by J.S. Fowler
It was a small pot of boiling water. The electric stove’s left front burner glowed red beneath it. One by one, he carefully placed the eggs. Five of them. He set the timer.
The coffee was already brewing. He poured a bit of grape juice in the bottom of a glass. He added a small amount of pure cranberry juice. Then, the remainder of the glass he filled with freshly squeezed orange.
He waited a bit as his bread slowly became toast. He moved the dial of the stove to the half-way mark, picked a butter knife from the drawer, pulled a can of blackberry preserves from the refrigerator. The reddish glow faded from the burner. Then he heard a crack.
“What the—“ he said aloud. He looked into the small pot. The mass of the eggs caused the water to come less than half a centimeter from the rim. Some of the water spilled over causing a sizzling sound as it hit the hot coil of the burner.
Still, the cracking sound.
He looked up at the ceiling where a small bit of paint had been peeling off ever since he and his wife had moved in. He had patched it once and ignored the problem. In the back of his mind, there was a latent idea that at some point it would need more work. There was nothing new.
He opened the freezer. Ice breaking into the bin from the ice maker. It only sounded like the eggs since he was thinking about the eggs, he told himself. A brief trick of acoustics in the kitchen. Still, it was a strange cracking. And he heard it again.
This time he noticed what it was. One of the eggs clearly had a crack emanating from the smaller of its two convex sides.
Had he dropped it too hard into the pot? He thought that he would have noticed the oozing white of the egg yolk as it escaped through the slivery crack and instantly cooked into a wisp of smokish mist clouding the water.
No. There was no mist. Just more cracking. The egg was… hatching?
The thought was stupid. These were regular eggs. They came from hens. Chickens. He had purchased them from the farmer down at the market. True, it was one of the new farmers, a beneficiary of one of the government’s new agriculture programs. So what if they had not met before? He had barely noticed and quickly discounted a somewhat eager gleam in the farmer’s eye as he had taken the credits and handed him the delicate bundle of eggs. He had counted it as a quiet desperation, an almost radiant hunger for sustenance, a product of momentary gratitude in the face of the recent economic uncertainty. That was all. Even so, suppose there was something diabolical about this egg. This was boiling water. Surely, anything in the water would be killed. He knew of nothing on Earth that hatched this way.
The egg’s shell splintered further. He felt compelled to watch, amazed yet somewhat horrified as this newborn chick was to be boiled alive. Could it be saved?
No sooner than he had began to think of the safety of the small chick, there was a stick-like spindle evident, poking out of one of the cracks, like a small spider’s leg. He thought that now would be the time to fish the hatching chick from certain doom, but as strong as he felt the need to aid the chick, he felt a more compelling need to watch its death unfold. What would he do with the chick anyway? Sell it back to the farmer perhaps?
Bit by bit, the egg split open. Stranger parts began to emerge that had no resemblance to any fowl he had ever seen. It seemed insectoid, mutant. He began to think it was a good thing he had yet not acted to save this… creature.
With no other warning, the egg burst open. The egg timer began to chime. The insect creature’s legs extended out over the pot. It’s mouth far larger than what seemed possible for emerging from such a small vessel. The creature’s entire body, amorphous, with strange hairs and antennae seemed to expand exponentially. It was growing.
He let the egg timer alarm ring on. He went to grab his phone, to snap a picture, but the clip wasn’t on his belt. It was still upstairs from where he left it in the bedroom the night before. He turned and made his way out of the kitchen.
He made it three feet before he felt a sharp sting in the back of his neck. A pair of pincers sunk into soft flesh and folded itself firmly around the nervous tissue surrounding his spine. In one, viciously elegant motion, the now gigantic mouth of the creature engulfed the top of his skull and was sucking him into to its growing gullet. Rubbery expanding flesh in a thin coat of visceral moisture slid down his head. He could suddently see nothing nor could he move. His feet flailed momentarily. He could feel the crushing force of its jaws clamp like a vice as he let out a brief muffled moaning scream.
The immense pain that he expected to immediately experience subsided quickly as he became aware that he was now completely inside the creature. His first thoughts upon being attacked was, of course, the pain and then the speed-of-light images of sounds and visions – of his family, his life, the overwhelming cascade of the last moments of a life not quite yet wholly lived. There were flashes of childhood moments, of familiar scents, of recent joys, of recent losses. All this gradually faded. His thoughts. His memories. The pain. Even the memory of the crushing pain. All feeling. All movement. All heartbeat. All flutter of the eyelash. Stopped.
There was no true feeling as we know it. He was no longer alive in the sense that he possessed this jumble of thoughts and ideas that we call identity. It was as if he had merged with a denser, more coherent whole. There was no longer a life before. Only a life to become. For him, now, there was only one impulse, one compulsion to follow…
He never did see just how large the creature had grown in its first nanoseconds of life on our planet. As the creature quickly assimilated the adult human male and crawled though the broken kitchen window, onto the patio and out into the wooded backyard, there was one mandate, one mission…
Lay more eggs.