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Fleischer hadn't eaten – had refused to eat – for nearly three days.  He felt all of the unpleasant effects of it, too; the painful gnawing in his stomach, the near-constant feeling of lethargy, headaches.  He wondered, sometimes, if hunger was the cause of it all, or if some of it was being caused by internal changes to his anatomy.

The former Medic's outward appearance, at least, had not changed any further – not that he could see, at least.  It was the thought of unseen changes to his organs that worried him the most.

His captors must have been worried, or curious, as well, judging by the faint scent of something in the air.  Fleischer tracked it to one of the vents, and given the slightly bitter smell in the air pouring out he knew exactly what was happening.  

He quickly moved away from the vent – retreated to the bathroom and locked the door behind.  It would only delay the inevitable, he knew, but, it was something.  It was some small defiance, as much as, in the end, it would fail.

Fleischer remained where he was, curled up in a bath tub, shivering despite the warm water, as he waited for the sedative gas to reach him.  It didn't take long for that slightly bitter scent to reach him – and then to grow stronger.  It was childish, he knew, but, he tried to hold his breath.  He couldn't do it forever, though, and his first desperate gasp for air doomed him.

His lips and fingers started to go numb, and a tingling sensation washed over his skin.  "Nein," he murmured, curling up into as tight a ball as he could manage.  "Nein, nein, nein."  His voice grew weaker with each word until it trailed off completely.  He didn't have the strength to speak.  His entire body felt heavy – loose, in a word.  He tried to catch himself as he fell back, and he only just felt his fingers brush over the edge of the tub before everything went black.

There were still things happening, though.  Occasionally, Fleischer would hear, or smell, or feel, or even see something; brief flashes of tiles passing overhead, a light, entirely too bright, shining down on him.  There were visions – rhythmic beeping, and the bright light, and the smell of antiseptic.  There was a sharp pain, and the brief flash of an unfamiliar face.  They were over so quickly that Fleischer couldn't even tell whether or not they were real.

They didn't seem like dreams, though – those brief flashes.  They seemed far too real; that face, the beeping, the lights, the feeling of the skin on his abdomen being slowly, carefully parted.  They all faded in and out.  Fleischer felt like he was in a dark room with a single light, and someone kept turning it on and off, and it was never quite bright enough to get a view of his surroundings.

That didn't last, though.  Eventually the light in Fleischer's head turned back on – albeit dimly.  It stayed on, though.  It was enough for him to see the bright lights overhead, and to realize, slowly, that he was back on an operating table.  He felt like he was in one piece.  That was when the pain started.

It was a deep, dull ache, at first.  Fleischer's awareness sharpened as the pain did.  He could make out the blurry image of the operating room, and the white blobs of lab coats, and the beeping of the EKG growing more and more erratic.  He could feel his chest heaving, and something was stuck down his throat, and he tried futilely to cough it out.  There were voices – quick, and sharp, and nervous.

Fleischer saw and felt the beam of a Medigun being trained on him.  There was an immediate reaction – a sharp twisting pain in his belly.  There was something else very wrong, as well; it felt like things were moving, as though his guts were full of lethargic snakes.

He couldn't piece any sentences together, but, Fleischer did keep hearing the words, "too fast," sometimes by familiar voices, and sometimes by people unknown.  The pain was rapidly getting worse, and Fleischer, despite the futility of his situation, at least tried to thrash and fight against his restraints in an agonized panic.

"…too fast."  They were the last words, the last anything, that he heard before everything faded away, soft, and calm, and white.

***

White.  Everything was so peaceful – the nothingness was peaceful.  It was short-lived though.  That white became very real and very harsh, then black, again, as Fleischer squeezed his eyes shut against the too-bright lights.

Each desperate, heaving breath was accompanied by a sound very much like a whine.  Fleischer's tongue kept wanting to stick to the roof of his mouth, and his throat was dry and sore…

There was also the pain – the ache that existed everywhere, completely inescapable.  An attempt to stand up was quickly halted.  Fleischer's legs didn't feel right – didn't respond – and any effort to move them resulted in unfamiliar pushes and pulls against his waist.  He finally forced his eyes open long enough to look down, and see what was wrong with his legs…

…they were gone.

There was something there, though – writhing, and squirming, and moving more frantically the more panicked he became.  Tentacles.  Bright yellow tentacles, mottled with dark, almost purple blotches.  It was the rings that stuck out the most, though – blue, and almost seeming to glow and shimmer in the light.

Fleischer couldn't manage a "nein," as the doors to the Respawn room opened, and Isaac stepped in with his bodyguards.  All he could do, much to his shame, was break down into hoarse sobs, tightly closing his eyes, again.

Even with his eyes closed, he knew that the men were drawing closer.  He could hear their cautious footsteps on the tiles, and – and he could sense their nervousness.  He wasn't sure how, but, he knew they were tense – and it made Fleischer even more tightly wound.

The more tightly wound he became, the more those – those tentacles moved; they curled, and slithered, and their suckers gripped tightly to whichever patch of floor or wall they came into contact with, first.  Unable to stand up, unable to move from his corner, Fleischer did finally open his eyes, again.

The guards, four in all, had drawn much closer.  Two of them were closer than the others, holding tranquilizer pistols, and trying (and failing) not to gawk at the sight before them.

Fleischer's own gaze was drawn briefly downward, again – at the place around his waist where slimy, bright yellow flesh faded into mostly human skin – at the blue rings that seemed to shimmer, and even shift, larger and smaller, seemingly of their own accord.

Those rings became very bright, indeed when one of the guards took a step closer, and raised his pistol.

It wasn't just the rings that reacted to Fleischer's terror, though.   One of those boneless limbs struck out, and wrapped around the guard's legs.  The man fired, of course, and Fleischer gave a sharp hiss at the sting in his side where the dart stuck.  The sting also triggered the suckers of that grasping tentacle to grip down tightly on the guard's legs.

Fleischer could distinctly feel what must have been the texture of the fabric covering the guard's legs.  It wasn't long before a few coils of tentacle were wrapped around the limbs, and pulled even tighter.  Fleischer was trying to fight the effects of the sedatives, but he could feel himself growing weak.  There was a satisfying crack, though – the sound of one of the guard's legs breaking, before the man's colleagues finally managed to pry the clinging tentacle away.

The drugs worked quickly – far faster than Fleischer ever would have expected.  He felt himself starting to slump back, and tried to catch himself.  The sharp tips of his claws just dragged uselessly down the tiles on the wall, and he was left lying on his side in a graceless heap.

He could see two of the guards leave – the one with the broken leg, and his comrade, helping to steady him.  There were still the other two guards, though, along with Isaac.  The clicking of the man's pen to write a note on his ever-present clipboard would have been infuriating if Fleischer's mind hadn't felt so warm and cloudy.

Fleischer couldn't find it within himself to resist or even want to resist as he was lifted up, and he couldn't remember when the gurney had been rolled into Respawn.  He could feel something, though – odd sensations below his waist as his not-legs were lifted and gathered up so they wouldn't drag on the floor.  Lights passed by overhead, and there was a pleasant, low hum that seemed to undulate, and occasionally pause – talking?

The rows of lights were soon replaced by one, bright enough to make Fleischer squeeze his eyes shut.  He gave a half-hearted groan of displeasure, both at the light and the fact that his tongue kept wanting to stick to the roof of his mouth.  Someone must have asked him something, changes in the pitch and tone of that pleasant thrum – and, he must have replied.  He could feel his lips moving, but, he couldn't quite make out the words.

His unintelligible request was granted, though.  His head was propped up, and he felt something cool and wet pass over his lips, and between his teeth, and he greedily swallowed every drop.  Fleischer could feel his chest rise and fall in a sigh of relief, and his throat stopped feeling quite so tight.  Something else was slipped past his lips, though, and wedged between his teeth, and he coughed and almost gagged when he felt something decidedly less soothing than water being pushed down his throat.

There was that thrumming, again.  It very nearly sounded like voices.  Fleischer couldn't make out what they were saying, but, it seemed as though they were talking to him.  The voices were calming, and almost succeeded in distracting him from a pinch in the crook of his elbow.  The voices – everything – soon faded away.

This story is actually a couple of years old. I was feeling very nostalgic and decided to pick it up and re-read it, and I wound up realizing that it had actually been very well-written. This was also my first real attempt at a horror/thriller piece. I'm posting on here, now, because along with being nostalgic, I would also appreciate any thoughts or critique on it. I wrote this not too long after I published Bedside Manner, and haven't really written up anything particularly longer than drabble, since.

Post-Modern Prometheus is a sort of alternative/hypothetical sequel to First Do No Harm shadowfire-x.deviantart.com/ar… and Comorbidity shadowfire-x.deviantart.com/ar…

If you want to delve into the back story, I would definitely recommend reading FDNH before Comorbidity. Both of those stories are relatively old, though, and I feel like I have improved my writing and characterization a great deal since then. As a result, if you do like Doctor Fleischer, or my writing in general (which, if you do, thank you very much - my main hope when I post my writing is that people will get some enjoyment out of it) then consider picking up my book, Bedside Manner, in paperback or on the Kindle www.amazon.com/Bedside-Manner-…

Fair warning, though, this being a horror/thriller piece, expect some disturbing content, though I am not really prone to using a great deal of blood and/or gore.

As a final note, the thumbnail image is in the Public Domain, and was downloaded from Pixabay pixabay.com/en/dna-biology-med…

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