Parasites: Part Four
An e-mail pinged on Leila’s phone way too early the next morning. Although the boss had given them the previous day off, he still had a business to run. Today would be business as usual. With nothing more than her nightmares and a secret she barely believed herself as an excuse, she showed up.
Her mind wasn’t having it, though. It stuck in a whirlpool of anxiety, bounding between the insanity at the office, her disturbing dreams, and the parasites growing inside her.
The previous day had shaken her so badly, she’d forgotten about them. At least, until she’d got up for work and vomited all over the place. A pill had beaten the nausea back down. It had not stopped the strange ache in her abdomen.
She couldn’t carry eleven kids. Hell, she didn’t want one kid. Yet, thanks to the phantom feel of a knife in her innards, she couldn’t bring herself to step foot in the clinic again.
A couple of co-workers walked by Leila’s cubicle, talking in excitement.
A creak, a crack, and a yell of pain as something large and dark fell from the ceiling and on to the passersby. Blood splattered against the outside of Leila’s workspace, a few stray drops landing on her face.
Déjà vu came and stayed. A haze settled over her mind as the first-aid kit, getting low on supplies, was pulled free once more. Sirens. Gasps and screams. A gaping hole in the ceiling where a chunk of metal beam mysteriously broke free and fell, cutting a groove down a co-worker’s arm. She couldn’t even remember the password to her computer. She was beginning to think it didn’t matter.
“Leila Roberts, right?”
Leila jumped, then flushed. The EMTs had taken the victim to the hospital a while ago. Without Kat around to talk her down, she’d stayed staring at the hole above her. She hadn’t seen anyone approach. “Yeah, that’s me.”
The speaker, a heavy-set older woman dressed in attire far too formal for the office, smiled. “You’re friends with Katharine, aren’t you?”
“Katharine?” Leila struggled far more than she should have to connect the dots. “Oh… Kat. Yes, I am.”
“A good girl. She helps me with my garden sometimes.”
Leila blinked, at a loss for words. Kat had talked about helping her ‘elderly’ neighbor before, but the woman in front of her didn’t look more than middle-aged. Besides, she wasn’t sure what the lady wanted from her.
“Is she not here today?”
Ah, that was it. “No. She had a doctor’s appointment.” Leila squashed down the sudden memory of her own missed appointment as a sharp pain jolted across her torso.
“I see. A lot of those lately, isn’t there?”
“You were there for all three accidents, weren’t you?”
Leila narrowed her eyes as she tried to discern what the woman was getting at.
“Have you been having nightmares, Ms. Roberts?”
The words came out on reflex. Whoever this woman was, she was making her more uncomfortable by the second. All Leila wanted was for her to leave.
The woman smiled again. This time, it seemed almost predatory.
Leila’s skin crawled.
“Sometimes our actions can lead to unexpected consequences,” the lady continued, seemingly oblivious to Leila’s unease. “They let in things we don’t quite understand. Things better left alone.”
“I’d like you to leave.”
A growl entered Leila’s voice as a flushing heat turned discomfort into anger. A small part of her wondered why she was angry. That part burned away in an instant.
“Of course. But, if you need help, help you can’t get in other places, please call my friend.”
The woman pulled a business card from her pocket and offered it to Leila over the partition. Leila moved without thinking, jumping from her seat to slap the woman’s hand away. Her mind filled with white-hot fury. Who was this woman to tell her what she needed?
The woman’s eyes flashed, her mouth dropping into a frown for a second before reversing into a strained grin. “Think about it, Ms. Roberts. I don’t think either of us wants Katharine to come to harm, now do we?”
She turned on her heel and rushed away.
Leila’s chest seized. Did the woman know something she didn’t? Was Kat in danger? She had been near all the injured, but that had to be a coincidence, didn’t it?
Her eyes locked onto the small, gold-trimmed business card that had fluttered to the floor. Her hand shook as she picked it up. Matthew Newcomb, it read. Professional exorcist.
Leila laughed. A ridiculous looking red pentagram, little horns sticking out the top point of the star, adorned the center of the card. The woman was either a comedian with the best poker face in the world, or completely insane. Leila would be about as likely to go to her ‘friend’ as back to the clinic.
She dropped it into the wastebasket under her desk and turned back to her work, intent on losing herself in the mundane. She’d had precious little of that recently.
It worked as well as it could with the stabbing in her torso. After popping two painkillers, she even dozed.
Leila dreamed of the ceiling collapsing. A grinning, bulbous-headed creature grinned out at her from the remains. It laughed, a raspy noise which scratched along Leila’s skin, as blood seeped from under the wreckage. It scrambled away, only to drag Royce, a deep crimson hole punched in his stomach, in front of her. Then came Anne with a hole carved into the upper right side of her chest. The remains of a lung pulsated within.
Electricity shot down Leila’s limbs as the creature laid a third body out in front of her like a cat with dead birds. Hair pulled up, clothes the same as the last time Leila had seen her. Blood seeped from her mouth, ears, and under her eyelids.
Leila tried to scream as the creature giggled.
Her phone rang, jolting her out of sleep.
Leila’s hand shook as she picked up the receiver, the feeling of ice water traveling down her spine.
“Leila, thank goodness you answered.”
The high-pitched voice ricocheted around Leila’s head for a moment before she placed it. Kat’s mom. She hadn’t spoken to her in years, despite only living an hour away. Not since Kat got her own place. Leila couldn’t fathom what she wanted now. “Mrs. Meyer, how are you?”
“Kat’s dying.” Her voice cracked.
The trickle of ice became a torrent, seizing Leila’s muscles and stealing her breath. “I… I talked to her last night. She was fine.”
Fine. Leila’s mind echoed. This was all just a mistake.
“The doctor says she’s bleeding internally. She collapsed during her appointment. They don’t know why or how long she’ll last….”
Mrs. Meyer’s voice rambled on, each word choked out until she sobbed. “You two are inseparable… she’ll want you nearby when….”
“Of course, Mrs. Meyer.”
The words came out of Leila’s mouth, but she had no connection to them. They sounded cold, distant. A small part of her screamed to pay attention. Most of her wanted to hide from the truth.
She listened to the second.
Mrs. Meyer told her. The information flowed through Leila’s thoughts without sticking. The line went dead.
Leila glanced at the edge of a business card, a horned pentagram in the center, peeking out from over the top of the wastebasket.