I caught the X12 at the Ingliston Park and Ride just in time and settled into my seat shaking the rain from my hood. It was just gone 6.50 am on a gloomy Monday in July and I had an urgent appointment with a woman in Burdiehouse about a supernatural parasite that had laid its eggs in her toilet cistern. Of course she didn’t realise that, but what hadn’t escaped her was that it didn’t appear to be a fault with the plumbing, given the fact that the plumber in question had run screaming from her top floor flat and she’d heard nothing from him since. So distraught was he, that he’d left all his tools in an untidy spill in her hallway.
“Oi,” said a voice from the seat behind me, “You’ve soaked me, you inconsiderate bitch.”
I turned my head in disbelief and saw a young girl of perhaps eighteen glowering at me. She was blond and petite, pale blue eyes dominating a delicate, heart-shaped face. She might have been pretty minus the scowl but what really caught my attention was the seven foot elemental attached to her. A long, veined tentacle thicker than one of her thighs had wrapped itself around her body, penetrating the flesh at the base of her neck. The elemental itself was a pulsating mass, featureless and unformed for now. It had also not been in situ for that long judging by the size. These things could grow to the size of skyscrapers if left long enough and if the host had sufficient juice.
The thing about these creatures was that they made the hosts, well, not to put to fine a point on it, crazy – and not the lovable, harmless ditzy variety either. That meant the hosts with the most needed to get rid of their uninvited, joy-riding parasites before they got too entrenched. Once that happened it was Goodnight Vienna.
I specialised in getting rid of these things and from what I could see, this one looked distinctly doable. The tentacle on this one throbbed rhythmically as it sucked on the girl’s life force. A faint blush spread like an angry rash over her pale skin and I wondered what cocktail the elemental was feeding her.
“Listen-” I began.
“No, you listen.”
She jabbed a slender forefinger inches from my face in staccato counterpoint to the torrent of abuse spewing from the rosebud mouth. The tentacle coiled more possessively around the slender body and the peristaltic contractions became more pronounced.
I turned away from her and she jabbed me in the back, hard.
“Oi, you, you ignorant cow. I’m going to rip off your head and spew down the hole and you’ll thank me for it by the time I’ve finished with you.”
“Not without a head I won’t,” I said without turning round.
I fished around for a pen and paper in my bag and started scribbling a note for her all the while knowing it was hopeless. Even if I gave it to her and managed to get off the bus without her stuffing it down my presumably still attached throat, the chances of her ringing me for help rather than more abuse were remote.
I sighed and tried to ignore the frantic jabbing in my back. I was getting off at Haymarket and we were nearly there. But my troubles had, it seemed, only just begun as a sweet little old lady dressed in lilac sat down next to me.
“What a to do!” she said breezily. “No one’s leaving this bus until we’re all extra special friends again.”
She smiled, revealing a row of jagged brown teeth and a distinctly vulpine glint in her eyes.
One of the old guard that hunted human meat and weren’t too fussed how they got it. She might look like a vulnerable oldster, but judging by the dark maroon aura that was almost choking me she was in fact an exceptionally dangerous predator.
A shape-shifter that wasn’t for shifting beside me and an enraged maniac at my back. I was now officially between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea or Scylla and Charybdis if you more classically inclined. And all before I’d had my morning latte.
The question was, which way could I jump.