Short Story : “Parasite”, part III

When Bear (reluctantly) regained consciousness, his first instinct was to panic. What the heck was he doing here in an alien landscape? How had he gotten here? And what on Earth has possessed him to take a nap there?

But then, memory returned to him, and he remember the fight with his parents, the storming out into the wilderness, the sudden realization of what he had done, and… some sort of pain in his hands?

Suddenly, the rest of the day returned to him, and he leaped to his feet, and began touching various parents of him to see if whatever had knocked him out, or for that matter sleeping unprotected in the wilderness had done him any harm.

Thankfully, he was free of illness or injury. In fact, if pressed, he would have to admit that he felt wonderful. His little nap had been extremely restful, and now he felt vibrant and healthy and full of life.

Whatever had caused him to pass out had evidently done him no harm, and in fact seemed to have made him healthier than he had been before he passed out. He felt the warm gratitude of the survivor wash through him, and offered a brief but very heartfelt prayer of thanks to Jehovah for protecting him in his hour or need.

Thus eboldened, Bear calmed down. Yes, the realization of his mistake had been a shock and a humiliation, and the lack of proper survival tools hadn’t exactly helped, but he was calm and in control of himself now, and he was sure that someone of his intelligence, resourcefulness, and rugged determination would be able to get himself out of this jam without breaking a sweat.

As for that voice that seemed to speak to him right before he passed out, why, that was obviously an auditory hallucination brought on by his panic, stress, and fear. He was sure that goop he had scraped off his hands hadn’t helped either. Maybe the stuff was hallucinogenic.

Of course! Obviously, the stuff was a powerful drug, and that is why a normally rock solid competent person like himself had given in to panic and fear in the first place.

That all sorted, he stood up and looked around once more, this time with the practiced eye of a skilled survivalist scanning his surroundings for a way out.

{ I take it that you have recovered from your emotionfearclimaxcrisis incident? }

Bear froze in place. He did not want to believe he had just heard that voice again. Stupidly, he looked around for a potential source of that mysterious voice, all the while chiding himself for it.

After all, what did he expect to find on a completely alien planet? A talking animal? A chatty bush? A rock formation with a lot on its mind? All of them speaking English?

{ I am sorry that my speaking to you thus causes you distress. Believe me when I say that causing you unnecessary pain or discomfort is the last thing I want to do. Like I said before, I am very very sorry.}

This is too weird, thought Bear. Obviously some of that sappy stuff was still in his bloodstream, and he was tripping out. This was a problem, as none of his many survival teachers had taught him to find his way home while hallucinating.

{ You are not falsemindimageillusion hallucinating, Jeremy. I am quite real. I have not exactly figured out the nature of my existence yet, but I am just as as real as you are. And once more, I am so very sorry for being here. }

“And where is ‘here’?” asked Brain, though he suspected he already knew the answer.

The voice paused, and Bear could feel soft, cool fingers thumbing through the contents of his mind for the answer.

{I am within your… mind, Jeremy. I am part of you now. I am afraid that you have been infected with a brain parasite, and that parasite is me. }

This was beyond weird, thought Bear. He had never heard of talking hallucinations before.

“So you are a brain infection?” he asked, feeling foolish.

{ Not exactly. I am not a tinyinvisiblemalignanimal infection as you would describe it. Your body and brain are as healthy and hearty as ever. I exist within your mind itself, your consciousness. }

“So you are software, not hardware?”

Another long pause while the parasite scanned his mind (their mind?) for an answer.

{ Essentially true, yes. That substance on your hands is how I normally transmit myself. I chemically encode my consciousness in the substance and wait for the next warm season when the bushes shed their excess sap, and then any creature that brushes up against the bushes gets a copy of me all over themselves. }

Bear sighed. “Okay, assume for a moment that I believe you when you say you are more than a hallucination… how long am I stuck with you?”

{I am not sure. I’ve never been smartmindawareconscious sentient before. This is all very new to me. I understand so much more now than I have every done, see more than I ever could before. Your mind is wonderful. So much room! }

Bear chose not to be offended by that. “So as far as you know, I am stuck with you forever?”

Bear felt the parasite cringe with shame.

{ Yes, and I am so very, very sorry. I did not ask to be here, and I can’t leave, and all I can do is be a burden to you, and I am nothing but a parasite, and I am sorry. }

Bear sighed. Leave it to him to go off half cocked and end up with the universe’s only talking infection.

“I don’t suppose you know how to get me home, do you?”

{ I do not understand the question. What is ‘home’? }

“Figures. Well if we are stuck with each other, I suppose I had better give you a name. ”

{ I don’t deserve a name. I am nothing but a dirty parasite. I will never talk to you again and try to stay out of your way. Forget I ever spoke to you. }

Somehow, Bear doubted he could do that.

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