Parasite (Shadows of the Past Book II) Chapter 4

Chapter 4

Mark understood persistence, persistence had gotten him out of jail ahead of his scheduled release date, early release for good behavior. Persistence had helped him land the job he now had washing the breakfast dishes at the Crest view diner every morning before five.

Persistence, that nose to the grindstone stubbornness, had helped him stay out of trouble.

Yeah, he still hung out with the so-called bad element, it was the only thing his wife Jenny hated about the new and improved Mark, but there were some things that would never change.

Friendship was one of them. He had grown up with Rick and Pete. They had been boyhood pals, high school friends, and brothers under fire when all three of them enlisted in the marines shortly after the nine eleven attacks. After two tours in the sandbox they had decided to call it quits and return to civilian life. Unfortunately civilian life was not ready for them. They missed the adrenalin rush combat had provided, and that need had led them down some shadowy paths that ended at the local Pick and Go convenience store when they tried to rob it.

They would have gotten away with it too if they hadn’t of picked a night when several of the local deputies went bowling. So they stormed into the store, guns drawn, to meet the stony gazes of six out of uniform sheriff deputies who had recently finished a night of league bowling. Their first mistakes had been not properly casing the place before they attempted the robbery. Their second mistake was assuming the six civilians in the store would drop to the ground on their command. Instead the six deputies had drawn their own weapons as the lone clerk nearly shit himself while he cowered on the floor behind the counter.

Thankfully cooler heads prevailed and not a shot was fired as the three ex-marines were cuffed and loaded into the back of patrol cars.

But that had been then and this was now and Mark stood gazing down at what he hoped would be his and Jenny’s ticket to a better life. He’d been after his landlord to fix the sump pump in the basement as it kept backing up every time it rained.

He wanted to put in a regular drain and after months of badgering the old bitty that owned the place he managed to convince her to let him do the job in exchange for two months of free rent. Now he was deep in the middle of the project when another obstacle popped up.

Were he to look back on his life he would find it filled with obstacles that had popped up unexpectedly, forcing him to react, making his past look like the erratic path of a pinball bouncing from one bumper to the next.

Cutting through the thin concrete floor had been a piece of cake. The ground beneath was very rocky but he did manage to dig a slit trench halfway across the basement’s length before he hit the immobile object he was now gazing at.

He’d brought out his entire arsenal of tools as he widened and deepened the hole around the object that at first glance looked like the tail fin of a 55’ Chevy Belair. After three hours of tedious, backbreaking work, he’d come to the realization that what he had run into had extraterrestrial origins. And with that realization came the hope that he could bankroll his find into a new lease on life for he and his wife.

He never once gave a thought to ownership. He’d found it so in his mind it was his. It didn’t matter that it was beneath the floor of the basement in a house he did not even own. He’d found it. So it belonged to him and as he sank to his knees next to the fin shaped object he thought of all the money he was going to make off his discovery. Had he known the truth about what was to transpire he would most likely have covered it back up and forgotten about it. Instead he focused on revealing more of the hidden object, digging down into the dirt as the mound beside him grew.

The fin measured a mere two inches thick and appeared to be made of a dull gray metal that seemed to absorb the light instead of reflecting it. So far he had exposed nearly a foot of the fins vertical surface and had reached the point where the buried object had begun to flare away from the base of the fin, vanishing into the rocky soil. He dug away at the ground, with pick and shovel as he worked on his knees, struggling to expose something that would give him some clue to the craft’s origin.

His phone rang and he glanced at the face of it. It was Rick, so he flipped the phone open and placed it next to his ear.

“Yo Rick, what’s up man,” he said. Both Rick and Pete had recently been released after serving most of their sentences, neither of them possessed Mark’s persistence.

“Let’s roll downtown and score some weed man,” Rick said, his voice faint in the receiver pressed next to his ear.

“Can’t man, I’m busy tonight, gotta finish this job in my basement so our rent’s covered.”

“Fuck your rent man, let’s go party.”

“Can’t, besides what I’m working on right now might set us all up for life.”

“Whatcha got going down man?”

“Can’t say yet, it’s too early, I’ll talk to you later man, I’ve gotta get back to work.”

“Whatever man, if you change your mind we’ll be downtown at the usual place. You remember where that is don’t you?”

“Yeah, I know where it is, if I change my mind, you’ll see me.”

Mark hung up and slipped the phone back into his pocket. They still had their gangster attitude.

“Hey, your supper’s ready,” Jenny yelled down from the basement door at the top of the stairs.

“I’ll be up in a minute,” he said.

“Well don’t wait too long, you don’t want your supper to get cold, and besides I’m going out tonight. There’s a five thousand dollar jackpot at the VFW, and we need to pay the electric bill.”

“Okay, give me a minute will ya.”

There was always one bill or another that had to be paid. Jenny made good money compared to what he made washing dishes but even with the two incomes combined they still struggled. And it didn’t help that she spent a great deal of money on playing bingo chasing an impossible dream. It was all she ever talked about, winning the big one at bingo, sadly talk was all it ever amounted to.

Leaning to the left he spotted a faint seam in the metal of the fin, down near the base where it flared out. He ran his finger over it and could feel the slight depression with his thumb. Using a putty knife he tried to slip it into the seam with no success.

“Your dinner’s getting cold and I’m getting ready to leave.”

“I’m on my way.”

“You said that a half an hour ago,” Jenny shot back.

“Jesus fucking Christ woman can’t I get anything done around here,” he said as he pushed himself up from his knees and approached the steps. Reaching the top he shoved open the door to find Jenny standing at the counter waiting for him. The kitchen d├ęcor was dated when they were kids, now it was considered retro, a look that everyone was spending a great deal of money to duplicate. Hell for what these fools spent on old kitchen appliances he’d let them have the entire kitchen set.

“It’s about time, I was just getting ready to leave, what’s so damned important down there anyway?”

Mark shrugged, “I’m just trying to get that drain done so our rent will be paid for the next two months.”

“But what about the electric bill?”

“I’m working on it, if things pan out like I hope they do we won’t ever have to worry about money again.”

Jenny stopped what she a doing, her hand hovering above her opened pocketbook. “You’re not doing anything illegal are you?”

“Absolutely not,” he said, staring at her, daring her it seemed to prove him wrong.

“I believe you,” she said as she turned back to her pocket book to retrieve her car keys. As she crossed to the back door with Mark following behind her, their cat Pico emerged from hiding and entered the kitchen from the shadowy recesses of the living room.

“Don’t forget to feed Pico tonight, I won’t be late, I promise, and don’t work too hard.”

“I’ve got an early day tomorrow anyway so I’ll probably be asleep by the time you get home,” he said as she slipped out the door and crossed the small back porch to the yard beyond.

Mark watched Jenny back out of the driveway then he turned to the oven where his meal waited. Uncovering the plate he frowned as its contents. Hamburger helper and baked potato again. He’d do anything for a steak, thick and juicy, with the blood running out of its center. Grabbing a beer from the fridge he crossed into the living room with a very vocal Pico trailing him.

“Be patient, I’ll get you fed.”

After placing his plate of a TV tray he sat down in his easy chair and flipped on the television, pulling the tray around in front of him.

Pico jumped onto the arm of the chair and lay down as Mark ate while watching a documentary about ancient aliens on the history channel. Absently he scratched Pico’s neck and the cat purred in contentment.

As Mark watched TV in the living room, moonlight softly illuminated the fin sticking up from the hole in the center of the basement floor. Down near the line where metal and earth met there was a stirring as something pushed through the earth that had clogged a small opening several millennia before. An insect emerged into the moonlight. Several inches long and less than half an inch across it resembled a preying mantis to a small degree. Instead of an upright upper torso and head the end of this insect terminated in a head that resembled the leading edge of a knife with a very narrow blade edge flaring back into the body. Several more emerged from behind the first and they spread their wings before taking flight into the shadowy recesses of the basement. More insects spilled from the opening, joining their brethren in a swirling ball of flashing wings near the shadowy ceiling.

Mark had finished dinner and was sleepily watching the television when Pico stood up and gazed towards the kitchen with a growl low in his throat.

“What’s wrong buddy, you hear something?” Mark said as he pushed himself up and retrieved his empty beer can.

Time for a refill.

He crossed to the kitchen with Pico hot on his tail. He still hadn’t fed him yet even though he’d promised Jenny he would, and once in the kitchen he retrieved a can of cat food from the cupboard. He spooned half the contents of the can into a small bowl that he placed on the floor next to the refrigerator. He looked into the can at the compressed contents realizing with a sudden clarity that unless something changed soon on the money front, they would be reduced to sharing Pico’s dinner. The thought tuned his stomach and he quickly covered the can with a piece of foil and placed it in the fridge as he retrieved another beer.

Pico was at the basement door, trying to open it with his paw.

“Do you hear something down there? A big old juicy rat maybe?”

Mark opened the door and Pico darted through into the basement. Closing the door he returned to the living room as the sound of an object falling over came form the basement.

“Go get em, boy,” Mark said as he settled into his seat and popped the top of the beer can. He took a long drink as a commotion erupted from the basement. Objects fell to the floor as the sound of Pico screeching came from below him.

“Dammit it all to hell,” Mark jumped to his feet as a low mournful wail issued from the basement. Crossing into the kitchen he reached the basement door and flung it open. Flipping on the light he looked down at the tools scattered across the floor.

“What in the hell is going on down here?” he yelled as he came down the steps. Reaching the bottom step he stopped as the buzzing cloud of insects swirling around the single bare bulb that hung from the exposed rafters came into view. One of the insects cut out of the pack and dive-bombed him, he sidestepped it, moving into the path of a second insect that slammed into his arm and he looked down as an intense jolt of pain flared from the point of impact. The insect was holding onto his flesh as it sawed its head back and forth, cutting through his skin, and pushing itself under the soft tissue.

In no time the insect vanished beneath the flesh of his arm, becoming a faint bump that moved with growing agony past his elbow and upper arm. He felt it under his flesh, crawling beneath the soft tissue as it went into the recess of his underarm and vanished into the cavity of his chest. 

He dropped to his knees as he felt the insect moving through his chest cavity, pushing aside his lung, and igniting intense pain that flared out from his chest with every breath he took. The other insects dropped to the floor where they lay twitching as the pain flowed across his body and he sensed the presence of another within his own mind. An ancient force that stoked primitive fears that lay deep in the hidden recesses of man’s half forgotten past.

He felt it climbing his esophagus, a single point of pain that emerged from beneath his breastbone, closing his windpipe and causing him to gag as he struggled to catch his breath. He fell face first onto the mound of dirt, clawing and scratching at the ground as his heartbeat thundered in his ear and his vision dimmed from the lack of oxygen. Just when he was certain he was about to step across into the unknown void of death the object was past his throat and he gulped in a lungful of air as he rolled over onto his back and looked up at the light bulb glowing above him.

He lay there, unable to move, his arms and legs locked into position as his body betrayed him. The insect had moved into his cranial cavity, pushing its way past his nasal cavity, attaching itself to the Hypothalamus that lay at the very core of the brain.

Like a telephone operator of old the Hypothalamus lay at the heart of a neural network of nerves that were responsible for controlling everything from what a person saw to how they responded to external stimuli. A bundle of glands that was viewed by many as the seat of Man’s soul. Sight, sound, and touch were all processed here. It also played a role in controlling the motor systems of the brain, which were responsible for bodily movement and coordination. A part of the endocrine system the effects of its varied responses were immediate. Once in place the insect injected an alien concoction of DNA into Mark’s bloodstream as it incited the production of adrenalin.

Mark was sweating profusely as adrenalin slammed into his body. Providing a rush far greater than any he’d ever experienced before and as the alien DNA flooded his system he became aware of a faint whispering that lay just beyond the edge of his consciousness. He felt like a powerful secret was about to be revealed. The truth would become known and his consciousness would expand to encompass all the universe. The light above him became a distant star that existed somewhere on the other side of the universe, an icy void man would never lay eyes upon, a place that existed only in memory.

Mark became aware of another consciousness within his own, a presence that sought his acceptance but stood ready to take what it desired.

“Become one with us,” a sweetly sinister voice whispered in his mind and he rebelled against its intrusion as the distant star drew closer, the color changing from a harsh white light to a soft blue hue. An ancient memory blossomed in his mind, one shared by billions of others that lay not only in the present, but occupied the past, as well as a future that had yet to transpire.

They had mastered time and space, the universe lay at their feet, theirs for the taking, yet they had as yet to master their own emotions, their own beliefs crouched in the dodgy persistence that was faith. Above them a blue sun burned towards oblivion as they once again gathered in the valley of tears beneath the spires of Baezil. Coming together to join as one mind, one emotion, one desire to step beyond the yoke of limitations they had placed upon themselves.

He was coming. The thought whispered among them as an electric bolt of emotion shot through the crowd.

As those alien memories unfolded in his mind Mark struggled to hang onto his own memories that were being threatened by the crashing wave of this creatures past. He saw himself as a child, following his father around the yard as he worked to keep their little plot of land neat and tidy. The image was replaced with that of the sun reflected from the silver lid of a coffin beneath a spray of flowers whose petal moved in time with the steady breeze as the preacher’s words whispered through his mind.

“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures,” the Preacher’s words droned against the incessant cry of the cicadas coming from a nearby forest. He had never been a religious person, throwing off the yoke of belief when he was younger and could choose his own path. But now, faced with the alternative, he clung to the Preacher’s words, a tenuous lifeline to what he had once been in the churning turmoil of what this thing wished him to become.

“His will protect me from my enemies.” That sinister voice whispered in sharp counterpoint to the Preacher’s remembered words. Mark clung to the memory as it slowly faded, a desperate last grab at maintaining who he was as that other presence washed over him like the relentless surf of the ocean.

“He leadeth me beside still waters.” The Preacher’s words faded slowly into the incessant cry of the cicadas that Mark suddenly realized was not what he had at first thought it to be. It was not cicadas at all, but the worshipful cries of millions of voices rising up from an antediluvian void to overwhelm all that was he as the final transition took place and he became one with that which had invaded him. His consciousness was shuffled off to the side, imprisoned in his own mind as the new Mark slowly regained his feet and retrieved an axe from the floor beside the hole in the basement floor. He smashed the light bulb, plunging the basement into an ebony void into which a single shaft of moonlight flowed through the only window, softly illuminating the fin standing in the center of the excavation.

With his back against the far wall he settled onto his haunches with the axe held between his upraised knees. Pico emerged from beneath the toolbox and crossed the basement to sit next to Mark who reached out and placed his hand upon his head. Neither of them moved until the sound of a car pulling into the driveway outside alerted them to Jenny’s return from Bingo.  

Chapter 3                              Chapter 5

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