I stalk along the corridor and blunder into an innocent rubbish bin. It’s in the wrong place at the wrong time. I violently kick the chrome can. Though outmatched, it fights back, gouging my shin as it buckles against the wall. Clutching bruised flesh, I kick it clattering down the hall. It spills old world discards from its guts as it rolls to a halt.
The sharp pain to my leg highlights how straight I’ve let myself become. That ungrateful bitch hadn’t even recognised how straight I’d let myself get in my grief.
Withdrawal brings an itchiness and irritability that I can’t endure. I limp upstairs for a measure of consolation and friend-Lithium calms the storm-front of depression.
I spend many hours in deep thought; Lithium’s more usable side-effect. Every second of Shanna’s arrival is reviewed frame by frame in a stilled mind. A growing certainty leaves me cold. Her presence is already rated as disagreeable. As disagreeable as paddling in an acid bath wearing radioactive swimmers. But far worse is my dissections’ conclusion. When laid across her, I’d felt a lot of movement inside her stomach.
Forgiveness is a side-effect to swallowing anti-depressants. Kristine will be hungry. A cooking spree is prompted, leaving emptied tins of stew and soup to litter the bench top. Providing for our ‘guest’ as well is the closest I’ll come to apology. My messy preparations do not draw Kristine to the kitchen to berate me like she usually does. Her sixth sense is being occupied by another now.
Eventually I load bags with Tupperware containers and bottles of water and cruise bright corridors down to the infirmary.
Kristine looks up when I enter, mildly surprised at my appearance and suspicious of the peace offerings I carry. I beckon and she leaves the trauma room, holding a paper towel to her hand. This draws a disinterested query from me when I see spots of blood seeping through.
“What happened? Cut yourself?”
“Shanna. She grabbed me while I was washing her. Almost broke my fingers. I didn’t think...her arms were broken...I thought she...the bones are healing already! Hope I didn’t rip her nails out.”
If I wasn’t so stoned I might have slapped her for being so stupid.
“Yeah, hope not. That would be terrible. Want something to eat?”
She wearily drops into a clerical chair. I unpack and arrange the food on the desk in front of her.
“Thanks. Food. Hungry.”
She digs in hurriedly. It’s probably the first meal she’s had in twenty four hours. Mechanically chewing, she talks to the plate in a monotone.
“Everything’s going to get better now. Shanna’s back. Had a hectic day. Need to sleep.”
My own unresponsive monotone takes her a second to understand. She raises her eyes to mine and sighs. Instead of commenting on my state she points at the soup.
“Is that for Shanna?”
I nod vaguely, peering at the girl lying behind the glass, double-checking my suspicious diagnosis. Shanna glares back. There’s no way to sugar this.
“I think there’s more than one Parasite inside her? Look at her belly. You know what that means don't you?”
Shanna stomach is slightly swollen. The small imperfection obvious in an otherwise finely toned body.
“You didn’t put anything else in here did you? I’m eating everything she eats so you better tell me.”
She has completely ignored my question.
“I didn't poison it.”
I dip a finger in the soup and suck it.
“You sleeping down here?”
Kristine nods without meeting my eyes. I hold out my hand.
“Give me your keys?”
“Your girlfriend there. Is. A. Popper. Sooner or later there’s going to be a bunch of baby Parasites running around in here. One or more will get into you, and maybe you’ll get to me. Are you listening to what I’m saying?”
We’re both so calm and emotionless, the wrongness is palpable. We should be screaming at each other, fighting, crying, and coming to terms with the inevitable. However, Kristine’s denial is a powerful force and she tightens its screws.
“She’ll be fine.”
“She’ll be dead. And so will you.”
Guts clenched, I keep my hand out. I loathe myself despite the disassociation. Without further protest she slaps the keys in my hand.
Dismissed, I leave, turning the solid lock with a loud clunk. We look at each other through the wired glass for a moment. Kristine breaks eye contact first, turning to pick up the soup. She walks away to feed the beast.
I wander as far as the building will let me. Drifting in and out of dark, lonely offices, trying to marshal the terrible fears that stack up to haunt me. The possibility I have incarcerated Kristine with a Host as payback for hurt feelings has a well trained guilty conscience scurrying for cover.
I can’t possibly hate myself more than this moment.