No! No, please, God. No! The alien was still inside of him. The hope that had vanished.
“NO!” I cried, tears welling up in my eyes. “No, no, no, no! Leo, please! I know you’re in there! You have to be there! I need you! Leo! Dammit, Leo, I can’t do this on my own!” At this point, I was clutching his shoulders in desperation. This couldn’t be happening—not now!
“Star, what’s wrong with you?!” He cried.
“Leo, it’s not Star! It’s me, it’s Nikki! Your sister! Please, Leo, fight it! Take back control! Please, Leo! Do it for me!”
Leo shook his head. “Who are you talking to? There’s no one in here,” he said. “Only me. This is my body.”
My mind searched for ideas frantically. Maybe I can talk to the thing inside his head…make him give Leo back! It was worth a shot. What did I have to lose?
“Look…uh…Running Through the Snow,” I tried. “This is my little brother’s body. I need him!” I crouched down so our eyes were level. “He’s all that I have left! Can’t you see that? Please.” I started sobbing and I found that my legs could no longer support me; they were shaking too much. I fell to my knees and pleaded with him—it—silently with my eyes.
But, my plan had failed. I knew that as soon as I looked the parasite in the eyes. They were cold and unfeeling. “I’m sorry,” he said.
My entire body went numb with those two words. Leo wasn’t there.
“But,” I started; some small part of me still clinging to a tiny shard of hope, “if Leo isn’t there, why are you here?”
“Nicole!” I turned around to find Zeke running down the hall towards me. “Grab it!” he yelled. “Don’t let it go!”
“What’s going on?” I looked at my brother’s face, searching for answers. He looked me straight in the eyes and said two words:
And with that, he collapsed.
The blood drained from my face. “L…Leo?” I whispered. This couldn’t be happening.
“Leo! Leo, talk to me!” I had started to tremble when something caught my attention:
A trail of blood running out of my brother’s nostril.
My throat constricted and I couldn’t breathe. No, I have to be wrong. He just…he just…fainted… I couldn’t, no, I wouldn’t believe that the unthinkable had just happened.
“Nicole! Nicole, what happened?” Zeke had finally reached us.
“I…I don’t know! He just…collapsed!”
Zeke yelled out a few choice words and ran his hand through his hair.
“Zeke,” I asked, “What is he doing here? Is he okay?”
Zeke shook his head and acted as if he hadn’t heard me. “Shit. Why do they all do that?”
“Do what?! Zeke! What. Is. Going. On?!” My voice was becoming increasingly louder. I didn’t want to know what Zeke was going to say; I had a horrible feeling about it. But, I had to know.
“We were on the raid, finishing up, you know? These buggers were getting too close to us, so…we grabbed them. We figured that Ben could try to get the centipedes out of the bodies, but, before he could touch them, they did this.” He gestured to Leo. “Ben opened one up. I guess it, sort of, committed suicide or something. The human’s brain was shredded; it looked like cottage cheese.”
I gagged. “But wait, that would mean that…“ My eyes grew wide and I couldn’t finish. I looked at my brother in horror.
“LEO!” I was screaming now. I was hysterical; I could barely form coherent thoughts. Only one thing ran through my head over and over. Leo is dead. He’s never coming back. Leo is dead.
Zeke didn’t know what to make of the scene before him. He just stared at me, flabbergasted.
As I cried over my little brother’s broken body, something in my head clicked and my blood ran colder than it ever had before.
Barely a second had passed and I was up and running towards Ben’s. “Why do they all do that?” Zeke had asked. He said buggers. Plural. God, please let me be wrong.
I made it to Ben’s in record time. He looked up at me when I walked in—his eyes red and puffy like he’d been crying—and spoke. “Nicole? What are you doing here?”
I couldn’t answer, though. My eyes were locked on the four shapes hidden under a blanket. I couldn’t think; couldn’t speak; couldn’t breathe; couldn’t move. But, I had to. I walked over to the shapes robotically, afraid of what would come next. Reaching towards the blanket, my mind was screaming at me. Don’t do this! Walk away! You don’t want to know what’s under there! I didn’t want to know. I had to.
I ripped the blanket away, barely comprehending what was lying before me. I looked into the four pale, still faces of the only family I that had left and realized something.
My life was a lot like Humpty Dumpty’s. Once I’m up, it’s only a matter of time before everything comes crashing down.