Zamira Rosa slumped in the chair, feigned grogginess, and tested the twine bindings. The stench from the two intruders overpowered the smells of the hominy and meat that bubbled in the cast iron pot, though she could tell it was scorched. The big man with a rough beard reached over the hearth flames with a ladle failing to capture the stew while a short, slight boy held a wooden bowl. The flea and lice infested little bastard was wearing her wool coat. When Zamira stretched her neck, the swollen bruise where she’d been blitzed throbbed.
Her stomach lurched the way it had the day aliens crashed to Earth embattled in a bitter civil war. “The first thing I remember was the smashed cars, the thieving, and people waiting for the police that never came.”
Startled, the trespassers jumped.
“Survivors learned to help themselves. Looks like you two suck at it.”
The boy softened his impish face, widened his eyes, then whispered to his companion. The grizzled man, whom the boy had called Roland, growled and stood half a protective step in front of him. Zamira didn’t give the boy more than a cursory glance and ignored his hateful stare.
She swung her head to and fro. “My dinner’s burning, fools. Use the poker to move the crane. It swings out.”
The man complied then gorged himself, using a spoon dwarfed by his cold-damaged hand. He had difficulty swallowing, and the stew stuck to his beard despite his etiquette efforts. The other used his fingers and thought nothing of slopping what he didn’t like onto the floor or at Zamira.
The bowls clattered when the boy pushed them violently off the table, stood, staggered, and fainted. Roland tried to revive him with desperate shaking and grunting pleas. When he moved to attack Zamira, his legs buckled and his arms couldn’t drag him more than a foot towards her.
The boy had looked angry before he succumbed, but Roland had collapsed terrified.
Zamira splashed Roland’s face with water iced with snow to revive him. A few flies buzzed around them in the brick processing shed.
He strained against the rope binding him to a metal chair.
“Don’t bother. Those knots are better than yours.” She pointed at his trussed companion who stared, calm and cold. “You underestimate your friend. Looks helpless and innocent, doesn’t he? You’ve been protecting him. But, that’s no boy. Not for a long time.”
Zamira reached into a covered rectangular box as long as a person and scooped out a few writhing bugs. She held soldier fly larvae for Roland to see. “My custodians. Don’t worry, they’re harmless. They clean up organic waste and bones and make gorgeous feed for livestock and fish. Full circle, you see?”
Roland struggled and tried to beg.
“I know you can’t talk. I suspect your friend did that, and you don’t remember. He’s a Symbiote. I returned the favor; it’s his turn to be silent.” She tossed a filthy needle and several small bottles onto the floor. “He’s been dosing you, trying to soften you up for a transfer. Nearly pissed himself when I found them in his pants.”
Zamira tapped her hunting knife on Roland’s chair.
“You got in my cabin because I let you in. Been watching you for days. Ever wondered what happened to the girl with you?” She pointed the weapon at the boy. “THAT…filleted her alive for fun.”
She dropped a bulging necklace of teeth and trinkets into Roland’s lap. He recoiled.
“Your crazy little friend has been busy. You’d normally be one of his toys, but he’s weak and needs a bodyguard.”
Zamira turned to Roland’s companion, who grinned at the trophies. She buried her nostrils in her sleeve against the foul pheromone which engulfed Symbiotes who fed upon even their own kind for pleasure. It was impossible to know which faction he’d come from. It didn’t matter. All the degenerates surfeited on the plentiful human population, drifting from one to the next.
“Got yourself stuck in that itty-bitty body, did you?”
The boy hissed. Sticky spittle dribbled down his chin.
Her mortal enemy had consumed a child and claimed the body.
She leaned close and whispered. “Takes one to know one, doesn’t it?” His smug smile slipped as she ran a finger across her neck, pantomiming the method of disposal. “I know how to be rid of you, cannibal. Full circle.”
The famished fly larvae quivered.
“Roland, I’ve no quarrel with you. I do regret what happened to the girl; I saw it too late.”
Aggrieved, Roland hung his head and sagged his shoulders.
“Not all of us revel in depravity. I’m not like him. My — predecessors — agreed to a union for mutual survival.” Zamira had embraced change and the human-symbiote fusion had birthed a synergetic personality, both ancient and new.
“We could use you; the war isn’t over.” Zamira patted his face. “Oh, yes, I said we. I didn’t move you all by myself.”
She tilted her head. “So — live or die?”
Tara Lee Davis writes and blogs in Massachusetts and resides with her husband, two kids, two cats and one dog. She can be found tapping at her laptop trying to hit submit before her children find her hiding spot.