Together we are Stronger

by AmyAmy

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© Copyright 2018 - AmyAmy - Used by permission. All rights are retained by the author. This work may not be reproduced for profit or without this attribution.

Storycodes: Solo-F; Other/f; blob; host; engulf; encase; overwhelm; grow; surround; insert; bodymod; pain; torment; mast; climax; cons/nc; X

Story continued from Part 5

Chapter 6: Drawing Closer
By AmyAmy, based on an idea by John Hynden

Maeve woke to the sound of the door buzzer. She jumped up and ran to the intercom.

“Hello?” she said.

“It’s me,” Brian said through the speaker.

She buzzed him in, then remembered last night. Had it been a dream? She glanced down. No. She was wearing a t-shirt and what looked like a pair of shiny black-rubber panties. She tried to peel them off, but they were stuck fast. As she’d feared. The goo had picked a shape that seemed more like a result of intelligence than chance, and it looked bigger than before, much bigger.

She snatched her discarded jeans off the kitchen floor. She was still fastening the top-button when Brian let himself in.

There was no way she could tell him about the black stuff on her. No way on earth. If she showed him she was wearing rubber panties, he would probably get an entirely different idea to the one she wanted. When he couldn’t get them off her, then things would really get weird. She wasn’t ready for that, not when she didn’t even know what was happening herself. She’d have to bluff through it somehow. It would be easier to collapse into his arms and weep, ask for his help. That was the sort of thing women did in television dramas. She wasn’t in one of those. She had to sort her own messes out. It had been bad enough getting shot. She couldn’t have people starting to think she was weak, or cracking up, especially not Brian.

And there was the chance that she was bat-shit delusional crazy about that creature. Maybe it had only existed in her head. Could a severe blow to the head do that? The simple act of asking might get people doubting her competence.

She closed the bedroom door behind her. He looked through the door from the kitchen and smiled.

“Hello. How’s my favorite officer? Did you get in last night? How was the trip?” he said, oblivious to how she must look.

She joined him by the breakfast bar, went to put the kettle on. “So, so. Mother’s worse. Again. Another round of chemo last week. She’s optimistic, but you know...”

“Yeah. I guess it’s going to get more difficult from here on?” He looked like he wanted to hug her, but was unsure.

If she let him do that just now, she really would break down.

Maeve nodded. It felt wrong talking about it, and it was obvious anyway.

“And what about Flora and Izzy?”

Maeve let her gaze focus on the ceiling. “Don’t ask.”

“That bad?”

“You’d think I was the eldest, the way they carry on like children.”

“What now?”

“Izzy just snipes at me non-stop, and Flora’s crank-theories are getting worse. I’m surprised she hasn’t tried to convince me that bananas can cure cancer.”

Brian stepped in and put his arm around her, pulling her into a hug. She didn’t reciprocate, didn’t resist either. What if the creature gave itself away? Maybe she should tell him about it, but it would be hard to explain.

“You look worn out,” he said.

“I was late back, but I’m fine now,” she lied. She put her arm around him, pulling him closer. His familiar scent, clean, with an edgy masculine undertone. She sniffed again. He reeked of sex. No. It was only her imagination. The events with the goo, and the incredible orgasms had put ideas in her head. If anyone smelled of sex, it would be her, wouldn’t it?

“I showered this morning. Is it that bad?” he said. He must have noticed her sniffing.

“No. It’s me. I went straight to bed when I got back.”

He laughed. “You’re kidding. You smell fantastic. Really good. Did you get a new perfume or something?”

Maeve widened her eyes at him purposefully. “Men can’t be trusted. You’re all flattery.”

He nodded. “But it’s not flattery if it’s true, right?”

She looked up at the ceiling. “Right.”

His gaze followed hers, looking up at the ceiling as if he expected there to be something to see up there. He hesitated. She could see cogs grinding in his head. “Did you read my messages?” His tone had completely changed.

“Sorry. Phone still in my luggage.”

“Oh. I thought you’d read them, else I would have...”

An awkward silence. What was he on about?

“Now you’re here, I can just tell you,” he said.

“Tell me what?”

“There’s a rumor, that there were guards on your room when you were in hospital. It’s probably not just a rumor. But if it’s true, they weren’t from this division. They didn’t want anyone to know.”

“Well, so?” It could have been a routine precaution, given somebody had tried to kill her. It made sense to plan in case there was another attempt.

The guy who shot her had been killed by James, the gun squad sergeant. Self-defense, though it was still under inquiry. He’d probably get a medal for it. He’d said that if she hadn’t given a warning, others might have been shot. In some weird reversal of logic, that made him even more of a hero, made her look like the victim, the princess that needed saving. It wasn’t good for her credibility.

“Don’t you think it’s odd?”

Maeve paused. Should she tell him? He’d only worry, but clearly, he was already worried. It was better now if he knew the truth, better if he stopped digging into this.

“There are a lot of odd things Brian. I didn’t think they mattered, but maybe you’re right. Maybe they do.”

“I know. I know.”

“The man who shot me used armor-piercing bullets. A regular police vest wouldn’t have stopped them. But I was wearing my own vest, latest H-M tech. He wouldn’t have expected that.”

Brian’s mouth fell open, closed again. He took a deep breath.

“I didn’t know I was going to get shot, if that’s what you’re thinking,” she said.

She counted the seconds of silence.

“Your leave isn’t exactly normal procedure either, is it?” he said, at last.

“Yeah, well there have been a few oversights. I figure they’ll just sort it out later, when they have to tick the boxes. It’s been happening more and more lately. Understaffing. Something has to give right?”

He raised an eyebrow, like some old movie star. Damn him, he was handsome, and that jaw line...

“I admit, I protest too much. I’m pretty sure Ridley pulled some strings, but I don’t know for sure ok?”

Brian nodded slowly. “Maybe. I just mean… Is there something else?”

“I was expecting to get shot one day. But not like that. I was thinking it would be friendly fire. When it happened.”

Disappointingly, Brian didn’t seem surprised by this revelation. “Yeah. Just take care ok?”

“Your concern is noted, but I’m fine,” she said. Was it a lie? What did fine even feel like? “If the problem came from inside, it wasn’t the firearms guys.”

He looked down at his feet, avoiding looking her in the eye. “There was something else. Another rumor. I meant to bring it up first, but I bottled.”

“Brian? What’s wrong?”

“There’s a story that you’re screwing Ridley, that the two of you are in on a scheme to sell ero-drugs stolen from evidence.” He hesitated, just an instant. “I know it’s absurd. Both of you are dead straight, by the book, and he’s way too old. People who believe it have obviously never met you both.”

She stepped in, flicked him sharply on the forehead. “You better not be doubting me, you doofus.”

“Yow.” Brian clutched his forehead, then rubbed at the spot. “I just said it’s stupid, didn’t I? Just thought you’d rather hear it from me than some random.”

“That’s why I flicked you. I’ll do it again if you don’t get it through your head that acting guilty makes you look guilty. I know you wouldn’t doubt me.”

She stepped closer. He flinched, expecting another flick. She kissed him, stepped back, laughed.

He smiled. “They probably only made it up to mess with me.”

“That’s quite likely,” she said. “It is what it is.”

He half turned towards the door. “Yeah, it is what it is. I have to head off. Are you going back to work today? I’d get a proper night’s sleep first if I were you.”

“Yes. Alright. Another day won’t make much difference at this point.”

“I’ll drop back after work. We can go out, have dinner or something? That suit?”

“Yeah. Yeah. I’ll see you then.”

“Have a nap, soak in the tub or whatever it is the ladies do.”

She made a grumpy face. She didn’t want to let him go. As he reached for the door handle, she grabbed him from behind, hugged him tight.

“Hey,” he said.

She pressed her face into the back of his shoulder. “Thanks.”

He laughed. “You’re welcome.”

“I love you, you doofus.” She let him go.

He turned back towards her and laughed again. “I love you too,” he said, then hesitated, creating an awkward silence. “I mean it. Be careful. Ok?”

She nodded, tried to think of the right thing to say, the right thing to do. By the time it had occurred to her, he’d gone.

She closed the door with a sigh. He’d put her so at ease that she’d almost forgotten about the thing wrapped around her hips. But she hadn’t forgotten it, and it was still there. A problem she had to handle.

She should have asked him to take her to the hospital. It was too late now. She’d get herself there without completely ruining his day. She’d done enough damage in that direction already. She could phone for a ride. She just needed a snack first. She hadn’t eaten since the motorway services, on the way home, last night. It was natural to be hungry.

Maybe not this hungry.

Breakfast would be good. If only she had some cereal, or bread, or eggs, or bacon. Food shopping wasn’t her strong point.

* * * * *

Maeve searched the kitchen for something to eat. The fridge was barren. Milk, half-a-dozen sauce bottles, and a giant tub of abandoned yogurt that had turned out to be sickly sweet. She checked the freezer. There were a few left-over crusts from loaves of bread, a family-size bag of frozen-peas, and a pack of fish-fingers. Why did she have those? She didn’t even like them.

Her mother had always bought fish-fingers, had seemed to believe she liked them. Perhaps she had, when she was six, but by the time she was sixteen they seemed revolting. She ate them anyway, rather than disappoint her mother, who unconsciously still treated her as if she was an infant, in certain ways. It was the kind of thought she’d learned to shut down quickly, or else she’d end up crying.

But today, she was ravenous enough that even fish-fingers might hit the spot. She put on the oven. Waited. It was taking too long to heat up. She needed to eat something immediately. She filled the toaster with frozen bread and set it going. No. Still too slow. She had to eat something now.

She pulled out the liter tub of too-sweet yogurt and set about it with a desert spoon. By the time the toast popped up, the tub was empty. After she’d consumed the toast, the oven was hot enough for the fish-fingers.

An exhaustion as intense as the sudden hunger hit her like a wave. She set the oven-timer and went to lie down.

She woke to the sound of the oven beeping. Just a nap. If only she could have slept longer. She was still so tired, and hungry again.

Twenty-four fish-fingers weren’t much really. It was fine to eat them all at once wasn’t it? Even a child could eat a box of fish fingers. Her jeans felt tight. She popped the top button and pulled them off. The black-rubber panties were still there, hugging her in a snug, tingling embrace.

Another one of those orgasms would be nice about now.

No. What was she thinking? She needed to get rid of the thing. It was only pretending to be underwear. What was it really? Could it think? Understand? The tingling got stronger, and started to prickle.

No. Stop.

The prickles got stronger, turning into jolts.

She slid off the chair. Lay moaning on the kitchen floor as an orgasm hit her with the force of a ten-tonne truck. It started to ease off, then another. And another. She convulsed and twisted, overcome with pleasure beyond anything she could remember. Anything? Except that time earlier. Who knew it could feel so good? Nothing in her memory of sex or masturbation came even close.

When the feeling subsided, her joints felt slack, like she was one of those little wooden puppets loosely held together by strings. She dragged herself back up onto the chair.

She was still hungry, but there was nothing left. She finished off the milk. It wasn’t enough. She microwaved the frozen peas. First one bowl, then another, and another. She drowned them in sauce and devoured them. At last, the two kilo bag was empty, and there were no more sauces left.

A deep tiredness was calling her back to bed, but the gnawing hunger wouldn’t let up. There had to be something else to eat? She scoured the cupboards, found an unopened bag of caster-sugar and a tub of edible cake decorations. The sugar was a little dry to eat by itself, so she washed it down with mouthfuls of water. The decorations she swallowed whole, washed down with more sugar-water.

She was still hungry, but there was absolutely nothing left. She could go out to eat, but she was just too tired.

Maybe she’d feel more like it after a rest? She’d been missing out on sleep recently. Really needed to catch up.

* * * * *

Maeve drifted slowly back to consciousness, a sluggish awakening where dream and reality were mixed up, and she knew they were blending together but she was enjoying it. It was the heat that made her open her eyes. She’d been dreaming that the flat was on fire. The clock read 16:40. The mattress was soaked with sweat, and the covers were on the floor. She must have kicked them off. She’d gone to bed naked apart from the not-really-panties. But unlike her dream, there was no smell of smoke, no sound of flames, so the flat wasn’t actually on fire.

It was oppressively hot though, like that summer with Ridley. When had she turned the heating up to full?

She glanced down and gasped. Her chest tightened. Her throat blocked in panic. She couldn’t breathe, like she’d been punched in the gut, and all she could do was deny what she was seeing. She was experienced in panic situations, but this was too much, too much for anyone.

Even so, after the moments of initial terror, she remembered that she had to relax. She had to calm herself down, take deep breaths.

It was easy to tell herself.

Not so easy to execute. The only thing stopping her from screaming over and over was that she had no air to do it.

* * * * *

Maeve calmed herself, forced herself to breathe, then to look, to really look. There was no doubting the truth. It wasn’t her imagination. Her body was completely covered with the black goo. Like a rubber suit, a skin-tight coating, tight as a glove. If she’d been wearing any clothes they were gone now. She was perfectly naked apart from the black coating, mirror smooth. While she’d been sleeping, the black stuff had done more than just move, it had grown and swallowed her completely.

On closer inspection, not completely. The palm and fingers of her left hand remained uncovered, a small patch of pink in a sea of perfect glossy blackness.

She managed to take another breath. At least she could still do that. It was tight all over her skin, and her chest was oddly constrained. It wasn’t stopping her breathing, it was the lump in her throat that was doing that. She’d be fine in a minute. The suffocating feeling was passing.

But she wouldn’t be fine. That was obvious. Nothing about this was fine. Fine was not a word even remotely appropriate for it. And yet, it wasn’t as bad as she’d imagined, and perhaps she had imagined it, prior to this. It had been a momentary fantasy, that was all. This wasn’t what she wanted.

Yes. Just an idle fantasy. It can’t really be happening.

The idea had been hiding in the dark corners of her mind from the moment she woke up and found it had become a pair of panties. Or maybe, it had been at the back of her mind longer than that, something those images of Brian’s had dredged up. This went back to before she used to dress up for Ridley.

Yes, her skin was gone, lost beneath the black mirror-finish. Yes, she kept being overcome by multiple orgasms that turned her legs to jelly. And yes, she’d repeatedly failed to even make it out of the flat to get help. Yes, she looked like one of those fetish models from the kinky pictures on Brian’s laptop. Yes, yes, there were down-sides to all those things, but if they were merely been fantasy occurrences, instead of real, they might be harmless fun.

She slid her bare fingers over the slick coating. It had a rubbery firmness to it, her whole body gently squeezed and supported, harder and tighter than any suit she’d ever worn. The tightness wasn’t restrictive, but the heat was overwhelming, and her breasts and crotch were hottest of all, almost burning up. Now that she was getting over the initial panic, the temptation to masturbate was insistent.

She took another look at her breasts. They’d got bigger. Or had they just changed shape. She wasn’t imagining it? Yes. They were definitely larger and firmer than they’d ever been. Her nipples stuck out rudely, big and stiff, in a way that was definitely not normal. They’d only been little nubs before, now they looked like she’d been breastfeeding a vacuum cleaner.

She sat up, trying to force the fuzzy feeling out of her head. Her crotch was swollen, the outer lips big and puffy under the black goo. The inner lips were still covered. She checked, pressing with her fingers. Still no way in. She reached behind, the other hole, there was no way in there either. She was completely plugged up. So much for the masturbation plan. But everywhere the rubbery coating smothered her in warm, tingly tightness, the oppressive, overheated feeling made it difficult to concentrate on anything besides the physical experience of being covered, aroused, compressed and held.

Prepared for the worst, she checked her face with her untainted hand. Skin touched against skin. It felt like her head wasn’t covered yet, still human, still ordinary. Her hair was messy but otherwise present. For now. But how long would that last? Even with her sketchy knowledge of fetish tropes, it was obvious where this was headed. Some of the women in Brian’s pictures had been unattractively bald, shaven heads a badge of their continual rubber-wearing.

Maybe there were people who’d be overjoyed if this happened to them, but it wasn’t at the top of her list. Close to the top, maybe. Yes. If she’d been hoping for a fantasy to come true, it was the one where she turned into an androgynous yet studly guy and had to work out how she felt about lots of sex with attractive, muscular homosexual men.

Involuntarily being encased in rubber wasn’t top of her list of fantasies. Well, maybe top five? If she was forced to make the best of it, she would. However, if somebody was executing an outlandish science-fiction scheme to turn her into their rubber gimp, they were going to get a nasty surprise. If they thought a bit of sexual frustration was going to put her under their control, she’d show them the error of their ways.

Fantasies apart, what if she couldn’t get this stuff off? What if it was permanent? Or worse, the inevitable and imminent conclusion was that it would kill her? It was possible. It would be bizarre to be stuck like this, an implausible story from a super-market checkout magazine, but it would be a lot worse to be dead.

If it didn’t go away, could it be considered a disability, like a crippling skin disease? If it had been facial burns, at least nobody would imagine she’d got them on purpose. With this, people would think she was wearing a costume out of choice. Izzy would have a field day. Flora would see it as confirmation of all her crazy theories, and her mother… Maybe it would be better if her mother never found out.

Her breathing was normal again, but she was still on edge. Yes, this change was definitely exciting. She was pushing up against something completely unknown. She’d never heard of this happening to anyone else, ever. Not even the alien astronaut channel had stories like this, so at a bare minimum, she was having a unique experience.

She checked the radiator, but it was cool to the touch. The heat she felt was all internal, or in her mind. She stopped. Held up her right hand, studying it in the light. It was as if she were wearing a snug, form-fitting glove. She squeezed the end of her ‘gloved’ fingers with her uncovered left hand, which still displayed a nice coat of French vanilla on her short, carefully rounded nails. The tips of her right-hand fingers felt the same front and back, as if her fingernails were missing.

As her crotch was sealed up down there, what would happen when she needed to pee? Oddly, she didn’t, even after drinking all that milk and water and sleeping for hours. No way. She couldn’t have done those things. Just the idea of it made her gag. It must have been a fever-dream, like the fire.

She’d been dreaming earlier, something besides the fire, but she couldn’t remember what it was now. How simple it would be if this were all a dream. It made sense in a way, perhaps she was still asleep in the sun amidst the gorse and fuchsia in the forgotten graveyard next to the roofless kirk.

Convenient. But this can’t be a dream. The order of events, the detail, the sense of time passing. This is, without a doubt, real.

If her memories were real, breakfast must have been real too.

She went out into the kitchen. The aftermath of her binge was everywhere. The oven was still on, thankfully empty. She opened the freezer. Empty. The fridge, also bare. She grabbed up all the empty sauce bottles and dumped them into the bin. It was easier to keep moving than to stop and dwell on the impossible.

If I stop and think now, I’ll fall to pieces. I guess I’m like one of those sharks that can’t stop swimming.

She had just started to tidy up the rest of the mess when the doorbell rang.

Was Brian back already? It was too early.

Had something happened to him at work? She rushed to the door and yanked it open without thinking.

* * * * *

Maeve stood in the doorway, frozen, exposed, suddenly aware of what she’d done.

Sarah stepped back from the door with a shocked expression on her face. “What the heck?”

“Oh sh-”, Maeve cut herself off.

“Maeve?” Sarah said. “Maeve? Is that really you?”

“No. It’s her outrageous identical-twin sister Margot, that Maeve has been hiding from you for the last ten years out of shame.” Maeve sighed. “Come in Sarah. You’re not going to believe this.”

Sarah stepped inside, closed the door behind her. “I’m already not believing it. How on earth do you manage to keep so fit?”

“I’d put the kettle on, but I’m out of tea. And milk. And sugar.”

Sarah dumped her bag in the middle of the floor, threw her coat over a chair, and perched herself on the sofa, gazing up at Maeve. “Gimme a twirl. What are you wearing? It fits so good. There isn’t a single crease or ripple. Wherever did you get it? I want one.” She dropped her voice to a conspiratorial whisper. “It’s not H-M is it?”

“This old thing? It’s just something I threw on.”

“Now I think you have been swapped for your sister. You’re sounding just like Isobel.”

“Oh, you bee-” Maeve said. “I don’t know what I’m wearing. It might be a weird prank, or an alien creature, or for all I know, some escaped Hanley-Muller bio-weapon, but what it isn’t, is an expensive sexy outfit from an exceedingly niche clothes shop.”

“Oh well. Thank god for that. I thought I’d barged in on you and Brian getting jiggy.” Sarah kicked off her heels and curled up on the sofa. “Though I never figured that you just sit around dressed like that whenever you’re alone. Are you sure you’re out of tea?”

Maeve stared at her in astonishment. Apparently, her situation was completely lost on Sarah. Was everyone she knew perfectly ok with rubber-look outfits?

She looked down at herself, trying to imagine how Sarah saw her. It was possible to imagine that she was simply wearing an incredibly smooth and well-fitted rubber suit, with built-in boots. In fact, wouldn’t any sane person assume that? Rather than imagining that something living had taken over her skin? Hadn’t she just been gaming that exact scenario in her head? She shouldn’t be so surprised at being right.

“Aren’t you going to say anything else?”

“No. I’m pooped. I’ve been trying to call you for ages. You should answer your phone, you know?”

“Oh. Right. It’s dead. I forgot to bring the charger in when I got back.” Where was the phone charger? Somewhere in her luggage, or was the cable in the car? Maeve looked around, as if another charger would magically appear, though she knew that her only spare was probably still on her desk at work, unless somebody had borrowed it by now. She’d lost a half-a-dozen chargers that way. The chances of it still being there after her weeks of absence were slim. In fact, the chances of her still having a desk at all were not good.

“I came up from London at the start of the weekend, been partying. Kept calling you. It’s fine if I stay until tomorrow, right?”

If she hadn’t been so self-absorbed, Maeve would have seen the exhaustion in Sarah’s face earlier. As usual, Sarah had been bouncing from club, to after-party, to coffee-shop, to club again, barely sleeping, for days. It was obvious there was only one way you could do that, but Maeve didn’t have so many friends that she wanted to lose one by getting on her high-horse about it. Given her particular current situation, it was probably the worst time to do that. Besides, Sarah was the sort to work hard and party hard, that was all.

“It’s not ideal, but I guess…” Her words trailed off into a sigh.

Sarah was already asleep. So annoying. Maeve had been hoping to send her to get something to eat and drink.

She shouldn’t have thought about food. A hunger pang jabbed her stomach.

Not again. I can’t be hungry so soon after eating all that.

More important than food, she ought to get to a hospital while she still had a face. She reached for her bag, found her car-keys, and her dead phone.

She covered the sleeping Sarah in a travel rug, paused, staring at her.

It didn’t matter about charging her phone. Why was her head filling up with trivia? She had to do something about this creature.

* * * * *

Maeve had to do something about the glistening black rubber creature that had covered her body.

No distractions, this time she was really going to the hospital. Sarah was used to fending for herself, she wouldn’t mind if she discovered that Maeve had gone out, but it would make sense to leave her a note. No, that was another distraction, she had to leave right away.

She reached for the handle of the doorway into the flat. Beyond lay the communal hallway. A splitting pain stabbed at the base of her skull. She hadn’t had a headache this bad for weeks. She glanced down. Her body was naked and shoe-less, black, mirror polished, nipples protruding obscenely. Naked. How could she possibly forget what she looked like? Especially after Sarah’s reaction a few minutes ago.

What was I thinking? I can’t leave, naked and undressed like this.

She ran back to the bedroom, glanced around looking for clothes. How long before something else happened? Some new obstacle? She had to get to the hospital before things got worse.

Right on cue, her feet cramped, a burning pain in her heels, like a trapped nerve. She sank to her knees, unable to stand.

This will pass in a second. Won’t it? I’ll be fine again by the time I’m dressed.

She crawled to the bed, hands and knees, and dragged herself up onto it. Worst case, she’d wake Sarah, who had a working phone and could call for a ride. She wouldn’t get side-tracked this time. She wouldn’t…

This was all great fun, apart from the pain, and the panic, and the oppressive heat, and the repeated collapsing. It wasn’t even pleasure now, her legs were simply in agony from the cramps. Some women had debilitating cramps every month. If they could deal with it over and over, she could get through it this once.

The spasms in her legs were getting worse, it felt like there were bubbles in her blood, though obviously there weren’t or she’d be dead. It really was as if her veins were fizzing. She’d never felt anything like it before.

She called out, as loud as she dared, “Sarah? Could you help?”

There was no response. How deep a sleeper was that woman?

Maeve tried to raise her body off the bed, but the pain in her feet turned vicious and she slumped back, gritting her teeth, trying not to scream. Pointing her toes like a ballet dancer helped reduce the pain. Tensing her calves as tight as possible relieved it a bit more. But it was still the kind of pain that stopped all rational thought.

“Sarah! Help!” She didn’t care how loud she yelled now.

Her wrist began to tingle. The blackness was on the move, slowly oozing over her remaining fingers, wrapping them in the same prickling heat as the rest of her body. It was like an effect from a movie, except there was no sound, no horrible wet slithering, just perfect silence and the slow spread of the glistening darkness.

The black liquid closed over her palm. Flawless. Unbroken, smooth as glass, as tough as… The knife hadn’t even scratched it before.

She stared at her palm, feeling sick. Was she past the point of return? Was there any way back from this? It had felt like an adventure a few minutes ago, but the reality was sinking in. And reality was extremely painful, extremely worrying, all the possibilities flashing through her mind were bleak, miserable scenarios of loneliness and alienation. She would be no use to anyone if she kept this up.

I better buck myself up. Don’t worry about the worst case, just deal with what’s happening.

Her shoulders started to tingle and prickle around the collarbone.

No. No!

She twisted, catching her reflection in the mirror on top of the drawers. There was a dark slender figure, prominent gravity-defying breasts, nipples like inflation valves. It looked like somebody had made a fake photo by pasting her head onto a different body. The twisted caricature fantasy of femininity was a world away from the reality of her ordinary body with its pale, freckled skin. You couldn’t explain away changes like that with just a suit. Her legs, were not her legs. The differences, whatever they were, went deeper than a shiny coating on her skin.

She leaned forward, gripping the drawers on either side to hold herself up, or to somehow anchor herself to a reality that seemed to be slipping away. Was this the final insanity? At any moment, the entire room could vanish, to be replaced with a dark forest of rubber, not real, but a delusion she’d never wake up from. Or would it be worse?

She gritted her teeth, squeezed her jaw tight shut, muscles tense, veins standing out. The tingling was creeping up the back of her head. It was strangely pleasant. She let go of the tension in her face, let go of the worry. It was like the sensation of tipping her head backwards into a basin of warm water to wash her hair, except she was upright, and she was being swallowed up by a creeping black horror.

Her hair vanished beneath the darkness. Her hair? Her hair was gone? What? Was she bald now, like one of the women in Brian’s porn collection? The black stuff began to creep down her forehead, onto her cheek-bones, over the bottom of her jaw, but so slowly, ever so slowly.

She let go of the drawers, touched the back of her head. There was a bulge there, a quivering, pulsing mass where her hair used to be. Was that mass of fiery red still hidden under there? Her fingertips could detect lumps growing there. With a gradual pace, almost casual, they extended into dark ropes, cascading down around her face like a black waterfall. It was as if some insane hair-dresser had decided to give her dreadlocks.

While she was fixated on her hair, the goo had continued its progress across her face, moving towards the bridge of her nose. The two sides joined together, creating a white domino mask of pale skin around her eyes. She ought to do something, but what? She couldn’t look away. It was the most fascinating thing she’d ever seen. Surely, it was her doom?

The thick ropes of not-hair started to unravel, like the strands of a rope coming untwisted, the resulting cords were as thick as spaghetti, black as melted tar. Would they divide again and again the hair was restored? Did it even matter when the rest of the stuff was creeping across her face?

The goo was on her lips, and they tingled as it covered them. She resisted the urge to taste it. There would certainly be nothing to taste, and it might get onto her tongue, and what would happen then?

One instinct was telling her to run, to run and hide, another was telling her to lie back and enjoy it, there was nothing to fear. The thing was on her, had already swallowed her, and she couldn’t do anything but stare at its odd glistening beauty in the mirror. So why struggle uselessly? It was as if the animal part of her brain was in full bore panic, but the rest of her was perfectly calm, and her body wasn’t really paying much attention to either side of that argument. It had frozen in front of the mirror, motionless.

The blackness closed over her nose completely, sealing it. If she wanted to breathe, she would have to open her mouth.

It flowed around her eyes, closing in on them. The whites now stark and staring against their black surroundings. An absurd little train of thought in the back of her mind wondered if she was being racially insensitive for wearing black-face.

I’m sorry, it’s not my fault, and the black skin is so pretty. Shouldn’t I be allowed to look like this if I can? Shouldn’t I?


There was no make up, no hood, no rubber paint that could replicate this wonder. Her face was completely black, glossy, mirror smooth. Perfect. She couldn’t open her mouth to spoil the effect. She was going to suffocate, but her lungs weren’t burning, though somehow she knew that her body was shutting down, blood depleted of oxygen. There was nothing to be afraid of. Everything was fine, happening just as it should. She was better than she’d ever been. Prettier by far. Calmer. She’d been born for this moment, had waited for it all these years.

Reflected in the mirror, the darkness poured into her eyes, but instead of covering them, it seemed to boil up inside as if they were globes of translucent white glass that were filling with swirling black clouds.

Her vision went black. The last thing she’d glimpsed was the black strands that once might have been hair, rising of their own accord, making a swaying halo of darkness around her head.

Was that the last thing she would ever see? It had been so wondrous, so beautiful, like a face of an angel, but the light wasn’t coming out of it, the light was falling in. It couldn’t possibly have been her, but at least she would go out on a high.

The darkness was complete, she was lost. Was she falling? Suffocated? That was probably what was happening. She was dying now, and imagining things in the last seconds of life, as her brain-cells fired their last random bursts of electricity, burning out in a blaze of delusion and imagined glory. She couldn’t feel her body, it had drifted away somewhere. Most likely, it was dead.

She’d heard stories of people who thought they’d seen a light, but had come back.

All she had was darkness. So pretty.

story continued in part 7

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