Inside You

Originally published in Mad Scientist Journal in May 2014 (link)

I’m a monster, let’s get that right off the bat.

I’ve been a monster since the day I was spawned, but I really hate that
word, to be honest. It’s such a label. When you people hear it, your mind
jumps to scales and teeth and claws and tentacles. I like to think of
myself as parallel life, a companion of sorts, if you would indulge this
particularly cruel comparison.

I love my job, don’t get me wrong, but even a monster has ups and downs.
Let me explain.

I can’t remember the last time I had the luxury to take it easy, but I
finally got a break with old Ms. Donnelly. I attached to Ms. Donnelly in
March or April, something like that; it was a bit chilly, I remember that.

As soon as I clicked I knew I was up for a peaceful season. I swear I
haven’t been in such a clear mind in years. I mean, she had her bingo
nights and romance novels, but that’s nothing compared to the horrors I’ve
been through in the past.

On top of that, she lived alone, Ms. Donnelly, in a tall townhouse she kept
sparkling clean, so nobody bothered us most of the time. She was up every
day at the crack of dawn and she wouldn’t sit still until sundown. Up and
down the stairs, outside, inside, market, pier. No wasted time, and barely
any human interaction, which works for me.

The moment I got in, though, I knew it wasn’t gonna last too long. I sensed
immediately her body was decayed. I could see it and feel it– her organs
were eaten from the inside out by years of restlessness, I guess. Her face
was smooth as silk, no wrinkles, believe me, but on the inside– a dead

At first I got angry. Why would the Committee send me here? I’ve been
roaming this neighborhood for decades now, and I know there are better
hosts. But I guess they have some rotation programs and I had finally
earned my break.

Once I realized this is going to be more vacation than work, I decided to
delay the process as much as I could. I tried to keep my spawns in check,
let them loose slowly, but, unlucky for her, it’s not easy to control them
once they’re out, roaming through the blood stream. They know one thing and
one thing only, and there’s not a lot I can do about it.

I tried to keep her happy at least– I didn’t touch the brain. It was way
too clean, even for me.

I held back, but at some point she did start to deteriorate rapidly,
progressively worse as days went by. That’s when she went to see them.

Oh, I hate them, hate them with a passion… They mess with
up our act pretty badly, even if just for a brief period. It’s extremely
uncomfortable and the best of us still dread the experience, no matter how

Just a few years ago, I spoke with Zygon, a friend of mine. The poor thing
was terrified. He told me he was almost extinct. He was totally freaked
out, so much so he decided to attach to animals exclusively. I can
understand, he’s only at level seven– he’s pretty green. I, on the other
hand, don’t have to worry about that too much, they just slow me down– one
of the perks of reaching level sixty-eight.

Anyway, there was no stopping her, so she went there on a dry morning when
I knew she must’ve known something was ticking the wrong way inside her
chest. The spawns were relentless the night before– those little ravenous
beasts. It’s hard to judge their cruelty, not when they are your children–
something you humans can relate to.

So she went to see them, or in this case, him. I faced him before, he’s
been the doctor of choice for this neighborhood for at least thirty years.
Dr. Gray, MD, PhD, what have you. Mesmerizing guy, totally useless.

As I was expecting, they went on with the whole drill. Needles, blood
tests, urine, the whole nine. Oh, I forgot to mention that I do feel your
pain. Not physically, of course, but as a painful cloud over my
consciousness. When you hurt, I go in different stages of black-out, like a
series of bad heroin trips.

With Ms. Donnelly, I went through the full thing. Her skin and veins were
paper-thin, they had to poke her about seven times until they found a
decent one. Dr. Gray kept pushing on her liver, sending thunders through
her fragile body.

Once part one was completed, they put her through the big scan. Oh, how we
hate the big scan. It immobilizes the spawns, for a few days
actually. During that time I am in a sort of a coma. I can’t read you and I
can’t learn. It’s just awful.

Once all results came in, Ms. Donnelly returned to the hospital. At this
point, it took her twice the time to get there. Her legs were boulders and
her breath like a rusty locomotive going uphill. She coughed a lot and kept
telling herself to stay out of the draft or she will catch a real cold.
Poor woman. Even I felt bad for her, I truly did. And remember, I am
a monster.

Later that day they had the talk. I hate the talk. Imagine that, I hate the talk. That’s because just like pain, I feel your ups and
downs. And the talk is always a downer.

“Ms. Donnelly,” the good doctor said. “I’m sorry to to tell you this,
but… you have cancer.”

I felt the shock immediately. It hit us like a thunder followed by the
shiver of disbelief. I always capture those tiny thoughts that pass through
your mind, so fast you don’t even acknowledge them. But they’re there, I
get them. You first think it’s a dream, then you think it’s a joke. Then
you hope for the good news, which usually never comes and that’s when you
sink into the depths of medieval depression.


“Yes, it’s stage four. Tumors are visible in your lungs and liver.
Unfortunately there is nothing we can do at this point. I am really sorry.”

And then the real shocker kicks in. I’ve been in strong men, powerful men,
those who lead you, and those who inspire you. I’ve seen them crumble and
slide down into the darkness when they hear it.

“You don’t have a very long time left, Ms. Donnelly. Just between you and
me, off the record, since we know each other for so long– try to put all
your affairs in order, and do it fast. I am very sorry.”

Ms. Donnelly sobbed. She didn’t cry, just sobbed. I almost got a glimpse of
happiness, which was rather unique. Maybe she had enough? Enough of being
alone in that sparkling clean house? Enough of running chores all day long
and knowing that all her friends are already dead? I don’t know, but I felt

She took her frayed purse, put on her red hat, arranged the ridiculously
large white flower on its side, and shook the doctor’s hand.

“Thank you, doctor,” she said and left. Just like that.

I almost felt guilty. I wish there was a way out, but once I attach I can’t
leave, not until it’s all done. Those are the rules and I don’t make them.

After the news there’s usually an avalanche of thoughts and most of them
are dark and disturbed. So dark I get dizzy sometimes. Even Ms. Donnelly’s
clean brain was overloaded that day. The funniest thing was she kept
worrying about who’s going to cut the grass when she’s gone. If the grass
grows Mr. Gurtz across the street is going to be mad. I should’ve clicked
in Mr. Gurtz first, but life’s never fair.

About two weeks later I felt it– the beginning of the end. For me, it’s
like a cozy warmth followed by a sharp pressure, sort of how a baby chicken
would feel if you were to squeeze it in your fist. During this time, I
tried my best to ease her pain, I pulled back as much as I could. The work
of the liver spawns was complete, so they were idling looking for more.
Some of them reached the lungs and set themselves really cozy in there.

Her breath started to run fast like a broken pump. She gasped for each gulp
of air and held it tight inside as if it was her last. Then, every other
breath turned into a wet cough, dirty and rusty, like a blunt saw cutting
through iron. Her lungs filled up with blood slowly, drop by drop, and the
heart… the heart sounded like a balloon deflating slowly.

Later that morning, we looked at the clock. It was 6:45 AM. The nurse won’t
be here until 8. She tried to move her hand but she couldn’t reach the
phone. I knew she wouldn’t make it past 8, and she knew about 15 minutes
later. That’s when she let go.

I felt the pressure disappear and the heat dissipate. She finally let go.
As fog grew thick over her eyes, there appeared her last image. Not a flash
of her entire life, like you people keep saying. That’s a beautiful lie,
take it from me– I am almost always there, statistically speaking.

No, it’s usually one image. The One.

For Ms. Donnelly, it was Sabina. Beautiful Sabina. Long blond hair, blue
eyes, perfect skin– her little Sabina. The image I see is how she
remembers her from fifteen years ago, right before she left and never
looked back. As the image faded in and out, undeniable love filled the old
body like a hot beverage poured in a cup. I felt it too– love and pain.

I can’t see any memories of Sabina except the one from fifteen years ago. I
have no clue where she is. We never got a letter or a phone call. But she
did cling to that final image, the last vision of her daughter, glued
forever to her retina, the one last thing she held on to.

When she let go, she said goodbye, to Sabina, to the world… Her lips
didn’t move, but I heard it.

And Bam! It was done. Like a switch. Dark. Cold. Final.

I decommissioned the spawns and reclaimed their energy. I knew Ms. Donnelly
was in the care of the state, so I have one day tops to find a new host. I
can’t linger for too long, so I quickly detached.

As I rose above her, I finally saw her entire body. A thin specter vaguely
resembling an old lady, bald and staring into the ceiling with glass eyes,
sunken deep into her pale face. She even made a mess in the bed… they
always do.

I almost never feel good when I finish a job, but I felt really sick this
time. I couldn’t think of a simple way to say goodbye, so I just fled, like
a coward, leaving her to rot alone on dirty sheets.

After this experience, I was disoriented, so I first leaped into a cat. Ms.
Donnelly loved that ugly cat for some reason. I thought I’d hang in there
for a while and get to rest my mind and still feel close to the old lady,
but I stumbled over Jaggen.

Apparently he’s been here for a few years. What a moron. I tried to explain
we had very clear instructions from the Committee to gather information and
get back, not to chill inside a stupid animal. He claims he’s a part of a
special project, trying to control the animal from inside out. Maybe true,
but I can tell you right now, I saw that cat swallow a nail and vomit for
two days straight. If Jaggen is controlling it, he’s controlling it into

I don’t know what they’re thinking sometimes. How is this going to be
useful for the final invasion? How are we going to subdue the human race
through dumb cats? No idea, but it’s not my place to judge, is it?

Anyway, I jumped off a few blocks down. After a lot of good work, I earned
a freebie– I can choose my own prey this time. Better be a good one.

I hovered over a dinner table. Nice family.

Who should I pick? Not the kids. I don’t do kids. You don’t learn anything
and there’s too much drama. I won’t do the mother either, also because of
the kids. That leaves the father, I guess.

Good morning, Mr. Anderson
. I attached.

As soon as I connected I knew my vacation was officially over. Mr. Anderson
was a biochemist…

I really miss that good old lady, though, I really miss her. This damn job
is killing me.