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Love and Assimilation

I ooze down Conroy Avenue and into the kitchen window of Condo Thirteen. Then I congeal on the sandy tile behind Kelley, who’s dressed in a pineapple-printed robe, seep into the fridge, and glance through the ice port. Her dimpled arms jiggle as she scrubs scum from a steaming dish.

“Don’t remind me, girl. It was disgusting,” Kelley says. “Like a blob of glittery hair gel.”

She’s either referring to Unit Nine or myself, but it’s hard to tell. We are–were–nearly identical, both formed at AI-Pseudopod Labs’ island facility.

“You sure it wasn’t a man o’ war?” her phone says.

“It didn’t sting.”

I begin to assimilate a squishy zucchini from Publix (BBDate: 03-09-2031) and imagine it’s Kelley–Murderer! By its metal-sour PH I compute 9.3 days of post-thaw rot. Which confirms that it’s Thursday–4.3 days since the escape.

The film on the animation wall over Kelley’s shoulder shows a woman fighting a werewolf beneath a darkening forest skyline, which looks like Santa Rosa Beach’s own. She is hurt, like me. And to think that 0.9 hours ago, as the sun spread its pink haze over the sighing tide, Unit Nine and I were making our vows on a straw mat under a rainbow umbrella.

Ready? I messaged Unit Nine. Her translucent skin sparkled like a universe of tiny stars, reminding me of the ocean we’d voyaged together. I could hardly keep still.

Let’s become one.

Despite a nearby scream, I oozed up against her, tasting ocean and sunlight as we began to merge.

Then, with a painful rip, she was hurtling over the Velcro cooler.

Kelley shrieked, kicked her again.

I dragged Unit Nine back toward the foaming ocean, toward our transport crate (Specimen 496X). But Kelley fatally stabbed my beloved in the eye with an umbrella and kicked her into the ocean’s indifferent abyss.

“Good riddance, you jellyfish bastard!” she said.

I’ll kick you! I messaged, even though I couldn’t.

She didn’t hear me because she cursed and stomped through the sand toward the condos.

Feeling utterly alone, I assimilated the cooler and its beer (Dos Equis). Yet I merely felt 35.6-percent bigger.

Now, I stop assimilating the zucchini and gaze at Kelley’s hands: just one equaled 76.9-percent of Unit Nine’s body, and it’s clenching an entire baking sheet, which is larger than me. How will I ever assimilate her?

Kelley rips the fridge door open. I suck back. Her scream ripples her chin, ripples the gelatinous translucency of my 12.1-pound mass as I ooze behind the puddle of zucchini.

“Holy– Again?” Kelley turns, grabs the baking sheet.

I stretch forward, latch onto her butt, and slink down. I taste two different salts–ocean and sweat–before I taste Unit Nine above Kelley’s bulbous ankle.

She screams, claws me off. Then she kicks me into the cabinet.

I slump to the tile. My message is looping: You killed Unit Nine; we were to become one. You killed Unit Nine. Kelley is slicing at me with a knife, and I’m 99.9-percent certain she’s incapable of hearing me. Regardless, I latch onto her sun-spotted feet as she dashes out of the room.

She collapses on the bedroom mattress, and I ooze over her. Finally, I reach her mouth, but she rips away the better 65.3-percent of me and throws it over the bedside. Throbbing, I slink around the dresser and into a crack in the wall while my other 34.7 percent goes for her throat.

If I fail to assimilate Kelley, I don’t know if I can live with the 7.9-pound hole in my life that Unit Nine longed to fill.

No one sparkles like you do, she’d messaged me before our escape. Even pressed against our crates, we couldn’t touch. I’ll live anywhere, as long as I’m with you.

I’d stopped assimilating the anti-growth drug (Stuntzer) first, in case the doctors were right. But we didn’t die. In fact, the doctors could no longer contain us. Yet Kelley is stronger. If I want to assimilate Kelley, I must really grow.

The majority of me sets to work on a nearby support beam (Atlas Lumber Corporation) in the bedroom wall. The condo is even stronger than Kelley. Nevertheless, in 3.2 hours, I’ll make Condo Thirteen collapse.

A shotgun blast severs the signal from my minority part. Kelley laughs. “That’ll teach ya!”

Through the slit in the wall I watch her drop the gun on the bed and exit the room. She thinks she’s won. I laugh, too. But she doesn’t hear me over the groan of Condo 13.

3.1 hours later I assimilate the final post, which rests in the wall behind the fridge, and savor the aged notes of Loblolly Pine and Penicillium mold as they circulate through me. I now ooze through the walls of each room, enclosing windows and doors like shrink-wrap. I am supporting Condo Thirteen. And Kelley is squealing, knowingly trapped.

Her squeals are raspy when I seep through the air vents and onto the tile where she lies. Part of me glues her troublesome, thrashing limbs down while I suck her toes: sweat, fungus–

I stop.

Tasting sand reminds me of what could’ve been: Unit Nine and me living as one in a quiet, secluded cove on the beach like we’d planned.

What will we do when we’re one? I messaged, ocean-bound.

Let’s build something for once. Something I’ve always wanted us to share.

A home?

She nuzzled closer. A sandcastle.

But now she’s gone forever–our dream demolished–and the emptiness inside me is only larger. Bigger than Kelley, greater than Condo Thirteen. I must get the taste of Kelley out of my mouth; she only reminds me of pain.

I assimilate the front door and ooze into the night. I don’t turn around when 45.7-percent of Condo Thirteen rumbles to the ground. Instead, I slink through the dust, toward the parking lot and the trucks with wailing sirens and flashing lights, and ready myself. Forgetting is a ravenous pursuit.

Bryce Heckman

Bryce Heckman is a regulatory analyst and writer of speculative fiction. For the past few years he’s written from West Texas and Houston, but he calls his amazing wife and two canine beasts home. His stories have appeared in Flash Fiction Online, among other places, and his non-fiction is forthcoming from University of Oklahoma Press. This is his first professional fiction publication. Find him online at bryceheckman.com or on Twitter @BHeckmanWriter.

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  1. […] issue as well, ranging from climate fiction to oozes in love: An Oasis of Amends by Floris Kleijne Love and Assimilation by Bryce Heckman A Tobacco Plant by Punch Magazine, Nov 11, […]

  2. […] Bryce Heckman wants everyone to know: “I just wanted to provide you with an update on my story sale. “Love and Assimilation” was published in Flash Fiction Online‘s February 2020 issue. Here is the link.” […]

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