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The sound of latex snapping echoed through the room, followed by two quick and light metallic taps. Josh lowered the tongs so that the claws gripped onto the rat’s neck tightly. He and Sam gagged when they saw the creature’s entrails fall out of the body onto the floor with a sickening Slap. The eldest Washington quickly discarded the rat’s limp body into the garbage back he was holding in the other hand, before reaching down again and grabbing onto the organs. Some of them slid out of the utensil and back onto the floor, making Josh groan and his companion gag again.

 

Once the body was deep within the confines of the trash bag, Sam let out a deep breath.

 

“How does this keep on happening?” the blonde questioned, looking down at the puddle of blood where the rat once was. Josh pulled a face and shook his head.

 

“We called in the exterminators two weeks ago when it first happened. I guess they might’ve missed something.” Josh furrowed his brows before looking at the sticky residue on the tongs and muttering something about burning them. Sam shook her head before saying, “No, I mean like… What’s doing… all this?” She gestured towards the blood on the floor and Josh shrugged before leaving the room.

 

“Hey, can you wake up Hannah for me? I’ll take care of everything else down here,” Josh shouted from outside the room, and the blonde removed the latex gloves on her hands and washed them, and then made her way to her best friend’s room.

 

 

 

 

The brunette was, in fact, not sleeping soundly in her bed, ready to be woken up. Sam was confused for a second, wondering where Hannah was, until she heard a horrid retching coming from the connected bathroom. The blonde rushed in and found a groaning Hannah gripping onto the toilet.

 

“Han? You okay?” Sam asked, gently lifting her best friend's long hair out of her face. The girl grimaced, the slightest hint of a sharp tooth jutting out of her scarred mouth. The blonde frowned, and turned on the light, making Hannah recoil at the sudden brightness.

 

“Sorry about that. What happened?” She sat down on the tile floor next to her friend, a hand on her back. Once Hannah was sure she wouldn't start throwing up again if she opened her mouth, she spoke.

 

“I just woke up, and… It felt like something was… I, I don’t know how to explain it… I also, um…” she paused to take in a jagged breath, “I tasted something dirty, and I just…”

 

Sam looked at Hannah strangely before loosening up and pulling her friend off the toilet and into a hug.

 

“Wanna go get some food? Wash the taste of dirt and puke out of her mouth?” the blonde asked quietly, running circles into her friend's spiny back. She felt Hannah nod quickly into her shoulder, and they separated from each other. Sam stood up and offered a hand to the brunette, which she happily accepted, and pulled herself up.

 

It took Sam barely a second to register for the umpteenth time just how tall Hannah was. Her limbs lanky now, she was maybe an inch shy of having to duck under every doorframe. The girl in question walked back into her still-dark room, probably to put on something more suitable than just underwear.

 

Sam suddenly remembered the throw-up in the toilet and glanced into the bowl for a second before recoiling and trying to hold down her own suddenly rising bile. She had seen a bloodied mess, with something dark, chunky and undigested mixed among it. And the smell. The smell. It was just hitting her, the mixture of bile and undigested whatever-the-fuck-this-is. Sam quickly reached for the lever and pushed, flushing the contents away.

 

Sam walked back into the no-light bedroom, just as Hannah finished pulling on some shorts. Sam smiled before starting, “Honey, it's freezing in this house.”

 

The brunette glanced down at her sweater and shorts and back up at Sam. “Well, I'm feeling hot as hell!” she chimed, happily walking over to the blonde and taking her hands in her own. “So, any ideas for breakfast?”

 

“Josh was going to make pancakes, until…” Sam trailed off, the mangled rat corpse appearing in her mind.

 

“Until what?” Hannah inquired, voice and features filling with worry. “You didn't – “

 

“We did,” Sam sighed, cutting her off. “There was another one.”

 

Hannah sighed deeply, wrenching her eyes shut as best she could. Her right eye, missing most of the eyelid and seemingly jutting out of her skull, didn't close all the way. Her eyes opened and dark teal and dark brown met deep green. Sam could see the sadness in her friend's eyes, but she didn't know why.

 

 

 

 

Two days later, Sam was holding back Hannah's hair as she puked into the porcelain bowl. It was much worse than the previous time.

 

“We found three more rats,” Sam decided to inform her friend before she finished. Hannah tried to comment, but only retched harder. The blonde sighed, and gently rubbed her friend’s back.

 

“What have you been eating?” Sam asked once her friend had become silent. The brunette hesitated for a moment.

 

“I've literally just been having midnight runs for snacks n' stuff,” Hannah choked out in between deep breaths, “mom bought a bunch after she found out. You can check the bin, there's so many packets.”

 

Sam quickly ran into Hannah's room to check the bin next to her desk, and… surely enough, there were many brightly coloured packets within the grocery bag. She walked back into the bathroom and found her best friend leaning back in the space between the toilet and the bath. Her hair was caught in the corners of her mouth, covering her eyes. She almost looked hungover.

 

“I'll get you some water,” Sam said, leaving to go to the kitchen.

 

 

 

 

The next day, after another tedious 10 minutes of puking and getting ready, Sam was helping Hannah down the stairs of the Washington mansion to the kitchen.

 

“Josh is making pancakes for you,” Sam told her as they reached the bottom step.

 

“I can smell,” Hannah said, instinctively craning her head towards the kitchen as they turned to it and started walking.

 

“AGH, JESUS FUCK!” a sudden shout rang out from the kitchen, and Hannah overcame her wobbliness to run into the kitchen at lightning speeds, Sam trailing behind her.

 

Inside, Josh was gripping his mouth, eyes screwed shut. He looked pale in the face.

 

“Josh, what’s wrong?” Hannah asked quickly, panic rising in her voice.  Jodh let out a groan before answering, “I just went to get some butter from the other fridge and – FUCK! WHAT THE FUCK!?”

 

Josh had turned to the counter and glanced up at the cupboards, glanced up, and saw a rat tail hanging off the top, with now-dried blood dripping down the cupboard door. “WHAT THE FUCK!”

 

Hannah looked like she was going to throw up again. Sam was more confused than anything.

 

“How didn’t you see it before now!? It's so obvious!” Sam half asked, half shouted. Josh shot back, “I was so focused on making the pancakes, and besides, we never use this cupboard!” He opened the door, motioning to the various coloured bags inside. “This is just for Hannah's snacks!”

 

Sam pinched the bridge of her nose, but before making a comment, Josh let out a frustrated cry.

 

“That's it! I'm gonna get to the bottom of this. I'm gonna find out what the fuck is doing this, even if I have to stay up all fucking night!

 

The friend's recoiled at the eldest Washington's outburst, gripping each others’ hands. Josh took in a deep breath and ran his hands through his hair. Sam took a small step towards Josh, and stated firmly, “No, you’re not.”

 

Excuse me?” Josh leered at the blonde, leaning towards her.

 

“You’ve been stressed enough as it is, I can see! You didn’t have bags as big as that before! Not even when…” she paused to look back at Hannah, and her breath hitched. “…You know when.”

 

“Okay, so who’s gonna do it?” Josh questioned, folding his arm over his chest. “Definitely not Beth, she’s busy. Not Han, she’s too sickly.” Hannah opened her mouth to protest, raising a hand slightly, but shut her lips tight just as quick as she opened them.

 

“Obviously me, Josh.” Sam stated, staring down the eldest Washington. He stood his ground until her harsh gaze made him crack, and he shied away.

 

“I'll get the gloves.”

 

Sam watched as the man walked out of the room, the pancakes completely forgotten.

 

 

 

 

Come evening, and Sam is preparing for a long, long night. Josh directed her attention to the security room, which was abandoned save for a single member of estate security. The blonde set up beside a monitor, placing down a snack and some water next to it. Her headlamp was already strapped on, ready for use when needed. She sat down in the chair and started getting comfortable.

 

“Hey, Sam,” a familiar voice called. Sam swung around to see Hannah’s head peeking in through the doorway. She looked tense as she stepped fully into the room. Sam waved at her friend and opened her mouth to greet her back.

 

“I just wanted to say goodnight, and good luck,” the girl said sheepishly before the blonde could say anything, raising an arm to rub the back of her neck. Sam smiled, “Thanks, Hannah. Goodnight.”

 

“Goodnight.”

 

She left the room before Sam could blink.

 

 

 

 

Hours upon hours of waiting followed their little interaction. At some point the security guard clocked out, and Sam was awaiting the arrival of his replacement, feeling apprehensive in his absence. There was no activity on the cameras, other than Hannah leaving her room, going to the kitchen, pulling out a packet of some kind of snack, and then going back to her room. Other than that, the house had been still. Sam spied some rats flitting around Bob Washington’s workshop, but the rodents couldn’t be seen anywhere else in the house – probably due to the murders of their kin.

 

Sam reached towards the plate she had set down on the desk, and carefully teared open the snack. She discarded the top of the packaging in the bin under the desk, but just as she was about to reach her hand into the packet, she spotted some strange movement in the cameras.

 

Some kind of figure – too fast to be properly identified. It had moved very close by the camera, thus what was seen was blurry, and too quick for the camera to have properly focused. Sam jolted in her seat, placing the snack down on the plate and reaching her hand up to her headlamp. She spotted movement on another camera, the one in the foyer. The blonde jumped out of her seat, switched on her headlamp, and bolted out of the room.

 

She started making her way around the Washington mansion, weaving her way through corridors until she was in the foyer. Unfortunately, she couldn’t see anything in the room. She was too slow.

 

Suddenly – a crash, a bang. Sam’s head snapped in the direction of the noise – and figured that it might be coming from the garage. She immediately started making her way there, listening for more noises. As she neared the garage, she could hear a scuffle. Once she entered the garage, they had stopped. Then, out of nowhere – a high-pitched growl followed by loud squeaking, only for the squeaks to be cut off suddenly.

 

Sam, now feeling fear crawl up her spine and then all around her body in the form of goosebumps, slowly made her way around the Washington’s expensive cars. She paused in front of an unpainted door that lead to Bob’s workshop.

 

The blonde slowly started reaching for the door handle, only to pause. She listened carefully, hearing quiet noises that made her mind wander to dark places.

 

What could that be? Skin ripping, tearing open. The sounds of someone – or something – eating something wet and slimy. Grunts – too high to be animal, too animal to be human.

 

Sam took in a deep breath and forced her now-shaking hand onto the handle, and pushed. The door creaked open, and revealed…

 

Her torch shined into the expanse of the workshop and fell upon scattered tools originating from a fallen toolbox… and the now all-too-familiar sight of a mangled rat.

 

Silence.

 

Wait, no.

 

Quiet, but it's there.

 

Other than the soft breaths coming from the blonde, there was faint panting coming from within the room. Sam carefully shone her torch around the floor of the room, finding nothing. All of a sudden, a piece of the rat’s intestine fell from the ceiling and into her lamplight, landing with a wet splat. That gave her all the information she needed, everything in her telling her to look up. Sam felt like she was in a cheesy horror movie, but that thought did nothing to soothe the rising fear in her chest.

 

Slowly, she lifted her torchlight and gaze upwards towards the high ceiling of the workshop.

 

When she saw it, she wished it to be literally anything else, a cat, a bear, even a demon.

 

Stuck to the roof like a spider, was Hannah. She was looking at Sam, nothing human could be seen within her eyes. Her chest was heaving, mouth stretched across her face. Worst of all… the blood. God, so much blood. All over her face, hands, and clothes. Sam stood there, frozen in fear. She was remembering being back in the mines on the mountain, searching for her friend, until she found her in a state like this.

 

Hannah wasn't moving, apart from her heaving chest and her eyes – searching for something, something she can't see.

 

Sam was horrified at the sight of her friend, but she desperately wanted to help her in any sort of way she can. She thought back to the mountain again, and how trying to help proved to be futile.

 

Sam weighed her options, deciding that running was her best choice.

 

 

She took in a deep breath. “One,” She mouthed slowly to herself. She moved her foot back in preparation of a sprint. “Two,” She whispered, gaze still on Hannah, who was now leering in her direction.

 

“THREE!” Sam suddenly shouts, turning on her heel and hopping over the hood of one of the cars. Hannah lets out an ear-piercing shriek that echoes throughout the house as she makes chase, letting out small grunts and growls every time she moves. Sam makes it to the foyer before randomly picking a hallway to run through, sprinting as fast as her body could manage. The hallways winded around the house like a maze, and eventually Sam found herself back in the foyer. Thinking quick, she makes a beeline for the stairs. Hannah proved to be too fast, though, jumping onto her friend’s back and pinning her to the steps after she had only gone up the first few.

 

Sam’s body painfully collided with the stairs, her nose slamming hard against the mahogany. Hannah let out a shriek that left the blonde’s ears ringing. Sam felt like she was back in the mines, Hannah biting down on her neck. Only this time, there weren't rangers to save her. Was she going to die to what she refuses to believe is her best friend? Only it is her best friend, and she's pinning her chest to the steps, and she's snarling heavily into her ear.

 

A million thoughts raced through Sam's head as blood trickled down her face from her nose. She felt the strong grip of Hannah on her arms, hands flexing every other second.

 

It’s quiet in the Washington mansion, save for Sam’s heavy breathing and Hannah’s snarling. Sam screws her eyes shut, holding back tears as her friend’s nails dig into her arms. Before the brunette can draw blood, however, she throws herself off the blonde and scrambles off. Sam rolls over and lifts her arms, gazing at the dark curved marks left by her friend. She then sits up, and glances around the room quickly.

 

No Hannah in sight.

 

 

 

 

Sam figures that she must be in her bedroom, and slowly stands up on shaky legs and starts walking. She doesn’t bother removing the headlamp from its spot on her forehead. The blonde makes her way around the familiar first floor of the mansion, and soon finds herself in front of the older twin’s door, a butterfly decal next to the doorknob. Sam reaches for the knob but stops. She presses her ear against the wood.

 

Silence.

 

She knocks quietly on the door. It was silent for a long time afterwards, and she thinks that maybe, her friend didn’t hear her knock. She moves to try again when Hannah speaks up.

 

“Go away.”

 

Her voice is strained, quiet. She’s been crying, Sam thinks.

 

“Please, Hannah, I just want to talk,” Sam reasons, moving closer to the door and pressing both her hands against it. She presses her forehead against the wood and closes her eyes.

 

“I, I’m a monster, Sam. I don’t want to hurt you any more than I already have.”

 

Sam’s heart broke.

 

Before anything else could happen, Sam was opening the door – which was unlocked, surprisingly – and walked in. Her eyes found Hannah in an instant but she made no move to join the girl where she sat.

 

Hannah was sitting directly across from the door, next to the entrance of the bathroom. She was curled up into a ball, gripping her legs firmly, face hidden by her knees and thinning hair. Her body was trembling, moving sharply at random when she sobbed particularly badly. Other than the odd gasp, Hannah was completely silent. Sam looked away and steeled herself.

 

“Hannah.” The blonde looked back to her friend, who had stopped moving. She was gripping her legs tightly, to the point where Sam was scared that she would leave marks. She curled into an even smaller ball as Sam started her approach.

 

The blonde sat down a couple feet away from her friend. She considered her options for a moment. Hannah looks up slightly, and stares into her eyes.

 

A moment too long.

 

Sam completely loses track of her thoughts when she saw her best friend’s eyes. Though they are now different in colour, they both convey the same emotions – guilt, regret, and complete and utter sadness, all bundled into two packages. Never in another moment of knowing her had the blonde stared into the very depths of Hannah’s soul, and she didn’t like what she saw.

 

She more felt it than saw it, but that didn’t make it matter any less. A red-hot hunger, seemingly emanating off her skin. It was consuming all the good she knew was within Hannah, and she suddenly understood.

 

She reached forward and gently placed her hands on her friend’s own, rubbing her thumbs on the back of her hands, which were now sticky with drying blood. She shuffled a little closer, not once breaking eye contact.

 

Once she was comfortably close to her friend, Sam softly spoke, “I know how to fix this.”

 

Hannah perked up at once, eyes wide, staring at Sam with a look that asked You can fix me?

 

The blonde nodded, a determined look on her face.

 

“Yeah, but Beth isn’t going to like it.”

 

The brunette was confused for a second, before a look of understanding and realization came over her face, her mouth open in an “o” shape.

 

“You up for that?” Sam delicately asks, tilting her head slightly. Hannah screws her eyes shut for a moment, takes in a deep breath through the nose and nods.

 

The blonde smiles, and gently coaxes Hannah into letting go of her legs and holding her hands. She pulls her friend up to a standing position and raises her eyebrows.

 

“We should probably get you cleaned up.”

 

 

 

 

Beth expected a lot of things when she walked into the house. She expected Hannah to be perfectly well, not eating meat, Sam to be helping her out, and Josh to probably be babbling about something strange.

 

What she didn’t expect, however, was to smell bacon. The minute the smell hit her, she dropped her bag in the foyer and sprinted to the kitchen. She threw open the door in a panic, and all conversation in the room ceased. Josh was busy cooking the bacon, while Sam and Hannah were both sitting on the counter. All of them were staring at Beth.

 

Everyone was silent. Beth looked from one of them to the other, to the other. After about a minute or so, Sam jumps off the counter and takes in a deep breath.

 

“So, Beth,” the blonde starts weakly, and Beth raises an eyebrow. The shorter girl inhales sharply before starting again.

 

“We, uh, need to talk.” Beth’s eyes widen in fear, and she – not so subtly – looks at Hannah. The girl shrinks at her gaze, and she turns away. Beth looks back at Sam, who had placed her hand on her arm.

 

“Okay,” the twin simply says, allowing herself to be led out of the kitchen by the blonde.

 

Josh laughs quietly to himself, “Yikes, that was awkward,” and goes back to focusing on the bacon. Hannah stares at the doorway and listened tensely for conversation. Neither of them in the kitchen could hear what Sam was saying to Beth, other than murmuring.

 

“WHAT!?” Beth suddenly shouted, her voice muffled by the walls of the kitchen. Hannah flinched at the noise and opts to look at the floor. She takes in a deep breath, noting that nothing followed the outburst.

 

A couple of minutes later, they both walk in. Beth immediately walks to Hannah, a steely determination in her eyes. Hannah’s stomach drops.

 

Beth reaches out, and grips onto her twin’s arms. Hannah tenses up, and Beth sighs.

 

“I’m sorry, Hannah.” The twin in question perks up, and looks into Beth’s eyes, which she once mirrored with her own. The older twin studies her sister’s face, and only sees regret.

 

“I was just… paranoid. I thought that getting meat out of your diet, it could… stop you from… y’know. I know that’s no excuse but... But it happened anyway and that’s my fault. And God... I’m so, so sorry.”

 

The apology hung on the air as Hannah processed it. Beth looked hopefully in her sister’s eyes for a second, before letting go of her arms and turning around. Sam could clearly see the tears welling up in Beth’s eyes, and understood why she had turned. She didn’t want her twin to see her cry.

 

A few seconds later, Hannah’s long, bony arms wrapped around Beth. The younger twin let out a sharp gasp, and visibly relaxed. She leaned into her sister’s touch and began sobbing.

 

“I forgive you,” was all Hannah said. Beth screwed her eyes shut and turned back to her sister and embraced her tightly.

 

Sam smiled to herself at the display. Josh, who had been listening and was on the verge of crying himself sniffled. He took in a deep breath before piling up the bacon on a plate.

 

“That was great, guys. Now, who wants some bacon?”