Half Life 2

“It takes a few minutes,” Reese informed Finch. “Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt – just itches a little. If you can scratch off the skin where I can’t reach, that would help a lot.”

“Your skin peels off?” Finch asked, perplexed. He had only expected Reese to show him a part of his body that bore witness to the infection, so he could not fathom what could possibly take so long.

“Yes… among other things,” Reese answered dryly. They were both naked, having stripped and showered before tumbling headlong onto the bed in their haste to become joined. Now Reese turned ninety degrees so his head was up by the pillows and crouched (much like Finch had earlier) with his ass up in the air. Finch followed him, inspecting his back for any irregularities, and frowned as he noticed bumps along his partner’s spine.

“Your vertebrae are showing,” he remarked. “Have you not been eating breakfast?”

“I’m not losing weight, Harold – it’s all part of the process,” came Reese’s calm answer. “Watch… they’ll get bigger yet…”

And under Finch’s very eyes, the points along Reese’s spine gradually grew. They continued growing until they burst through his skin to reveal long, needle-like shafts with a translucent membrane connecting them.

“Wha—What…” Finch stammered, doubting his eyes.

“They really don’t hurt,” Reese repeated, “but if you could scratch around them… like this…”

Reese scrabbled at the base of the spiny protrusions, peeling off his skin as though he’d been sunburned. Seeing that he could not reach the middle of his back, Finch gave himself a mental shake and began helping, noting that the skin Reese was sloughing off was indeed dead, reassured that it would not harm Reese at all to remove it. What caught him by surprise next, though, was the surface of Reese’s body that became exposed as the dry, papery skin was removed: it looked like scales. Shiny, blue-black scales.

“R—R—Reese?” Finch managed in a trembling voice.

“Yes. Those are my scales.” Reese turned to look at his lover. “They don’t cover my whole body, just my backside, even on my arms and legs. One of the doctors described it best: I look like an armadillo with fish scales instead of armor plating. This is all conjecture, but they thought the leeches had been feeding on the local fish – who would also have been exposed to high levels of radiation – so whatever was helping them survive in that environment might have developed in the fish first. Or maybe the leeches had developed it, and they just happened to have fish DNA in their stomachs when they threw up on me. At any rate, I’ve taken on some characteristics – like scales – that are distinctly… fish-like.”

“So… so then…” Finch sputtered, staring at the growth that had burst out of his partner’s back.

“Fins, Finch. I have fins. They do help with steering when I’m swimming underwater.”

Reese wiggled the spines to show how dexterous they were, then collapsed them, making them lie flat along his spine. The membrane on them seemed very elastic, having stretched to accommodate their spread but now taking little or no space as they were tucked flush along his body.

“Are you all right, Harold?” Reese asked, peering at him in some concern. “Talk to me.”

“I’m… all right, I think,” Finch responded, still transfixed by the strange phenomenon he was witnessing. “Just… shocked. I have no explanation for it. It defies anything hitherto known to science… but under those conditions… considering how all life on this planet had to adapt in order to survive… yes, I can believe it.” He finally turned to meet Reese’s gaze. “It’s extraordinary, what has happened to you, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of, John. In fact we might be witnessing the next big step in evolution – not just human evolution, but a mutation that will help all life on Earth adapt to new challenges in this millennium. It’s… it’s… indescribable.”

Relief flooded Reese’s face at his lover’s words. “I guess that’s one way of putting it. But this isn’t all that’s happened to me… there’s more. But before I show you that, I’d like to finish moulting, if you don’t mind. The dead skin itches like crazy…”

Finch readily assisted Reese with scratching off the rest of the peeling areas and, once they were finished, he took in the full view of Reese’s scaly body.

“Extraordinary… simply extraordinary!” he breathed, running his hand over the smooth scales. They were not slimy, as some suppose snake scales to be, but warm (though slightly cooler than Reese’s skin) and polished, like so many thin sheets of fingernails. Indeed he guessed that their composition was similar, if not identical to, human fingernails; the only difference was the pearly-black sheen.

“You’re beautiful, John – in either form,” Finch declared.

“Really?” Reese asked, blushing but wanting to know.

“Yes. Really,” Finch assured him, then lay down beside him, propping his head up on one elbow. “Can you transform yourself at will?”

“Yes, now I can. The first time it was involuntary… I was swimming laps in the company pool when I felt this weird resistance of water along my back.” Reese grinned at the memory. “Threw the other guys in there for a loop! I got rushed to the hospital and quarantined, then they ran all sorts of tests… I lost count of how many samples they took from me. But after a while they gave me access to another pool – a private one just for me – and I got to where I could control whether I transformed or not. At first it was like a reflex, every time I got into the water, but then I taught my body that it was okay, that I wouldn’t drown even if I didn’t have my fins out.”

Finch nodded reflectively. “It’s an adaptation for self-preservation. Very useful… if somewhat inconvenient when there are other people nearby.”

“Exactly.” Reese inched closer to Finch. “You really don’t think I’m… a monster? That I’m… hideous?”

“Of course not, John! Don’t be ridiculous,” he stated firmly, reaching out to comb through Reese’s hair with his fingers. “I love you for who you are, for your kind and compassionate heart. But your scales are beautiful, too – even more since I know how you got them. They’re a badge of honor: a reminder that in a very dangerous situation, you were committed to helping someone else.”

Reese’s mouth twitched as he struggled to hold his emotions inside.

“Thanks. I just hope… you still feel the same way… after you see the other thing that happened to me…”

“Show me, John. I’m ready. After what I’ve already seen, I can’t imagine anything else will surprise me.”

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Leave a comment


  1. Mamahub

     /  2013/05/13

    Amazing! Looking forward to more!

  2. Kate

     /  2013/05/13

    Gasp! gasp!

  3. Fins…with Finch….after they finished….


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