Frank sat on the edge of his bed, he stood, paced inside the short space, then sat again. His hands were shaking slightly, but he was proud to note it was only slightly. He had to make this choice, he had to do it. There was no other option. He stood again, then the strength seemed to drain from his legs. He sat. Maybe he should eat something first? That seemed like a good idea. His stomach gurgled slightly, he felt nauseas. Maybe something small. He hadn’t been eating much in the last few weeks, lost almost two stone so far. There were a few dizzy spells, but for the most part he was ok, of course he had the excess weight to lose, now that he was getting smaller, he wasn’t sure how much longer he could avoid food. Not that it really mattered now of course. Frank left his small room and stepped into his small kitchen-slash-dining room. He opened the fridge, it was almost empty. He picked up a few of the items. The cheese was hard and crumbly, the yoghurt had gone off the week before, and the jar of jam had been sitting there for god only knew how long. Besides, there was nothing to spread the jam on. He closed the fridge and turned to the cupboard. He opened each one, inside there was mouldy bread, tins of food that were parts of a meal, but nothing that could be used to create one. He was searching the last drawer when he found it, hidden at the back, a Snickers. He had bought it not that long ago. He picked it up and sat down at the table. He carefully unwrapped it and took a bite, chewing thoroughly, enjoying the taste. He stood from the table and got a glass of water, then he sat again. His stomach groaned and gurgled as he ate, he ignored the vague cramps. When he was done, he waited, half expecting to throw it up again. When he determined it was going to stay down, he went back into his bedroom. The noose was still hanging from the ceiling, still waiting for him. It was the best way for him to go. Quiet. Discrete. He had no bathtub in which to slit his wrists, he had no gun and if he had, the noise would be much too loud. No. This was the easiest and quietest way to do it. He took a breath, then took a step towards it. He reached out and felt the rope, it was surprisingly smooth. He was going to do this, really, actually going to do it. His stomach gave another grumble, steeling his resolve. He had to. It would help save lives, perhaps everyone on the planet. He put on had on his stomach as he felt something writhing inside. All this for a stupid fifty dollar bet. He shuddered. Why had he been so, so stupid.
Billy had been the one to find them. Inside a little can that had been discarded at the side of the road. There were no pictures on the side of it, no indication as to what it was supposed to be, just a small, shiny tin. He came jogging over with it in one hand, that cheeky grin plastered across his face. They all knew he was planning something. He stopped in front of them all, brandishing the can,
“I found this, sitting over there. Wonder what’s in it.”
He turned it over in his hands,
“There’s no label, nothing, it isn’t bulging either.” He paused for dramatic effect,
“Just get on with it!”
Billy scowled, “Fine. I’ll give ten bucks to whoever’ll eat what ever is in this thing.”
There was silence.
“You do it then.”
“What? Pay myself ten bucks to eat this?”
“I’ll throw in another ten.”
Brad sighed, “I throw in some too.”
“All right, we’re up to forty” He looked at the last two
“Wanna round it up to fifty there fellas?”
Perhaps if Frank had spoken first, everything would have been ok.
“Fine, I’ll chip in.”
“That just leaves you Frank m’boy.” Billy grinned and Frank knew what was coming. Frank didn’t have a spare ten dollars lying around and he knew the solution that Billy would propose.
“If you’re not going to chip in, how about you’re the one that eats it?”
There was silence for a few seconds, everyone staring at him. He could just say no, walk away from it, it was stupid and chances were good no one would think less of him. In fact, they’d expect him to just walk away. Frank looked at them all, they were supposed to be having fun, a good time. He couldn’t wreck it. No. He’d show them. He’d do it, something unexpected.
The surprise was there only for a split second, then the grin returned.
“But, I have conditions.”
“That takes all the fun out of it.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t want to spend the next few days shitting my brains out. If it’s rotten, or fish or something. I’m not eating any of it.”
“Ok, but if it isn’t rotten, and it isn’t fish, you have to eat it. Deal?”
Billy hesitated, “C’mon man, the can isn’t even warm, it’s been sitting out here in the cold, probably for only a few hours at most. Fell out of some families camper van or something.”
Frank took the can from Billy’s hand, then, he grabbed the ring pull and opened it. When the smell hit him, he didn’t think he had it too bad. Kinda sweet, when he turned the can around he expected to see some tinned fruit. Instead there were four, white maggots, thick and fat. Everyone groaned in disgust. Frank looked at the maggots, two of them were squirming still.
“C’mon man, a deals a deal. Just knock em back quick and you’ll be up fifty dollars.”
“You don’t have to eat them, you really-”
“No, I’m gonna do it.”
More yells and groans.
He picked up one of the non moving ones, get it over quickly. As he picked it up, it wiggled slightly, the other had started to move too. Great. Well, at least he wasn’t going to get too sick from it, eating the live ones would be better than the dead, right? He placed it into his mouth and before he could think or stop himself, he started to chew vigorously. No matter how it tasted, he knew it would help him sleep better if they were chewed rather than whole. A pleasant, nutty flavour spread through his mouth, it was smooth, almost like butter. He swallowed it, the maggot left a faint bitter aftertaste.
Frank shrugged, “it’s not that bad.”
He picked up another two and tossed them into his mouth, again chewing vigorously. He was feeling brave now, just one more to go. He swallowed, then picked up the final worm, everyone held their breaths, he popped it into his mouth and swallowed. He opened his mouth and stuck out his tongue to show they were all gone, everyone around him was going wild, and, once everyone had settled down, Frank collected the money, rinsed out his mouth with water and not long after that they were back on the road.
He had felt completely fine for the next three days. Then he started getting a bit hungrier than usual, he felt tired, irritable and had a faint nausea that was coming and going. Obviously it was just some kind of tummy bug that would go away in a few days at most. He didn’t even consider going to the doctor until a week later, when he felt something squirming inside him.
The doctor was entirely dismissive and of no help. Assured him he had a stomach bug that would go away in a few days. Frank convinced him to take bloods, but the doctor only did it to reassure him. There was nothing. Frank had told him about the maggots and, though the doctor admonished him for something so stupid, he reassured Frank that it was unlikely to be the cause, after all, he had eaten them almost two weeks ago by now and the stomach acid would have killed them. Despite the doctors reassurance that he had no symptoms of parasitic infection, Frank still knew that was what it had to be. He could feel it, squirming around inside him. The nausea abated after a few days, but every time Frank went to eat something, he thought of that thing inside him and it returned, full force. He knew it was psychological nausea, but that didn’t make it go away. So, he had started to only eat occasionally, small snacks when he felt he was going to faint, or when he felt exceptionally weak. He was able to drink water still. The more time that passed the more convinced he became that what ever was inside him wasn’t natural. It had to be some kind of fucked up experiment or some kind of alien. He could feel it inside, getting bigger. The final resolve came when he looked up some of his symptoms online and he seemed to have all the signs of pregnancy. What ever was inside him wanted to come out. He knew enough about parasites to know their only goal was the complete their life cycle, have babies, infect others. He couldn’t let that happen. He had crafted a sign, not fancy, but he hoped it would be enough. Had stuck it to his door with tape, a large biohazard symbol with the words
“Warning: I have been infected by a parasite. Handle with extreme care.”
It was the best he could think of.
Everything was set up and ready to go. He just had to do it. Get it over with. He had done this to himself, voluntarily, now he had to face the consequences. His hands were shaking, he was sweating profusely. He didn’t want to die, but the doctor wasn’t taking him seriously, the blood tests had come back negative for everything except a raised white blood cell count, something the doctor assured him meant it was just a tummy bug. This was the only option, it was the only way. He had to save everyone. If the host died, the parasite would die too. He had nothing planned for the next week, no one would come looking for him. He had set his air conditioning on cold to delay to smell of rot. By the time they found him, the parasite would be dead and everyone would be safe. He had even written a letter, about how he didn’t want to die. He worded it carefully, he didn’t want them thinking he was some kind of nutter. Though he was sure they would think that, until the autopsy. They’d find the thing inside him then, they’d know he was telling the truth. He put the noose around his neck and slowly sank to his knees. He could feel the blood pounding in his head, his face felt hot, it was impossible to breathe, towards the end he panicked. He didn’t want to do this, he’d keep going to doctors, find someone who’d listen. But he had planned for that too, by the time he wanted out, it was too late, he was too weak to stand again.
Inside it stirred, getting ready. It was time, soon it would be free.