Contained (Flash Fiction)

Catherine watched Brian as he stepped into the airlock and the door sealed behind him with a soft thump. From her small control console, she monitored the strange biological readouts of the black mass of spongy goo that had been recovered from the wreckage. This creature, this substance, had been brought on board and survived for thirty days in a sterile and dry environment without sustenance. After days of debates in every corridor, utility bay and mess hall, the captain of the small space hauler finally yielded to the curiosity of his crew and decided to investigate the life form further. It was Brian who immediately volunteered.

Brian approached the organism slowly. The white boots of his biohazard suit squeaked against the immaculate floor. Catherine watched through the thick glass window of the containment room as Brian grew closer to the examining table. Black goo hung over the edges like silly putty. It’s damp surface, still wet after all this time, glistened in the bleach-white light. Brian turned and nodded to Catherine. She tapped at her console and a small drawer extended out from the wall inside. Brian picked up a plastic gun, something that had the look of a child’s toy, and pointed it at the mass. He pulled the trigger and a wide, blue beam projected out. He scanned slowly.

“Anything?” he asked.

Catherine shook her head to herself. “Nothing. I’m still only seeing moisture and temperature. No vital signs of any kind.”

A voice came over the speaker. “Maybe it’s not a creature,” said the captain from outside the main room. “Maybe it’s just space-weeds.”

Brian continued sweeping the blue ray over the space weeds. “If this is vegetation, it’s the most advanced form of vegetation I’ve ever seen. It reacted to me. It tried to hide beneath the ship.”

“It never showed any signs of awareness during our tests,” said the captain.

“I saw what I saw!” shouted Brian.

Catherine sighed and looked over her shoulder. The captain and the rest of the crew watched from the hallway. The captain shrugged. “Is it showing any signs of awareness now?” asked Catherine.

Brian held the plastic gun up and looked down at the table. Catherine could hear a small sigh come through his microphone. “I don’t know,” he said. “It appears to be bigger than before.”

Catherine looked up just in time to see a thin strand, like a long piece of black yarn, extend down and around the base of the table. She blinked, not believing her sight at first. When she saw the black line round the corner and go for Brian, she screamed.

Brian turned and saw the extension. In his shock, he dropped the scanner and it fell to the ground with a plastic clatter. He raised his hands, but it didn’t matter. The black appendage seemed to solidify and it pierced directly through his hand. A small splat of blood burst onto his face shield and Brian began to scream. The extension retracted as quickly as it struck and absorbed itself back into the main mass.

Brian fell to the ground, screaming out of fear more so than pain. He crawled on his knees for a few paces, leaving small red marks on the pristine tile of the floor, before regaining his feet and stumbling to the door.

“Let me out of here!” he screamed. His eyes were wide and his face panicked. Small beads of sweat formed over his pores. Catherine looked to the table and saw that Brian was right. The mass was aware. It was aware and moving toward him. Small spindles of black points extended out to the floor like needle-shaped legs. There were nearly twenty legs in all. The black mass lifted itself from the table.

“Let me out!” Brian shrieked “Let me out!

“I can’t!” Catherine cried. She moved her hand over a small panel that had the digital display of a red button. Brian’s eyes followed her hand.

“I can get out!” he insisted. “Let me out! I can make it I swear!”

The black space weed, once spongy and soft, had formed itself into a rounded ball of needles. Catherine was suddenly reminded of pictures of pufferfish she had seen as a child. She closed her eyes and placed her palm on the panel. There was a burst of red light as the vaporizer was engaged, and Brian’s scream was silenced. When she opened her eyes, the room was empty save for black char that fluttered within the glass. She tapped the panel again and a small port opened, sucking the contents of the room out into space.

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