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Chapter 37

Chapter 37: Vector

Sabonis lowers the ax. “Oh great,” he says. “Here comes the guilt patrol.”

But something’s wrong with Bianca. Her body bulges in the wrong places, like a gas-bloated drowning victim dragged from the bottom of a lake. Dark nodules mar her usual translucence.

“What the fuck?” says Sabonis.

Bianca moves slowly and stiffly. She grimaces, her eyes drawn up into slits like cuts. Her face looks tight enough to crack.

“What the heck happened to you? You look like shit.”

She ignores Sabonis. She looks straight at me, stumbling forward, reaching. I back away and stand beside Yoshiko.

“What are you doing?” I say.

“I have something for you,” she says. Her words are barely audible and carry a liquid warble.

There’s something squirming in her gut, trying to get out. Her eyes look like they don’t belong to her, as if she’s not connected to them.

“That’s okay,” I say. “I don’t need anything.”

“Are you … preggers?” says Sabonis. “Is that even possible?”

“I carry a message,” she says. “From … Victoria.”

“Who the fuck’s Victoria?” says Sabonis.

“She’s Dan’s Primentor,” she says, wobbling as if about to collapse. “Remember?”

“Oh. Right.”

Yoshiko sidles away, leaving me one-on-one with Bianca, who lurches towards me.

I look to Sabonis. Should I run? Should I stay?

I don’t even have to voice my words. He discerns exactly what I’m feeling.

“Don’t know what to say, kid. This is a new one on me. Never saw this happen to a Guide before.”

Bianca’s steps fall heavily and clumsily. One of her eyelids droops. Her lip goes stiff on one side and twitches. I see the thing inside her rotate and tense as she nears me.

“That’s … close enough … I say.

Bianca gasps and grimaces. Her fingers reach for me slowly, trembling, waggling in the air like larval hookworms sensing body heat.

She backs me against the wall of Yoshiko’s grotto.

“Marco?” I say. My voice quavers.

Sabonis steps in and shoves Bianca backward. She shrieks.

“Jeezus Bi, let’s ditch the weirdness and talk this out. What the hell’s going on? What’s that … wormy thing?”

Bianca’s features ripple. Her eyes blink rapidly. Her chin quakes as if she’s exerting every bit of force she can muster. She slips her hands around Sabonis’ shoulder. She lifts her face to him and kisses him on the mouth. Sabonis, momentarily stunned, recovers his wits and kisses her back.

The Pope enters the courtyard through the tunnel and stops, startled.

“Oh my,” he says. “What’s all this about?”

“I have no idea, Howard,” says Yoshiko, staring with mouth agape.

The presence in Bianca’s belly recoils and flattens. Bianca’s dark spots darken; her light patches shrivel to pinpoints. She slumps. Sabonis catches her before she falls. She hunches over gasping and clutching her belly and looks up at me.

“This message … is for you … and you alone.” She breaks out of Sabonis’ grasp and lunges, knocking me off my feet. I land on my bottom. She pushes me flat on my back and slides over me, hungry mouth gaping. Her lips seal against mine.

Sabonis leaps in and tries to haul her off but her fingers hook into my back like claws. Her legs entwine me.

Something thick and powerful slides up Bianca’s gullet and punches into my throat. Instantly, I go limp, at the total mercy of the thing moving into me.
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