Paula moved among the surviving bug-hosts, those that were still hosting a symbiote, those that were either too stable or too gone to reject their rider, those who simply didn’t want to, those who couldn’t bring themselves to kill another living being, even if it had taken over part of their mind.
There weren’t many left, fifteen of them out of two hundred in this camp, maybe more, in other camps. Her symbiote had stopped talking to her. She was pretty sure it was angry. But it gave her, still, these half-hours at a time when she was still herself, and she took every minute of them.
She sat down next to Fallon, who had found another bottle of vodka somewhere and was nursing it quietly. He blinked at her, human eyes replaced by bug pupils, and the bug belched and giggled.
“This stuffff,” it chittered in Fallon’s voice. “You humans. You humans, this stufffff, you poison-on-on yourselves so nicely. You poison yourselves so many waysss. How? How-how-why?”
It had asked that before. She had answered before. This time, instead, she handed it a cup of thick hot chocolate, the best she could find. “This,” she told the bug in Fallon’s body, “this thing is poison in large doses. Chocolate. Cacao. It’s a stimulant, among other things.”
Fallon’s shaking hand took the drink, while the bug’s eyes watched her. “It is good?”
“It is wonderful,” she assured it. “We poison ourselves, my friend, because it feels good. Because we can. Because we are allowed to do what we want to our bodies, and revel in that.”
Her half hour was nearly up; she could feel the presence of her symbiote crowding in on her consciousness. She took the bottle from Fallon and swallowed down a long burning gulp. “We poison ourselves…”
The symbiote took over “…becaussse their bodies are wired to accept it as good. These creatures. These creatures.”
“These creatures,” Fallon’s bug agreed drunkenly. “They cannot be defeated. Their biology has already done that.”
In the back of her own mind, forced into silence, Paula giggled. How little they understood.
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