Welcoming the End. Flash Fiction.

Mary carefully lowered herself into the chair, once she was sitting she let out a small sigh of relief. Everything hurt these days, she reached out and picked up the hand mirror sitting on the small table beside her, carefully she studied her face. It was breath taking. Not a wrinkle or a blemish, just smooth, beautiful skin. Even now almost a month later she still found herself marvelling over the change. The treatments were experimental, and expensive, but with no family and only a year or two left she decided that she might as well splurge on herself. It wasn’t like she could travel the world, not at her age. They had warned her before the treatments that she would be the same age and have the same energy, but she would look young and for Mary that was more than enough. Her body was still hunched over slightly, her arms thin and weak, but she was beautiful again. After a moment her arms started to tire, carefully she returned the mirror to its place. She glanced at the clock, Denise would be here in an hour or so to tidy around the house and cook some food for her. Mary hadn’t thought that Denise would disapprove of the treatments, but since she had undergone them it seemed like Denise avoided her, spending as little time around her as possible. Denise had told her that she was being silly, but Mary could still see it.

Part of her suspected that it was because the youthful appearance was jarring with the slow, jerky movements and the voice of an old woman, but then it wasn’t for anyone else. She rarely left the house these days after all, ever since Harold had died about five years back she’d become a bit of a recluse. The outside had begun to unnerve her, all those people and noises. Mary had always preferred silence and solitude anyway.

Mary was so tired and her body felt heavy. She leaned back and closed her eyes, it wouldn’t be the first time Denise had found her like this, Mary had begun to enjoy dozing off in her chair in the last few months. There was something different about this though, it wasn’t the usual, comfortable tiredness she had grown accustomed to. As Mary’s breathing began to slow she realised she was dying, they had told her the treatment was intense, that it would shorten the time she had left. There was no fear, or pain, Mary was content, even if it had taken time from her it was worth it, and soon she would be reunited with Harold. Mary let out a soft breath and the steady rise and fall of her chest stopped.

 

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The Deal. Flash Fiction.

Gail looked out at the trees, it was there, she could feel it watching her, lurking in the shadows. After a few minutes the feeling left, Gail turned and went into the house, “It’s getting bolder.”
“Well, what did you expect? Not as much food out there now, plus they tore down a good chunk of the forest for that mall over by Cresthill.”
“Do you think it’ll still leave us alone?”
“If we keep up our end of the bargain. It will be fine, I can’t imagine it will come into the house, never mind cross the backyard. Too open, too exposed.”
“You’re right, I’m sorry. I’m just a little nervous is all.”
“I know, don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.”

Richard carried the bucket of meat into the garden, it wasn’t the best quality meat, but it was the quantity that was important. He moved closer to the trees, but not too close. Gail could always feel when that thing was watching, he couldn’t. As far as he was concerned the woods were completely normal when he first moved here. Gail knew though, she had grown up with it. As he moved closer to the trees he felt his stomach clenching a little, it seemed silly and childish but he couldn’t help but fear that it would burst from the woods and snatch him up. He had never actually seen it of course, Gail did when she was a girl, which she had only admitted one night while she was blackout drunk and it was all she would say, “I saw it once. When I was a girl. I see it in my dreams. Like it’s stalking me.”
Richard set the bucket down by the trees and slowly backed away. Gail had told him the best ways to do it, slow, careful movements, don’t turn your back and don’t run away.

As he entered the kitchen Gail smiled, he could see her relaxing, he hugged her to him. “Well at least it’s done for another two weeks.” Gail nodded against his chest. After a moment she pulled away and picked up her coffee, “Some days I wish we could just kill the damn thing, get rid of it forever.”
Richard shrugged, “We could if you want. I’m sure there’s something we could find that would work.”
Gail shook her head, “No, they tried that before. It doesn’t work, nothing will. What ever that thing is I don’t think it’s natural. Besides, if we try and we fail, it’ll punish us.”

Richard didn’t say anything, there was nothing to say. He didn’t want to push the issue. When he first moved here he thought it was just silly stories over some wild animal, but he could see the fear that it inspired. Gail didn’t like to talk about it too much, no one did, but from what Richard could piece together there had been multiple attempts to kill it. Soon after someone would always disappear, usually a child, gone in the night. Richard suspected it was why Gail had never wanted children.

Richard went out the next morning, the bucket was empty, as usual. He picked it up and returned inside. In the kitchen he cleaned out the bucket, as he did Gail came into the kitchen, “Morning, breakfast is in the oven.”
“Morning.” Gail picked up her mug of coffee from the table and gave Richard a quick kiss on the cheek, she stopped for a moment and looked out at the woods. “Everything ok?”
“Huh? Yeah. Sorry.”
“It’s there, isn’t it?”
Gail nodded, “Would it help if I put in a fence or something?”
“No. Fences never stopped it. I prefer to be able to see the trees, I think with a fence I’d just be terrified it was lurking around and I wouldn’t know.”

Richard rinsed the bucket and put it outside the backdoor, “we could always move.”
Gail looked at him, “I know, I know, but is it really worth it? Being afraid all the time? All those bad memories?”
Gail shrugged, “this is my home. It was my parents home and my grandparents. I’m not letting that thing scare me off.”

Richard nodded once, they had this argument many times before and it was too early to get into it.
“How are the eggs?”
“Perfect, thank you.”
Richard sat at the table across from her and took a sip of his tea.
“I’m just being silly. We’re fine as long as we keep leaving out the offering. It will keep us safe. We just have to uphold our end of the deal. Besides, I couldn’t sell this place to someone else, not with that thing. How would we even begin to explain it to buyers? If anything happened to someone I know it’d be my fault.”

Richard stood in the kitchen, looking out at the woods, it was in there, somewhere. The black cloud that hung over their lives. He turned away from the window, Gail was right, he just needed to put it out of his head.

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Loss. Short Story.

Danny looked at himself in the hall mirror, he turned his head this way and that, then tried smiling. It looked wrong, too bright, too manic. He let his face relax and tried again. Better. “Morning! Yes, it’s a beautiful day isn’t it? Oh I’m great, how are you?” It sounded too forceful, too fake. Danny took a breath and repeated it, it sounded better, natural. He smiled at himself and nodded, it was good. He grabbed his keys from the table and turned the doorknob, after a deep breath he opened the door and stepped outside.

The day was bright and sunny, though the air held a chill. Danny felt himself relax slightly as he saw that the driveway next door was empty, their car was still there but if he hurried, he could be gone before they left. Quickly Danny got into his car and started the engine, as he pulled out the couple next door were leaving, he raised one hand in greeting and kept driving. Ok, that was good, he got through that just fine. Now he just needed to get through work. That was easy enough, people felt weird around him now, awkward, and that meant limited conversation. He hadn’t discussed anything deeper than the weather with the people in work since it happened and he was perfectly happy for things to stay that way. He just needed to keep his head down and get his work done, keep moving forward, things would start to get better sooner or later, he just had to keep going.

Danny reached for his coffee and took a sip, the day had been going by at a reasonable speed, but now it was lunch time. Everyone was going out to the usual restaurant, they had invited him but he had refused as he knew it was just out of politeness. He sat in his cubicle and mechanically ate his sandwich, one bite at a time. When he finished he realised he wasn’t actually sure what kind of sandwich it was. Ham maybe? Some kind of deli meat that was in the fridge. Lately things had been slipping, just small things, like what he had just watched on TV, or what he had eaten. People told him that things like that were bound to happen, but they made it seem like it would go away at some point, but it had already been three months. Danny frowned, was it three months already? That seemed impossible, it felt like it had only happened a week ago.

As people started entering the office Danny busied himself, pretending to work, one or two people asked if he had a good lunch. He tried to engage in witty banter with everyone, but it just seemed to feel flat, like the words had no real meaning or substance behind them. It was just noise. What ever he had said did the trick and they left him alone again. He shuffled papers around his desk, it had always been reasonably tidy before, but now there were pages and files strewn everywhere, and possibly a mug or two buried underneath it all.

“Hey Danny, how’s things?”
“I’m good, how’re you?”
“Oh can’t complain, have you gotten around to the Frank files yet?”
Had he?
Danny searched his desk and found them underneath his keyboard, “Yeah, here they are sorry.”
“No worries, we don’t need them until tomorrow but I’m just trying to get myself organised ya know? These meetings always make me nervous.”
“Yeah me too”
“So uh a few of us were going to go out for drinks later, I know you haven’t been up for coming out since…well, I thought I’d let you know, if you were feeling up for it.”
“Thanks Joe, but I can’t, I promised Sheila’s parents I’d be over to see them. It’s been a while since I checked in with them.”
“Oh, no worries, just thought I’d say, we’ll be in the usual place from seven if you’re free.”
“Thanks Joe.”
“And look, if you ever need to talk or anything.”
Danny smiled at him, Danny knew how fake it must have looked, “Thanks man, I really appreciate it.”
Joe smiled, “Well, I guess I better get back to it. If you feel like coming out we’ll be there until probably ten or so and I do mean it, if you ever need anyone to talk to, let me know.”
Danny nodded, then looked back at his computer screen, he felt a pit of worry forming in his stomach, had it been that obvious? Had people noticed or was Joe just saying the things you are supposed to say? Should he go out? Just to be seen so everyone would think he was fine? The thought of going filled him with dread, all those people and talking and music. No. He wasn’t ready for that. Not yet.

Danny turned onto his street, he looked around for a second, then sighed, he must have zoned out. He really had meant to visit Sheila’s parents, they were only a ten minute drive from the office, but now it would take at least an hour to get over there, what with traffic and everything. He felt a thin thread of relief, it was too much of a hassle now. Tomorrow he’d go for sure. Beneath the relief there was something else, a low, gnawing guilt, he had meant to visit them yesterday too.

Danny let himself into the house, he could feel the emptiness of it pressing against him from all sides. They had bought the bigger house, dreaming of the children they’d fill it with. Gone. All gone. No one left but him now. Danny went into the sitting room, he dropped back onto the couch and turned on the TV. At some point he got food, another sandwich, apparently it was pastrami that he had at lunch. He chewed the sandwich slowly, not really tasting it. How long would he be like this? Just doing things for the sake of doing them. It seemed impossible that he had been so happy once, like that life was just a dream and now he was in the real world again.

Danny sat, staring at the TV, though he wasn’t paying attention to what was going on. At around 9 he turned off the TV and made his way up to bed, it was a little early, but he had nothing better to do. He lay in the darkness, eyes closed, willing himself to sleep, to dream, so he could see her again, feel her warmth, hear her laugh. The morning would come all too quickly and then it would be over and she’d be gone again.

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Oracles. Short Story.

Happy St. Patrick day! Hope everyone has a good day!

I’m not up to much today, just going to have a relaxed one. I always find Paddy’s day can be a bit stressful, town is always packed and it’s a hassle trying to get in and finding somewhere to go. Really you just spend most of the day walking around looking for somewhere that isn’t packed so you can go drinking there and trying not to lose everyone on the way.

I’m also super aware that the above makes me sound old, but it’s not that, it really isn’t. I’m just really lazy and unsociable. Wait. That’s worse. Let’s just go with the getting old thing instead!
______________________________________________________________

 

“How are you this morning sweetheart?” Angela walked into the dark room, it stunk of sweat and fever, beneath it was a faintly sweet, spicy aroma. The girl lying on the bed groaned slightly, her skin was coated in a thin sheen of sweat, strands of dark hair clung to her face. Angela gently pulled back the curtains, allowing some light into the room, the girl groaned and rolled away from the light. Angela opened the window slightly and a cool breeze entered. Angela went to the small table, the girls morning tray was already there, carefully she picked up the glass and brought it over. “Here, drink this, it will help” Angela held the girls head up slightly while the girl took slow, careful sips. Even though she knew it was for the greater good it was sometimes hard for Angela to look at the oracles, with their gaunt faces and staring, black eyes. The girl finished the drink and sighed in relief. “Better?”
“Much. I can think again. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. When you’re ready let me know and we’ll go and get you cleaned up.”
“I think I’m ok to stand.” Angela helped the young girl from her bed and together they made their way to the cleaning rooms.

Already the rooms were full of men and women preparing for the day, most of them stood in sprays of water or rested in warm baths while their caretakers scurried around the room. Most caretakers had a few charges to look after, Angela was lucky in that she only had to care for Serena, after all she was the strongest of them all.

Once Serena had bathed she felt almost human, the shakes were mostly gone at this point, though the doses she had been given were just to level her off she was already craving more. That was the worst of it all, the constant need. Once she was dressed in a light cotton robe Serena was brought to her room. “Are there many today?”
“No, they wanted to give you a bit of a rest after last week.”
“Yes, that was a busy one.” Serena frowned, “I feel like I’m on the edge of something, some knowledge. I think maybe I should take the usual doses today, just in case.”
Angela smiled and shook her head, “I’m sorry, I can’t get any more. I will ask though, they may make an exception.”
“Thank you.”
They both knew there would be no exception, there never was. Angela donned the thick, heavy gloves and went to the small cubby, there she removed the small pot of God’s Eye and brought it to the table. Serena removed the lid and instantly the room was filled with the tantalizingly sweet fragrance, the scent of it alone made Angela feel a bit light headed. Serena picked up a good pinch and carefully put it into her mouth. She chewed for a moment, almost moaning as the flavours danced across her tongue, then she swallowed. Angela carefully closed up the pot and put it back into its cupboard which she locked. When Angela turned back Serena was slumped over the table, after a moment she sat up again with a dazed grin. “Oh Angela, it’s so beautiful, you’re surrounded by a golden light. Good things are coming.”
Angela gave her a small, tight smile, “Please don’t do that. I’ve asked you this before.”
Serena’s face dropped, “I’m so sorry, I forgot, it was just so overwhelming. I’m so sorry” tears started to well in her eyes, “Can you ever forgive me?”
Angela smile grew a little more, “of course I do. Always.”

A man entered the room, Angela didn’t look at him, nor did Serena, “I’ll be back to give you your next dose later. Ok? If you need anything, just let Christopher know.” Angela left the room, suppressing a shiver as she passed Christopher. She hated his presence, that dead look on his face. He was one of the blank slates, completely clear of destiny or fate, whose only job was to protect the oracles without distracting from their predictions.

Angela changed the sheets in Serena’s room and opened both the window and the curtains wider to clear out some of the smell. The girl didn’t have much longer left, maybe a year if she was lucky, then the God’s Eye would finally destroy her mind. Addictive and destructive, seeing the future required a price to be paid and that price was life. People came from all over the world to talk to the oracles, where else could they find a direct line to the gods? When she had first started working at the House of Destiny she believed that it was all done for the greater good, but after ten years she saw what it really was, a machine that would chew up young boys and girls and spit out their corpses. Not everyone was blessed with the second sight, but the only way to truly access it was through the God’s Eye, without it predictions were vague and almost useless, but with it everything was clear.

Angela half walked, half carried Serena towards her room, Serena was giggling to herself as she stumbled down the hall. Angela carefully tucked her into her bed and smoothed some hair from her forehead. “You have a good nights sleep, rest and I’ll see you in the morning.” Serena’s hand shot out and grabbed Angela’s, “Stay with me until I fall asleep, please.” Angela sat on the edge of the bed and smiled down at her, “of course sweetheart, I won’t go anywhere if you don’t want me to.” As Angela watched Serena’s breathing slowed, her chest rising and falling softly, carefully Angela let go of her hand and snuck out of the room, gently closing the door behind herself.

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No Short Story Today.

Hi everyone, I’m unexpectedly sick today so there won’t be a short story, not to worry, we’ll be back on track Friday.

Hope everyone is having a good week!

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Vacation. Short Story.

“I think…I think someone is out there.”
“Oh ha-ha John, stop being a dick. We both know there’s nothing out there. You tried that the last time too remember?”
“Yeah, no I know, and I was joking then but I’m not joking now. I swear to god I saw someone moving by the trees over there. I just saw them for a second, but it was definitely a person.”
“It was probably shadows or an animal, there’s lots of them out here.”
“Animals don’t get that tall.”
“Ok, how about this, I’ll turn on the outside lights and you’ll see there’s no one there and then you’ll drop this shitty joke, ok?”
Stacy reached over and flipped the switch, the garden was flooded with harsh, white light. Stacy squinted at the trees, the light was good, but the trees quickly fell into darkness. “See? No one there. We would have seen something if there was.”
“Maybe my eyes were playing tricks. I swear I thought I saw someone though, I wasn’t just trying to scare you.”
“Yeah yeah, whatever. Look even if there was someone there, they know we’re home, they’re not gonna break in. Burglars want empty places where they’re less likely to get caught, or shot.”
“True.” John shook his head, “I guess I’m just a little on edge out here. I’m not used to how quiet it is.”
Stacy chuckled, “give it a few hours, you’ll be hearing lots of animals.”

“Really? I don’t remember that the last time.”
“That’s because there were five of us, we had loud music and you were absolutely shitfaced. You didn’t even make it to a bed, I found you passed out in the kitchen the next morning.”
John coughed, “Yeah, I guess. Don’t worry that won’t be happening again.”
“Oh, I know, I’ve locked up the booze this time, I used chains and everything.”
Stacy smiled and gave him a quick kiss on the lips, “C’mon, you get the popcorn ready, if we don’t start watching this movie soon we’re gonna be up all night.”
John smiled at her, “I was hoping we’d be up all night anyway.”
He pulled her in for a deeper kiss, Stacy pulled away after a minute, “Maybe the movie can wait for a little bit.”
“When is your sister coming up?”
“Sometime tomorrow, in the afternoon I think.”
“ah perfect, plenty of time for us then.”
“Exactly.”

Stacy woke suddenly, looking wildly around the dark room. After a second she realised what the loud banging noise was, someone was knocking on the front door. There was a brief pause, then it started again, even louder than before. Stacy groaned and nudged John, he always did sleep like the dead.
“Hey, wake up. I think something happened.”
“What?”
“Someone’s at the door, there might have been an accident or something. C’mon, I’m not going down there by myself.”
John groaned and rolled over, “I’ll go down, you stay up here.” He rubbed his eyes and yawned, “have a look out the window, see if you can see them. Keep your phone with you and be ready to call the cops or an ambulance.”
Stacy nodded, downstairs the banging stopped. The sudden silence felt heavy and uncomfortable.

John looked through the peephole, he couldn’t see anyone, he flicked on the porch light, revealing a woman, she looked tired and dishevelled, her hair was messy and it looked like there were twigs and leaves in it. “Are you ok?”
“Oh thank god! I thought no one was home, please you have to help me. I crashed my car on the main road, someone ran out in front of me, I think they’re chasing me, please you have to let me in, they’re out here. I think they have a knife. I think he’s going to kill me, please we have to call the police!”
“Ok, just slow down, just one second, I need to grab the key to unlock the door ok, I’ll be right back.”
“Oh god, please hurry, I don’t know where he is, please, he could be here any second.”
“Ok, ok, don’t worry, you’re safe, I’ll grab the keys and then we’ll call the police.” “Don’t open it.” John jumped he spun around, Stacy was standing behind him. “There’s a woman out there, she needs help, she’s being chased by someone, where did you put the key?”
Stacy shook her head, “No, don’t, I saw someone out there, there’s a guy, he’s standing just to the side, there’s no way she can’t see him. Don’t open it. It’s a trap.”

John’s heart was thudding heavily, the steady sound of rushing blood filled his ears, john jumped as the woman from outside called out, “Where are you, please hurry, I think I saw him by the trees, oh god, I think he’s here.” She started banging on the door again, her shouts getting louder, more panicked. Stacy shook her head and started dialling on her phone. Outside the shouting turned to shrieks, “Oh god, I can see him, he’s coming right at me, please dear god open the fucking door he’s going to kill me, shit. Shit shit shit. Please, no, don’t please, no!” Silence.
John felt a worm of nausea squirming in his stomach, what if the woman was telling the truth? Quietly he moved back to the door and looked out, he couldn’t see anyone, but there was bright streaks of red all over the porch. His stomach clenched, he could hear something, it was faint, he moved his ear close to the door, what was that noise? Whimpering, low and panicked, it almost sounded like someone was whispering the word “please” over and over. Behind him Stacy was whispering into the phone, he jumped as a hand landed on his shoulder, he felt shaky, sick. Just at the edge of his vision through the peephole, was that a foot? Stacy pulled him back, “They said to go upstairs and lock ourselves somewhere, the more doors between us and them the better, c’mon”
John allowed himself to be pulled from the door, “What if it was real? What if she couldn’t see him?”
Stacy shook her head, “there’s no way she couldn’t.”

Together they made their way up the stairs. At the landing John paused and looked out the window, he could see someone out there, standing in the grass, looking up at the window. John ducked back, his breathing quick and panicked, “I saw him, in the garden, I think, I think he was holding a bloody machete.”
Stacy grabbed his hand and pulled him across the hall and into their bedroom. The doors were thick, sturdy. Stacy locked the door and then continued into the ensuite, the door was lighter, but it was an extra lock between them and the outside. She pulled John into the bathroom and locked the door behind them and together they waited in the darkness for help to reach them..

When the police arrived there was no sign of the man, or woman, just a blood splattered porch and thin scratches on the door, like someone had been running a knife, back and forth across the surface.

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To Another World. Flash Fiction.

“And you’re sure it’s safe?”
“Life is full of risks honey, there’s no guarantee. It does what it does.”
Josie looked at the small plastic baggie, it was filled with a brownish powder, excitement was bubbling up in her chest, “keep it moving.” Josie jumped and scurried away from the woman. It had cost her a lot of money, but if the rumours had any truth to them it was well worth it. Some new kind of psychotropic drug that would strip away everything layer by layer and show her who she truly was. The experience sounded intense, but she had found heard nothing but positives about it, both through friends and online.

Josie did a final sweep of her apartment, making sure everything was clean. She had left out some water and snacks for herself on the table, apparently some people got the munchies while waiting for everything to kick off. She had compiled a playlist of relaxing music to listen to and was ready to just relax and experience it. Standing in the kitchen she carefully poured the contents of the baggie into a small glass of water, apparently it tasted horrific and this was one of the easier ways to take it. Beside the glass of water was a glass of coke, ready to help wash the taste out of her mouth. Josie poured the brown powder into the water and gave it a quick stir, she took a deep breath, exhaled slowly, then picked up the glass and downed it. The taste was worse than she could have imagined, like ear wax and chemicals, harsh and bitter. Grimacing, she grabbed the coke and took a swig, it did nothing but add a layer of sweetness to the taste, her stomach clenched and the nausea hit, at least it had been expected. Josie took another sip of her coke and concentrated on her breathing, the nausea was supposed to pass in a few minutes.

Josie sat onto the couch, the nausea had gone, now she just had to wait. She picked up the bowl of fruit and grabbed a strawberry, she was starting to feel a bit hungry. She took a bite, but instead of sweetness, a bitter, acrid taste filled her mouth, Josie spit out the lump of strawberry, there was something off about it, wrong. She picked it up and looked at it closely, it looked like any other strawberry, though partially chewed. She reached into the bowl and grabbed a grape, she popped it into her mouth and bit down, the grape burst, flooding her mouth with juice. Instantly she spat it out, the taste of rot and dirt coated her tongue, she grabbed a glass of water and quickly took a drink. She was still hungry, but food seemed to be out, the powder must have done something to her taste buds. She hadn’t read about that, but it wasn’t too concerning, no doubt it was like brushing your teeth, after a while flavours would go back to normal.

Josie was feeling something, though she wasn’t quite sure what. It wasn’t intense, but it was subtle, a general lifting of her mood and things seemed to be swaying ever so slightly. Josie settled back into the couch and let herself by carried away.

Josie yawned, she rubbed at her eyes and with one had she wiped the drool from her mouth. The journey had been intense, more so than she had expected, she looked down at her hand and saw a bright red streak. They warned her about the blood. Josie stood and walked to the kitchen, her legs were shaky and unsteady, as she went she kept one hand on the wall for balance. In the kitchen she carefully poured a glass of water and sipped it, it was delicious, better than anything she had ever drank. Josie looked around the kitchen, it was full of food and drinks, she had never seen this much food in one place. Her stomach grumbled loudly and Josie went to make herself something to eat.

It wasn’t as disorientating as she expected, all the memories of the host body were intact, it would be easy enough to blend in, much easier than they had made it seem before. The mind of the host was mostly gone, stripped away layer by layer, inundated with pleasure until she was nothing but a drooling mass then reassembled when she took over the body. Josie stretched, enjoying the way her skin and muscles felt as they moved, it was a strange sensation, but oddly enjoyable too. For now she just had to keep Josie’s life running as it had been, talk to friends, family, tell people about the drug. Easy things, nothing that would arouse suspicion. Of course when phase two started it would be a little more difficult, the taste of the drug made it hard to slip into food, but she’d find a way to get people to take it, one way or another.

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