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by Mark Cooper

There’s only me left now — I’m pretty much sure of that. I’m not entirely sure why I’m doing this — for posterity’s sake, maybe? A warning to others? I don’t know. I don’t know much right now.

I can’t remember much of the last twenty four hours, even less of the last six. What I do know is that by the time the sun rises, I’ll be dead.

We came here for a stupid reason really — just to look at a rock that fell from the heavens. By the time we realised what was happening around us — to us — it was already too late.

Gibbons was the first to notice it. She was studying the radiation levels the thing was emitting. I recall she was babbling on about how they were unlike anything she’d ever seen and seemed to be breaking down the structure of the air around “Object Alpha” at an atomic level before rebuilding it into … something else. I couldn’t tell you anything further about that; my job’s geology. The only thing I know is that that rock is impossibly old. Probably birthed from the cataclysmic destruction of some nameless world eons ago and spat out into the universe like a piece of worn down chewing gum.

And it’s evil — did I mention that? I know; I’m ascribing human traits to a lump of space debris. Unreliable narrator and all that. Stay with me on this — you’ll see why I think that later.

You’ve got to understand that the facility that we’d built around Alpha was intended to keep it shielded from external influences. None of us knew how it was going to react once we started poking and probing it. We all read the report about that geode they unearthed in Siberia three years ago — what a clusterfuck that was! Our containment procedures were designed to minimise every eventuality. Lessons learned, as you management types like to call it. I call it learning from painful experience.

Anyway, Gibbons was talking about the radiation, getting all excited the way she does … did … when something got her all fired up when it first happened. It’s difficult to describe without sounding like I’m insane. Maybe I am — I mean, that would explain a lot right now. She stepped forward to grab one of the electro-magnet field sensors off the side when she noticed that Hughes’ shadow was moving independently of him. In the fraction of a second it took the three of us to look over at him it had cleaved his left arm from his body.

Blood really does get everywhere when you’re dealing with a dismembered body part. It also causes havoc with electrical circuitry. His shadow, on the other hand, proceeded to eviscerate him. I know that you folks think I didn’t like him — which is true, after all he was a prick — but the poor bastard didn’t deserve that. Burkett managed to let out a single garbled scream before his shadow sliced his head clean off. I can still see his eyes blinking at me as it landed on the floor by my feet.

Spotlights do a weird thing when they are positioned at the right angle — they create blind spots, null zones if you like, of absolute blackness. That’s the only reason I’m still here, recording this. I was standing between two of them, safe it would seem within a narrow cocoon of artificial night. Gibbons and I shared a momentary look before whatever these things are slammed into her body. The thin red line arced across her chest as the impact threw her into the back wall. I felt my hand reaching out to her — a reflex action I tried to stop — then crossing the beams of light. The weird, inky coloured spider-like impression my hand cast across the sharp metallic floor scuttled away from me, dancing between pools of artificial light like a stone skipping across a lake before being reabsorbed into the darkness.

I heard her sobbing and panting for a few minutes before I called out to her. The things were swallowed up again by the dead zones in the room the moment they crossed the threshold. I could hear my heart pounding in my ears, deafening me in the silence we found ourselves in. Her response was weak — something about holding her intestines in with her hands. I laughed for a second — then asked her what she thought we should do. I never got an answer from her.

So, if you find this … record, confession, declaration or whatever it is … then good luck to you. I’d wish you all the best in trying to solve this little conundrum, assuming you live long enough to get that far, but I really don’t rate your chances now.

And whatever you do, don’t turn on the lights.

Mark Cooper is a mid-40s civil servant in a faceless government department who spends his limited free time writing, raising three mini-nerds and collecting Transformers. Everything is Hot Rod’s fault and if you disagree he will fight you.