Daily practice.

We didn’t really understand what he was on about until he brought it out, a snake with three heads, and let it sit on the table between Sadie and me. I looked at him for moment with wide eyes as the copper colored rattler coiled around in some vain attempt to gain purchase on the ancient glass topped Kotatsu she’d found a few days earlier on the Internet. Half price from some shop that specialized in junk people dug up around the tower a hundred years ago.

“So you’re right, the virus is spreading.” I said. She moved back when it inched towards her.

“A gene mutation. Look.”

He took out a flat bladed knife with an obsidian blade and pushed the snake’s middle head flat onto the table.

“When you cut it, watch what happens.” he said, quickly shoving the razor in behind its eyes.

We sat there watching as the snake coiled around his arm, the other two heads trying their best to tear into the carbon-steel limb with their fangs. They became more violent as the knife slid beneath the flesh. It wasn’t a clean cut; gore slid out, pooling, nearly dripping onto the floor. Sadie furrowed her brow as it stained the orange comforter. 

The head came free with a sudden, violent rip. Body seizing, mouths agape.

“Hold on, you have to wait a second.” he told us, the body of the snake coiling in its death throes, stench of piss rising from the corpse, like it’s body is still fending off some invisible attacker even after death.

A few seconds passed and we noticed the blood began to thicken. I removed a cigarette and pushed the butt into the mass. It stuck like tar, leaving a long, ropey trail behind it when I pulled back.

“Coagulation of the blood, I see where this is going, I thi-”

The blood lost all of its color an instant later, the cigarette breaking in half, butt stuck in the white fluid like concrete. Shredded tobacco fell like dust and stuck against it and as we sat there watching this happen, spines began to emerge, along with bony plates forming amorphous human skulls that flowed back into its body, reattaching the head, coating the snake in a layer of curling marrow. It shrieked.

I stood up and kicked it across the room.

“Fuck, it’s a Roach! What happened, I thought it only affected human corpses!”

The man sat there with that same facade of impasse as if he’d seen it a thousand times. Sadie was frozen, against the wall across the room shaking, and I had a gun drawn on the thing ready to kill it before he stood, stamping a foot hard down on the snake’s back. I heard bone crunch, gore splattering in a ring nearly a meter across. Quickly, that too lost its color and solidified into boney plates that tried to crawl back into the screeching thing’s twitching body.

“See the problem? The snake is dead, but the virus won’t leave it. It controls the corpse like a puppet using its blood to propagate. That’s how the Roach reproduce. They eat corpses. But you knew that. You’re the Gun Junkie, after all.”

I stood there for a second taking all of this in before telling him to move and I shot it dead, blast hole a foot wide all that was left. I figured that if I obliterated the incubation medium that it’d die, and I was correct, as the blood though white, coiled around as if the snake where still alive, before slowly turning translucent, then into a black vapor.

I sat back down, Sadie collecting herself but huffing at the destruction of her table. She jabbed me in the side with her elbow, the man smoothing the pleats of his jacket, one that looked like something straight out of some old mobster film. Pinstripes and all.

The End

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