“Alright, let’s see what we’ve got here.”
Terry unzipped the body bag, slowly revealing the fresh corpse within. He felt pitiful towards the woman before him. Her wounds were horrifying to look at, even though Terry’s experience as a medical examiner was past a decade now.
The woman in question was blonde; long wavy wisps of hair spread across her lithe back and shoulders. The wide laceration running horizontally across her cheekbone made her face appear akin to Nolan’s depiction of the Joker, accompanied with bruises and other, small cuts.
Terry’s partner James examined the sheet of paper on the clipboard carefully. “She's another Jane Doe, at least until we get some DNA tests done.”
With a gloved hand Terry turned Jane’s head to the one side to inspect the fresh bruising. His professional opinion presumed Jane had been dead for a little over three hours prior to being carted to the hospital.
“She didn't have any ID on her?” Terry enquired, slightly grossed by the abhorrent mounds of slashed flesh on the woman’s cheek.
James shook his head. “No passport, library card, nothing. She's a blank slate.”
Terry slowly turned Jane on her stomach, her modest bosom pressing gently into the cold steel of the table. Terry moved back in shock at the sudden sight before him, almost tripping over the tools by his side. James saw it too, but was less squeamish.
A wide, inches-deep cut had been driven into Jane’s spinal column, exposing the tendons and bone marrow.
“How did she die exactly?” Terry took a couple of deep breaths to maintain his composure. In all the years he'd been an ME and saw vicious wounds on so many Jane Doe’s, this particular Jane presented the worst.
“Hit by a car when crossing the road” James revealed, reading from the report. The more he read into it, the more sorrowful he felt towards the woman. “Mortal wounds are extensive: broken legs, shattered spinal column, wide lacerations across the front and back.” He sighed. Judging by the woman’s large number of wounds and how damaging they were, even if she somehow survived, death would've been more a blessing than a curse for her. “She was lucky.”
Terry glowered. “Hey, show some respect for the dead, eh?”
The door swung open to reveal two stout paramedics wheeling in another corpse, positioning it near Jane.
“Another one, boys?” James unzipped the body bag and let out a surprised “woah” at the corpse within.
A 20-something redhead beauty with cold dead eyes stared at the ME, and that wasn't even what took him by surprise, rather the muscles that jutted out of her frame in seemingly all directions: up, down, her right and left flanks, behind…
“She another Doe?” Terry was just as surprised by the redhead’s mass as his partner, but was able to keep himself in check.
The larger of the paramedics shook his head. “Police report indicated she went by the name of Lynn Dawson, a, um… professional bodybuilder.”
James scoffed. “Figures.” Although he had to admit this Lynn was surprisingly large for her age.
“And the irony is” the smaller paramedic said, moving up to Jane with a knowing expression, “she’s this Doe’s killer, albeit unintentional.”
Terry turned poker-faced at this surprisingly revelation, shifting his attention between Jane and Lynn. “You're kidding me?!”
Both paramedics were inclined to disagree through shaking their heads in unison.
James scoffed. “Ain't that some shit.” He turned to Lynn curiously. It seemed despite the strength and largeness of her body, she was ultimately betrayed by her car.
James flipped Lynn onto her stomach like Jane had been before her stomach was examined for any external wounds, which revealed a wide gash along her left oblique.
“This Lynn is a pretty big chick” James said, eyeballing the redhead’s thick globular calves that bored striations with a hint of gentle vascularity, before moving his down further to her sharp glutes. “Like, ‘bigger than your dad’ big.”
Leaning forward, Terry probed Jane’s eyes gently with his gloved hand curiously, awed by the gentle hint of green that shimmered behind the cold blanket of their otherwise cold deadness. “Seems Doe here had green eyes.” He straightened up to take a deep breath. “What about Lynn?”
James did the same as his colleague, running a finger across Lynn’s eye to find its gentle water blue tint hiding behind it. “Blue” he said.
James lifted Lynn’s arm to show Terry the slash of thick bloody meat in her right oblique. “Seems all those muscles couldn't save her.”
“She might be stronger than the two of us put together,” Terry cleaned out Jane’s spinal wound with a wipe, “but she’s no less human than you or I.”
James scoffed. Terry always was one for being the most philosophical out of them.
The bell struck midnight; time for the two ME’s to have their night shift meal.
“They've got that mushroom and cauliflower pasta dish going on at the canteen tonight, don't they?” Terry was practically salivating at the thought of eating that piece of bliss once again.
James smiled. “Yeah. But after eating that curry last night, I've lost my appetite.”
“You're not coming then?”
“Oh I'm coming.” James removed his bloodied gloves and tossed them into the waste bin before hooking up his apron. “Anything beats being around death all day.”
Terry smiled. “That's the spirit.” He mirrored James, tossing his gloves into the bin and removing his apron before leaving.
Barely five minutes had passed since the two ME’s left for their late-night meal and a storm was kicking up outside; the flashes of forked lightning were so violent and frequent, it felt like more like a disco light display than lightning, and the thunder rolled loud enough to drown out all other noises.
The room fell dark almost suddenly, intermittently lightened up by the violent flashes of lightning spurting out and rolls of thunder.
Eventually, once the hospital had gone pitch black from power failure, putting the lives of hundreds of patients at risk, everything fell eerily silent; the thunder came to a sudden halt, to the point where the ensuing silence was almost deafening, and the lightning flashes no longer gave the rooms a vibrant flash of light, and—
Jane’s chest heaved as a sharp inhale brought her back to the world of the living; her cold dead eyes flickered to life as one iris changed from its cute lime green hue to water blue, making the girl a heterochromia. All she saw for a moment was sheer darkness, adjusting to the light, or lack thereof.
Audibly straining, she sat up and looked around, the vast open wound on her back spread outward like wings, slightly throbbing with pain, inviting her to touch it before yelping out softly at the flesh’s tenderness.
“What the fuck happened to me?” She saw Lynn’s corpse.
“You can say that again” the voice called out. It was sweetly toned, like velvet.
Jane screamed. “Who the fuck--” She tried to wrap her head round how she could be dead, yet sat there breathing. Plus, she also wondered where the voice came from. There was nobody else in sight, after all. “Where are you?”
The voice chuckled, as if what Jane said was more a joke than a question. “Where? Well, that's subjective really.”
“No, seriously, where?” Jane was not in the mood for games, understandably.
There was a disembodied sigh. “The last time I checked, I was on my way to get a tan. The next thing I know, I'm--”
Jane’s eyes bugged out, looking back at Lynn’s corpse. “Dead.”
“Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner!” Lynn groaned softly, flashing back to that fateful last moment of her life, as did Jane, which horrified her, as she saw her killer.
“You killed me!”
Lynn sighed. “I did not actively seek out to kill you, and you know that. That’s what you get for running out in front of the light.”
Her head nipped; it was all too much to process so soon, and it was only going to get worse. She didn't even remember running out in front of a light. “But how are you in my head?”
“I'm not. You're me and I'm you. We are us” Lynn explained, or at least she tried to; it only made things worse for Jane. “I’m in nobody’s head because this is my head, so to speak.”
Jane groaned, reaching for her throbbing temple. “How do you know?”
“Clinically speaking, I've been dead two minutes longer than you; I've… seen things.” Lynn’s ensuing silence was a tad unnerving for Jane to handle. “Things you only got a hint of.”
Jane fell silent.
“You know what I'm talking about, don't you?” Lynn asked rhetorically.
“I think so” Jane said softly before a memory of sorts flashed to show a place drowned in light. “That was Heaven, right?”
Jane was right to at least think the place she saw was Heaven, but she was wrong. It was somewhere… different.
Lynn was silent for a moment before changing the subject. “Well, you know my name. So, what's yours?”
Jane thought hard. Looking down, she saw the name tag on her toe and frowned. Her name definitely wasn't Jane Doe; it just didn't feel like hers. And then she realized.
"I... I don't know."
Lynn sighed. "We'll go with Riley for now."
Riley simply smiled.
“Well, Riley, as much as I know you want to know more about the place in question, you're not ready yet, not strong enough both mentally and physically.” Lynn knew what she said wasn't entirely fair, but she didn't make the rules either. “But in time, you will be.”
Riley cocked a brow in confusion. What exactly did Lynn mean by that?
“I'll tell you more about that later, but right now,” Lynn sighed apologetically, “you really need to clean up that back of yours; it's disgusting.”
Riley twisted round to see the thick bloody mound of jutting tendons, flesh and bone that was her back. She nearly vomited at the sight before wincing as the wound slowly started to close up and heal at a near superhuman rate, leaving only the scarred tissue.
Riley looked into a small mirror hung on the wall and examined her face. The Joker-esque scar across her cheek had completely healed as well, as if it never existed to begin with. "How did you..." She traced a finger across the fresh scar on her back, her heart jumping sorrowfully at the fact there was one, holding back tears of anguish.
“I can only heal so much, sorry” Lynn’s voice was sad, as if she wished she could do better. “But you wouldn't be sitting upright if it weren't for me either. Broken spine and all."
Riley continued to examine herself in the mirror before eyeballing the faint shadowy and broad silhouette behind her that, upon turning round, she realized only she could see through mirrors. Turning back to Lynn's corpse, the blonde soon deduced the mysterious figure in question was Lynn's ghost.
“So, what now?” Riley was lost. She was resurrected, as hard as it was to believe, didn't have a past or any memories to speak of, and didn't know what to do because of that.
What to do?
“Well, first, get some clothes on, you naked babe” Lynn snickered. “Then we’ll see what we can do about after.”
Lynn scoffed. Surely Riley was able to connect at least some of the dots by now? “Well, unless you know how to send me back to my cold corpse, I'd say we’re ‘stuck together’ for the time being.”
Riley groaned. It was ironic she was now going to spend a lot of her time with her ‘killer.’
“Besides, I reckon it'd be much preferred by everyone to live in someone else’s body than be dead and never come back” Lynn professed as Riley barged through the double doors in a small towel, covering her breasts with her arm, wisps of blonde hair waving gracefully as she passed the air conditioner.
“Run, blondie, run!” Lynn chuckled. "If only you could see your ass from this angle."
Six months later…
“Do we really have to go through this again?”
Riley sighed tugging at the sleeve of her grey suit jacket, running a hand through her flaxen wisps of hair. In the six months since her unexpected bonding with Lynn, she’d become accustomed to the ghoul’s nagging. But on this particular occasion, it just wouldn’t do.
“Yes” Riley professed. She peeked through the small windowpane on the door in front of her and saw Billie her psychiatrist running a hand across her bookshelf. “And I’d appreciate it if you actually cooperated this time.”
Billie had been Riley’s therapist for the last four months and endeavored to help piece together the blonde's identity, among other, far different and ethereal things – things that Lynn only seemed to understand.
“Fine – so long as I get to see her from the back this time round. She has quite the ass on her, you know” she said with a chuckle. Lynn had made things difficult for Riley on several occasions. One of the reasons for this was she was lesbian while Riley was hetero, not to mention Riley had to occasionally deal with explaining why she was ‘talking to herself,’ since nobody but her could hear Lynn speak. So, naturally, having a relationship in general was a hard task on its own, let alone being in a stable one.
“Shut up” Riley scolded, barring her teeth as she gripped the door’s handle, forcing it to groan in pain as the metal warped under her palm. She scanned the hallway to make sure no one saw or heard her talk to herself. Luckily, she was in the clear – a rarity in itself. “I won’t have you mess this up, this time.”
Lynn chuckled. “Alright, girl, jeez. Calm it.”
Riley sighed again. She knocked the door and waited, her patience wearing thin on account of Lynn’s deliberate attempts to annoy her.
“Come in” Billie said softly through the door, turning from the bookshelf with a smile. She watched her client nervously tread across the carpet biting her lip before taking a seat in front of her.
“Sorry I’m late – someone decided to get on my nerves today” Riley explained irately, rolling her eyes.
Billie chuckled softly as she took her seat. “That’s fine. No rush.” Billie was aged similarly to Riley, which gave the formerly dead woman an advantage of sorts when it came to explaining her ‘predicament’ with Lynn. Billie’s beauty would’ve made Lynn fall head over heels in love with her, if she could see what they blonde actually looked like, with long blonde hair and a sizeable bosom and hourglass figure. It was often Riley’s ‘job’ to describe people’s appearance to Lynn, which wasn’t that hard to do since she had to describe Lynn to Billie for the first time.
“How’ve things been going since our last session?” Billie poured tea into a mug and offered it to Riley. Billie always offered her clients tea when their meetings started; she was of the mind it would help ease their nerves.
“Alright I suppose. I’ve settled into a flat a few miles from here and share it with someone.” Riley sipped the tea and basked in its deliciousness. This was proper tea she was served.
“Yeah, Tess. That’s another hot piece of ass right there.” Lynn chuckled softly knowing all too well she was getting on Riley’s nerves.
The blonde rolled her eyes. “Will you shut up?”
Billie’s interest was piqued. In all the four months she had been her psychiatrist, this was the first time she’d saw Riley negatively respond to Lynn around her. “What’d she say?”
Riley sighed. “Nothing.”
Billie leaned in closer to her client. “Riley, you and I both know you’re here for help – my help. I can’t give that to you if you’re not honest with me.”
“Ho-ho, Billie’s feisty today, ain’t she? Me likey!” Lynn quipped.
“Trust me; you’d be safer if I didn’t tell you.” Riley hoped Billie would trust her enough to know what she said was the truth. Billie leaned back on the chair with a knowing grin.
“How’s she doing?” she asked, referring to Lynn.
The ghoul scoffed. “Tell that bimbo she knows that ‘she’ has a name.”
Riley sipped the tea again. Now they were down to business. Most of the conversation she had with Billie were either completely centred around or ended up being about Lynn. She was the centrepiece of all this, after all.
“She’s doing alright I suppose. She’s got me working out nearly every day now, and I spend most of my time doing that” Riley explained. There was a hint of sadness in her voice, as if she’d prefer doing something else, which was the truth. But, compared to other people, she had a literal need to work out - a purpose to do so.
“Are you strong enough yet to...go there?” Billie had broached that question on several occasions, on the first of which she was understandably sceptical of both it being a real place and the fact Riley had bonded with Lynn, a dead soul. But as the months went by, the number of sessions increased, and the sketches Riley drew depicting her dreams became more vivid, Billie eventually wasn’t so sure what was real or not.
“Not by a long shot.” Riley removed her grey suit jacket to reveal her biceps to Billie. They were interwoven with soft veins and splits across the peaks. In the six months she’d been bonded with Lynn, Riley had at least doubled in width. Her back muscles gently pressed against the knitted confines of her top as she sat comfortably. “I’m not even half the size I need to be.”
“They’re nineteen inches, right?” Billie remembered the last time Riley boasted like this. The psychiatrist wasn’t bothered by it; at best, it intrigued her on a professional level.
“The last time I checked they were, yeah.”
“That was a fortnight ago though” Lynn pointed out sharply. “They’re probably bigger than that now.”
“Remind me, why are you doing all this bodybuilding stuff again? There’s an actual reason behind it, right?” Billie walked to the wide window and looked down at the street, an arm pressed against the glass. She did this to keep her eyes free from Riley’s rippling arm. Billie was always attracted to power and her client’s physique was a staple of that. The only problem on Billie’s part was that she knew Riley was not only a hetero, but already infatuated with someone.
“Well, Lynn saw this place when we both died that I thought was Heaven, but turns out there’s more to it than that.” Riley crossed her leg, allowing the thick pillar of quad meat to ripple and twitch as the supernaturally smooth skin of her leg stroked against Billie’s desk. “You know there are the nine rings of Hell, sometimes known as Dante’s Inferno?”
“Right?” Billie tried to follow along, but her mind was nipping at the feeling she was going to be confused. She rarely doubted her headaches, as if they were a sort of sixth sense unique to her.
“On the flipside, it turns out there are nine rings of Heaven as well – Gabriel’s Paradise. One of these rings is unique to – get this – those who were bodybuilders in the world of the living.” Riley saw Billie’s confused expression and felt pitiful for her, but there was still more to tell. “There’s a literal gateway to Gabriel’s Paradise somewhere on Earth and you have to be physically strong enough to pass through it. Once on the other side, Lynn presumes our bond will break and we can move on individually.”
“Ooooh!” Billie smiled softly at the idea behind everything involving Gabriel’s Paradise. But—“Why haven’t I heard of Gabriel’s Paradise before?”
“Don’t tell her too much, damn it” Lynn scolded. “God knows she might turn into some kind of Indiana Jones villain and go looking for it.”
“Still asking myself that actually” Riley returned truthfully.
Billie smiled, returning to her desk. “And how have things been going with Dean?” Changing the subject quickly was a deliberate tactic employed by the psychiatrist to ensure her clients didn’t always have the upper hand or were put off-guard with their responses.
Riley stammered, taken aback. “Yeah things have been okay so far.”
“I wouldn’t exactly say that with confidence, you know. Remember that time he asked to have se-” Lynn began before being interrupted by Riley.
Billie cocked a brow. “You have any more sketches to show? Any more vivid dreams?”
“More like nightmares” Lynn corrected.
Riley rummaged through her bag and pulled out a sketchbook, placing on Billie’s desk with a dull thud. Admittedly, Riley had hoped Billie wouldn't have asked about the sketches this time round because Lynn was right: the sketches were nightmarish in nature; drawn and shaded in such a way that even the lightest colour was still somewhat dark.
“Let's see here.” Billie flipped through the pages in the sketchbook, skimming past sketches she'd last examined; a portrait of Dean smiling, an obscure drawing of a random coffee cup, presumably to practice perspective, and a portrait of Tess.
Then Billie saw the newly sketched and coloured portrait of a female and frowned slightly with worry. “Who’s this?” She pushed the sketchbook back over to Riley open at the new drawing.
“Honestly, I don't know” Riley admitted, looking at the sketch carefully. The last time she'd looked at the picture, nothing was thought of the face, but now a knot formed in her stomach.
Billie was unconvinced. “She must mean something to you, if you've put the extra effort into the colouring, something you don't normally do with your sketches.”
As hard as it was for her to do otherwise, Riley knew Billie was right.
“What part of ‘I don't know’ didn't she get?” Lynn complained.
The female’s portrait was meticulously drawn, with every significant detail put on display; the red and violet hair coupled with the heterochromia red and purple eyes, and the brisk smile. Whomever this woman was, her neck was thick and wide like a baby bull’s, as was the rest of what had been drawn of her, as if to suggest she was of muscular build.
“I can assure you, I have no idea who she is.” Between Lynn’s annoying quips and Billie’s pressing of the current issue, Riley was becoming increasingly irate.
“Can we stop talking about her now?” For the first time in the six months she'd been bonded with Riley, Lynn was genuinely fearful. This nameless woman in the portrait, whomever she was, made the ghoul jittery. “Please?”
Riley noticed Lynn’s sudden change in character when the nameless woman was mentioned and paid attention to it. After all, if someone like her could scare even the dead, it wouldn't take much to think what she could do to the living.
Billie saw Riley was uneasy and pulled the sketchbook back over. “Sorry.” Perhaps Billie had gone too far just this one time.
“I told you this was a bad idea, but no, you had to prove me wrong and now look at you.” Lynn groaned.
Riley barred her teeth in rage, clenching her meaty fist, slamming it into the desk in a blind fury. “You're no fucking better, you know. Always thinking because you're dead and seen things I haven't you're the one who’s fucking right all the time.”
Billie offered a supportive hand to Riley, grasping the blonde’s hand tightly over the desk. “Riley!”
Riley blinked, looking at Billie with a deadpan expression before realisation hit her. “Did… did I flip out again?”
Billie let out a sigh of relief, leaning back on her chair. “Barely. But you were pretty pissed off at Lynn about something.”
Riley fell silent, guiltily pulling her head down to the floor. “Sorry.”
“Don't be. Just… ignore Lynn if you have to.”
Riley cocked her head slightly with bugging eyes to suggest her offence to Billie’s suggestion. “Ignore her? Have you been paying any attention for the last six months, or just letting me indulge in my apparent madness before prescribing mental pills and putting me in a fucking strait jacket?”
Billie mentally took a step back to assess what she said. A big mistake on her part. “No, I didn't mean that. -I”
“I can't just block her out! She is me! I am her!” Riley fought the anguish boiling within; holding back the tears of distrust. She felt she'd been lied to for months. Nobody would be able to understand what she was going through. “You stupid, inconsiderate slag!”
“RILEY!” Lynn’s voice was at its loudest; bursting through the mental barrier between her and Riley so violently that it made the blonde’s nose bleed.
She heaved a breath, looking around for a moment to recollect her awareness. Riley never meant to burst out at Billie like that, and they both knew it, but between the discussion about the nameless woman and Lynn’s deliberate attempts to annoy her, she was bound to snap at some point.
“I'd like to go home now” she said softly, wiping the stream of blood from her nose. In fact, without properly seeking Billie’s approval, Riley did just that, scarpering to the door in a flash, leaving the sketchbook at Billie’s desk.
Sometime later, Billie returned home with Riley’s sketchbook, sat by the fire with a glass of wine. She flicked through the sketches again, looking at them in greater detail.
The sketch of Lynn was a standout for that moment. She had her hair loose and drawn over her wide back, smiling in such a way that her dimples showed.
The second sketch was a simple stone archway, presumably leading to Gabriel’s Paradise.
Then the third, worrisome drawing: the nameless woman with the red and purple hair. Billie knew this woman meant something to Riley. But the sheer sense of panic that came from just talking about the woman suggested her existence couldn't possibly spell anything good for Riley.
The punch came fast and quick, connecting with his lower jaw. He spat blood as the chains keeping him in place rattled, hurting his wrists.
“I could do this all day, chum” the bruiser declared with a sadistic laugh, clenching his fist again and drawing his arm back, holding it in place behind his ears.
The beaten man managed to smile, for what little good it did him. “I bet you could.”
Another punch - somewhat harder this time; enough to make the chained man jerk slightly. He looked down at his chest, gazing worriedly at his blood-stained pectorals, and then looked lower still at the stone cold concrete his torn shirt laid on.
“Think yer smart, eh?” The bruiser grabbed his victim by the hair, yanking his neck back so quickly a muscle in it was pulled. The attacker was bald and dressed in a black leather jacket like most hard men would typically wear, staring into his sufferer’s eyes. “Fuckin’ cunt.”
The victim himself had brown hair that was understandably dishevelled and matted with sweat that trickled down the length of his bare bruised back.
“That's no way to talk about yourself” he joked.
The bruiser growled pulling his arm back to punch again, but—
“That's enough, Jim” the female called out from… nowhere it seemed. Her voice was carried everywhere within the cold darkness of the abattoir, possessing an unnatural air of sensuality that filled Jim and his victim’s bones with an emotion equal parts fear and desire. “I'll take over from here.”
Jim stepped away to the guard the sliding door where two corpses laid out front, covered in blood and holes in their chest, two spent shotgun shells by their sides. Jim pulled out a cigarette and lit it using a match he then dumped carelessly next to one of the corpses.
The abattoir might've been pitch-black from the night darkness, but the chained man could still see from his eyes adjusting to what little light there was, and saw little save for the lone table at the side. Worse yet, he saw no one. So whose voice did he hear?
“I understand” the female said softly, her sultry voice echoing through the air, sending chills down the beaten man’s spine. “Sometimes you just have to ask nicely. Don't you, James?”
James’ heart dropped. How did this voice – whoever it was – know him? He didn't even know Jim!
“So I'll do just that." The voice was more sultry this time, obviously deliberate in an attempt to make James’ emotions conflict with reason. “Where. Is. Riley?”
“I don't know!” James didn't know many times he'd need to tell the truth. A hundred? A thousand? It wouldn't matter; he wasn't going anywhere even if his words were to be believed, truth or not. “I don't know anyone by that name!”
James jerked in fear as a loud beastly roar filled the room from where the voice came, lights flickered on and off uncontrollably, and the walls split violently to form cracks so wide, one could fit their whole finger in, reaching out to James before stopping just a few inches from his shoulders.
“Do not fuck with me!” The woman’s voice had lost its sultriness, replaced with something far more menacing and ethereal. “You were the one to examine her corpse.”
“Why the fuck do you care so much about a fucking dead chick, anyway!” James’ chains rattled as he frantically, vainly tried to pull himself free.
The woman sighed, her voice back to its sultry beauty, and then, after a moment of tense silence—
Steps gentle yet echoey, she stepped out just enough to show her face, hair and rippling torso covered by an open-chested black top, revealing herself from the corner James could've sworn was empty the last he looked.
The woman’s hair was black and purple, strewn in long feathery ends across her shoulders, bolstered by the menacing yet equally ravishing blue and violet heterochromia eyes.
But perhaps the most startling feature of note was the large scar running across her throat, as if it had once been slashed.
She then moved up to James to reveal even more of her appearance. The long black military boots and brown trousers from which one could see the bulging protrudes of her upper thighs, and the gun belt strapped across her waist.
Coming to a halt face-to-face with him, the sensual beauty stroked James’ cheek with a smile. “Oh, if only you knew.”
Her phone buzzed, ending the tense moment. Groaning, she put the phone to her ear knowing exactly who the caller was. They always did seem to have impeccable timing about such things. “Yeah?”
“Any luck, agent Ashford?” The voice on the other end was sinister, synthetically created to hide the caller’s identity.
Brittany hesitated, glancing at Jim for help, but he knew none could be offered from him. “No, not yet. But if you just let me integrate--”
“No! No integrating with Diamonde.” the voice was stern, cruelly demanding. Brittany’s face scrunched up at her being scolded. She always liked it when she integrated with Diamonde, her bonded soul. But—“You remember what happened the last time, don't you?”
Brittany flashed back to that particular night, remembering the bloodied fists, inhuman mass and trail of death she wrecked in her uncontrollable rage from being linked to Diamonde.
“Brittany!” The voice roared through the phone; so loudly, there was a brief moment of feedback that stung the agent’s ear.
“What’s to happen with him, then?” Brittany inquired irately, referring to the weakened James. She scooped a thin streak of his blood from his chin with her finger and licked it dry, offering him a sadistically sultry wink.
“You already know if he's lying or not” the voice stated matter-of-factly, “so deal with him as you see fit. But do it cleanly.”
The call ended.
Brittany sighed, tucked the phone back into her pocket before reaching for her forehead with a hand, rubbing it gently.
“So what's the plan, boss?” Jim tossed his cigarette down a small drain as his boot scuffed on the ground, looking at James. “What's we doin’ wit’ this shit stain?”
Brittany smirked at James. She could think of so many things that could be done to the so-called ‘shit stain’ to help dispose of him, most of which wouldn’t be clean like her boss wanted. “What indeed.” She pulled out her m1911 and waved it around for a moment, knowing full well it was both loaded and the safety was off.
James flinched as the weapon was placed to his head, whimpered softly. Piss trickled down his leg he was so frightened, insistent that this was his last moment; that by bullet was his death.
Brittany chuckled, pulling the gun away to holster it, and then looked at the gathering of urine at James’ bare foot. “Relax. Death by gunshot is so overrated.” Admittedly, she felt a flicker of pity within her gut for the poor chained soul, only because she expected better from someone so masculine. “If I was going to kill you, it wouldn’t be that way.”
If she was going to kill him? James’ heart was filled with hope possibly from Brittany’s words; a gentle thankful smile crept across his mouth. “You’ll let me go?”
Jim grabbed Brittany by the arm, pulling her aside to converse more privately. “You know they don’t like loose ends.” He glanced at James before eyeballing the shotgun on the table. “Let me end him here, now.”
Brittany scoffed, rolling up her sleeves to reveal the forearms underneath thick as a brick, a network of veins gently layered over them. “Leave him to me – when I’m finished, he’s gonna beg for death.”
Jim nodded, though some hesitation was presented in his eyes. He knew it was best to just agree on whatever Brittany idea put forward, knowing all too well what could happen, what she could do if he opposed her.
Her steps rhythmical to the excited beat of her heart, Brittany moved up to James invading what little personal space he had with her wide chest; boobs and pecs on all their bountiful, muscular splendiferous display.
“What are you doing?” James somehow knew whatever Brittany had planned to do wasn’t going to do. That said, anything either she or Jim had done beforehand was anything but that.
“Give you one last moment of pleasure.” Brittany moved in on James and locked lips with him, filling the victimised man with an unparalleled sense of lust; their tongues coiled round one another, bonded with saliva. James found it hard to believe he was drawn by Brittany even though she was his captor.
And then James felt it; the sensation of shrinking, shrivelling up and growing thinner as Brittany’s body contradicted it by growing wider and fuller. In essence, she was stealing his muscles and strength to transfer it to her own, already-larger frame; in small visible pulls her trousers stretched outward with growth, fabric tugging this way and that to vainly contain the muscles.
Still holding the literally breath-taking kiss, the agent moaned softly in equal parts a pleasurable response to her expansion and to the surprising flair that came from James’ kiss. How fitting that though it was his last, it was also his best. He though, obviously didn’t share the same sentiment; the muscle that was formerly on his frame had been so greedily absorbed at this point, he was more bone than flesh, more dead than alive. But Brittany kept the kiss going, pulling his head in so close their cheeks touched.
Sooner or later, James had been so physically shrunken and absorbed his wrists slipped free from the chains keeping him in place, allowing him to fall pathetically to his knees, gazing up at the woman who’d just stole his muscles. “How?” Even his voice was frail and pathetic.
Brittany knelt down next to him with a chuckle, her trousers now so visibly strained, that their seams suddenly burst at the outer thigh to expose the muscles underneath, so defined they could very well rival those of a Mr Olympia. “Isn’t that the question of the day?” She patted him on the cheek mockingly.
“What do we do with him now, then?” Jim was apathetic towards what just occurred, having seen it take place a couple of times before now. Not wanting to be a victim of it himself was the prime reason why he always agreed with Brittany.
She handed him her gun. “Make it quick.”
Outside, Brittany looked up at the stars. She always liked the idea of travelling them, of being an astronaut. That all obviously changed, but there was still a flicker of her subsequent, less sadistic humanity in her somewhere.
She looked down at the pill in her hand; a generically white circular capsule. Hatred filled her each time the need to take one approached, but suppressing Diamonde was a love-hate relationship; Brittany loved her for what she could do, but that itself could get out of hand very easily.
With a sigh she popped the pill down her throat.
The gunshot went off in sync with the batting of her eyelids.
“How'd it go?”
Tess’s voice was serene; soft and held an unusual air of tranquility. Her wisps of brown hair stretched across her back, she turned to Riley who closed the door upon her arrival.
“You know; the usual” was her response, dropping onto the couch with an apathetic sigh, and then turned the TV on. “I asked Lynn to play along this time – again. She agreed, but things got outta hand pretty quickly.” The room was dimly lit, painfully darkened by the night sky; its only release was from the constant flash of colour from the TV. “And I left my damn sketchbook at Billie’s office.”
“She’s always one for tricking you, isn’t she?” Tess quipped, referring to Lynn. Tess stood over the stove cooking some kind of meal, dressed in a checked blouse and skinny black jeans. The blouse’s top button had been undone to help the girl cool off a bit from having stood over the cooking meat for so long.
Riley turned away looking out the window with her leg crossed. “I guess” she replied disinterestedly.
A neon sign flashed below the window reading ‘Kayla’s Residences.’ The girls’ humble abode wasn’t the greatest. That wasn’t to say it was bad either; they just didn’t have enough money between them for a better place. Between Tess’s job as a supermarket assistant and Riley being unemployed – for obvious reasons – they only had enough to last each month. Hopefully their situation would improve at some point.
“I didn’t trick you.” Lynn’s ensuing smirk from within the mirror’s glass would’ve been a tad unsettling to those who could actually see it, see her, but Riley knew it as a worthless expression. Lynn couldn’t do anything to harm her, save for hurl the occasional demeaning term, which was both ironic and contradictory to the fact she was brought back to life by her, not vice-versa. “You’re just gullible.”
“That doesn’t change things.” Riley offered a cold, hard stare at the muscular ghoul before her, taking in her every jutting inch of she-beef; the pumpkin’d, striated deltoids level with her cheeks, the brick thick abdominals screaming for release from her gut flanked by cobbled, uneven obliques. Lower, a prominent Adonis belt showed itself boastfully, reinforced by the full wide bulky weight of her protruding quads and calves.
Tess stopped to look at Riley anxiously, watching her talk into the mirror nonchalantly about how someone ought to be more upright, now that they’d been with her for quite some time now.
Eventually Riley noticed Tess’s figure standing by her side and looked shamefully at her. “Sorry, that won’t happen again.”
Tess tutted then folded her arms, moving a leg out to the side allowing its slender smooth skin to be graced by the pale moonlight. “I keep telling you - don’t be like that” she said, her tone an equal blend of care and caution. “Don’t shut me out.”
Riley stopped to process things. She knew Tess was right. Riley had very little friends as it was, neglecting to let Tess in on things even every so often would only strain things between them.
Riley sighed deeply, her chest muscles spread outward with the motion to expand against the thick threads of her shirt, straining it. “Sorry. It’s just... Lynn can be so unsupportive at times. She knows I’m doing all this” she pulled an arm up. Even in its casual, barely flexed posture the limb was close to bursting through her shirt, “for her – for the both of us – she knows I’m doing this so we can go our separate ways.”
Tess stared at Riley’s arm carefully, eyes glazed over lustfully at the powerful, fabric-ripping bulge. The brunette had been watching Riley’s transformation over the last few months rather closely, imagining a not so reserved moment between them where she worshipped the muscles in all their thick, veiny and powerful glory before engaging in unrestrained intercourse. It was a shame though Riley was hetero, not to mention already taken up by someone else.
“Have faith” Tess said reassuringly, plopping down on the couch with a smile. It was at this point their figures were starkly contrasted with one another: Tess was a toothpick in comparison with the larger, stronger and flawlessly more beautiful Riley. Tess argued with herself on occasion that her flatmate’s supernatural beauty was due in part to her bonding with Lynn, as if to say almost every aspect of the blonde was enhanced by it. “Maybe you and Lynn will get along at some point.”
Riley smiled. She always did find a friend in Tess. It was one of the girl’s defining qualities. It calmed Riley down, allowing her to forget the strenuous events from earlier in the day with Billie.
But the tranquillity, naturally, didn’t last long.
“Man, can you imagine if Tess was buff too?” Lynn chuckled, striking a double bicep pose in the mirror. Even though Riley was large in her own right, the redhead was understandably ahead of her; larger, more defined, stronger, more disciplined, even for a ghost. “That’s an ass I would happily tap then. That said I would even do her as she is. Real shame I’m dead though.”
Riley rolled her eyes thinking about doing, saying, even shouting out something to get her mind off Lynn for just a moment. Sure, she could move away from the mirror to stop seeing her, but she was always there. “Say, um… did my package come while I was away?”
“Oh yeah!” Tess practically jumped off the couch then headed down the hall. Riley looked back into the mirror and glared at Lynn, who was mimicking a slapping motion, and considering the angle in which it was performed, looked as though she was slapping Lynn’s butt as she passed.
“Hate you sometimes” Riley said softly. Although she had to admit it did was funny to look at.
“Don’t get so worked up about it. You’ve been with me long enough to know this is how I act” Lynn professed matter-of-factly.
Riley sighed in defeat.
Soon, Tess returned with a generically large brown box filled to the brim. Riley noticed she struggled with carrying it and grimaced at the brunette’s wobbly steps. Predictably, Tess lost her footing and proceeded to fall forward, sending the box flying upward toward the ceiling fan. Barely thinking, Riley jumped out of the couch and grabbed Tess by the waist in one hand before she would otherwise land face-first on the floor, snatching the box in the other without spilling its contents.
Tess sighed deeply overcome with delight in the fact she’d been saved by Riley. But then it suddenly clicked. “How did you – you’ve never been that fast before.”
Riley was still processing what happened herself, taking a brief moment to exchange glances between Tess and the box before a grin crept along her lips. “Woah! What the hell was that?” It was like that cafeteria scene in the first Tobey Maguire Spider-Man movie. She turned to the mirror for Lynn to offer her word on what happened. The redhead simply stared on dumbfounded. But Riley felt there was more to it than what was being let on.
Tess took advantage of Riley’s staring into the mirror by examining the blonde’s large bosom and thick pecs trying to shred their way through her blouse. Tess had never been this close to Riley before and sought to exploit that by moving in to kiss, but—
“What’re you doing?” Riley moved her head away gently, offering a gentle laugh, watching Tess’s puckered lips edge in closer before reason took hold of the brunette once again. She looked at Riley awkwardly for a moment, rubbing her neck.
“Err... sorry about that” Tess said, watching Riley gently pull away from her, still holding the smile.
Understandably, there was a moment of awkward silence between the girls; Tess stood rubbing her arm, a leg crossed over the other as she bit her lip, Riley blindly looked across the apartment at anything before looking into the mirror again to see Lynn’s shocked expression.
Riley knelt over the box and opened it hoping doing so would diffuse the awkwardness that still hung thick in the air. Luckily, it did. She plunged her hand in and pulled out a large tub of protein mix. “Ah, good; it’s all in perfect order.”
Tess did the same as Riley, producing a glitzy bikini top and bottoms from deep in the box. She gulped, imagining Riley in the outfit at that moment posing and strutting like being on a catwalk. “You bought this too?”
Riley offered a soft laugh, taking the bikini from Tess’s lusty clutches. “Yeah, just for some, err… practicing.”
Lynn chuckled knowing the ‘practicing’ Riley referred to was in fact inference to a potential private moment with her boyfriend Dean in the future. “Suuure.”
Riley unfurled the posing suit from its bubble wrapping, eyes glazed over excitedly over seeing it properly for the first time in the two weeks it took between designing, sizing, ordering and delivering what she later considered to be a masterpiece.
Finally the bikini was revealed in all its glory; sparkling golden sequins with streaks of silver running across the bottom’s borderline. The longer Riley looked at it, the more she wanted to just dart into the gym at the end of the hall, jump into it and pose privately.
“It’s gorgeous!” Tess smiled, leaning forward to trace her fingers across the bikini top gently, copping a gentle squeeze of Riley’s arm casually bulging to the point where a small tear formed at the sleeve.
“Easy there” she said with a smile. Admittedly, the blonde was still processing what just happened only a few moments ago. She didn’t know what to feel about Tess being so open.
The brunette pulled back abruptly, shame filling her over what just happened.
Riley noticed this and felt pitiful towards her. “You like ‘em, huh?”
Tess simply nodded.
Riley responded with a deep sigh. She knew Tess was aware of her sexual inclination but the least she could do was let the brunette be indulged in some fashion. Rolling her sleeve up, the blonde permitted Tess the one-time opportunity to feel her arm in all its magnificence, watching her grope the hard mound of flesh that was her bicep like it was a coveted item; the last in its existence.
“It’s so hard” she said, tracing her delicate fingers across the pencil-thick pulsing veins. By comparison, Riley’s bicep must’ve been hard as rock. “How is that--” Tess suddenly stopped, remembering her presumption that everything about Riley had been improved from her bonding with Lynn. That begged the question: what would sex be like?
The brunette moved her hand further up Riley’s arm, closer to the jutting tricep with the distinctive horseshoe shape etched into juxtaposed smooth flesh. But that was when Riley pulled away. She couldn’t deny the sense of enjoyment that came from Tess worshipping her. On an emotional level though, the blonde powerhouse felt indifferent; no butterflies in her stomach.
“You know I don’t have any particular feelings for you, right?” Riley knew her words were harsh, yet there was no other way of exacting them without being as forward as she needed to.
Tess pulled her head away dejectedly, her gut filled with some kind of emotion similar to heartache. Obviously she knew Riley was hetero, but to actually hear words come from her that cemented that fact – it was the worst kind of pain.
“But I know someone who does” Riley said.
Those words grabbed Tess’s attention; she turned her head back round with a cocked brow to her burgeoning friend motioning to the mirror, to Riley and Tess’s reflection. “I don’t understand. Are you implying I love myself?”
Riley scoffed playfully. She forgot Tess couldn’t see her ‘other half,’ so to speak. “No. I’m talking about Lynn.” Riley smirked. “She finds you quite attractive.”
“What you doing?” Lynn called out. Even though death had taken her, she could somehow feel butterflies take hold of her. Riley wasn’t doing what the ghoul thought she was doing, was she?”
Riley offered an expression into the mirror that suggested ‘trust me.’
“Lynn likes me?” Tess didn’t know what to think. To go from leaning in to kiss Riley to understanding how a dead person could have feelings for her was quite the jump. “How does – how will that work?”
“Beats me” Riley admitted. She held back a shrug. Admittedly, she didn’t expect to get this far with her idea. She rested a hand on Tess’s shoulder. “But have faith.”
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