by Dr. Mercurious
drawings by The Andrade Brothers
Both women screamed and flung themselves back as the mixture suddenly foamed up and splattered the both of them. Helen, The bespectacled blonde, unconsciously lurched towards her friend coworker. Paris, an African-American with short hair, did the same almost as if this had been some sort of modern dance routine. Both women had trim, toned figures -- more because they both saw the benefits of being in shape rather than any desire to attract a paramour. They'd both married their work a long time ago, which is why they were still in one of the Andredas Biochemical Conglomerate labs at such a late hour.
"Euuugh!" Paris shook her hand, trying to free it from the gunk coating it. She only succeeded in sticking it to her coworker's hand. "I can't believe it foamed up like that! You okay, Helen?"
The blonde studied the substance now gluing her left hand to the other woman's right. "I'm afraid, Paris, our attempts to concoct an organic adhesive seem to be only at least partially successful." She frowned. "The bonding agent has some elasticity." To emphasize the point, Helen tried to move away from Paris. Strings of blue-white gunk stretched out between the two but did not break.
"Better than getting glued together," Paris sighed. Helen's cool head was often an asset as a friend and a coworker but at times it could be annoying. "Maybe we'd better call it a night. We both must be pretty tired to have a chemical foam up on us like that."
"Hm?" Helen looked at Paris. As her friend's words registered, she gaped. "But we can't! There are openings in the Chicago branch! We just have to get them, and the only way is to impress the board of directors! We need to invent that adhesive!"
"Well, I want a chance to study the 'Chicago Conjoined' as much as you do, but what good is getting transferred there if we get a chemical burn?"
"I know I can figure out the secret behind those two young women's sudden conjoinment if I could just..." Helen's hands clasped and unclasped as if trying to reach for something precious.
Paris felt the residue of the exploded potion hardening on her body. "I think what we need to do first is get down to the changing room and wash this stuff off before it hardens."
he blonde blinked a couple of times as if the idea hadn't even occurred to her, then nodded. "You're right. It seems to be losing its elastic consistency." Immediately she started shrugging off her lab coat.
"We can't get undressed here!" Paris gasped, blushing.
"The substance has leaked into and under our clothing," Helena told her friend. "If we don't strip here, we might wind up stuck in our lab clothes."
Paris wanted to argue with the blonde, but she was probably right. Her right leg felt coated, and she didn't feel like being stuck in her pantyhose. "I suppose," she sighed and began to follow her friend's example. At first she was hesitant, but then the elastic-like bond between them began to stiffen and contract, she stripped faster. Even so, by the time both of them were done her lower left leg was stuck to Helen's right, as was Helen's right hand stuck to her left. "Great. How are we supposed to move like this?"
"Carefully," came the reply. "Come on, first we step with our inner legs then the outer. Alternate until we get to the changing room."
Paris was not thrilled to travel all that way without a stitch of clothing on, but there was nothing for it. "If the cleaning crew sees me like this, I'll die of embarrassment."
Helen smiled at her. "Please don't. It would be awfully difficult to drag your corpse around."
Paris, with effort, resisted the urge to giggle.
An eternity later, a door labeled BATHROOM loomed in front of them. Paris sighed in relief. "I thought we'd never get here. GOD these floors are cold!"
"I'm just grateful we didn't run into anyone," Helen admitted. She glanced down at their bond. "The compound finally seems to be setting. We'd better get this washed off."
"With you there," the other woman enthused, giggling at her own unintentional pun. Helen gave her an amused look and rolled her eyes dramatically. "Why are you so interested in the Chicago project? Outside of all the money being sunk into it, that is."
"Think about it," Helen enthused as they managed their way into the open shower area and turned on the water. "Whoever figures out the process by which Eve Delm and Dawn Trydaliso became a dicephalic entity so abruptly will have solved a mystery no one even knew about until it happened!"
Paris nodded as she grabbed the soap. Certainly she was interested in getting into the Chicago branch. All the money in the company was going there these days -- despite the fact that after almost four years of investigation, the company was no closer to figuring out how two healthy young women became two heads sharing a body. "Beats me who'd want to be part of someone else for the rest of their life." She scrubbed at their joined arms first and the compound gave way -- although it left a pale discoloration on her skin. "Great, I look like Michael Jackson."
Helen studied the mark on her own arm. "It almost looks like you lent me some of your color," she said, holding the limb up. Sure enough the matching mark on her arm showed a healthy tan instead of Helen's normal Scandinavian light complexion.
"I just hope it fades." Paris glanced sideways, looking for a washcloth, then back to Helen. "Is there a..." She stopped; her friend was looking downward and gaping. "What's wrong?"
"Oh my God," the other woman gasped.
Helen never took the name of any deity in vein. Paris immediately .glanced downward, expecting to see the discoloration spreading across their still-joined legs.
She didn't; what she saw was infinitely worse. Somehow, the skin on their lower legs had grown together, leaving no space between them. "That's...that's impossible!"
"Oh my God," Helen repeated. It seemed that something had finally happened to crack her friend's invincible composure. Her jaw was slack and her glassy eyes stared. Her body was rigid as if from shock.
"Helen?" Paris could actually feel the joined area spreading up their legs, like goose-bumps only more so. "Helen, snap out of it!" Please, I need you!"
Helen shuddered as if waking up. "S-sorry," she replied in a faint voice. "Quick, we need to push against each other, maybe we can reverse the process!"
"Right! Paris planted her free leg and braced both hands on Helen, pushing away with all her might. A bolt of pain shot through their joining legs. "Ow!"
"Keep pushing!" Helen demanded, mimicking Paris' actions and also pushing away. Another bolt of pain shot through their legs, traveling from ankle to hip. She glanced downward. "No use...it's spreading!"
"What?" Paris looked down. Sure enough, their legs were now joined at the side from ankle to mid-hip. The discoloration had also spread, turning both legs a light brown. "No! we have to push harder!"
"Calm down, Paris!" Helen looked at her, pleading. "Flailing about isn't getting us anywhere!"
"I want to be free!" She braced her inner arm against Helen's and pushed even harder. A tingling spread up their touching arms. Immediately, the realization that perhaps that may not have been the smartest place to touch her friend came crashing home. "Please," she wept. "Tell me what I think just happened didn't happen?"
Helen, wordlessly lifted up her left arm, now bound to Paris' right up to the elbow. The discoloration was already spreading across it. "I'm afraid I can't."
"Help me!" She raged, trying to brace against Helen and pull away. Unfortunately there was no way to gain sufficient leverage. They were now joined from ankle to hip. The discoloration had now spread throughout their lower halves and was working its way upward. "Think of something, Helen!"
"Stop struggling," she barked. "The process accelerated when we struggled! We can't undo the damage already done, but we can keep it from getting worse!"
An image flashed to mind of the Chicago joined girls -- two heads sharing a single body -- and she stopped immediately. "O-okay." She bit her lip, trying to ignore the sensation spreading up her chest. "When is it going to stop?"
Helen immediately reached over and turned off the water. "Hopefully now. I think it was a combination of exertion and the water which caused this reaction. If I'm right, this should slow it down -- and if we remain still, we won't start absorbing each others' bodies."
Paris shuddered. "We weren't working with anything that would cause something like this," she sobbed. "We don't even have access to samples of their DNA, let alone the clearance to study it! No chemical we've been working on has this kind of potential!" She lifted their connected arms for emphasis. "How could this happen?"
"Maybe we possess whatever gene was necessary for spontaneous conjoinment." Helen studied their joined arms. "It's the only explanation."
The tingling sensation had stopped. Paris glanced down at their joined bodies. They were almost completely connected, side-by-side, with only a little area around their waist kept free. Their skin-tone was now a uniform light brown. "I look like someone dipped me in bleach," she complained bitterly. "Oh well, at least we can be separated."
Helen looked at her as if she'd suggested sawing off her own head. "Why would you want to do that?"
"Are you JOKING?" She exploded. "We can't stay like this!"
"No amount of surgery is going to restore your skin-tone," Helen replied. Her perfect composure was back. "Personally, I like the change in mine; I never could get a tan without burning. Besides, do you want an long ugly scar running up your right side? Not to mention the muscle damage."
"What do you mean?"
Helen tugged away slightly, or tried to; the connection was solid as a rock. "This isn't just an epidermal joining; it would stretch more. I thought it just stopped before the muscle, but I just tensed my lower leg. Go ahead; try it."
Helen, numbly, flexed and curled her toes. She felt her lower leg muscle tense -- and something tense right next to it. She couldn't feel it exactly, like it was a body part that had fallen asleep. "It feels odd," she sniffled.
"What you're feeling is my muscle -- connected to yours," Helen told her. "The nerve connections haven't set yet, but I have a nasty suspicion they will. Otherwise, you'd feel nothing except a pressure against your leg."
"You can't be sure of that," Paris sobbed. "I don't want to stay like this!"
"Well, I'd say we have a choice. Try to convince our insurance companies to pay for our separation surgeries -- and if they do, go through life disfigured and possibly crippled -- or use this to our advantage." Her eyes were shining. "We're a shoe-in for positions at the Chicago facility as both researchers and test-subjects. A possible cure might be found that would be less invasive than surgery, you know."
"Why do you have to be so damn logical?" Paris demanded without much force. Once again, Helen was right. The thought of an ugly scar marring her right leg and arm made her shiver.
"Because if I'm not, I'll start screaming and never stop," Helen told her bluntly. "Now come on. We have to phone our boss and tell him what happened."
"But what if..."
"One worry at a time," the blonde interrupted. "Look, if you really want something to worry about, here it is. You keep a spare set of clothes in your locker, correct?"
"Yeah, " the other woman answered, a trifle suspicious. "Same as you do. Why?"
Helen nodded. "Well, they're not going to fit -- and the closest available phone is the security shack on this floor. Halfway across the building. With three security guards in it." Her friend gaped. "Unless you want to get our cell-phones out from our clothes which are thoroughly coated in that goo."
Paris' return suggestion could best be described as anatomically impossible.
To Be Continued?