Author: Thomas Tilton

Their date had gone fabulously well, which was why Simon was so depressed. Invariably, dates ended badly for him. Par for the course when you had a softball-sized parasite attached to your left flank.

“I should go,” Simon said, poised to leave Alice on her front doorstep.

“Please don’t,” she said, and her eyes shone with a bright pleading, though Simon detected a hint of reservation at the downturned side of her half-smile.

“I really can’t–” Simon started to explain.

“But you can. Please. Try it.” Alice’s words were insistent, but her tone bespoke hesitation and reluctance.

If Simon’s self-esteem were any lower, he might think Alice was trying to lure him inside to rob him or something equally sinister.

He sighed. “I suppose I could, but there’s something I should tell you first.”

She cut him off. “I have something to tell you, too. But first, come inside.”

Inside the foyer, neither one moved to take off their heavy coats, though it was stifling inside Alice’s apartment.

They stood there, awkwardly, for maybe a minute.

“Aren’t you warm?” Alice asked.

“Aren’t you?” Simon said.

Alice nodded, lowered her head in what seemed to be a gesture of weary resignation, and started to shrug herself out of her large purple coat.

Once decloaked, there was no mistaking the round protrusion on her right flank.

“You’ve got…” Simon began excitedly, though Alice must have mistaken it for disgust, because she crossed her hands over her right flank and looked away from him.

“No, don’t,” Simon said, shrugging out of his own heavy coat. “Look at this.”

He took off his shirt too, and he displayed himself proudly to her, was half-naked in front of someone for the first time in years and felt no shame.

“I picked him — it? — up on a mining colony off-world, when I was overseeing a dig,” Simon said, unselfconsciously stroking the parasite, which began to grow red, seemed to be sprouting orifices — yes, there were nostrils now, and a small gaping mouth.

“He gets hungry,” Simon laughed.

“Why don’t you feed him?” Alice said, and she removed her blouse.

Hours later, their bodies entwined in the sheets on Alice’s bed, Simon tickled Alice’s feet with his tongue and Alice stroked Simon’s calf tenderly with her fingers.

“I don’t ever want to be apart from you,” said Alice dreamily.

“I’m not sure we’ll have a choice in the matter,” Simon opined.

Between them, their two parasites clung together in an embrace, a glowing red furnace between their naked bodies, conjoining them.