Original Illustration by Faizal Ganee - Jepara, Indonesia

Dr Notion minces through the monochrome streets under the monochrome sky. He is neatness and elegance itself, from his Saville’s suit to his smooth leather case, grasped in a glove of the softest kid.

His bright eyes flicker left and right with blurring speed. There is laughter behind their keenness. His cane taps the pavement with brisk regularity. Pigeons cock their heads as he passes. It is surprising that he looks so exquisite, given that his reputation is in shreds. Dr Notion’s Remedies (Ltd.) are generally sneered at. Threats and court cases have been made but Notion’s eyes still flicker back and forth and his gloved hand is tight on the smooth leather case. Four attempts to steal it have been made in the past week.

Under the clamour of the sneers are quieter voices. Miraculous, they say. The incurable cured. They are only quiet because some don’t want them heard. At least until they know what’s in the case…and it belongs to them.

Dr Notion ascends the asylum steps. Eyes still flickering and hand tight on case. He stands in the doorway and cocks his head at the wails and cackling within.

Dr Notion has a new patient.

Ulyana begged the local doctors to examine her delirious child. Her fits of outrage, her blasphemous words, and her spitting at nurses were all symptoms of insanity. However, the Berlin Psychiatry ward was disinterested in commoners, less so if said commoners were of Soviet descent.

"Breathe deeply, my little one… That's it… And another deep breath…" Valeriya's mother, Ulyana, stood a few feet away from the doctor and her girl. Her eyes lay transfixed on the caring mannerisms of this strange man who showed love for them when everybody else cursed them out. Dr Notion understood the dangers of using ether on a six-year-old, but the only other option would have been to restrain her with iron chains. With the child now motionless in front of him, it was time to remove the parasite.

"I need you outside, my dear. I need maximum focus," he directed the young mother in perfect Russian as she apprehensively and obediently followed into the room ajar. Parasite, demon, Vril… They were all the same for Dr Notion. He despised the term exorcist as it belittled the science: He was not an occultist. He was a pragmatist and a surgeon above all else.

Val's mind was hazy as she slowly regained consciousness, her eyes blinking open to the dimly lit room where she could hear muffled voices coming from somewhere nearby. As she lay still, trying to make sense of her surroundings, she realized that one of the voices belonged to her mother. She strained to hear what was being said, but through the closed oak doors, the words were jumbled and impossible to decipher.

As she lay there, her eyes gradually adjusting to the low light, Val noticed a leather case lying open at the foot of her bed. As she carefully tried to reposition herself to get a closer look at its contents, her arm caught the edge of the blanket draped over her chest, sending the case and its contents spewing across the rough stone floor.

As her mother rushed in, followed by an older neatly dressed gentleman, Val could see that despite the clatter caused by the contents spewed across the floor, the case had not held much at all: an empty dull-yellow vial, now shattered in pieces; a thin gallium armlet faintly, shimmering in a shadowed corner of the room; and a faded stone-stele, worn down through time.

Dr Notion fixed eyes with the humble mother, while she mumbled religious epithets, “Stay with her, dear, I must finish this”. Clutched in his rubber-gloved hand, he grasped a sealed conical-flask containing the contents removed from the girl’s “surgery”. He left Ulyana inside with the skittish and curious Val, and closed the doors.

As soon as the door latched shut, Dr. Notion began sprinting for the end of the claustrophobic passage. Panting and tripping nervously as he rushed for the dilapidated building’s exit with his heart drumming erratically. He kicked open the door leading to the street, and sighed with enormous relief.

He extended his arm holding the flask, up to the blinding moonlight and swirled its contents. The opaque liquid appeared more translucent under the moon’s glare, and the parasite therein was illuminated like a firefly. But, something was different this time: Notion’s apprehension began to fire up. This particular specimen was anomalous- It, too, resembled the typical luminescent two-inch fly pupa, but unlike the previous encounters, this one had a clearly protruding proboscis which frantically examined the inside of the flask like an intelligent octopus tentacle: Notion now knew that the parasite was evolving rapidly.

An unfamiliar nausea crept through Notion’s belly. He’d seen so many such parasites in the span of his career, and the havoc they wrought on the human body, that he fancied himself immune from disgust. Yet this specimen singularly unnerved him.

Unable to turn his gaze from the disturbing tentacle-like appendage, Notion didn’t realize the structure of the vial warped beneath his hand.

With a distinct tinkle of broken glass, the vial shattered. The parasite fell to the stone street. Notion, on impulse, tried to stomp the wicked creature flat.

The parasite squirmed with unearthly speed, avoiding Notion’s shoe. Notion sneered anxiously as it raced across the stones, across his other shoe, and up his pantleg in less than a heartbeat of time.

Notion slapped at his shin, whining in disgust as the warm beast slid up his skin. It reached his knee, his thigh, his pelvis, all while Notion—ever more frantic—tried to stop the parasite with open-palm slaps.

Notion felt a small pinch in his side.

His jaw fell slack. Icewater seemed to pour slowly into his veins.

“No,” he whispered.

But of course, the truth was: yes....

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