Hunger: Chapter Three

Hours passed as Raul ripped and tore away chunks of meat heavily overgrown with the fungi attached to the pig’s spine. As he pulled away mouthful after mouthful, Raul found that the growth was not forming on the skin but pushing through the flesh from the spine. He didn’t bother much with it, Raul didn’t even think about it, he really didn’t think about anything. Somewhere in the back of his head a voice was screaming for him to stop and try to throw up as much of the meat as he could but it didn’t seem possible. With every bite, he only became hungrier. Raul’s hunger had grown so extreme that even after he picked the hog to down bones it still ached him.

Stepping away from the corpse, now little more than sticky submerged bones and those remaining organs that were inedible, reality struck. For a moment, Raul couldn’t believe what he was seeing or what he had done. Then those thoughts passed an another growling of hunger shook his body like an earthquake. He stood staring for minutes on end, thinking of going back to gnaw the bones or shovel those less than appetizing pieces down his gullet. Sensible thoughts flooded in after a second, saving Raul the indignity of scarping through the remains to find more morsels. It had to be the parasite, he told himself before correcting it properly to, the parasites.

It wasn’t going to be pleasant but Raul would get out of here, get to a doctor or one of the staff here, and have the worms removed. Hopefully, he thought, it would go better for whoever helped him than it did for the hog. Yet, there was the big problem of getting out first then finding anyone who could extract this horrid things. With another grumbling from within, Raul had to wonder if he would make it that long before he needed to feed once more. He couldn’t be sure there were other creatures milling about in the water labs or if any that were would be so easy to fell as the piggy. Then again, he recalled the ray that had gotten him into this mess and figured if the thing was edible he may just eat it out of spite. It seemed a silly thought but again, Raul wasn’t quite in a normal situation and didn’t have his mind in anywhere close to the right place. Pushing away his hunger as far as he could from his mind, Raul carried on.

After a little while longer, Raul reached the far wall of the wet lab number one. It felt like it had taken half a day to move from one end of the room to another when it should have only taken minutes. Sure, Raul moved cautiously, there had been the hog, and the hunger, but even excluding the confrontation, he should have been here ages ago. Worry set in that perhaps he had bashed his head in and was suffering from some delusions or what have you. Stroking his head, Raul came away with a cluster of loose hair that pulled out so easily that he could hardly notice. Bringing another hand across his scalp found more hair coming free like frost on a tub of ice cream in the middle of summer. He breathed a heavy, panicked breath before steadying. Hair could grow back, getting out of this situation was more important. Most important of all was that he got the worms out of him, they were likely just sapping nutrients at this point. Touching bald scalp, Raul didn’t find the open gash he had expected. Relief should have struck him then but even if it had it would have been short lived, quashed by what came next.

On the far wall, the one shared with wet lab number two, there was a break in the lower half, just about an inch above water. The slits had been put in place to allow water to flow between all three of the spaces without issue. Yet, there was the issue of the grate that ran the full length of this crevasse. Had it not been there, Raul could have held his breath and slunk beneath the wall to reach the next area, now he was wondering if he would die down here. It had been a Friday evening before the fall, no one would be in until Tuesday because of the holiday. Three days would pass before anyone might find him and that was still suspect. The wet labs were not used every day or even every week. Sometimes, they would stick projects and specimen in one of the labs at the first of the month and not revisit the lab until the last of the month. Raul sighed and sunk down into the murky waters around his knees.

Gripping the underside of the wall, Raul began putting boots to the grate, determined to either break it or break himself. The water made his task difficult, it slowed the impact and often made his boots slip. After a few minutes, Raul realized that he wasn’t even able to get a solid strike in on the gate. Allowing his hands to fall to the floor so that he supported himself like a crab, Raul about surrendered any thought of escape. However, despite Raul’s complacency in giving up, there was one who wasn’t keen on dying in the water. The worms slithered out of this chest and narrowly crept through the grate. Through their sight, Raul found an emergency control on the opposite side. It was a quick pull of the lever and he was through with his slightly more helpful parasites.

Crawling under the wall, Raul felt an almost instant increase in temperature once fully in the second lab. Where the first area had felt mild, just about the same as any other room in the facility, the second was almost tropical. Clearly the humidity was pushing through from the second into the first, the fog as well as it was so much heavier in the second lab. Even the water was somewhat tempered, like a lukewarm cup of tea. It was not a wholly bad thing, Raul almost liked it when compared to the cool waters behind him but it was still a discomfort all areas that were not submerged.

Looking up, Raul found the platform above was empty as well, he hadn’t gotten up his hopes but still felt let down. Yet, the upper levels were not completely unoccupied. Something half the size of the platform, its skin moist and shining like an emerald, slithered along there. Surveying the situation a little more in depth, Raul found there were three canisters on the edge of the platform. They were large enough to fit a man and three could fit with all the width they had. All of them looked ruptured which gave Raul an ill feeling in the pit of his gut. It was the first time he felt anything but hunger, yet unease was not preferable by contrast.

He decided to keep moving, whatever had been in those containers was likely just fodder for the slimy thing on the platform. Reconsidering that prospect, the canisters may have contained the experiment itself and some sort chemical agents to help or possibly hinder it. Raul continued at a careful pace, not wanting to attract the attention of this new entity yet that was made impossible. Coming just below the structure, Raul’s foot slipped as the floor dropped suddenly by at least a yard. He splashed forward, going fully under the pink water before reemerging with a panicked gasp for air. Worse still, the ground under the platform was slick like algae covered rocks sitting in a riverbed. Yet, worse got even worse as the colossal thing over head, began to push itself to the edge of the platform just above Raul.

There was no waiting for Raul, he could barely distinguish what the creature was let alone if it was coming for him, he knew he should run. Sloshing further step by step, the water rose from his ribs to chest and finally shoulders before Raul was forced to swim. The reminder that he had never been an exceptionally strong swimmer, hardly even a proficient one, struck Raul as he pathetically tried to doggy paddle through the water. For all of a second, he picked up speed only to realize that he had been given a boost from the creature splashing into the pool. As he swiveled to note this, Raul was confronted also with a horrible reality, despite its size, the thing could swim.

It didn’t paddle or swim with limbs but the mass of indistinct tissue pushed steadily through the waves without any visible propulsion like a crocodiles beak in murky water. The dangerous looking pile of chemicals and DNA only floated closer, obviously fixing on Raul. To his credit, Raul paddled harder than he ever had before as he concluded doom was upon him. He made it a few more yards, the thing had to make up for lost time and was pressing on him as quick as it was able. Raul had almost made it to the far end of the platform, the ground gradually began to rise, but as his feet found the slick floor, the creature found him.

As it slapped into him, Raul expected to feel spikes and barbs, hands or tentacles, or a mouth crushing him in massive teeth. Instead, the creature sloshed under him, Raul could feel it beneath his boots, and seemingly stopped as it disappeared. The moment forced Raul to halt and try to assess the situation, decide if that really happened, but that was a mistake. In seconds, Raul found himself rising from the water by a means he couldn’t explain. It was like a raft was inflating under foot and pushing him above the surface. Yet, as he looked down, Raul found the green, fleshy mound, just under foot.

With the equivalent force and speed of a mousetrap, the creature’s sides slammed together, fully encasing Raul. It was odd, there were not teeth or stingers, just rough walls that had randomly spaced and sized bulges jutting from them. There was no chewing motion or spikes to grate him on, Raul simply was housed inside. As the water drained out from the lower ends, however, a horrible odor began to pump into the closed off space. At first it seemed an innocuous thing until it became something more noxious.

Drops of deep ocean blue, began secreting from the walls of the creature’s insides, slowly leaking down to fill the lowest portion. Some of the streams of fluid began to spurt out and splatter onto Raul’s clothes. The second any piece of his apparel or flesh was touched by the ooze it smoked and burnt as though dosed with acid. As Raul realized just what kind of peril he was in, he began to struggle, kicking and punching at the walls that sealed him in. There was no give from blunt force but the flesh was soft where it did not bulge with dense material. If he had anything sharp he could jam into, Raul was certain he would be able to get free.

Then it came to him, more specifically, it came for the fleshy thing that had trapped its host. Not only did the first worm slither from Raul but the second as well. They both plunged into the fleshy walls, each taking a different side. When Raul went to look through the eyes of his worm, his mind struggled, trying to set his vision right. He could see both through both of the worming creatures as they plundered the attacking creature’s innards. Each of them found worms not unlike what had been in the worm or the one inside Raul. Both of them began to consume and ravage the others, some were brought back into Raul while others, smaller ones, were wholly made into food. After the creature was cleared out, the worms receded and the folds of loose flesh fell away.

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