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24. xystus

EVELYN DIEDZ

And then I hear screaming.  My screaming.  Which means I have a mouth again.

I watch Hilda cringing as I scream.  She’s bringing her hands up to cover her ears — which have started to bleed, profusely.  Her nose, too.  I get the feeling I may have done this with my screaming.

Good.  If this is it for me, I’m going to go down swinging as hard as I can.

But I quickly realize I may be doing a little bit more than that.

Shit!”  Cameron-in-Rick starts spasming, hard, on the floor.  He’s gasping, clutching at the air.  The sticky strands don’t relinquish their hold on me.  “Cunt!” he shouts, staring hatefully at me.  “Hold together as long as you want, cunt.  Whatever you try to do, I’ll be inside of you soon!”  Cameron’s repugnant voice doesn’t seem affected by Rick’s spasms.

I suddenly get the frightening image of those tendrils of goo going into my mouth, so I close my lips tight.

Hilda gasps a few times, like she’s been holding her breath.  “Talk to me, Cameron.  What are you doing?  I can’t see everything you’re doing! ” Hilda says, wringing both her hands together.  More than once, the blade of the knife she’s holding pokes into the skin of her free hand.  She’s throwing a hard stare my way now, but I turn my focus back toward Rick and try to ignore her.

It’s all right.”  Cameron-in-Rick almost sounds tender.  Which makes what he’s saying even worse.  “I’ve still got her,” says Cameron-in-Rick.  “I’ve still got her!”

And that’s when I realize the strands are prehensile.   And really, really strong.  Painful to the touch, like red-hot worms.  Pulling at me.  Stretching my skin.

Trying to — …

… — he’s trying to tear me apart.

To get at my blood, too.

And to make it easier to eat me.

Oh, fucking hell.

“Hurry!  Hurry!” Hilda’s voice is anxious, but there’s growing elation.  “I see it!  I see it!”  She laughs giddily.  “Rip her up — into bite-size pieces!”  She’s rocking sideways, shifting her weight from one foot to the other.

I’m trying!

Which he is.

But — like I said — I’m not going to make this easy for him.

So I do the only thing I’ve been able to figure out that seems to accomplish anything.

I scream again.  On purpose, this time.

Hilda’s nose and ears spray a few little jets of blood.  “Oh, Granny Ossity!’  she says, like a curse.  She drops to her knees and starts to cry.  I think maybe the front of her forehead is bleeding, too.  Her face is a mess by now, so it’s hard to tell.

Rick’s convulsions come back — even more spastic than before.  More strands fly out of his mouth, straight at my face, but another bout of spasms wrack Rick’s body and the new webbing misses me, landing with a plop on the ground just outside the pattern.

I’m relieved for a moment.

But only for a moment.

Because the strands that already have made contact really start constricting — matching Rick’s spasms — and gripping me progressively tighter and tighter; in slow pulses, like a heartbeat.  As if by instinct.  Maybe from the pain I’ve inflicted.

And then, it’s my turn to collapse — falling down on my side, still trapped in the bloody pattern.

Rick rolls to one side and then the other, then onto his back, then switching sides again.  Rick’s expression is agonized.  But Cameron’s managing to keep Rick’s head aimed at me through it all.

I cry out, louder now.  My seething hatred of the two of them — I can hear it in my voice.  It’s pushing me.  Urging me onward.

Hilda wails.  “All wrong!  All wrong!”

He’s fighting me so much!  It hurts!”  Cameron-in-Rick whines.  “And she’s really being a bitch!”

“Push, Youknowwho!’ Hilda shrieks.  Blood flows freely from her mouth, now, too.  Pouring freely off her chin.  She’s breathing so fast; her tongue is hanging out like a dog’s.  Like she’s having sympathetic vibrations for her fucking boyfriend.  She slashes at the air in front of her with the knife.  “Do it for us!”

I seven louder — so loud my whole body feels sore from making those raw, angry noises.  I want to hurt Hilda, even if I can’t hurt Cameron.  It’s an ugly feeling.  I don’t like it.  But, if I’m going down Cameron’s throat, I’m going to make it as painful for the two of them as I can.

For love!  I-” Cameron-in-Rick starts to say something more, but ends up choking and coughing on more gobbets of gooey foam.  Another wave of sickness as Rick tries to fight his way to the surface again.  Cameron-in-Rick yells out in frustration once he’s expelled the latest bout of vomit.  Alien curses I don’t understand.

More bullshit from the TV show, most likely.

My thoughts are blurring.  Going all over the place.  I feel so weak.  I want to rest.  I feel the heat of the strands.  Not so painful any more.  Sort of comforting — …

But I make myself cry out one last time.

And then, “… fuck you … ” I hear Rick cough, weakly.

It’s Rick’s voice.

Not Cameron’s.

… — but I’m thinking of the comfort now, too, and how easy and quiet it would be … and then I’m waking myself up and trying to scream again but I can’t, because it’s like my throat is full of burning-hot milk and I’m so sleepy and I want to just be calm and away from all the noise — …

“No!’ Hilda cries.  She slashes at the air with her knife.  “We’ll let you live if you stop, Rick!  But I’ll kill you if you keep fighting us. I swear I will!  Let go!”

… — and be somewhere peaceful, except I’m waking up again and trying to fight but I’m too weak and it’s too easy to let go and go still and let things happen because this is how it is and there’s nothing you can do just like always and — …

You’ll do as I say!” Cameron-in-Rick roars.  “It’s all right — I’ve got him back.”  He exhales loudly.

Hilda raises the knife above her head.  Well, that hurts.

Then, “Don’t kill him yet!  I need him.  I need more of her to do it, too.  I’ll win.”  Rick doesn’t sound confident, though; and yet, another moment later, Rick is twisting around and shrieking in agony.  He lands hard, flat on his back, and then lifts up so he’s balanced on his hands and feet beneath him, head hanging upside down unnaturally.  Eyes panicked and wide and so clearly angry at being used like this.

… — and then I see Rick’s eyes.  Like, really his.  I think.  Not Cameron-in-Rick.  Just Rick.  Like I woke him up, even for just a little while, with my voice when I was screaming.  That poor, fucked-up kid is still in there.  And, if I’m reading Rick’s expression right, he’s pissed-off himself.  And working from wherever he is to make what little war he can on Cameron’s designs.

And I refuse to give up on anyone who fights that hard.

Myself, included.

And it helps me wake up from the pull of the web just one more time.  I can’t manage another scream — but I look right at Rick — hoping it really is Rick — and I call to him.  “Rick — reach across!” I extend my arm out as much as I can, toward the edge of the pattern, my fingers pressing against the barrier.  Fuck, that hurts.

No!  Cunt!” Rick says. I’m hit in the face by more strands.  They wriggle into my ears and nose.  And they cover up my mouth.  And then they push past my tight-closed lips, and they go inside my mouth.

I’m gagging at first.  But then I feel icy cold, replacing the heat from before.  Coming from inside myself.  Freezing me in place.  My muscles don’t want to respond at all.  They want to sleep, from the cold.  My whole body wants to sleep.

And then Rick reaches across the pattern.

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Published inpart 2

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