by Walter Kwiatkowski
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3
Thirty minutes later, Martha found her brother in the basement, his black bag next to him. The egg sat on an old worktable like an earth globe. A stethoscope hung loosely from around the old doctor’s neck.
“Your coffee?” Martha asked.
“I’d forgotten about that.”
She sat it on the bench near his left elbow. “Did you find out what it is?”
There was a look of concern on his face. “Listen.”
He plugged the stethoscope into her ears and placed the metal against the globe.
Her eyebrows rose, almost to her hairline. “I don’t understand.”
He took back the stethoscope. “Neither did I, at first.”
“But what can it be?”
“It sounds like a heartbeat.”
“Heartbeat?” She thought for a moment. “Is it alive?”
“I don’t know.”
“Maybe it’s a practical joke.”
“I’m going to examine it further.”
She grabbed him by the arm. “My God, Roger, what if it’s a bomb?”
He nodded. “I suppose it could be. I’ll be careful.” He listened to it again. The sound was louder.
She grabbed him tighter. “It’s going to explode.”
”Settle down,” he said, plainly. “It isn’t a bomb. It isn’t ticking, and the sound isn’t getting faster.”
“Then if it isn’t a joke, and it isn’t a bomb, what is it?”
Roger looked at his sister in annoyance. “Martha, remember your pickles.”
“Yes. My pickles.” She turned and promptly went upstairs.
Roger spent the rest of the day in the basement, running a battery of tests on the object. He even took it out with him, returning three hours later looking flustered.
The kitchen smelled of roast beef when Roger finally appeared. Martha greeted him with a smile. “I finished the pickles,” she said cheerfully.
He ignored her. “It’s a heartbeat.”
“The sound is coming from within the orb. I’m sure it’s a heartbeat.”
“A heartbeat?” She looked perplexed. “Are you sure?”
“I ran some tests at the University. No doubt.”
She thought about it. “It’s alive.”
“It appears so.”
“But what is it?”
He shrugged. “I’m not sure. But the solid outside is made of some kind of organic material.”
“Is it a plant?”
“Could be.” He then added. “But it’s growing.”
“Growing.” Roger poured himself a glass of water.
“It’s an egg, Roger. Have you thought of that?”
“Yes. I think so, too.”
Roger noticed the two chicken eggs sitting on the counter, next to the stove. He picked one up and looked intensely at it. “Do you know what this means?”
“That somewhere there is a mother without her child,” she explained.
Roger said nothing for the next few seconds and then broke the silence. “I’ll keep an eye on it, see what happens.”
* * *
The next day, the orb grew twice its size and was now as large as a beachball. Roger wrote something in a small book, then drove off to play golf.
Martha went into the basement, turned on the light, and stared at the egg. “Hello in there,” she said to the orb.
She rubbed a hand over it. It felt smooth and warm. Roger had put it under a fluorescent lamp. For some reason, she began singing “You Are My Sunshine” to it.
A day later, it doubled in size. There was a green glow to it, the colour seemingly pulsing. Martha went to the library and rented a half-dozen books. She began to read Dr. Seuss to the egg.
“A person’s a person, no matter how small,” she said, quoting Horton.
The following day, the egg doubled in size again. It was now almost as large as a refrigerator. But Roger had locked the door. Martha, taken back, looked and found the key. Downstairs, she noticed that the egg had changed colour to a very dark green. And it was very warm.
* * *
On the fourth day, Roger cautioned his sister to stay out of the basement. The egg had nothing to do with her.
“Besides,”he said, “you could be in danger.”
She looked for the key everywhere, but couldn’t find it. Panicking, she went outside and finding the basement window open, crawled through. A startled little mouse scurried away when she dropped to the floor.
The orb was bigger than she was, and glowed a luminous black.
She walked to the egg. Something was drawing her to it. It was vibrating. As she drew closer, her arm knocked Roger’s diary off the table. A letter flew out. Curious, she picked it up and read it. It was from the National Science Centre’s Military Liaison. The orb was plant-based life. It fed on arsenic. Similar in make-up to Morning Glory but like nothing from Earth. Her eyebrows raised. He was planning to sell the egg.
Suddenly, the sound of a lightbulb bursting startled her and she felt a sudden wild sense of vertigo. The egg was cracking. It ruptured down the middle first. Something resembling goo seeped out from the thin crack followed by a sudden jet of steam.
Martha jumped back. There was another sound. It came from inside: rit-rit-rit. Another blow of steam and another crack. A sudden sharp pain struck her just above the temple. The sounds emanating from the egg battered her brain and formed into words like subtitles in a cartoon. Mama.
Martha grabbed the side of the table and then reached up and rubbed her temple with her other hand. Images flew past her like blurry frames in a Kinetoscope: her barefooted doppleganger lurching past the maples, stinging slivers ripping into the skin of her heels as she made her way towards a buzzing sound that drew her into the belly of the woods.
She made her way over to the orb. The liquid that ebbed out of the fissure pooled at the end of the table and then seeped down in a long thin stream, coagulating on the floor. More ooze flowed out.
There seemed to be an intelligence in the way it crept out of the egg. The way it flowed across the table top. The way it dripped in a long thin rivulet to the tiles below. Martha watched as the ooze knitted into itself, twisting and turning forming a liquorice-like solid three or four feet high.
Another sharp pain in her temple. Mama.
Steam rose from the liquorice-shaped newborn. It twirled in wisps around the figure, moving in and out, slicing like a knife until, a few minutes later, a four-foot bowling-pin shaped figure stood before her. No limbs, no eyes, nose or mouth. A green light shimmered from its top. Mother.
* * *
Roger came up from the basement, locking the door behind him. He stuffed the key into the pocket of his pants.
Martha was standing behind him. She looked worried. “How is he?”
He looked at her. “He? Martha. It’s not human.”
She wavered. “It’s a baby, Roger. We found him in our garden. Its mother must be somewhere.”
His eyebrows dipped. “Stop talking stupid, Martha. It’s not a person. It has no ears, no eyes, no mouth. It can’t walk or talk. It’s just a lump of goo.”
She frowned. “A person’s a person no matter how small.”
He turned on her. “Listen to me. Stay out of the basement. This doesn’t concern you.”
Feeling badly for raising his voice, he kissed her forehead. “Okay?”
Martha watched him disappear into the living room. He poured himself a drink, took out his cellphone and quickly texted something.
Martha followed him into the living room. “He talked to me.”
Roger was about to put the glass to his lips when he stopped. He turned and looked at her. “What?”
“He said, ‘Mama’.”
The woman standing in the living room, wearing a flower-patterned dress and brown slippers, this frail wrinkled woman stared at her unbelieving brother. He put his hand on his hips and shook his head. “Jesus, Martha.”
“I felt him in my head.”
He pointed a hard finger at her. “Stay out of the basement. I mean it.”
* * *
Copyright © 2016 by Walter Kwiatkowski