anyone else, though I’m shoved forward and yanked back a few times when my pace doesn’t match the rest of the Creeps. I limp on as discreetly as possible, eyeing off the many stores we pass, all with their security grilles smashed in. Either the work of human raiders or to fulfil Parasite needs, each place has been ransacked.
‘Hold it. Take me, I mean, take the meat in here. This store.’
We enter a shoe shop. I’m pushed crudely into the jumble of random foot-ware and damaged display stands.
‘Stop. Let meat go. Guard.’
I’m getting good at this. Repeating the message a few times makes it stick while I kick the thick layer of garbage aside, searching for suitable replacements for these crippling boots.
Too gay, too black, high heels, slippers. Maybe there’s something more suitable out back.
Cricket moves forward as I pull aside a curtain covering the stockroom doorway. I hold up the palm of my hand.
‘Staaaaay. Guard. Stay, guard.’
He stops again. Blank eyes not putting the command and the ‘meat’s’ actions together.
Returning my attention to the tight aisles behind the curtain I find more destruction. Shelves have been pulled down, boxes torn, shoes scattered. The difficulty of high-stepping over this clutter has kept marauders from getting at the rear shelves.
It doesn’t leave me a whole lot of choice though. The rear shelves hold ‘ladies joggers’. I open box after box, tossing rejects into a corner until I find sneakers in my size. They are fluoro-purple with a white lightening stripe up the sides. I bet the fucking things glow in the dark too. Beggars can’t be chooses however so I take them into the shop for a fitting. My Creep moves in to reacquire me as I come out.
‘Stay. STAY! Good dog.’
It is agitated by my derogatory additions. Reproaching the smart-arse in me bring no remorse. There’s no time for in-fighting. Priority one involves removing these boots.
The broken one comes off first. It is instant relief to slide toes out from under the dented steel. Pain flares when the pressure is taken off but it isn’t wet with blood. I remove the sock and rub bruised flesh just above the toe line.
The new shoes go on gingerly. Purple clod-hoppers with racing stripes clash with the black leather.
While lacing them I feel a presence. I look up. Cricket has shuffled forward silently. His hand hovers above my shoulder, not quite touching but eager to be in contact.
I sigh and crook my elbow at him.
“Righto. Go on then, take my arm.”