The wire fencing surrounding the nursery is being tested at every point by diligent Creeps. Tightly woven shade-cloth conceals me from sight, but their primal awareness knows I am near.
I still have my sticking points when it comes to believing in telepathy but I suppose their unspoken cooperation must be driven by something like it. This pointless revelry is interrupted by a hollow thumping. I hurry to the shop front and pull a swift one-eighty. The display window is filled with fists and faces. The nearest are smeared into skin flattening poses, pressed hard to the glass by their fellows’ arrivals.
Rapidly losing control, I duck into the kitchenette and make for the employee’s entrance. Here too, the door vibrates under a fleshy assault. Constant shifting movement is visible through the jambs of an ill-fitting, half rotted frame.
Surrounded, I return to the plant graveyard and dither at the rear of the truck, listening as Creeps push and fumble around it. I clutch the gun hard against my abdomen to cancel out a sudden and urgent need to crap myself.
A wild dash for freedom has panic on its side. Second thoughts step on my heels as the reality of breaking the Host cordon and trespassing across their feeding grounds on foot is not appealing. It’s a long way home and I’d be at a disadvantage minus my truck-cum-battering ram.
Anxiety brims, undiminished by fading drugs. Hatred, excited by fear, grips me so powerfully I’m immobilised. Thus unfairly stricken I prepare for the inevitable battle; by seeking alternatives to fighting. Another cabinet to hide in. A helicopter extraction.
Surely the selflessness of this mission for Kristine can be rewarded with a miraculous escape. So what if my wish for her recovery is to return her attention to my needs?
I heave a sigh that has been perfected by the unjustly persecuted and take stock. The truck’s rough entry into the greenhouse is in my favour. The mangled fence pressing against one side prevents human passage. The other side is a tight squeeze and they must come at me in single file. I have a small chance to blockade myself in here.
Patting leg pockets to estimate ammunition supply, and counting shadows that loom large about me, I apportion two Creeps to each cartridge. Turning that ratio on its head would better serve my mediocre accuracy.
Shrugging shoulders to ears several times won’t unlimber the muscles I need to nestle a frightened shotgun’s stock. I stop the gun shaking by clamping it under a sweaty armpit and await our first customers.
The Hosts at the front of my truck act like a cloud of blow-flies butting against a damaged insect screen. Eventually one of them finds the gap. Others turn gather at his back in response to a compelling, silent shout.
There’s just enough time to ridicule the lead man’s clothing. A garish, oversize, hand-knitted jumper extracts a disbelieving laugh from me. His Parasite deserves to be shot solely for making him wear it. The choices of colours are appalling. They are the bottom scrapings of an old woman’s left-over yarn basket. A technicolour yawn of lemon yellows and bright oranges and it screams of a disliked son-in-law’s gift.
Using dubious snooker skills I aim at his head, cleverly angling for a ricochet into a once attractive, large-breasted blond behind him. A two-for-one effort will improve my odds.
The Parasites disregard for my weapon leaves the Host fearlessly facing the fire and noise of a shot gun. Neither of my targets fall; in fact I’ve shot between them, leaving not a scratch. Now my needed killing to bullet ratio is complicated by a decimal point.
One of my Rules demands that I retain a fully loaded firearm at all times. I fumble to reload which allows the hostile jumper wearer to reach for my throat. By the time I’m ready to fire again we are barely separated by the length of the shotgun’s barrel. At least the odds of a certain hit are I my favour at last.
“You hungry, Arsewipe? Taste some of this.”
The shotgun kicks a solid projectile into a hollow chest. The Creep folds and his obscene sweater catches fire around a rather large entry wound. I insert another cartridge while the blonde lurches at me with outstretched hands. She is hindered by an entanglement of her top with a piece of broken fencing wire, halting her in mid-lunge and accentuating assets I might have found interesting in another time and place.
Instead of using intelligence to extricate its Host, the Parasite’s eagerness to reach me confounds it. Now she’s blocking the path for other contenders who bank up and push past rudely. Her shirt rips and the view distracts me from the Host at my feet whose throat has distended with an unhappy Parasite’s struggles. Dragging my gaze from the bare breasts on display I lower the gun and it recoils again, dealing a near decapitation of the corpse and disintegration for the creature inside.
Freed, the shirtless blonde stumble forward. Her breasts bounce prettily although Kristine has educated me that a bra should support that magnificent weight. They are, as far as I can tell, untouched by surgical scarring.
Although murderous in my intent I can still appreciate a fine set of knockers and can’t bring myself to damage them. I aim lower, at her stomach, and pull the trigger. The gut-shot is messy. Her subsequent fall and exploration of the wound with fluttering hands covers her alluring nakedness with blood and innards. Released from her bosom’s spell, I raise my eyes and fire again. Expending two cartridges for one Host further indebts me to using sharp steel to finish this fight.
Another victim, a woman of advanced-age with less appealing attributes, comes at me without a pause to reflect on her counterpart’s fate. I blow a hole in her chest with fewer concerns regarding the state of her anatomy.
Bobbing heads and shuffling feet are marching on my position by the dozen. They form a neat line, ripe for execution just as I intended. I even begin to hope their bodies will create a crude barrier as they stack up in the bottleneck. I temper my self-congratulation with a reminder which end of the truck I am at. The wrong one.
My shoulder starts to ache by the fifteenth shot. I look down to reload and spot a gore-streaked Parasite climbing onto the toe of my boot. Screaming, I fire without thinking. The slug slams into the toe of my boot and rips it and the Parasite apart.
Shooting one’s-self in the foot is agonising in the extreme. I hop backwards sucking in a huge breath in order to shriek. But, instead of releasing that breath as intended I trip over a dead body and fall, whacking the back of my head soundly on the concrete. Wavering figures approach, reaching for me as blackness closes in...