Creature Thing

Though it's become clear to me I have no reason to hurry, my curiosity just won't let me rest. It's been a couple of days since my last entry, and I spent most of that time sitting outside in a field, waiting. But it was worth the wait.

I went out to the boundary, near the pond, where the map showed that large space on the other side. I found no evidence of it from the inside whatsoever, but I was pretty sure I had the right place, so I just sat and watched and listened. I had a hunch, which proved correct, that the large, fast-moving object I saw my first night here came from that place. I waited all day, and all night, and another day, and into that night without a peep.

I might have gotten bored and given up but for discovering I can speed up time even more easily than I can slow it. The problem with this, it occurred to me within the first momentary hour, is I'm apt to miss something important, or worse yet get killed or injured for failure to move when I ought to. I don't seem to be subject to sunburn, but imagine, for instance, if I were. Twelve hours worth of solar radiation blasted onto me in a subjective second. Bzzpff! Flash fried. Or let's say I picked my spot to camp out too well. One moment I'm staring at the boundary, the next I'm squished all over the field by a large object that plowed me under before I could even flinch.

However, I found with a little trial and error that I can get my conscious awareness to run at a different speed from my subconscious processing, and can "prime" my focus to alert me--to slow time down again--when something of interest happens. It's really quite marvelous, rather like a time-lapsed movie but even better because it runs fast when nothing's happening and then slows down for the interesting bits, then fast again...zip zip zip, very much again like the elevator map but now being able to zip my focus through time, not just space (except that, alas, I can't go backward).

And so all this time passed in just a minute or two, during which I found that remarkably little of interest happens here.

Until the middle of the second night, when something moved. I resumed time to its normal pace and stared intently at the boundary with every nuance of my enhanced vision. A jagged crack formed and a chunk of the boundary started to recede, like a horrific hairy-monster shaped cookie cutter was extracting its prey from the other side. (Okay, so some people see bunnies in clouds--I see hairy-monster shaped cookies in jaggy shapes.) I realized the edge of this receding slab followed the contours of the fingerprint-like surface of the boundary, which is probably why I hadn't found whatever hairline fracture must be there.

The whole receding slab split into at least a dozen pieces and opened quite suddenly, like an iris. It occurred to me a little late that I should step off to the side, as no sooner was the last edge of the iris clear of the opening than I was staring straight on to a large, rapidly approaching...thing! I slowed time and contemplated my predicament, mostly berating myself for not slowing time when the iris first started opening. I had been too preoccupied with curiosity to be concerned, and anyway it just hadn't occurred to me there would already be something rapidly approaching the moment the iris opened. I had naturally assumed: open door, pass through. Not open-door-pass-through. It rather caught me by surprise.

So, I tried to move out of the way, but physics just wouldn't have it. The thing was...well, just one of the ugliest things I've ever seen. It was clearly a machine, yet with no semblance of regularity. It had more appendages than I could count, sticking out every which way, but no two alike. And around the bottom, droopy, floppy, root-like things that almost, but not quite, reached the ground. In fact, it seemed not to be actually touching the ground anywhere I could see, so in a last-ditch effort I simply dove for the ground and prepared to be mauled by that forest of roots.

Molested might have been a better term. The thing clearly didn't want to run me over either, and pitched backward kicking up a huge cloud of dust in my direction. It was slowing, but not enough to keep from running me over. Then the feet came down. Those "roots", seven clusters of them, placed randomly about the bottom side, jutted down and started flopping about the earth in a most strange and chaotic pattern. There was no rhythm to it at all, just a cacophony of flippity-flopping that came to a halt right on top of me.

So, there I was, pinned underneath this heavy beast. It must have been the size of a small house, but spread over seven humongous feet the weight was bearable--at least I didn't feel like anything was about to go squish. For a moment, as the dust settled, we were both still. But then I noticed there was some commotion still going on above me, betrayed by the frantic sound of limbs flitting about.

Then I heard it, with my ethereal ear, something between a groan and a whine, quite emphatic.

"Uh, hello?" I said, ethereally.

Like the elephant and the mouse, the beast leapt into the air with all sevens, and an ocular appendage, which I gather had been frantically looking for me in the moment before, thrust down between the feet and stared intently at me as it crested through the peak of its jump. Back down again it came, though the feet shuffled apart this time and the root-like floppy tentacle foot bits slammed to the ground all around me, leaving me staring eyes to eye with a large, rather dirty, lens.

"Uh, hello," I said again, sheepishly.

If it had been able to blink, I'm sure it would have, as I don't think it quite comprehended what it was looking at. I could hear it "vocalizing" ethereally, but not in language, more like...animal noises. Indeed everything about it seemed quite foreign, the way it moved, the way it "emoted." It immediately seemed such a relic against the background of recent days.

Finally it shuffled out from over me so that I could stand up and brush myself off. Without further ado, it simply turned and with a few floppy chaotic steps set itself back into some sort of fan-assisted ground-effect flight, floppy toes nearly skimming the surface of the earth as it vanished into the darkness.

My turn to blink and contemplate the strangeness of what had just happened. Laura had no tales of large objects moving in the night, so I have to assume they usually and successfully avoided people entirely. But in retrospect, particularly at night in the infrared, I guess I just don't look like people.

I looked down at my feet and mused at the spread-eagle impression I had left in the loose earth. Then I noticed, peculiarly, that there was nothing else to notice. That is, no discernible sign that the beast had just been there tromping about, no trail of it flopping off into the distance. Actually, there were prints all around me, but they were sprawling and random and placed with such chaos that there was no pattern for the eye to catch. The earth had been changed since a minute before, but qualitatively it was exactly the same. These things could be running all over the place at night and nobody would ever know.

Fortunately, I'd learned my lesson and done most of this thinking with time slowed, because the iris was starting to close. I sprinted for it with all my might, and made a heroic leap (with height that impressed even myself) right for the center. Unfortunately, having left the ground and being committed, I only then took a bit more time to sufficiently analyze my actions.

First, I would have done better to aim for the bottom, because while I describe it as an iris, the pieces did not in fact overlap, and hence the gaps between them closed no more quickly than the center. And the center, for which I was now headed, was the convergence point for a baker's dozen of sharp tips. From what I could tell, due to the marginal time cost of aiming there instead of the bottom, these tips were apt to do said converging right about when my belly button was attempting to pass by.

Abort! Abort! Damn the laws of physics for refusing to accommodate changed intentions.

I broke the form of my stylish dive, spread my hands wide before me as though trying to stop an oncoming truck. With care I managed to palm two of the wedges flat on without any fingers hanging over to get lopped off, and also hit up high enough to start my body swinging down so my feet (or at least knees) could take some of the impact rather than risking my arms letting my head be the only bit to poke through. In the end the wedges closed in concert with a nice full-body flop against the wall, and I rebounded gracelessly but unharmed to the ground.

At first I was quite frustrated to have missed the chance, but then noticed the crack wasn't quite closed. I stood up to inspect it and finally noticed--way up high--a small bit of my shirt dangling from the wall. I grabbed a small twig and poked it into the crack, and found not entirely to my surprise I could pry it open with no effort at all. It seems designed to give way to any otherwise hapless obstacle. So I peeled the wedges apart with my two hands, and stepped inside.

Or stepped outside, depending on how you look at it.

The bit of my shirt having now fallen free, the iris closed tight and left me in even more complete darkness except for a warm infrared glow suffusing the room from the back. It was a vast, tall room, but essentially empty except for various protrusions and indentions along the back wall, mostly near floor level. There were no other many-armed rooty creature things here. There was nothing much at all. It seemed clearly a room designed for much more, but now felt abandoned.

The back wall was most interesting, with numerous pipes and doors and hoppers, as well as a number of cavities of various sizes, mostly box-shaped. None of the doors were dimensioned for human passage, nor could I coax any open, but I could see a fair way through many of them in the infrared and they all led to tubes, chambers, or passageways of one sort or another. At least a couple of them were very reminiscent of the shafts the "elevator" moved through (which were lined with a peculiar, repeating diamond-grid of elements; whether circuitry or something else, I couldn't say).

The open cavities were perplexing, each densely surrounded (within the wall) by complex arrays of tubes or circuits or both, though each so different from the others I doubt any two served a similar function. Only one of them responded to my prodding--a small box-shaped recess less than half a meter cubed, the sort of thing that might display a vase if it were in a home rather than this industrial setting. I reached in to touch the back, just in aimless poking around, but before my fingers reached the end two thick steel plates slammed in from either side aiming to crush my hand. I reflexively yanked my hand back in the nick of time and the plates clanged against each other and then withdrew, so that an instant later all was quiet and the box looked as innocent as it had when I first offered my hand to it. The same hand now offered it the middle finger, and I ventured onward down the wall a little more carefully.

I hadn't gotten very far in my exploring the many fine gadgets of the back wall when the faint visible-spectrum glow of the never-quite-dark night streamed in through the opening iris. I ran to the side of the room and tried to hide in the corner, though there was nothing to hide behind. With a whoosh, in whisked my floppy-toed friend, coming to a windy and chaotic stop almost at the back wall.

Then I saw the pair of legs--human legs--come flipping out into view, and for a moment they just dangled there, sticking out sideways, up high along the body of the beast. In infrared silhouette, as it mostly was, it seemed some perverse shadow-puppet show. The body pitched forward fully into view, and arced down toward the ground, its left shoulder gripped firmly by one of the creature-thing's appendages, and its legs thudding against the floor and then jerking and squirming against the friction of being dragged. It was being carried and flung about the way one might handle a dirty towel. I could see now it was a very old man.

Hopefully dead.

I could swear someone was faintly humming a tune.

The creature-thing brought the old man to the recess that almost ate my hand, and still holding him by the shoulder, brusquely stuffed his head into the opening. I cringed in horror expecting to see the old man's head burst like a melon, but it just twisted straight as the two plates slammed in, and stayed wedged firmly there between them. I was on edge waiting for that cracking sound of the skull giving under the pressure, but when I flinched it was not the man's skull cracking, rather the sudden appearance of a cloth-like shroud that snapped tight around his neck. This effectively created a door covering the front of the cavity while still allowing his neck to pass through. I guessed this was to keep the mess from squidging out, but it was also quite opaque even to my enhanced vision so I couldn't see what was going on.

A ring of broad-spectrum light erupted from his neck, and I could see his spine and veins and all manner of icky bits quite clearly there, until finally the light subsided, the shroud and plates retracted, and the creature-thing pulled the man from the cubby seemingly unharmed but for a bad case of hat-hair.

I was still berating myself for my failed gruesome expectations when the creature-thing, now further down the wall, chucked the man into a hopper which violently and jerkingly yanked him in and, as best my eyes could see into the machinery, ground him into a fine paste and squeezed him out the back end into a small tube of unknown destination.

The creature-thing sat examining itself for the few bits of blood and whatnot that had spattered back, cleaning them with an apparatus mounted just under the lens on its ocular appendage. This all gave the distinct impression it was licking itself. I unthinkingly let out an ethereal groan of disgust--having gotten into the habit of talking "out loud" to myself ethereally around humans who can't hear it--and the creature-thing looked up with a start at me.

I ran as fast as I could for the iris, which was now long closed, trusting that it would open for me if approached from the inside.

It didn't.

I bounced back a good distance and then some further on my back before finally sliding to a stop. Staring now at the ceiling high above, the creature-thing's round, frosty lens panned into my view like a cartoon moon rising into my surreal night. Again I swear I felt it blink.

It ethereally vocalized something to me which I can only describe as a sound Scooby Doo might make. I raised a brow at it in return, not sure whose was the next move.

I tried to get up, but this time it didn't have anywhere else to be and didn't seem to want me going anywhere. It promptly stepped on me with one of its giant sprawling feet and I was flat on my back again. Three other appendages joined in the examination, including one that was able to emit broad spectrum radiation and shine through me like I was one of those see-through goldfish. I pinned my chin to my chest marveling at my own insides--which I won't even attempt to describe here except for one disturbing observation: I have ants. That is, I saw thousands of little macroscopic critters actively crawling about inside of me. It was very creepy. Nothing nano about it. I can't explain it.

Anyway, then the creature-thing started rather deftly undressing me, which was the last thing I expected. I'm not talking about simply forcibly tearing the clothes away from my body; it was undoing buttons and pulling socks down by the tops and stuff. I've never been undressed so well or so fast before in my life. I didn't know what to make of it. But, despite the recent hopper incident, I could sense a distinct ethereally-emoted benevolence, so I felt no immediate need to struggle for my life.

Creature-thing's appendages starting going places I hadn't counted on. Mind you, there was nothing erotic about this, but if I described the incident in detail it would sound like a smorgasbord of obscure fetish porn, including surreal elements like a many-inch-long probe into my belly-button. Stranger yet, a number of small objects were retrieved from various places in the process. The last of these was a shiny cylinder the size of a marker pen, which when pulled from my abdomen left me feeling like I'd just had the wind knocked out of me.

It finally stepped off me and turned to leave. I tried to stand up, but reality began to fade and I felt myself falling back to the ground. Then in a snap of time, Creature-thing was standing over me again, retracting its probe from my belly-button, and I noticed half a dozen appendages sporting the objects it had removed before, and one or two it hadn't, and I braced myself for their replacement.

Afterward I waved off its attempt to redress me, preferring to do it myself. As I closed the last couple buttons of my shirt, I said, "Was it good for you?" It just turned and trotted off to a corner, lowered itself completely to the ground, and shut off.

I'd been feeling pretty good before, but I felt great now. And no, I still maintain there was nothing erotic about it. I think I just had my 30,000 mile tuneup.

I noticed something behind me and spun around to see what it was. Nothing there, but I could still feel it. Finally I realized it was the iris--I could just tell it was there, I could feel it, even when I wasn't looking at it, like it was an extension of my own body. So I pulled at it with my mind, extracted the jagged shape backward from the boundary, and then when I felt it clear I pushed the bits out of the way and the iris flung open before me revealing the dim of the night and the smell of the pond near by.

Enough for one trip. I walked out into the night, closed the iris behind me, walked home, scrawled this note, and now I'm going to climb quietly into bed with Laura before the sun comes up.

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