The Host - Stephenie Meyer
To my mother, Candy,
who taught me that love is the best part of any story
Body my house
my horse my hound
what will I do
when you are fallen
Where will I sleep
How will I ride
What will I hunt
Where can I go
without my mount
all eager and quick
How will I know
in thicket ahead
is danger or treasure
When Body my good
bright dog is dead
How will it be
to lie in the sky
without roof or door
and wind for an eye
with cloud for a shift
how will I hide?
– May Swenson
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 girl’s unconscious body, laid out facedown on the operating table. Pity swelled in his heart as he remembered the condition her poor, broken body had been in when the Seekers had brought her to the Healing facility. Such pain she’d endured…
Of course she was perfect now-completely healed. Fords had seen to that.
“She looks the same as any of us,” Fords murmured to Darren. “We all have human faces. And when she wakes up, she 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 her host body gawked at this way. She’ll already have far too much to deal with as she acclimates. It’s not fair to put her 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 word Seeker, 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. “She is exceptional among our kind-braver than most. Her lives speak for themselves. I think she would volunteer, if it were possible to ask her.”
“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 her 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.
“She’s lived on six planets.”
“I heard seven.”
“I heard she’s never lived two terms as the same host species.”
“Is that possible?”
“She’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. She 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 girl. Her long dark hair was secured beneath a surgical cap, exposing her slender neck. Deeply sedated, she breathed slowly in and out. Her sun-browned skin had barely a mark to show for her… 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