Genre: Horror/Science Fiction
Saturday, August 2, 2014
VARIABLE: PART TWO
Genre: Horror/Science Fiction
By Daniel Skye
A NEW SPECIES
Dylan Ford stood aghast, his hand clasped over his mouth. He was repulsed by the ghastly sight of Bobby Edward McNamara’s hideous transformation, yet he was transfixed. And so he found himself staring intently, unable to tear his eyes away from the sickening spectacle.
Bobby Mac’s skin continued to crack and peel away, each discarded layer giving birth to a new mass of scaly green flesh beneath his human coat.
A phone was ringing, seemingly in the distance. Then Dylan felt the vibration in his pocket and broke free from his trance as he realized the ringing phone was not at all distant.
It was Harrison Langstrom calling as he pulled the phone from his pocket, answering immediately. “This isn’t a good time,” Dylan whispered, eyes still locked on Bobby Mac.
“Dylan, the black worm…” Harrison said before trailing off.
“What about the black worm?” Dylan whispered back.
“It’s dividing, separating.”
“Is this a good thing or a bad thing?”
“It’s terrible, Dylan!” Harrison exclaimed. “It’s not a worm anymore. It’s now worms, plural. Not singular. They're multiplying as they split apart, creating new, identical life forms.”
“That’s not the worst part,” Dylan muttered, wishing Harrison could see exactly what he meant.
“You should get over here as soon as possible,” Harrison advised him.
“I’ll see what I can do,” Dylan said, making no promises.
By the time he disconnected with Harrison, Bobby Mac had fully undergone his grisly transformation. What stood before him now was not a man. Nothing that even closely resembled a man.
Dry, rigid scales adorned his new body. A spiky green tail curled at his backside. Reptilian eyes stared back at him through deep, hollow sockets. A forked tongue slithered in and out between two rows of jagged teeth.
Dylan bolted for the door and made it to his car before the creature could make its first move. The entire time it seemed to be looking to Dylan, not at him, as if it was asking him for answers. Those confused green eyes asked one simple question: Who am I?
The better question now, Dylan thought, is what is he? And not even he or Harrison held the answers to that one.
He raced back to Harrison’s place, where the worms had in fact multiplied in numbers as Harrison had informed Dylan in a manic state.
“You’re not going to believe what I just saw,” Dylan said when he was able to catch his breath and find the words.
He laid it on thick, sparing no graphic details. He wanted Harrison to comprehend exactly what they were dealing with.
“We’re in way over our heads,” Harrison said, putting it mildly. “We may have to call in the big guns.”
“And who are the big guns?”
“The government. The CDC. NASA scientists. I don’t fucking know. But this is far beyond our control."
“But you said we were looking at an entirely new species here. This is a once in a lifetime discovery. We can’t just hand this over. Think about it; this is what you’ve always wanted, to be one of top scientists in the world. Imagine your name etched in the pages of every science textbook. This is an opportunity to be famous beyond our wildest dreams. Just think of the money.”
Blinded by dollar signs, Harrison was actually considering the option. “What would we have to do?”
“For now, nothing. We don’t breathe a word of this to anyone. We plead ignorance if the cops ask us about Bobby Mac. We let the worms fester in their tank and keep feeding them water just to keep them alive. Then we wait. I have a feeling these worms are still in a larva stage of sorts. They haven’t fully developed yet.”
“For our sakes, I hope you’re wrong with that theory. But while we’re exchanging notes, I have a theory of my own. If these organisms are both parasitic and pelagic, and they do rely on water to survive as pelagic organisms do, then it would make sense they’d choose humans as hosts. Our bodies are mostly comprised of water.”
“Interesting theory. Save it for your big speech to the world when this discovery makes us both rich.”
Harrison sighed. At the end of the day, they agreed to keep their lips sealed on these bizarre events, at least until more sense could be made of them.
* * *
Harrison couldn’t sleep that night. He stayed up to watch the black worms as they continued to separate and multiply in numbers. By dawn, the bottom of the tank was a black sea of worms, all writhing and pulsing and trying to wriggle their way up the glass.
He was starting to believe Dylan’s unusual theory about the larva stage, as the worms grew and livened with each drop of water Harrison bestowed upon them. There was no determining where or when the growth would end. They could’ve grown to the size of snakes, for all Harrison knew. But one thing was certain. At this rate, the tank eventually wouldn’t be able to hold them.
Harrison had theories of his own. But if he was going to prove those theories, he needed a willing–or perhaps not so willing–test subject.
At dawn, when the sun was still weak, Dylan Ford came knocking at Harrison’s door.
“Couldn’t sleep either?” Harrison asked as he held the door open for Dylan.
Dylan walked in and flopped on the couch, his eyes strained and bloodshot from lack of sleep. “What are we doing?” Dylan asked, shaking his head. “This whole thing about the money, it’s not us. We’re not the rapacious type. We need to do the right thing here. And it starts with Bobby Mac. I don’t know if it’s too late to save him, but we can still save others.”
“About that,” Harrison said. “I have a solution that might be best for all parties involved.”
“Lay it on me.”
* * *
Bobby Mac–or the creature once known as Bobby Mac–had not left its place of origin. It loomed in the shadows of the living room, presiding over the mound of flesh that had once been its body.
“Water,” a voice that was anything but human croaked inside this abomination. “Must have water.”
“It’s worse than you described,” Harrison said, retching and pinching his nose with two fingers to repress the horrific stench.
“Should we…should we get him some water?”
“It’s not a him,” Harrison reminded Dylan. “Not anymore.” Harrison approached with caution, one hand held up in front, the other hiding behind his back.
Glowing green eyes stared back at Harrison as he moved closer. Eyes that were impossible to read. Harrison couldn’t tell if this thing meant harm or if it was still in control of its emotions.
Wasting no time, he produced the syringe from behind his back and plunged it deep into its neck, hard enough to break the scales.
A series of disturbing, indescribable noises followed as the creature fell to its side and twitched about the floor. It sounded to Dylan like the creature was trying to breath, but it just couldn’t catch the air. It took less a minute for it to stop flailing around.
“Is he…I mean, is it–”
“Yes,” Harrison said before he could even pose the question. “It’s dead. Or at least it should be.”
“What’d you do?”
“Injected it with a powerful diuretic. It dried the thing out instantly. Now we’ve got no time for any more questions. Help me pick it up.”
“Pick it up?”
“Yes, I have some tests I need to run, and I can’t do it here. We’re bringing it back to my place. Let’s pray nobody sees us. But if they do, we say it’s a movie prop.”
“It doesn’t smell like a prop to me,” Dylan remarked, waving his hand in front of his nose.
* * *
Harrison performed a full autopsy on the creature back at his place. The organs–heart, liver, kidneys, lungs–still remained. It was in the lower chest cavity where Harrison found the culprit. A single black worm that had attached itself to Mac’s body.
He dropped it to the floor and stomped it with his shoe until it was a stain of black pulp against the wood.
“What does this confirm?” Dylan asked, a clothespin clamped over his nose to block the smell.
“It confirms that the worms are parasites, as I suspected. And it goes a step further to proving my theory that they target humans because of the water our bodies retain. It also confirms we’re looking at a species that’s likely never been encountered before.”
“All you found was one worm? Could there be more?”
“I did a full search. This was the only one. Here’s what I think happened. Two worms found their way into his system. As they were crawling around, looking for a place to attach themselves, one found its way into Bobby’s lower intestines, right around the time he…well, you know.”
“Oh, that would explain how it wound up in the toilet.”
“But it sure as hell doesn’t explain where they came from. I’m afraid this can no longer wait. We have to share this with them.”
“With who? The CDC? The NSA?”
* * *
Irvine Walsh was trying his best to console Pat, but the boy was beyond consolation. He sat in the corner of his room, blubbering like a baby as Irvine offered words of sympathy while trying to scoop Goldie up with a tiny net.
Goldie was Pat’s pet goldfish, whom Pat had found floating lifelessly at the bottom of his fish tank when he woke to feed him that morning.
Tears streamed down young Patrick’s face; the shock of losing a pet was not a feeling Pat was accustomed to. This was his first.
Imagine if we had gotten a dog, Irvine thought.
Melanie had come in to lend her husband a hand with Pat, but she just ended up making things worse.
“It’s going to be all right,” Melanie assured young Pat. “We’re going to get a new goldfish, I promise.”
“I don’t want a new fish,” Pat cried. “I want Goldie back.”
“I’m sorry, Pat, but Goldie is gone,” Melanie said, turning to Irvine and shrugging her shoulders as if to say ‘what can I do?’ She observed the condition of the fish tank and balked. “No wonder this happened. Look at this tank, Irvine. Look how filthy it is. When was the last time you cleaned it and changed the water? Look at the algae built around the sides.”
Irvine had cleaned the tank a week before and after giving it a second look, he saw what she was talking about. “That doesn’t look like algae to me,” he said, shaking his head. “Algae is green. This stuff is black. And I think…dear God, I think it’s…moving.”
“Daddy,” his son called. His tears had ceased and he was pointing with one tiny finger at his father’s side. “Your elbow. I think it’s bleeding.”
Irvine rubbed his fingers over his elbow and felt a scab forming at the tip. When he drew his hand back, he saw not blood, but a thick yellowish puss.
TO BE CONTINUED