An idea I had after reading the Host. Similar to it but the roles are reversed. Jared is a caught instead of Melanie, Ian is the soul instead of Wanda, Wanda and kyle are twins.
I do not own the Host or its characters
The Healer's name was Fords Deep Waters.
Because he was a soul, by nature he was all things good: compassionate, patient, honest, virtuous, and full of love. Anxiety was an unusual emotion for Fords Deep Waters.
Irritation was even rarer. However, because Fords Deep Waters lived inside a human body, irritation was sometimes inescapable.
As the whispers of the Healing students buzzed in the far corner of the operating room, his lips pressed together into a tight line. The expression felt out of place on a mouth more often given to smiling.
Darren, his regular assistant, saw the grimace and patted his shoulder.
"They're just curious, Fords," he said quietly.
"An insertion is hardly an interesting or challenging procedure. Any soul on the street could perform it in an emergency. There's nothing for them to learn by observing today." Fords was surprised to hear the sharp edge marring his normally soothing voice.
"They've never seen a grown human before," Darren said.
Fords raised one eyebrow. "Are they blind to each other's faces? Do they not have mirrors?"
"You know what I mean-a wild human. Still soulless. One of the insurgents."
Fords looked at the man's unconscious body, laid out facedown on the operating table. Pity swelled in his heart as he remembered the condition his poor, broken body had been in when the Seekers had brought him to the Healing facility. Such pain he'd endured...
Of course he was perfect now-completely healed. Fords had seen to that.
"He looks the same as any of us," Fords murmured to Darren. "We all have human faces. And when he wakes up, he will be one of us, too."
"It's just exciting for them, that's all."
"The soul we implant today deserves more respect than to have his host body gawked at this way. He'll already have far too much to deal with as he acclimates. It's not fair to put him through this." By this, he did not mean the gawking. Fords heard the sharp edge return to his voice.
Darren patted him again. "It will be fine. The Seeker needs information and -"
At the wordSeeker, Fords gave Darren a look that could only be described as a glare. Darren blinked in shock.
"I'm sorry," Fords apologized at once. "I didn't mean to react so negatively. It's just that I fear for this soul."
His eyes moved to the cryotank on its stand beside the table. The light was a steady, dull red, indicating that it was occupied and in hibernation mode.
"This soul was specially picked for the assignment," Darren said soothingly. "He is exceptional among our kind-braver than most. His lives speak for themselves. I think he would volunteer, if it were possible to ask him."
"Who among us would not volunteer if asked to do something for the greater good? But is that really the case here? Is the greater good served by this? The question is not his willingness, but what it is right to ask any soul to bear."
The Healing students were discussing the hibernating soul as well. Fords could hear the whispers clearly; their voices were rising now, getting louder with their excitement.
"He's lived on six planets."
"I heard seven."
"I heard he's never lived two terms as the same host species."
"Is that possible?"
"He's been almost everything. A Flower, a Bear, a Spider -"
"A See Weed, a Bat -"
"Even a Dragon!"
"I don't believe it-not seven planets."
"At least seven. He started on the Origin."
"Really? The Origin?"
"Quiet, please!" Fords interrupted.
"If you cannot observe professionally and silently, then I will have to ask you to remove yourselves."
Abashed, the six students fell silent and edged away from one another.
"Let's get on with this, Darren."
Everything was prepared. The appropriate medicines were laid out beside the human man. His short dark hair was secured beneath a surgical cap, exposing his thick neck. Deeply sedated, he breathed slowly in and out. His sun-browned skin had barely a mark to show for his... accident.
"Begin thaw sequence now, please, Darren."
The gray-haired assistant was already waiting beside the cryotank, his hand resting on the dial. He flipped the safety back and spun down on the dial. The red light atop the small gray cylinder began to pulse, flashing faster as the seconds passed, changing color.
Fords concentrated on the unconscious body; he edged the scalpel through the skin at the base of the subject's skull with small, precise movements, and then sprayed on the medication that stilled the excess flow of blood before he widened the fissure. Fords delved delicately beneath the neck muscles, careful not to injure them, exposing the pale bones at the top of the spinal column.
"The soul is ready, Fords," Darren informed him.
"So am I. Bring him."
Fords felt Darren at his elbow and knew without looking that his assistant would be prepared, his hand stretched out and waiting; they had worked together for many years now. Fords held the gap open.
"Send him home," he whispered.
Darren's hand moved into view, the silver gleam of an awaking soul in his cupped palm.
Fords never saw an exposed soul without being struck by the beauty of it.
The soul shone in the brilliant lights of the operating room, brighter than the reflective silver instrument in his hand. Like a living ribbon, he twisted and rippled, stretching, happy to be free of the cryotank. His thin, feathery attachments, nearly a thousand of them, billowed softly like pale silver hair. Though they were all lovely, this one seemed particularly graceful to Fords Deep Waters.
He was not alone in his reaction. He heard Darren's soft sigh, heard the admiring murmurs of the students.
Gently, Darren placed the small glistening creature inside the opening Fords had made in the human's neck. The soul slid smoothly into the offered space, weaving himself into the alien anatomy. Fords admired the skill with which he possessed his new home. His attachments wound tightly into place around the nerve centers, some elongating and reaching deeper to where he couldn't see, under and up into the brain, the optic nerves, the ear canals. He was very quick, very firm in his movements. Soon, only one small segment of his glistening body was visible.
"Well done," he whispered to him, knowing that he could not hear him. The human man was the one with ears, and he still slept soundly.
It was a routine matter to finish the job. He cleaned and healed the wound, applied the salve that sealed the incision closed behind the soul, and then brushed the scar-softening powder across the line left on his neck.
"Perfect, as usual," said the assistant, who, for some reason unfathomable to Fords, had never made a change from his human host's name, Darren.
Fords sighed. "I regret this day's work."
"You're only doing your duty as a Healer."
"This is the rare occasion when Healing creates an injury."
Darren began to clean up the workstation. He didn't seem to know how to answer. Fords was filling his Calling. That was enough for Darren.
But not enough for Fords Deep Waters, who was a true Healer to the core of his being. He gazed
anxiously at the human male's body, peaceful in slumber, knowing that this peace would be shattered
as soon as he awoke. All the horror of this young man's end would be borne by the innocent soul
he'd just placed inside him.
As he leaned over the human and whispered in his ear, Fords wished fervently that the soul inside could hear him now.
"Good luck. How I wish you didn't need it."
I knew it would begin with the end, and the end would look like death to these eyes. I had been warned.
Not these eyes. Mine. This was me now.
The language I found myself using was odd, but it made sense. Choppy, boxy, blind, and linear. Impossibly crippled in comparison to many I'd used, yet still it managed to find fluidity and expression. Sometimes beauty. My language now. My native tongue.
With the truest instinct of my kind, I'd bound myself securely into the body's center of thought, twined myself inescapably into its every breath and reflex until it was no longer a separate entity. It was me.
Not the body,my body.
I felt the sedation wearing off and lucidity taking its place. I braced myself for the onslaught of the first memory, which would really be the last memory-the last moments this body had experienced, the memory of the end. I had been warned thoroughly of what would happen now. These human emotions would be stronger, more vital than the feelings of any other species I had been. I had tried to prepare myself.
The memory came. And, as I'd been warned, it was not something that could ever be prepared for.
It seared with sharp color and ringing sound. Cold on his skin, pain gripping his limbs, burning them. The taste was fiercely metallic in his mouth. And there was the new sense, the fifth sense I'd never had, that took the particles from the air and transformed them into strange messages and pleasures and warnings in his brain-scents. They were distracting, confusing to me, but not to his memory. The memory had no time for the novelties of smell. The memory was only fear.
Fear locked him in a vise, goading the blunt, clumsy limbs forward but hampering them at the same time. To flee, to run-it was all he could do.
The memory that was not mine was so frighteningly strong and clear that it sliced through my control-overwhelmed the detachment, the knowledge that this was just a memory and not me. Sucked into the hell that was the last minute of his life, I was he, and we were running.
It's so dark. I can't see. I can't see the floor. I can't see my hands stretched out in front of me. I run blind and try to hear the pursuit I can feel behind me, but the pulse is so loud behind my ears it drowns everything else out.
It's cold. It shouldn't matter now, but it hurts. I'm so cold.
The air in his nose was uncomfortable. Bad. A bad smell. For one second, that discomfort pulled me free of the memory. But it was only a second, and then I was dragged in again, and my eyes filled with horrified tears.
I'm lost, we're lost. It's over.
They're right behind me now, loud and close. There are so many footsteps! I am alone. I've failed.
The Seekers are calling. The sound of their voices twists my stomach. I'm going to be sick.
"It's fine, it's fine," one lies, trying to calm me, to slow me. His voice is disturbed by the effort of his breathing.
"Be careful!" another shouts in warning.
"Don't hurt yourself," one of them pleads. A high voice, full of concern. Concern!
Heat shot through my veins, and a violent hatred nearly choked me. I will not let them get me.
I had never felt such an emotion as this in all my lives. For another second, my revulsion pulled me away from the memory. A deep, roar keening pierced my ears and pulsed in my head. The sound scraped through my airways. There was a weak pain in my throat.
Screaming, my body explained. You're screaming.
I froze in shock, and the sound broke off abruptly.
This was not a memory.
My body-he was thinking! Speaking to me!
But the memory was stronger, in that moment, than my astonishment.
"Please!" they cry. "There is no danger!"
The danger is behind! I scream back in my mind. There is no way out. Nothing but a dead end. Abandoned, empty, and condemned, like this building. Once a hiding place, now a tomb.
A surge of relief floods through me as I race forward. I then see a small window. There is a way. No way to survive, but perhaps a way to win.
No, no, no! This thought was all mine, and I fought to pull myself away from him, but we were together.
"Please!" The shouts are more desperate. I pull out my knife from my pocket.
I feel like laughing when I know that I am fast enough. I imagine their hands clutching for me just inches behind my back. I am as fast as I need to be but then I stop. The Seekers also stop in amazement. They begin smiling thinking I have given up. But they are wrong. I have not given up.
I hold the knife up so they can see. I turn it seeming if as if I will drop it but then quickly slice it across my throat. Their faces turn into shock. I then run through the small window head first.
The emptiness swallows me. My legs flail, useless. My hands grip the air, claw through it, searching for anything solid. Cold blows past me like tornado winds.
I hear the thud before I feel it... The wind is gone...
And then pain is everywhere... Pain is everything.
Make it stop.
Not high enough, I whisper to myself through the pain.
When will the pain end? When... ?
The blackness swallowed up the agony, and I was weak with gratitude that the memory had come to this most final of conclusions. The blackness took all, and I was free. I took a breath to steady myself, as was this body's habit. My body.
But then the color rushed back, the memory reared up and engulfed me again. No! I panicked, fearing the cold and the pain and the very fear itself.
But this was not the same memory. This was a memory within a memory-a final memory, like a last gasp of air-yet, somehow, even stronger than the first.
The blackness took all but this: a face.
The face was as alien to me as the faceless serpentine tentacles of my last host body would be to this new body. I'd seen this kind of face in the images I had been given to prepare for this world. It was hard to tell them apart, to see the tiny variations in color and shape that were the only markers of the individual. So much the same, all of them. Noses centered in the middle of the sphere, eyes above and mouths below, ears around the sides. A collection of senses, all but touch, concentrated in one place. Skin over bones, hair growing on the crown and in strange furry lines above the eyes. Some had more fur lower down on the jaw; those were always males. The colors ranged through the brown scale from pale cream to a deep almost-black. Aside from that, how to know one from the other?
This face I would have known among millions.
This face was a soft square, high cheek bones under the skin. In color it was a light golden brown. The hair was just a few shades darker than the skin, except where flaxen streaks lightened it, and it covered only the head and the odd fur stripes above the eyes. The circular irises in the white eyeballs were lighter than the hair but, like the hair, flecked with green. There were small lines around the eyes, and his memories told me the lines were from smiling and squinting into sunlight.
I knew nothing of what passed for beauty among these strangers, and yet I knew that this face was beautiful. I wanted to keep looking at it. As soon as I realized this, it disappeared.
Mine, spoke the alien thought that should not have existed.
Again, I was frozen, stunned. There should have been no one here but me. And yet this thought was so strong and so aware!
Impossible. How was he still here? This was me now.
Mine, I rebuked him, the power and authority that belonged to me alone flowing through the word.
Everything is mine.
So why am I talking back to him? I wondered as the voices interrupted my thoughts.