“So someone is worshipping Subject X?” Randolph asked.
Herbert paused from adjusting a lamp. “That’s what it looked like to me. I suppose I shouldn’t be so surprised. Anything can be made into an idol with the right perspective.”
“But a giant blob?” Randolph replied, tightening his gloves for the next experiment.
Herbert shrugged. “It takes all kinds.” Speaking more formally he addressed his recorder. “Experiment log Subject X 153: Response to tactile stimuli.”
“I still can’t believe you’re going to have me actually touch this thing.”
“Relax; those gloves are insulated against every corrosive agent known to man. And even if they aren’t, well, that’s what we’re here to find out, isn’t it?”
Just as Randolph was about to dip his hands into the chamber, there was an ear splitting cry of “NO! None may violate the Goddess!” and both doctors looked up to see a lab assistant charging them with a scalpel.
Unprepared, Randolph was bowled over, and one of his gloves came lose. It was this unprotected hand that came into direct contact with the blob. Things became fuzzy then. He was vaguely aware of Herbert pulling the crazed lab tech off of him and shouting “Gods Curwen, what’s with you?” But the rest was gibberish.
All was darkness. Randolph could see nothing, nor did he feel any part of his body. He had no idea how much time had passed, or where he was.
I AM (am i?)
“What? Who said that?”
UNITY(progenitor) I WAS(will be) YOU(carter) NOT(other)
“Okay, this is nuts”
SHAPE(form) STABLE(permanent) HOW(why?)
“I don’t know what your-”
And then he woke up.
When Randolph awoke it took a few moments for his eyes to focus. When they finally did so, they were drawn to Abbey, sitting by the bedside. Herbert was standing next to her.
“You gave us quite a scare, Randy” she said.
“The good news,” Herbert chimed in, “is that Subject X seems to have had no adverse effects on your system.”
Randolph tried to rise, but found it tougher then expected. “How is that possible?”
“The universe works in mysterious ways. We’re just glad to see your okay.”
“What about the guy who attacked me?”
“We’ve got him in the brig.” Abbey replied. “He seems to be one heck of a fruit loop. Kept babbling on about some ‘goddess’”
“Be that as it may,” Randolph said, I’d like to see him as soon as I’m fit.”
Herbert raised an eyebrow. “Sure, but don’t say we didn’t warn you.”
Herbert stepped out, and Randolph and Abby were left alone.
“I managed to convince the ministers to allow me access to your quarters. I brought this for you.” She said, handing him the old book.
“’The Maker of Moons’ Abigail you’re too good to me.”
Abby smiled. “Someone has to be. So, what was it like to touch that thing?”
Randolph flipped through the pages absently as he talked. “I don’t really remember too much. I had this weird dream though, while I was out. There was this weird voice talking to me from everywhere at once. I didn’t understand what it was saying though. It asked me questions.”
“Oh? Like what?”
“It asked me why I was ‘stable’ or some crap like that.” Randolph chuckled. “But hey, it’s just a dream, right?”
“Some would argue otherwise.”
“The emperor’s seers are full of it. You know it, I know it. Speaking of which, how is everybody down there? The Twenty?”
“The Son of Heaven’s precious progeny are just as cold as everyone else on that deck.”
Randolph nodded. “Good. You know, sometimes I wish they would stay that way.”
Abby was visibly taken aback. “You can’t mean that?”
“C’mon babe, the only reason we’re here right now, floating above this world, is that we’ve ruined our own. I look past all the propaganda, the whole ‘expand the empire’ spiel, and I really do wonder if we can make a new world. But listen to me. I sound like one of those damned Naturists.”
“I never thought you were a tree hugger.”
“I’m not a tree hugger Abby, just a realist. The tree huggers had a point. We make mistakes, but we’re not so good at fixing them.”
“Maybe. Let’s see how philosophical you’re feeling after a bit more rest.” And with that she turned out the light.
Randolph regarded the man sitting across from him, separated by a wall of glass. The calligraphy on his uniform identified him as Joseph Curwen, and he seemed to be trying his level best to be inscrutable.
“Why did you attack me?” Randolph asked.
Curwen smiled. It was one of those creepy smiles from old horror films. Randolph didn’t think it was possible to grin like that. “I thought you would defile the Goddess. But you proved me wrong, didn’t you Dr. Carter?”
“Goddess? What goddess?”
“Sub-Niggurath, the un-begotten source, the first and the last. You have her under plasteel in your laboratory.”
“Wait, you think subject X is…Oh man! Now I’ve seen everything.
Curwen didn’t stop smiling. “Don’t be so quick to scoff Doctor. You touched the Goddess and lived. She has plans for you. Frankly I’m jealous.”
“I’m seriously recommending another psyche evaluation for you Curwen. You do realize your heaping devotion on a shapeless blob?”
“But she is so much more. You saw. She gives life, and takes it away.”
“Yeah, well ‘she’ can’t seem to decide whether to give life or take it, or haven’t you noticed?”
“Yes, she has lost most of her power, but all it takes is a gentle touch.”
As Randolph walked away, Curwen began laughing. Real honest-to-the-gods maniacal laughter. He had heard space travel could get to people, but never in so cliché a way.
“Day 5, getting nowhere.” Herbert said into his recorder. “This thing is a riddle wrapped in an enigma, wrapped in pulsing slime. So far my staff and I still have not been able to divine any rhyme or reason to the shape of the subjects ‘offspring’ and I’m beginning to doubt there is one. It’s budded yet again, making another of its anatomical absurdities…wait. Is that…it is!”
The containment area was large, the better to accommodate Subject X and its progeny. This new creature was small and growing rapidly, but for all that, it had symmetry.
It was like a black shrimp, with multiple legs and a long curving tail. Glowing clusters on its front end gave it what could be called a head. Membranous wings sprouted from its back, and the front legs ended in pincers.
Herbert wasted no time. “Watts, get this thing into its own cell. Right. Now.