I had never been the smartest, the fastest, or the strongest.
I’d always been a pushover, too sensitive and too meek.
Too afraid to speak up and stand up for myself.
I did not know what Tania saw in me and I’d always been afraid to ask.
Not that it mattered anymore.
Her father wanted me dead.
If I wanted to live long enough to find a cure then it would be best to stay away from her.
It would be close to impossible to resist having contact with her but I was doing this for the both of us.
I know Piet wouldn’t be above using her in order to find me.
I stare at the mobile I had stolen and I force myself to put it away.
I close my eyes.
Why did I have to be so stupid?
I could be home right now with my wife, everything could be normal.
I wipe my tears away.
I had to fix this.
I curl up under the piece of cardboard.
My body hurt.
I stare up at the ceiling before closing my eyes.
I take a deep breath and relax my body.
I wake with a start, the daylight creeping in through the broken windows and it takes me a moment to remember where I am.
My stomach grumbles loudly and I look around the shack for food.
Anything would be better than nothing.
I find a bit of cat food and I devour it.
It wasn’t enough.
I make my way to the ‘market’ to purchase food with the money I had stolen from the fast food place.
The raw meat smelled and looked so enticing but it is the cans I see lined up behind the butcher that make me salivate.
“Is that cat food?”
“I’ll have some of that.”
I place the cans in the plastic bag where I carried the medical gown I had been given at the MNU lab.
I make my way to the cliff where I can stare down at the city.
I eat cat food, swallowing down large chunks before I even realize what I’m doing.
I throw the can away in disgust as I spit out the meat I still had in my mouth.
I sit there sniveling and crying while a few prawns fight over the can of food I had thrown away.
I take out the mobile and I dial the number.
My breath catches in my throat.
“Tania? Tania, is that you?”
I can hear her crying.
I close my eyes.
“Tania, listen to me. Whatever they are saying about me, you can’t believe it okay? I’m going to fix my arm and I’m going to come home and everything will go back to the way it was. But you can’t believe the lies. Your father-”
“Wikus. I can’t….”
“Is it true?”
“I did not have sex with-”
“No. Not that. Is it true that you are becoming like them?”
She starts to sob.
“Tania, baby. Look-”
“I’m sorry, Wikus. I can’t do this.”
“No, no. Please don’t leave me. I can fix this.”
“I’ll find a way. Just please don’t give up on me. I love you.”
“I love you too, Wikus.”
I press my fist to my mouth to stop myself from sobbing.
“You don’t know how good it makes me feel to hear you say that.”
She sighs and sniffles.
“But we both know there isn’t a cure. My father would have told me.”
“Tania. He isn’t trying to find a cure. They were going to tear me to fookin pieces!”
“I don’t want you to call me again.”
“Good bye Wikus.”
She hangs up.
I dial the number again but she doesn’t answer.
I drop the mobile as I start sobbing.
She was the only person in the world I had ever loved and I’d lost her.
I raise my head as I hear helicopters.
I grab the mobile and my bag and I stumble down the hill.
I run into the nearest shack.
My heart was beating very fast and I felt faint with hunger and loss of blood.
I peer out the window as the helicopters pass overhead.
I close my eyes.
I whirl around.
The prawn advances on me.
I raise my hands.
“Please. You have to help me. They’re trying to kill me.”
I look at the little prawn staring at me from under the table.
“I’m begging you, man. Help me.”
“Why should I?”
“I remember you. Christopher? That’s your name isn’t it?”
“Christopher, something’s happened. I need your help. Please.”
The room tilts and I close my eyes.
“You must go, I do not want any trouble.”
My knees buckle and I grab his arms.
“Please.” I whisper before I fall.
I blink my eyes open.
Grey walls greet me.
I sit up.
“Where is it?”
I look at the prawn, Christopher, looming over me.
I scoot back until my back hits the wall.
“The cylinder you took. Where is it?”
“I don’t know what-”
“I can see what’s happening to you.”
I look down at my left arm.
“The black fluid?” I ask.
“Yes. Where is it?”
“I confiscated it.” I close my eyes trying to remember.
My thoughts and my memories are all jumbled.
It was hard to concentrate.
A flash of a plastic bag held in gloved hands.
I look at Christopher.
“MNU. MNU has it.”
He growls and stomps away.
I look around.
The little prawn hurries to my side.
I look back at Christopher.
“Where are we?”
“The fuel goes in here and then we fly up.” The little prawn tells me. “Then we can go home.”
“Quiet.” Christopher tells his son. “We can’t trust him.”
“Is this….he says that you’re going to use this to go home.”
“It doesn’t matter now. You ruined everything.”
“You’re not allowed to leave.”
“And now we won’t. It doesn’t work without the fluid.”
“It’s a shame. I could have fixed you.”
I stand on shaky legs.
Hope blossoms in my chest.
“You can fix me?”
“We have machines aboard the mother ship. They could reverse the process of your transformation.”
He turns to look at me.
“We don’t have the fuel.”
“We can make more.”
“It took twenty years to make that amount.”
“Fook man! Fook!”
“We could get it back.” He says.
I look at Christopher.
“We can go to MNU.”
“Or we could just blow ourselves up right now and save them the trouble. It’s a suicide mission!”
I sit back down.
Why did I always fook everything up?
A small hand touches my deformed arm and I jump.
I look down at the little prawn.
“We’re the same.” He says measuring his arm against mine.
He stares up at me with a child’s wonder.
My eyes burn with tears and I can’t believe it’s those innocent words that do me in.
I start sobbing loudly and no matter how much I try to contain it, the tears won’t stop.
I’m probably freaking Christopher and his kid out.
I open my eyes.
Christopher is kneeling in front of me.
He places a cup in my right hand.
I lift the cup to my lips with a shaky hand.
The cool water soothes my throat.
I hand back the cup.
I wipe my eyes.
“There is nothing we can do now.”
“All these years I’ve made myself believe that I was doing the right thing.” I look at him. “I deserve what’s happened to me for treating your people the way I did. For killing all those unborn prawns. But I am not taking you down with me. I will find a way to help you and your people go home. I swear.”