Serial Saturday: Parasites by R. Minter, Part 3
Parasites: Part Three
If Anne’s piece of lung had distracted Leila, Royce stabbing himself with a pencil de-railed her brain completely, so it was good the boss let them all go home, even if it was probably to avoid any more on-site crises.
Leila got back to her apartment, mind on auto-pilot, and now sat on her bed, staring numbly at a wall. A knock at her door nearly made her jump out of her skin. Her phone buzzed a moment later.
Kat’s text popped up on the screen. Hey, let me in!
Leila obliged, more on routine than anything else.
Kat brushed by her, staring as Leila closed and locked the door once more.
“How are you holding up?” Kat asked.
Unsure of what to say, Leila stared back. At least she hadn’t ended up in the hospital, she supposed.
Kat sighed and motioned toward the couch. “Sit.”
When Leila didn’t respond fast enough, Kat gripped her arm and lead her to a seat, lightly pushing her down onto a cushion before settling in herself.
“Look, I know we didn’t know Ann or Royce super well, but we’ve still worked together for years. It’s not easy seeing anyone hurt, let alone someone you sit next to. If you want to talk, or cry, or just sit in silence together, I’m here.”
Leila frowned at her friend and chewed her lip. Seeing her co-workers hurt bothered her, yet that wasn’t what bothered her the most. The blood, the flesh, the wound on Royce’s stomach. It all reminded her so much of the dream. What was wrong with her when a dream bothered her more than the wellbeing of another person?
Kat took Leila’s silence as her choice, and snuggled closer, throwing an arm over Leila’s shoulders. “Anne’s fine, by the way. I stopped by the hospital before I came. The doctors couldn’t figure out what happened, and neither could she. They’re keeping her overnight. Just in case.”
“What about Royce?” Leila asked, finally finding her voice.
“Alive. Not sure beyond that. They have him on suicide watch, and since I’m not family, I’m not allowed near him.”
“It’s so strange.”
Leila was referring to more than the office events, but Kat didn’t know the difference.
“I know, right? Royce’s like the most stable guy on the floor. Unflappable. Somehow manages to be okay with desk work day in and day out. So, why?”
Leila shrugged as a heavy fatigue descended over her, stealing what little thought she had regained. Darkness rushed in before she could respond.
Leather wrapped around Leila’s wrists, strapping her arms down to a cold, white table.
Four bare, sterile walls surrounded her. They stood barely far enough away to contain the table and two people in hazmat suits. One person, sitting directly at the foot of the table, towered over the second, who sat to the left.
“Just try to breathe, Ms. Roberts,” the tall one said in a raspy voice. “It will be over before you know it.”
The rasp turned into a grinding inhale as they took a long, thin knife from somewhere unseen. The knife lowered. Realization rushed down Leila’s spine like lava.
“No!” She bucked, yet barely moved. Thick straps she could have sworn weren’t there before covered her waist and ankles, pinning her in place. A lamb to slaughter.
“Just relax, Ms. Roberts,” the short one hissed through their mask.
Agony erupted from deep within, spreading up as the knife penetrated further and further.
Leila’s mind collapsed as liquid, hot and sticky, flooded down her legs, hitting the floor with the sound of thick rain.
A scream echoed in her ears, dulled in the searing pain.
“Leila. Leila! Wake up, for God’s sake.”
Leila jerked upright, feeling like she’d swallowed glass. Her skin still tingled where the straps had been. Her innards roiled and burned.
“Christ, Leila. You almost gave me a heart attack.”
Her mind whirled as Leila looked at Kat, trying to piece together what had happened. She was back on her couch, next to her best friend. No people in hazmat suits. No long, thin knives. She shivered. “What did I do?” she asked.
“What…?” Kat stared at her wide-eyed. “Screamed loud enough to wake the neighbors, is all. Wouldn’t surprise me if the cops show up soon. Everyone else in the building probably thinks you’ve been murdered.”
That explained the broken glass feeling in her throat. Leila shrugged. “I wouldn’t worry. No one around here cares what happens in someone else’s apartment.”
“If you say so. What the hell were you dreaming about?”
Leila’s thoughts skittered around the answer, already more than willing to leave the nightmare to rot in her subconscious. “I….”
Her answer stalled as the fading horror connected with a very real memory. Her chest tightened. “Kat, what time is it?”
Kat glanced at her phone. “Nearly midnight. Honestly, I’m glad you woke up, even if I wish it had been a little less harsh. You passed out on my shoulder, and I didn’t have the heart to wake you. Not like I have anywhere to be. I’m getting pretty tired myself, though, and this couch isn’t quite as comfortable for me as it is for you.”
Kat’s words passed by Leila, heard, but barely understood. The appointment. The procedure. She’d missed it. Yet, as a piece of her latest nightmare came creeping back, she found she wasn’t so bothered after all.