Notes: Sorry it took me so long to get this up and sorry if I haven't responded personally to your reviews. It's been a busy week for me and I fell off my schedule super hard. On the upside of things I've got CrystalFlame360 betaing this for me now so hopefully that'll take care of my issues with grammar and spelling. As always thank you so much for reading and I hope you enjoy.
The leeches grew quickly, eating and replacing what they ate.
In the end, it was hunger that forced her out of the bathtub. It was the first thing that she was really aware of since laying down to rest. Everything else had been a gentle, drifting, floating dreamlike state. Thoughts, when they came were indistinct and impossible to hold onto. It was better that way, she didn't have to think about what happened. The leeches swam and schooled and explored and she was dimly aware of it all. The strongest emotion they felt, if it could even be considered emotion, was mild interest in their surroundings. No hope, no dread, no anticipation. They were safe and fearless.
But in time, they grew hungry.
She could feel the leeches gathering together, her thoughts growing more focused as they did so, until she was able to sit up in the bath. It was dark. She hadn't turned on any lights when she'd gotten home, and it was night now. There was just enough light coming in through the windows that she was able to see. The water she was in was dark, from all the leeches still swimming in it. There were enough of them and they were big enough, now that they all couldn't be inside her at once.
The largest of the ones she could see crawling up the walls, were nearly two inches long when they stretched to their full length. They were fast growers, remarkably so to have gotten that big in just a few hours.
Carefully, she stood up and was caught off guard by how she felt.
The numbness and stiffness from earlier was gone. When she reached for her towel, her fingers closed effortlessly around it, pulling it from the hook it was hanging on with no difficulty at all. She could feel it, soft and dry.
She could feel again, everywhere she touched there was sensation, yet she couldn't feel the leeches inside of her at all. There was no pretending that it had all been a dream though. She could see the leeches crawling on the walls, feel the ones swimming in the water. Being aware of contact with something that she wasn't physically touching was strange, dreamlike, but it was all real. She knew that the leeches had to be there, she'd felt them squirming into place as they gathered together and woken her up, but she couldn't feel them. It was a relief, but at the same time it was unnerving. With everything else she could feel, why not them?
Wrapping the towel around her, savoring the way she could feel its weight on her body, she opened the bathtub drain. The leeches were large enough that there was no fear of them going down the drain, and they were strong enough to cling to the sides of the tub to avoid being caught in the flowing water, except for the ones that deliberately let go to let themselves be pulled in circles.
That was the one thing that made them less frightening than they would have been otherwise, that, either for her benefit, or their own, they were able to act in a manner that served no purpose, other than to have fun. Yes, they'd acted to save her life, worked together to protect her, responded to her, but the fact that they could enjoy things and seek enjoyment, meant that they were less alien, possessing qualities that were actually relatable. Everything else could be attributed to instinct of one sort or another, but the ability to have fun couldn't be explained by anything other than their possessing some degree of intelligence. The question was, how much?
No, she supposed, the real question was how much of her was there left?
She'd died. There was no pretending anything different. She'd been shot, nearly drowned, mauled by zombies, shot again, through the heart that time, stopped breathing and then lay submerged in a bathtub for hours. There was no way she'd recovered from all that, from any of that.
Yet, she checked her pulse anyway.
There was no sense in dwelling on it, not when the leeches were hungry. They'd eaten so much already, and she didn't want to find out what would happen if they got hungry enough to finish off what was left of her.
There had to be something left of her, otherwise, she wouldn't be standing in the bathroom worrying about what would happen to her. She could think and feel, so at the very least her brain and nervous system had to be fine. From there, it was easy enough to extrapolate that her major organ systems had to be okay as well, infected with the Tyrant virus and integrated into the leeches somehow, but otherwise fine.
It was a horrifying thought, and it didn't feel completely right. The zombies she had encountered were, according to Director Marcus, also infected with the Tyrant virus and they had been little more than ravening animals. She couldn't possibly be infected with the same virus, but like them, she'd survived impossible injuries.
She wished that she'd had a chance to find out more. Marcus may have been insane, but she was sure he could have answered her questions, and anything would have been better than not knowing and guessing about everything.
First things first, she had to eat.
Not bothering to get dressed, she simply kept the towel wrapped around her when she left the bathroom. It wasn't like she was expecting anyone after all.
While she'd been resting, the leeches had been exploring, making their way up and down the hall and throughout the entire apartment.
One of them crawled towards her, and she looked down to watch it. It must have ended up finding some corner she'd missed while vacuuming, to poke around in and had ended up getting covered in dust and fuzz from the carpet. It was a surprise that she'd noticed it, because the dust and dim light made it nearly impossible to see. Yet, there was no way she could have missed it. Her eyes were drawn to the little thing, because of the rest of the leeches she supposed. They were communicating to each other, and this one was upset and making its distress clear to the others.
When she bent down to pick it up, it lifted its front half, reaching up to her. The moment her fingers touched it, the leech relaxed. It knew that she would be able to do something about the dust clinging to it and trusted that she would.
Carrying the leech into the kitchen, she turned on the tap, which proved far easier than it had been the previous day, when her hands had been numb and stiff with rigor mortis.
Because, she'd been dead.
She had to stop thinking about it, before she went crazy.
If she wasn't already crazy.
She held the dust covered leech under the running water, washing the dust away. Curious, or possibly wanting to play, leeches began to emerge and slither down her arms, until her hands were full of the squirming creatures. They liked running water, which was strange, because she was sure that they were supposed to prefer stagnant water. Several fell out, landing in the sink, amidst the dirty dishes where they began to amuse themselves by trying to climb up the pile, against the flow of the water.
After she ate, she'd take care of the dishes. It would give her something to do other than thinking about what had happened. The leeches were bad enough, but if she kept thinking about what they meant, it would only make things worse.
Leaving them in the sink, she walked across the kitchen to turn on the light, so she could see what she was doing. She could feel the tension as the leeches anticipated the change in light level. They didn't like it, but they were going to have to deal with it.
Squinting in the light, she stared at the kitchen and immediately wished that she'd left the lights off. There were leeches everywhere, not just in the sink, but on the counter, the table, crawling across the floor and up the walls, dozens of fat, blackish-green worms on every surface.
They'd found the trash and they'd swarmed it, rummaging around inside and passing food to each other. The way they shared was interesting, a line of leeches going into the trash and a second line leaving. A cluster waited at the bottom to receive morsels of food from those that had finished eating. There was no fighting over food, they didn't attack each other.
Director Marcus had said that they would respond to her, like she was part of their swarm. If that was true, then she was safe. She hoped it was true, because she didn't want to have to live with the constant fear of being eaten alive, until she could figure out how to get rid of them.
Looking around the kitchen, trying to figure out what she wanted to eat, if she could bring herself to eat given what was going on, she realized that the leeches had been busier than she'd thought.
In addition to the garbage, they'd found the fruit she'd left on the counter from her last shopping trip. A group of them were working together to break down the apples into something manageable, the largest ones eating their fill and then biting off pieces to pass to others and share. Others were working at the bunch of bananas. Those had proven more difficult, but some of the larger leeches had managed to bore holes in the peels, allowing smaller leeches to enter and eat them from the inside out. The oranges were all untouched, though as she watched a pair of particularly large leeches work together to roll one off the counter.
When she picked it up and put it back, they immediately slithered over to repeat the process.
Picking it up again, she glared at the leeches as they waited at the edge of the counter, "No."
They backed up a little, but as soon as she put the orange down, they were moving towards it again.
After a third time, she figured out what was going on and peeled the orange for them. They'd known it was food, but the rind had been too thick for them to break through, so they'd gotten her to do it for them.
It was a good thing, she decided, that they'd discovered the fruit and started eating it on their own. It meant that the leeches weren't obligate carnivores, they were probably facultative omnivores, or maybe, like normal leeches, they were detritivores with a taste for meat.
Whatever their dietary preferences, she was okay with them liking fruit, because anything was better than what she'd been afraid of, that they only ate meat and would start wandering the apartment building, attacking the other tenants, forcing her to…
The peeled orange hit the floor with a soft splat, the leeches that had tried eating it writhing on the countertop. Apparently, the taste didn't appeal to them. She picked it up a last time, watching as the leeches that had tried it squirmed their way to the sink and dropped into the water to wash the taste away. Shuddering, she dropped it into the garbage, much to the displeasure of the leeches there.
Another group had found a loaf of bread, managed to work their way into the bag and were pulling chunks out, working together like ants to drag them across the counter and dropping them into the sink to soak and soften.
Having a kitchen full of leeches wasn't doing her appetite much good, but she had to eat.
In the end, she decided on a bowl of cereal, because that was something she could eat in the living room while she watched TV, rather than watching leeches while she ate in the kitchen. The leeches watched her intently, chewing at the cereal box when she put it down on the counter and trying to climb up the milk carton. She had to carefully pick them off, before she put it away and by that time, several leeches were already investigating the bowl of brightly colored, supposedly fruit flavored, shapes.
She briefly considered dumping the bowl and pouring herself a new one, when she watched one of the leeches grab a piece of cereal out of it and swallow it whole, a bulge moving down its body as it swallowed. The thing was, she knew it was pointless. They were inside her, and throwing something out because the leeches had touched it wouldn't do any good.
Leaving the kitchen, she went into the mercifully leech free living room and looked out the window. It was still dark out, or as dark as it got in Raccoon City. Light from streetlamps shone in through the window, enough for her to see what she was doing, and in the distance the horizon was bright, not from the approaching day, but from the lights of the city proper. In the city, she'd learned that it was never actually dark. She considered turning on the lamp on the end table near the couch, but she decided against it, just in case there were leeches in the living room too. She didn't want to see them, not when she could already feel them. Not in her, but all around her. If she paid too much attention to it, she could feel them moving, eating, exploring.
Forcing herself to ignore them, she turned on the TV. Somewhere in the room, leeches recoiled at the new source of light and moved away, under the couch. That was fine, they could stay there, out of sight.
She pulled her feet up onto the couch, so she wouldn't have to worry about one of them reaching out from under it and brushing against her while she was watching TV. She skimmed through the channels until she got to the local news, and decided, out of morbid curiosity, to see what was being said about the incident.
Far less than she'd expected, was what it turned out to be, though she quickly learned the reason why when, after talking about renovations taking place at the local university, the cheerfully pre-recorded anchorwoman's expression grew grave. Rebecca leaned forward, wondering how any of what had happened could be explained.
"Cleanup crews continue to work diligently after three days at the site of what was once the historic Spencer Estate. So far, there's no conclusive proof of what caused the explosion, but evidence suggests that the most likely cause was a gas leak. A second team is still searching for the S.T.A.R.S. helicopter that crashed in an unrelated incident, as well as the crew that initially went to look for survivors. So far, all S.T.A.R.S. members, from both groups, remain missing. It's hoped that the discovery of the crash site will yield some clue as to what happened to the ill-fated law enforcement teams."
Rebecca stared at the screen. All of it was horrible, most of it was wrong, but what stuck with her was that it had been three days since everything had happened. For three days, she'd been laying in the bathtub, somewhere between dreaming and awake, without realizing that it was even happening. Blaming it on stress and exhaustion was easy enough, but she knew that she was going to have to be careful not to let it happen again.
At least it explained why she was hungry.
Shivering at the cold, she picked up her spoon and stared at it. Slime dripped from it, little flecks of cereal stuck in the mess. She looked down into the bowl.
It was full of leeches. They'd already drank all the milk and were squirming around to get the last bits of cereal.
How had they managed that without her noticing? Where had they all come from?
As she watched, one of them crawled out of the bowl, reached out, pulled itself onto her hand. It stretched itself out as far as it could reach and pressed against her skin and flatting itself out, it faded from view.
Putting the bowl of leeches down on the coffee table, she wrapped her arms around her legs, pressed her face against her knees and tried not to cry.
What was she going to do? She couldn't get away from the leeches and their being there was a constant reminder of everything.
And they'd eaten her food when she wasn't paying attention. For some reason, that was the worst part of it. That they wouldn't even let her eat in peace.
Miserable, hungry and surrounded by leeches, she wondered if her situation could possibly get any worse.
It wasn't much of a question though.
Of course, it could be worse.
She could be actually dead, rather than whatever she was, and Umbrella could get away with everything they'd done. They wouldn't though, not when she and the other, real, survivors were still around to tell the story of what had happened in the mansion. The woman on the news had been wrong about there being no survivors. She'd have to figure out a way to help, and maybe she could. Chris and Jill had to be out there somewhere, maybe making plans with Barry at this very moment on how to best share the story of what had happened. It was pretty unbelievable after all, but there was proof, there had to be, and maybe that was where she could help. Umbrella couldn't have hidden everything perfectly, and maybe she could find a way to bring some of their more shady dealings to light.
But first, breakfast, because she was still hungry.
Carrying the bowl of leeches into the kitchen, she poured them into the sink and got herself a fresh bowl to try again. The moment she put it down on the counter, the leeches closest to it began to converge. She could feel them moving towards it, waiting for food.
"No!" she waved her hands, as though she could shoo them away, "It's not for you."
They stopped moving.
Marcus had gotten the leech man to fall apart with a wave of his hand. They had listened to him. Maybe they'd do the same for her.
"Leave it alone!"
A few of them turned around.
"Yes! That's right," she couldn't believe what she was doing, talking at them like they could understand, but at her urging more and more of them moved away from the bowl, "Good."
Once they were far enough back that she felt it was safe to look away, she got out the milk and cereal again and poured herself a second bowl. This time, she didn't bother leaving the kitchen, she stood there and looked fixedly down at the brightly colored sugary cereal. With the way she could sense the leeches, it wasn't as though moving away from them would do her any good anyway.
The first mouthful was completely flavorless. Without thinking, she put the bowl down and checked the date on the box. It wasn't stale, the texture was the same as always.
Swallowing with some difficulty, she tried again. Nothing.
The cereal was fine, and she definitely would have tasted something if the milk was sour, so the problem wasn't with the food.
It was with her.
There was no reason to panic though, maybe it was just a side effect of what had happened with her. Maybe, like the stiffness, it would fade over time.
She swallowed the mouthful she'd been chewing and nearly gagged.
Something was wrong. She couldn't get the food down, it was stuck in the back of her throat. Choking wasn't a risk, since she wasn't breathing to begin with. In fact, nothing happened when, in response to the thought of it, she tried. There wasn't any feeling of movement in her chest or anything, no drawing in of air, nothing.
The leeches had stopped trying.
No, she realized, looking at how large the ones in the kitchen were, it wasn't that they weren't trying, it was that they'd grown so large they'd likely filled her chest cavity entirely. Were they pressing on the rest of her organs, closing her throat, preventing her from being able to swallow?
The sensation of something stuck in the back of her throat faded.
Leeches slid across the floor, towards her.
Others moved away, an orderly procession like at the garbage can.
Coming and going, the ones that had eaten their fill bringing food to the others, or trading places with others so they could leave to forage for themselves.
She watched a leech slither down her leg, another crawling up to take its place.
The ones on the counter wanted the bowl of cereal.
"Fine, you can have it."
Some went to the cereal, others took things a step further. She'd left the carton of milk out and they latched onto it. The cereal box was also still on the counter, and by banding together they were able to push it over. Brightly colored pieces scattered in all directions, the leeches on the floor breaking their line to chase after them.
By the time the leeches had finished the milk and most of the cereal, and she wasn't hungry anymore, the sun was just starting to come up. Watching the leeches, she understood that what she felt had nothing to do with her being hungry or not. It was that the leeches that were part of her at the moment, were all ones that had eaten their fill. Some of the other leeches were still hungry, hunting down the last bits of cereal and continuing to search through the kitchen.
The sunlight shining in through the windows was starting to upset the leeches, she could feel it, anxiety she had no reason to feel and the first inklings of thirst starting up.
She'd fill the bathtub for them, but she wouldn't get in, not after losing three days to them. Until she figured out a way to be sure that she'd wake up again, she wasn't even going to try and rest, at least not in the bath. There was no telling what the leeches would do during that time and she didn't dare take any chances. If they hurt someone, if she hurt someone…
She couldn't think like that, constantly worrying about everything, wondering what she was, it would drive her crazy. Right now, what she had to do was stay focused on getting things under control as much as she could, figuring out a way to stop Umbrella and figuring out how much of her there was left. There was enough, there had to be. She could still think and worry about what she'd become, so she was still herself, not some monster. She was connected in some way to the leeches, but there had to be a way of breaking that connection, separating them from her and then fixing what was left.
That was what she considered as she walked back to the bathroom, how to fix what was left. There was no telling the kind of research that was being done by Umbrella. What she'd seen was only a small sampling, part of some larger project and who knew how many other projects were going on at the same time? Once what Umbrella was doing was brought to light legitimate, honest scientists would be brought in to investigate the experiments that had been done, look through the research and find practical, useful applications for it. When that happens, she could go to them, explain the leeches and get help.
They would help her.
They had to.
And the best way to make it happen would be to help stop Umbrella.
She had Barry's phone number, he could help her get in touch with Chris and Jill, because they had to be out there, somewhere, laying low. The four of them working together could do something.
Once she filled the bath, so the leeches wouldn't be a distraction, she could call him and…
It was light enough out that she could see into the bathroom, and what she saw didn't make sense. There was a layer of something coating the bottom of the tub. It wasn't leeches, she could see them wriggling through it, feel them looking for any last bits of food.
Unable to figure out what it was that she was looking at, she turned on the light. A thick yellow-brown scum coated the bottom of the tub. Leeches had dragged trails of it up the walls and across the floor. When she'd left the bath, she'd tracked it across the towel she kept folded on the floor in front of the tub. On the sides of the tub, there was a distinct dark brown ring, marking where the water had been during her three day long soak.
She'd been dead in there and as fast as the leeches had eaten, dead things started to rot.
There was nothing she could do, no going back. Stopping Umbrella wouldn't fix anything for her, being dead wasn't something that could be fixed, especially not when she was so far gone. She still had to stop Umbrella though, because of what they were doing, what they had done.
The leeches wanted water, the ones in the tub had stopped looking for food and were waiting. The ones that had been wandering were starting to gather, making their way back into the bathroom. Her own feelings of thirst increased.
She couldn't go back in the bath though, not when…
It was another of the things she couldn't think about. Until she figured things out better, it would be best to keep things simple, focused. Horrible as the thought of it was, she was going to have to clean the bathroom, then she could worry about what to do next.
The leeches were large enough that they wouldn't wash down the drain, so she turned on the shower to see how much of the mess she could wash away without actually having to touch it. Yes, she'd been laying in it for days, but that was one of the things that she wasn't going to think about.
While the shower ran, she picked up the towel that had been on the floor, shaking it thoroughly to make sure there were no leeches stuck to it and tossed it in the hamper. She did the same with the towel she had used, and her uniform, which was still on the floor. Afterwards, she got dressed and went to check on the bathroom.
Most of the mess had washed away, but that only served to reveal a new horror. Little bits of something lay scattered across the bottom of the bathtub. Closer inspection revealed them to be bones, a collection of carpals and phalanges.
Terrified she rubbed at her hands and, with effort, was able to feel where the bones were missing, the soft bodies of the leeches yielding to her examinations. Taking the fingers of her left hand in her right, she slowly bent them backwards. There was a moment of hesitation when they reached, what should have been, the limit of their range of movement, then the leeches understood and stopped resisting, allowing themselves to bend backwards until they were pressed against the back of her hand. Their mimicry had broken down slightly, the skin of her left hand taking on a mottled brown and green appearance. It was especially noticeable with her fingers, where she could see the distinct ringed bodies of the leeches twisting together into shape. They'd grown large enough, strong enough, that they didn't need the framework of bone to support them.
Releasing her hand, she watched as they flexed back into place, their mimicry of form returning before they finished changing color.
They'd done so much and managed all of it without her noticing, leaving her unsure if she should be horrified or impressed.
Both was probably the best answer.
Wringing her hands, testing the way the leeches moved, searching for the point at which things started to feel wrong, she stared at the bones. She had to do something with them. Leaving them there wasn't an option, not when she still had to clean the tub, so she could fill it up for the leeches, to keep them happy, so she could try and act like things were otherwise normal.
Throwing them out was too dangerous. They were small, hardly noticeable, but if on the off chance that someone found them, somehow, there was no telling what might happen. The last thing she wanted was to end up the primary suspect in her own murder.
She could keep them as proof of what had happened to her, that Marcus and Umbrella really were making monsters, but what then? She'd be admitting that she was dead, that the leeches had replaced her. That wasn't an option, because if she was just leeches, it meant that she wasn't human and that anything could be done to her. She could be locked away, used as a test subject and technically, there wouldn't be anything wrong with that, because she was just leeches.
It was something that never would have occurred to her in the past, but after seeing what Umbrella had done, murder, human experimentation and worse, it was easy to imagine someone doing horrible things to her with the justification of 'it's just leeches'. One of the leeches was just an ordinary leech, even a group of them wasn't anything exceptional. Maybe they were larger than they should have been, smarter, but on their own, they were just leeches. The ones searching for food in the kitchen were proof of that. Without her directing them they were nothing more than animals acting on instinct.
The thing was, it wasn't as though a certain set of leeches made her. They were all interchangeable, the way they came and went, the ones that were a part of her trading places with those that had been wandering, proved that the leeches as a whole made her. Take them all apart and they weren't her, they really were just leeches.
She had to keep the truth about what had happened to her hidden. For now, at least. Once Umbrella was taken care of, things might be safer. By then, she might have figured something out.
Gathering the bones, she took them and hid them away in a shoebox in the back corner of her bedroom closet. Later, when she'd calmed down, she'd figure out a better, more permeant hiding spot. First though, she had to deal with the increasing thirst of the leeches, then she'd be able to concentrate better.
Or would it be a case of the leeches that made her being less distracted?
How was she even supposed to tell what was her and what was the leeches? When enough of them wanted water, she got thirsty; when enough of them were hungry, so was she. What if there wasn't even a 'her' anymore? What if Rebecca Chambers, the person, really was gone and all that was left was a bunch of leeches mimicking what she would have done? They could imitate her appearance perfectly after all, at least on the surface.
It might be the same with her mind. She might not really be herself anymore, but if that were the case, how would she tell, how would she figure out if she was doing something because it was something she would do, versus something the leeches wanted to do or thought she would do.
And if it was all the leeches, how would she even know?
Would she even want to know?
She could look to what had happened with director Marcus. She'd read his diary entries and research notes from before what had happened to him, and they lined up with how he'd acted when she met him, but was that really proof of anything?
Yes, she realized, it was, proof of what Umbrella had done and she hadn't thought to keep them with her. Now, she had nothing expect herself.
If she revealed what had happened to her it, would be irrefutable proof of what Umbrella was doing, especially if the leeches carried the Tyrant virus. That would be everything she needed, but she was too afraid to do that. Somehow, whoever she told might hand her over to Umbrella. It was unlikely, but did she really know how far the company's grasp extended? One mistake and she might be giving herself to them.
Except, maybe, it was the leeches trying to protect themselves. Maybe, they didn't want to be discovered for reasons she couldn't understand.
She paced the apartment, trying to figure out what she could do, how to tell if she really was herself or just leeches. Could she call a friend from college, ask them to ask her a question that only she'd know the answer to, answer it and then get into a discussion about if the answer she gave was the one they had expected her to give, or if it was just something that sounded like something she'd say? In addition to sounding completely insane and being a headache to even think about, there was the problem of her not really having any close friends from college.
She could always call her parents, but how would that conversation go? 'Hi mom, hi dad, I think I'm actually an aggregate of debatably sentient leeches, I need you to figure out if I'm actually your daughter or just leeches. Mind talking to me for a while to see if there's anything off about me?'
Around her, the leeches stopped exploring, started following her movements and squirming agitatedly.
She was upset, they were upset and everything she thought of only made things worse.
Was it because she was fighting them, trying to reassert some sense of self? Or was it just that she was stuck in a positive feedback loop, her own stress distressing the leeches, which in turn made it worse for her?
The latter was at least something she could test. After that, she could figure out how to test if she was capable of acting contrary to the leeches desires.
Going back to the bathroom, she turned off the shower, much to the displeasure of the leeches in it. Ignoring what they wanted, she started to pick them up, because she couldn't clean the bathtub with them in it. Some of them joined the leeches that were making her, the others she carried in a handful to the sink and put them there before going back for more. As she picked them up, they caught on to what was happening and started crawling out of the tub on their own. That was good, it made things go that much faster and meant that she didn't have to touch them.
Except, she was them.
When the tub was empty, she started to go to the closet in the hall where she kept cleaning supplies to get bleach, but then she remembered hearing somewhere that peroxide worked better for organic stains, so she went back to the bathroom and got a bottle of hydrogen peroxide out of the medicine cabinet.
Taking the cap off, trying not to consider how strong and dexterous the leeches making her hands had to be to manage something like that, she started to pour it down the sides of the tub.
Careless in her efforts to clean, some splashed up and landed on her hands.
Screaming, she dropped the bottle and staggered back.
The leeches that had been hit were visible, writhing across her hands, spreading the liquid in their agonized squirming. The ones around them joined in, moving away in an effort to avoid contact with the caustic chemical. Their mimicry broke down entirely, leaving her arms a sea of moving brown and green bodies and the occasional glimpse of bone beneath.
Sobbing in pain, she staggered to the sink, turned it on, and ran her hands under the water to wash it away and hopefully sooth the agony. For a long while, she leaned against the sink, eyes closed as she waited for the pain to fade.
Eventually, it did and when she opened her eyes, her arms were perfectly normal, not a trace of what had happened remaining. In the sink, the leeches swam, happily, enjoying the water and working together to eat the ones that had been killed by their injuries.
Letting out a soft moan of disgust, she turned off the water and looked back at the tub.
She had a pair of dish gloves in the kitchen. Grabbing them and an old sponge, she finished cleaning the bathtub, while the leeches watched anxiously from the sink and walls.
She could feel their fear, the way they were transmitting awareness of what had happened as a warning to the ones in the rest of the apartment. Ignoring them, she finished cleaning.
When she was done, the tub was spotless, not a trace of the fact that there had been a body rotting in it for days remaining.
To be safe, she rinsed it half a dozen times, to be sure that there was no trace of hydrogen peroxide remaining, then ran a hand over it. No pain, no burning, nothing other than the leeches fear.
Satisfied, she putt the stopper in the drain and let the tub begin to fill.
The leeches remained on the wall, torn between desire for water and fear of pain.
They were thirsty, but there was no way that she was going in the tub herself.
Several of them started to inch down the walls, but none of them actually approached the tub.
There was only one thing to do.
Plucking several of them off the wall, she dropped them in the tub. They thrashed in the water, the ones on the walls squirming in sympathetic response to pain that never came. A moment of confusion was followed by realization and they began to crawl towards the tub, gathering in a ball under the tap in the hope that she would turn it on, so that they could play in the moving water.
She'd found her test, her proof that she was the one in control and she'd done it without even meaning to.
Reassured, she turned on the water and watched them tumble against the bottom and sides of the tub.
They felt better, she felt better.
Now, it was time for her to start thinking things through.