GRAFT text image


a Tentacle Tales short story from beyond the world of The Rising Tentacle.

The alarm clock rang all too soon for the liking of Dan Armstrong. Light was starting to cast back the cloak of night with slow, feeble hands and Dan had to scrape sleep from his mind as another day requested his presence, however informally. He swung his legs around, out from under the sheet and thin blanket that had provided respite from the night’s cool air and felt for his slippers with a foot. He found a book. It didn’t fit.

Coffee revived Dan’s corpse-like stupor into a semblance of human animation and the day seemed to have benefited from the aroma that lingered around the room and had perked somewhat. It wasn’t long before he was dressed, with his white uniform jacket neatly folded and wrapped in a brown parcel of paper and string and ready to walk the ten minutes to the hospital. The hospital in question was Mingsport Hospital, a structure of brick and stone. It sported six large steps that approached a large pediment, stood upon towering columns giving it an air of academia. It was a teaching hospital, allied with the university but whereas the university was set away from the town, up on the hill, the hospital was near dead-centre of the town. It was actually built upon the site of the old sanatorium. The sanatorium had stood for one hundred years, to the day when the West Wing was mysteriously burned to the ground by a fire of such ferocity, people rumoured there must have been more than just a stray candle at work. The sanatorium was closed and the building was converted into the hospital that now stands. The West Wing was re-built, providing a modern heart to the hospital but the older parts were merely converted. Whilst everyone agreed that a thorough job had been carried out of building the new wing and refurbishment by Wilding Construction, there were further rumours that the sanatorium had just been ‘bricked up’ and that maybe the catacombs, that surely existed would have been better filled in once and for all. However, these were only rumours and Mingsport topped the leader-board when it came to rumours. The sun was shining through the leaves of the trees as Dan entered the hospital via the left side entrance and he made straight for the staff room where he found three of the nurses he would be working with this shift. The Superintendent; the senior nurse and an extremely efficient nurse whose task it was to run the hospital on a day to day basis had not arrived yet. Coffee sat on the stove in a large cream pot and beckoned Dan for his second cup of the day. The pleasantries about how everyone slept, the hope for a quiet but regular shift and how this or that patient would be doing were exchanged until fifteen seconds before 07:00 hours when the Superintendent arrived.

Dan had been assigned to front main ward which was situated in the new West Wing. It also meant he would be dealing with any accidents or emergencies that came via the front entrance that day. A ringing ambulance bell would announce a change in pace and flow to his day and in a sense, this would be welcome. He had worked here at the hospital for over six months now and whilst the freshness of a new job had not completely worn, the day’s routine was exactly that for him, routine. There were things he still had to get to grips with but by and large, routine expressed it well enough for him. For someone who does not work in a hospital it is difficult to grasp that such an alien environment could be considered routine. The objects, sights and smells were far removed from a local resident’s routine and they preferred to keep it that way. Dan however had moved into that role when his mother had died. He had seen the compassion and empathy, he was at a loose end and had made a conscious decision to move into the hospital role. It wasn’t something that he could honestly say he loved but it provided a purpose to his life and he accepted the challenges it brought. Early on, after an initial walk around the hospital, the Superintendent retired to her office and left the main running of the shift to the people on that shift. She would of course be called should anything change or unexpectedly come up and would indeed come out later on in the morning irrespective of calls. At present, however the lull-time allowed the day to be relatively calmly. Dan was being entertained in the sluice by one of the nurses who had managed to fire up the disposal unit without completely sealing the unit first and had managed to flood the floor and spray her uniform, both of which would need completely overhauling. The hospital prided itself on cleanliness, especially a large part of it being so new but more so in the fact that the Superintendent’s weekly (if not daily) references to Florence Nightingale and her success rate in the Crimean War, of reducing fatalities in the hospital from near totality to the low 20′s in percent, merely by cleaning the rat-infested hospital in Turkey. He was calling for the cleaner whilst he himself was in turn being called for a commode run, when the bell of an ambulance made all re-assess their priorities. Whilst the ambulance was a priority, the commode ranked equally and indeed the calling by the patient sounded more alarming than the ambulance bell! Dan had handed over toilet chair duty to one of the nurses whilst he shot outside to greet the ambulance.

Upon reaching the front entrance steps, Dan was met with the gaping maw of the back of the ambulance, the stretcher bearing the patient was half-in, half-out of the ambulance, tightly wrapped in white sheets and cream blanket, looking like some kind of pale pastry being eaten. Dr. Theophilus Thompson stood, his arms folded across his chest, right foot taping impatiently. The ambulance men, normally matter-of-fact and jovial in their demeanour were quiet and went about off-loading the, now upon closer inspection tightly sheet-bound patient. Even the patient’s head was covered, which normally meant that there was little hope for the poor unfortunate. However, Dan observed slight movement from the right side of the body so he surmised the patient was alive. The two ambulance men transported the sheet bundle beyond the steps, in through the main doors and off through to the left to a receiving area they were very familiar with. They waited for the doctor, nurses and orderly to arrive and promptly transferred the bundle onto a waiting examination couch that had been made into a bed position. One of the men went and pulled two metal-framed material screens around the bed, which Dan felt was odd as they normally left that task for one of the nurses or Dan himself. The nurses moved in closer, their interest piqued. Because a lot of the medical profession’s day is routine, anything ‘out of the ordinary’ warranted interest. Dan started feel this must have been some serious type of accident, warranting special attention and he subconsciously adjusted his expectations accordingly. ‘What do we have here?’ asked Doctor Thompson, stepping forward and reaching to remove the sheets and get a better look at his first trauma of the month. ‘I’d be careful Doctor’ said one of the ambulance men, both had stepped back away from the bed. ‘Nonsense, we have to see what we’re dealing with here’ continued the confident medic as he unwrapped the head of the patient. ‘You’ve got him wrapped up like a mummy from a tomb in Egypt’ he continued but then quietened and looked in closely at the patient. The eyes of this male were what grabbed everyone’s attention. They were open, stark-staring, un-blinking. A rictus gripped his other features and he was motionless. As the doctor started to unwrap more of the sheeting Dan noticed that it was not as white as he had previously thought. There was a dark stain developing over the right arm and shoulder, not blood, darker than blood. Doctor Thompson pulled at the sheeting but it was tightly held under the patient’s weight. This right side was the only part of the patient that showed any real sign of life. The doctor started to peel the sheet from under the body. The stain had wicked further through the cotton. He eventually freed the right arm but then stopped. Everyone gasped at what was revealed. ‘Good God!’ exclaimed the doctor taken aback. There, exposed beyond the sheet was a slowly writhing, green mass, like a tentacle, as thick as a strong man’s arm. At first everyone thought it was some kind of octopus entwined with the patient. Each started to postulate theories in their heads as to the nature of the incident that had befallen this unfortunate man. A diving accident – need to check for the bends. An attack at the Zoo – the patient was a keeper. My God! Who keeps an octopus for a pet! It was Dan who actually spoke ‘the tentacle is attached where the man’s arm should be!’. The tentacle was attached and there was no evidence of an arm. It was a professional curiosity rather than fear that held the attention of the assembled team. The doctor had now exposed the patient fully and from his cursory head-to-toe examination, the ‘arm’ seemed to be his only obvious injury, other than the fact that he was in some sort of catatonic state. ‘Pull to’ said the senior nurse, inviting her more junior staff to somehow get involved but they were at a loss as to what to do. No training could have been comprehensive enough to prepare a student for a presentation such as this. The ‘arm’ moved lazily but was the only thing that did move. The doctor took his stethoscope, pushed the pieces in his ears and placed the pad on the patients chest. He heard breath sounds but pulled away when the tentacle seemed to sense him and its pointed end started to move towards his hand. ‘We’ll be leaving now’ said one of the ambulance men who had started to back away to the door of the room. ‘Er, yes. Thank you. Nurse, get me some implements, I need to inspect this arm’ said the Doctor. ‘You man, bring some kind of receptacle for this thing’ he continued looking at Dan. Dan moved over and brought a bin to the right side of the bed. The tentacle reached out and inspected the bin sides and then moved slowly into it. Rough sutures pulled at the shoulder joint and dark green fluid ran slowly from the joint interface. Approaching from the lower right side of the patient, the doctor moved in closer with a scalpel, which gave him a little more courage than previously. He held it more as a weapon than a surgical instrument and proceeded to investigate where the tentacle joined the man. ‘What is it?’ asked one of the nurses quietly to her colleague but not quiet enough. ‘Quiet please! This is a delicate operation. The tentacle has been sutured to this man’s shoulder but it looks as if it is grafting onto the host, er patient.’. Suddenly, without warning the tentacle that had been out of sight, in the bin suddenly swung over and wrapped onto the doctor’s neck. ‘Arrgh! Get it off!’. It coiled around, across his face. ‘Get it mmmpth!’, his screams muffled by the fleshy arm that covered his mouth. The doctor stumbled, falling to the floor pulling a clatter of instruments with him and writhed in agony ‘arrgghh!’, the tentacle nonchalantly released its grip as the doctor fell. Blistering weals bubbled up visibly before the panic-stricken onlookers, the doctor continued screaming, holding his face. Dan leapt to the doctor’s aid and provided sterile gauze pads which he put to the doctor’s face. ‘Get doctor Potsen’ shouted the senior nurse and the nearest nurse to the door ran, ignoring hospital protocol glad to be away from the repulsive scene. The doctor had passed out on the floor, Dan cushioned his head and covered the face with more large gauze pads. Meanwhile, the patient on the bed started to shake. Slowly at first, then more noisily and finally much more violently, thrashing uncontrollably on the narrow trolley bed. The two remaining nurses instinctively reached forward and held the man by his left side and chest, onto the bed. The tentacle still writhed slowly, as though oblivious to its host’s predicament. The nurses were grateful for this as any movement in their direction would have resulted in abandonment of their task. After all, it’s a vocation, not a suicide wish!

Doctor Potsen arrived shortly, at speed with the nurse close behind. ‘My God! What’s happening?’ he shouted. ‘Doctor Thompson has been injured’ said Dan, still holding the doctor’s head in his hands, on the floor. Doctor Thompson was coming around and starting to moan. ‘I have drawn up morphine, doctor’ said the superintendent, holding out a glass tube with a shining metal needle on the end. ‘Thank you, I need to see the doctor first’ said Doctor Potsen but took the needle and approached his colleague on the floor. His moaning had gotten louder and as Doctor Potsen saw Doctor Thompson’s face, the horror was visible on his. He delivered an appropriate dose of the drug and then responded to the nurses’ shouts as the patient on the table was becoming unmanageable. ‘Watch the arm doctor’ said the Superintendent as it rippled in and out of the bin. The patient suddenly screamed, the first sound he had made since admission. The catatonic state had subsided. He suddenly went limp, apart from the tentacled arm which continued in much the same way it had done. The patient was dead. The doctor confirmed this whilst the nurses and Dan moved Doctor Thompson carefully to a trolley to move him out of the hellhole and onto a ward.

Doctor Potsen was left with the dilemma of what to do next! The patient was dead but the ‘arm’ clearly had life in it. ‘Nurse, will you draw up some Potassium Chloride please’ he directed at the senior nurse. ‘I don’t pretend to understand what has happened here but it seems to me that this thing is alien to the patient, who is dead and after seeing what it has done to Doctor Thompson, I propose to kill it!’. No-one made any move to counter the doctor’s proposal and so, with the Potassium Chloride duly drawn up, Doctor Potsen moved toward the thing and stabbed at it, injecting as he struck. The tentacle flailed a little but only slightly more so than previously. It still maintained an almost lyrical approach to its movements. It slowed and eventually ceased to move.

The clean-up operation was not a simple one. Doctor Potsen had to surgically remove ‘arm’ from the patient. It wasn’t felt that leaving the thing attached was a good idea, especially when thinking about what would have to be explained to any next of kin. The thing was removed from the hospital to the incinerator room while the patient was prepared with as much dignity as possible. ‘God knows he hasn’t had much up until know’ thought the Superintendent. The rest of the shift played out peacefully by comparison. Ward patient’s request for information on the ‘excitement’ was carefully side-stepped and Dan was glad when the end of his shift arrived. He walked back home pondering the days events. This was one shift he wouldn’t be able to switch off from quite so easily.

At home, Dan made for a book that had been open on the table for some time – Mingsport: Ritual and Custom by Jeremiah Nule. He had taken the library book out over a week ago and was working his way through it. He searched the Contents page for something that could remotely be linked with what had happened this morning and found a vague fuzzy fit with ‘The Tentacled One’. Written mostly in old dialect, the piece was difficult to follow but it seemed to boil down to the worship of a god (for god, Dan substituted monster) whose main preoccupation seemed to be with tentacles. He was tired, after the day he had had and also having just eaten so he put the book aside and let his mind wander. It wasn’t long before he retired for the night as he had an early start once more in the morning.

The next day started much the same as the previous one, except for the excited chatter about the incident. It was the routine of day to day that allowed people to return to their norm. Doctor Thompson was as well as could be expected after being attacked by a tentacled arm the size of a large tentacled thing. The Superintendent was superintending and trying to pull everyone back on track, dismissing yesterday as a one-off but there was a faint nervousness about her today. Yesterday had shaken her badly. All was going to plan; breakfast had been served, patients had been washed, commodes had been used, the sluice had been a busy hub. The staff had almost forgotten about yesterdays incident along with most of the patients. Only a couple of people mentioned how an accident ‘does break up the day’.

It was quiet at first, mostly beyond most people’s perception but then the regular burst of rings announced the imminent arrival of the ambulance. Nurses looked at each other, patients nudged each other and Dan made his way towards the main entrance of the hospital to meet the vehicle. The ambulance driver stepped from the cab slowly, the back of the ambulance burst open, his partner jumped down quickly. They both reached to lift the stretcher out of the back of the van. The ambulance men did not have to speak, their eyes spoke for them. ‘Is it another arm?’ asked Dan. ‘No, it’s a leg!’ replied the taller ambulance man sombrely. A similarly bundled body to yesterday could be seen on the stretcher. Everyone took a step back initially, remembering what had been hidden by the sheets yesterday but then an automatic professionalism kicked in and the patient was ferried to the same receiving area, people performing much the same roles as they had done yesterday. Doctor Potsen removed the strap and then the sheets slowly to reveal a similarly catatonic male, arms normal and intact but with the same staring eyes. Further removal of sheets made him step back, his normal clinical curiosity having being fulfilled yesterday. What was revealed was a large mottled-green trunk of a tentacle, from the right hip down. The tentacled end purposefully turned the last corner of the sheet away to fully reveal itself. It was much the same as the man’s arm yesterday, but larger. There was something truly monstrous about what was happening here. Yesterday was not a ‘one off’ as the Superintendent had said this morning, it was a purposeful act thought Dan. Someone or some ‘thing’ must be doing this for it was clear that no-one could do this to themselves. Dan cleared his throat but said nothing. ‘Much the same as yesterday’s presentation’ said Doctor Potsen in an authoritative manner but he was clearly hiding a nervousness never before seen in him. ‘The patient, doctor, can we do anything for him?’ asked the Superintendent, not normally accustomed to standing helplessly by. ‘The patient appears to be in no pain, his pulse is regular, breathing normal’ said the doctor. ‘We can’t just leave him. To die!’ said one of the nurses, clearly troubled by the scene. ‘We could try anaesthetising the leg. The Potassium killed it yesterday, maybe if we anaesthetise it, we can then remove it’ said the doctor, thinking through options in his head. ‘Will it save the patient?’ asked another of the nurses. ‘He will have a chance. Let us say that’ said the doctor. The Superintendent had started to draw up Morphine into a glass syringe, she handed it over to the doctor along with the glass vial for him to check. ‘Perfect as always nurse’ the doctor said, taking the syringe and moving into a safe position by the patient’s right leg. Dan flipped the sheet over the tentacle end and held it tightly, immobilising it. This allowed the doctor to jab at the thing and plunge an amount of Morphine into the green mass. Immediately it started to thrash about. The sheet was snapped from Dan’s hand and the end of the green tentacle lashed out, suckers uppermost trying to catch Dan or the doctor. The lurch had almost pulled the patient off the table, two of the nurses grabbed and clung onto his shoulders. The patient screamed out, now roused from his catatonic state, his arms flailed, matching the tentacle. He vomited, the scream gurgling in his throat. The patient’s body dropped off the table, to the floor and the tentacle pulled itself, dragging the limp body along the floor behind it, towards where the doctor stood. He backed up against the work surface and had nowhere to go. The patient convulsed twice, then dropped limp. ‘Potassium nurse! Potassium!’ shouted the doctor, the tentacle inches away. The Superintendent had been fumbling to get a vial of Potassium opened and into a syringe. She put the needle on the end and passed the ensemble to Dan who was nearest. He stuck the needle in the green tentacle and squeezed just as the tip and first sucker had reached doctor Potsen’s brown leather shoe. It slowed its movements, retreating back to the patient host but never made it. It ceased to move. ‘Thank God!’ said the doctor clearly relieved. ‘Thank Dan’ said the Superintendent. Green oozed from the join at the dead patient’s hip where the tentacle was grafted to his body. ‘We must inform the police’ said the Superintendent. The doctor, visibly shaken skirted past the mess on the floor, Dan skirted the other way.

It was half an hour later when the Sheriff arrived. Clean up had been well underway and the body had been placed on the table in the room, affording it a bit of dignity. The Sheriff walked around the table and took a look under the sheet. ‘Came in this morning you say?’. ‘Yes, there was another unfortunate yesterday’ said the doctor, the Superintendent at his side. Dan stood folding a sheet at the doorway, listening intently. ‘Could be kids’ said the Sheriff taking out a black notebook and pencil. ‘Kids?’ questioned the Superintendent. ‘I think it is more than kids, Sherif’ said the doctor. ‘Maybe so’ replied the Sheriff slowly and deliberately. Dan thought, in the Sheriff’s line of work he must see all sorts, in much the same way that the medical profession does, but this! ‘I’ll make some enquiries’ said the Sheriff, tipped his hat and walked out and back to the police car he had arrived in. The Superintendent and the doctor discussed the inadequacies of the police force, looking over at Dan. He stepped away from the door and made his way to the ambulance men who had stayed to help clean up. They were smoking by the main entrance and attempted to cover up the fact as Dan walked over. ‘it’s OK. Tell me, where were the two patients found? Where they close to one another?’ asked Dan. The shorter of the two men answered. ‘It was over by the old warehouses, beyond Sutter. They were both found there. That’s why me and Jim knew it would be more of the same when the second one was called in.’. ‘Who called them in?’ asked Dan. ‘Don’t know. Our Controller is all’ said Jim. ‘We just takes the call and responds’. ‘Beyond Sutter, you say. The warehouses there are mostly derelict aren’t they?’ continued Dan. ‘Mostly. Don’t know what folks would be doing out around there. It’s real creepy. You know?’ said the shorter ambulance man. ‘Real creepy, now!’ said Jim. Dan was called to attend the ward, he thanked the two men and walked back into the hospital. The rest of the day passed uneventfully much in the same way that the previous one had but everyone was on edge.

Dan walked home and made straight for the library book he had been reading yesterday. There was scant useful knowledge in the section he had bookmarked but he felt that the days events were a precursor to something old. Far older than the tenement building he lived in. Far older than the founding of the modern town he lived in. He resolved to eat and then take a trip over to Sutter, and beyond.

After eating, Dan poured over a map of Mingsport. Sutter was not too far from where he lived, it was away from the harbour, back into the town and away to the North. The road ran from the harbour, through the town and then left it to wend its way on to the next town, some twenty miles hence. Dan set out into the approaching dusk, a faint red sky to his left, hanging over the back of Mingsport. The summer night was muggy, he wore a dark jacket over a short sleeved white shirt and grey casual trousers. Before long Dan had taken his jacket off and swung it over his left shoulder, holding it with his left forefinger through the loop. As Dan left the dense town buildings and approached Sutter, his heart and feet felt heavy. He stepped out onto the road edge and looked across it. Some waste land on the other side gave the area a scrubby, rundown look and beyond banks of weeds, the warehouses stood dark and immovable. Dan had no real knowledge of what the warehouses had been used for, or being used for, if any were still in use. They had a melancholy air about them Dan thought. A car in the distance approached the curve in the road where he had met its edge. He decided to wait for it to pass rather than quickly walk across in front of it. As it passed, the driver, alone in the car looked at him, stark-faced. The car continued past at a continuous speed but the driver did not relinquish his gaze until out of sight. Dan stepped into the road and crossed its expanse. Once across, the uneven scrub-land proved more of a problem than he had anticipated. Some buildings had clearly been razed to the ground. Rubble, planks of wood, wire on uneven ground with dips and hollows made progress across it, slow and arduous. The sun had dropped behind the buildings that stood ahead and he tripped several times but eventually reached the wooden wall of the first building. He walked along to the right for several yards and then around the end of this first building. Once beyond this, the warehouses stood in rows and in the dark, Dan was at a loss at where to go or what to do. He walked down between two smaller warehouses to his left, then across and on to a much larger structure. At the end of this building some more smaller buildings presented themselves and one was a two-story building, that had a faint glow of light coming from upstairs. A series of wooden steps went up the outside of the wooden wall to a door where light crept from underneath and around it. It was a shuttered window next to the door that had leaked most of the light and drawn Dan’s attention to it. He looked around and saw nothing, heard nothing. He stepped forward and decided to climb the steps. Why? He had no idea. Some impulse was drawing him on and even though the steps creaked in the still, hot night he still pressed on, up the stairs. As he got nearer to the door, his heart was pounding in his chest. This was not the sort of thing he was used to doing. His job at the hospital provided enough excitement, occasionally. As he approached the door with its metal handle he suddenly felt silly. He surmised that he would be be presented with the scene of some warehouse workers, probably on a break, playing cards possibly and that his intrusion would be interpreted as a break-in. He hesitated. Then he heard a scream that was quickly cut off, followed by some shuffling. His hand reached slowly for the door handle. It took all his will and concentration to hold the handle and then slowly flip the latch. It clinked. In the still quiet, the sound seemed to shout out like some clarion call. No-one, nothing answered. Light spilled onto Dan as he peered to see inside the upper story of the building. There was nothing near the door but further into the building two rows of two tables had people strapped to them with a series of large thick brown leather belts. A man in a long white coat stood over the farthest table. It resembled the scene from the hospital this morning but multiplied in its horror. The nearest table saw a man, strapped to it with a large tentacle protruding from his stomach. It writhed and swayed, the man oblivious to it. Next to that table was what looked like a figure with a tentacle attached to where its arm should be, much like the first patient at the hospital. It was however when the man in the long white coat stepped back that an even worse atrocity was revealed. A figure, half sat up on the table had a large tentacle where his head should have been. Dan shouted out involuntarily ‘No. Stop! The man in the white coat turned around, he stared with round black glasses at Dan, opened his mouth as if to shout, but never did. The loss of concentration cased by Dan’s disturbance meant that the man did not see the tentacle twist and wrap around the side of his face. It gripped and crushed and the man flailed his arms and legs. He caught a lantern that was stood on the table next to him and it fell to the floor, smashing and spreading fire across the floor which caught material hanging from the table. The mans head popped and sprayed blood and brain matter everywhere. Dan turned away. The material caught fire quickly and the fire spread across to another table. Some poor and unfortunate victim screamed as the flames burned, his attendant tentacle pulling him to the floor. This in turn knocked over a further lamp and the fire spread. Chemicals in this foul laboratory burst from glass jars and fed the fury of the flames. Dan was transfixed by the fireball that had grown in what must have been a few tens of seconds. A foul smell of chemical, burning flesh and god knows what else assailed his nostrils, along with the heat. He had to shake his head before he could back to the door he had come in through. His foot went back and kicked open the door. The night that had seemed so humid earlier threw cool air into the room but this beckoned the flames ever nearer. A miasma of fear and terror ran through Dan’s mind; what he had seen, what he could hear, what he could smell. He turned, pushed through the half open door and ran down the wooden steps. The glass panes in the window next to the door shattered with the heat, spraying glass down below. Dan covered the back of his head with his left arm and he felt small, hot shards cut his hand. At the bottom of the stairs it was all he could do to force his legs to run away from the building. He made his way as best he could the way he had come earlier, stumbling as he went. An orange glow filled the sky behind him like a resurgent sunset. He could hear the fire crackling and snapping but did not look back. After tripping and falling to his knees in a depression in the ground and covering his hands in a black mud, he eventually made the road. Lights of a vehicle and the ringing of a bell approached from the town at speed. This was the last thing he remembered before blacking out.

Dan awoke in the hospital, in a bed, ‘the other side of the fence’. Jane, one of the nurses that worked with him stood smiling over him. ‘You’re awake! I’ll call the Superintendent’ she said and rushed away to fetch her. Dan looked around the dark ward, an empty bed either side of him. Vague recollections of what had happened started to filter back into his conscious mind but he couldn’t sequence them. ‘Glad to have you back with us Dan. For a minute, we thought you might have been turning up with a tentacle attached to your body’ smiled the Superintendent. ‘Tentacle’ said Dan. ‘Don’t speak’ said Jane comfortingly. ‘You were found over at Sutter, there had been a large fire. What were you doing there? A strange area for a late night walk. Never mind, questions can wait.’. Get some sleep’, the Superintendent pulled a sheet and blanket up around Dan’s shoulders, the two nurses turned and walked away. Dan fell into a deep sleep. He was awakened the next morning early. It made him realise just how early patients were awakened in hospital. He felt normal, except for a bandaged left hand, that ached.

Doctor Potsen reviewed Dan and pronounced him well enough to leave the hospital and go home to rest for the day. Dan had asked Jane about the fire and what the fire crew and police (he remembered a police car drawing up just before he blacked out) had found. ‘Nothing’ had been her reply. ‘The Sheriff said a whole warehouse block had burned to the ground but it was derelict, no real damage. Probably just kids’. ‘Kids! thought Dan to himself. He was still putting together the pieces in his mind and left it at that. ‘The Sheriff was happy that you were in no way to blame but wondered why you were out there. He may come and have a chat with you later. Although, based on his previous form, I doubt he will bother’ said Jane. Dan was driven home by the two ambulance men although he insisted he could walk.

Back at the hospital, at around eleven o’clock in the morning, the ambulance bell rang, announcing another arrival. The doctor, the Superintendent and the nurse Jane stood apprehensively at the hospital entrance. The ambulance driver jumped out of the cab, smiling. The back doors of the ambulance were pushed open from inside and Jim smiled ‘this lady has gone into labour’. The three hospital staff members visibly relaxed.

Below the hospital, labyrinthine tunnels run the length of the bricked up past of the old sanatorium, but there is an interface between the new world of the hospital and the old world. The tunnels are met by the outfall from drains, hastily implemented by scared workers building the hospital. It is here that a small amount of green slime, washed out of the reception room had puddled in some dark void. A cursory glance, if such a thing could be made, in such a dead place would reveal a congealed liquid. However, cell division of some unknown origin was taking place.

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