Companion Trilogy: Bareheaded
by Mike Buckley
"Rebels isn't the right word," Varner said to me. We were standing on a bluff overlooking the beach, the white van parked a block away. Tarifa stood next to Varner and they both looked at me, their expressions crosses between fear and excitement.
They had what I knew were fake companions on their heads, but if I didn't know, I wouldn't have been able to tell. Companions resemble very large roaches, with the graceful, long legs of a stick bug. The needle that they place in the forehead to join with their host's mind is about seven inches long, and a gently darkened purple. I was having the thought that their fake companions had none of the grace and beauty of the real thing, and then that thought began to fade.
"You're starting to realize, aren't you?" Tarifa said.
My own fake companion moved on my head.
"Those moments are the worst," she said, "and the best. Every decision you've ever made, Marlon, was influenced--even outright controlled--by your companion. It was with you since you were an infant. You couldn't feel the control. But look around."
Indeed. Down on the beach, which had been pristine just yesterday, piles of burned trash lay scattered with empty bottles. A human body lay half in the water, moving with the tide, and when the water went out, a group of half a dozen companions skittered across the sand and tore at the body, yanking off scraps of flesh.
"Just yesterday this beach was perfect," I said.