Author : Glen Luke Flanagan

Pain tugged at the edge of my consciousness like a forgotten memory, bringing with it a collage of broken images and angry words. Without warning, sterile walls hemmed me in, and voices washed over me like a sea of panic, none of them intelligible.

“John.” One voice forced its way through the clamor, pulling me back to reality. “John, snap out of it.” I was daydreaming again.

Kaylee was looking at me intently, worry plain in her big brown eyes. “That’s the third time today,” she said. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

I shook my head yes. “I’ve had these for a while. They come and go.” I couldn’t tell her I had only begun daydreaming since I met her, or that each time it happened I found it harder to focus and remember.

She hesitated, then smiled. “Okay, if you’re sure. Let’s get you home and out of the sun. I think I’ve had enough of the beach for one day.”

In the car, I watched as she carefully navigated the ins and outs of our little seaside town. I loved the way her brow furrowed slightly in concentration, the way her fingers lay languidly on the steering wheel. We had been dating for almost nine months now, but sometimes it seemed like I had just met her yesterday.

She caught my eye and blushed. “It ain’t polite to stare at a girl like that, Mr. Finnegan.”

I grinned and planted a kiss on her cheek. “Can’t help myself sometimes, little lady. I think it’s love at first sight every time I lay eyes on you.”

She laughed and punched my shoulder gently as we turned into the driveway. “Such a charmer. You say that to all the girls you take home?”

“Only you,” I promised, kissing her again. “Now, how about I throw our beach gear in the garage and we go to bed early?”

Cold metal bit into my side, and the panicked buzz of voices grew louder. A face hovered over mine, and gloved fingertips pried apart my eyelids, but there was no feeling. The face said words, and this time I understood a few.

“Hallucinogenic parasite.” The meaning evaded me, but I could make out the sounds. “Burrowed deep. Deadly if we can’t help him shake it off.” Then I was back in my own bathroom, sweating profusely and clutching the sink with a death grip for support. Kaylee’s voice came through the door, muffled but plainly worried.

“Baby, you alright in there?”

I sucked in a breath and looked in the mirror, wincing at my pallid, feverish reflection. “Yeah, I’m good,” I lied. “Be there in a sec.” Then the world went dark, and the walls closed around me once more.

“Not looking good,” the face murmured in a voice that sounded like angry bees. “Whatever it’s feeding him, he likes too much to let it go.” The words were starting to make sense now, and I fought against it. I didn’t like what I was hearing. Have to get back to Kaylee, I told myself. Focus on Kaylee.

The bathroom slowly came back into focus. I turned on the faucet, splashed my face. In the bedroom, she was waiting, reading. She glanced up and patted the spot beside her. I slipped under the sheet and pulled her close, looking into her eyes.

“Sometimes it feels like I just met you yesterday,” I whispered. “But I’m never going to leave you.”


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