Authors: Nora Lane
Nora Lane, May 2015
Copyright © 2015 Nora Lane
All rights reserved worldwide
No part of this book may be reproduced, uploaded to the Internet, or copied without permission from the author. The author respectfully asks that you please support artistic expression and help promote anti-piracy efforts by purchasing a copy of this book at the authorized online outlets.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incident either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to events, locales, business establishments, or actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is purely coincidental.
All sexual activities depicted occur between consenting characters 18 years or older and who are not blood related.
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* * * * *
A chat window popped up on the screen. He just hacked my computer! My fingers flew over the keyboard. I wanted an answer. Now.
CG: Why me, Noah?
REMOTE_USER: You’re special. You’re in a position to understand how precious life is, and what you might be willing to do to keep it.
CG: Cryptic. Vague. Confusing. Partial answer at best.
REMOTE_USER: True. But life is that way. Suffice it to say that you’re uniquely qualified. Besides, you have a great ass.
( o) ( o) - - - - - - (__(__)
Did he just say that?
CG: Is that ASCII art your eyes looking at my butt?
REMOTE_USER: What if it is?
CG: That would be inappropriate, Mr. Sinclair. And it would set a bad tone for the interview. I’ll be there to question you for the people of Earth.
REMOTE_USER: You make it sound like I no longer fall into that category.
CG: Do you?
REMOTE_USER: It’s ninety-eight degrees in there. The mosquitoes are waiting for you to lower your defenses. The “cold” water comes out at eighty degrees. Your bed is a wet mess. You should’ve accepted my offer of lodging.
I flung my arm over my bare chest and crossed my legs. How did he know? Was he watching me? Seeing me naked?
I looked through the blinds, stood up and checked the peephole. Nothing. I sat back down and noticed the camera lens at the top of the screen. Covering my breasts with one arm, I touched the lens. Did he hack into my laptop camera?
CG: Are you watching me?
My other arm snapped over my chest. They did the best they could to hold it all in.
CG: That’s totally inappropriate! How?
REMOTE_USER: I’d rather not say.
CG: You hacked my computer camera?
REMOTE_USER: No. But it would be trivial to do. You should cover the lens with black tape.
CG: Don’t hack my computer camera!!!
REMOTE_USER: You have my word.
How else could he be watching me? He was probably bullshitting. He found out where I was and knowing it was hot and infested with mosquitos wasn’t exactly a news flash in Florida. He was messing with me.
CG: If you are watching me, then tell me what I’m wearing.
REMOTE_USER: Isn’t that an inappropriate question, Ms. Gabarro?
REMOTE_USER: Because you’re naked.
I screamed, jumped into the damp puddle that was my bed and covered myself with sheets. I crept back to the chair, swaddled in clingy fabric.
REMOTE_USER: I apologize. It’s been a long while since I’ve had regular contact with anyone outside my business. It’s entirely possible, even likely, that my compass for socially acceptable behavior is askew.
CG: Stop watching me!
REMOTE_USER: Granted. Now get some sleep. Try sleeping on your side.
CG: I’m quite capable of—
REMOTE_USER: I look forward to your arrival tomorrow. Don’t be late.
( o) ( o) - - - - - - (__(__)
* * * * *
I lay naked in bed staring at the ceiling. A puddle of sweat pooled in my belly button. Damp sheets stuck to my back like cling wrap never does. The fetid stink of old cigarettes coated the air. I knew I should quit. My doctors said I had a death wish considering my situation.
Coraline, we’re going to fight this. We’re going to give it our best.
Easy for them to say when they’d already lived well passed double my life span, and they’d keep going after I got cut short.
Life gave me death, and hoping it were otherwise wasn’t effective medicine. My desperate wishing hadn’t changed a damn thing. When that failed, I tried bargaining with whichever god might listen. That proved just as effective. As in not in the least. If I wasn’t long for planet Earth, I was going to do what I damn well pleased.
I took a long drag on the cigarette pinched between my fingers. The tip flared and bathed the dark hotel room in a dull orange glow. I smoked low-tar. That was something. My doctors didn’t agree.
I didn’t much care.
The buzz of the oscillating fan on the side table drown out the burning crackle. Hot chemical air filled my lungs and made me feel alive, even as it worked to kill me faster.
Good luck with that.
I leaned over and dropped the smoldering stub into a half-empty soda can. It fizzled with a flash as it hit the bit that got warm before I could drink it.
Soda was delicious. I loved it. But it had to be ice cold. Let one get warmed up and all of a sudden you could taste all the nasty chemicals hidden inside. I didn’t do lukewarm soda.
I didn’t have time for it.
The only major downside of soda and cigs was the aftertaste. Sure, it was the perfect combo going in, but now, after they’d settled in for the stay.
Not so much.
My mouth tasted like wool gym socks. Felt as fuzzy too. No toothpaste conquered it. Gum helped. There weren’t any conclusive studies showing gum’s bad effects on your health.
Probably just a matter of time.
Everything was bad for you these days. The air. The water. The food. Most people cared about all that because they expected long and happy lives.
My diagnosis made any thought of a future beyond the next cheeseburger and fries pointless. You don’t fall for big dreams when life promises nothing but nightmares.
I blew out a lungful of smoke. It was a non-smoking room. Whatever. The acrid stink of cigarettes wasn’t making much of a dent in the musty smell of boiled feet. The room was a frozen frame of dilapidated disintegration. It was a shock the place hadn’t been condemned.
Count my lucky stars.
I couldn’t afford a room not in danger of demolition.
Too miserable to sleep. Too excited to care. Or was it the other way around?
Still, I needed sleep. I tired easily lately. They said to expect it. They said to expect a thousand other, far more horrible things so I was pretty okay with just being beat.
Tomorrow wouldn’t be easier exhausted and running on empty. I rolled over and the scratchy sheet rolled with me. I peeled it off my back with a grimace. What I wouldn’t give for a freezer to snuggle.
Bright green LED numbers on the clock radio painted the walls a ghoulish hue. 1:52 AM. The fan on the table struggled to push thick air through the room. It buzzed and creaked and complained like it knew the effort was pointless and resented my insistence on it trying.
Florida in August was inhospitable to life. I assumed all the old people that felt otherwise had high-powered air conditioners.
Small wonder this hotel was dirt cheap and wide open with vacancies. No one stayed a second night. You either drowned in your own sweat, or survived and swore to never insist on saving a few measly bucks again.
A high-pitched buzz zoomed by my ear. I swatted at it and snarled.
Damn mosquito. I hated those things. I was all for God’s creatures and all that. In my apartment, I captured spiders and set them free outside. Roaches too. But mosquitoes? Those little bloodsuckers deserved death. It wasn’t the blood thing so much. Yea, the bites were itchy. And I knew you could catch various diseases. West Nile was making the rounds lately.
Honestly, the mosquito should be more concerned about what it might get from my blood than the other way around.
It was the buzzing. The incessant dive-bomber buzzing. You close your eyes, relax, and float right up to the edge of sleep…
and BZZZZZZZZ. Right in your ear.
I made the mistake of opening the window earlier, thinking the fresh hot air outside would be better than the stale hot air inside. It was. Only it was also an open invitation to all twenty million mosquitoes that festered in the swamp across the highway.
Seriously, what hotel room in Florida doesn’t have screens on the windows? This one. This place was a shambles. Clearly neglected. Way passed its expiration date. You didn’t waste time caring for something destined for imminent destruction.
It was cold logic. It made sense.
I knew more than most.
That said, mosquitos deserved to die. Especially any foolish enough to invade my personal space. It’d taken an hour to kill off the horde that filled my room. Their smashed, black bodies dotted a white bathroom towel. Their grisly deaths merely added to the existing kaleidoscope of stains.
I thought I got them all. Only you never get them all. One always survives. When the world finally comes to an end, one mosquito will be left. When the last human breathes its last breath and our species vanishes from the pages of history, a mosquito will be there to poke its annoying stinger into the newly deceased body’s pinkie finger. Right on the knuckle.
Damp hair stuck to my neck. I scratched it away and wiped the beading sweat off my forehead.
The whine of a mosquito approached. I lay still, trying to hone in on it. Like Luke with the blast helmet on. I clapped the air in triumph. Sure I got it this time.
The buzz continued. It circled my head.
I waited for another strike.
It buzzed louder.
And then went straight inside my ear!
I flew out of bed. Its legs and wings a furious tickle. I slapped my head with the palm of my hand. Deaf shock hit me. I almost fell over. It however was unaffected. An air siren blared in my ear. Louder than any one centimeter monster had a right to be.
I flailed at my ear, trying to stop the tickling, struggling beast. I jammed a pinkie finger in and pumped it in and out until the buzzing died.
In my ear.
I moved to the bathroom and noticed the bedsheets stuck to my butt, trailing behind like a fairy tale dress. I kicked it to the ground, pinkie still digging in my ear to clear out the remains. The tickling, dead mass of it refused to budge.
I flicked on the bathroom light and waited for it sputter to life.
I whipped my pinkie out for examination. A couple of squished legs stuck to the tip. Which meant the rest was still in my ear.
Thank you, Florida.
I turned on the cold water—what a misnomer—and splashed it into my ear. Eventually, the soaked carcass fell out and stuck to the side of the sink. Thank god I saw it. I seriously required evidence of its evacuation. Sleep was hard enough without having to wonder if the little bloodsucker was rotting away inside me.
It could end up locked in ear wax. Forever preserved like scientists find those ones in amber. Maybe amber was dinosaur ear wax. Like an archaeologist, some med student would find it someday as they dissected my body.
A fascinating and rare case. Not the dead, stuck-in-earwax mosquito. That would be the cherry on top. I knew my condition was going to make some soulless med student’s semester.
Someday. Someday sooner than was fair.
I’d have to officially donate my body first. My license still didn’t have that box ticked. I kept meaning to. Considering my situation, it felt like surrender. My body had surrendered before the fight could even begin. Procrastinating on signing the donation form was my final token resistance. My hopeless refusal to accept reality.
Maybe if I survived the heat and hoards of mosquitos. Then I’d sign it.
Of course, if I didn’t make it safely back to Earth, mosquitos and med students would have to find another victim anyway.