Lily of the Valley

Glovewort

by MourningStarsOfLakes

Tags: #cw:noncon #f/f #scifi

Thunder rolled through the darkening sky, echoing off mountains, as Sarah pulled down Lily’s driveway for the third time in as many days.  Spats of rain drummed across her windshield heralding the oncoming thunderheads and the torrents of water ready to fall from their grey-black bellies.  She chewed her bottom lip in consternation upon seeing the second car still parked next to Lily’s, fearing her friend would delay their travel through the mountains yet again.  She parked her truck and mentally prepared herself to not take “no” for an answer.
 
Hopping out of her vehicle she made sure to avoid the coalescing puddles of water that were rapidly becoming mud where the gravel driveway met Lily’s front lawn.  From there she briskly stepped flagstone-to-flagstone along the sidewalk Lily had handset a few years prior, past the mismatched brown-paneling of the house’s newest addition and to the small stoop of the white-stucco main building.  Her friend’s house was an odd amalgamation of additions and projects, a living monument to the whims of its four owners over the past century.
 
Sarah rapped on the door and then checked her watch, thinking that perhaps she should have done those things in the other order.  She was about twenty minutes earlier than she’d told Lily to expect her, as if the oncoming storm had spurred her midday errands onward with greater haste than she had detected.  She was surprised when Lily opened the door almost immediately, seemingly eager to see her.  There was something off about her friend, the look in her eyes was more than just being happy to see Sarah; there was something else there, something a little too gleeful.  Lily swept her arm toward the living room, beckoning her inwards.
 
“Hey Sarah, come on in out of the rain.” 
 
Sarah crossed the threshold of the door despite the eerie feeling swimming in her gut, jumping a little bit as Lily closed it behind her. 
 
“My friend from last night was feeling a bit odd this morning so I let her sleep in upstairs.  If you want to take a seat in the living room, I’m going to let her know we’re headed out and leave her the spare key in case she needs to lock up.”
 
“That seems…” Sarah paused a moment, not wanting to say anything too judgemental while her friend was in this fragile state, “That’s very trusting of you.”
 
“Well I like to think I bring out the best in people,” Lily tittered, turning to start up the stairs, “I’ll be back in a few minutes, in the meantime, my domicile is your domi…” She stopped herself and rubbed her forehead with her forefinger and thumb, “My home is your home; jeez I really do need to get checked out.”
 
Sarah forced up a smile as she approached the living room, her mind carefully considering the grey upholstery of the couch as it tried to block out the panicked whispers of some primal part of her.  Even though she was just here to pick up her friend of seven years, her heart was beating faster than it should.  She took a seat on the couch, carefully watching the staircase.  Adrenaline coursed through her veins at an unseen threat; for some reason she kept thinking of rabbits in nature documentaries, sitting perfectly still and hoping their predators passed them by.
 
She screamed when the shiny black hand grabbed her from behind, stopping only when it’s matching mate first covered and then flowed into her mouth.
 

 
Lily strutted down the stairs at the sound of the scream, leaving her shirt discarded upstairs on the floor of her bedroom.  She turned at the bottom landing towards the living room, smiling ear-to-ear at her terrified friend. 
 
“Oh good, I see you’ve met Maxine.”
 
Sarah’s eyes went wide with panic as she mumbled into the rubbery mass gagging her.  Her shoulders and arms struggled fruitlessly against the thick whip of Maxine’s other arm binding her against the couch.
 
“It’s okay Sarah, we’re not going to hurt you,” Lily reassured her in a soft voice, “Everything is going to --”
 
“Be alright,” Maxine’s voice whispered from behind Sarah’s head, perfectly continuing the cadence and tone of Lily’s sentence.  “Now we’re going to ungag you and we --”
 
“Can discuss our future together.” The speech switched once more, from Maxine back to Lily, seamlessly hopping from one speaker to the other.  The mass in Sarah’s mouth retreated outwards, flowing and rippling at the end of a jet-black appendage until it took the shape of a human hand.  Sarah sucked in a breath and tried to speak, but only managed to stammer out:
 
“I… I… What?”
 
“Maxine and I, we’ve been granted a gift,” Lily replied, as if Sarah had asked a more directed question, “We were both eeking out a simple survival here in the boonies, living a repetitive cycle of meaningless work and creature comforts.  Destined to fritter away --”
 
“Our precious hours on the mundane, brewing coffee and checking septic tanks.” The words once more switching to Maxine, “Beautiful souls brimming with potential, left to rot away day by day in the middle of nowhere.”
 
“Lily, you’re a civil engineer,” Sarah interrupted, shaking her head pleadingly, “What you do is --”
 
“Important?” Maxine’s voice rasped in her ear, so close and yet unseen.  A black tentacle arced over Lily’s shoulder eliciting a short yip from Sarah as it approached her.  Lily held a shushing finger over her own lips as the tentacle mirrored the action over Sarah’s.
 
“I know,” Maxine’s voice continued over Sarah’s shoulder, “And I know you know my feelings on the subject.  That at some point it started to feel like I was just the maintenance woman for the county’s infrastructure.  That sometime in the past five years it stopped --”
 
“Feeling like I could improve things around here”, Lily’s voice carried a hint of bitterness to it, “and just started feeling like I was being tasked with holding them together for another few years.  Never really improving anything, only delaying decay.” 
    
“But now,” Lily’s eyes and tone brightened again, the onyx tentacle joyously whipping backwards as she spread her arms wide, “Now we can finally become something new, something better.  We can break down the barriers that separate us, bring about a new era of bliss.  Peace.  Serenity.”  Lily closed her eyes and tilted her head back, her right arm gently caressing the spot above her left breast as a jet-black rope crossed over it and mirrored it.  She felt a euphoric feeling pass through her as she hugged herself with both her human and alien appendages, daydreaming for a moment of a beautiful future surrounded by thralls and consorts and drones inextricably linked together in love and purpose.
 
“Please Lily,” Sarah’s whimpering voice snapped her back to reality, “It’s not too late to get help.  The League of Superheroines in Alterra, they’re smart people and I’m sure they could --”
 
Sarah stopped as she saw Lily’s expression morph into that of confusion.  Two times Lily started to say something before thinking better of it.  She hoisted herself into the chair across from the couch, tapping her cheek thoughtfully with the round tip of her alien limb.  A sullen look drifted across her face.
 
“Before the alien incident, Sarah, you were the person I knew best in this world.  I felt closer to you than anyone I ever knew,” she started, a tear forming in the corner of her eye.  Behind Sarah, Maxine was speaking too; something differently disorienting, yet still carrying the same weight as Lily’s words.  A counterpoint harmony, it’s lyric stolen from some college lit course: You must be made more simply wise than I
 
“We volunteered at the community arts center together, commented on each other’s artwork, swapped secrets deep into the night over drinks at Fallon’s.”
 
​​To know the hand I stretch impulsively
 
“There were little moments with you when I felt like I was truly getting through to another person.  Not just speaking to stave away the silence.”
 
Across the gulf of well nigh everything
 
“And in those same moments I felt like you were getting through to me too. That the words we told each other stopped being mere words, that I could feel every ounce of what they meant to you.”
 
May reach to you, but cannot touch your fate.
 
“Those moments shattered a loneliness I didn’t even know I was feeling, because it was all I’d ever known.  It was the stable state of my being, the default state of humanity.”
 
I cannot touch your life, much less can save,
 
“And then those moments were gone, and I was left with just the memory of how they felt.  And I always wondered if it was just me or if you felt them too.”
 
Who am tasked to save my own a little while.
 
Lily’s tentacles were coiled around her torso, her arms hugging overtop of them, her knees pressed together, her forlorn eyes searching Sarah’s face for an answer.  She winced as she heard Maxine’s last words, something in them touching a sore spot in her life. 
 
“Lily I…” Sarah instinctively moved forward to comfort her friend, finding herself restrained by Maxine, “Yes.  Sometimes… Sometimes I felt those intense connections and sometimes I felt lonely even when I knew there were people around me who cared about me.  But Lily if you’re feeling like that all the time, then we can get you help.  You shouldn’t have to… If I had known…”
 
Lily’s tentacles uncoiled and her expression brightened once more.
 
“Thank you Sarah, but that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.  Last night with Maxine I was able to touch the core of her being.  We mingled minds or souls or whatever other fundamental pieces of the self exist and when it was over it didn’t stop.  That connection is still there between us.  When we talk I can feel every bit of meaning behind the word; even in our silences we know how the other is thinking and feeling.  She says the word ‘chair’ and I know what chair she thinks of when she says that word and I know why she thinks it and what that means to her.  I don’t need help with the loneliness anymore Sarah; in fact, I believe I am the help for loneliness.”
 
She was beaming now, a manic look in her eyes as she stood back up and advanced towards the forcefully seated Sarah.
 
“I don’t want this, Lily!” she screamed, “If this makes you happy, okay.  But I want to continue being me, a normal human with a normal job living a normal life.”
 
“Sarah, you won’t stop being you,” Lily explained calmly, backing off a step to ease her friend’s mind, “You’ll be you but better!  You’ll be yourself and you’ll be part of us; you’ll be my best friend but also we’ll be part of each other.”
 
“I said I don’t want it, Lily.”
 
“Don’t be scared.  I was scared at first too, when I thought it was making me into a monster.  When I was dealing with feelings I’d never felt before.”  She shook her head serenely, warding off her friend’s protests.  “But given just a short span of time I’ve found how to turn these alien feelings and this new physiology from a force of malevolence into one of good.”
 
“I don’t want to be a weird, latex-covered --”
 
“Oh you don’t have to look like Maxine,” Lily interrupted, “She wanted to look like that.  Well I guess she had some tell-tale signs of conversion…” Lily paused at the word, rocking her head side-to-side briefly before coming up with a better one.  Maxine continued when they’d found it, “...convergence before we were remodeled, but we can probably avoid that now that we have a better understanding of our powers.”
 
“I… what about Brad?!”
 
“Well if we’re careful we can hide it from him until we can find a way to get rid of him,” Maxine said, nonchalantly.
 
“What?!”
 
“That came out darker than intended,” Lily admitted, “We meant just like arranging for a divorce or something.”
 
“Don’t you…  I..  I happen to like my husband!,” Sarah growled, eyes angrily glaring across the room.
 
“Why?” Lily asked, looking almost hurt, “He’s the most boring man on Earth!  You paint wonderful watercolors of the valley and forest and beach, you write heart-wrenching poems, that I still think you should get published by the way; what does Brad do?  As far as I can tell his hobbies are being a CPA, napping through basketball games, and watching reruns of The Family Dude for four hours every night.  Has he ever connected meaningfully to anything you’ve ever done?”
 
“I like him, Lily.  Even with his faults.” Sarah responded, her face on the verge of tears, “Where the hell did all this bitterness come from?  This isn’t you!”
 
“You’re such a beautiful soul Sarah, too marvelous to allow to go to waste.  I had hoped you’d come around to this willingly, but I understand.  It’s a big step, a huge change, and it can be hard to disrupt the comfortable-but-stagnant life we’ve built for ourselves.”
 
“You’re not listening to me, Lily.  Let.  Me.  Go.”
 
“But I can help you, it’s what friends do,” If Lily heard any of Sarah’s most recent protests, she didn’t show it,  “You’ll thank me when it’s done.”
 
Sarah tried to shout at her friend again, but only managed a scream as two dark tentacles flew towards her head.  She jerked backwards in panic, granting herself only an extra nanosecond more before they reached her ears and the world went dark.
 

 
She was laying in the grass on a sunny September afternoon, watching the airplanes zip around the blue sky.  On one side of her was a wicker picnic basket and on the other her boyfriend Brad, stretched out just like she was watching the airshow.  Brad held a pair of black binoculars to his eyes, whistling in wonder as two planes rolled towards each other in the sky.
 
“Wow!  Imagine just how much practice those pilots have to put in to pull this stuff off so well,” he mused as he turned towards her; his face set in a wide grin and his arm proffering her the binoculars, “Here take these in case they loop back and do it again.”
 
“Thanks for bringing me along Brad.  I never thought I’d have such a blast watching airplanes.” She chuckled to herself as she took the binoculars into her hands, placing them over her eyes and looking skyward.  The two planes Brad had watched turned wide and flew back towards where they were laying in the grass. 
 
“Oh!  Here they come!” Sarah blurted out in excitement, watching their wide turns converge into tight, parallel lines.  They started to roll again in the air, each plane rolling away from the other with just enough space between them to not interfere with the other’s maneuver.  Brad was right, through the binoculars it seemed so much more exciting.  For a moment, it even felt like time slowed down as the planes began to right themselves.  She reached her hand backwards to grab Brad’s.
 
What she found instead was something slick and squishy.
 
She jerked her head around, binoculars falling to the ground.  The excitement vanished from her eyes, replaced with confusion and a hint of terror.  Her hand was clasped around a rubbery, black tentacle and where her boyfriend had been lounging a second ago was her not-yet-friend Lily.
 
“What?  Where?” Sarah sputtered out, her hand flying to her head as her mind spun.  “Lily?  How are you… You can’t…”
 
“What’s wrong Sarah?” Lily asked, a concerned look on her face, “Are you feeling okay?”
 
“You weren’t here.  I didn’t even know you when this happened.”  She could feel a churning of memories in her mind, searching for experiences to back up what she was saying.  The bits and pieces she found to verify her statement were far fewer in number than what she was expecting.  She was relatively certain she’d first really met Lily ten, or perhaps twelve, years later at the Compson County Community Arts Center; but had they shared a passing acquaintance at that air show outside Altoona?  She vaguely knew the answer, to be “no”, but in the moment she couldn’t be sure.  Lily certainly hadn’t been there with her though, there was someone else there.  Someone she was struggling to remember, but who was on the tip of her tongue.
 
“I was here with Brad,” she grunted out, eyes squeezed shut as her thumb and forefinger massaged her forehead, “It was our fourth date, the first one that wasn’t just cheap dinners or a movie.  And you… you weren’t there!”  Her eyes defiantly flashed open, glaring at Lily, “And you sure as shit didn’t have alien tentacles erupting from your back.  What the hell are you doing Lily?”
 
“Same as you,” Lily replied, nonchalantly, “I’m watching the airplanes.” She pointed upwards with one of her human hands.
 
“Watching the…” Sarah reflexively looked upwards to where Lily was pointing.  Two planes looped in the sky in concentric circles, contrails leaving thick puffs of vapor in the air behind them.  She briefly lost her train of thought, the anger melting from her face for a moment before she tried to grab back hold of her outrage.  Somehow it was different now, lighter, less felt.  She had been mad at Lily for some reason, something about her being here.  Maybe Sarah hadn’t invited her on this date with… 
 
Her mind strained to come up with a name for who she was here with but all it found was black blankness, syllables coated in tar.  She had to have come here on a date with somebody, someone who gave her a little, yellow model plane a year later to remind her of that day.  And when the fake wing broke years later as they moved west, he spent hours trying to repair the stupid hunks of resin and memory.  He kept trying and trying to get the crack to disappear entirely, to find the perfect adhesive strong enough to keep it together without expanding too much over the wing.  He finally had to settle on superglue, the white residue oh-so-slightly visible against the shiny, black wings.
 
No the plane model wasn’t black it was… It had a broken piece that was yellow and the rest of the plane was a matching color which was… black.  No, no, no, no; the glue stood out so prominently because it created such a sickly yellow color over the dark, black color of the wing where the black piece of the black broken wing met the black unbroken black of the black main piece until the black ooze of the black plane joined the black pieces back together and darkened the glue until it was jet black and she picked it up and it felt so smooth and good and the blackness crawled onto her hand seeking for another crack to patch and…
 
“Aaaaaahhhhhh!” Sarah shrieked, casting the memory away.  Something was so wrong, but she couldn’t remember what.  She was here with Lily, but she was mad at Lily for some reason which she couldn’t remember.  She was on a date with someone, but she couldn’t remember who and the only person here with her was Lily, but she never dated Lily and Lily didn’t smash the box with model plane as they were driving across Montana and Lily didn’t sit in front of a TV tray for three weekends to fix it despite the fact that it wasn’t broken at all in any of her memories and was always so perfectly smooth and black and shiny and --
 
“Sarah, are you okay?” Lily’s voice broke her out of her spiraling.
 
“Lily,” she sobbed, “I don’t know what’s happening to me!  Something’s not right,  but each time I try to think about it I --”
 
“Hey it’s okay,” Lily said, scooting herself closer to her friend and wrapping an arm around her.  Sarah saw the concern and fear behind her calm front.  That and something else; guilt perhaps?
 
“Just relax, and don’t think too hard about anything.”
 
“But I can’t…” Sarah shook her head, tears flying off her face, “This is all wrong Lily!”
 
“Relax and don’t think,” Lily repeated, a tremoring compulsion flowing through her soft voice, “Just watch the airplanes.”
 
“But… Relax…” Lily’s words were worming themselves into Sarah’s mind, soothing her worries and smoothing over her concerns.
 
“Don’t think…” Sarah sighed as her eyes crossed.  A world of worries dissolved away, replaced by the simple serenity of enjoying her date with Lily.  She smiled, and nestled in against her friend.
 
“Watch the airplanes…” she mumbled as her head lolled onto Lily’s shoulder.  The beautiful black planes were still circling in the sky, the trails behind them altering white-and-black in concentric circles.  She followed them around and around with her eyes, each rotation making her feel a little more relaxed.
 
“There you go,” Lily cooed, “Just watch the airplanes and relax.  See how they spiral and swirl?  It’s so nice and relaxing to watching them spin around and around, isn’t it?”
 
“Mmmmhmmmm…” Sarah weakly nodded.  It really was so wonderful to follow the planes around and around in the air.  She was so content to just sit here and watch them with Lily, to not have to worry about why she was mad at her earlier.  Her lips parted in amazement as another plane of shiny sable zoomed into the formation and began looping in even tighter circles inside of the ones already being traced in the sky.
 
“It’s so beautiful, isn’t it,” Lily asked her while she stroked Sarah’s hair, “What they can do when they work together, when they are truly and perfectly synchronized.  Each one of them contributing their own individuality and expertise to form a greater pattern.”
 
“Beautiful,” Sarah mumbled in agreement.  Another plane joined, and then another.  Planes kept flying into the formation and drawing smaller and smaller circles in the air, pulling Sarah’s vision inward.  Even when it became impossible for them to be that small or fly that tightly they kept coming, drawing her eyes inward to follow tighter and tighter spirals .  Sarah felt something cool and smooth wrap around her torso, but unlike earlier when the feeling had been repulsive, this time it felt comforting. 
 
“You’re doing so well, Sarah,” Lily assured her, her voice so soft and sweet, “Following the planes around and around with your eyes, letting go of all your worries and fears.  So good, it’s time to let you in on a little secret.  If you look really closely, if you look really, really closely, into the very center of the spiral where the smallest plane is flying around and around, if you look really closely you can see eternity.”
 
“Whaaa?” Sarah burbled out.  She tried to move her body to get a closer look, but found it too heavy to move, so she had to content herself with squinting her eyes to gaze into the pitch-dark center of the gaseous spiral.  It only took a moment for her eyes to adjust to see the smallest plane flying impossibly tight circles, and only a moment more for them to try and follow the plane around and around like she had all the others.  It’s pattern was so tight, the circles so small that it felt like her eyes were barely moving at all and yet moving faster than they had before.  She felt a sudden head-rush of pleasurable pressure coalescing at the spot between-and-above her eyes, and for a moment she saw it.  There at the shimmering black center of the spiraling planes everything collapsed and lunged infinitely forward, her mind blanking as she suddenly felt weightless.
 
Whether she flew forward and upward into that inky eternity or her eyes merely fluttered shut as she leaned into Lily’s side, she didn’t know.  But a moment later she was gone.
 

 
She blinked and sucked in a breath through her nose.  Despite smoking being outlawed in bars for years, Fallon’s still had an identifiable, lingering odor of tobacco that no amount of air-freshener or cleaning had ever been able to purge.  Sarah suspected that Wendy had her last cigarette of the night inside while closing on the weekends, allowing fresh plumes of smoke to burrow into the wallpaper and furniture in the late hours when management couldn’t chastise her.  But that wasn’t really her business and besides Wendy was nice, there was no reason to stir up trouble for her.
 
She looked around.  The bar had mostly cleared out save for herself, the bartender, and the new girl who’d offered to help set up next month’s exhibition for local artists, Lily.  Sarah squinted her right eye and cocked her head as a spurt of thoughts ran roughshod over each other in her brain.  Lily was her girlfriend at some point, wasn’t she?  More than that, they’d traveled west to Keffler Valley together just a handful of years ago.  But that couldn’t be right, they met for the first time today and she’d said she just moved into town last month.  And besides, Sarah wasn’t into women.  But that didn’t make any sense because Lily was her long-term girlfriend who traveled --
 
“Need some company?”
 
Sarah blinked at the question, her brain bailing on the circular contradictions. 
 
“Sure Lily.”  She moved her drink a little to the right to make room for her new friend that she’d known for her whole life.  Her mind tried to tug her into another examination of the impossibility of her memories, but as Lily slid onto the barstool beside her that inclination vanished.  Instead she smiled and sipped on her mojito. 
 
“Is that any good?” Lily asked, pointing at the minty drink.
 
‘Mmmhmmm,” Sarah hummed as she nodded.
 
“Great!  Bartender?” A woman familiar to Sarah in all the wrong ways turned towards Lily, her face rapt with attention.  Lily motioned towards Sarah’s drink, “Can I get one of those?”
 
“Certainly Mistress,” she chirped out with a nod as she began to to mix liquor and muddle mint.  Sarah squinted her eyes in confusion, glancing between the bartender and Lily, trying to resolve the wriggling feeling of wrongness in her brain.  She ran her gaze over the bartender’s long, red hair and her young face,; she knew she knew this person but also knew that she wasn’t a bartender.  As her head turned to grab a bottle of hazy liquor, auburn locks flicking and floating through the air, Sarah’s mind matched her to a name: Maxine. 
 
A surge of thoughts flooded her mind, the first of which was the impossibility of the current situation.  Maxine would have been in high school, or hell even middle school, that first night they sat and talked in Fallon’s; certainly not the age to tend bar.  The last Sarah had heard she’d gotten a job at that coffee chain with the stupid name in town center, in fact she was certain she’d seen her there a few of the times she’d dropped in.  Her mind began to fill in the timeline between those two periods, a parade of images and half-remembered conversations where their lives had intertwined in some way or another over almost a decade.  Glimpses of the red-headed girl playing a bit part in the Art Center’s production of Footloose, a girl laughing one year and bored the next at the county fair, the inevitable chance meeting at the gas station every small town denizen has with every other at some point in their life, the handshake and rehearsed “peace be with you” at the multi-denominational Christmas service.  A pointalistic mural of all the times their lives, so seemingly different from a glance, intersected so often in small ways. 
 
Then those memories shifted, spinning disorientingly in her stream of thought.  Suddenly she saw the reverse of each one of those moments, seeing herself through another’s eyes.  As a customer who wished Maxine well in her studies and tipped generously for a black coffee, as the lady who helped with set design the year she didn’t get a lead part in Footloose, as one of the hundreds of people she felt trapped with hopefully certain that one day she’d gas up her used car at the country store for the last time.  Sarah’s hand flew to her forehead to try and massage the thoughts into some form of coherence.  They were overlapping each other in her head now, as if looking through a pair of trick goggles that mirrored sideways what one eye saw, throwing the brain’s constructed image of composite visual stimuli into haphazard disarray.  However instead of producing a nonsensical version of the visible world, the overlapping images, sounds, and senses seemed to produce something else that flowed onwards from those moments and through her entire being, their entire being.  She saw and felt in rapid-fire succession Maxine’s whole life, contextualized and juxtaposed with her own, and knew for a fact that the other woman was seeing Sarah’s.  All the memories mingled and between the two of them they were left with a thought-form formerly unknown to Sarah, something indescribable and alien and beautiful formed of their lives compounded upon one another, woven and bound with sleek black thread.
 
Ice clinked in the highball glass as Maxine placed it in front of Lily, snapping Sarah back to the bar, itself an impossibility of memories.  Lily sipped the clear cocktail and let out a satisfied sigh after the first taste.
 
“Thank you Maxine, it’s great,” she said graciously and gratefully.
 
Sarah could feel Maxine blush at the praise.  She could feel something else there too, a desire for Lily both carnally and mentally and in a number of abstract ways that touched on the edges of sexuality but that Sarah couldn’t quite relate back to understandable terms.  And most worryingly she found that those feelings, every one of them from the primal to the human to the alien, rippled across the connection between them; some of them falling away un-understood or unwanted as they resounded through Sarah’s mind, but far more than she had expected exhuming her own desires for Lily that she’d kept buried for one reason or another. 
 
“Hey Lily,” she choked out, hand still on her head, “I’m sorry to cut this all short, but I think I might need to go home.  I don’t feel right.”
 
“Oh no, what’s the matter?”  Lily put down her drink and extended a friendly hand, stopping up and cradling Sarah’s free hand in it. 
 
“I just… My head feels funny,” she jostled her eyebrows, hoping it would help.  It didn’t, “Not like I’m drunk though, more like I’m dreaming…”
 
“Let me see if I can help.  Close your eyes.”
 
Sarah snapped her eyes shut in an instant; something about Lily’s voice was so commanding and so trustworthy.
 
“Now just try to relax, this may feel a little weird.”
 
Sarah tried to relax, tried to obey the orders her new-old friend has given her, but a sudden surge of images excitedly stampeded across the strange thought-link she had with the bartender.  A craving of subjugation, a twisted fulfillment of meaning, a whining need to be fucked by rubbery-black tentacles.  Mixed into all of them was Lily: Lily standing imposingly over her, Lily gently caressing her, Lily puppeting her for her own sexual needs.  Sarah felt her thighs press together and her breathing become a bit heavier, surprise arousal for feelings she didn’t know she had or could relate to.  Something soft and smooth flicked by her ear.
 
“Oh, sorry Sarah,” Lily said in a sing-song voice, “I’d hoped letting you mentally bond with Maxine first would have been a bit easier for you to deal with, but it looks like it was still a little too much.  And I’m sure her current flood of horniness isn’t helping, let me see if I can tone down the intensity for a while to ease you into it better.”
 
Sarah felt the shared thoughts fade away.  They were still there, but they weren’t quite so insistent to be heard and shared and experienced as they were before.  Part of her was thankful for it, but she found that another part of her was sad to see them go, yearning for them to twirl through her psyche once more.  She opened her eyes in time to catch a slithering black tentacle dart up Lily’s jacket-sleeve.
 
“Thanks Lily, I…” she blinked a few times, before her eyes narrowed, “What the hell are you doing to me?”
 
Lily’s face fell momentarily before perking back up again, “I’m making us whole, Sarah.  Specifically I’m trying to bond us together without going as far as I did with Maxine.  There’s still been some bumps along the way, but I think we’ve mostly got it.”
 
“You’re experimenting on me?” She tried to muster indigent anger, but her tone wavered as soon as the first word left her mouth.  She couldn’t stay mad at Lily, Lily was her friend.  Lily could be trusted with anything.
 
“No.  Well, sort of,” she managed a sheepish grin,  “I didn’t want to fully brainwash you into a mindless thrall…”
 
“So you’re brainwashing me?” Once again the rightful anger that should have backed the question was backed by a nonchalant acquiescence.  A tone curious but unconcerned, perhaps even a bit awed.  Lily was just so sweet and beautiful and perfect…. She shook her head to refocus as Lily responded:
 
“No.  Not really.  I’m inviting you to become something new and exciting, a new species which —”
 
“People are usually allowed to decline invitations, Lily.” Sarah gathered all her focus and resolve, but she still felt more like she was scolding a child than actually angry, “Cut the bullshit, what are you doing to me?”
 
“I…” she stammered, the projection of power and poise and grace flickering away for a brief moment, “I… There’s a part of me that wants you Sarah, a part of me that I never felt before a few days ago.  It’s new and sudden and horrifying and wonderful and I just want to share it with you, but I don’t know how to do that through words because I have no understanding of it and can’t even begin to describe it.  And it’s been so terribly insistent that it wants you, that I want you, in ways that I’ve never wanted before, that I thought it would be best to take you on my own terms.  That I could make you part of us and satisfy these new desires more gently than the ravenous alien monstros… being I’m entwined with.”
 
“And I know this is all wrong, that I shouldn’t have brought you this far without an explanation or your consent; but every time I’ve seen you since the incident I can feel that needful desire of foreign origin surging through every inch of body.  Every time I have to try so hard to restrain it, afraid that I’ll lose the battle and that it’ll have it’s way with the both of us.  I thought that at least if I did it willingly, that somehow that would be better.  It sounds so stupid now, but I thought I could convince you without needing to coerce you into choosing this.”
 
“I don’t know if I can stop or reverse the entangled resonance that has already bound your thoughts to Maxine and is beginning to bond your thoughts to me, but… but if you don’t want things to go any further than that, I can understand.”
 
“Further?”  Sarah’s voice betrayed an interest she hadn’t been aware she had.  Some physical yearning that was either shaken loose by all this mindfuckery or perhaps planted, purposefully or accidentally, in her mind.
 
“You know,” Lily was suddenly nervous and shy, blushing as her voice dropped to a hush, “sexually.”
 
A flood of images resurfaced of the trysts between Maxine and Lily carrying with them little pricks of pleasure.  Sarah bit her lip as she felt groupings of muscles between her stomach and thighs spasm in eager desire.  Even if Lily had planted these thoughts in her head, they were tangled up in her own thoughts now; unable to be differentiated from her own desires.  The visions of being swaddled lovingly in tire-dim tentacles before they invaded her mind and body in equal measure coexisted beside simpler and more mundane wishes: the kiss snuck behind the curtain before a stage show began, the drowsy love of Lily waking her up just enough to get her bed after she fell asleep on the couch.  She wanted them all, even if their source wasn’t of her own will.
 
“I’m married Lily,” she managed, unsure if she was more convincing to Lily that she was to herself.  Those more mundane feelings may have been fake things as well, implanted as a means of gentle control, or perhaps they were Lily’s pre-transformation desires suddenly rediscovered and taking advantage of the moment to express themselves to Sarah; but Sarah was certain that parts of her had wanted those things too, even without Lily’s tampering.
 
“I know.  And I’m sorry for saying Brad is the most boring man in the world.  Even if I don’t quite get it, I know you have your reasons.”
 
“I did… I mean I do.  Damn it Lily,” Sarah tried to hide an exasperated sniffle by taking a swig of her drink, “I was going to talk to you about this on the ride to the city if you were up to it, but… we’re having problems.  We were both a huge part of each other’s lives, and we still want to support one-another but….” She shook her head, eyes half-teary, half-wistful, “We used to connect on this deeper level, on a frequency where we were both aligned in what we wanted from our lives and what we saw in the world around us.  It felt like we could really understand one another.  But someplace along the way we diverged.  I delved more into my art and the Arts Center and Brad became more withdrawn, focusing on little more than TV and video games.  He was always sort of like that, but it used to have something under it; he used to be excited to talk about those things with me and what they meant to him, about the themes and theories he formed.  He used to be like that old adage: ‘still waters run deep’, but now…”
 
“Now the still waters have gone stagnant, “ Lily finished, swooshing her straw through the mojito glass.  Green mint leaves stirred from the bottom of the glass to line the surface of the cocktail, mock-algae over a rum-and-syrup pond.
 
“Yeah, I suppose so.  We had been talking about what to do, and were thinking of taking a little space to figure things out.”  She laughed, rueful and hurt, “‘Were thinking’, what am I saying?  As if we haven’t made the choice already.  He’s looking to leave for Chicago next week, he has his ticket booked and everything.  And the worst part of it has been that for over a decade there was this certainty that we were two halves of a greater whole, that we completed each other; and suddenly all these years later we discover that there were needs we couldn’t fill for each other. That there was something cruel in the plans of fate that spurred us on to grow as people, but grow in ways apart instead of together.”
 
“And I don’t know if it’s a good idea, what you’re doing,” she fixed Lily with a stern stare, “But I’ve desired being needed for a few years now, to feel like someone wants me and needs me in their life, that they don’t take me for granted.  You said earlier that you used to feel a connection between us, I want that again too.  I just need you to promise me that you’ll be honest with me, and that if I want to go back to normal at some point, or as close to normal as we can get, that you’ll let me.”
 
“And you’re okay with the sexual parts of it?” Lily asked, half-astounded and fully-excited, “I thought you weren’t into girls?”
 
“I never thought I was, but I can’t say I ever really considered it either.  Brad and I had been together since college and when we were stable I didn’t really think much about anyone else.“  Sarah shrugged.  “What I know is that right now that I’m willing to try it with you.  I can’t tell whether that’s something that’s been there all along, or if you’ve manipulated me into wanting it; but I’m willing to go further.”
 
“I promise I won’t let you down,” Lily blurted out, tentacles erupting from her back.
 
“And Lily,” Sarah said, turning her thumb to point towards Maxine, “As good as she looks in that getup, I’d like to still at least look human.”
 
Lily took a moment to examine Maxine in her beautiful, revealed form: smooth, sensuous latex covering her arms to her shoulder, covering her legs to her thigh, flowing around her chin and neck then downwards to caress her breasts and downwards again to cover her pussy and ass.  She was gorgeous, but Lily could understand why Sarah didn’t want that for herself.  They were to be different parts that made up a greater whole, each with different needs, different wants, and different talents. 
 
“I’ll be gentle,” she promised as she leaned in to kiss Sarah.  Their lips touched as two sleek tendrils slithered into her ears.  The bar faded away as her eyes grew heavier, swallowed in crude oil and writer’s ink.  She fought to keep them open, to stay attentive to the kiss Lily was still planing on her lips; but all she accomplished was rolling her eyeballs upwards to meet her eyelid’s descent.  The darkness behind her eyelids was somehow lighter than the darkness that surrounded her before, and noticing that she longed for the darker darkness, for the all-absorbing, infinite abyss of connection, for Lily.  As if it heard her, as if it knew she needed it, the onyx ooze poured behind her closed eyes and obliterated her completely.
 

 
She was Nowhere with a capital ’N’, lacking a body or a frame of reference.  A void of loving darkness spread around her, a night sky unmarred by stars.  She tumbled and whirled through the abyss, astounded and unafraid.  She lacked eyes but had vision beyond sight, she lacked form but had feeling beyond touch; she was herself without the incidentals of physicality.  And she was not alone.
 
Wheeling about with her was Lily, recognizable not through the paltry senses of humankind but through the twisting and twining of their abstractness of being.  Instead of trying to recognize the contours of her face and positions of her features, she could feel the way she saw the world around her: the ringed flares of lights in the night, the distracting but familiar ringing in her ears, the nervous-but-loving warmth ready to flow forth from her.  They wove about each other, mingling and embracing in essence, becoming one but still two.
 
And then she sensed another presence: youthful yet (up until recently) despondent, wanting to learn and love but finding it impossible in the world of physicality.  Maxine fluttered around them, tightening like a metaphysical sash and drawing them all inwards towards each other.  She could feel them inside-and-out, feel their joys and pains and panics, and she could feel that they felt her too.  And in that totality of understanding and caring and connection Maxine strained to give it a name in their shared conscious.  The word love was too simple and hackneyed, and as she started through the greek words for love that she dredged out of collegiate knowledge she dismissed each one in turn as equally inadequate.  What they were experiencing was an overlapping of ego where all of them were joined but none occluded, a harmonious convergence of being.  Not fully describable through the medium of language.
 
There was something else there with them in the dark as well, trailing behind Lily like a airplane’s contrail.  A darkness in the darkness, confused at its existence, scared by its ability to be confused and scared; an animal dragged from it’s queer existence as an usurper of consciousness into suddenly having a consciousness of its own.  Ur-Glazz wobbled at a distance in the space which lacked physical distance, unsure whether it should join the conglomerate of beings it had helped create.  For the first time in it’s life it felt inferior, partly because it was the first time it could feel anything beyond physical needs, and partially because these beings it had come to dominate were bristling and bustling with so many more experiences and thought forms than it had scraped together in the three days since it was capable of doing so.  It feared joining them would lead to it’s annihilation.
 
The humming mass of mental energy bounded towards it, fear flushing through it’s thoughts.  And then, quivering and terrified it felt the others surround it and take it into themselves.  Whatever it’s monstrousness purpose once was was forgotten, whatever animosity it feared from them was non-existent in those moments.  Together they tumbled through the inner-space of pure abstraction, sharing in serenity and bliss.
 

In Lily’s living room three blank-eyed bodies caressed and fondled each other on her grey couch.  Four jet-dark tendrils pulsed in pleasure from Lily’s back to Maxine and Sarah’s ears, the other two teasing and rubbing whatever their lust-driven minds deemed to be most desirable at the moment.  Each body moved on auto-pilot, their minds busy elsewhere, dedicated to and subsumed by pleasure and ecstasy.  Positions shuffled and swapped, upper lips locked onto lower lips, hands caressed and tweaked and slid over every part of their black-eyed bodies.  When they finally climaxed in unison: Lily had two tentacles in Maxine’s ear, two in Sarah’s ear, one in Maxine’s pussy, one in Sarah’s ass, lips locked on Sarah’s cunt, one hand grabbing Maxine’s breast, the other clawing into Sarah’s thigh.  Sarah’s vacant, oily eyes gazed emptily at the ceiling as she pulled Lily’s head inward with one hand and caressed the shimmering dark latex around Maxine’s chin with the other.  Maxine did the unthinkable and used her malleable arms to tease two shiny tentacles into Lily’s own head as she nuzzled into her neck. 
 
A chorus of throaty moans rang out together as the women’s empty husks reached the peak of their pleasure.  Unintelligently and impulsively the puppets of carnal desire and alien need began to fuck again, eyes black and minds empty.

Author's Note: The previous chapter took a bit of a strange turn from what I had originally outlined, leading us deeper into the strange in chapter 3.  The interspersed poem towards the beginning of the chapter is from Frost's To a Moth Seen in Winter, an old favorite. 

x7

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