How about a new flash piece? It’s an answer to a challenge by Chuck Wendig again, this week asking for a story about an invasive species. I might have misinterpreted that adjective slightly. Or hit his hidden meaning on the head. I don’t seem to be the only one going this route, at least.
Warning, though: Not for the squeamish.
“Tell me, Mister Sammer, do you happen to sleep on your side?”
“I do, but I don’t think my arm has just become numb from me sleeping on it. This has been going on for far too long now to be that.”
Doctor Gern mustered the inner side of Georg’s arm once more. Passing his forearm, his eyes fixated on something they seemed to have found in his armpit.
“That’s not what I mean by that. I can see a very peculiar wound down here. Do you happen to lie on the left side sleeping?”
“Almost circular and looking rather new. You say, your arm feels extremely light and your hands don’t respond like they should. I have to assume there is a problem with your muscles’ attachment to the bone, and I think I know the reason why. Did any liquid leak from your armpit, did you spot any discolorations in your mattress the last few days?”
“Not as far as I remember. Is that something more common?”
“It wasn’t before, but this month your are the fifth showing symptoms like that. I expect the X-ray any minute now, it should tell the rest of the story.”
As if she heard the doctor’s call for it, the assistant entered the room, x-ray under her arm. She put it on the illuminated wall for displayed x-rays and left without a word. The outline and bones of an arm showed. One of the forearm’s bones seemed very pale in comparison to the glowing white the light gave the other bones in the picture.
“Just as I thought,” Doctor Gern said, moved in to take a closer look of the image again, return with eyes calming Georg with the confidence reflected in them, gripped Georg Sammer’s arm with both hands, and smashed it on the table.
CRACK it went as his ulna easily burst into pieces. And yet, the pain was no worse than that of a hand slapping his skin.
“Are you nuts?! You’re supposed to fix my arm, not shatter it!”
“That’s just what I did. Didn’t you realize this barely hurt when a bone shattering should cause excruciating pain?”
“I don’t have my arm broken all that often,” he replied perplexed.
“Look at the x-ray, don’ you see something peculiar there?”
“One fo the bones looks really pale.”
“I don’t see anything special.”
“You don’t? So you think it’s normal there are six white beams coming out of the ulna’s side and two more going into your hand?”
“You’re the doctor, you tell me!”
“No, it’s not normal at all. Most bones in the human body don’t have legs and antennae sticking out.”
“They don’t have what?”
“Legs and antennae. You see, you have caught a parasitic phasmid. Had caught, it should be dead now. We remove the remains of the dead phasmid in a minute.”
“I caught what?”
“A parasitic phasmid. A stick insect making a home in the victim’s limbs by replacing certain bones with themselves, living off their blood. All painless thanks to chemicals they give off, but the effects still bewilder the patients, as you just experienced. Did you know stick insects can give birth to live young without involving a male? They then crawl out of the entry wound and nestle into the mattress until another person sleeps there or they can enter an uninfected limb on the original host. Nasty little bug climate change has begun to draw out of the tropics.”
And that is the story how Ludwig Sammer convinced his son to take over the family business as an exterminator after all. All thanks to the help of a friend who was also the family doctor with a strange enthusiasm in parasitology and a few genetic engineers he knew from college. And the story how they introduced a new terror to the world, keeping people awake at night. Oh well, some eggs ought to be cracked. It was all for the good of the family, after all.
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