It grows on you.
I saw the black spot on my pressure suit when we came back in at the end of shift. I thought it was just a smear of oil from my drill. No contamination warning alarms went off in the airlock, and no one ever thought there was anything in The Belt, so no reason for concern or quarantine. I just wiped it away with a rag during suit maintenance.
I must have gotten it on my thumb when I tossed the rag in the sanitizer. That’s where it started; this innocent-looking black dot, the size of a pin-head. As soon as I saw it, I scrubbed it away with degreaser and a wire brush until my thumb was burnt raw, and I didn’t notice it the rest of the day.
I thought I’d finished it, but I must have just driven it under the surface. It was there again when I was brushing my teeth the next morning – the same spot, except maybe a little bigger. I went at it with my toothbrush without making a dent, then thought about what I was doing and incinerated the brush. Like that would stop things from spreading.
Doctor Vasquez says I should have come straight to him – that’s the protocol. He’s wrong. Heck, I should have cut off my thumb right away; maybe then I would have stood a chance. Maybe we all would.
I took to wearing gloves all the time, and when anyone asked, I said I was cold, which I was. It didn’t make any difference how much clothing I layered on, though, I couldn’t get warm.
By the time I finally did get rid of the spot it was two centimeters across. It didn’t achieve anything – just a bloody mess, and smelly, burning pain. And screaming – that was the most embarrassing part. Even so, I managed to force my thumb in the incinerator long enough to fry it off before Renner grabbed me by the wrist and tackled me.
They’ve got me in restraints now, and there’s something in my IV to keep me sedated. All it really does is keep me quiet. Thoughts keep going through my head – things I really don’t understand, things I remember that never happened to me.
Vasquez says I have an overactive imagination, and I need to get some self-control before he can let me loose. They’ve run scans on me, and he says there’s nothing there. I tell him the airlock scanners missed it, too, but he says there’s nothing wrong with me except in my mind. He’s right.
It’s in there, growing just under the surface, making the inside of my skull itch; I can feel my brain going dark. I look over at Renner, where they have him strapped down and shivering across from me. They think he’s just out of his head sick, but I know better; it got on him when he yanked my hand from the incinerator.
He’s a coward and doesn’t dare admit that it’s hiding in him, too. It’s right there, behind his eyes, and when I get free and dig it out, he’ll thank me; they all will. All the tools I need are in the surgical cabinet behind Renner; I glance at it, then stare at him, and he stares right back. Sometimes I can see myself through those eyes, and I know we’re thinking the same thing.
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