Estimated reading time — 7 minutes
I like to go urban spelunking, “ruin diving” my friends call it. We find a place out in the middle of the nowhere that people have forgotten and we break in to see what treasures they might have left behind. On one of our trips we decided to check out some places in upstate New York. This was my friend Paul’s idea and while I was sure he had only mentioned it because he was sweet on a girl who lived up there, he promised me and the rest of us that he had a hot tip on an amazing spot.
We got to the location just after six in the afternoon and twilight was already setting in. Paul’s place however sure was something and I was willing to break our rule of no diving after dark. It looked to be a massive research compound. We saw signs for something called Fairchild Research Group but it was completely abandoned. No security, no cars, no nothing but when whoever had been here pulled out it must have been in a hurry.
We found food still in warm fridges, there were desks with family photos tacked on the wall and even half of a mummified birthday cake in one buildings lounge. There were other things that seemed off as well that were a little more sinister. Slime covered prints along the walls, weird tracks in the dust on the floor and this awful smell. It reminded me of my old high school biology lab around the time we had to dissect fetal pigs. It was the same harsh formaldehyde smell.
It was only when we went to the lower levels that things got out of hand. We all swore we heard a woman sobbing and the sounds of animals but nothing we could identify, I found a USB drive sticking out of a tower in the last room we visited and I decided to snag it. What I found on there shocked me and the group. Whoever had had the USB before must have been trying to download what happened the last time time the facility had been running. It was full of security camera footage, project notes, audio recordings. I’m posting what I pieced together and drew from the files here.
They say that nature is flawless, beautiful. People write about the perfection of a sunset or the faith affirming qualities of a rushing sea but man should never be so foolish. There is no great sun that doesn’t cast a shadow and nature’s shadow is teaming with monstrosities. Doctor Braum knows that simple fact and makes his living off of it. He is a tall man with long thin fingers. His wife would tell you, if she knew he couldn’t hear, that she never found him handsome. Not that his face wasn’t pleasing but that it was cold, glacial, like looking into the face of a statue.
That statue only cracked when a new specimen was brought into his lab for study and the emotion that always adorned it was wonder. Where others would recoil at the horrors that lined his walls in dim jars, he gazed at them fondly. Mutations of flesh, abnormalities of bone, even almost human growths in bark or foliage, held his curiosity in a siren’s song.
He would lose himself for hours among the rows and rows of mother natures failed children. He had bodies in every stage of development with extra arms, bulbous growths, features so warped and distorted no one would have dared to think they were human. Inside the office there was one of his favorite specimens. Behind his desk, floating in a specially made cylinder, was the body of a woman.
She had the bloated look of a drowning victim and that added to her impressive girth. Her pendulous breasts were streaked by angry red veins and bobbed slowly in the amber liquid. All in all her corpse was unremarkable until her stomach. It bulged sickeningly,the skin pulled tight over a dozen malformed skulls. Small hands jutted out, almost touching the glass. A rare fusion of mother and child, siblings merged into a ball of calcified organs, the doctor had taken to calling the display “A happy family”. The boys in the staff called her “The Brood Mother” but only behind Braum’s back, he didn’t tolerate much tomfoolery and had a quick temper for disrespect.
Today Braum was full of excitement. It was the end of his three month waiting period for new subjects and his man had promised him not only a greater draw from the financial levies but double his allotment for equipment if he could get back to them in a month with new results.
He was sure he would finish his research on genetic mutations that went against Darwin’s laws of selection. He knew that this batch would give him the proof he needed to finally show the world that what had brought those weaker minds such revulsion was, in fact, evolution before their very eyes. while he waited the good doctor decided to visit Tommy, his first real breakthrough.
Moving from his private office to the storage area, he walked briskly through the rows of shelves on a familiar path. Deeper into the lab the canisters and containers grew larger and their occupants more fearsome. Braum could remember many of them from his younger days. When this operation was first started he didn’t have even close to half the resources he has now and was forced to go on many of the “Buys” himself. Tommy came from one of them, he still remembered how unimpressed he was that warm August in Vietnam when he bought Tommy from the back of a pickup truck. He had no idea then that his life and research would be changed forever by what had been in that little vial.
Finding a terminal he punched in his code and set the processes working. This part of the laboratory was so old that it still ran on software from ten years ago, so he was in for a wait. Braum mopped at his bald head as the computer groaned, for some reason the temperature felt far to high all of a sudden. He decided to check up on some other valued members of his collection instead of just standing around in the heat. He wondered a few rows over, running his hands along the glass of several vats.
Inside many of them were the bodies of cows, sometimes three deep. Each carcass had some level of abnormal growth. Tumors grew in cauliflower clumps across some, a few had long tentacle like protrusions along their sides as well as extra legs dangling from their necks. He stopped in front of the largest tank in the row. Inside floated something pulled from the nightmares of a sick mind.
It looked like a hybrid of goat and trout. A goats upper body with one curved horn on the left and a small stump on the right, merged with a massive fin to make up it’s lower half. On the top of the tank, written on a fade label in Doctor Braum’s neat handwriting, was “TEST SUBJECT 2002: SERIES 3: TRIAL 56: SUCESS.” His first viable creation, all thanks to Tommy. Braum remembered the swelling of love he had felt when his abomination drew it’s first pained breath.
The loud clatter of metal doors opening and the buzzing of circuits pulled him from his revere and into the newly opened holding chamber. The room was massive, the largest single room in the lab in fact, and contained a three story tall tank of double thick glass filled with over 150,000 gallons of preservation fluid. There, lit only by a dim light from the base, floated Tommy. Braum gazed breathlessly up at him with a look of awe only rivaled by the first Apostles to see Christ reborn.
Tommy looked for all the world like a massive child, a giant toddler with bloated and bulging eyes. They were blue and lifeless, his pudgy rolls of skin were the kind the gray color of flesh that had never known the flow of blood. As near as Braum could tell the body had never known life but it had continued to grow. From just a microscopic embryo in a dirty vial, Tommy had grown into a monstrously sized baby seemingly in its third trimester of development. Tommy looked down at him with those giant eyes, twin maggots that had eaten their fill.
Was there a hint of contempt in them today? he wondered. Did he see for a second there, a flash of hatred and hunger? Braum began to feel uneasy in the room that held his greatest triumph. Tommy’s blood had been the key to his breakthrough and was the linchpin to his entire research.
While to those lesser eyes it had looked dead and foul, his eyes had seen the almost parasitic movement in the cells and through extensive testing unlocked their potential to create life where there was none. The blood also acted as a bridge of sorts, allowing him to create creatures that should never have drawn breath. There were others like SUBJECT 2002, many, many others. Braum first heard the slight dripping when he looked through the logs of growth. He would have to order new construction and a larger tank soon if those projections were right.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
It was so quite but so steady, like a heartbeat. First he checked the drainage tubes, nothing wrong there but when looking at the fluid levels he noticed a small decrease. He walked around to the back and nearly slipped.
A small puddle had formed from a slight crack along the seal at the bottom. Braum cursed and caught himself before he could fully fall into the liquid. He immediately pulled his radio from its holster and switched to maintenance’s channel. They would have to be called away from their work on the south end hall but the thought of even the slightest damage to Tommy had Braum nearly frantic. His fingers stayed on the dial however, they were coated in a different colored fluid than what filled the tank.
Braum knew that color. He had gazed at it through microscopes, watched it coagulate and thin inside beakers and vials; it was the grayish white of Tommy’s blood. Inspecting the puddle closer he felt all of his own color drain from his face. He watched as it moved through the preservative in thick clumps, like seamen stirred in a bathtub. He saw thin lines of it running off from the puddle, following the checker board edges of the tiles.
The blood lines seemed to move along the groves with a purpose. His normally sharp mind was uncomprehending as he followed the trail back out the doorway where it flowed through a space between the door and the locking mechanism no bigger than the tip of a pin.
On the other side he watched as it curved itself around a drain and up one of the central shelving units. There it feed itself up to the large fluid reservoir. Braum felt an overpowering urge to turn around then, like a thousand eyes boring into his back. Tommy was staring at him, really staring and this time there was no mistaking the look of hate in his dead eyes.
How long had the leak been going on, how had no one seen it? Braum’s rational mind screamed at him but he was frozen in place by his curiosity. Tommy was alive, at least in some way and he had extended himself beyond his tank but why? This thought burned him and spawned a thousand other questions but they all died at the first sound of cracking glass. It wasn’t coming from Tommy in front of him but from the ones behind him.
If nature could be considered their mother, then Braum had always fancied himself their father. Maybe that is why when he turned to face the horrors that he had created, the monsters he had cobbled together, it wasn’t a look of fear on his face but a smile of love.