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The Host (The Host #1)

By´╝ÜStephenie Meyer

into the offered space, weaving herself into the alien anatomy. Fords admired the skill with which she possessed her new home. Her 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. She was very quick, very firm in her movements. Soon, only one small segment of her glistening body was visible.




"Well done," he whispered to her, knowing that she could not hear him. The human girl was the one with ears, and she 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 her 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 female's body, peaceful in slumber, knowing that this peace would be shattered as soon as she awoke. All the horror of this young woman's end would be borne by the innocent soul he'd just placed inside her.

As he leaned over the human and whispered in her ear, Fords wished fervently that the soul inside could hear him now.

"Good luck, little wanderer, good luck. How I wish you didn't need it."

CHAPTER 1

Remembered

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. My 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 her skin, pain gripping her limbs, burning them. The taste was fiercely metallic in her 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 her brain - scents. They were distracting, confusing to me, but not to her memory. The memory had no time for the novelties of smell. The memory was only fear.

Fear locked her in a vise, goading the blunt, clumsy limbs forward but hampering them at the same time. To flee, to run - it was all she could do.

I've failed.

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 her life, I was she, 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 her 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. Her voice is disturbed by the effort of her breathing.

"Be careful!" another shouts in warning.

"Don't hurt yourself," one of them pleads. A deep voice, full of concern.

Concern!

Heat shot through my veins, and a violent hatred nearly choked 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 high, shrill 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 - she was thinking! Speaking to me!

But the memory was stronger, in that moment, than my astonishment.

"Please!" they cry. "There is danger ahead!"

The danger is behind! I scream back in my mind. But I see what they mean. A feeble stream of light, coming from who knows where, shines on the end of the hall. It is not the flat wall or the locked door, the dead end I feared and expected. It is a black hole.

An elevator shaft. Abandoned, empty, and condemned, like this building. Once a hiding place, now a tomb.

A surge of relief

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