There are many ways to recover from the experiences I’d faced. Pharmacology is one of them. A new daily routine develops. It is apparent Kristine won’t leave her room while I’m around. To give her the run of the place, and give myself a break from the crying machine, I withdraw to the roof for several hours every day.
I try to obey George Thorogood’s wise lyrics, ‘when I drink alone; I prefer to be by myself’, but mostly I allow snacks and drugs to keep me company.
One particular day finds me sitting atop our castle, under the shade-cloth hut I’d made, idly looking over the city. I reach down to crack the morning’s second beer when a dark thread waves at the edge of my vision. I spill from my seat in fright, twisting towards the east, instantly erasing the dark mark as I turn.
A scratching at the corners of my eyes is not alleviated by hard rubbing. Instead, I feel Other-sight rising from dormancy. This is the first time it has made an appearance since I’d returned. I hadn’t given it a thought since then.
The polite leviathan invites itself into my frantically resistant eyeballs without asking. My mind has a weedy doorman who grants it full entry without a pat-down. Although surprised by the visit I am unwilling to invoke its displeasure with obstructions.
The Other-world veils fall across my eyes, enhancing and obscuring certain physical elements until I once again see in extra dimensions. Sunlight darkens by degrees until day dims into patchy duskiness.
I suddenly have the ability to distinguish the aura of all living things, whether they are animals hiding and hunting in the savannah below, or the trees and shrubs that stand fast on their roots. They all glow with an inner luminescence that I can zoom in on. The renewed novelty of this exceptional ability side-tracks me for several minutes until the reason for its visit returns.
I look up and outwards towards the horizon and clearly pick out a tendril. I stiffen in fear as I recognise that waving filament. It is a Parasite group mind probe. Other tendrils are also visible. They streak across the sky at the very limit of even my extended vision.
Although they are very far away I recall the shield I’d needed to repel such ghostly limbs. I look down at myself to find the protective glow is missing. The Other-sight snaps off at my dismay and I scuttle like a crab in a ridiculous half-crouch towards the roof door, feeling horribly exposed.
I run recklessly along corridors, barely feeling the muted pain of poorly bandaged feet. The thick socks I wear in lieu of shoes are a recipe for a nasty fall at this pace, but I am pre- medicated and carefree of mortal dangers.
Reaching the staff quarters in one piece, I find Kristine in the kitchen mixing baby formula from a tin I’d found for her amongst the stockpile downstairs. She jumps in fright at my rushed entry, and then feigns total disinterest.
“More Parasites! I’ve seen one of their feelers!”
“Shut up. Not talkin’ to you.”
“Don’t hafta talk. Listen! There’s a Parasite tentacle...probe thingy… whatever! I can see it...but you probably can’t. It’s above us. Whatever sent it out must be huge! I killed the other one, it was pretty big, but there’re probably thousands of nests, and they might be all linked together, and if they are, they’ll know what I did!”
I’m gabbling. Kristine looks through me with irritable blankness. Panting for breath I try again, slower.
“See there’s a bunch of parasites inside the Parasites. Remember that grey shit on Shanna’s gums...”
Oh fuck! That was the wrong thing to say. Her face crumples and tears are instant. She switches off the stove, takes the baby bottle, and returns to her room at a trot.
I follow and lean my forehead against the door that has been slammed in my face.
“You gotta believe me. I’m so sorry about Shanna. Please...”
I plead and apologise, hunkering at her threshold for hours in abject misery. Eventually I leave, unable to withstand the destructive power of her endless sobs.