Despite the fact I’m making an incredibly stupid decision to leave the safety of my fully equipped shelter, I barely hesitate. Venturing out while under the influence of drugs and alcohol may be considered even stupider, but the mixture sloshing about in my queasy stomach props up my bravery and helps me face the hideously dangerous outside world. It’s all in a good cause as this outing marks my very last day on earth.
To cut a long, sad story short, I’m going to kill myself. Again. I already tried two days ago, gobbling most of my stash of sweet, sweet pills in the process. Unfortunately the dosage had proved to be inadequate for the task and I’d taken a rather frightening rocket ride to the outer quadrant of Galaxy 9 and back again. Now pill-less, I journey outside, clinging to the memory of a pharmacy not far from my fortress where I intend procuring a surer dose.
But first I need to avoid the Parasite Hosts. Putting my suicidal intentions aside, I do not intend departing this word by being torn apart and eaten by infested humans.
So, here I go on this fool’s errand, riding the residue of a pill cocktail which is still flying my mind on a string above my head. Somehow I’ve convinced myself to gear up in ‘outside’ attire. Full biker’s leathers; helmet, gloves, boots and all. I’ve put on some weight lately; mostly because hiding and eating are my main activities; but the bike shop I’d ripped off last month had catered for the Fat Bastard Brigade. The S & M leather look is somewhat restrictive, but it helps strengthen an otherwise jelly-like backbone.
I’m in no danger of being ridiculed. Real humans are scarce now, and Parasite Hosts tend not to point and laugh. They do like to chase me though, which is why I’m also weighed down by assorted weaponry, and I carry an irritatingly heavy back-pack full of ammo. A squeeze bottle full of vodka is on hand to refuel my waning courage at intervals.
To help vanquish the lingering doubts I have about raiding a pharmacy while bent out of my head, I ingest my two remaining painkillers. It is fuzzy beyond belief behind these eyes but the pills soon begin their good work. My hung-over depression soon expands into hale heartiness, and I’m able to clump along in a foggy contentment, exiting through the imposing front gate of my exclusive hideaway. Two “Rules” are broken by this act. Never use the front entrance while on foot; and the less official rule of never exerting my body with any form of exercise.
My chemical props allow me to ignore this “Rules” nonsense and my confidence is unflagging as not a soul crosses my path. No hosts. No humans. Not even an animal.
I arrive at my destination, sweating and queasy. The pharmacy door yields to my trusty crowbar and I gleefully strip chemicals from the shelves like a kid-in-the-candy-store. Strangely I have the presence of mind to pause and use a handy rapid reference book to ensure my final departure is on the psychedelic fun bus, and not on the liver-failing rack of agony.
I keep back a few blister packs and toss several Methadone and Kadian down my throat, chased with raw vodka.
I step out the pharmacy door, slapping my visor down, a full bag on my back and the start of a cheerful tune on my lips. A bit preoccupied with sorting out the weapons’ belt and rucksack buckles, I bump into something as I exit.
Jerking my head up, I discover I am face to face with a thing from my nightmares. A male Host. The ex-human, worn by the filthy thing inside him like a shabby suit of clothes, is a skinny, middle-aged, long haired, urban hippie. The creature, snug in that sunken chest cavity, rotates the stolen body’s eyes to bore into mine. Before my brain locks in fear I waste the moments grace by being thankful for their lack of motor skills and intelligence that prevent them performing simple actions like opening doors or fashioning weapons. This recollection fails to help me respond tactically. Instead I freeze solid in fear.
The Host’s chapped lips are so close he’s almost kissing the visor. My initial fright is compounded when our impact jars a sound from the semi-opened mouth.
They’ve never said anything intelligible to me in the past and I’ve always figured the parasite hasn’t worked out how to operate the speech function properly. More to the point, I’m usually running away at high speed by then. But, as panic clammers at me to run, I’m positive the thing attempts to say my name.
A close enough approximation of ‘Sam’ to loosen a squeal in fright from my throat.
“Whassat? Huh? Fuuuuuck! Geddafuckoffme!”
He shatters my paralysis by grappling for possession of my arm. I scream curses into his face which causes no reaction from that dead face. Crumpling his nose with an up-swung rifle butt has more effect. The blow knocks him over backwards, giving me time to get the dangerous end of the gun pointed at his head. I fumble with the trigger and fire a bullet that explodes through his lower stomach. I run away from the scene like a gazelle on steroids.
My bad day gets worse. I’m taking the first street corner at full tilt, busily looking over my shoulder to see if the gut-shot hippie is following when I run directly into the second Host’s arms like a long lost lover. I couldn’t make their job any easier if I tried.
Clamped in an overly friendly drunk’s bear-hug, I manage to drop the rifle. The Host’s blank eyes bore into mine through the plexiglass shield, and his fetid breath invades the helmet, filling my lungs with a stench direct from Satan’s arse. His lips and gums are grey! What the fuck do these things eat?
Me, if I don’t do something constructive!
I slam my knee into his groin; an action that fails to have the desired effect. He doesn’t even blink. I try a head-butt next and smash my own nose hard against the inside of the visor. But his nose fares much worse, erupting in blood and breaking our clinch. I blindly scrabble around my utility belt for something sharp and happen upon the chromed hatchet with the super-comfortable rubber grip.
The fabled red mist descends. I belt him on the forehead as hard as I’m able. Fucking Hell! I’ve hit him with the blunt end! Blood pumps from the resulting injury but his eyes remain locked on mine. I juggle the handle until the blade is reversed and proceed to hack at Stinky Breath’s arms and chest and I’m soon covered in sticky blood. Axe murdering is a messy business.
“Get. Off. Me. You. Bas. Tard!”
He never gives up; even with gouts of blood pumping from sickening wounds. My arms quickly tire of swinging the hatchet. If I’m not careful he’ll win by default when I can’t lift it anymore. I take a step back and swing at his neck with all my strength, hoping for a decapitating blow to end the altercation. Predictably this does not occur. The blade slams into his neck and jams fast in his spinal column. Unable to weather this wound he finally drops at my feet.
I stagger away from the body, exhausted. The drugs coursing through my system are burning up fast and I’m feeling all of the neglect I have heaped on my body. I barely have time to feel sorry for myself when yet another Host, no doubt drawn by my wailing, tramps through a nearby garden gate, arms outstretched in hideous welcome. I have no time to retrieve the hatchet firmly lodged in Stinky Breath.
Hand to hand conflicts are notoriously inefficient for the untrained, which describes me well. I tear a pistol from its holster and fire at the newest enemy double-handed, retreating in an awkward sideways gallop.
Bang, bang, bang, bang.
My wrists are hammered by each punishing recoil. Aiming is impossible at this angle and the gun tries to twist out of my grip every shot. I am doomed.
Suddenly the Host drops, stone dead, over thirty metres away! A miraculously guided bullet leaves a hole in the centre of his forehead. Astounded at my accuracy I’m tempted to spin the pistol on its trigger guard when I re-holster it. Common sense prevails and I jab its muzzle carefully back into the holster without risking shooting myself in the eye. I flee; belting off down a skinny side-street, taking corners at random through a rabbit warren of tight alleys and high fences. I lose my map around here. It would be useless anyway since street signs are non-existent. I hazard a guess these lanes are left-over from the shit-cart days where backyard dunnies needed emptying.
Rapidly flagging, I stumble up to a line of bollards that mark a pedestrian access-way. Peering down it, I see an open car park and a line of shops in the distance. Shops mean main roads, and main roads mean street signs. Keen to get my bearings and work out where the hell I am, I attempt to jog down the path. In reality I’d probably move faster by walking.
As I step onto the tarmac another beast rises from the long grass to accost me. A Granny from Hell sways hip deep in the weeds that take over the cracked and creviced pavement. She watches me; waiting to see if my heaving body is going to fall down or run away. I’m positive these bastards tag-team me like this on purpose. Wearing me down until I can barely function. I should have dropped the pack. I should have stayed inside. I should never have been born.
I give her every chance to let me by. I warn her to stay put by waving the pistol at her.
“S-s-s-stay back. No one needs to get hurt.”
I shuffle sideways around her but she ignores my ineffectual threat and takes up the chase at ground eating tramping pace.
My previous lucky shot is not repeated. Every bullet I fire misses the old biddy. I stop to steady the pistol; aiming at her chest where the Parasites are supposed to dwell; holding my nerve until she’s close enough I can’t possibly miss. I yank the trigger and the hammer falls on an empty chamber.
Jesus Christ, out of bullets!
And that’s when I trip, crashing to the ground on top of my over-full back pack which jabs me in all the wrong places instead of cushioning the fall. My lungs are flattened into pancakes and a second later the weight of an old Host woman lands on me like a Rugby Union front-rower.