Updated: Nov 17, 2021
Derrick stopped the car at the light and checked the map on his phone. He had gone to the hospital and retrieved a copy of his medical records.
Dr. Fletcher’s reports were normal, but the surgery that saved Derrick’s life from the car accident had caught his attention. The steering wheel had crushed his rib cage and heavily damaged his heart. It was a convenient heart transplant, and the donor was Cecilia Sullivan.
This woman had died on the same day of the accident. The one’s who had given permission for the donation were the woman’s parents—William and Marge McCoy. It had taken Derrick an hour to digest the information before he found the address for his apartment.
Cecilia is trying to guide me. If I can help her, maybe, I can move on with my life. He parked in the guest parking and wandered around the apartment building. It was a fourteen floor building with a good sized balcony and pink orange paint.
Still can’t remember. I need to get inside. Derrick walked to the lobby, but the door required a key. He looked through the window and tried to find something to help him.
Before he could walk away, a man with a bushy mustache ran out of the lobby.
“Mr. Sullivan, it’s good to see you.” The man grabbed Derrick’s hand and gave him a firm hand shake. “I almost thought you’d never return. I’m sorry about what happened to your family. How are you?”
“Well…not the best,” said Derrick. “I’m sorry, I hit my head during the accident. Who are you?”
“Oh dear, my apologies. I’m the manager of the building and—”
“Could you open my apartment?” Derrick pulled out his key ring. “My in-laws were taking care of me and they lost keys.”
The manager brought Derrick inside and they to the top floor. After he unlocked the apartment, he stated that he would be back in one hour with a new set of keys.
Once Derrick stepped inside, he shut and bolted the door. The entrance led to a small tiled area where a shoe shelf rested on the wall. He removed his shoes and placed them on the shelf next a pair of red high heel slippers. Half a dozen shoes were Cecilia’s and two pairs belonged to him.
As he walked into the hallway, the carpet massaged his bare feet. The walls were turquoise a color reminiscent of the ocean. There was a flowery smell in the air.
Then he entered the living room and spotted a small table stacked with scented candles. The candles weren’t lit, but the scent of roses and spring grass complimented the ocean breeze. It was Cecilia’s favorite.
That’s right. She enjoyed collecting beautiful scents. He used the matches to light the candles and studied the photos on the wall. It was a gallery of Cecilia riding and caring for horses throughout the years.
Derrick sat on the cream leather couch. The flat screen TV was mounted on the wall in front of him. Under the TV was a knee shelf with several books. He picked through the books—a few a them were novels and the majority of them were artistic scenes from around the world.
This isn’t enough. Let’s get straight to the point. Derrick left the living room and marched down the other connecting hallway. He opened the doors to his personal office, a closet, and a small bathroom. The he found and entered the bedroom.
“Ouch!” He lifted his foot—a sharp plastic block had punctured his foot. There were blocks and action figures scattered all over the floor, and cartoon characters plastered on the walls.
We had a child? When will this end? He left the room and squeezed his eyes shut. His life was complete based upon his memories, yet it was too short.
Although his heart stuttered, he moved to the last door and threw it open. The adult bedroom had a king-sized bed and an open closet. There were no candles here, but a collection of sweet perfume sat on top of the dresser.
He checked the top drawer and pulled out a photo album. His fingers moved on their own and he sat on the bed. The first page was a pregnant Cecilia, and the next one had her holding a tiny child. Each page lead to more images of a Cecilia and her son.
This was supposed to help him, yet the pictures made him feel terrible. He wasn’t in the pictures. Was he busy or was he terrible father? Half way through the book, he found the first photo that had them all together.
It was a photo that was several years ahead of the previous one. Derrick looked more like himself and she looked more mature in this photo. He admired her smile. The son was familiar, but the memory was a disturbing one.
Sure, why not? Derrick peeked from the corner of his eye, and the dark silhouette of the boy floated inches from his face. “Hi, son, what’s—”
“I’m not your son!” screamed the boy. The lights flickered and the boy’s arms transformed into black tendrils. Derrick stepped back, but the tendrils wrapped around his neck.
“Why…” Derrick grabbed the tendrils, but they grew tighter the more he tried to pull them off.
“You were never my father!” The boy spat and slapped Derrick’s face. “What’s my name? When did we first meet? Why didn’t you save us?”
I have no excuses. Derrick knew he would die. He didn’t know what had happened, but he was willing to give everything he had to make it right.
A loving family was a dream. Cecilia was stranger, yet was probably a miraculous person who came into his life. Even though Derrick had no memory of his son, he was certain that he would’ve treasured the child. Derrick glanced the photo on the bed and the furious shadow before him.
“You’re not mine…” Derrick pulled the boy closer and hugged him. “But I wish…we had more time.”
The boy bit Derrick’s neck and whipped his back. Derrick kept his hold and accepted the pain.
As the creature thrashed and screamed, Derrick whispered, “I’m sorry. Maybe, things are better this way.”
While Derrick faded in and out of consciousness, the boy vanished and the shadows retreated. He fell to the floor and tried to prop himself up. Blood poured from his neck.
He held one hand against his neck and scratched his nose. A blue liquid was on his hand—it smelled and felt cold, yet the color slowly became purple. His hand began to shake and the tremors racked through his body.
Derrick’s spine bent backwards, and he rolled along the floor. His stomach ate itself and the rest of his body was being crushed. He tried to hold himself, but his bones cracked and flesh melted.
This is it. Please let me— Derrick spat when he tasted the carpet. He sat upright and noticed his hand had become thinner, and smaller. His skin was smooth and he was mesmerized by how soft his fingers were. Then he looked down and jumped to his feet which had shrunk a few sizes.
It’s another hallucination. The doctor…Fletcher, what did he do to me? Derrick held onto his sagging pants and ran to the bathroom. He switched on the lights and looked into the mirror.
“What do you—” He shut his mouth and began to furiously wash his eyes, and clean his ears. As he tried to cleanse himself, he sensed the changes in his posture and the proportions in his body. Random thoughts about his life rattled inside his skull.
None of the ideas were important until Derrick remembered Jacob—his stepson.
Cecilia was in the mirror and Derrick was nowhere to be seen. He dropped his pants and ripped his t-shirt off. His movements mirror hers, and the frown on her face was the confusion he felt.
“Stop it!” Derrick smashed the mirror with the hair dryer. He stepped into the bathtub and plugged the drain before running a cold shower.
Get a hold of yourself. I’m Derrick Sullivan. I had played in the boy’s soccer league for five years, and I camped with the Boy Scouts for ten years. He stared into the shower head and rocked back and forth.
His eyes squirmed as the water poured, but he didn’t want them to wander. This was his body, yet it had taken another identity and a new set of emotions.
“What’s the matter? I thought you loved me.”
He looked around for another ghost and realized there was no one else, except the foreign body.
“Don’t insult me,” said the body. “You know who I am.”
“Cecilia?” Derrick covered his mouth. It was bizarre to hear his deep voice come from her lips.
She moved her hand away from her mouth, and he felt her smile. “That’s right. I’m taking my life back.”
Then she shut off the shower and laid in the tub. “I missed my legs. What were you doing with my body?”
“Your body?” Derrick’s voice cracked. “This is my body. Why are you trying to take it?”
“You used me. I’m only returning the favor.” She stepped out of the tub and reached for a towel, but Derrick willed her arm to stop.
“Give up. I’m in control.” She grabbed the towel and dried her body.
“Please, let’s talk.” Derrick’s voice came through, but Cecilia’s voice returned on the last word.
“No, you should go to sleep and forget. You’re good at that.” She tossed the towel and used the blow dryer to fluff her hair.
“Please, why are you doing this?” His words were reduced to a whisper before she sealed her lips.
“Wait, don’t block me out!” He spoke, yet her tongue and throat mumbled his speech. When he tried again, she denied him the ability to utter a single sound.
This can’t be…I was looking for you. What is wrong with you? Derrick raged—the fear and lies deserved only one truth. He seized control of her arm and used it to grab her throat.
Except it wasn’t her arm, it was Derrick’s. His arm was a lopsided appendage that strangled the feminine form it was attached to.
Cecilia grabbed his arm and struggled to remove Derrick’s hold. Her petite arm grew twice as wide with bulging muscles, and her skin became pale. She pried his hand away and twisted his arm.
He howled and she screamed as she dislocated his wrist.
Dammit. He restored his arm, but her monster hand held onto his wrist. While he strained to break free from her grip, Cecilia tried to infest his arm.
Derrick focused on the invasive force and was stunned to find a memory. It was him screaming over the loss of his family. The vision had him clutching the deceased bodies of his wife and son. This deranged madness had made him hurt the doctors and he nearly killed himself in the process.
His coma was caused by the doctors, but the loss of his memory had been his conscious decision.
“I’m sorry…I can’t ask for your forgiveness.”Derrick retreated into Cecilia’s head. Although he understood why he had forgotten the sorrow, the regretful reunion was an agonizing existence.
“Now, you know.” Cecilia reverted the arms to her natural form. She placed her hands on her head and whispered, “Good bye.”
He couldn’t see once Cecilia closed her eyes. The physical pain that enveloped him was a migraine that enveloped the last vestiges of himself. His mind was flaking away at the edges and the pressure was splitting him apart from the core of his guilt and truth.
The world quaked around Derrick until he was jolted into a hard place and was flashed by fluttering lights. He tried to collect himself and peered through Cecilia’s eyes.
She had collapsed onto the floor and was coughing blood into her hands. “What is happening? I thought I had full control?”
It took a few minutes for her to stop coughing. Derrick watched and waited. He accepted his end, yet he was no longer stunned with pain. Cecilia sat on the floor and closed her eyes. The invisible walls of the mind were crushing Derrick once again.
Before he could break down, the attack stopped. Cecilia puked blood and she laid on floor—exhausted.
“What have you done?” She crawled to the bathroom and climbed into the bathtub. “Derrick, stop fighting. Stop trying to kill me. It won’t work.”
“I’m not trying anything.” He felt the damage inside of her stomach, lungs, and heart. She was healing, but the process was prolonged. Her emotions were still violent, though she was humbled by the sudden illness.
“Maybe, we can’t die alone.” He visualized what had happened and tried to pass the feelings to her.
“So, you’re saying it’s suicide to get rid of you?” She pounded her fist on the bathtub and the ceramic material cracked. “I’m not having you in my head. You think I’ll fall for your tricks?”
“No, no, no, I’m trying to help.” Derrick tried to take a deep breath to clear his mind, but the desire didn’t reach the body. “I’m sorry for everything. I never meant to forget you and Jason…both of you were my family.”
The apology didn’t sound right. However, he noticed that something else was missing. “Is Jason still a ghost or is he inside of us?”
“Don’t you dare mention his name.” Cecilia filled her mind with flames. Derrick tried to escape to another part inside her head, yet these weren’t mere images—this was the car fire that destroyed them. She muttered, “He’s in a better place…why did it have to turn out like this?”
Tears flowed and the light became blurry. Her crying had become whaling—she was more terrifying as a grieving mother.
“Wait, you mean he isn’t a ghost?” said Derrick.
“What did I just say!” Cecilia’s internal voice was a deafening screech, and Derrick couldn’t block her thoughts.
He tried to keep his mind silent and choose his next words without upsetting her. “Alright, I just wanted to be sure, because I had visions of you and your son. They could’ve been hallucinations, yet they led me to you.”
Cecilia remained silent, yet her doubt was easy to read. Derrick opened his memories and allowed her to take a look. The mood went from sorrow to confusion.
“You didn’t forget about us—you made us into nightmares?”
“I had no control over your ghosts. Wait, you didn't haunt me?”
“Of course I wouldn’t—I couldn’t. I, I can’t remember.” She flooded her mind with the agonizing moments of their accident. Derrick and Cecilia relived the screams, and the inevitable end.
However, there was no continuation for her. It was nothing—she hadn’t been called by a light or dragged into the abyss. Her existence was over until she had awakened inside his chest and transformed his body.
“My Jason is gone.” Cecilia scratched her arm and watched her skin heal. “He wanted to be a spaceman.”
“I used to let Jason play on my computer. He was a bright kid.” Derrick streamed the memory of Jason learning to fly his rocket. Then Cecilia shared a snowball fight she had with Jason. The exchange of memories kept moving as if they were home movies.
They couldn’t look into each others eyes nor could they touch one another. But the broken couple was able to synchronize their emotions and mourned over their sons passing.
After Cecilia set aside her rage and grieved, she asked, “What should we do?”
“I’m no sure.” Derrick used her hand to wipe away her tears. “We should see a doctor. I don’t like him, but he does good work.”
Cecilia had put on a black blouse and long skirt. She had frightened the apartment manager, but convinced the man that she was Sheryl.
She had put on a convincing frown and tears for the manager, yet Derrick sensed her urgency and frustration.
“Maybe, this was a bad idea.” Derrick had already given Cecilia the basics about Dr. Fletcher. He recalled and expressed his odd conversations with doctor.
“We’re going to see the doctor. It was your idea. Don’t back out now.” Cecilia drove while Derrick relayed the directions. She believed the surgery was the trigger and was determined to talk with the doctor face to face.
Although Derrick reminded Cecilia that there were no guarantees, she felt that her return was no accident.
Once they arrived at Dr. Fletcher’s rehab center, Cecilia pulled up and parked the car in front of the entrance. She opened the door and stepped into the darkness, and used her phone to light the way.
The floors and walls were spotless—there was no furniture or equipment as if the building was untouched.
“Did Fletcher move?” Derrick showed Cecilia where the office was, and she sprinted to the door. A light came from under the crack of the door, but Cecilia kicked the door open and charged into the room.
Dr. Fletcher glanced at her from his chair for a second before tilting his hat toward her. He straightened the papers on his desk and offered his hand, and said, “Hello, I don’t think we’ve met before, I’m—”
“Dr. Fletcher.” She grabbed his hand and pulled him off his chair, and forced him to stand. “I’m Cecilia—”
“Mrs. Sullivan. This is a surprise. I’m sorry, I didn’t recognize you. I’ve only seen your autopsy photos.” The doctor shook her hand and sat down.
“What did you do to me?” She placed her palms on the desk and gave him a death gaze.
Derrick observed Dr. Fletcher within the safety of Cecilia’s skull. He stayed alert and was ready to intervene—Dr. Fletcher wouldn’t be able to help them if she broke the man’s jaw.
“In particular? Nothing. I had performed a surgery on Derrick and infused him with enriched blood to heal him.” Dr. Fletcher shuffled through a folder and laid out several photos on his desk. “You on the other hand have done remarkable work with your heart.”
The photos were MRI images that had been taken throughout Derrick’s rehab. His transplanted heart started as a normal organ, but shadows appeared to distort the next days image.
Within several days, the heart had swollen with tumors and the shadows became branches that grafted themselves into Derrick’s bones.
“I didn’t do anything.” Cecilia swept her hands across the desk and sent everything flying. “I was dead, but you did something to revive me. Think harder, because you need to bring back my son.”
“What are you trying to do?” Derrick prodded her mind and explained how the surgery pressed the limitations of his sanity. She hardened her resolve with concentrated anger.
“Mrs. Sullivan or should I call you Cecilia?” said Fletcher as he gathered the fallen photos and papers. “I’ve performed many successful surgeries. But I’m not a miracle worker—I can’t reanimate a rotting corpse. You are the only exception.”
Fletcher set aside his documents and sat on top of his desk. His sunglasses showed Cecilia and nothing else. “I think you’re a clever parasite. Maybe, a mutated cell or a virus that consumed Derrick’s body. Regardless, I appreciate the opportunity to study an intelligent specimen such as yourself.”
“Cecilia, don’t!” Derrick poured his will into her arms to restrain them.
She enlarged the muscles in her arm and claws protruded from her fingers as she slapped the doctor. Fletcher’s head tilted to the side with the cracking of bones. The man’s scarf was shredded and his sunglasses were knocked off along with his hat. Blue blood spattered onto the floor.
The doctor was no more, yet the corpse didn’t fall. Fletcher’s neck slid his head back into place. The blue blood evaporated and the cuts on his pale face were gone. His skin was smooth, but it gained a leathery texture. Fletcher stared with slotted eyes that instantly grew five times bigger.
A growl escaped Fletcher’s lips as he his hands burst through his gloves and his fingers extended into barbed tendrils.
While the creature stepped forward with outstretched arms, Cecilia clawed and battered it. Chunks of flesh fell and bones were snapped, yet the creature regenerated with denser muscles and new limbs sprouted from the largest wounds.
Although Cecilia wasn’t tiring, she back peddled closer to the office door. Derrick tried to help her, but his warnings were redundant, because he saw and heard everything through her senses.
A hoofed foot jutted from the shape-shifting monster and kicked Cecilia in the gut. She collapsed and gasped for breath as she crawled to the door. The creature used a hand that consisted of human thumbs to grab Cecilia’s leg and pull her closer.
What used to be a man’s face was now a mass of eyes and teeth. There was no mouth on the beast, and yet a rancid breath could be felt as it struggled to move and grapple Cecilia.
“Freak, demon, bastard!” She kicked the creature’s limb, but it developed armored scales and a snakes head that sunk its fangs into her ankle.
“I wanted to live!” Cecilia cried—her arms returned to normal and her fingers bled while she fought to remove the thing that was latched onto her legs. “I, we…Just end it.”
“No!” Derrick surged through Cecilia’s body and launched her fist.
The monster’s head recoiled with the punch and several of its eyes popped. Derrick punched it and destroyed more of the creature’s eyes. However, he pulled his hand back after scratching his hands against the monster’s teeth. Cecilia’s body had transformed—his body was his once again.
“Cecilia, you there?” said Derrick as he raised his arms to shield his face.
“Sorry, sorry, sorry.” Fletcher’s voice squelched from the monsters head. The destroyed eyes had grown several different sized mouths. He retracted his limbs and lumbered to his desk.
“Doctor?” Derrick jumped to his feet and backed out through the door.
“We should run.” Cecilia urged Derrick move and tried to puppet his legs, but he kept control and cautiously observed Fletcher.
“In the flesh,” said Fletcher. “It’s good to see you in good health, Derrick. I assumed the worst for you.”
“I’m fine.” Derrick flinched when Fletcher fell onto his desk. “Is this your illness, doctor?”
“This isn’t an illness. It’s a birth condition.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, but can you help me and Cecilia return to normal?”
“Derrick, you are normal and so am I. There is no standard to true normal. Humans aren’t normal. You are fortunate to have your wife, and I’m lucky to have lived such a life.” Fletcher pulled out a tank of gasoline and sloshed the fuel all over the room. Before Derrick could anything else, the flames erupted and the room was filled with fire.
Flesh burned, sputtered, and sizzled, yet Fletcher didn’t scream. He quietly gazed through his destruction.
Derrick left the building and returned to the car. He drove away, but had no particular idea of where to go.
“So, this our life,” said Cecilia.
“I apologize,” said Derrick. “If I’d—”
“You’ve done all you could, and I’ve been horrible. Could you let me drive? There’s some family business I need to take care of.”
He sensed a nefarious intent in her, but he allowed it. If things were ever going to be normal, then they needed to work together.