Raul stumbled back, knocking over his supply cart before he struck the broken railing of the platform. The loose creature, something like a mutated stingray with the ability to fly, pursued him still. He had no idea what the thing wanted with him, how it could have gotten out, or even if it was real at all. It defied logic being not only so large, but in the way it hung in the air like a helicopter would. Unlike the creatures it resembled the most, it’s body was rigid with hard angles that looked more than unnatural. The center of it came up in a sharp ridge like a shark fin while the two wing-like sides had a crease in their middle that acted as a hinge. The mouth had prolapsed outward; it looked less like it could swallow in a conventional manner and would instead suckle on juices like a moth with its proboscis. Then there was the tail; Raul saw it was curved, serrated, and featured a lower hook. It was all the terrifying things a spike could be.
Before Raul could even throw his hands up, the creature plunged forward with the point of its tail. Blood shot into Raul’s eyes, he shrieked in agony, and then his footing gave way. The grates shook as the handrail broke behind the janitor, dropping him twelve feet down to the lower floor. There was two feet of water, or something like it, beneath the platform, which only barely broke his fall. With frantic haste, hardly realizing that he had taken a fall, Raul scampered backward on feet and hands until he reached a wall. He took in a difficult, deep breath with some effort, shaking as he did so until he realized the ray was gone.
His eyes shot wildly about the lower area. The creature would have been well camouflaged in the dark of the dull, chartreuse light of the facility if it didn’t already have enough of an advantage. A sudden fear gripped Raul as he noted there was nothing flying around him. The monster could have very well been on him somewhere or more likely swimming in the water. He clung to a nearby pipe before trying to shimmy up it. Getting his legs out of the water, Raul assessed the area around him and found that the water didn’t move. There should have been some relief in knowing the creature had come and gone with haste, but Raul couldn’t quiet his mind or slow his heart rate. Breathing in another pained breath, Raul found the chemical odor of the hydro-lab tinged with a coppery scent. He was reminded then of the stinger that was no doubt lodged so deep inside his chest that removal would be impossible.
Sliding down the pipe after a few more minutes of indecision, Raul pressed his back against the wall once more. Anxiously, he worked up his nerve until he summoned enough courage to place a hand on his chest. Raul didn’t start where he was sure the entry point was; instead, he put fingers to his naval and gradually neared the wound. He nearly stopped completely as he felt the open zipper of his jumpsuit and then again when his fingers traced along his torn undershirt. Swallowing hard, Raul pressed his fingers into the unknown damage to his chest and came up more than confused.
The stinger was gone, perhaps the ray kept it, and in its place was a mass of fleshy material that felt akin to scar tissue. Looking down, Raul found there had been a wound, but it was now covered with a champagne-colored skin. Poking it, he found that it was stuck in place but had plenty of wiggle room as though it were just filling space there. With cautious hands, Raul tried to grip the mass only to find it was more slippery than a wet bar of soap. Taking a bolder approach, Raul slipped his fingers into the torn away flesh, clamped down on the material, and gave it one good jerk. It came free but not because Raul had wanted it. This thing moved on its own volition.
His fingers slipped from the mass once more as it folded out of his breast and revealed the horrible truth. With the elastic stringiness of a tapeworm but the innumerable legs of a centipede, the sinewy thing flailed in front of Raul. For a second, he thought he was going to faint, then Raul panicked and tried to capture the thing. As his hands moved in on it, the worm swiveled about, turning its freakish mouth on one of Raul’s fingers. It looked like the stingray when it came to that mouth, yet this had a beak around it, sharper than a razor’s edge. It clipped off Raul’s right pointer and then dug the point into the stub. Pulling back, the worm revealed that it could consume solid material in the matter of snake, pushing a large mass down its length until it vanished into Raul’s chest. Seeing the violent act play out with such ease and casualness, Raul tumbled backward and slid down against the wall. His mind began to power down until he was unconscious, half-submerged in the pool.