Home > Parasite (Parasitology #1)(10)

Parasite (Parasitology #1)(10)
Mira Grant

“You promise?”

I solemnly drew a cross across my left breast with my right index finger. “Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye.”

He actually laughed. “When did you learn that?”

“Yesterday, from a little girl who came into the shelter to pick out her new kitten.” I grinned. “I am full of surprises.”

“Yes, you certainly are,” he said, and leaned across the table to kiss me.

I returned the gesture, although my mind was only half on the moment. I might not understand the gruesome details of my medical history the way he did, but I knew enough to understand that my problems didn’t end with any of the nasty physical side effects that I was being tested and monitored for on a regular basis. My implant had kept me alive. We still didn’t know what that meant, but it did involve waiting, every day, for the other shoe to drop.

Talking to SymboGen about the night terrors—if that was what they were—meant resigning myself to even more therapy, and possibly another sleep study at SymboGen. I could deal with that. If Nathan was worried, I’d be a fool not to be.

When I pulled away, Nathan smiled. “Love you.”

“I love you, too,” I said. “And I’ll talk to SymboGen. I just won’t be happy about it.”

“If you were, I’d start worrying about your sanity.”

“I don’t trust Dr. Morrison.”

“You shouldn’t,” Nathan said, with a wry smile. “He works for SymboGen.”

I laughed, and then the food arrived, and we had better things to talk about.

Nathan didn’t ask me anything else important until the waitress came back to pick up the check. Then he asked, “You sleeping over tonight?”

There was only one good answer to that question. So I smiled back, and said, “I was just waiting for you to ask.”

Nathan’s apartment was in a gated complex near the Ferry Building. He had almost a quarter of the ninth floor, complete with a balcony on the wall that faced the Bay. He had it decorated in what he assured me was an utterly forgettable mishmash of Ikea and bachelor pad chic. It didn’t look like either the sleekly sterile halls of the hospital or like Sally Mitchell’s room, haunted by the ghost of a girl I didn’t remember being, and so I loved it.

But I loved him more. We were barely inside before I grabbed his hand and pulled him toward the bedroom, where the big black bed was waiting for us. Nathan went willingly. I’d been the one to first take our relationship sexual; he was always trying to go slowly, trying to let me be sure of what I wanted. This was what I wanted. This room, this place, this time, and a man who’d never met Sally Mitchell, but who loved me for me.

By the time we fell asleep, tangled in the sheets and in each other, it felt like things would be better. And I dreamt…

When I listened to books about dream imagery—which I did more than I was willing to admit, because I wanted to understand my dreams as much as Nathan did, if only because I was worried about Sally rising from below and fracturing my fragile psyche with her own, older memories—they always seemed to focus on things happening to bodies. Bodies flying. Bodies getting older, or losing teeth, or being seen in public without their clothes on. Bodies everywhere, doing things.

I never dreamt about bodies.

Instead, I dreamt about the dark—the hot warm dark, which was always those three distinct things. It was hot the way a summer night was hot, when the air trapped moisture like a sponge, even in San Francisco, all humidity and untaken breaths. It was warm the way Nathan’s arms were warm, comfortable and close and safe, and the two states weren’t antithetical at all. They were two parts of the same whole. When I dreamt, it was absolutely natural that hotness and warmth would be different things, capable of existing simultaneously. It was only when I was awake that it seemed like a contradiction. And the dark…

The dark wasn’t like the dark in the apartment when the lights were off, or the dark in the street when the sun went down. It wasn’t even like the dark inside my eyelids, although that came closer than anything else did. The dark was. It was entire and eternal, without question, and it didn’t need to be anything else, because there was nothing else that the dark could possibly be. It was just the dark, the hot warm dark, and it was perfect. I didn’t need anything but the hot warm dark, and the feeling of the world’s arms closed around me.

That night was one of the good dreaming nights, where it was just me and the hot warm dark, and part of me was still dimly aware of the apartment where my body lay sleeping in its own cocoon of hot warm dark, the space created where my skin pressed against Nathan’s. We encompassed a world between us. Anything outside that world wasn’t worth worrying about.

Somewhere across the Bay, a boat horn blew a long, mournful note. Everything else was still, and I slipped deeper down into dreams and the safety of the hot warm darkness inside me.

The early success of the SymboGen Intestinal Bodyguard™ line of products can be partially ascribed to canny advertising. Their marketing department hired an actress best known for her work in a series of horror movies featuring a monster modeled off a species of parasitic wasp. Her first infomercial began with her in her original costume smiling her A-list smile and saying, “I know a bad parasite when I see one. Now it’s time for you to learn about a good parasite—one that wants to help you, not hurt you.”

While SymboGen would quickly move away from use of the word “parasite” in advertising material, the early groundwork had been laid, and people were beginning to trust the concept behind the Intestinal Bodyguard™. After that, all that remained was to sell the idea to the world.

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