“Why wouldn’t I?” Thomas said.

“Because it’s violent, unpleasant, and may lead to irrational behavior on your part.” Dr. Antonacci pressed her lips together. “Honestly, if it were up to me, I wouldn’t even mention it. But we’ve been accused of withholding information before, so I feel I must.”

“Let me see it.”

Click. A slide of a person, face-down, with the same figure literally carved, over and over, into their lower back. The lack of blood from the later incisions made it quite obvious that the subject had bled to death long before the final cuts were made.

“Subject eventually expressed the memetic entity in a violent and compulsive way,” said Dr. Antonacci. “In this case, her husband. Death was by exsanguination and shock. The lined paper is what they were able to give her at the Department of Mental Health state hospital.”

Thomas turned away, breathing heavily, and Ari bit her fist, eyes locked on the image. “Does it…always end this way?” she whispered.

“Of course not. As with any virus, to return to our earlier metaphor, interaction with a host can lead to anything from nothing to death.”

“Why…why do they do it?” Thomas said, still looking away.

“Why does anything that needs a living host do as it does?” Dr. Antonacci said. “I suppose one way to think of it is that these memetic communications–images, songs, thoughts, what have you–simply need to exist. And the only way they can exist, I’m sorry to say, is to express themselves through us.”

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!