Chapter 7 - Closing The Loop
For Doctor Peter Ericson, alleged mass murderer, prison held no fears. The reason was obvious really: he knew would never spend a single day inside. Before his interview he had been held in solitary confinement, sitting like a Buddha on what was laughably referred to as a bed.
When the cops came to get him for interview he kept his hands as out of the way as possible, ensuring no-one came into contact with his skin. He was obliging and gave them no reason to touch him and he’d been successful, largely, even when cuffs were applied. The one poor sod that had fleetingly brushed against his hand had not reacted for about twenty minutes, probably due to a low dose of the bug, thus giving no-one a reason to think the doctor had the touch of death.
It wasn’t until he was sitting face to face with the earnest Detective Baker that his mischief took over, infecting firstly his own dimwit solicitor and then the detective. It had been positively delicious seeing the look on the detective’s face when he felt the little blighters crawling through the skin on his hands. My multitude of children, Ericson thought, smiling as the detective disappeared into a trance.
Ericson looked at his watch.
“How long is forever? Sometimes, just one second,” he mumbled to himself. “No time, no time.”
He stood up and wandered to the door and opened it. Stepping out he put his hand on the forearm of the young constable guarding the door, ostensibly to get his attention.
“I think there is a problem in there, young man,” the doctor told him.
The constable rubbed his arm unconsciously and stepped into the room, peering at the detective and solicitor. After a moment he, too, fell into a trance.
The doctor smiled benignly, closed the door to the interview room and wandered down the corridor. As he arrived at the sign-in desk he could see the desk sergeant working with his back to him, arranging some paperwork. Ericson slipped quietly past him and out the door.
Back on the street the doctor behaved as if a happy drunk, falling from one person to another, clutching at hands, arms, faces, any bare surfaces he could touch. Soon he had left an ever-increasing wake of infected who were quickly joined by others as they strove to help the victims. Very few realised what was going on, and so the infection passed through the pedestrians like wildfire.
Picking up a newspaper and not paying the shop proprietor who no longer seemed to care, he saw the headlines and smiled broadly. All around the world the infestation he had built was spreading, the authorities making all the wrong prognoses and assumptions. It didn’t matter anyway; his little children were unstoppable, even if they discovered what they were. He was excited to see what they would become when they grew up; time would tell.
At this point, those who believed they mattered most in society had no idea of his other little trick, using the main ingredient of mediaeval emetic medicine, the common slug. Medical miracle turned killer. The loop between host and parasite was finally complete.
Jim Oliver, beloved of his gardening pals, or so he believed, was a self-taught expert on all things gardening and botanical. He wondered why he couldn’t get his own gardening program on the telly, it wasn’t as if he’d not tried really hard, after all they seemed to let any old inane person have a program these days. A producer he’d managed to get in front of once had quite flatly told him the problem: he had a really boring persona, totally lacking a personality. Offensive little turd, he thought, that couldn’t possibly be right. Anyway, that had been the final straw, the turning point. From that day onward he’d given up trying to get on the box, satisfying himself with lording it over all those little gardening wannabe despots at the allotment. They couldn’t hold a candle to him and his knowledge.
Spring was well under way and he’d recently sown lines and lines of veggies, so now he waged war with his primary threat - the slug. From tonight for the next few months, he’d be on slug patrol - using the torch on his phone to discover the mostly vegetarian predator. Holding the illuminating phone and a jar of salt in his left hand, his right hand would dip into the crystals and lightly sprinkle those unfortunate gastropods he found. He would watch with silent fascination as they oozed green froth and curled up, dying at his hand. Although he did hope he wasn’t hurting them by doing this, they were the enemy and he was damned if he was going to allow them a final drink from the less than perfect but more approved of beer trap.
Tonight, there seemed to be many more of the dark, slimy little fellas than usual. It was as if they’d read Homer and were copying Medusa. For every one he killed, two more seemed to take its place. After a while he began to get nervous at the growing army spreading out in front of him. He began to back away from the rows he was ardently yet unsuccessfully defending. In his increasing panic he began to throw handfuls of salt at the ever-rising tide of the slimy critters, and while they frothed merrily green, yet more appeared.
Stepping back, he felt the ground give way. No, not give way, slide out from under him. He fell arse over tit backwards, landing on a soft, sliding surface. Manure, he wondered? No, it felt like it was moving. Something crawled on his neck. He slapped at it and pulled it away from his skin. Doing this caused unbelievable pain that stabbed through him as if it had pinched his skin in jaws, but that wasn’t even possible, slugs didn’t have jaws, per se.
In seconds he was slapping himself as if on fire, dropping the phone in his flurry of activity, landing torch side up. In its faint white light he could see a wave of something dark and shiny undulating across his body. The pain was excruciating; how could this be happening? He knew about slugs and to his extensive knowledge they had definitely never done this throughout history of gardening - and he should know. Something small darted across his face and up his left nostril. Moments later he felt a stabbing pain in his sinuses and warm blood trickled down his upper lip which was immediately pounced upon by hundreds of what felt like insects, thousands of little feet, dozens of nipping sensations, more things crawling up his nose. He opened his mouth to scream but it came out a whimper because hordes of slugs slithered quickly into the open, wet orifice and were soon making their way down his gullet, dividing their attack between his oesophagus and trachea. The pain searing at his chest was unbelievable, and was soon no longer able to tell the difference between internal and external agony. His body felt like it was being seared on a white hot barbeque; the all-encompassing pain was so complete.
He lay still now, vacant eyes staring at the clear, star-lit sky, his body no longer feeling anything as his nervous system collapsed and surrendered to the onslaught, relief washing over him at last. His skin writhed as the hermaphroditic slugs made their way around his body, laying their eggs wherever another hadn’t. His carcass would feed them in their early stages once hatched. The adults, their progeny released, made their way out of the body through any available orifice they could find and back into their own world - the soil.