Young lovers experience a terrifying end to their Memorial Day weekend.
It had proven a scorcher of a holiday weekend, with temperatures climbing toward triple-digits. The young couple had worn bikinis exclusively the past two days; It had been too hot to wear much else. Now that the majority of campers had cut their weekends short due to the rain, they wore nothing at all.
Skye Wilson ran a hand over her lover’s wet hair, returned her kiss with purpose. They’d made love only an hour ago, upon waking, but already Skye was feeling that wonderful, maddening warmth in her loins. She cupped Zoe’s small breasts, pressed up harder against her.
Zoe moaned, squirmed. She whispered, “Let’s go for a walk...”
“A walk?” Skye leaned back, smiled up at her girlfriend. “Where to?”
“Let’s go down to the lake.” Zoe reached back, gathered her long hair (blonde but darkened by the rain) into a ponytail. This she wrung out like a towel.
“To the lake?” Skye shrugged. “Sure.” She moved to gather her swimsuit. Zoe took her hand, though; She drew her girlfriend close.
“Let’s go like this.”
Skye grinned. “You’re naughty! There are still people here...probably.”
Zoe leaned down and kissed Skye’s full, wet lips. “There’s nobody here. You and I are the only people on this mountain, gorgeous.”
“Oh, yeah?” Skye answered between kisses. “It does feel that way.”
“Oh, yes.” Zoe let Skye kiss her neck, her shoulders. “Come on,” she said. “Let’s go.”
Zoe Taylor opened her eyes. She smiled, as memories of the past few hours flooded her mind. She and Skye, skinny-dipping in the lake. She and her lover sprawled on the lake’s tiny shore, worshipping the driving rain as though it were the sun.
They’d made love on the small, mostly dirt-and-pebble beach. Being one with Skye here on top of a small mountain, soaked by rain the temperature of the air, was an experience Zoe knew she would never forget. It had been surreal, and not a little magical.
Skye looked beautiful curled on her side in sleep; Zoe decided not to wake her. She enjoyed her lover’s toned, tanned legs, the swell of her hips. She watched Skye’s eyes flutter beneath closed lids, and wondered what it was she was dreaming. Zoe might have stayed like that all day, had she not eventually felt the need to pee. Reluctantly, she stood and stretched.
Zoe looked down at her naked form, brushed pebbles and bits of dirt from her abdomen and her breasts. Playing nudist for the day had been fun, but she wasn’t about to squat down and pee out here in the open. She found a suitable place in the brush and relieved herself.
The State Park seemed terribly quiet, now that the downpour had stopped. Lingering drops of rain falling from the surrounding trees, and the muted noise of the lake itself, were the only sounds she could hear . She looked around. For all she could see and hear, she and Skye were indeed the only people left on the mountain campground. It was time to go, she decided. She walked out of the woods, toward her sleeping lover. A few feet from Skye, she froze; Her hand rose to cover her mouth.
“Skye? Skye!. Baby, wake up.” Zoe cringed. Her voice sounded terribly loud in the stillness of the abandoned campsite. “Skye...baby, wake up!”
Her lover stirred. She looked up and smiled. “There’s a sight I want to wake...what’s the matter?”
Zoe, wide-eyed, shook her head. She tried to make the words come out, but all she could manage was a feeble: “The back of your leg…”
Skye twisted until she could manage a glimpse of the back of her thigh. She saw movement, and scrambled to her feet.
“Don’t panic, baby…” Zoe moved toward the other woman, hands raised before her in a soothing gesture. “Let me see.”
“What the hell is it?” Skye torqued her body, tried to get a better view. “Oh, my God.”
Zoe examined her lover’s leg, as closely as she dared. There were thousands, if not millions of small, black insects on Skye’s thigh. Concentrated into a dense oval roughly the circumference of a coffee-cup, the infestation was about two inches beneath the young woman’s left buttock. While the boundary of the black mass seemed unchanging, the heart of the thing was a flurry of motion. The miniscule bugs, which looked not unlike tiny millipedes, scurried over and around one another, jockeying for position. The entire infestation writhed and undulated; It pumped- a beating heart fashioned of parasites. “Baby, come on,” Zoe’s voice brooked no debate. “Let’s get you into the lake.”
Skye, normally the more opinionated, take-charge member of the pair, stood silent and trembling in the ninety-seven-degree sun. Zoe wondered whether the other young woman was in shock. If she was, there were things she, Zoe, could do for her. First though, they needed to address the insects. She placed her hand on Skye’s back, far above the infestation, and led her toward the lake. “Come on, baby. It’s okay, come with me.”
At first it seemed as though Skye would resist. With a little prodding, though, Zoe was able to lead her to the lake. Skye reacted as she stepped into the cool water, but it wasn’t much of a reaction.
She’s in shock, Zoe thought. This is bad.
Zoe led her farther into the lake. They earthy water was nearly up to the infestation on Skye’s leg. “Come on baby,” Zoe said. “Just another step or two, okay?” Skye continued to look straight ahead, at nothing.
Two things happened then, simultaneously. A small wave, a result of the young women’s own movement, lapped up and over the infestation on Skye’s leg. At the same time, Skye let loose a startling and terrifying scream. Zoe couldn’t be sure whether the cry had been loosed out of terror, pain, or some mix of the two--all she knew was that it had been the most awful sound she’d ever heard.
Skye turned, then, and ran to the shore. Once on dry ground she stood trembling, hugging herself, each hand on the opposite shoulder. Zoe followed.
“Skye, what happened? Are you okay? Are you hurt?”
The other woman stood and shivered in the heat.
Zoe walked around her lover, looked at the back of her leg. She gagged, tried not to vomit. “Oh, God...Skye.”
The swarming insects had moved up Skye’s leg. The area they’d evacuated was raw and bleeding, perhaps even infected. The oval infestation, boundaries still intact, now sat directly below the nude woman’s left buttock. In spite of the heat, Zoe felt suddenly cold. An unpleasant-feeling sweat broke out on her hairline, in her armpits. She turned her head and vomited onto the dirt and the pebbles.
Skye, for her part, seemed not to notice.
Zoe straightened. She wiped spittle from the corners of her mouth, and frigid sweat from her hairline. This done, she took a deep breath, and considered their situation. It was bleak, she acknowledged, and getting moreso. Skye needed immediate medical attention, if not for the swarm of tiny insects eating her leg, for the shock she was suffering as a result.
Get back to the campsite, grab the keys, and drive to the hospital!
Yes, that was what she needed to do. Of course Skye was the one who’d driven them here, the one with the driver’s license. Having grown up in Manhattan, Zoe had had little need of a driver's license. She wasn’t about to let that stop her, though. She took Skye by the hand and led her back in the direction of their campsite.
They’d made it nearly three-quarters of the way back, by Zoe’s estimation, when Skye’s grip on her hand suddenly tightened. “Skye, are you okay?” The pressure on Zoe’s hand increased. “Skye...?”
This time, by way of an answer, Skye turned and doubled over. She wretched and upchucked…
...a shower of minuscule, millipede-like insects. They left her in chunks of gloss-black that scurried to regroup as they hit the ground. Zoe stared, frozen in fear, as her beautiful Skye vomited again, this time with more force. She broadcast flying clumps of black chitin for as far as six feet.
Zoe screamed. Her lover had been reduced to a monstrous state. Lines of the hideous black insects were crawling out of (and into) her slack mouth. They fell like black globs of snot from her running nose. Everywhere they landed they gathered, formed new ovular patches on the young woman. Zoe wanted to look away; it took everything she had to hold the other woman’s stare. She owed Skye that much, at least.
A steel band tightened around Zoe’s heart. Tears stung at her eyes; They blurred her vision. The woman she loved, the woman with whom she was building a life, was dying. She was being eaten alive, and there wasn’t a damn thing Zoe could do about it.
Skye fell to her knees, retching and coughing up clumps of insects. Wet hair that had looked sexy only moments ago now seemed monstrous and snake-like. Strands of it clung to Skye’s cheek, where ravenous black bugs worked under, over and around it. Zoe’s left foot stepped forward, seemingly of its own accord. Her right foot failed to follow.
The prone woman took a deep breath, and Zoe was sure Skye would vomit another stomach-full of black, scurrying death. Instead, she turned her head without lifting it. She locked eyes, once again, with Zoe.
“Go.” She said.
Zoe, who’d been crying already, collapsed into sobs. “No! No, I’m not going to leave you!”
“Go.” The suffering creature managed to lift one corner of her mouth into a pained smile. “I love you, Zoe. Go.”
Now it was Zoe’s turn to stand shivering in the heat. Unable to speak, she shook her head. No, no...no.
“Please.” The dying woman pleaded with her eyes. “Zoe...please?”
At some point Zoe’s head went from shaking to nodding. She wasn’t sure when that had happened. “I love you,” she told her dying girlfriend, and realized that she’d been wrong, earlier. Those three words now seemed like the most awful sound she’d ever heard, or ever would hear. Because she might never speak them again.
She turned to go. She would try to get help, of course. She would drive to the nearest farmhouse and use their phone; She'd have an ambulance up here in no more than thirty-minutes. But it would be too late. She knew that with as much certainty as a person can know anything. Nonetheless, hope--even false hope--springs eternal. She turned back to Skye. “I’ll get help...”
Skye, who was barely recognizable beneath her writhing coat of parasites, lifted her head. She tried to smile and the effect was hideous.
Zoe squeezed her eyes closed against a torrent of tears. Her hand came to her mouth. She wanted to say something more, but was unable. Crying uncontrollably, Zoe turned to leave.
She’d made it four steps when she heard a choked, gurgled “Zoe!”
Zoe turned. Tears blurred the image of her beloved, and she was grateful for that. “Skye?”
The other woman lifted her head to speak. When she opened her mouth, though, she vomited a another jet-black spray of carapaces, legs and mandibles. Skye coughed and choked. She burped, and then vomited once more. When she was able to speak, she managed to say five words.
She collapsed, then, face-first into the pebbles and the dirt. Zoe watched her sweet Skye suffer, and die. She wouldn’t allow herself to process what her lover had said, not just yet...
There’s something on your leg…
They stood in the harsh artificial light of a truck’s headlamps, two men clad in black. One smoked a cigarette, the other consulted a cell-phone.
“You wanted to know if we could gene-splice insects and bacterium,” the man with the phone said. “I’d say you have your answer.”
“Yes,” the other man said. He looked out over the now-scorched and blackened campgrounds. “But we very nearly lost control of this thing…”
The man with the phone shook his head. “I don’t control the weather, Ackers.”
The other man nodded slowly. “It’s been contained. That’s what matters.”
It had been a trying night, and Senator Randall Ackers was in no mood to go home. He drove instead to the home of his lover.
She’d smiled, invited him in, and the two had spent a dutiful twenty-minutes making love. Then, he’d started drinking, and his mood darkened.
It was the same old rant, and she was tired of hearing it. Nobody had any courage, no one had the temerity to make the hard decisions. Nobody wanted responsibility. She could recite the entire narcissistic rant by heart.
Tonight he was drunker than usual. He kept saying, twenty-eight lives to save millions, whatever that meant. Frankly, she didn’t care. She was about ready to move on, to get this self-important buffoon out of her life. All the cocktail parties in Washington weren’t worth this.
‘Well?” He said.
Great, they’d gotten to the part where he asked rhetorical questions and expected answers. “Why don’t you take a nice hot shower and relax,” she said instead.
He grumbled something inaudible, but he stood and trudged toward the bathroom.
The woman gasped, and the Senator turned.
“What the hell’s the matter?”
The startled woman raised a hand to cover her mouth. Through it, she said: “What’s that on the back of your leg...?”
J. Robert Kane
East Northport/Sound Beach New York
May 23-25 2017