by Jeff C. Carter
Dr. Loomis winced as the old door grated open. He held his breath and waited for the lights to activate. The darkness refused to yield and he exhaled a quiet curse. He stayed in the dim column of light that spilled from the tunnel outside.
“Welcome, doctor. We were just about to begin our session without you,” Dr. Thaani Lev’s voice rasped from the corners of the black room.
“Give yourself up, Thaani. Come quietly or I’ll call the enforcers,” Dr. Loomis commanded.
“So you came alone, then?”
Dr. Loomis took a small step back towards the open doorway. “I suspected your behavior was becoming erratic. I should have stopped you sooner. Had I known what you were doing to those poor patients…,” Dr. Loomis’ voice faltered.
“Former patients, doctor. Cured. Set free!”
Dr. Lev’s voice exploded into a fit of ragged wet coughs that bounced off the walls, making it impossible for Dr. Loomis to trace.
Dr. Lev regained his breath and continued his taunts. “If you disagree with my methods you had better come in. I have new friends inside who will be disoriented when they awaken. Try to make them feel comfortable until they find their…legs,” Dr. Lev chuckled.
Dr. Loomis stepped fully into the room and the door squeaked shut behind him. His eyes soon began to pick out grey contours from the shadows of the room. The old storage bay was thick with the hard angles of dusty furniture and the manufactured edges of equipment. Nestled among them were the glistening curves of countless large orbs. “You don’t have to hurt anyone else. Release your patients and I’ll take care of them,” Dr. Loomis said. He moved deeper among the strange mounds looking for Dr. Lev’s captives.
A wet pop echoed in the distance, followed by an unrecognizable yet horrid stench that clawed at Dr. Loomis’ eyes and nose.
“You have my word, doctor. I will release them all,” Dr. Lev croaked.
A slow tapping hit the floor. Its tempo quickened into a hissing splash. As the steady drizzle increased the odor became overwhelming. Through his watering eyes Dr. Loomis saw that the mysterious globes were deflating. Dr. Loomis shielded his nose and mouth with his sleeve and stumbled towards the door. It slid open automatically, the light from the tunnel flaring across his blurry vision. Blocking the exit was something dark skinned and hunch backed, like a man on all fours. It must be Thaani, Dr. Loomis thought, catastrophic schizophrenia. “I’m not going to hurt you, Thaani. Do you understand?”
The shape in front of him replied with a slow chitter. It sounded like teeth clicking together.
Dr. Loomis squinted and rubbed his eyes. I must be seeing double, Dr. Loomis thought. It looks like he has eight legs.
A sudden sharp pain stung Dr. Loomis’ neck and he whirled around to find Dr. Lev holding a thin syringe. His eyes danced with manic glee from their red rimmed lids and sunken purple hollows.
“Relax, Doctor. It will all be over soon,” Dr. Lev cooed.
Dr. Loomis’ legs turned to rubber and he crumpled to the ground. He heard a sharp smack of his skull hitting the floor but he felt no pain. Thaani drugged me. But if Thaani was behind me… who is crouching at the door?
Dr. Lev looked around and gave an asthmatic chuckle before slipping into the shadows. More of the hunched shapes shambled into the light.
Eight legs…eight eyes. Dear God, not up here…not on Avenir!
Dr. Loomis grasped the true nature of the crawling things and tried to shriek in horror. The growing chorus of clicking mandibles swallowed the thin gurgle from his paralyzed throat.