Another week goes by and Kristine becomes more deeply disturbed by the day. She spends increasingly longer periods of time in her room and shortens her visits to the beast below. My curiosity rises, and I inadvertently slip into the role as cook when food is no longer forthcoming on a regular basis. My culinary attempts are accepted without comment, unchecked for taste or poisons.
One sunny afternoon I am cheerlessly stirring a mess of stew and dumping ladles of it into bowls. Kristine has not risen yet so I knock gently on her door. With no answer to deter me I turn the knob and open it. She lies on her bed, facing the wall. I know her eyes are open.
“I’ll take this down, Krissie. You try to sleep, OK?”
Her barest nod is the uncaring agreement of a washed out woman. She forgets to renew our binding promise not to hurt her lover.
I shut her misery in and filch a box of scalpels from the medical kit. Breaking one into pieces I disguise the pieces amongst the food as best as the short notice allows. Dying from an internal haemorrhage will be unpleasant for Shanna, but no-one will be the wiser and our unnatural lives will recommence.
Shanna has deteriorated in the time I’d been barred from her presence. Her body is noticeably lighter, heading towards anorexia. Her previously taut skin is covered in tiny wrinkles.
She moves to the slot in the cell door and stares through it at me for many seconds. I swallow nervously, and gingerly offer the tray, steeping back hurriedly as she snatches the food. I move to one side and press against the observation window to watch Shanna scooping handfuls of slop hungrily into her mouth.
She stops eating and allows food to fall from her mouth. Strings of blood follow and I know my plan has failed if only her mouth has been cut. She is extending her tongue now and delicately plucking a bloody fragment from it, showing no distress.
Calmly putting the tray aside she examines the tiny piece of metal. Her eyes rise slowly to where I stand behind the mirror. She holds the offending object up and steps towards the glass. I am spellbound and somewhat afraid. Deliberately, she extends a wrist and slashes across it deeply with the metal fragment. Red spay hits the mirror and runs down the surface in think rivulets.
She drops the blade and holds the incision open. An artery spurts and spatters for a few lazy heartbeats then the flow decreases. A thin grey liquid weeps into the wound, clogging it with a congealing gum. My mouth is hanging open moronically, and I’m badly shaken by the display.
With her lesson to me over, Shanna returns to the bed and picks up the tray. She roughly spreads out the remaining food and puts aside the other pieces of shiny metal before she resumes eating.
Thwarted, I leave, taking my disappointment with me.
Later that day Kristine rises and insists on delivering the next meal despite, or because of, my desperate offers to do it for her. Since there was no way to clean up the blood in the cell I must wait apprehensively for her to discover my attack, and to descend upon me like a raging bull. The minutes tick away as I fret and under-estimate the exactness of my forthcoming punishment.
My worst fears are realised when she bursts into the lounge room at a run, white with anger, pistol in hand. Obviously my room-mate teeters on the point of becoming a homicidal maniac and I flinch when she grips my throat and presses the barrel against my eye.
“There’s blood all over the cell! Her wrist is cut!”
“She cut herself.”
In her current state neither lies, nor the truth, finds an easy acceptance.
“Where did she get the blade from? Did you fucken give it to her!?”
“Yeah, I gave it to her. Then she slashed herself, right in front of me.”
“You wanted her to swallow it. She told me.”
“She actually talked to you?”
“No, you moron; in here!”
Their ability to communicate will be the end of me, I can tell.
Kristine has removed the gun and uses the barrel to tap at her forehead to demonstrate where she’d let the Parasite mind dig into hers, but I resist the urge to grab for it.
“Wow, fuck, look, calm down and think about this. You can see it’s in bad shape, and its obviously playing you off against me. That’s scary smart.”
Kristine is still fixated on my attempt at murder. She leans close until we’re nose to nose. The pistol nuzzles my jaw. Her eyes are crazy but she controls her voice with extreme will power.
“Did - you – try - to kill her?”
Honesty, my policy of last resort, is backed by frustration.
“I did! How can you be so fucking blind to what’s happening. Shoot me if you want, but for fuck’s sake admit something to yourself. That fucking creature is not Shanna!”
I trap her with my stare. The fire in her eyes peters out and her locked gaze flickers when I show no care about the threatened bullet.
She droops with exhaustion.
“There must be a way! Get it out of her! Please help me!”
“Shanna doesn’t exist anymore. She’s gone. I know it’s hard to face, but think about doing what’s right. The right thing for her, and for us.”
Her grip on my throat tightens again for a second then I’m fiercely pushed away. The pistol flies across the room and an angry finger jabs my chest.
“There – is - no - us.”
The words hurt more than a bullet could. A Parasite has outsmarted me. It used my hasty attack to rip apart the tenuously renewed bond of friendship I’d gained with Kristine. I’m grudgingly impressed by its tactics.
Kristine leaves and doesn’t reappear for another twelve hours. A return visit for food does not involve acknowledging my existence and I know our relationship is past mere silent treatment.