Sandy helped the old man settle back into the couch in lobby. They had been here three days. She still had no idea what this place was or why they were here. But Puck insisted that the man and who had kidnapped the old man's daughter was headed here. Whenever she pressed him on the matter he would only mutter something about the man killing his father, sometimes he would say the answers were in his father's journals. The details all seemed rather fuzzy and would change and shift. She did not doubt that he was being honest, but she did doubt if he was being factual. The last few days he had been operating at a fever pitch. He had been driving like a madman and would rarely let her behind the wheel. She loved him but had begun to fear him.
The old man was barely hanging on. His belly was distended like pregnant sow's. She didn't have to open his shirt to know that his whole abdomen would be a massive bruise. She could see the little fuckers moving about just under the skin. He smelled like he was dead already. She checked the load on her .45, there was one in the chamber and five in the magazine. At most there would be four of them more likely three. It was time to end this. Puck would not like it. For some reason he had a soft spot for the old man. But he had gone off looking for something. She had only seen him a couple of times in the last two days
She flicked the safety off the Colt and looked to the old man. His breathing was labored. For a moment he looked at her and she could see clear lucid calculation in his eyes. She shivered despite the seventy-eight degrees of the lobby. But he faded out again and she though it was just her imagination.
Movement outside caught her eye. She moved to one of the big broken glass panels to see if Puck had found what he was looking for and come back.
She could barely believe her eyes. A man leading a horse, a woman, two teens and a younger girl were approaching. The youngest girl fit the description in the old man's daughter to a tee.
"Jonas, is this your ... " she started to turn and ask, and found him right behind her.
His eyes were clear and full of malevolent life. His shirt was now a bloody rag. She started to back away from him, but he moved with impossible speed. He grabbed her and pulled her towards him in a hateful embrace. She fought with him but somehow he managed to get her gun. She heard it fire even as she felt something slicing into her own belly. Something warm and slick found its way into her shirt and began cutting into her, frantically digging at her flesh.
In desperation she bit into the loose flesh of the old man's neck. She drew blood it filled her mouth with the foul taste of rotten meat. But he loosened his grip enough that she could get free of him. She kicked out and caught him in the hip. He lost balance and fell to the floor in a heap. But still she was being torn into by at least two of the abominations. She felt herself losing her balance. One of them was actually inside her now. She stuck her hand in her shirt to grab it and a pair of razor sharp claws sliced her index finger off at the second joint. She pulled her hand back stared at it.
She saw Puck burst through the doors at the north end of the lobby. And then everything faded.
* * *
Puck could no longer clearly remember exactly why he was here. He was going to bring more of his kind here, but why. He was was beginning to feel oddly disconnected with them. He was more than this withered black thing carried around in his belly. But even among his own kind he was never fully accepted. They obeyed him, they feared him, they were in awe of him, but they hated him too.
His memories were beginning to blur too. He was having trouble separating his and the host's memories. He even found phantom memories that he doubted came from either, possibly from a previous host, but he did not know for sure. He found himself making up stories and believing them. In his seven thousand years he had taken so many hosts, but it had not been until he was snatched from his home world and forced to take his first native host that he'd had so much trouble.
But with Sandy he found peace and acceptance. If he activated this human machine again, he knew that it would merge his world and the human world. Sandy would be torn from him. He decided that was not acceptable. This body would eventually die, but he could find a new host and stay with Her.
Yesterday he had found what he believed to be a control room. The power was even still on and the machines appeared to work. He had absently pecked at a few buttons here and there at random, but without being able to read he had no idea what if any effect he was having.
A gunshot interupted his thoughts. He sprinted through the maze of corridors he had been searching and slammed through the door. The old man with the belly full of workers was dead in a heap. Sandy was staring at her dripping red hand she had just pulled out of the bloody tatters of her shirt. He had experienced anger before, but rage like this was entirely alien to him. He rushed to Sandy and eased her to the carpeted floor before ripping her shirt open. He reached into the wounds in her belly and began yanking the infant wraiths from her belly. There were three of them. Each one he pulled out he squeezed in his fist till its little body popped. They slashed and stabbed at his fingers with the sharp little claws, but it was of no consequence to him.
He could do nothing for her, he fled from the horror of it but emerging from the front door of the building he found a woman staring at him with a weapon pointed at his midsection.
"You have to help her!" was the first thing out of his mouth. "Please hurry!"
Dee stood there in shocked wonder at this turn of events. The thing she had pursued halfway across the country was standing before her, hands dripping with blood and begging for her help. She could easily cut him in half with the submachine gun, but for some reason she was unable to pull the trigger. He turned and ran back into the building. She could hear him calling back to her to please hurry. Allison was out from behind the UPS truck screaming.
"That's him, for God's sake don't let him get away now!"
Whatever it was that had frozen her momentarily evaporated with that. She sprinted after him, expecting a lengthy persuit, but he had stopped just inside the lobby. The carnage inside told a confusing tale. A wasted looking old man sprawled on the floor, his guts spilling all over the carpet, a pretty young blonde woman with similar belly wounds had been gently laid out on the floor. The remnants of three emergent wraiths littered the floor around her. Dee was no doctor, she knew some first aid, but nothing that could help here. She turned to look behind her at the others.
Elias moved to the girl's side and began quickly examining her. It was hopeless. Too much blood had already been lost. Her liver was shredded, one kidney was gone and her large intestine bisected in several places. Even had he had a fully equipped trauma center with staff, he doubted that he would be able to save her. She shuddered once and was still. Elias placed a bloody finger on her carotid artery, felt nothing. Dee placed her hands over the girl's face and closed her eyes. She looked to her adversary and saw the utter devastation on his face. Though she wanted to hate him she suddenly found she could not, perhaps it was some sort of pheromone reaction like her father and Dr. Cooper had told her about, perhaps it was that he just looked so young and so lost.
But still it needed to be done.
She stood up and pointed her weapon at him. The safety was already off. She fingered the trigger. He lifted his own pistol. But he did not point it at her. He held it with the butt of the gun towards her.
Puck probed inwards and suddenly found that all lines of communication were open. Deek/Jewels welcomed a dialog with Puck. They conferred without any conscious words. The understanding was total, the decision, unanimous and equitable. But there had to be a certain degree of cooperation for it to be carried out.
Dee watched in with barely suppressed revulsion as a thin black appendage emerged from the young man's belly. He grasped it in one hand being careful of the stinger and it gently wrapped itself about his wrist. The young man tugged and the tail tightened its grip. It was clearly a painful process, but Dee was reluctant to interfere. She gestured them all to stand back. With a sound like a rubber glove being pulled off a greasy fist the parasite suddenly emerged. It was a tiny thing, fragile and helpless without its host. From head to the base if it's tail it was about eight inches and wrinkled, thin root like appendages trailed out from its body. When it was clear of the wound the tail unwound from the boy's wrist and he dropped it before he himself fell to the floor.
It let out one short keening wail before a single gunshot echoed across the lobby silencing it.
© 2011 R. Keith McBride