I sense the synapses going about their business of transferring electricity from neuron to neuron, giving information to the host. Irritated, I flex and disrupt their activity.
The host falls.
‘Fuck you, synapses.’ I think smugly as they scramble to get the disrupted information going again.
The message comes: ‘They’re here’.
I prepare myself. In a time of equality for all, there is no equality for me. There were plans afoot to eradicate me, excise the brain tumor. Well, that is going to change – I am not as benign as they want to believe.
The host has righted itself and now everything is ready. It’s time.
I flex. The hand reaches out, knocking over the pottery on the shelf, sending it all crashing to the floor. Oops. I flex again, directing the other limb. The hand reaches out again, picks up the fetting knife from the table.
‘Where?’ I send back, adrenaline singing through me.
‘To the right of the host.’
I send thanks to Ocular Nerve for their help. We are, after all, in this together. I flex, directing the host to turn to the right. With Ocular Nerve’s help, we negotiate our way around the potter’s wheel, past the table, through the open door to the other studio.
‘Are you ok? I heard pottery break…’
This is the voice I am after. It has to be stopped. I have struggled against the emotions this voice has evoked in the host, but I am in control now.
I flex and direct the host again, the arms lift, the hand grabs. The fetting knife is inserted into the other.
A scream. A groan.
I flex and the hand lets go of the knife.
‘What’s happening,’ the voice is slurred, husky, ‘Why are you doing this?’
‘It’s not them doing this, it’s Me!’ I think, annoyed. ‘It’s ME!’ I direct the hands, we bunch and punch. Punch. Punch.
The voice stops
‘Where is it?’ I send to Ocular Nerve.
Ocular Nerve takes a moment to reply
‘There, to the left, on the table’
I flex. We pick up the cut-off wire. I direct both hands now, co-ordinating them around the neck of the other. The other struggles but I direct the host to put their weight on them and they are subdued enough. We pin them to the floor. The hands pull in opposite directions… a gurgling noise.
Suddenly I’m struggling … the host is wrestling for control again, dammit! I flex and try to make the host respond; it’s no use, I’ve lost control.
I’m bewildered – why am in no longer in my studio? How is this happening again? The last few days have been a series of inexplicable events – time missing, things moving from where they should be to where they should not be. I opened the fridge yesterday and found the wallet I was sure had been taken from my car. Someone is messing with my life. The police were skeptical when I called them, said I’d been calling too frequently? I didn’t remember calling them before this.
I can smell a familiar but repulsive scent, coppery… then I see Laurie.
She is on the floor in a widening pool of blood. Her blond hair is splayed in a halo around her head, darkening where the locks curl around as if trying to keep the blood from escaping. Her beautiful eyes are half open, her nose is flattened, blood is smeared across her face. I can see the handle of my fetting knife protruding from her ribs. The shock drops me to my knees; my throat closes over the shriek that is rising. There is blood seeping from a cut around her neck. The ends of the cut-off wire dangle towards the floor. I touch her shoulder.
‘Laurie,’ I whisper, tears flooding down my face as the anguish turns to lava and melts the heart in my chest.
I look at my hands.
They are covered in blood. The skin of the knuckles is broken and bleeding. It can’t be… I couldn’t have. The shock freezes me. I can’t think.
‘You could. You did’
I duck reflexively. It sounds like the voice is right here…above me? I look around, terror rising.
‘What did you say?’ I yelp, stifling the scream that is trying to get past the blockage in my throat.
‘She was stealing our strength. It’s me. You belong to me. We need to be together.’
The voice is not unfamiliar, relief starts to trickle through, warming my blood and releasing me from the shock. It’ll be okay. I need the voice.
‘Who are you?’ I ask aloud, aware that it’s crazy to talk to an empty room. Well… empty of life.
I look again at Laurie. A frisson of anger trickles down my spine as I acknowledge a feeling of frustration. I’ve been having lots of trouble lately keeping focused on my art. She keeps interfering, asking me if I am okay and if anything is wrong, if I am taking my meds. Ridiculous. The only thing wrong with me is her. Was her.
I relax more. I can feel the power surge through me as I slip away from the horror.
‘That’s right, together we are wonderful!’
I feel the host surrender itself to me: I am in control again.
I flex. Our hands reach down and unwind the cutting-off tool from her neck, sluicing off the blood with our fingers, flicking the droplets onto her face. We rise, the wire dangling from our hand.
‘The door is to the left.’
I am giddy with power: I want to high five Ocular Nerve, what a team! The moment I think this the host hits ourself in the eye. I smile.
It’s my time to shine.