OAK

She was broken with shame in a way that was irreparable.

Wandering into the woodlands over the moors near home, she found a gigantic Oak tree set deep in the Earth, surrounded by thick moss that hadn’t felt human touch for a long time. The air was thick and heavy with the scent of it, and her bare feet sank and left imprints in the soft green. She clawed her way through, ripping huge clomps away, upsetting the life underneath; worms and beetles flew as she clawed deeper, her fingernails filled with dirt that felt strangely warm for such a cold place. She didn’t want to feel anything anymore.

The Earth grew warmer and seemed to pull itself apart to let her in, almost as if it knew she felt such profound loss that it didn’t want to make this harder. She found a root that uncoiled slightly, and put her hand through it, feeling it tighten around her wrist but not so it hurt. The Earth opened a little more, sinking and rising softly as it breathed. She closed her eyes and slowly one by one, heavier roots reached out and coiled around her arms, around her body and finally around her thighs. She didn’t have to dig anymore, the Oak pulled her down into the warm soil, and closed around her like she was back in the womb.

The Earth above her settled again, worms and beetles as they were, the moss unbroken and untrodden.

Her eyes were the first to go. Tiny shoots from the roots that coiled around her wound themselves through her flesh. Her hair twisted into the ground, and held her head in place as the Oak took her. Two sharp branches shot through her eyes, piercing them until they found their way through her ears. Blood trickled from the jellied mess that used to be her eyes, and she screamed soundlessly as her mouth filled with soil.

Hundreds of barbarous shoots bore through her skin and into her bones, her entire body burning with pain. It had changed much in the last week, she was paler then usual, her frame felt weaker, merely something for her skin to hang from which felt heavy and oversized. She had been reduced to a barely breathing husk. The shoots settled into her body and left intricate twine on the surface of her skin.

The roots pulled huge armfuls of mossy Earth to pack her deeply into the ground, and wrapped themselves around her like a Mother would for a sick child.

The Oak drank her slowly, draining the life from her organs, the blood from her veins and the life from her skin. It took her heart next, gnarled and ruined as it was, hollowing it out before filling its shell with a viscous sap. One by one, it changed the configuration of her organs into a myriad of vines, moss, and worts, her skin replaced with a canvas of soft bark that would release spores as she ripened. Her hair twisted and coiled into hundreds of thin vines tipped with tiny red flowers that would burn to the touch.

The verdant moss and Oak grew slowly richer as they fed on her; she stayed buried there down in the warm Earth, nourishing it until she was dead to the world.

Whatever surfaced later wouldn’t come for a very long time.

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THE NIGHTMARE SEQUENCE

NB: These are based on a set of recurring dreams experienced over the last ten years. 

FIRST SEQUENCE (PURGATORY)

The first sequence unfolds in a mist veiled field at dusk. The field is endless, I can’t see the gates clearly but I know they’re there. This place isn’t meant to be breached unless it opens itself up to you. Huge swirls of crows circle above, some tiny, some gigantic like dragons. The giants are heavily scarred and disfigured in ways that tell whispered tales about battles ripped open across time. Jagged and grotesque beaks cracked with gaping holes, some lost entirely and perhaps buried in the eye-socket of a particularly vicious opponent. Colossal wingspans that cause tremors when beat at full strength, torn and frayed but no less terrifying or effective. Barbarously keen talons buried on the end of gargantuan metatarsals decorated with wounds, old and new. The ones without the means to feed themselves are waited on by the smaller male birds, bringing the elders pieces of carrion as they roar across the field demanding to be satiated. They are not left to die, rather they are revered as titans. The tiny ones know they will find the same fate after millennia of shepherding lives over the edge as they rend them apart in battle to feed the elders.

The first time I saw that grisly picture through the mists, as impossible as it might seem, I felt like I’d been standing there forever. I thought I’d see myself torn apart as an offering for a giant, but that’s not what happens. Not even close. The mountainous one eyed behemoth that sits amongst the rest tilts her head at me as if to tell me to begin. She is the biggest one of them all, sage and ageless like she was there before the beginning of time. She doesn’t move. She doesn’t need to. Even the lower ranking elders do things for her, shredding prime carrion with their talons to make it easier for her to swallow. She is not defenceless, but she is a Queen. Queens do not tend to themselves.

Hundreds of tiny females flit around her feathers, picking away that which ought not to be there. One of her feathers alone would span the entire wing of the largest elder. She is a titan amongst titans, undefeatable, but will eventually crumble away to dust after her existence spans several aeons and she grows tired. When she fades, a brutal war will tear the female elders apart to determine who will replace her. She is nameless, the gravity of her presence infinitely more powerful than any name she could be given.  

Males are underlings here, regardless of their size they bow to the Matriarchs. Any dissent amongst the male ranks is met with ferocity, usually resulting in the offending male being feasted upon by the females. The Queen watches me intently when I appear, the roaring of the others dying down to silence before the slaughter begins. The mist sits thickly in the air, yet I can see through it perfectly. They’re all motionless, glassy corvid eyes watching my every move.   

I’m wearing layers of heavy black woollen robes with a hood that obscures most of my face, yet I can see clearly. My feet are swathed with the same wool over leather. The wool feels like I’m wearing lead, but I can move freely as if I’m wearing a paper robe. My physical strength seems fathomless here, yet I’m aware under normal circumstances I would buckle under the weight of the robes alone. Tattered trails of wool drag over the earth, collecting soil and the dampness from the air.

A platoon of heavily armed men appear through the mist, headed in my direction. They’re all clad in protective riot gear so I can’t see their faces, not that it matters, they’ll all be ripped to shreds soon. They don’t seem to acknowledge the crows, even the titans. I wonder if they can see them, or if they’re only for me to look upon. They loom closer, and I lift the impossible weapon I’m armed with. It’s impossible because I know I wouldn’t be able to carry it, let alone fire it in the waking world. It’s a freehand Gatling, and it feels like I’m carrying a kitten. It’s blemished and dented in places, but it’s fully loaded and primed for use. As the men edge closer with their rifles, I raise it and brace myself for the onslaught, but they don’t even get the chance, they don’t STAND a chance.  

I’m positioned in the very centre of the field, standing at the shattered and splintered door of a flat roofed dilapidated four storey building. It’s burned out with glassless window frames, and crumbling stone. Any shards of glass that remain are tinted with blood from the previous manifestation of this sequence. The men are closing in on me, and I start to fire the Gatling I know I wouldn’t be able to handle. A handful of them manage to return fire, but tiny male crows swoop down and catch the bullets and crush them to dust. I mow the men down like paper dolls, watching their flesh and bone pulverised in detail. Red mist sprays through the air as my bullets tear into them, shreds of flesh and riot gear flying around in a flurry of violence and diving crows. Their agony reaches a crescendo of deafening levels, the roar of the elders blasting a crushing bassline as if they’re wholly entertained by this frenzied display.  

The combination of screaming and roaring reaches supernova, creating an earth shattering shock-wave, blasting me into the building. I can’t hear a thing, everything is in slow motion as I blink and try to regain my composure. Another shock-wave cracks through, speeding everything up as I’m thrown against a wall, but I don’t feel any pain. I pick myself up and focus. I feel a syrupy warmth seeping through my robes, and realise I’m standing in around two feet of blood, the air thick with the scent of copper.

The interior is as grim as the outside. The walls are cracked and crumbling, painted crimson and trickling with decaying mould. The building shakes with aftershocks of the earlier blasts, leaving pockets of dust floating to settle wherever it wants, but I don’t lose my footing. Annihilated pieces of furniture float atop the blood, with once beautiful paintings splintered and torn, hanging askew. What remains of oxblood leather furniture is tipped over, ragged and utterly destroyed by fire and projectiles. It’s a fucking mess, but much worse waits in each room beyond.

I can hear the men screaming in agony as I wade through their blood. They’re crunched over and huddled in various states of fucked up. Mangled flesh torn open by jagged and splintered bones, glistening with blood amongst cartilage and shredded muscle. Organs spilling out over what’s left of their bodies, splayed and tattered beyond all repair, almost as if they’d already been put through an organ grinder. Partially bulging and dangling eyes stare at me, some blankly, some filled with pain, their contorted faces wanting it to end because as much as they should be dead, they are not. A murder of crows at various sizes filter in, cawing in a fevered attack to start eating them alive. Several men are dragged back into the field by the horde, only for a few of the titans to carry them off in their talons before dropping them from a great height. That’s how it ends for the lucky ones. For the rest, they are ripped and picked apart in a feeding frenzy.

Another flash puts me back out in the field, and all I can do is watch the ruthless onslaught before the Queen tilts her head at me once again. The elders roar across the field louder than ever before, and the ground fractures beneath me in reverberation. My legs fail me, and I fall endlessly into cracked earth.    

SECOND SEQUENCE (LIMBO)
My descent through cracked earth reaches its climax; I’m in the same field and building structure, except everything is serene, intact, and brilliant white. It’s in perfect condition; everything inside it is white, even the pictures are squares and rectangles of white in white frames. The windows are open and framed with softly billowing curtains that flow through the floors as I move through them. I foolishly thought this was a place of safety during my first visit here, a place of benign intent.

I’m dressed once again in layers of shrouded wool, except that this too is white, I’m not carrying a Gatling, and nothing is frayed or torn anywhere. I am aware of pain throughout my body, the same kind of pain you get when you’ve hit the gym too hard, and everything hurts the next day. I try to shrug it off, and assume it’s due to the weight of my shroud.

I drift around endlessly, climbing seemingly unending staircases and eventually wandering into whichever room sits at the top, but once I enter, each door closes behind me and melts into the wall. The pain in my body climbs slowly, leaving me breathless and clutching at the rails. Whilst I was strong and invulnerable in the previous sequence, I am sluggish and I can’t ever go back the way I came. I can only move forward, wandering through corridors that go on forever, and climbing staircases that make me think my legs will fall beneath me before I hit the last step, only for me to find myself at the next door. I become increasingly fatigued and a heavy ache reaches around my body, building in intensity the further I walk.

I get little respite in each room once the doors melt away. Some rooms are larger than others. When I’m afforded one the size of a ballroom, I know I can slip down to the floor and catch my breath as the surroundings shift and slide around me. The walls move inward, the items inside with me pushed ever closer, gradually robbing me of any space. It’s a slow process, and in a ballroom sized area I can have a few hours of rest. When the door behind me melts away, I see a new one open at the opposite end, the room around me closing and pushing me closer to it with every shift. When I am pushed out into another corridor, I am physically unable to keep from walking, even if my body feels like it’s on fire and heavy like lead. I sometimes wonder what would happen if my bones were to break, or I were to collapse, but I’ve never found out because I can’t stop, even though it’s exceptionally painful.

When I feel at my most exhausted, and the pain levels are excruciating, that is when the rooms are so small that I can reach out and touch each wall without needing to move. There is no blood, there are no screams of agony, there are no roaring crows, and there is no brutality; there is only silence, even as the building moves. Even without the savage landscape of the previous sequence, that does not make this limbo any less terrifying. I don’t know how long I am in there, and I have never been able to find my way down to the entrance. I am caught in a white web, almost like a toy at someone, or something else’s behest. I don’t know who or what that is, I’ve never seen anything to address my suspicions, but then this is limbo in every sense of the word. It is not meant for me to know. I exist here for a time, that’s all. I never know how I end up escaping this place, I simply blink and find myself in the next sequence.

THIRD SEQUENCE (APOCATASTASIS)

Blink.

I’m in an old airport, the kind you find in small cities with decor from the seventies that’s never been updated. Normally bright white displays holding flight information with rotating letters and digits have yellowed over time, clacking noisily as they revolve. Staff are present, but they’re not sentient; they have bodies but their faces are entirely blank and gaze at you as if they actually had eyes to see you at all. They’re dressed in the same era clothing as the airport projects, old seventies gear complete with appropriate hairstyles and accessories, draped over their blank faces. Their staring is continuous, it’s gone from casual gazing to halting their work with blatant ogling.

We don’t belong here. We’re all wearing modern clothing. By we, I mean the twenty children surrounding me. The faceless tilt their heads to one side as if they’re oddly curious, slowly edging closer as if we are some manner of freak-show.

The children range in ages from three to twelve years old. They’re all trying to cling to me, terrified and unsure of what’s going on. I’m dressed in plain clothes, there are no shrouded cloaks or firearms, and there are no crows or a mysterious building. I’m trying to touch the children in a reassuring manner to let them know that things are going to be okay, but it’s hard to give a part of yourself to twenty children all at once.

Two faceless security guards approach us, although they are unarmed. They don’t speak, but motion towards a tunnel hammered out in a wall, as if recently punched through by construction workers. They funnel us down a dark corridor lined with steaming pipes, and the kind of dim orange-yellow lights you find in bomb shelters. We are escorted to an old giant cargo plane that has been battered by weather with years of overuse. It looks like it might collapse at any moment, and yet their blank faces and body language insist we climb aboard. The children are crying now and I’m doing my best to keep them calm, but you know how it goes when a huddle of children get scared; it’s contagious. I start singing to them softly to try and set them at ease, but it only works for a little while before their cries escalate again. We all get situated, but because we are all individually strapped in, they start to scream loudly because they can’t touch me for comfort. I try and unbuckle my safety belt, but it won’t budge. I look down to see what I can do, but the metal is clamped shut and fuses completely before my eyes. The children claw at their own belts, but it’s futile; we are all trapped. The older ones appear terrified into silence, as if they know there’s nothing they can do. The babies are shrieking, and although I try to sing to them again, it is drowned out and nobody can hear me.

I feel the plane rumble into movement, loud, heavy, and rattling. I am amazed as we actually take off and make it off the ground, the pandaemonium not letting up for a second as we lift. I can hardly hear the children over the deep rumbling of the plane’s engines, but I can see every single one of their contorted faces, fighting to break free of the restraints albeit ineffectively. A vicious storm brews ominously through the skies. It’s so dark, and regular flashes of lightning show me that we are flying over a body of water as I crane my head around to look through the scratched window beside me. I might not be able to undo my restraints, but I have a little wiggle room. We navigate the storm with major turbulence, some of the babies passed out and exhausted from screaming for so long. The older ones are still wide awake and staring into nothing, their eyes glassy and faces streaked red and blotchy with tears. I wave my arms to try and shift their attention, but it’s like they don’t even see me. All I can hear is the shaking rumble of the gargantuan engines struggling through the storm, rippling through the entire plane. I keep trying to get them to focus on me, but it’s not working. The storm intensifies as we are hit by lightning, and we begin to plummet down into the angry body of water.

I watch their faces. It starts with the older ones. They close their eyes, and I am forced to see them sealing shut. Their noses seem to ripple and refocus, the shape still there but their nostrils are not. The last thing to go are their mouths. They simply close, and their lips fuse and disappear. I can’t see their ears, but I can only imagine they’re similarly blocked. All evidence of facial features begin to fade and flatten out, leaving blank canvases with nothing behind them. My hands fly up to my own face, expecting to meet the same fate, but I remain entirely intact. All I can do is watch them sit perfectly still, silent and upright like mannequins as we drop faster and faster.

There is nothing I can do, we’re going down into the water and I begin to fade out. I feel the impact crack through us, rending the plane apart like it was wet cardboard. I see metal bend and rip itself apart in slow motion, the body rupturing as it is torn into several parts, spiralling down into the dark. The seats holding what used to be the children seem to remain in place, nothing touching them at all. The door to the cockpit opens and I see one of the faceless nod at me before I black out.   

What seems like moments later, I wake up in the midst of the wreckage, except it’s filled with soft sunlight filtering in through broken windows. The water is calm, and I’m bobbing up and down in it along with plane debris, and the occasional flash of a beacon that went off as soon as we hit the water.

It’s warm and reassuring, except I’m the only one there. All the children have gone, and I don’t know where they are. It’s just me floating around the wreckage in the sun.

I wake from the sequence soon after that point, breathless and disorientated. My mind feels murky and heavy, and I’m hopelessly lost.

Text Me When You’re Dead

The first message came through at 00:42. I wasn’t one of those people who put their phone on silent or vibrate only at night. I was so accustomed to the various chimes and notifications that I could sleep through the majority of them. Most of the time folks used stuff like Signal or Telegram to reach me, or that fucking awful Facebook messenger with the annoying games and complete lack of privacy. Nobody really used SMS aside from my mother, and so when the default SMS notification shrieked off around an hour after I fell asleep, it cut straight through and startled me. I’d assumed the worst through bleary eyed panic, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes with one hand whilst unlocking the phone with the other.

 

It wasn’t my mother.

 

There was no number attached to the message, and it simply read “I NEED HELP PLEASE RESPOND.”

 

I was confused, but fired off a “WHO IS THIS?” in return. Before I’d even had chance to blink, another message pinged through. Rather than explain each message, you can see the conversation for yourself:

 

HER: IT’S DARK AND I DON’T KNOW WHERE I AM. I NEED HELP PLEASE. I’M PREGNANT.

ME: WHO ARE YOU?

HER: I DON’T KNOW WHERE I AM AND YOUR NUMBER IS THE ONLY ONE IN THIS PHONE.

ME: WHO ARE YOU? WHO’S PHONE?

HER: HELP ME!

 

Given the way that people scam and extort people via the internet and smart-phones now, my mind SCREAMED at me to ignore the situation as someone fucking about, turn my phone off and go back to sleep, but I didn’t, because that would make for a shit story, and you’re not here for a shit story.

 

ME: CAN YOU MOVE?

HER: YES I CAN MOVE BUT I CAN’T SEE ANYTHING.

ME: I CAN’T HELP YOU UNLESS I KNOW WHERE YOU ARE. HOW DO I KNOW THIS ISN’T A STUNT BY SOME TWISTED PRICK WITH AN OFFENSIVE WEAPON?

 

No I wasn’t fucking stupid, of course I called the police, for all the good that did. When I mentioned weird text messages asking for help from a hidden number after midnight? Block and ignore was all they gave me. How the fuck do you block a hidden number? They told me if they really needed help they’d have called the cops themselves. Fuck the police. I guess they were having a worse than usual night, but still, fuck the police.

 

It continued.

 

HER:  HELLO ARE YOU STILL THERE?

ME: YES I’M STILL HERE. I CALLED THE POLICE.

HER: IT’S TOO LATE FOR THAT. THEY WON’T HELP YOU.

ME: YOU’RE THE ONE WHO NEEDS HELP HERE NOT ME. FEEL AROUND, FIND A LIGHT SWITCH, ANYTHING?

HER: IT’S SO COLD. I CAN’T FEEL MY FEET.

ME: STICK WITH ME, FIND A WALL AND START FEELING AROUND FOR A LIGHT SOURCE.

 

I stumbled around in the dark to pull clothes on like some madwoman, as if I was actually prepared to go out looking for this person. It wasn’t my finest moment, fuck I wish I hadn’t.

 

HER: I FOUND A SWITCH BUT IT’S ONLY A TINY LIGHT IN THE CORNER OF THE ROOM AND THERE IS A BROKEN WINDOW, AND EVERYTHING IS BRICK WALLS AND COLD CONCRETE.

ME: IS THERE A DOOR?

HER: YES BUT IT’S LOCKED. I TRIED IT.

ME: LOOK OUT THE BROKEN WINDOW AND TELL ME WHAT YOU CAN SEE.

HER: IT’S TOO DARK TO SEE MUCH AND THE LIGHT IN THE ROOM IS MAKING IT HARD TO FOCUS BEYOND THE GLASS. I’M TURNING IT OFF FOR A SECOND. IT’S SO COLD AND EVERYTHING IS DEAD SILENT.

 

Curiosity killed the cat, right?

 

ME: I NEED YOU TO LOOK FOR LIGHTS. CAN YOU CALL ME?

HER: NO

ME: WHAT’S YOUR NUMBER I COULD CALL YOU?

HER: YOU CAN’T CALL ME.

ME: WHY?

HER: HE MIGHT HEAR US.

ME: HE?

HER: YES. HE’S NOT FAR.

ME: HAS HE HURT YOU?

HER: NOT YET.

ME: OKAY. LOOK OUT OF THE WINDOW. TELL ME IF YOU CAN SEE ANY LIGHTS, STREET LIGHTS, ANYTHING. WHAT SHOULD I CALL YOU?

 

She responded all too quickly for someone who should have spent a few minutes looking for any lights that might tell me where she was.

 

HER: I THINK I CAN SEE A CLOCK TOWER LIGHT. TWO STREET LIGHTS NEXT TO IT.

ME: IS THE WINDOW BIG ENOUGH TO CLIMB OUT OF IF YOU BROKE IT SOME MORE?

HER: NO. REMEMBER I’M PREGNANT I DON’T WANT TO RISK MY BABY.

ME: TURN THE LIGHT BACK ON AND TELL ME WHAT’S IN THE ROOM. I WANT TO KNOW IF THERE’S ANY WAY YOU CAN BREAK THE DOOR OPEN. I’M GETTING IN MY CAR NOW.

HER: PLEASE HURRY.

 

I was fairly certain she could see the clock tower light in the town square, surrounded by four shorter lights, seeing only two from her position. I could drive out to the clock tower without any problem, I mean the area was well lit and if I could find out where she was from there, maybe I could get the police to listen to me this time. As it turned out, she WAS local and yeah, I’m the idiot who went out in the small hours of the morning on her own with a half charged phone and a couple of maglites, but that’s because the police weren’t going to do a damned thing, and I wasn’t about to leave someone to freeze to death overnight when they needed help. It took me ten minutes to drive to the town square. I used voice to text to respond to her so she knew I was still there.

 

ME: I’M IN THE CAR. I KNOW YOU CAN SEE THE CLOCK TOWER, SO I’M GOING TO DRIVE THERE AND THEN SEE IF I CAN FIND YOU ON FOOT.

HER: PLEASE HURRY I CAN’T FEEL MY LEGS. IT’S SO COLD. THE LIGHT IS DIMMING, AND I’M SO TIRED.

ME: I’M COMING. HOLD ON.

 

You’re not supposed to park in the square, hell you’re not supposed to drive anywhere close to it, but this was a scenario I wasn’t fucking about with. I launched the car onto the cobbles and screeched to a halt by the lamp-posts. Everything was silent save for the occasional screech of an owl from the town’s edge. I stupidly lost my footing on the wet cobbles from the untied laces on my boots, managing to land flat on the palms of my hands saving myself from broken teeth, but felt that horrible jarring sensation ricochet through my body with the impact. The heels of my hands were grazed with tiny pricks of oozing blood, but they weren’t that bad.

 

HER: HURRY. I CAN’T FEEL MY LEGS. I’M SO COLD.

ME: I NEED YOU TO LOOK OUT OF THE WINDOW AGAIN.

HER: I’M STRUGGLING

ME: I’M GOING TO PUT MY LOADING LIGHTS ON AND I WANT YOU TO TELL ME IF YOU CAN SEE THEM FLASHING FROM THE WINDOW. I NEED TO KNOW WHICH DIRECTION YOU’RE IN.

 

I knew there were a couple of fields in either direction on the edges of town. If she was in a building in one of those, I could easily find her and get help. Sure my car lights might piss off some of the townsfolk, but if anyone came out to complain it would be extra sets of hands right? If only.

 

No fucker came out.

 

I let my lights flash in pulse, and I texted her again.

 

ME: CAN YOU SEE THE FLASHING?

HER: I THINK SO.

ME: WHICH DIRECTION ARE YOU SEEING THIS FROM?

HER: I’M LOOKING OUT OF MY WINDOW AND THE CLOCK TOWER IS TO MY LEFT. PLEASE HURRY.

 

Her left. My right.

 

ME: I THINK YOU’RE IN ONE OF THE FIELDS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN.

HER: PLEASE GET HERE SOON, I CAN’T STAND UP FOR MUCH LONGER, IT’S SO COLD. I CAN’T FEEL MY FACE NOW. PLEASE..

ME: I’M COMING.

 

I kept some emergency gear in my car, so I yanked open the boot and pulled out my tool box and the axe I kept underneath it. Yes I kept a fucking axe in the boot of my car, sometimes a knife isn’t going to cut it, not that the axe really cut it this time. I didn’t drag the entire toolbox with me, it was heavy as fuck but it had stuff inside it that I could use to get past a locked door if needs be, so I took some of that stuff with me. I might have been an idiot who went out on her own like that, but I was a moderately prepared idiot.

 

ME: TRY TO KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN, I’M CARRYING MAGLITES AND THEY’RE BRIGHT. YOU SHOULD SEE ME COMING THE CLOSER TO YOU I GET OVER THE FIELD.

HER: DON’T HAVE MUCH TIME

 

My ankle screamed at me with every step, pain shooting up my leg to my knee as I limped as fast I could go over the road, and towards the stile at the field gates. As my memory served me correctly, one of the fields had a small brick shed at the far end, and the other had a metal box enclosure. She mentioned seeing bricks earlier on, but I couldn’t recall which building was in which field, I was tired and in pain, and it was COLD, wind biting, hair whipping in your face kind of cold. I stopped for a moment to text her again, expecting to hear her call out or something, but there was nothing.

 

ME: ARE YOU STILL WITH ME

 

Nothing.

 

ME: CAN YOU SHOUT SOMETHING TO ME SO I CAN HEAR YOU.

 

Nothing.

 

My immediate worry was that she’d passed out and that she was in danger of not waking up again, so I crammed the phone in my pocket and moved as fast my burning ankle would let me, the pain ripping further and further up my leg to my hips to make me think I’d done something worse than twist it. I remember my hands being so cold that it made it hard to keep hold of the axe and my other gear, but I had to keep going, and I did until I saw a flash of red brick through the beam of my biggest maglite, and an open metal door.

 

The door was open. She said it was locked, she said she couldn’t open it. Where was she? Other questions flew around in my head, ones she’d never answered even when prompted. That was when a thick rancid stench pricked at my nostrils, making me fall back and retch violently. I grabbed the door-frame to steady myself, clamping my sleeve over my mouth and nose with my other hand, my larger maglite clattering to the floor in the process. The beam shone into the corner, where a maggot riddled decomposing bloated corpse was sprawled on its side. I lost my stomach then, heaving gobs of bile all over my boots until all that came was dry rasping and sobbing. I stooped to grab the maglite, edging closer to look at the corpse’s face, mangled and puffed up beyond recognition. Its head was almost completely severed from the neck, the spine visibly cut in a clean fashion. There were no hands or feet on the corpse, only burned stumps where they used to sit. One of its eyes was missing, the other one puffed up and swollen like the rest of its body. I couldn’t look away, it was putrid and foul, but I couldn’t look away. Getting in closer despite being overwhelmed by the stink, I could see its lips were gone, and its mouth was a mass of toothless rotting pulp.

 

When you’re clawing around for your phone in your pocket and can’t quite grasp it, you start to panic and THEN you start breathing heavily, but that rotting pile in the corner made me feel so physically ill that I couldn’t concentrate. All I could do was retch and claw, needing to breathe but not being able to because of the stench. I changed tack and looked for the light switch but the bulb was long since blown. I was shaking horribly, turning around on myself, pointing with my maglite wildly until something else caught my eye. I’d finally been able to get a hold on my OWN phone, but there was another one right there on the floor.

 

I tried to slide MY phone back in my pocket, but it didn’t connect and it tumbled to the floor, the screen cracking despite the supposedly protective case. Shining the light on the second phone, showed me it was identical to mine down to the same high gloss black case. The screen was cracked in the same way, and I turned it over to find the N7 logo in the centre. God, my head was REELING, everything was swimming with confusion, fear and revulsion. Of course I bloody tried to switch it on, why wouldn’t I? It was dead, OBVIOUSLY it was dead, why would it still work now? I wasn’t thinking straight remember? NOTHING about me was calm OR composed.

 

I groped around for my newly cracked phone, pressing the home button to try and bring it to life, but the screen only lit up and wouldn’t respond. I wished I still had my old fucking Blackberry with an ACTUAL keyboard so I might have stood a chance, but I didn’t because fuck my love of tech and a need for a touch-screen smart-phone. Even after turning back outside into the cold air, the rot still hung around me. I’d dropped all my gear outside the door before going in, which really wasn’t very clever in hindsight. I remember the way the damp ground felt when it seeped through the fabric of my cargo pants as I sank to my knees. I was doubled over, sobbing and not caring about the searing pain in my ankle.

 

It was cold, So fucking COLD.

 

I was so consumed with grief and fear that I didn’t hear him coming. The field was soft and damp you see, even despite the chilled air. He was slow and careful with the way he moved,  and naturally I didn’t hear him over the sound of my own wailing. If you’ve ever wondered what it might take to separate someone’s head from their spine, it would be as simple as a modified bolt cutter to the back of the neck. I think that’s how he did it anyway. He cut the life out of me, and left me to rot in the corner of that building in the field, with the cracked window and the locked metal door.

 

I’ve been watching myself decompose slowly over the last week or so. It’s weird seeing your own body bloat and change over time. Sometimes my touch-screen lights up and even lets me send texts, but only to one person. I’ve been reaching out for help, but all that happens is I watch myself come to find what’s left of me and the baby inside me. I have to watch as he brutalises me all over again. The way he cut my hands and feet from my body and took them away, and seared the stumps. The way he bit the lips from my face and spat them into a bag. The way he used pliers on my teeth to wrench them out one at a time, bagging them along with my lips, and the way he took one of my eyes, and swallowed it whole.  

 

Maybe eventually someone else will find me here, and do something with my bones. I didn’t realise I was pregnant until I died. I wonder if he knew. I wonder how long it took for that life to fade away inside me after I died.

 

It’s so cold. I can’t feel my face. I can’t feel anything, I can only text with my missing fingers and broken phone, and watch.  

PARASITE: Lex Talionis

Link to part two

PUBLIC
HEALTH INFORMATION
: 

The
following are accounts from what we believe is the Primary Case in a
parasitic epidemic.

Emma:

I
have to write this down because then it gives credence to this hell.
I am thankful for the protection and treatment Public Health afforded
me, but most of all, I am thankful for Lucie. Had she not been my
rock, I would most likely be dead by now.

You’re
going to need some backstory. My apologies if this bores you, but
it’s important you know how we got here.

I’ve
known since I was only ten years old, that I never wanted children.
Two things drew me to that decision, one was the fact that I was
traumatised by a photo of a woman giving birth that my idiot
stepfather showed me when I was far too young. The other was because
my childhood was shit enough to know that I never wanted to inflict
that on someone else, or end up with the responsibility of raising
other human beings. The idea of being pregnant sickened me. I don’t
hate kids by the way, I get along with them perfectly well, in fact
they tend to stick to me like glue, and I’m happy to be around them.
It’s just I’ve never wanted any. I’ve never once changed my mind, but
I get the perpetual bullshit from people about changing my mind. It
pisses me off, my role in life is not to be a fucking gestational
unit.

It
seemed my now ex boyfriend had other ideas, however. I’ve always made
it clear children were not on my agenda. He always smirked at me and
told me biology would alter my perception, but I have always been
adamant that I don’t want any, and I’m certainly not going to have
any to please someone else. I can’t believe I had to say that to a
doctor when speaking to them about contraception, I’ve been pleading
for tubal ligation since forever, but nobody will refer me because I
might change my mind. It’s fucking infuriating not being afforded
bodily autonomy, I should be able to make these decisions for myself.

So, my ex boyfriend. His name is Dan. I thought he’d accepted that children
weren’t going to be a thing for me. I really did. We’d been together
five years when he asked me to marry him, and given that everything
else was happy in our lives and we were stable financially, I said
yes. I felt lucky after the childhood I’d endured and was all set to
enjoy what would hopefully be the rest of my life with a man who I
felt safe with, for the most part.

I
could not have been more wrong.

A
little more background on my health here. I can’t take hormonal
contraception, because it does terrible, awful things to my body. It
doesn’t just make me a little moody, it fucks me over in ways that
turn me into a dysfunctional mess that can’t even leave the house.
I’ve tried so many things, pills, mini pills, patches, injections,
IUDs, anything new and different that has hormones in it with a hope
of keeping my uterus baby free, I’ve tried it. The same thing happens
every time. It begins with blinding headaches that make me vomit
explosively. My skin breaks out in the most painful, hideous boils
that make me look like a plague victim. My eyesight blurs because of
the headaches, and no amount of painkillers, over the counter or
prescribed will take the pain away. The nausea is enough to knock me
over, but it’s a multitude of things. I can cope with vomiting
because you get that temporary reprieve from feeling nauseous, but it
builds again so quickly and I often can’t stand up.

The
worst was when I had the depo shot. Not only did I battle crippling
headaches, horribly painful breakouts and profuse vomiting, but every
time I was intimate with my partner during the few times I felt
guilty for not being sexual with him, when he finally managed to make
me climax, the pain immediately after was excruciating. I’d never
felt anything like that before. It was like the muscles inside me
were screwed up into a hard ball, causing me deep internal uterine
pain that made me break out into cold sweats and drain all colour
from my body. Not only did the shot ruin me in a non sexual way, but
it took away any option of sexual pleasure for the duration it was in
my system. Problem is, once you’ve had the shot, it’s in your system for
three months. Even after it wears off, it can take a good while for
any of the nasty side effects to leave you.  I was miserable for so
long after trying that, and realising that hormonal contraception was
just not an option for me, it meant that I was always super careful
about using condoms.

The
problem with condoms, is that they break, come loose, or your wanker
of an ex boyfriend takes it off secretly during sex.  How would he do
that without me knowing, you ask? Well it’s easy, depending on the
position you’re in. He’s one of those arseholes who doesn’t like the
feeling of a condom, and in the throes of sex I guess I don’t always
notice. The first couple of times it happened, he told me they broke
which is why I felt that slight warmth inside me. He’d take it off
and wrap it in toilet paper, and I trusted him so I didn’t check. Why
would I need to? If he said it had broken, I believed him. He tried
it a third time and I was like okay you know what? Let me look. He
was hesitant and I had to snatch it from him, to find it was entirely
intact. The argument that ensued after left us not speaking for
three days, and I refused to let him touch me at all for WEEKS. Of
course he gave me the whole apologetic shit, romanced me a bit and
bought me some presents to try and win me over, but I was still
reluctant. When I finally let him touch me again, I insisted that we
played in a position where I could see what was going on, and he
indulged me to lull me into a false sense of security. I stupidly
thought he’d finally got it, and that I didn’t have to worry any
more.

Again,
I could not have been more wrong.

His
fuck up was because he’d thrown it on the floor next to the bed, and
as he blew his load inside me, I looked back at him and it caught my
eye.  This is how it went:

“WHAT
THE FUCK DAN?!” I
screamed at him.

“Oh
come ON babe you know I don’t like them, and it’s been a while.” He
whined at me.

“You’re
a fucking shitbeast. You know I can’t take anything for this, for
once in your life can you just not think about your own fucking
satisfaction?”

At
that point, I tore myself angrily out of bed, and went straight into
the bathroom locking the door. I turned the shower on, crouching down
on the tiles to try and squeeze his mess out of myself as quickly as
possible. I delved with my fingers, swearing under my breath and not
caring that the hot stream of water was scalding the skin on my back.
I was absolutely incandescent
with rage. Dan banged on the door and demanded to be let in so he
could take a piss, but I was so fucking furious that yelled at him to
go fuck himself, and he could suffer. When I’d cleaned myself up, I
sat on the floor of the shower with my knees hitched up to my chest,
crying and wondering why the fuck he could be so selfish to do this
to me. I’d have to wait until my period was late, and I wasn’t due
for another couple of weeks. All I could think about was how he’d
lied to me with promising he’d never do that to me again, especially
knowing I never wanted to have children, and how I’d absolutely 100%
seek a termination if I were ever to fall pregnant.

We
fought about that too, he was NOT happy that I’d terminate without
his permission. I reminded him that he does not have control over
me or my body, and that if I wanted an abortion, I’d damned well have
one. As you might have figured out, he could be a real fucking prick.

When
I finally left the bathroom, he wasn’t even in the house. The utter
bastard had pissed in a PINT GLASS and left it on the counter for me
to find. I was absolutely DONE with this crap, and as much as it hurt
to do, I gathered a few things, a few changes of clothes and called
my best friend, Lucie. I burst into tears the moment she answered,
and she just told me to get over there, and that I could explain the
upset was when I arrived.

Dan
had taken the car, and so I called a taxi because I really wasn’t in
the mood to use a bus to get there. Half an hour later, Lucie opened
the door and I crumpled all over her and burst into tears all over
again. My explanation was racked with sobs and nose wiping, and her
face was a combination of rage and concern because she’d seen first
hand what hormonal birth control did to me, and also because she was
seriously pissed off with Dan for being such an utter BASTARD.

“Fucking
hell love, what a complete fucking wanker. I had no idea he was
like that.” She said bitterly.

I
asked her if I could crash for a few days, and being the utter angel
that she was, she told me I could stay as long as I wanted. Of course
my phone started buzzing, and it was Dan probably wondering where the
fuck I was. I chose to ignore the call, putting it on silent, along
with switching off the vibration. I decided he could stew, I was
having none of it.

Lucie
being her generous self, took good care of me. I’d forgotten to eat
after all the bullshit, and so when she came in with a pile of tea
and biscuits, I’d wolfed a fair few down before the growling in my
stomach calmed down. She asked me if I wanted to sleep next to her,
or take the sofa. I told her I’d take the sofa, because I wouldn’t
want to keep her awake if all I was going to do was cry. She gently
told me that it didn’t matter if I kept her awake, she wasn’t at work
tomorrow and she would be happy to hold me and let me cry it out with
her for as long as I needed. She insisted that I sleep next to her
for the night, this is why she is my best friend. Lucie was the most
kind hearted and generous person I’d ever met in my life. Nothing was
too much for her, and she would drop everything to go to your aid if
you needed her, no matter what the problem was.

I
had a fitful night of sleep which was to be expected, but the really
grim stuff didn’t happen for another month.

As
I feared, I was late. My periods were like clockwork. I was so
paranoid about pregnancy, that I tracked my periods religiously using
a diary as I was growing up, and then switched to an app on my phone
which allowed me to access my cycle information more readily, and
share it with my doctor. The day I was supposed to bleed came and
went. I tried to cut myself some slack because I was stressed as all
fuck, and that can have an impact. Dan had been calling me and
leaving message after message on my voicemail, text after text
begging and pleading for me to go back. I blanked him completely. I’d
gone back home to collect more things so that I could stay with Lucie
for longer, and I left him a note to tell him we were done. I knew
he’d be at work, so I’d asked for a couple of days from my boss who
was fortunately, very understanding.

“Sure
thing, petal.  Take the whole week, you’ve more than earned it”, He
said to me gently.

Later
on that evening, Lucie came home with some boxes from the chemist. I
didn’t even have to ask what they were, I knew she’d been and grabbed
some pregnancy tests. Not some cheap ones, but those expensive
digital ones that don’t leave you wondering. She’d got me four, just
in case I felt the need to be absolutely sure. I genuinely didn’t
know what I’d done to deserve her, but I was grateful for her now
more than ever. I was now a week late, my fingernails were
practically non existent, and it was hard for me to even sit still.

“Come
on chick. We need to do this”, Lucie
said softly.

Hunkering
down on the loo, sticking a test between my legs, and waiting for my
stream to soak it through, was the easy part. Waiting those few
minutes was fucking GODAWFUL.  You can probably figure out for
yourselves what the result was. I was pregnant, and I was fucking
terrified.

“I
can’t do this”, I told
her whilst sobbing my heart out for the billionth time. “I
can’t have a baby, especially HIS baby, I can’t do it. I need to be
rid of it.”

Lucie
knew my position on having children, and in true Florence Nightingale style, already had a plan in place for this. She’d gotten me all the
clinic details and phone numbers I needed, and swore wholeheartedly
that she’d be there with me for the duration. I sobbed all night, and
dutifully, she held me and mopped me up as I needed. The next day, I
woke up feeling numb, which quickly turned to rage when yet another
text from Dan came through, begging me for a coffee later on that
day.

I
responded and told him to fuck off, along with telling him I was
pregnant because of his bullshit. I told him never to contact me
again, or else I’d be going to court for a restraining order. He fell
silent for a bit but later on, another text came through to tell me
I’d better not abort, because it was HIS child and he had a right to
influence my decision. This time, Lucie texted him and told him to
back the fuck off, because she wasn’t having any of his bullshit. He
was actually afraid of Lucie, because she was a very naturally
confident and assertive woman, whereas I was quite compliant and
submissive, for the most part. He had no idea what to do with himself
around a woman with such a strong manner about her.

I
had an appointment the following week with the doctor, and my
emotions were a multitude of terrified, disgusted, and tearful rage.
I couldn’t sleep properly, I kept having the same nightmare of Dan
tossing the condom away, and my screaming at him after. I’d wake up
fighting for breath, cold sweats soaking my skin. I was so fucking
ANGRY at him, but I missed him terribly at the same time. Just
because I was pissed off with him, didn’t mean I’d fallen out of
love. My hormones were all over the place what with being pregnant,
and I was entirely emotionally shot. I could go from feeling calm, to
numb, to a full on meltdown with sobbing befitting that of a toddler.

Tuesday
morning, 09:30am at the clinic. I was anxious as all fuck of course,
and Lucie held my hand tightly the whole time. They made me take
another test to confirm my pregnancy, and talked me through my
options. I told them I was terrified of going under anaesthesia, but
because I was so early, I could take mifepristone and misoprostol.
The nurse explained the way that worked, but because I was so
hypersensitive to hormonal birth control, I was worried about the
effect this stuff would have on me afterwards. My inner monologue
just yelled at me to take it, because it was much better than being
pregnant, and especially being pregnant at the hands of such a
monumental shit. Giving Lucie a tearful glance, I agreed to the pill
method. She promised to stay with me throughout the entire ordeal,
and after listening to the advice from the nurse, I decided the best
place for me to go through with it, was at the hospital. I could have
done it back at Lucie’s place of course, but I was terrified
something would go wrong, or maybe that I couldn’t handle the pain
and might need help.

It
was one of the most painful experiences of my life. I’m not going to
go into detail.

I
know you’re probably bored of listening to me give you the backstory
at this point, but stories make no sense unless you have all the
information.

A
week later, I couldn’t stop vomiting. I was sipping cool water just
to give my stomach something to bring up, because the pain from empty
heaving left my body feeling like I’d been ripped inside out. I was
crying with every retching moment, and I couldn’t bear the thought of
eating anything. I looked ashen and grey. My hair was lank and
greasy. My head felt like it was made of lead. I was shaking
horribly, I couldn’t get warm, and I was bloated up to hell. Lucie
called into work for me to explain what was happening to my boss, who
was very fortunately incredibly understanding.  

Lacking
nutrients and battling dehydration, I drifted in and out of
consciousness. There was a vague recollection of a doctor standing
next to Lucie over me, with hushed but deeply concerned conversation.
The next time I came round, I was in a hospital bed hooked up to a
drip. My stomach was still slightly distended, and I was told I was
being kept in for observation for a couple of days until I was able
to eat something solid without vomiting. One of the nurses looked at
me and said my condition was almost like morning sickness, except it
was constant. I weakly laughed and told her that was impossible,
considering I’d just had an abortion, but she already knew that of
course.

Dan:

I
am writing this from hospital in the hopes that someone will read it
and realise I AM NOT FUCKING CRAZY. I might be hopped up on
painkillers, BUT I AM 100% SANE. I will begin with describing events
up to my hospitalisation.

ENTRY
ONE:

Ohgod,
I felt really fucking ILL. Not just slightly under the weather ill,
but legitimately cripplingly unwell.

I’d
been battling nausea and projectile vomiting for the last few days.
Calling in sick to work couldn’t possibly have happened at a worse
time, mainly because of an account we were about to score that was worth MILLIONS. My boss was bloody furious, and said if we lost the
account, he’d going to take it out of my corporate hide. I couldn’t
argue with him, but stupidly and sarcastically asked him if he wanted
me to come in and vomit all over the executives instead? His
antisocial response was to tell me to stop being a a smart-arsed
shitsock, and then he hung up.

Pressing
down on the cold tiled bathroom floor after the call, felt oddly good
against my burning skin. My stomach was swollen and distended, in the
same way it might behave when you have food poisoning, and you’re
filled up with noxious gas and a roiling swamp of searing agony for a
gastrointestinal system. My head was fucking killing
me. It felt a ton heavier than usual, and keeping my eyes open was
almost impossible without severe stabbing pains straight into my
fucking retinas.  All I could stomach was water, and at one point I
swallowed a mouthful only for it to come back up immediately. God I
wished Emma was still there to look after me. I was fucking
miserable, and I know I
fucked up
but Jesus, I
needed HELP. I kept TRYING to appeal to her to see me, but I suspect
she’d blocked me.

I’d
left one of my windows is open, and my neighbour was cooking
something aromatic and flavourful, bloody curry obsessed freak, as
wonderful as he was. My stomach was twisting horribly, and I knew I
was going to puke again; it was so painful and VIOLENT. There were
flecks of blood in it this time, and my entire body flushed cold,
blood pounding through my ears in fear. It was watery bile, and the
flecks of blood in the swampiness of it were all congealed and
stinking like something DIED in there. Every wave of sickness burned
its way out of me, leaving my throat and mouth raw like I’d been
huffing caustic soda. Everything felt like it was on fire. Just when
I thought my stomach would settle down, another torrent of filth
spewed forth.

I
was shaking and lost control of my bladder on the floor during the
onslaught. The vomit was dark and oily when it choked out of me and
splattered harshly against the inside of the toilet basin. The
water…was filled
with congealed dark blood and acrid green bile. I had to rub my
aching eyes to make sure I wasn’t seeing things, but I thought I saw
something MOVE in the disgusting mess. When I’d gotten a closer look,
the putrid stench hit my nostrils and brought forth another torrent
of blood and bile. The pain was…off the charts. That wasn’t even
the worst part, and I wasn’t sure if this was really happening or if
I was in the midst of some revolting delirium, but when I looked down
at the basin, all I could do was half scream half sob hoarsely.

It
was alive with
wriggling white worms
.

Emma:

On
the third day of my admission to hospital, I’d managed to sit up for
a few hours, keep iced water down and finally eat some plain toast.
My stomach was still distended, but after taking blood and urine
samples from me AGAIN, they were confident enough that I wasn’t
suffering with any kind of virus or infection, and subsequently
discharged me since I was sufficiently re-hydrated. I felt delicate
for a few days, but I was able to keep small amounts of bland food
down, and felt only occasional light nausea in the mornings.

My
usual clothes didn’t fit me any longer, well at least not over my
belly. It was still swollen, and showed no signs of going down. I was
quite slender, and whilst my belly was protruding, the rest of me
seemed to be normal. I was having to resort to wearing my yoga pants
and leggings, because I couldn’t button up any of my jeans without
them cutting in painfully. By the following week, my appetite
returned with force, and I was eating everything I could get my hands
on, and then some. Then, something really
bizarre happened.

“Oh
god Lucie, I have this terrible craving for peanut butter and cheese,
and I fucking HATE peanut butter, what the fuck? WHY would anyone
even consider putting those two things together? It disgusts me to
think about, but it’s what I want more than anything right now.”

My
craving for that combination continued for a couple of weeks, until I
began to suspect something else was going on, especially given that I
was gaining weight, but only around my stomach area. My skin was also
breaking out much like an acne ridden teenager, and I was flushing
with hot sweats for absolutely no obvious reason. Lucie started to
compare me to The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and jovially suggested
that it was almost like I was actually still pregnant. As much as we
both laughed, I began to get a little scared. When she saw my face
fall, we decided it probably wouldn’t hurt to retest, just to clear
away the paranoia. I mean, I couldn’t be pregnant, right? The amount
of blood that came out of me at the hospital meant I couldn’t
POSSIBLY be pregnant, there wasn’t anything left inside me, there
couldn’t be.

One
nervous test later in the bathroom told me that pregnancy was a BIG
FAT NO. I laughed at my own paranoia and stupidity but was secretly
wondering what the hell was going on with my stomach and increased
appetite. I didn’t start to worry properly until I could no longer
fit into my stretchiest yoga pants. Lucie looked at me incredulously,
and pestered me for a few days before frog-marching me down to the
doctors again.

By
the time we got in to see the doctor, we were both very flustered. I
babbled my way through a good fifteen minutes of nonsense before my
doctor raised her hand and told me that I couldn’t be pregnant, but
something odd was going on, so I was going to be sent up to the
hospital for an ultrasound, because my stomach distension along with
my eating habits and hormonal breakouts were making her wonder if
something had been left behind.

Left
behind? That terrified the FUCK out of me. She didn’t even explain
it, because she had to move onto the next appointment, but suffice to
say we left the room quite panicked and relieved that we were going
up to the hospital right
fucking then.

“What
the fuck did she mean by left
behind?!” I
blurted out.

“I
bled like a fucking geyser for fuck’s sake, I thought I was going to
DIE, how can there be anything left?!”

We
sped into the hospital car park, parked up and hurried into imaging.
The receptionist could see I was freaking out, so she calmly asked me
to take a seat, and a nurse would be with me as soon as humanly
possible.

Eventually, a nurse appeared,
took me into a room with Lucie in tow, and asked me a bunch of
questions. I was asked to undress and slip into one of those godawful
gowns that don’t have a back to them, and she examined me, checking
my blood pressure and generally doing all the things a nurse would
do. I was moved into yet another room, where a woman asked me to
position myself on the table, and gently raised the over sized t-shirt
I’d had to borrow from Lucie because my belly wouldn’t fit into
anything I owned. A spurt of cool gel blobbed on my stomach, and she
started to push the wand around over my ever increasing gut.

A
few minutes of sliding around and fraught silence revealed absolutely
nothing. The nurse looked at me and told me there was nothing
inside me.
No
remnants of anything whatsoever that she could see. She asked me if I
would let her take an internal ultrasound just to be sure, and I
couldn’t say yes fast enough. It felt a little uncomfortable being
poked about internally, but again, there was absolutely nothing
there.

My relief was palpable, but we
were still none the wiser as to what was going on. More bloods were
drawn, I was prodded and asked to provide more samples, and knowing
that in fact there was nothing untoward going on inside me that they
could see, I was told I could go home.  It was implied that my
growing belly was the result of stress and comfort eating, and that
it should calm down for me fairly soon.  They told me that if anything came up in the tests, that they’d call me. I was desperately hoping these things would calm down, as they predicted.

They did not.

Dan:

(Still prior to
hospitalisation).

ENTRY TWO:

I
was in HELL. Not only was I physically exhausted to the point of
total collapse because of profuse vomiting, but I’d also started
shitting myself at an alarming rate. It was the same thing as before,
it started out as the standard gnarly diarrhoea that comes after
something like a hangover, but it quickly progressed to dark blood
filled shit riddled with little white worms, and the stench, oh my
god THE STENCH.
It
was like nothing else I’d ever felt or experienced. It was like I was
rotting from the inside out, and I was losing weight rapidly from
body except for one area, where I was gaining in size for reasons I
couldn’t fathom. My abdomen. What the FUCK was going on?!  

I
could FEEL things moving inside me, and my stomach was making
horrible ANGRY
noises, cramped and agitated with a horrible mess of worms and
poison. I needed help, and worried that this might actually
kill
me.

I’d
blacked out for a while. I came round to find myself in a pool of my
own shit and vomit, and the worms, those horrible putrid worms,
were getting BIGGER.
Not only were they growing, but there was a low hissing noise coming
out of them that sent ripples of terror up my spine. I looked around
wildly for my phone, grappling and trying to get to it whilst
flailing around in my own filth. There was fuck all battery left on
it, but I managed to get through to emergency services, although I
don’t know how much sense I was making to them at all.  I think I
said something about losing my sight, and puking worms right before
everything went dark.

ENTRY
THREE:

(HOSPITALISED)

They tell me I had been
hospitalised for a week before I resurfaced, and that I was
experiencing some kind of hallucination induced nervous breakdown. My
stomach is distended yes, but they insist there are NO worms in my
vomit, and none in my shit either. I CAN SEE THEM. I CAN FEEL THEM
MOVING INSIDE ME. NOBODY WILL BELIEVE ME.

I am sitting in my hospital bed
writing all this down in the hopes that someone will listen to me.
They’re sending me for a psychiatric evaluation because I won’t shut
up about the worms, which were now the size of huge maggots. I can
feel them choking me on the way up, I even picked one up to show the
nurses, but they keep saying there’s nothing THERE. I cry almost
constantly. I feel SO ill. I’m on a drip to deal with my lack of
nutrition, and thankfully I’m jacked up on some seriously strong pain
medication, because I can’t eat or drink anything due to my mouth
being so burned and sore. My sight has returned obviously, otherwise
this account wouldn’t exist, and the painkillers help the horrendous
pain in my head so I can at least write for short amounts of time
before it slays me again. They think I’ve been drinking bleach for
fuck’s sake, I’m NOT fucking crazy. They keep talking in whispers
around me and look at me as if I’m completely off my bloody rocker.  

ENTRY
FOUR:

The
psychiatric evaluation, did NOT go well. I’ve been moved to a ward
where they have confiscated everything except for the notebook and a
PENCIL attached to the fucking
wall
in
my room. I’m not allowed a pen in case I try anything stupid with it.
Where the fuck would I get the energy to do that?! If it weren’t for
the drip I’d be fucking dead from dehydration and malnutrition. I can
barely move aside from puking and shitting myself.

ENTRY
FIVE:


(Sorry about my writing, I am
very weak and it’s hard to write)

Things
are really bad.

They
don’t know how to stop the puking. It just keeps coming, filled with
horrible worms and dead ones that putrefied inside me. My stomach
grows ever bigger. I am skin and bone, skeletal. They didn’t know how
I’m still alive. I drift in and out of consciousness and am at times,
delirious. My mouth and lips are a pus-crusted bloody scabbed mess.
My only victory is that I have stopped shitting, everything comes out
of my mouth now. They make me lay on my side, so I don’t choke on the
filth. They keep comparing my stomach distension to that of a seven
month pregnant woman. The pain is unbearable but I have to keep
trying to write, I know my writing is a mess. I drift in and out of
consciousness, I think I am a dead man. I am not long for this world.

ENTRY
SIX:

I
am unable to keep going with this. I’m sorry. These will be my last
words unless by some miracle, they can keep me alive. I don’t know if
I want to exist like this anyway, I am on the highest dose of
painkillers they can give me, and it’s not enough.

My
skin is completely fucked. I have angry, swollen boils on my skin the
size of fifty pence pieces, filled with the most revolting greenish-yellow pus. They keep draining them and taking samples off to the lab, but
they keep filling up again. I
can see worms moving about in them.
They
can’t of course. They say it’s just pus and dead skin. WHY
CAN’T THEY SEE THIS?! I can feel them moving about under my skin,
oozing and feeding on me like I’m some kind of host..

They
are going to sedate me, they don’t know what else to do. I guess
they’re trying to make me comfortable now. I keep screaming hoarsely
because the boils explode and the worms are so huge and fat, and they
FEED on my skin after hatching,
I
can FEEL the horrible biting pain all over my already rotting skin,
burrowing again and oh god the pain, the PAIN..

THEY
KEEP SAYING THERE’S NOTHING THERE

Nurse:

(I
found his notebook. We are all terrified. I’m also writing this down
because I don’t know what else to do).

We
had to sedate him. We turn him over regularly to make sure he doesn’t
fall onto his back. Larvae ridden puke spills out of his mouth and into buckets we
have to incinerate. There’s no…heaving per se, it’s like
he’s just leaking constantly from his mouth. The odour is thick and
acidic, and no matter how much peppermint oil we put in our masks, it
cuts through like an acrid knife, and we can taste it. He moans every so often as the
painkillers wear off, and then goes quiet again when the next dose
hits him. We’re going to put him into a medically induced coma. He is
suffering so much.

His
belly is huge.
It moves every so often, like there’s a child kicking around in
there. Only he
used to see this. His skin is covered in dark purple blemishes and
brown spots from the boil scabs. The boils are mostly gone. One or
two remain, and fat maggot like..THINGS are in there, oozing around.
I lost my stomach when I saw them move.  You can see the bones in his
face. His ribs threaten to break through his ruined skin at any
moment, he is a bag of bones; a skin covered skeleton.

Our
scans show nothing. There is no medical reason for him to be this
way. We called Public Health. We honestly don’t know what this is, or
what to do. We have him in isolation now in that coma, hooked up to a
nutrient drip for all the good it’s doing. A doctor suggested we stop
the nutrients on the off-chance they’re nourishing the parasites.
That’s what we’re calling them now. We can’t stop them, he is so sick
that if we tried to starve them out, he would die before they did.  

A
limited team of us are monitoring him around the clock. His stomach
is so swollen now. He looks like he’s pregnant with twins. It keeps
moving, not in the way that a baby will do every so often, this is
constant. Small worm like movements swirl under his skin, pulsating
inside him, just like the way he said it was doing inside him all
along. We didn’t believe him. Why would we? WE COULDN’T SEE IT.

The
worm infested vomit, the hatchlings in the boils, him being used as a
host, it was all true. We didn’t listen.

Emma:

I
could no longer ignore the fact that something was very wrong, even
if the doctors told me there wasn’t. My belly had swollen up to the
size of a heavily pregnant woman, roughly seven months in term. That
was not just stress and anxiety, even I
knew that.
Lucie
wasn’t having any of it either. My back was excruciating. My skin was
a mess. My breasts were swollen and sore, and appeared to be
producing small amounts of milk. I’d given up trying to get help from
medical professionals, nobody had any idea what was going on, and so
stupidly, I looked on the Internet.

Yeah I know, not always the best
plan, but the closest thing I could come up with, was a phantom
pregnancy which was apparently a bit of an urban legend. Many
accounts have been written, but their validity is called into
question by many scientific journals. I mean, that made sense to me,
but WHY was it happening? I never wanted a child. I’m WASN’T
pregnant. I’d been prodded and tested and scanned and everything, and
there was nothing there.

The problem was, that morning I
felt something move.

A slow but very precise ripple
oozed around the bottom half of my swollen belly. I froze. I thought
perhaps I was seeing things, because nothing about me was normal
then. I told Lucie, and even she in her usually calm and collected
state was very concerned. Had it not been for the fact that she was
watching this happen to me, she probably would have insisted I was
suffering from delusions. It happened again during the evening, when
we were mindlessly watching some utter rubbish on the TV. My hoodie
slipped down one side of my belly, and I felt things move.

“Lucie”,
I whispered, terrified.

“It’s
happening again.”

I
grabbed her hand and pressed it against the mound. She flinched and
gawped at me when she both saw and felt the movement. I was
simultaneously relieved and petrified, mainly because it meant I
wasn’t seeing things, but also because why
the fuck would this be happening?

“Ohgod
Lucie what am I going to do? Nobody thinks there’s anything wrong
with me. There’s something INSIDE ME, but test after test says I’m
not pregnant, and you saw the scans, there’s nothing showing up!”

Naturally, I burst into tears for
a change, huge, breathless sobs that almost made me sick. I couldn’t
see straight, and I was shaking so violently that Lucie had to hold
me to stop me from collapsing entirely. That was when I screamed out
in pain.

I
felt a contraction.
It bit at my insides, twisting and burning like my entire core was
about to erupt. It was so strong that it took my breath away, and I
let out a terrible half scream, half gurgling groaning sound that
made Lucie turn sheet white.

“Fuck
this”,
she said, and promptly called an ambulance.

“My
girlfriend is going into labour and she’s carrying a high risk
pregnancy, send someone immediately”, she demanded angrily.

I was screaming and groaning like
everything inside me was on fire. My mouth was open in a continuous
keening wail, the skin on my usually pale face turning redder with
each passing second. It’s not like I didn’t look heavily pregnant. My
stomach was twisting and turning visibly with wave after wave of
contractions. Lucie did her best to support me by holding my hand and
trying to keep me breathing, but I was completely zoned out and
focused on the deepening pain inside me that threatened to tear me
asunder at any moment. It was at that point that I felt a slew of
liquid come out from between my legs, which is what I would suppose
breaking waters felt like.

It wasn’t water.

Lucie shrieked involuntarily, her
face contorted into an expression of horror and disbelief, both her
hands flying up to her mouth. I wasn’t in any condition to ask her
what she saw. My screaming was turning into hoarse wailing, and I was
fighting to get any air into my lungs. I felt my head start to fade,
that horrible spinning feeling you get when you’ve had too much to
drink and you first close your eyes. I’m told that’s when I passed
out.

The next time I came round, I was
in an ambulance speeding towards the hospital. All I could manage
were low moans as my belly twisted inside me. Lucie had hold of my
hand so tightly I thought my bones in my hand would break. She was
sobbing openly, unsure of what else she could do. The paramedic was
staring at me, a look of complete incredulity on his face. I could
still feel that disgusting ooze coming from between my legs. I
managed to turn my head to Lucie, and croaked the question of whether
the medics could see what was happening. She nodded wordlessly, tears
streaking her face in a combination of relief and total fear.

I wasn’t insane. They could see
this. I wasn’t insane. Another wave of contractions swept over me,
and I managed a blood-curdling scream, before passing out completely.

3AM – OPERATING THEATRE:

My eyes opened up into thin
slits, the bright fluorescent lights cutting like needles to my
blurred sight. I could hear voices, mumbled at first, evening out
slowly. I tried to move my head, and Lucie’s voice slipped gently
into my ear to tell me to stay still and relax. She was wearing a
theatre cap, and dropping my gaze slightly, I could see a green sheet
in front of my face, obscuring my view of the voices and equipment
around me. I tried to speak but all that came out was a strangled
moan.  

A nurse on the other side of me
whispered to tell me that I was safe, and in surgery. She told me
they’d given me an epidural so they could open me up without knocking
me out. They weren’t sure I’d survive a general anaesthetic given my
condition. I could hear beeping and soft murmurs from in front of me,
and a sudden cry of..

“HOLY
FUCK WHAT IS THAT
?!?!”

We don’t know what the medics had
told them on arrival, but the ooze from between my legs wasn’t
amniotic fluid. It was some kind of black oily liquid that smelled
like slowly rotting death. One of the medics involuntarily vomited
when the stench hit his nostrils, and the other one screamed when she
saw what she thought was a writhing worm, hissing at her as if to
warn her away. Both of them were sent home mid-shift because they
were complete gibbering wrecks.

An
entirely inhuman screech reverberated around the operating theatre
causing everyone to gasp with a wince, before a sickening splitch
cracked through the air. A mess of decaying blood exploded all over
the table, hitting the staff and the dividing sheet, leaving
revolting lumps of rancid flesh and blood dripping to the floor.
Several people could be heard losing the contents of their stomachs,
whilst the doctor muttered “dear
gods”
 under her breath, before demanding one of the vomiting nurses go and
alert the chief.

Nurse:

Public health are here. Everyone
is in CBRN. We aren’t. We didn’t know. We don’t know if this is going
to happen to us. We don’t even know WHY it happened. We’re all shaken
and terrified. We’ve seen some serious shit during our careers, but
this is like nothing else we’ve ever witnessed. Some of the younger
nurses who haven’t been nurses for long have already handed in their
resignation, one of them had a complete nervous breakdown.

Something is happening. Staff are
being violently ill and there’s screaming from inside isolation..

Oh my god. Public Health are
examining him, and his..stomach suddenly started convulsing and
contorting as if something were trying to fight its way out. It’s a
mercy that he’s in a medically induced coma, because you wouldn’t
want to endure that awake. Ohgod, he’s flat-lining, the machines are
beeping and there’s a lot of yelling and screaming..

His stomach just exploded
and there are these horrible HUGE white worms slithering out of him.
There are thick viscous clumps of stinking blood and matter dropping
to the floor after his stomach exploded, and the hissing…ohgod the
hissing. The worms are FAT and ANGRY and eager to feast on the gaping
carcass of his body..

One of the Public Heath officers
puked into his mask.

We sealed off the entire wing.
We’re sealed inside with..with whatever they are. We can’t even call
our families to tell them what’s going on. We’re being poked and
prodded, and there are whispers that something similar happened to a
woman across town, except she survived. I can still hear them
hissing. Those things..they caught two of them and have them sealed
away in containers that they’re bashing themselves insensible trying
to escape from. The others have been collected and incinerated. Dan’s
body has been transported to another location where I expect they
will conduct whatever tests they do in these circumstances.

We’re going through testing and
decontamination. They want samples of absolutely everything. One of
the care staff is panicking. He’s  been vomiting all morning, and he
says there are tiny white worms in it. There isn’t a lot of sympathy
for him, really. He was recently tried in court for sexual assault
after he grabbed one of the junior nurses during a night shift.  He
got away with because of insufficient evidence and a technicality.
We’ve seen the way he leers at the junior staff that come in, but
nobody has seen anything directly so far.

The junior killed herself a week
after the bastard wasn’t charged with anything. It turns out
he’d been assaulting her for months. When they found her body, the
post mortem revealed she was four weeks pregnant.  She’d left a note, saying how she couldn’t cope with being alive and knowing he was free to do as he pleased. She couldn’t carry his child. She couldn’t face anything.

PUBLIC
HEALTH NOTES:

12th March 2017

This is all the information we
have to date. ‘Emma’ is currently under observation in one of our
secure facilities, as is her friend ‘Lucie.’ They are co-operating.
Both seem physically healthy given what they endured,
psychologically, the same cannot be said.

Calls have been coming in from
all over the country. Men are being hospitalised at an increasingly
alarming rate. We’ve identified a common denominator. They’ve all
committed penetrative sexual assault. It has a 100% mortality rate in
men. None of them survive. Their victims however, once admitted for
monitoring and observation can come out the other side quite intact, provided we operate at a crucial point of development.

We rarely get to see evolution
happen so starkly in front of us. We don’t know if this IS evolution,
or some twisted lab engineered parasite unleashed somehow. It’s
almost like a sexually transmitted disease that protects sexual
assault victims, in its own warped way.

We’re
calling it Lex
Talionis
,
which
translates to ‘retaliate.’

UPDATE:

1st May 2017

We
have access to a few ‘live’ subjects, that is men who have come
forward after admitting they committed sexual assault. Previous
subjects have all died in an incredibly violent manner. we sedated a
few, but not some of the others. We needed to see if medical
intervention helped or hindered the larval development process. It
seems to have no effect on the parasite whatsoever. Starving the host
also has no effect, neither does dehydration. The hosts live long after their expected expiration for both starvation, and dehydration, right up until the parasites erupt.  

There
are current trials to confirm that parasites keep their hosts alive
until hatching. A man was rushed
into our facility after he had tried to commit suicide by drowning
himself in a bath.  The parasite adapted quickly, and gills formed
down both sides of the subject’s spine. This happened in a matter of
minutes. His lungs remained intact for survival outside water. When
we suspended him in water for the duration of the parasitic cycle,
they kept him alive in some kind of stasis. Once the parasites had
achieved full development, the subject exploded in suspension, and we
witnessed the parasite feeding off his corpse like piranhas. All that
remained was a severely malnourished skeleton.

We
will begin trials involving the use of fire next week. We know that
fire kills the parasite after hatching, however we need to know if
the parasite can keep a host alive during the development process,
whilst it’s on fire. If we have to wait until hatching before we can
incinerate the host and parasite, we will have to come up with a
different solution.

Updates
will become available once we have conducted more tests.

S H A T T E R

She could have sworn she turned off the television set before she’d gone to bed the night before. Her brow furrowed as she stood in front of it, stooping down, moving closer. Something definitely didn’t seem right. Her mother wasn’t up yet, so it couldn’t have been her–and she definitely remembered switching it off.

She felt drawn in, her breath swirling out to meet the static. It left a steamy circle behind, the static prickling back against her lips with a tingling sensation. She dragged her teeth over her lips to stop the tickle, blinking softly and straightening herself up again. Her gaze changed to a gradual stare as she looked at the screen for a full five minutes.

That’s when it happened.

The screen looked fluid. Screwing her eyes shut and blinking rapidly, she tried to clear her sight thinking her eyes were playing tricks with her. She’d been staring for so long, it had to be the same sensation she felt as a kid when she sat too close to the set. She tried to look away, but felt a flash of pain behind her eyes in her attempt.

A single soft ripple moved outward from the centre, moving slowly toward the edges, only to disappear.

She leaned in again, raising her right hand slowly, reaching out to the screen, her fingertips feeling the static millimetres away. Her hair, as yet unkempt and a little fluffed up, reached toward the static like fine tendrils twisting to wrap around something.

It grabbed her, beginning with a sharp pinching sensation in her hand, trickling its way up her arm. It was viciously cold, and she panicked, her breath quickening, turning into a strangled whimper. It crept painfully up over her shoulder, her skin tightening, draining of all colour. It moved up toward her face, oozing across her jawline, and up to her lips. She was completely rigid with fear, unable to move or make a sound for help. Her lips parted and cracked in a silent scream, the teeth in her mouth shattering like tiny crystals, each feeling like burning needles driven deep inside her. Blood built and seeped over her greying lips, trickling down her chin and onto her nightdress. The blood vessels in her nose exploded, pissing down over her feet and onto the carpet. She tried to look down, but her eyes were frozen in their sockets.

Reaching up for her eyes, the irises turned a stark white, sucking the life from her pupils to leave nothing but a glassy stare. More blood spilled over her face as the capillaries broke, leaving bloody tears running over her seemingly lifeless skin. She stood completely motionless; a stiffening statue with every molecule in her form freezing and twisting. It continued to move down the other side of her body, pinching and biting all over, the static ripping more of her into its field.

It finally took control of her completely, pulling her into its void. She could hear thousands of screaming voices, old and young alike, all clawing at her mind relentlessly.

Her eardrums ruptured, and joined the other streams of blood coursing over her body. The pain was horrific, and it only seemed to build. From the other side of the screen, she could see her blood from the carpet pool together, lose its colour and seep upwards into the screen to join her.

It was as if she was never there; she was completely gone to the world, part of the white noise on-screen. Something shifted in her throat, and she let out a piercing scream. It sounded like someone tearing nails down a blackboard, and with every scream came a splatter of blood, draining of colour and settling on-screen.

Feeling an overwhelming presence behind her, she turned around and saw thousands of bodies in the same state, reaching out with their cracked skin and shrieking voices. She screamed again, turning back to the screen, pounding her fists against it.

The creak of a door upstairs signalled the arrival of her mother, who padded softly down to the living room. Frustrated and terrified she banged harder, desperately trying to scream for help. All that came was blood and that sickening shrieking. She watched in horror as her mother picked up the remote, shook her head and turned off the set.

She obviously didn’t hear her.