[Trigger warnings: might make you uncomfortable about the skin you’re wearing, & violent imagery]
She leans back in her chair, and wipes some of the blood from the corners of her mouth, with a napkin I provided. “Naw, I looked it up – it ain’t my fault.” She does the accent horribly.
I sit down opposite her, ignoring the feet that are now staring at me. She wiggles her toes. “A man is dead, and you have most of his blood inside you.”
We’re inside a head, trying to be detached from the current situation. We’re doing a fucking fantastic job so far.
“You don’t get it!”
His blood is inside of both of us, because we’re her, but it’s inside her because she did it. I am the voice of reason; she is a feral child. (The woman outside of us has decided to sit down in the corner of the room that actually exists, which will soon smell like corpse – it already stinks of blood.)
“Hey, I grok it perfectly fine, thank you. I’ve got these things inside me that make me crave it. Can’t do nothin’ about that, love.”
(At the same time, the person we both are is rocking gently, holding her knees close to her face, not sure what to do. I think she’s listening to us.)
“Those things inside you are parasites. You know they’re there.”
“You didn’t stop me.” She lights a cigarette and rolls her eyes.
There is a species of protozoa called something like toxicondi, and humans have known about it for at least a hundred years, and no-one has done anything about it. It takes a roundabout way through humans and other animals and then it comes back to its definite host: the cat. It feeds off the cat’s energy. It releases its babies through the cat’s faeces and infects the kittens, and anybody else nearby. It makes rats attracted to cats; a sexual urge that is uncontrollable. It drowns ferrets. Sometimes, the baby parasites get into humans.
“I tried to stop you,” I say through my teeth, “but I was locked out.”
“That’s just code for not trying hard enough, doll.” The room is pulsating with my frustration, except for the door.
Toxoplasma gondii, that’s what it’s called.
(She gets up. Her legs are shaking. I feel bad for her, and I will scorn her later. Listen, the only thing she should do now is try to get out of there without leaving any trace. Difficult – but hopefully the man had bleach in his bathroom. Look for a bottle of bleach. It might smell of chlorine, because people misattribute that and remember how much it annoys her. Swimming pools smell of bleach, godsfuck. Think about that for now. The bleach.)
“Wait, what for?” Her boots are off the table now. Her hair retracts to not be in the way during a fight. “What will you use the bleach for?”
“The blood and the corpse, to ruin the DNA evidence.”
Her hand is around my neck and her fist is two centimetres away from my face. We’re inside that head. If she squeezes too hard, I’ll be pulverised.
It – toxoplasma – gets into humans sometimes, like bad ideas or bad wine does. And then they have it forever. Research suggests that it makes men less social and more likely to be messy. Toxoplasmosis does the opposite thing to human women. Relatedly, when you get the flu – during the incubation period, right before you start feeling sick, right when you can still spread the disease – you also get urges to be more social. You accept more party invites, and you might even host one yourself. So that you can give people the flu.
She squeezes harder. “No, you ain’t.”
Isn’t that perfectly subtle?
“Oh please,” I say. “Don’t tell me you’re protective of that corpse?” I am aware of the fragility of my bones.
She has found the bleach. I wonder when the cops will arrive. Probably in a week or so. Or two hours? When do corpses start to smell, and when do people start complaining? We should make a chart. It’s all about probabilities anyway, there’s no one cutoff point. Probably the risk right now is negligible. There’s a point where it becomes non-negligible, really, that’s the best we can hope for.
“You ain’t touching that corpse, is all.”
“If you love it so much, why don’tcha marry it?”
And that is the point at which my head is crushed and a second version of me walks through the door. The door makes a clicking noise and is locked behind me.. We are trying to get away from the situation, to objectively assess it and decide the best way to act. We are doing a fucking fantastic job so far. We all stare at corpses.
No, not touching that. She’s just running away at this point. Maybe take a shower.
(The annoying thing was, it was difficult to get through his neck. She had to try several times. Fucking hell, she had these exact thoughts then too.)
“There’s more to it than just the parasites, you know?”
I roll my eyes and sit down at the table, putting my feet up. “It is you. It is inside you, so it is you. You are what you eat. You become what you do. You are now a vampire. An evil creature. You don’t deserve sunlight.”
We think that he must have been infected by the male form of the parasite from poking dead bodies with sticks or something. I don’t know what he is, I don’t care, but somehow he was infected. It does not have a name but I’m sure it’s a Coccidia. They’re insidious. His name was Aaron Coche and he posted on fetish websites looking for young girls to bite. He got us.
For a split second I think he deserved it – creepy fucker even sharpened his teeth (maybe she should sharpen her teeth) – but he didn’t know about parasites. He couldn’t have. Fuck. You should have got him to a hospital.
(She stops in front of a railway. She can’t really hear anything, and it is too foggy a night to see any trains.)
It’s funny how decisions are made in the absence of the entities affected by them. You should have bleached the corpse. You should go back and bleach it, for fuck’s sake. You still have time.
(It had started way back. It was her own fault. A railway like that represents something. It was an old boyfriend with an obsession with vampires, like your obsession with parasites. Funny how she always brought out the obsession in people, how obsessed people always find other obsessed people or none at all. You can’t understand love if you’re not obsessed, and it doesn’t matter that we don’t love each other. His and her objects were similar enough. They could talk for hours, whether or not the other one was listening.
And he had found a corpse.
“I promise I didn’t do anything to it, I just found it.” (Back when you had morals he said that.)
There was a silence which could have suffocated someone and then maybe another parasite found what it was looking for inside her head and she went along. Maybe she just had the flu.)
“What’chu doin’?” She flips the table and it passes through me, I am not fazed.
There is another kind of parasite which compares well to the situation at hand. There are millions of kinds of cordyceps – clubheads – that infect different kinds of … they get into insect’s heads and make them go die somewhere where they can be eaten by predators. And, their heads grow into funny shapes. The parasites think they look delicious.
And I think about the ocean. How many times each year is a new, boring, type of fish discovered or killed? I think about there being protozoa that makes us humans not want to do research into how many parasites actually reside in our heads because then we’d do something about them.
(She waits for the train still. It’ll come at any moment and it would be stupid to cross now. Is this railway even in use anymore? The fog gathers and dewdrops start to accumulate. She still can’t hear anything and maybe this means trains aren’t coming?)
(All her bones crack as the train runs her over,) which does not happen.
One of us kicks the table away and we duke it out.
Once the male parasite has infected you, you start getting clubhead. You avoid the sun. Garlic starts tasting funny. It’s entirely psychosomatic, we think, whatever preconception you have of us, you get. And it gets obvious. It’s why she trawls the fetish websites. It’s only people like him she drinks.
It’s a mating thing, the draining. The actual vampires blush for an hour afterwards, and how appropriate is that? There is so much blood. And the parasites mate, and the eggs are left in the hollow shell of a corpse. Some people have fly eggs in their blood and if they do, there is no telling until you die – when the eggs hatch. The parasites hatch before them and feed. It screws up the forensic process, which seems like an unintended bonus – but that’s probably how most parasitisms start, isn’t it?
(One of the dew drops, as we stare at it, grows too large and runs zigzaggingly down the side of the metal until it meets with a blade of grass and this would almost be pretty if we weren’t so scared out of our mind.)
I hate her.
And the male parasites hatch first and protect the eggs of the females. If another mammal does not come by the corpse soon enough, the females hatch and eat the males. If a mammal comes by, they start carrying the parasite. This is a lifelong thing. Most lives tend to turn out pretty short. Sometime after, the humans infected by male parasites, find fetish websites.
(And they found the corpse and they both got infected, and then they broke up.)
You should really stop doing this. You always feel bad afterwards, no matter how good it feels at the time, and soon you’ll get caught. Your mouth will be dry in prison.
(She stands up and the wind tugs at her coat as the train passes by. We cross.)