Authors: David Bischoff
She looked around, and then down, and caught sight of a manhole cover.
“Here!” she cried. “Help me lift it!”
The boys helped her, putting their fingers in the pryholes and lifting the cover to one side with a clatter.
At the corner a Dumpster, borne on a wave of the monster, smashed into the brick wall, crumbling and spewing trash, which was rapidly covered by the rolling putrescent ooze.
“Down!” she ordered, grabbing Kevin and pushing him into the dark hole. “Come on, you too!” she said, but Eddie needed no urging. He was already jumping down in Kevin’s wake.
The Blob hissed closer, closer.
Meg stepped down the first three metal rungs, ducking down below ground level and grabbing the manhole cover by its side. Somehow she found the energy to pull it back over the hole. It clanged into place, just as she sensed the Blob pouring over it.
She started moving farther down into the darkness, where she could hear Kevin and Eddie moving around.
Something grabbed at her hair.
Strands of acidic slime were leaking down, tangling in her hair! With a scream she jumped, and felt a rip on her scalp as whole clumps were pulled away. She hit concrete piping.
She could hear her hair sizzling above her.
She rolled away, sloshing through the water at the bottom of the round pipe, not even noticing the terrible stench.
She ran into a form and gasped.
“Meg!” cried Kevin. “It’s us!”
Kevin and Eddie were waiting for her at a juncture of the piping, in the dark.
“Which way, Meg?”
She pushed them in a random direction. One way was as good as another, as long as it headed away from that thing dripping down behind them.
Anthony Peters watched in disbelief as the stuff slammed through the theater exit door, cutting his friends off.
What was that thing? The kid watched it as it poured out, assuming a bulbous shape as it rolled after its three intended victims. Anthony was so dazed he didn’t think to just turn and run. Fascinated, he watched the slimy creature squirm down the alley like an inside-out giant worm.
It disappeared around the corner.
“Eddie!” he cried.
Eddie was his best buddy! They were blood brothers, he and Eddie. He couldn’t just leave him!
Anthony ran after the creature. Maybe he could help Eddie and Meg and Kevin.
When he turned the corner, he saw an astonishing thing.
There was the pile of gunk that had chased them all, at the cul-de-sac of the alley.
And it was dwindling in size.
“Eddie!” he cried in horror as he noticed by the dim streetlighting the half-eaten bodies bobbing inside the gelatinous ooze. Could it have gotten Eddie?
But then Anthony realized that the thing wasn’t disappearing. It was flowing down a manhole, into the sewers. It was still chasing Eddie and Meg and Kevin.
They might be still alive!
“Help!” he cried, turning and running back out of the alley. “Somebody help!”
He had to tell everybody where that monster went!
They had to save Eddie!
t didn’t take long for Brian Flagg to find his motorbike again, and it didn’t take long to fix it, with the help of Moss’s ratchet.
Now came the tricky part.
from this crazy place.
Like, there were soldiers swarming all over!
Brian didn’t dare get on his bike and start it. The thing was too loud, and this close to all this military activity he’d be a goner—they’d hear him for sure, run out in their high-tech gadgets and grab him up, just like that.
So he was walking his bike now, through the undergrowth, trying to figure out the best way to sneak around the encampment to the road.
He ducked down behind a clump of bushes as two of the plastic suits, carrying M16’s, marched by. Boy, and they had reinforcements too! One of the soldiers had a German shepherd at the end of the leash. The dog’s nose was on the ground, sniffing away.
One of the soldiers had a walkie-talkie. The sound of cross-chatter drifted over to Brian’s ears from the device.
“We got the town sealed tight as a drum,” said the voice from the walkie-talkie. “Roads closed. Phone lines severed. Civilian radio frequencies jammed. Over.”
The soldier turned and disappeared over a rise, the light from their flashlights bouncing ahead of them.
This was the way, wasn’t it? thought Brian, getting back up and pushing his bike ahead of him. The one-lane road was just up ahead. If he could get there, he’d be home free.
Of course, the best route was right past the area where that meteor had fallen. It was just as chancy as the alternatives, so Brian Flagg decided to try for it.
Sure enough, there was the crash site, with all the vehicles and lights and equipment and stuff huddled around it. Brian skirted the periphery, the wheels of the bike rolling along beside him among the trees. The familiar burnt smell of the place wafted to him, along with the murmur of voices . . .
And the whirring of machinery.
Just ahead, past a break in the trees, the moonlight washed across that narrow country road he’d been looking for, the one heading
Yes, sir, he thought, smiling. Freedom just ahead!
But then he stopped. The machinery sound had stepped up in volume. And there was a whining sound. Brian knew that sound. It was the sound of a winch!
Those dudes were hauling something up! The meteor? But how could they get a grip on a piece of rock?
Intrigued, Brian carefully set his bike down and went over to check this out. One little peep wouldn’t do any harm.
He crawled up through some underbrush toward the top of the rise. Looking down, he had a good view of the crash site and the crater.
Holy moley, they had a crane there, all right, and he could hear the whining of the winch even better from here as it pulled something up out of the hole. Soldiers were clustered all around, yeah . . . And wait . . . there was that old dude, Dr. Trimble, watching, alongside Colonel Hargis and another guy.
“Gently, now. Gently!” Trimble was saying.
The thing at the end of the crane was being lifted up out of the hole, and Brian could see it very clearly. It was a charred and battered orb, but its smooth metallic surface gleamed in the moonlight.
Brian Flagg took in a breath.
Jeez! That was no meteor.
That was a satellite!
A man-made, shot-up-in-the-sky-on-the-nose-of-a-rocket satellite!
The crane arm swung the demolished satellite away from the crater into the flatbed back of the truck waiting to transport it away.
Dr. Bruno Trimble watched the operation, cautioning the technicians to be careful. They were going to need everything here for their work, and they couldn’t afford to leave any bits and pieces out in the countryside for someone to stumble across.
No, there was too much at stake.
“Incredible. Just incredible,” said Dr. Jainway, a younger scientist.
“Yes, isn’t it,” said Trimble. “We’ve known for years that conditions in space have a mutating effect on bacteria.”
Dr. Jainway nodded. “But who could have guessed this?”
Dr. Trimble smiled to himself. It was happening! His dream! He would prove once and for all that he’d been right all along! For years his colleagues had merely humored him and his theories. But now, through this accident, there would be no way they could patronize him. His name, in boldface, would go down in science history books, for all the ages!
“Who indeed?” he said. “Our little experimental virus seems to have grown up. Grown up into a plasmic life-form that hunts its prey. A predator, for God’s sake! It’s fantastic!”
What he didn’t mention was that what he’d accomplished was nothing less than a recreation of what had happened billions and billions of years ago in the seas of Earth. A bubbling broth of amino acids had mutated into life-forms. Life-forms that fed on one another to survive, life-forms that reproduced rapidly, forming colonies of cells which were the first living animals . . .
He’d always thought that cosmic rays from space had had a great deal to do with that mutation, but he’d no idea how extremely right he’d been. Putting that recreation of life’s building blocks in a satellite, that chemical soup in a controlled environment, and then shooting it up past the shielding ozone layer . . . a brilliant move, one that had taken years to engineer!
And now it had worked.
But Dr. Jainway, a rather muddled sort, seemed slightly upset by this. “Sir,” he was saying, “the organism’s growing at a geometric rate. By all accounts it’s now a thousand times its original mass.”
Colonel Hargis wasn’t concerned about the creation of life. He had other fish to fry. “Gentlemen, this could put the U.S. defense system years ahead of the Russians.”
What a petty mind, thought Trimble. Of course, those dollars the U.S. defense system had contributed weren’t petty, and Trimble had taken them gladly.
“You don’t understand,” said Jainway, clearly quite troubled. “At this rate there may be no U.S.!”
“Nonsense,” said Trimble. “All we have to do is to contain it properly.” He turned to Colonel Hargis. “This is an incredible breakthrough, and I want it treated as a matter of top national security.”
“Yes, sir,” said Colonel Hargis. “We’ve got this town locked up tight.”
A radioman suddenly rushed up clutching a field radio.
“Colonel,” he said, “we have a sighting.”
Colonel Hargis grabbed the phone and barked into the receiver. “Hargis here.”
A soldier’s voice erupted loudly from the radiophone. In the background was the sound of a hysterically sobbing child.
“Colonel,” said the soldier reporting in, “we’ve got an eyewitness who says the organism pursued some civilians into the sewers.”
The child’s voice burst out over the radio. “My name is Anthony, and that thing has Eddie and Kevin and Meg down there!”
Dr. Trimble blinked. The sewer system. Of course. That was where it probably traveled with greatest ease in its present form. And what better place to stopper the thing up?
“Excellent,” he said. “We need a schematic of the sewer system. We’ll isolate it and contain it down there. I want that organism
“What about the civilians?” asked Colonel Hargis.
Dr. Trimble sighed. “I’m afraid, Colonel, that we are dealing with a matter of paramount importance. In this situation civilians, I’m sorry to say, are expendable.”
The words rang in Brian Flagg’s ears.
“It’s got Eddie and Kevin and Meg down there.”
Outrage filled him. But more, Brian felt fear for Meg Penny. This was his fault. He felt ashamed.
Most of all he felt angry. That creature, that hungry blob of death—it was more important to these scientists, these military men, than the lives of the citizens of Morgan City.
And though Morgan City had never done much for him, it was his home. And the people . . . well, they hadn’t been much of a family to him, but they were all he had.
And they were human beings. Not monsters, like those goons down there, blithely talking about Morgan City residents being “expendable”!
A hand reached down and grabbed him by the shoulder, yanking him up. He found himself staring into the faceplate of a soldier.
“What do you think you’re doing?” the soldier demanded.
As Brian struggled to get away, he could see the men down by the crater turning toward him. He caught Dr. Trimble’s eyes, and knew at once that Trimble recognized him.
Damn. Had to get outta here. Had to.
He pulled out Moss’s ratchet and cracked the soldier across the head with it. The man staggered back, dropping his gun, blood running into his eyes and down his nose, and gave off a blubbering scream.
Brian lit out through the bushes, back for his bike, running for his life.
He’d seen his death in Dr. Trimble’s eyes. Trimble knew that he’d overheard.
He raced to where he’d left his bike, lifted it up, kick-started it into grumbling life, and gunned the motor.
Behind him he heard the loudspeaker blast away with a message. He recognized Trimble’s amplified voice, and it sounded cold and menacing, echoing through the night above the sound of his growling motorbike.
“WE HAVE AN INFECTED CIVILIAN TRYING TO ESCAPE. STOP HIM AT ALL COSTS BEFORE HE REACHES A POPULATED AREA. SHOOT TO KILL.”
Up ahead, bathed in moonlight, was the road to freedom. The road away from Morgan City. All he had to do was to hit that road, put on some speed, and get the hell out of there.
But he knew he couldn’t do it. He knew now he couldn’t leave Meg and the rest of Morgan City at the mercy of that mutated organism, that mutated scientist.
He turned the handlebars, cutting a hard U-turn.
If he could just get around that army, now.
Above he could hear the distant sound of helicopter rotors. Ahead he could hear the yapping of dogs, the shouts of men. He cut off to the field past the trees and gunned the engine, zooming and bouncing along away from the main encampment.
A whole crew of soldiers were running down the hill now toward him, and bright flowers of gunfire blossomed in the dark. The dogs were let loose, and he could hear them barking behind him. A searchlight from the approaching helicopter raked along the field like a starship’s laser, looking to fry one desperately fleeing biker.
No, he thought, riding hard, riding low. It didn’t look good. Didn’t look good at all.
But up ahead all was clear.
No soldiers coming toward him; they were all behind him.
And then the jeeps cut him off.
The staccato blasts of gunfire ripped the ground just yards from him. These bastards meant business.
He was trapped!
Desperate, with only seconds left before they closed in on him tight as a bear trap, he recognized where he was.
Up ahead was that ridge of the riverbed, the one with the jutting bridge ruins, the one that had beaten him before. It was his last hope. He turned around, gunned the bike, and jammed it into gear, racing for the gully.