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I Worked at a Top Secret Government Research Lab. I Need to Share My Journals.

I Worked at a Top Secret Government Research Lab. I Need to Share My Journals.


Estimated reading time โ€” 22 minutes

These logs are from Senior Technical Operations Specialist III K.Z. Okpala’s private files. These files have been compiled using an offline text software built by K.Z. Okpala. These files are conjecture and only reflect the opinions and biased insight from STO III Okpala’s perspective. All names, personally identifying details, and some elements of the stated findings have been altered to protect National security interests.

Months and specific days have also been altered. Years have been entirely redacted.

Entry 1 – March 19th, 20XX:

Okay. So I’m not sure how legal it is to journal about this, but… Oh my God. I’m onsite at, uh…, I guess we can call it Central Lab 47B (If you think I’m referencing the other place, you’re surprisingly mistaken). A lifetime’s worth of work to be here has finally paid off, and I didn’t even know this place existed until three months ago. Though, I guess the previous five years of prep should’ve given me an idea that something like this would exist. Still… I don’t think fifty years could’ve fully prepared me for what I’m helping to support.

It’s funny. So many times, I’ve questioned if my sacrifices were worth it to be in a place like this. Deep down, the answer had always been a resounding “No.” I was driven forward more by the desire to see what was on the other side. But now? It’s almost laughable that that was ever a question in my mind.

Either way, my team seems competent enough. Morrison, our laboratory’s leading Director, has been involved with projects like this for the past three decades. And hey, if a guy could keep operations like this running with Stone Age tech, then who am I to question his methods? On top of that, he’s a great guy to work around. It’s always helpful when a good director is the type of guy you’d have a beer with.

Despite the work, the lab is a pleasant place. People freely crack jokes, talk about family on the outside, and reference memes from our not-so-allowed servers that connect us to the outside. I can’t wait to see everything this place has in store for us. I’m certain we’ll accomplish great things.

Entry 2 – July 4th, 20XX:

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Happy 4th! To who? Who cares! It goes without saying that in this line of work, Federal Holidays mean all of Jack & Shittake here. The project takes precedence over all manner of holidays, leaves of absence, or “worker’s rights.” Try suing the Federal government over a top-secret project because you didn’t get enough minutes for your lunch break. Hah.

Anyway, coincidentally… Morrison is a big 4th of July guy. He assured us that riding our asses for the past three months was only so that we could get this one day off and have an authentic American barbecue. How nice. Though, I’d argue sleep deprivation isn’t worth underseasoned burgers and overcooked ribs. Just my opinion.

Still, it was fun. Plus, it gave me time to come back to my journal and get to know some of my coworkers while also trying to figure out what exactly is going on here. Despite my top-secret clearance, I’m still not privy to everything behind the scenes. As far as I know, no one is. I maintain operational and research needs, but I’m only really aware of the needs. Not all that they support. That’s where the rumor mill comes in. While here, I became close friends with Managing Senior Engineer Abed Abadi.

Seeing as Abed is involved with the research, after a couple of beers and a very manly conversation about how much he misses his wife, I’d pop the question, “Just what are we doing here?”

To my surprise, he wasn’t exactly sure either. From what I could gather, his team is responsible for cell cultivation engineering needs. But more than that. Supposedly, the groups of cells he’s looking at are entirely unique to any previously studied genome. Including within federal databases. As I understand it, the main goal is to keep them alive with the side project of understanding what stimuli can harm the cells. And how they respond.

Seriously, just what are we looking at?

Entry 3 – October 24th, 20XX:

My manager just died. I don’t think anyone was going to tell us. Morrison tried to sell the team on her leaving the facility due to a personal matter. But, it sounded like crap from the beginning. Moreso, when I heard a couple of the higher-ups specifically mention her death in passing while working one of my later nights… Guess classifying information doesn’t hold up to human error.

My coworker Mia has two theories on why. Either it’s to keep us productive by preventing us from getting distracted by the news of her death. Or, it’s because death isn’t an uncommon thing here. Taking a shot of whiskey on it being the former.

Still… It feels wrong to continue our work as if nothing happened. I didn’t always get along with Wendy, but I think her death at least deserves to be acknowledged. Everyone deserves a moment of silence. This brings into question other re-assignments or leaves of absence. If I die, will the same thing happen to me?

Entry 4 – February 13th, 20XX + 1

They’re making me manager. Going to be a short post as I apparently have a party to attend. Abed and Mia found it fit to put together something to celebrate my promotion. Somehow, they got high-quality peppermint schnapps into the facility. I’m excited, but simultaneously, I can’t shake the ghost of Wendy from my mind. Part of me feels guilty for taking her position. Another part tells me this is what my entire life has been leading up to. I guess we’ll see.

Entry 5 – March 8th, 20XX + 1

Quick post. Things have been going great! Abed somehow smuggled cigars for a movie night with Mia and some of our coworkers. I swear that guy has some crazy connections. Something to look into (I kid. Probably). I’m not a smoker but when in Rome. Also, why does his room have a pool table? I didn’t even know that was an option! Gotta thank the taxpayers for that one. I can envision myself here with these people for a really long time. Might even leave with some lifelong friends.

Entry 6 – April 19th, 20XX + 1

They’re finally letting me see it! I was informed yesterday that they’re allowing me to see the specimen on which all this has been based. I suppose I impressed whoever is above us in my two months of management? Operational support is running as smoothly as ever in my short stint. Or maybe this had always been the plan for me? Regardless, it almost feels like a dream. However, per the standard unnecessarily cryptic governmental practices, I’m not allowed to know when I can see it. Or, apparently, do anything that shows an unusual level of anticipation? Whatever that means. I’ll update later.

Entry 7 – May 8th, 20XX + 1

I don’t fully know how to describe what I’m feeling right now. I can’t fully remember if I was driven to a different location or walked somewhere within Central Lab 47B. All I can remember is being injected with something, having a bag placed over my head, and then coming into consciousness in a lab.

At the center of a hodgepodge of wiring, tubes, and screens was a large tank. Within it was what looked like a pale amorphous blob. The closest thing I could compare it to was an octopus with large, buggy eyes. Where a normal cephalopod would have a beak, a sizeable gelatinous sack was present, from which two snail-like stalks would occasionally expand and contract. At the end of each tentacle were flexible digits that tirelessly explored their transparent prison.

Intermittently, it’d flash brilliant colors. An electronic cadence would sometimes follow, and an iridescent skin flap with tiny intricate patterns would extend from its cranium. I imagined it was as if it were showing off extra neurons, almost like a display of its intelligence.

But then again, how smart is a creature that was in the state it was in?

Noticeably, a significant amount of grey slime seemed to have accumulated at the bottom of its tank. It didn’t look like a lifeless mucus but more like fungi or a slime mold. It would spit these rigid structures from its stalks that would quickly find their way to the tank’s edges before disintegrating and settling at the bottom. Supposedly, these would build up and routinely need cleaning. But they were fascinating nonetheless.

As I sat there, observing, Morisson was beside me. Given his position, I assumed he’d seen this thing countless times. And even still, he appeared spellbound by the specimen. It was almost as if he was in a trance. But how could I blame him? What we were observing was fascinating. Something entirely new for our species.

Before I knew it, I was rushed out and debriefed on the situation. It was found in the depths of our oceans, so they say. Apparently, scientists using an unmanned drone caught another one of its kind, giving birth to the creature we have here. Or rather, it gave birth to a lot of eggs, and this is one of the few that survived.

The parent was caught later on. After various forms of genetic analysis on top of other tests, the original research team discovered that it contained a very minuscule genetic relation to any known animal on Earth. And even then, it would suggest a very basic shared genetic connection that predates the formation of our planet. That’s when the federal government stepped in. Still. All this effort over the identification of animal? I wish I was naive enough to believe there wasn’t much more to what they found.

Entry 8 – June 29th, 20XX + 1

There’s a weird vibe in the lab lately. What was once a place of passionate folks who were all too happy to have a conversation has turned surprisingly cold. I don’t really get it. We’re all stuck here together. Isolated from the rest of the world. Leaning on each other was the only thing keeping us sane. And now people kinda keep their heads down.

It’s throwing me off. Also, there’s a strange smell now. I don’t know if anyone has picked up on it yet, but I catch whiffs of it occasionally. I’m going to do my best to stay in my room when I don’t have to be in the office. Maybe the cleaning crew has been slacking on clearing out the vents?

Entry 9 – July 5th, 20XX + 1

We didn’t get a 4th of July party this year, though it feels like we’ve all been working harder now than ever. Morrison actually yelled at a guy today. I didn’t know he had that in him. He’s always been so even-keeled. I’ve seen some guys mess up pretty badly in the past and his first reaction has always been, “It’s okay. How can we do better next time?” I feel bad. I mean, he really tore into the poor bastard.

Thankfully, Abed and Mia seem to be okay from all of this. Abed’s been busier as research needs have ramped up, but I was able to talk to Mia alone for a bit. She brought up similar concerns in addition to the fact that, supposedly, the lab is looking to divert funds, resources, and personnel from other wings into research. According to Mia, due to “unforeseen circumstances” regarding crucial people in other “non-essential” departments, the lab no longer sees it fit to waste resources maintaining them.

Janitorial services have been majorly reduced, our human resources department is gone, employee enrichment services are gone, our accounting department has been reduced, and all research on how these cells can apply to modern medicine has been scrapped… All this, among other things. What the hell is happening?

The smell is getting worse, by the way.

Entry 10 – August 21st, 20XX + 1

I didn’t know who to ask about leaving, so I discussed it with someone on Morrison’s team. I didn’t want to go to him directly. He’s been… Scary, lately. What they told me was that because of the contract I signed and because of the things I had seen, I absolutely had to stay the remainder of my agreed-upon term, be fully debriefed by an HR representative (Which no longer exists), have multiple meetings with multiple councils and unnamed people to discuss my findings, and wait for an accounting executive (Which no longer exists) to perform an audit to ensure I wasn’t lying about my use of government property or finances. I’m also subject to a personal investigation of an unspecified period. Alternatively, I could attempt to breach my contract and be thrown in federal prison. Or worse.

Effectively, I was screwed!

I figured I’d vent with Abed over a bottle of whiskey, but he’s been unresponsive to my messages, and I haven’t seen him around the lab. I decided to see what Mia was doing when I came across a disturbing sight. What looked like some sort of mold was staining the lab walls. Not overly so, but enough to where it was hard to walk by without noticing patches of it. Most notably around the vents.

I mentioned this to one of the few janitorial staff members, and he told me it was normal. Apparently, it had shown up relatively recently. When they looked into it, they found it wasn’t mold, so it was probably harmless. Maybe staining from damaged pipes. Either way, he promised to look into it, but I don’t have much faith there.

When I finally reached Mia’s room, she told me she was feeling sick and couldn’t talk. Come to think of it, I’ve also been pretty under the weather. I’m starting to get hot flashes completing this entry, so I guess I’ll end this here. I’ll take the excuse to watch horror movies and pass out for 12 hours.

Entry 11 – November 2nd, 20XX + 1

Morrison got into a fight. Per usual, he was berating a researcher over his findings regarding cell cultivation and the ideal temperature to maintain one of the eggs we had in storage. Apparently, the results weren’t “Good enough.” Mind you, we don’t know anything about this animal! We’re starting from scratch here and performing miracles to keep this thing and its siblings alive. Much less routinely finding the absolute best conditions for it.

To make a long story short, Morrison actually ended up trying to strangle the man. For an older guy, he’s surprisingly strong. It took five men to pry Morrison off. The guy he attacked had to go to the onsite infirmary. Afterward, everyone kept on like everything was normal.

I had to get that out of the way before returning to my last update. So I got really sick. Like bed-bound for a solid month. I’m just now getting back to work in the lab. I’ve had to run everything from my computer. Painful as it was for me, being sick isn’t the interesting bit. It’s what was coming out of my body.

At first, I was expelling your run-of-the-mill throw-up. Greenish brown icky stuff. You get my drift. But in the third week, it was greyish black. Not only that, but in the unfortunate event I couldn’t make it to my bathroom, I’d often see what looked like tiny maggots crawling from the bile and escaping into who knows where. Mia had a similar experience when I talked to her about it.

The funny thing is, I can’t remember anyone else getting sick like this. Maybe they had and didn’t talk about it? I don’t know. Luckily, my absence wasn’t missed. People kind of just filled the gap without much thought. And when I came back, it was a seamless fit. I wish the rest of the government ran this smoothly…

Entry 12 – December 25th, 20XX + 1

The mold on the walls has grown significantly, and large patches of the stuff have overtaken much of the lab. In any other circumstance, we’d get put on quarantine,, but people keep working as if nothing is happening.

I don’t know if this bit is in my head. But it also feels like people’s skin is starting to reflect the color of the pulsating moldy walls. Morrison especially looks grey and puffy. He’s also sweating a lot as of late. They all are.

Despite this, productivity has never been better. No one talks about anything other than the project. Everyone comes early, stays late, and only eats what’s needed to keep them functional. Though everyone else still keeps gaining weight somehow. We’ve made massive breakthroughs in cell cultivation and have hatched some of the eggs we had in Cryo. Apparently, the new specimens look different than the one I saw. Not sure how.

One of my coworkers came up to me today to ask me for the status of some reports. The smell was unbearable. The skin on the fatty tissue that had accumulated on what was once a slender neck was peeling badly. The yellowing of his eyes had reached the point where they were nearly amber, and thick veins on his hands writhed as if something was using them to move around his body.

And he was just one case. Everyone has taken on a somewhat mutated version of what they once were.

I keep my distance from all of them. I still can’t get ahold of Abed. Though I thought I heard someone mention his name with the word “Spawn.” Mia is the only other person here that seems normal. Who knows for how long.

Entry 13 – March 9th, 20XX + 2

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I’ve been plotting with Mia on how we can escape. Things are so deeply wrong here. The goal was to understand this thing, sequence its DNA, and determine if it has any benefits to humans. Now they’re talking about producing more. They want more eggs and more tanks. Morrison is trying to see if other labs would be willing to host multiple specimens. He’s even been so bold as to suggest they go to an aquarium or two and pass it off as a new species of octopus.

Why would we do any of that? The worst part is no one here has any objection. Everyone is united on the goal of the project. Which, to my knowledge, has shifted dramatically since my first day here.

Mia and I wanted to see if we could save any of this and go public. No good. All the data is heavily encrypted and would auto-delete on any attempt to copy it to another device. We looked into various methods of saving information. Still, I don’t need to tell you the government has serious security protocols that the general public isn’t aware of. And it may not be for another decade. As you’d expect, no phones or cameras are allowed within miles of this place.

The only thing I have is my logs, which I’ve opted to transcribe into a notebook and reassemble later.

Because of our respective statuses within the lab, we have access to specific databases. And it was in one of those we found that Abed was dead. His body was found in his room. Slimy spores had taken root in his brain matter, grown through his skull, attached themselves to the wall, and crawled up to the vents. The accompanying pictures were… Gruesome. What’s worse, he wasn’t the only one. So many of our coworkers had met a similar fate.

And the bastards here… They were tracking everything. Thoroughly documenting the growths, measuring the stalks, taking samples, and trying to grow them in a lab. Worst of all, we may have found evidence to suggest that this all ties back to the creature we found.

But why weren’t Mia and I affected like the others? Or maybe a better question is, how many others are out there?

Entry 14 – April 13th, 20XX + 2

The good news is we’ve managed to track down other survivors from other parts of the lab. All of them described getting sick, just as Mia and I had. The bad news is they’re too far from where Mia and I are to safely meet consistently.

The others here seem to have lost all sense of individuality. It’s almost like they move as one. Sometimes, they don’t even need to use words to delegate or accept tasks. Any actions not in support of project goals are met with aggression. The only time I feel safe is in the confines of my room. My candle stash also helps me forget the wafting aroma from the walls and desks.

Anyways. From our efforts, we were down to a team of five. Mia, myself, Cell Biology Director Liu Chen, Lead Engineering Specialist Sarah McCarthy, and security officer Kamaran Reaves. We were able to establish an encrypted group chat. Though on government servers, nothing you do is really safe, so we didn’t have the benefit of saving messages for more than a couple of hours at a time. That being said, we were still able to come up with a plan.

From our collective knowledge, we learned that Morrison and the other directors were attempting to contact another lab to give them one of our hatched specimens. They’d be taking a convoy out at some point with a team of engineers and scientists who would train the lab on best practices along with a debrief of our findings. This would likely be our best time to move. Not only would the lab have fewer personnel to stop us, but our coworkers’ “uniform” thinking would probably mean they’d be too focused on ensuring this transport goes smoothly than worrying about a few people slipping out.

Unfortunately, Kamaran didn’t have the authority to get us in and out of whatever door we wanted. However, as lead engineer, Sarah was privileged to request access to certain lab areas for “maintenance checks.” Furthermore, Director Chen had the authority to approve such a request and could ask that Reaves be upgraded with the necessary clearances to most areas, including the exit.

So the plan was simple: we’d wait until the convoy was planning to leave, rendevous near the front, and walk out the door. Easy. Except for the sixty-mile trek from the lab to civilization. With armed security watching everyone who exits.

That’s where we’d have to get creative. Technically, due to our contract, no one is allowed to leave the area unless given special permission approved by multiple parties. We would never be given that approval. Luckily, Directors are given their own tracked vehicles to travel between the different buildings. Maybe we can convince external security that we’re escorting Chen for a debrief. If we’re lucky, they should only scan Chen and Kamaran’s ID cards for approval. From there, we drive until we’re out of shooting range, ditch the car, and hike back to civilization.

After days of brainstorming, I’m disappointed this is what we came up with. We’ll fine-tune as time goes on. Here’s to not getting our brains eaten by spores.

Entry 15 – May 1st, 20XX + 2

Everything became very real today. Chen was able to get a date for the convoy. It’s closer than expected. In light of this, we decided to do our homework early. We’d try to get Reaves the approvals he needs first.

Meanwhile, Sarah would do her best to slow down the security systems around the exit. She’d work with Reaves to time a mandatory system update and reset with our escape.

Mia and I would direct staff towards complex and meaningless tasks. The goal ultimately was to keep everyone so preoccupied with busy work that they didn’t notice us working behind the scenes. Or unwittingly supporting some of the other plans we had in place. I’ve also been working extra to specifically slow down security resource needs and ensure that intensive project deadlines coincide with when we plan to escape.

I don’t know how on Earth Kamaran got access to these, but when I found an unmarked box at my door, I didn’t know whether or not to open it. Only when he sent a message to the group saying, “Three shots. Emergencies only.” did the pit in my stomach grow from a seed to a redwood. Inside was a small, foldable gun about the size of a credit card. Three rounds of ammunition were stored in a tiny compartment on the weapon. Even staring at it now, I’m getting chills.

Entry 16 – June 3rd, 20XX + 2

We’re biding our time now. We’re putting some finishing touches on our plan and waiting. Good thing, too. The mold has wholly overtaken the lab and attached to our electronics. It almost feels like it’s breathing. Even if I’m immune to whatever this stuff is now, it surely can’t be good to live it every day.

I saw Morrison for the first time in a while. His eyes were gelatinous sacks with parasites pulsating in the fluid. At first, I assumed the parasites completely blinded him. But from how he was watching us all, I felt that couldn’t be further from the truth. Every time one of us would move from our desk, one of his bulbous eyes would track us until something more interesting caught his attention… Say, for example, another fight breaking out in the lab.

Fights were common now. Whenever someone was deemed to be slacking or actively detrimental to the “good of the project,” people would take it upon themselves to rectify the situation physically. It’s not uncommon for this retribution to go too far. I’m not sure where the bodies of those killed by the angry mobs go, but I have a hunch.

Here’s the thing. Approval to be here is a long and arduous process. You would assume that every person, even if they’re slacking a bit, is too important to lose. Oddly enough, that hasn’t been the case. I’ve seen people literally have their limbs torn off in a fit of mob rage. Only for someone completely new or, on occasion, the same person, sitting in that same chair no more than 24 hours later.

This is going to sound crazy, but are they somehow fixing the people they’ve killed? Or are they birthing them? I’m starting to wish we had more than an escape plan. This whole place needs to go up in flames.

Entry 17 – July 14th, 20XX + 2

It’s hard to describe the feeling of isolation I have here. My days are spent planning, pretending to support something I’ve grown to hate, and attempting to keep any semblance of the mold that has turned my coworkers into an autonomous hive mind out of my room. Every day, I look at the gun Kamaran found for us, and I wonder if the only true freedom is sitting on my desk. I imagine the others feel the same. How could they not?

That being said, I’m no coward. Even if I were, I’m too prideful to let the others on the outside turn my body into a puppet for the mold.

But still, is this something I’ll ever be free of? I haven’t left this place in over two years. I’ve been effectively cut off from the outside world. I don’t know how things have changed. Maybe there’s some other societal parasite that’s even worse than what’s here? Have people grown to hate each other more? Is disease rampant? Will I appreciate the shifts in culture? There’s so much that changes so fast that I fear I’ll go from one isolated world to another. Though the one out there has pho, jerk chicken, and whiskey, so I guess I couldn’t be too mad.

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Ah. I never thought I’d reach the point where pho, jerk chicken, and whiskey are three-fourths of why I choose to stay alive. Funny how life gets boiled down to the simplest things in the most dire moments, huh? But I mean it. I really do. Plus, I can always go crazy after my stomach is full.

It might be a while before the next update. The date is rapidly approaching. I won’t be able to write anything during all of this. I’m going to use the remaining time to prepare. If you don’t see another update, then… Yeah. To whoever is reading this, me, my future wife and kids, whoever… Regardless of what happens, know that I tried, okay? I really did.

Entry 18 – September, 20XX + 3

It’s been a while. Over a year now. I’m going to be honest: a large part of me didn’t want to come back to this. The whole ordeal felt and still feels like a nightmare. Or maybe a severe case of psychosis. Either way, I found myself feeling incredibly guilty for ignoring what happened. And it’s not like I can share government secrets with my therapist, so here I am.

I suppose I’ll start with the day of the convoy leaving. So much planning and preparation had gone into that day. As expected, the focus of the entire lab was moving the specimen to another location. Morrison and some other directors were to be part of the move. Chen and the remaining leadership would hang back and run operations in their absence. This was good for us.

As planned, Sarah was able to get the exit doors maintenance request approved, thanks to the damage she had done in the previous months. Chen had gotten Reaves the proper approvals to escort her to the exit. In real-time, it would’ve seemed suspicious for Sarah to fix the doors herself. But as managers of our respective teams, all it took was a slightly heated conversation about how I needed her team back at the Cell Rejuvenation Bay and that she could handle the simple task of the doors by herself. An order backed by Director Chen in person.

Mia had a more difficult time moving around. Still, when I came around and informed everyone that I’d need about an hour of her time to discuss “meeting operational goals,” we were all there.

There was a slight hiccup when one of the replaced employees wouldn’t leave. These guys were usually obsessed with working, so I wasn’t sure why he needed to hang around and watch us. The answer came when he walked over. His face was all too familiar.

Abed. Or some twisted version of him. I think he knew what we were up to. And he easily could’ve ratted us out. Part of me wanted to reach out and tell him to come with us to safety. My anger and hatred for this place wouldn’t allow me to leave someone that I had grown so close to. How could I?

Kamaran, however, had different plans. He rushed Abed’s clone, clasped his hand around his face, and brought the credit card-sized gun to his temple. I couldn’t hear too well, but I could make out the undeniable words of a very strong threat.

I wanted so badly to rip Kamaran off of Abed and punch his teeth in for attacking my friend. For a moment, I even took a step forward. Luckily, my rational mind kicked in when I caught those amber eyes and realized my friend was gone. This was only an abominable imitation of the man I knew.

After the scuffle, the two got up. The Abed clone looked at Mia and me and promptly left. Hopefully, by the time he’d informed the others… If he informed the others, we’d be long gone.

In all honesty, outside of that, things went pretty smoothly with the security system out and the ever-present maggot-filled eyes of the other Directors not on us at all times. The lab being relatively empty for the first time allowed us to get the doors open and slip out into the entrance hall without being noticed.

It’s when we got outside… God. I’m still not past what we saw. It’s a big reason why I never wanted to come back to this.

There wasn’t security outside. In fact, I’d bet security hadn’t been outside in months. It was a fucking nest. An enormous, moldy nest had wholly overtaken the entrance hall.

Thousands of those octopus things in various stages of life were embedded in the nest with countless eggs. As we carefully walked by, almost in unison, they extended that sickening, iridescent skin flap on their heads. It was blinding. The final door to the outside was nearly molded over. Only a tiny crawlspace was available to us.

I remember we all just stared. Not entirely sure what to do. Breaking the silence, I asked Chen where the car was. All he could do was return a blank expression. Mia tried the same while grabbing him by the shoulders. His only response was a faint, “I created this.”

Kamaran started shaking violently, repeating “No, no, no” as he sank into the ground. Immediately, a long tentacle grabbed him by the ankle, and he screamed.

I spun towards him, but there was nothing I could do. A myriad of those creatures covered him in seconds. I panicked, grabbed Mia, shouted for everyone to leave, and rushed her toward the door. Sarah took a second but was close behind us. I quickly looked back and saw Chen still refusing to move. I shouted again, but once more, it fell on deaf ears. Ultimately, it’d be the last I’d ever see of him.

I dove headfirst toward the opening. Tiny tentacles curiously latched onto me. Dread deeper than anything I had experienced before permeated my body. Clawing at the hard ground in front of me until the tips of my fingers bled, I finally popped out of the other side with a primal scream.

Behind me followed the distinct sound of two rounds going off and Mia crawling out of the dirt. Sarah followed with her arms extended. The things had gotten hold of her, and they wanted her badly. Mia and I each grabbed an arm and pulled with so much force I was worried we’d end up dislocating her shoulders. But that was nothing compared to becoming food for an army of hell spawns.

With a final heave, we pulled her out of the tiny space. With her came one of the cephalopods that began squirming violently in the dirt. In a rage, Sarah ran over and stomped on the thing repeatedly until it was nothing but an unrecognizable stain on the ground, screaming all the while.

She broke down after realizing the thing was dead. We got her to her feet and took one final look at what had become our prison over the past two years. The outside had decayed much faster than a building of its kind should. Intermittently, we’d see the octopus creatures poke out into the sunlight only to recoil when the heat touched their skin.

The last thing we’d heard before leaving for good was the undeniable sound of a gunshot.

Climbing the gates was tedious but relatively easy. Our most significant challenge to date was the vast barren wasteland we had to traverse. Without Chen’s car, there wasn’t an easy answer outside the obvious. We had to keep walking until we hit a highway. Luckily, on my way out, I grabbed a compass and some first aid stuff and researched the nearest highway.

I’ll spare the details of what was a monotonous hike until we hit something. After a mind-numbing trek and waiting by the road, we eventually got picked up by some passersby and were dropped off at a town about 40 minutes off the road.

We had done it. With any luck, the federal government would consider us dead, and we wouldn’t have to answer for breaching our contracts.

I don’t feel comfortable explaining what happened to Mia or Sarah. Their stories aren’t mine to tell. But I do still keep up with both of them. As you’d expect, I had to essentially start my life over again. New identity, new location, new friends. Lying on my resume and keeping up those lies during interviews was challenging, but I’m in a decent spot now, financially.

The nightmares have been brutal, though. And the very real possibility that my health is forever impacted by being around that thing scares me to this day. The doctors say they can’t find anything wrong with me. But I’ve been getting sick more frequently, and I swear I can feel something tiny tickle the back of my throat in my sleep. Maybe I’m delusional.

It’s also tough not knowing what became of all of that. Did they ever make it to other labs? Are aquariums planning on debuting a new species of “octopus”? It bothers me. I wish I had the answers. Maybe someone listening to or reading this does and is just waiting to come forward. I know I’m not the first to experience something like this.

Anyway, as I sit here with a half-empty bowl of pho and jerk chicken on the side, I’ve decided to go public. Well, somewhat. I’ll absolutely be using an alias or a proxy account to post all of this. But these experiences need to be shared. I’ve done enough damage to contribute to hell on Earth. Let’s see if we can do some good by giving people a heads-up about what’s happening, right? The truth is going to come out sooner or later.

Sorry, I’ve been rambling for a bit now, and honestly, there’s another shot of whiskey calling my name. This will likely be the last entry for a long while. And that’s a good thing. Cheers. And thank you for being here with me.

Credit: Bryan A Young

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