Plague From the Sea

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Day 1

 

Valence Vickers is in her basement, stuffing damp clothes into a dryer. She hates cleaning, but likes clean clothes. Laundry day is an exchange: time in return for warm and nice smelling fabrics. As she sniffs the dryer sheet that she is about to toss into the dryer, she pauses, as something smells off. She sniffs the sheet again and realizes that it is not the origin of the foul smell. 

 

She turns about, following her nose until her eyes spot the producer of the stench. From a dim corner oozes green slime, reeking like the accumulated moisture from within a dumpster. Appalled, she freezes momentarily, pondering what to do. Nearby, she spots a broom, which she picks up and clutches closely as she walks over to the slime cautiously. Standing as far as she can from the foul-smelling substance, Val prods the slime. In an immediate and alarming reaction, a large hole appears in the thick puddle; the expanding of the hole creates an awful squelching sound. The puddle then rises up until it is one meter in height and begins to wobble towards Val. 

 

She jumps back and shrieks in alarm before throwing the broom at the slime. The broom flies across the short distance like a javelin but misses the target and rolls toward a freezer, undamaged. 

 

Val has her phone in hand, ready to call the police, but realizes that there is no way the cops would reach her in time. The slime, still undulating toward her, is blocking her only way out. Behind its green body she can see the light from the first floor descending the stairs. She looks around her basement desperately for something that she could use to save herself. It is then that she spots a yellow suit on a hanger suspended from an exposed pipe. She has always used the thinner pipes in her basement as makeshift clothes hangers but this is the first time that she is grateful for her house’s outdated architecture. 

 

She runs to the suit and begins to undo the zipper down the front. What she holds is a chemical suit usually used by members of the hazardous materials disposal unit. This one belonged to her grandfather before he passed away. He had given it to her before his passing in hopes that it would make her want to uphold the family tradition that meant choosing a career in chemistry, like all of her relatives. 

 

As she seals the suit around herself, mask included, she checks for any holes or tears, but is interrupted by the slime. It is gaining speed and is beginning to make a deep warbling sound. She shrieks at the slime again, this time throwing a nearby stool. The stool strikes the slime with a wet thud and halts the goo’s movement momentarily. Though, it is only seconds until the slime shifts the stool out of its way and continues its progress towards Val, who is now cornered in the southwest of her basement. 

 

Without anything left to throw, she aims a kick at her bulbous attacker. As her swinging leg makes contact, it results in a strange sensation: it initially feels like kicking a solid, but after a mere second, her foot begins to get sucked into the greenish mass. She tries to pull her leg out, but in the process loses her balance and falls onto her back. She hits the cement floor hard and grunts in pain. 

 

The slime covers her other leg and begins to make its way upward, attempting to smother her. Trapped and overpowered, she struggles to free herself, but to no avail. Soon, the slime completely engulfs her. 

 

From within the slime, Val is surprised to find that she can still see. The slime is translucent; giving everything she sees a greenish tinge. She mentally thanks her late grandfather for this suit, shuddering at the thought of this horrid slime making contact with her skin. She attempts to move her limbs and is shocked to find that she can move them as if she is underwater. Without thinking, she aims a punch out the top of the slime and breaches some sort of membrane. The slime wobbles before losing much of its rigidity. Seeing a chance to press her advantage, Val begins throwing more punches in all directions. With each strike, the slime loses more and more control until it reverts to a thick puddle.

 

Even though she is already breathing heavily, she sprints to the stairs and makes her escape to the first floor. She slams the door behind her, unsure if it would even impede the undulant assailant. Sparing no time, she retracts her arms into the torso of the suit and pulls out her phone. She calls the police, simply saying that there is something dangerous in her basement. When pressed about describing the danger, all she can think to say is that there is some sort of weird creature on the floor below. 

 

It takes a few minutes for the police to arrive, but each second that ticks by causes Val to tense more and more. She stands guard at the door to her basement, armed with a rolling pin that she acquired from the kitchen. When a knocking sounds at her front door, it causes her to jump, dropping the rolling pin onto her foot. She curses in annoyance at herself before letting the police in, and, relieved to no longer be alone, she explains the situation to the two officers who exchange doubtful looks. Regardless, they investigate the basement and from the first floor Val hears gunshots and swearing. 

 

Fearing the worst, Val peaks down the stairs, but sees that the officers are unharmed. She notices the thick green puddle is no longer in the corner where she fought it off, but in the centre of the basement, flanked by the two cops. It does not move, though Val notices that both cops have their guns drawn and that the barrels of each are emitting slight plumes of smoke. One of them then requests back up by speaking into their shoulder-mounted walkie-talkie. 

 

A backup unit of four more officers arrives a short while later, along with a forensic scientist. Val continues to observe from the top of the stairs as the officers surround the slime. On occasion, it attempts to move, but upon every such incident, an officer lets off a round into the fiend. The bullets seem to have enough penetrative power to disrupt the membrane from holding the slime together, making it relatively easy for the officers to contain. 

 

During a period when the slime is inactive, the scientist gathers a sample and retreats back to the first floor to conduct a few experiments, and, out of curiosity, Val follows her. She explains to the scientist, whom she learns is named Azalea, that she is familiar with many chemistry concepts due to her family’s professions. 

 

Azalea welcomes the assistance in setting up the portable lab equipment and compliments Val on the chemical suit that she is still wearing. Val blushes, realizing that she had forgotten that she was still in her grandfather’s old HAZMAT garb. It’s surprisingly comfortable; which she says so to Azalea, who chuckles in response. 

 

As the scientist does her job, Val watches and listens to Azalea’s observations about the slime sample. The chemical makeup of the slime seems to be combinations of substances that usually appear in refuse, along with a few that Azalea claims that she has never encountered before. 

 

Val queries on how trash-fluids can become sentient and attack a person, to which Azalea shrugs. The scientist explains that they don’t normally do on-site lab experiments, but such slime related activities are starting to become increasingly common in the area. So much so, that law enforcement and the local government are starting to become greatly concerned and are attempting any method they can think of to find answers. 

 

Disturbed, Val further questions Azalea, but to no avail. The scientist has told her all that she knows, but warns Val to keep her chemical suit handy. Some of the substances found within the slime sample show traces of radioactivity and biohazardous properties. Azalea even swabs Val’s suit exterior to test for dangerous residue, but there seems to be none. The material that the chemical suit is made of apparently has anti-residual properties, meaning that radioactive and toxic substances do not stick to it very well. Azalea still cautions Valence to sterilize the suit when possible, just in case.

 

Following the simple experiments, Azalea packs up the sample and her equipment before giving a signal to the officers below that she has completed her observations. She tells the officers that the substance is mildly radioactive and technically a biohazard, so they should keep their distance. Even though all present are shaken and concerned, they keep the slime under control until the hazardous materials disposal unit arrives. 

 

As the HAZMAT team enters Val’s house, they pause when they see her in a severely outdated model of their own chemical suits. She briefly explains, to which the team chuckles amiably, as Azalea did. 

 

Val once more takes up her perch at the top of the stairs leading to the basement and watches the HAZMAT team scoop up the impotent puddle into a biohazard container and seals it. They then sanitize the basement with a number of chemicals and warn Val to stay out for the next twenty-four hours. 

 

After everyone leaves, Val thoroughly scrubs her grandfather’s suit with bleach while still wearing it. She then sinks into a chair after drying it, exhausted and sweaty. She knows that she has to take it off eventually, but is scared to do so. She has no idea how that slime got into her basement and now distrusts all the corners and dim sections of her home.

 

To calm her nerves, she barricades herself within her bedroom with various objects and takes a shower to relax. She scrubs her body thoroughly, remembering the horrid stench emanating from the slime. As she exits the shower and is about to get dressed, she is distraught to find that she has no clean clothes and realizes that her laundry is trapped within the dryer in the chemically-sanitized basement, which she cannot enter for a full day. 

 

Depressed at the lack of warm, fresh garments, she flops onto her bed in nothing but a bathrobe and sobs herself into an uneasy slumber. Her tears flow into the aether and well up inside her mind’s reservoir. She dreams of drowning in a sea of green slime, causing her to toss and turn fretfully until dawn.

Image by Heidi Kaden

Day 2

 

Val rises the next morning feeling like a wretched undead. She has slept for ten hours, but it feels more like ten minutes. She rolls off of her bed ungracefully and lands on the floor with a thud. 

 

Now fully awakened by the impact from her slight fall, she remembers that she has no clean clothes. She checks her phone out of habit and sees many missed calls and text messages from her boss. She looks at the time and realizes that she should have been at work two hours ago. The excitement from the night before had caused her to forget setting her alarm clock. 

 

Desperately, she begins to rapidly search every drawer, shelf, and nook in her bedroom for anything she could wear; she just needs something to get her to the diner. When there, she knows where to get a new uniform. Hers is currently trapped in the basement until sometime around midnight tonight, along with the rest of her clothes. 

 

In her closet, beneath a trove of books, sketch pads, and painting supplies, she finds a box. Upon the box is written ‘clothes donations’. Val had intended to donate this box of old clothes months ago, but had forgotten. Thanking her past self for being absent minded, she tears open the box in a hurry. On seeing all of her options, however, she frowns. Most are too small to fit her, many articles being from her teen years. Though she does not consider herself to be old or out of shape, she knows that her proportions are simply not the same as they were the half-decade ago when she attended high school. 

 

Only a few things even look remotely wearable. One is a horrendously garish neon yellow jacket covered in bright red arrows. She had bought it at a concert long ago while intoxicated and had never worn it. Another is a pair of lacy undergarments that she had accidentally won from a friend’s bachelorette party game. The third, and final article that is wearable, is a pair of red and white track pants emblazoned with her former university’s logo. The only reason she was donating those is because she had bought a new pair recently that she prefers to wear. 

 

Having no other option, she dons the three articles and races off to the diner in her station wagon. As she inspects herself in the mirror, she is grateful to have shortened her hair recently, as it is much easier to manage. During stop signs and red lights, she uses her fingers to sort out the mess of red strands that cover her head. 

 

Upon reaching the diner, now two and a half hours late, she is greeted by curious stares. There aren’t too many customers, but those near the coffee bar give her questioning looks. They are all regulars who know her, so she smiles and waves at them before quickly disappearing into the employee entrance. 

 

As she reaches her locker and begins putting on her second uniform, Greta, the manager and owner of the diner, confronts her. Greta grills her for a few minutes before leaving Val to cool.

 

Thankful that all she got is an earful, Val went about her daily tasks. The rest of her day goes as usual: serving tables, cleaning tables, and serving more tables. The routine of it actually makes her feel better. When she leaves after her shift, she decides to simply wear her uniform home instead of changing back into the horrid attire that she had worn in the morning. The simple beige dress with an apron is cute in its own, subtle way, she believes. 

 

On the way home, though, she encounters trouble. Parallel to the road leading back to her house runs a creek of moderate size and depth. It is about two meters deep in the middle and the current never gets too fast, though since her town is situated so close to the coast, it leads directly out to sea. Sometimes things come in from the sea as well, like bull sharks, sea snakes, and nesting sea turtles. 

 

What she sees, though, is not an animal, or even the trash that sometimes appears, but another of those foul slimes. This one is a fair bit larger and dwarfs the fisherman that it is menacing. Frozen in shock, the angler is set upon by the green mass and it engulfs him before becoming motionless. 

 

Val accelerates, passing the scene rapidly, but not intending to leave the man to his fate. She is close to home and can be back in less than five minutes. As she races into her house, she calls the police and reports the situation while pulling on her grandfather’s HAZMAT suit before rushing back to the rescue of the fisherman. 

 

When she pulls up on the side of the road overlooking the slope leading down to the shore of the creek, she spots the slimy blob. It is where she saw it last, but as she approaches, the fiend becomes aware of her presence. From the cavernous rear of her station wagon, she pulls out an umbrella with a thin metal point and stares down the huge, foul-smelling slime. This one’s scent is repugnant as well, though it smells more of rotten fish than garbage water. 

 

As she confronts the slime oozing toward her, up the sandy slope, she holds the umbrella before herself like a samurai wielding a katana. The foul blob is translucent, like the one from her basement; therefore she is able to see within it. The fisherman that it had engulfed earlier is still in one piece, though he seems to be unconscious and pieces of his clothes seem to be dissolving. Along with the fisherman, Val spots decomposing fish, tin cans, sticks, and a variety of other bits of shore refuse within the gelatinous one’s body. 

 

When it lunges slowly at her, Val stabs it repeatedly, creating multiple breaks in the surface of its membrane. The slime falters, giving her another opening to attack. She moves quickly to its left and unleashes another series of stabs. The monster groans and suddenly collapses; its towering mass falls like a tidal wave upon Val, knocking her to the sand and smothering her.

 

Like before, it feels like she is in a body of water. Realizing now is her chance to rescue the angler; she wraps her left arm around his waist and drags him to the surface of the slime’s body. Val stabs outwards with her umbrella, now only held in her right hand. When the surface tension breaks, she and the fisherman are spewed out of the newly formed gap. Having lost too much structural integrity, the slime is reduced to a thick puddle. 

 

The fisherman coughs up some goo and regains consciousness from the commotion caused by his exit from the slime. Val helps him to his feet as she keeps her eyes on the thick green puddle. The police and paramedics arrive in time to see the slime beginning to flow down the sandy slope into the creek. It looks like gravity is hastening the fiend’s involuntary retreat. 

 

As the medics see to the angler, Val recounts the happenings to the police. This time, they do not doubt her, as more and more of these occurrences are taking place. After taking a short report, they seem to receive a call about an emergency at the local grocery store, so they thank Val for her time and then rush off. Shortly after, the ambulance takes the fisherman to the hospital, though, specifically to examine him for radiation poisoning and other issues that could be caused by direct contact with the slime creature and not due to any severe injuries.

 

Val exhales, plopping down on the sandy bank near the road. She sits and stares at the creek in the fading sunlight while she wonders what is happening to her town. Monsters from the waves were something she has only read about in horror stories, not a real life threat. As light fades, she heads home, her body cold from the terror she endured. She has no idea how and why she sprung to the angler’s aid, but it felt right. Despite the dread and horror she felt the entire time, it made her feel invigorated. 

 

On the drive home, she wonders if that was what her grandfather felt like when he wore this very same suit. In her youth, he had told her many tales of his exploits into toxin-filled lakes, tanker spill clean-ups, and coastal decontaminations. When he told the tales of his companions’ heroic efforts to protect the flora, fauna, and community, he often made them seem almost like fairy tales. The epic wording and hand gestures had always made them exciting. 

 

Upon reaching her home, she sterilizes the chemical suit like before: scrubbing it while being worn. Afterward, she sorts out her clothing situation while cautiously scrutinizing every nook and cranny. She is dismayed to find that her clean clothes are devastated by wrinkles from having not been folded properly. 

 

Sobbing, she begins ironing and continues late into the night. She does not work the next day, so she is free to de-wrinkle as much as she pleases. At around one o’clock in the morning, she begins to doze off while sorting out a pair of jeans. Too tired to continue, she flumps herself onto her living room couch, leaving the iron plugged in as her mind drifts off into unconsciousness. The steam rises, as does her psyche, into the realm of dreams. Floating about fog and mist, she dreams of gliding over dark waves and darker foes.

Image by Sidekix Media

Day 3

 

Sometime after sunrise, screaming awakens Val. She jumps up in alarm and realizes that the screaming is coming from outside. She spares less than a minute to equip the chemical suit, as putting it on has become second nature to her. On the way out, she unplugs the iron, still hot from being active all night, and takes it with her. She cannot recall where she left her umbrella and does not want to delay investigating the scream any longer, lest one of her neighbours succumbs to the threat. 

 

Upon exiting her front door, she sees the source of the commotion: there is an overturned police van on her left neighbour’s driveway. One of its back doors is hanging outward, bent horribly about the frame. The other back door is on the driveway, having been separated from the body of the vehicle. 

 

Between the van and her neighbour’s house, she sees the bodies of a few police strewn over the lawn and her neighbour stands on their porch, screaming. From the side of the van opposite of Val oozes a hulking mass of slime. This one is larger than the one from her basement, but a fair deal smaller than the one from the creek. It stands about a meter and a half tall, though its colour is not like the others. It is not lime green, but a dark yellow, similar in shade to bile and it also moves much faster; it rolls across the lawn about as fast as a human could speed-walk. Her neighbour screams even louder as the slime races toward her. She is too shocked to make an escape or form a defense, so Val charges, intent on intercepting the slime before it can reach the elderly woman. 

 

Moments before the slime reaches the septuagenarian, Val reaches the threat and shoves the point of the iron into the body of the gooey fiend. A violent hiss screeches forth at the contact, but the body of the blob does not lose its shape. The slime shrinks slightly as pungent yellow fumes enter the air, causing Val and the older woman to gag; it smells strongly of ammonia and low tide. Val realizes that the heat from the iron is evaporating the water in the monster’s body, but her only weapon is now within the corpus of the beast, as the hiss and sudden reaction had made Val release the iron in surprise. 

 

The attack had caused the slime to halt in its tracks, but the heat from the iron was now fading, being cooled by the slime’s wet innards. Val turned to her neighbour, instructing the elderly lady to heat up as many objects as possible. Her neighbour nods before shuffling into the house, glad to put distance between herself and the aggressive slime. 

 

The yellow fiend begins to shake off the effects of the iron assault and now starts its counterattack. It charges at Val, who jumps back, through the doorway leading inside the house. The slime follows her in before she can shut the door, pushing its way into the kitchen just beyond.

 

The elderly neighbour screams again at the sight of the yellow blob. She has turned on all burners upon the stove and has pots and pans on all four elements. Val thanks her before suggesting the older lady make a tactical retreat once more, to which her neighbour agrees before fleeing into the living room. 

 

The slime emits a deep rumble, one that sounds like the jiggling of gelatin that has been amplified and pitch shifted. It rushes at Val with ill intent, but she is ready. Val grabs a frying pan from the stove and smashes it upon the top of the slime, causing another hiss of disgusting yellow steam. Val holds back a retch and keeps her hand firmly grasped around her bludgeon. She delivers a few more strikes before the pan begins to grow cold, though, she notices that the attacks seem to shrink the slime even more.

 

She is about to strike it again with the lukewarm pan when the fiend suddenly launches a bulbous growth at her. Luckily, Val has the frying pan extended in front of her body, so it takes the hit. Though, the stickiness of the thick arm-like growth wrenches the pan from her grip, pulling it into the body of the amorphous mucus monster. 

 

Quickly, Val grabs a pot from another corner of the stove and begins to hammer her foe with the new implement. She continues this pattern and is able to shrink the slime down to the size of a chicken. As the slime decreases in size, it leaves a yellow paste on the floor, along with the objects it had previously absorbed. 

 

Being small grants the blob increased agility and it is now able to dodge Val’s attacks. In desperation, Val throws her last weapon, a skillet, at the small blob, but it dodges this as well. It then rushes straight toward her and latches onto her leg. She screams and flails her afflicted limb, trying to shake it off of her shin, but the small fiend holds fast. It then begins to squeeze, slowly cutting off circulation to Val’s foot. 

 

Just then, from around the corner, appears Val’s elderly neighbour wielding a red-hot fire poker. She tells Val to hold still, which the younger lady does, and then lances the blob as if it is a boil while triumphantly shouting, “GOTCHA BITCH!” The most violent hiss yet erupts from the small monster’s body. Soon, nothing is left behind save a cloud of horrid yellow smoke and a smear on Val’s left foot. 

 

The two women slide down to the floor, exhausted from the battle. Val then calls emergency services, which arrive shortly. The elderly woman thanks Val profusely before being escorted into the back of an ambulance. She is not injured, but the EMTs have been instructed to bring all those who come in contact with the aggressive slimes to a medical facility for anti-radioactive and biohazardous treatment. However, since Val is sealed in her chemical suit, they leave her be. Others arrive to remove the bodies of the dead police still lying upon her neighbour’s front yard and to deal with the overturned vehicle.

 

Just then, Azalea, the forensic scientist from the other day, emerges from the back of a police vehicle with a large silver suitcase. Val greets the scientist and together with the lieutenant in charge, they go over what happened. 

 

As Val recounts how things unfolded, Azalea sets up her testing equipment on the kitchen counter, which seems more complex than what she had brought to Val’s house the other day. The scientist then takes samples of the yellow paste left behind by the slime. She is able to identify the paste as being a type of bacteria this time, though, from a species she does not recognize. 

 

Val asks her why and how the bacteria are involved with the slimes, but Azalea shrugs. The scientist then mentions rumours she has been hearing about experiments the government is doing to rid the coastline of the rampant pollution. Just then, the lieutenant cuts her off, stating that speculation could do more harm than good. The officer then walks off to round up the other constables. The area is being designated as the scene of an accident and is being roped off, though he indicates that emergency services are stretched thin right now and that he and his team need to assist elsewhere. 

 

Before the scientist leaves with the police, Val asks Azalea for her phone number. She intends to learn more about this bacterium and these slimes. These amorphous foes have become too much of a threat. If the government and police cannot handle the situation, then Val will take care of it herself, she thinks. Her confidence has increased greatly over the past few days, having slayed two slimes and repelled another back into the depths. Azalea gives Val her number and promises to share any information she comes across. They bid farewell and Val leaves the clean-up crew to their business in her neighbour’s abode. 

 

Azalea had tested the residue on Val’s foot and determined it to be non-radioactive and non-toxic; apparently, the bacteria itself is not the dangerous component. Even though it is only around noon, Val feels exhausted, though she does not rest just yet. She, like before, scrubs down the suit while still wearing it. Afterward, she takes off her chemical suit, places it close by, and plops herself back onto her couch. For the rest of the day, she only moves to eat and use the bathroom. She spends hours delving through every avenue of the Internet for information about what has been going on in her town and what she finds deeply unsettles her.

 

That night, she goes to bed with a head full of dark thoughts. Her mind fades into the dusk, along with the sun over the horizon. A putrid, yellow tide creeps and oozes over her as she cowers upon a spit of land. All around, only ammonia-laden clouds and xanthic, ichorous waves can be seen.

Image by Jonathan Gallegos

Day 4

 

The following days pass in a haze of research. Her city, and all others in the area, have been placed on lockdown in fear of the epidemic. According to the news, all major cities along the coast have been affected. Whatever the source of this pandemic is, Val is sure its origins lie out to sea. 

 

Since her diner is considered a non-essential service, her hours have been greatly diminished. Though, this has given her plenty of time to dig up information about the army of slimes assaulting her home. 

 

Azalea has looked into the species of the bacteria she found at Val’s neighbour’s house, and, true to her word, shares the discovery with Val. This species of bacteria is the same as the one implemented by the government in coastal garbage disposal. In the past few years, many companies have been legally allowed to dump refuse into the ocean thanks to an extremely flawed new law, but that has become very bad, very quickly. Public outcry has forced the world to find a solution for this new and foolish practice, and thus, Quisquiliae devorator was created. 

 

From what Val could glean from the links Azalea sent her, she discovers that this species is originally created from a few individuals of a different species of flesh eating bacteria. Quisquiliae devorator, mentally being dubbed ‘devorators’, by Val, had been a different species, but a few cells had been manipulated into something else. 

 

The nuclei and organelles within a few cells of the bacteria had been tampered with, causing them to seek out and consume inorganic material, as opposed to the cells of organic creatures. The successfully altered cells were cultivated and reproduced in great amounts before being released into the coastal areas afflicted with the most trash. 

 

Val remembers reading about the new coastal clean-up plan a few months back. From what she heard, it was apparently going well, until the past month or so when news about developments became scarce. Most simply thought it was because the project failed to yield enough results to be useful on a continental scale, but Val learns otherwise.

 

Azalea shares her theory with her new colleague and speculates that Quisquiliae devorator has mutated due to a foreign substance. Azalea does not claim to know what this substance is, or where it came from, but she theorizes that something in the trash dumped out to sea, or even something from the sea itself, altered the bacteria to desire flesh once more, albeit while gaining frightening new properties.

 

The scientist claims to have found a recently shut down lab that was allegedly working on deploying Quisquiliae devorator in local waters. She asks Val if she wants to assist with the investigation as a ‘civilian consultant’. Val accepts under the condition that she be compensated financially for her services, to which Azalea agrees. 

 

The next day, Azalea, escorted by two police officers, picks Val up in a squad car before heading to the lab. This lab was apparently a research facility that was looking into ways to increase the efficiency of the trash-eating bacteria. When they reach it, though, it does not look like a high-tech laboratory. The windows and doors have been smashed asunder and within seems void of all life. The building itself is located in a hilly area on the edge of town, nearer to the shore than to the city or the suburbs. 

 

Azalea and the cops look nervous, but equipped with her chemical suit, Val is more confident. Prior to meeting up, Val and Azalea had discussed potential defensive implements and procedures. This involved the acquisition of defensive arms that would be effective against the devorators, as well as allies who could use them. 

 

As the party of four exits the car, the officers open the trunk to reveal an array of equipment. The two cops and Azalea don chemical suits similar to Val’s, though theirs are white instead of yellow. On the back, they also have the crest of the city: an orange eel in a ‘S’ shape on top of an oval turquoise gemstone.

 

After admiring how new and sleek the suits are compared to hers, Val is given a short rundown on firearm procedure by the older officer. Earlier, he had introduced himself as Lobo Garcia, a senior constable with the Seravek Police Services. Lobo tells Val that they brought conventional firearms like pistols and shotguns, but were also able to acquire a portable flamethrower usually reserved for the emergency de-icing of roads in the winter. 

 

He then goes over the entry formation that they will be moving in after entering the building. Lobo makes it very clear that she is not allowed to touch any of the firearms. Even though she is disappointed, Val agrees not to touch anything unless permitted. 

 

Instead, she is handed a riot shield and a sheathed hunting knife by the younger officer. He had introduced himself as Kadeem Dun, a constable serving Seravek as Lobo’s partner. He smiles at Val and ensures her that he and Lobo will keep her safe. 

 

After discussing their plan and formation, the group enters through the front entrance, where the doors can be seen in splinters about the threshold. Lobo enters first, wielding the flamethrower in hand, but also equipped with a handgun for secondary use. Close behind follows Kadeem, armed with a shotgun and pistol. Two meters behind him, Val and Azalea trail while armed with riot shields and knives. 

 

Azalea directs the group towards where she believes the refrigerated storage area is located. She thinks that they may be able to find intact samples of Quisquiliae devorator there. This would allow her to learn how the bacteria mutated and possibly how to deal with the threat. 

 

As they travel inwards, Val asks why they don’t have more police with them, to which Azalea tells her that things are worse than they seem in Seravek. The quarantine of the city, as well as those nearby, has resulted in people hoarding supplies like food and toilet paper. The lack of resources has resulted in people panicking and acting recklessly. Looting and robberies are becoming increasingly common, the scientist states, furrowing her eyebrows in concern. 

 

With this, in addition to the slime attacks, Val worries for the fate of her home. Before she can think more of it though, the party encounters trouble: two human height slimes lurch into view around a corner. Val and her group are currently in a corridor, with only forward and backward being movement options. Ahead, the devorators spot them and charge, rolling as fast as the yellow slime from the other day. These ones, though, are brown and nearby opaque. The scent that emanates from them is so putrid and powerful that some of it seeps through the masks of the companions, causing them to feel nauseous; these devorators smell of the contents one would find in an outhouse or public latrine. Val gags at the horrid stench, the worst that she has experienced in a long while.

 

When the slimes get within three meters, Lobo ignites them with the flamethrower, dousing them in fire. Violent hissing and a thick cloud of brown smoke then consumes the corridor, blinding the party, though their suits protect them from the worst of it. 

 

Thinking quickly, Val stabs the wall to her right, finding that her knife plunges straight through the drywall. With the riot shield, she then bashes the spot until a hole the size of her head is made. Following suit, Azalea does the same to the wall on their left. The new yet rugged vents allow the brown smoke to flow out of the corridor more quickly, returning the party’s vision. 

 

Kadeem looks back at the women and nods his thanks at them. Of the devorators, nothing remains but slightly burning stains of brown upon the carpet. Lobo breathes a deep sigh of relief and he then asks Kadeem to take point, as they agree that leading with the shotgun while in poorly ventilated areas seems like a smarter approach.

 

The four progress slowly out of the corridor and into an open office space. There are cubicles and office appliances crowding the wide room. On the other side, they see a sign above a large glass sliding door which reads ‘Cold Storage’. At Azalea’s behest, they begin to make their way through the office, toward the cold storage entrance. 

 

They advance, taking out slimes as they encounter them. Kadeem and his shotgun prove very efficient in breaking the membranes of the amorphous enemies. On occasion, Lobo lets off a spray of fire at devorators that try to flank them, but otherwise uses the flamethrower sparingly, lest it once more blind them in the middle of combat. Some of the slimes split apart when hit by the shotgun’s slugs or shrink due to the heat of the flames. Those too small or too near to the party get taken care of by Val and Azalea. They use the riot shields to cover one another as they take turns stabbing as the smaller slimes. Their formation proves effective and allows them to cross the office space with relative ease, though they do not pause until they reach the sliding door. 

 

Val sees a keypad on the wall beside the door and frowns before pointing it out to Azalea. The scientist scratches her chin thoughtfully before taking out a smartphone and a cable from her suit pocket. She connects the phone to a port on the keypad and begins to type furiously. She asks the other three to cover her as she electronically picks the lock. 

 

Just then, another pair of medium-sized brown slimes approach the party from behind. Lobo and Kadeem do not hesitate to engage the foes, but as they do so, a new threat appears. From the left wall, adjacent to the sliding door, an orange blob looms. It slides effortlessly, hugging the vertical surface with ease. It approaches quickly and Val notices that it is smoking, as it leaves a trail of putrid pink fumes behind it, discolouring the formally beige walls. As it nears, she can smell something akin to the burning of rubber and paper.

 

As the officers are busy, Val engages this new slime by herself, undaunted. She feels her pulse quicken as the adrenaline begins to flow. When the slime gets within two meters of Val, it jumps off the wall, aiming its round body at the young woman. Val blocks with her riot shield, angling it upward and toward the threat. The half-meter thick slime lands on the shield with a thump. Following the impact, Val hears a sizzling sound. She swings the shield downward, tossing the orange blob against the wall once more with a wet thud. It then falls onto a copy machine, rocking the appliance. 

 

Val checks her shield’s exterior and sees that there is a circular burn mark upon its black metal surface. It does not seem to have affected the structural integrity of the shield, but Val becomes concerned that the orange slime could potentially burn through her suit. As she ponders what to do, the slime oozes off of the damaged copy machine, melting away some of the plastic buttons as it does so. 

 

The small devorator then retreats up the wall, stopping about three meters up. It then looks like it is tensing its body, preparing for something. It then begins to glow and a small flame appears on top of it. The amount of pink smoke increases, discolouring a great portion of the ceiling above. Worried that the slime is going to set fire to the whole building, she takes a gamble. Holding the knife by the blade between her thumb and index finger, she winds up, aiming for the orange blob. Val then hurls her only weapon at the foe with a great heave.

 

It spins through the air in a graceful arc before burying itself, blade first, into the flaming devorator. Val gasps before fist pumping in success as the slime, knife still embedded in its gooey body, falls from its place on the wall. During its fall, the flames go out before it plops once more onto the unfortunate copy machine, this time severely denting its already warped form. The devorator’s body goes limp, almost liquefying before the slime enters the cracks and dents in the copy machine, dying a portion of it orange. 

 

Val approaches cautiously and finds that her knife, resting on top of the warped copy machine, has been melted slightly from its contact with the devorator’s body. The blade is twisted and no longer looks usable, though, thankfully, it will likely be a while before this foe can reconstitute itself. 

 

Not long after, Azalea announces to the others that she has unlocked the door. She unplugs the cable and her phone before storing them back into her suit pocket. She stands before the door and it slides open with a pleasant beep. Val follows her as she goes through, trailed by Kadeem and Lobo who have just finished dealing with another pair of brown slimes. Behind them, the door slides shut and Azalea activates the security lock with a button on the wall nearby. She tells the others that this lock can be easily opened with another press of the button, in case they need to exit quickly.

 

The group takes a moment to breathe. Since entering the building, the team has taken down nine devorators. There does not seem to be any enemies in the storage area, but it is not lit very well. The entire room is cold and steeped in a dark blue light, which makes Val shiver, wrapping her arms around herself. 

 

Lobo and Kadeem both look around the room, checking for hidden threats, but they find nothing except a few frozen slimes and a dead scientist. The slimes are totally immobile, but seem to be intact. Azalea theorizes that since the devorators’ bodies are composed mostly of water, they must freeze at sub-zero temperatures quite quickly. On the dead scientist, they find a USB drive labeled ‘Offshore Amassing’. Azalea pockets it, claiming that there is a laptop they can use to access any information on it within the squad car outside.

 

They then look around for samples of Quisquiliae devorator, but find only destroyed vials and beakers. The officers examine the body and say that he likely died from blunt force trauma to the head. There are severe bruises on the back of his head, but they acknowledge that it is possible this could have been caused by a backward fall onto the hard tile. 

 

Lobo then says that in all the bodies that he’s seen attacked by slimes, they all had chunks of their flesh dissolved or missing. He then points out that the scientist’s body is fully intact; there isn’t even a smudge on his lab coat. Val then puts the pieces together and realizes what the senior constable is implying.

 

He thinks that the scientist was murdered; not by a devorator, but by human hands. Kadeem mentions that there also seems to be signs that someone has sabotaged the lab equipment. He points out that all of the counters are covered with broken glass and torn paper. Apparently, someone tried to make this look like a slime attack, but they were sloppy. Lobo states that it is possible whoever did this was in a rush, since they missed the USB drive. 

 

Without any more to examine or collect, the team prepares to leave the cold storage area and make their way back out of the building. They all agree that using the same formation as before is a good idea. The group then pauses when they see what is happening on the other side of the glass door. 

 

All of the devorators that were not burnt asunder are melding. They ooze across the floor towards one another, forming an amorphous titan in the centre of the office space and the party gasps in horror. They are running low on ammo and fuel for the flamethrower, not to mention Val no longer even has a weapon. As they lament their situation, the huge devorator grows even more, spanning the space from the floor to the four-meter high ceiling in a thick, multi-coloured column. 

 

Val reckons that a devorator like that likely can’t move very quickly. If past experiences have taught her anything, slimes get faster as they shrink, but the reverse is true as well, she states logically. She then says that instead of fighting, they should just give the slimy column a wide berth and flee the building. Before they can discuss the topic anymore though, they feel the building begin to shake. 

 

The huge slime seems to be tugging at the ceiling, attempting to consume it. Fearing that the building will collapse on them, the party makes their exit. They clear the office space quickly, skirting the left wall. The slime does not even notice them as it begins eating lighting fixtures and ceiling tiles. A gooey branch of the slime column then reaches deep into the ceiling and a loud clanging is heard. The clanging is followed by a deafening crack, which shakes the whole building. As the team leaves the big room, Val briefly looks back and spots pieces of the above floor begin to fall through the hole that the slime column has created. 

 

They rush through the corridor and out of the building just in time. Behind them, they can see the ceiling begin to cave in, shortly followed by some of the walls falling inward, which launches a great deal of dust and debris into the air. The group takes shelter behind the squad car until the gust of detritus passes. 

 

Lobo insists that they should not stick around, as he and Kadeem hastily shove all of their weapons into the trunk of the squad car. The four then hop into the vehicle and the senior constable floors it, leaving the scene before anything else happens. 

 

On the way back, Azalea inserts the USB into the laptop she mentioned earlier, while Kadeem and Lobo joke about their recent experience. On the USB, there is only a single text document labeled ‘Offshore Amassing Data’, which she opens and begins to read aloud. 

 

The other three listen and become dismayed at what they hear, ceasing all jokes and laughter. The data states that there is a huge mass of amalgamated devorators approximately a kilometer out to sea from the Seravek harbour. It is so large that nearby ships, boats, and marine life get pulled towards it through the water. It has also begun to consume the water itself, bloating its body and causing a whirlpool effect around where it resides. The document also mentions that occasionally large chunks break off and make their way to shore or upriver. 

 

Azalea hypothesizes that this is the local source of all the slimes plaguing Seravek. Unsettled, Val asks what could be done about such a fiend. Azalea replies that she does not know, and that she’ll have to discuss it with her superiors. 

 

When they drop Val back at her house, they all wish her a fond farewell and tell her to stay safe. Lobo also mentions that she should try to stay home for the foreseeable future; at least until they deal with the devorator problem, Kadeem adds. Val thanks them and wishes them luck as they drive off. She enters her house and immediately sanitizes her suit before unwinding. 

 

As she eats dinner and watches the news, she learns more about what is happening in her town. The government has upgraded the current situation to a full-blown pandemic and is urging everyone to stay in their homes. Devorators are running rampant around the downtown sector and harbour, but there is also activity in areas located near rivers and creeks connected to the sea. The footage she sees shocks Val, as it is very familiar to her recent experiences. People are being mobbed by small slimes in the streets and upon the docks. Large globs of dark blue consume yachts and boats moored in place. There are also many shots of people screaming and running around, which makes Val shudder before turning off the TV. 

 

She goes to bed with a heavy heart, wondering how much longer things will stay like this. She misses spending time with her family and friends, and even misses her job. As she tries to brainstorm potential solutions, she drifts off to sleep. Her thoughts leak into her dreams and dye them many strange colours. Vivid images of rainbow whirlpools swallow her mind and she is lost in dreams until the next morning.

Image by Piotr Guzik

Day 5

 

Val awakens to total silence; she has not set her alarm, as there is no need to do so these days. There are no birds singing, no sounds of cars driving by outside, not even any noise from crickets or cicadas; it is eerie, as if the world is holding its breath. She gets out of bed and gets dressed before she sees her faithful chemical suit sitting on the dresser nearby. She briefly contemplates putting it on despite having no current need to do so. 

 

As she stands in her room, she notices the screen of her phone light up: it is a text message from Azalea, but when Val reads it, her blood runs cold. Azalea tells her that there is little time to explain and that someone is after her, and might also be after Val as well. Before Val can reply, she hears a loud knocking at her door. 

 

She goes downstairs and peeks through the small peephole and sees a man in a black suit standing upon her porch. She cracks open a nearby window and asks the man what he wants. 

 

He says that he is from the federal bureau of intelligence and wishes to speak with her about recent happenings in Seravek. He flashes his badge, but Val does not get a good look. She agrees to speak with the agent, but through the window.

 

The man sighs before seemingly speaking into a microphone on his collar. Just then, a loud crack comes from the back of Val’s house, followed by many footsteps. She whirls around and is confronted by three armed individuals, all dressed in black tactical gear from head to toe. Their faces are completely covered, making it impossible to gauge their intent through expression. Each also holds a pistol, which they point threateningly at Val. 

 

She freezes, not knowing what else to do. One of her assailants then grabs her by the arm and pins her against the window that she was previously speaking through. Another one then presses a cloth covered in a foul smelling liquid up to her nose and mouth, and, within a second, Val loses consciousness, but not before regretting to don her chemical suit before coming to the door. 

 

When she wakes up, the first thing she notices is the smell of the sea. She opens her eyes and is greeted by blue waves as far as the eye can see. She feels the waves rocking the vessel gently below her and runs her hands along the hard surface beneath her body. Val stands up and takes in her surroundings groggily. 

 

She is currently on board a battleship off the coast of Seravek, she realizes as her mind fully wakes up. She has gone fishing and sailing in these waters many times in the past and recognizes the scenery before her. In the distance, she can make out Seravek’s harbour, but much closer is a far more attention-grabbing sight. 

 

About fifty meters away, a revolting monstrosity assaults her senses. There, in the sea, swells a devorator of massive proportions. It is over twenty meters in diameter and shines in every possible colour Val can mentally conceive; it is like the rainbow that appears in spilt gasoline. Even though the sight is horrifically vibrant, the scent is worse. The offshore amassing, as this undoubtedly is, reeks of death: the scent of rotting flesh, waterlogged filth, and spilt fuel fills the air. From this distance, Val spots the torn and bloody remains of porpoises and whales, in addition to various pieces of wreckage from ships and boats within the monster’s gelatinous body. 

 

Val covers her mouth in horror, hands obscuring her terrified visage. She jumps as a voice then addresses her from behind and she whirls around to find Azalea, accompanied by two sailors and an older gentleman in a heavily-decorated white navy uniform. Azalea apologizes for the cryptic text she sent earlier before explaining that the military apparently thought that they had destroyed the cold storage lab, temporarily branding them as terrorists. Azalea then explains that she has clarified what really happened to the facility, but only after she and Val were both brought offshore to be questioned. 

 

The older gentleman introduces himself as admiral Finn Zemos. He also apologizes for the way his soldiers and the FBI agent treated her. He then proceeds to tell her of why she was brought here as he faces toward the colossal devorator in the water and approaches the railing, resting his hands upon it. As he speaks, his bushy white moustache rustles in the wind. 

 

He says that he is not at liberty to explain the full situation to her and thanks her for all that she has done to help the citizens of Seravek. As a reward for serving the people of her city, he has suggested that she be allowed to see the demise of the threat to her home. Val and Azalea then also approach the railing to stare at the horrid fiend surrounded by swirling waves. 

 

Zemos goes on to say that they are soon to bombard the offshore amassing with both of their portside cannons. He points a hand towards the front of the ship, indicating the huge barrels trained on the devorator in the water. He states that each cannon fines rounds larger than their heads and that nothing can withstand multiple direct shots from them. 

 

Val and Azalea stare in awe at the armaments. Azalea then asks the admiral how loud they are, to which he chuckles before signalling at the accompanying sailors to hand the women some earplugs. He advises that they put them in as he gives the go-ahead to begin the bombardment. Others nearby cover their ears or also insert earplugs, especially those operating the cannons, though Zemos does not.

 

Everyone then watches the offshore amassing with baited breath. Soon, they hear a sailor shout before a loud explosion assaults their ears. In the distance, the massive round hits its target dead centre. It pierces the fiend’s membrane, causing an eruption of semi-digested material and slime from the gaping hole. 

 

Within seconds the other cannon fires and has a similar result. The massive devorator seems to deflate as it loses liquid. A monstrous groan then reverberates through the air, which Azalea theorizes is the gas escaping from the wounds. 

 

Admiral Zemos then signals for the sailors to enter the next stage of the attack. Armed boats then appear from around the front of the battleship and they seem to be carrying armed, chemical suit-clad personnel as well as large metal barrels. Zemos explains that they are going to contain segments of the offshore amassing in these containers before dumping them into an incinerator. 

 

Val nods to the wisdom of this approach before she elaborates by saying she has used tactics like these in the past, but just on a much smaller scale. Azalea concurs, raising a few key points of past dealings with the devorators. 

 

The admiral smiles knowingly, though does not respond immediately. He looks out to sea, watching his sailors capture bits and pieces of the slimy foe. He says that after the clean up crew has completed their mission, he will ensure that Val and Azalea get home safely. 

 

True to his word, Zemos sends the ladies off in a helicopter shortly following a successful capture mission. During the flight, they discuss what they have seen: Val cheers at the defeat of the threat to their home, but Azalea seems a bit shaken by the ordeal. Val encourages her to leave the past behind, soothing her new friend with positive facts. When they land at the small airport on the outskirts of town, there are two cars waiting for them. Here, Val and Azalea part ways fondly, bidding each other safe travels with a hug. 

 

After reaching home, Val can feel the exhaustion creep up on her, though she immediately checks her back door; which is mostly undamaged, but the doorknob lies on the floor a few meters away. Apparently, the team that abducted her smashed it in to gain entry to her house. She sighs before carefully jamming the knob back into its rightful place before she closes the door and grimaces. It will prevent the entry of animals, but any human would be able to tell that the lock is clearly busted. She then moves her couch in front of the door, making it much more difficult for potential intruders to open it. It’s not perfect, she admits aloud to herself, but it will do until tomorrow when she can call a repair service. 

 

She spends some time cleaning her chemical suit, even though it has not been worn since last she washed it and there has been no recent direct contact with any devorators. When she is finished, she notices that the sun is already going down. She realizes that she must have been unconscious for much longer than she initially thought, though she still feels tired. 

 

Val then takes a shower and promptly goes to bed. Tonight, she sleeps sounder than any in recent memory. She dreams of azure waves and cyan skies: calm waters; clear and beautiful. She dreams of floating, carefree, in a blue expanse. 

Image by Todd Diemer

Afterwards

 

In the following days, Val feels her heart lighten. Though still in a state of quarantine, Seravek slowly awakens from its slumber. Everything has been shut down for so long that people were becoming worried about the economy. The devorator attacks have decreased exponentially, before ceasing altogether merely three days after the offshore amassing was contained and incinerated. 

 

Within the following week, businesses begin to open up once more, including the diner where Val works. She returns gladly, greeting her co-workers and the regulars warmly upon her first day back. 

 

In the downtime, when she wasn’t fighting devorators, she had done quite a bit of painting. She had stocked up on art supplies before the quarantine, so she was able to create many new pieces depicting her epic battles against the plague from the sea. The best of which Val brings to the diner to decorate the interior. Her fellow staff and the regulars all state that they love her paintings, claiming they make the diner more interesting. Greta the manager even dubs one a ‘modern classic’, and buys a special frame for her favorite: a vertically oriented piece featuring a blue wave and a gooey, purple hand rising out of the water.

 

Upon closing one evening, Val pauses and gazes at her own favourite piece, which depicts the multi-coloured amalgamation of the devorators she, Azalea, and the two constables encountered not that long ago. She has even painted the silhouettes of her party near the bottom, looking at the vibrant horror before them. 

 

Val keeps in contact with everyone that she has fought alongside and saved during the devorator epidemic. She sees her neighbour and the fisherman she helped everyday on the way home from work due to her usual route. The fisherman is still angling in the spot at the same creek, and often would flag her down to share some of his fresh catch with her. Her neighbour, equally generous, would constantly gift her with baked goods. Between the two, she rarely has to do any shopping and saves up quite a bit of money. This, in combination with successfully selling many of her paintings, allows her to get enough money to enrol into the Seravek Hazardous Material Disposal course. This program would allow her to join other HAZMAT disposal technicians in the field and save lives. 

 

Azalea, Lobo, and Kadeem have inspired her; all of whom work daily to make Seravek a better place. It makes her want to do the same, just like her grandfather, who had left her the suit she now holds dearer to her heart than any article of clothing. Working at the diner and simultaneously doing the HAZMAT course is tough, but her new friends often visit her during work to say hello and offer her encouragement.

 

Upon completing the course, she throws a party at her house, inviting all those who are important to her. They eat and drink merrily into the night; discussing, dancing, and gaming until early in the morning. 

 

Val begins working as a HAZMAT disposal technician shortly after completing the course. She bids a fond farewell to the diner, but an even fonder hello to her new career in saving lives. It is not an easy job, but it is deeply rewarding; her adventures into the most dangerous of situations thrill her, yet nothing gives her as great a rush as when she was fighting for her life against flesh-hungry slime monsters. 

 

Every night, she returns home worn, but completely satisfied. Though she often reflects on her past struggles, they do not dwell in her mind like dark shadows. She thinks of them as adventurous exploits that she would tell to her children and grandchildren one day. When going to sleep, she has the recurring peaceful dream of azure waves and cyan skies; of a calm, soothing, beautiful expanse of gentle currents; of floating carefree upon the sea.

Thank you for reading Plague From the Sea!

This is one of the short stories in my collection, Unusual Tales for the Curious Mind, which is released on December 1, 2021.

If you liked this story, I'm sure you'll enjoy the others!

Click HERE to learn more.