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There were few things that felt quite as nice as the luxury of a warm bath.  It was quiet, and peaceful, and one of the few places where Fleischer could ever truly feel himself relax.  He didn't remember getting in – but, that made a little sense, if he had been tired enough to actually fall asleep in the bath.  The water was still warm, though.  That was a pleasant change, really.  Usually if he fell asleep in a bath (and, it didn't happen often) he wound up waking because the water had gone cold.  He quickly tried to remember whether or not he had put Lukas to bed before he had gotten in the bath.

Lukas was gone, though.

That was a rather cold jolt back to reality – to the present – and Fleischer quickly snapped his eyes open.  The bath, at least, was real – real, and something he hadn't been afforded since the war had ended.  Space, after all, had been at a premium both at Well and, of course, at the labor camp.  That was a thought that just made him feel a little more ill than he had, already.

The realization of where he was and what had happened came crashing down on him, and it made his stomach turn.  He had just enough time to lean over the side of the tub, over the toilet, before he started to retch.  It seemed to hurt infinitely worse on an empty stomach.  All there was to produce was bile, but his body gave a few more shuddering heaves before giving up.

Fleischer wanted nothing more than to just collapse back into the hot water, but, he forced the rest of himself out of the bath so he could go to the sink, and rinse his mouth out.  It was difficult – he was still shaking a little, and when he spit, he couldn't help but be reminded of the fact that a tooth had wound up going down the drain last time.  That was an image he tried to push out of his mind.  He tried, instead, to just focus on rinsing the taste of bile out of his mouth.

Once the taste was gone – mostly gone – Fleischer rinsed his face off, and looked up, and very nearly retched again.  He stared into the mirror for a very long time, in disbelief that the face he was seeing was his own.  It looked almost the same, but, his teeth came to sharp points, and his canines looked a little longer than they should.  His eyes were worse, though.  The pupils were entirely wrong, not circles, but oblong, horizontal lines.  The rest almost looked normal, until he leaned closer.  The whites of his eyes were a pale, almost silvery blue, and only served as a backdrop for a multitude of uneven dots that were almost the blue, and almost in the position, that his irises had been.  He raised a hand to touch his face, to find out if what he was seeing was real, and quickly froze.


There were claws on his hands – or, at least, that was the only word he could find to describe them.  They were almost where his nails should have been, and they only stuck out maybe half an inch past each finger, but, they were pointed, and sharp, and very slightly curved, and entirely wrong.

/"Please, no…"/ Fleischer whispered in his native tongue.  /"Please, no.  Please, no.  Please, no,"/ he repeated, backing up until his back hit the cold tile wall.  He flinched and even cried out at the sudden, unpleasant sensation, and his legs very nearly gave out beneath him.  The Medic stood there for a long moment, trying to look anywhere but the mirror, before draining the bath, and leaving the room to put some clothes on.  His skin was still damp, and his clothes soon were, too and, really, he couldn't bring himself to care.  The feeling just didn't irritate him the way it should have.

There was food on the table – fried fish, still steaming hot.  Fleischer wasn't hungry, though.  Just the thought of eating made him sick.  His body needed a meal, he knew – but, he just couldn't stomach the thought of what might be in it.

He couldn't eat.  It wasn't safe.  It wasn't safe to drink the water, either, or probably even breathe.  Everything he needed to live was potentially drugged.

Fleischer could feel his heart racing, and his chest heaving, and hopelessness quickly turned to rage.  He grabbed the desk chair – the only piece of furniture that wasn't bolted down – and slammed it into the window.  There was a loud crack on the first swing, and the second broke a leg off of the wooden chair.

The window didn't give, didn't chip or crack, and that just infuriated Fleischer even more.  He kept swinging, as hard as he could manage and, one by one, the rest of the legs broke off of the chair.

He raised his hands to swing again, but wound up stopping, and just letting them fall back to his sides.  It was almost painfully quiet.  The only sounds were that of the quiet ventilation, and his own ragged breathing.

Fleischer gave a hard swallow, and all but collapsed onto the edge of the bed.  He sat silently, staring at the broken remains of the chair, and fearfully wondering what had caused him to so suddenly and so profoundly lose control.  What was the point?  Of course the window wouldn't break – they wouldn't have allowed him to have something he could break it with, after all.

He did have the feeling, however, that the chair would soon be replaced.  He did not know, however, whether they were going to allow him to remain conscious or unrestrained if or when they did so.  Fleischer wound up just staring back at the window – at the frosted glass, and the light shining through it.

There was something there, in those warm, bright beams – motes of something that shimmered faintly – something familiar that seemed to vanish as soon as he noticed it.  Surely it couldn't be dust – the place had been kept spotlessly clean, as any medical facility should be.  He squinted his eyes (tried not to think about how they looked) and saw those little motes of shimmering something, again, but only for a brief instant.  It was almost as though the harder he looked, the harder it was to see those glittering particles.

Fleischer gave the broken chair a small, frustrated kick, before all but collapsing to sit on the edge of the bed.  Something would happen, he knew.  Someone would enter the room, or he would be drugged, or God knew what else.  It was the waiting that was killing him – knowing that something was going to happen, but, not knowing when.  The absence of a clock of any kind did not help matters.

He knew he wasn't going to eat his fish, though.  Fleischer stared at the plate for a few long moments.  He was hungry, but, he wanted to at least feel like he could be in control of something.

The fish had long since gone cold when the intercom finally crackled to life and Nurse Hayes walked in, accompanied by a pair of guards.  The guards, however, seemed to be there to replace the chair, and remove its broken counterpart.

Hayes, on the other hand, offered Fleischer a small, remarkably convincing smile.  "How are you feeling, Doctor Fleischer?"

She was given no response.  Fleischer kept his eyes on the floor, and didn't even offer her a 'hello'.  As terrified as he was of being alone – as alone as he felt – he had to stop himself from squirming uncomfortably in the mere presence of one of Isaac's lackeys.

"Doctor Fleischer," she continued, her voice still calm, and sweet, "why didn't you eat your dinner?  You must be hungry."

There was, once again, no response.  Fleischer realized he was being somewhat rude by not answering the nurse's question, but, the response should have been fairly obvious.  He knew his body needed the food, but, he felt sick from the stress – and, it was something he could control.  It was something he could refuse, for the time being, at least.

"It's gotten cold," Hayes noted, sounding entirely innocent.  "I can get you something fresh and hot.  You really do need to eat."

"No," Fleischer hissed, an entirely inhuman sound that managed to startle even him.

It seemed to startle the nurse, too.  She still had that sweet smile on her face, but, there was something about her posture, and – and something else – that told her patient that she had been surprised, and in a somewhat frightened way.

He also couldn't help but notice that, despite the chair having been replaced, the guards were still there.  He was surrounded.  The realization sent a chill through Fleischer, and drew a low, quiet, inhuman growl from deep in his chest.  It made the guards nervous, too – which made their captive feel just the smallest sense of satisfaction.

In truth, it frightened Fleischer, as well.  His anatomy had been changed – had been fundamentally altered.  He could do things and had things that a human being shouldn't.  Was he even a human being, anymore?

"I'll have something nice and hot brought in for you, Doctor Fleischer," the nurse said, still smiling, as she picked up the still-full plate of fish.  She didn't say another word before turning and leaving, flanked by the guards.  The airlock closed behind them.

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… and Comorbidity…

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…

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…

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Submitted on
September 23, 2014
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