Lying here post-coitus, next to a sleeping girl whose name I don’t know, it would be easy to think the situation could be worse. With one appetite sated another arises. My stomach’s emptiness grumbles and gurgles to itself. If these hazardous surroundings can’t hold back an erection then I’m definitely capable of eating.
Food. There’s an abundance of cans close at hand. Examining them for suitable content by a candle’s light swiftly accumulates a pile of discards.
Lima beans, peas and carrots, beetroot.
A familiar label is exposed. Unpeeling the flip-top lid, I cut chunks of congealed Spaghetti out with my knife’s blade. Near starvation makes unheated food of this type palatable. I’d also learned to chow down on dog food without complaint when nothing else was on offer.
Cricket watches me eat. Our shield blocks the ‘hungry’ signal he sends to a Parasite distributor. It is an irritating monotone of begging. Our eyes meet and I offer him the nearly empty can.
He’s not impressed. He wants raw meat.
I shrug and burp while scraping the last mouthful out, then tidily hide the empty can in a drawer.
With a stomach filled I reach for my pills as habitually as a smoker lighting a cigarette. Mid-toss, I stop myself. This shield might fold up if I get too out of it. I’d hate to awaken to find Cricket chewing on me. Or dragging me by the foot to Target’s bloody butchery.
The pills rattle back into their container. I hide the bottle from tempting my eyes under a stack of curtains. I slip my knife between the folds too.
Come to think about it, I am rather alert in a strange and disorienting way. I barely know how to deal with the immediacy of everything I do. These endorphins I ride, released from several gruelling sessions of sexual congress tide me over for now, but what’ll I do when they wear off?
I need a beer. I need Codeine. I need sleep.
And there’s something my sex-addicted lady forget to mention. I stink of sweat. And I’m too hot. A shower is in order. Maybe cool water will also shift this fugue.
I remember my bed-partner had introduced herself to me with wet hair, and smelled of soap. There must be a water source nearby.
It’s quite surreal to be wandering around naked, passing by assorted Creeps who have no interest in me, and turning away women who are all too interested. The dream-like quality is so strong I sternly remind myself of the several thousand Parasites underfoot, and possibly overhead, to calm a rising arrogance.
Food and sex have dulled my self-preservation to a murmur. I’m even considering the trade-offs I’d have to make to live here permanently. The list doesn’t grow very long before I change my mind.
No electricity, no alcohol, no pills.
I begin to hurry up and down the many bedroom aisles. Damn, there must be a restroom here somewhere. My entire bowel system has stepped up to Def-Con 4 and there’s a little brown bear sticking his head out. I’m pretty sure it’s only a plug for a gusher too.
Where’s the toilets!
I’m about to use a convenient corner when the smell of human waste hits me. I run down a short dark corridor and skid to a stop at the first candle-lit stall, intestinal discomfort temporarily forgotten. Cricket catches up and we marvel at heaped pile of raw shit filling and overflowing the bowl. The last few additions would have required interesting acrobatics to stack it that high. It is also the rankest smell I’ve ever endured.
Except that time I trod in a rotting body.
The next stall is in a similarly revolting condition but the other eight are useable, if mightily unclean. I take the one furthest from the stench and partake in a biblical evacuation.
Strangely, while I sit in a miasma of my own making; continuing to empty at a less furious rate; I receive a glimpse into the future.
Creeps are not into preventative maintenance, and are even less inclined to repair minor damage, even when the benefits for doing so are obvious. They use our inventions on the most basic levels. Their intelligence must be unable to conceptualise refrigeration or mechanised transportation.
It’s impossible to think down to their level so I give up on that line of inquiry. I think they’ll squat in the ruins of our civilisation for a time, making no attempt to construct one of their own. They are the minions of entropy, winding up the world until we’re returned to the Stone Age. They’d be just as happy living in a cave or the hollow of a log, eating whatever they catch.
I dwell on these thoughts until discovering that I’m out of toilet paper. Cricket, my ever-loving shadow and imitator, has occupied the cubicle next to mine. He is finishing his own loud, flatulence-powered expulsions.
Parasites have less decorum than me.
“Hey! Cricket. Got any date roll in there?”
I send a mental image. He pulls up his pants and leaves the cubicle. I open my door, hoping he’s understood but he stands before me empty-handed.
I know he hasn’t wiped, or flushed and he isn’t holding a roll of toilet paper.
“You’re a useless prick, you know that?”
I must wipe with one hand, flush with the other, then rush to a basin to clean the crap off, praying the water is connected here too.
The taps work, at piddling pressure. No pumps, but the mall must have a rainwater catchment system. The Green craze of years gone by has saved the day for me. I hold the spring loaded handle down and mentally force Cricket to wash his hands as well. He touches me far too much to neglect his hygiene.
Honestly, it’s like looking after a three year old.
Less preoccupied, I notice a wet path leading past the toilets. I follow it back to an employee change room.
Hooray, shower stalls.
I bang through lockers and find a container of liquid soap and shampoo. The water from the shower heads is also unpressurised, and cold, yet marvellously revitalising.
By the time I’m done scrubbing a large handful of grit coats the floor. I step from the stall gleaming, looking for a towel.
Of course there are none to be had.
Soaking wet and mindful of the slippery floor I make my way towards the bed I’d commandeered.
A slim nude woman walks past in the semi-dark attracting my interest. Feeling slightly chipper, clean, and in demand, I am unnecessarily flippant.
“Right then, it’s back in the saddle is it? Which bed do you want to...?”
How embarrassing, it’s a Creep. Her shield and head-hose hadn’t been obvious in the darkness. I clam up as her slack features turn towards me. She stops and I get an uncomfortably long look.
Of course, I panic and do something stupid.