Shortly before the world lost contact with Tranenbloud Island, the research team reported that an islander and a member of the team had gone missing, a man and a woman. Both were later found dead and with their reproductive organs missing, presumably devoured.
A few days after that, all communication from the island ceased.
“So there’s been no psychic with any of the teams sent out so far?”
“No,” the briefer said. “Even with a find like this, it was considered a waste of precious resources, particularly for an animal specialist. I believe the plan was to eventually fly one out, or maybe to bring the creature to a more secure and less remote facility.”
“Well, I’m no animal specialist. I’m just standard-issue.”
The briefer smiled professionally. “No such thing as a standard-issue psychic, sir. Even if there were, there was no indication of a situation where we would need to rule out the presence of unnatural entities.”
Captain Rosemere glanced between his psychic, Specialist Luna, and the briefer, who had not introduced herself to him or his team. That meant the Agency had classified the situation at the highest levels of secrecy. The briefer told them they would be parachuting in because it was suspected there might be a pathogen or a murderer loose on the island. Or both.
They had no way of knowing without going there. A week ago, they lost touch with both the research team and the islanders.
Soothed by the familiar hum of the small plane and the dark violet of the deep night outside the window, Captain Rosemere directed his reading light to the summary report in his lap. Briefers were thorough and patient with questions and repetition. But he always absorbed the written word far better than the spoken word.
Several weeks ago, a tropical storm hit the remote and sparsely inhabited island of Tranenbloud.
According to local lore, the name was a corruption of the phrase “tranen van bloed,” which was Dutch for “tears of blood.” It was believed an early Dutch explorer stopped by the then-uninhabited island once and happened to witness a rare occurrence. Offshore storms had swept up ocean waters containing red algae and “rained” them down on the explorer and his crew. Being sailors, they were familiar with algal blooms and red tides. But red rain made them uneasy. The sailors said it looked as if the heavens were weeping “tears of blood,” and they left the island quickly.
Later explorers, some of whom settled on the otherwise idyllic island, honored the early Dutchman by naming the island after him, but the name never stuck. What stuck was the phrase the sailors had used.
The modern-day inhabitants were few in number—maybe a hundred or so—and happy with their arrangement, enjoying a simple island life, while poised on the proverbial wall that gazed down on the rest of the world. They had satellite phones, mobile devices, even exercise equipment. But their village had no inns, no restaurants, nothing of much interest to a typical tourist. They tended some wild crops of edibles, but derived most of their resources from a mainland that was several hours away by plane.
While the islanders were taking stock of the storm damage, they found an immense animal beached on part of their eastern shore, which was hit the hardest. They immediately realized that it wasn’t a whale. Out of curiosity and wonder, they sent images and requests for experts. Some islanders hoped any scientific study of the strange creature would bring some prestige to the island.
Being an international body, it was natural for the Agency to take over jurisdiction. Initial reports from the first field team confirmed what the islanders believed the animal to be, a plesiosaur.
Plesiosaurs were marine reptiles that were around some two hundred million years ago. They were supposed to be extinct. The Agency swooped in and started securing the creature for further study in a less destructive environment. To say the creature’s mass and size made it unwieldly was a gross understatement. If it had been upright, it would have been a few stories tall. And onsite weight estimates ranged from a hundred to two hundred tons.
Racing against the clock, the Agency quickly put together a facility from an abandoned wartime bunker with a makeshift cooling system jury-rigged from existing pipes and hoses.
There were two teams scrambled just to put together netting that would be big and strong enough to hold the creature and all the dry ice it would take to keep it from decomposing further during the short transport. The bunker’s roof was raised and a doorway large enough to allow the creature entry were built from flown-in components.
But as they were preparing the plesiosaur for transport, less than twenty-four hours after discovering it, the field team noticed that the many cuts and scratches on the creature’s fleshy skin began to ooze some kind of greyish-pink gelatinous material. The team took precautions and gowned up in protective gear, then collected and tested the material. It didn’t appear to be overtly harmful—no infectious or parasitic component, no acidic or basic properties, no poisonous or toxic characteristics. Furthermore, the stuff seemed to dissolve quickly and effectively in plain water.
The costs of maintaining the Tranenbloud facility were ridiculous, even for a deep-pocketed organization like the Agency. The power provided by the high-efficiency solar panels weren’t enough. They had to be augmented with generators to maintain the cold, to recirculate the air (in case the animal’s body did harbor some harmful pathogen), and to power specialized equipment. Then there were all the rare reagents needed, the various experts that were flown in, few in number though they were, and the housing needed for the research team in the nearby village. The resident research team increased the population of the island by half.
While the animal’s genetic material was sequenced and characterized, experts in paleobiology and veterinary sciences performed a necropsy, and discovered something even more extraordinary than a dead plesiosaur. There seemed to be abnormalities in the organs, some of which seemed too advanced for a prehistoric creature, but since soft tissues were rarely preserved, the team was unsure of their preliminary assessment. They became focused on another finding that overshadowed the bizarre organs.
By all indications, the animal had been female, and she had recently given birth. How recently, they could not tell. It was possible she had been separated from her offspring during the storm that brought her to the island. Or that the baby had been stillborn and been washed out to sea.
But if the female had made it to shore alive, in the throes of labor, and had given birth on shore, there was a chance that the offspring was alive, and was somewhere on the island or in the nearby waters.
The jungle was too thick for an aerial search, so the field team sent out search parties on foot, with volunteers from the village.
As they had hoped, there was another plesiosaur, the offspring of the one they had found on the eastern beach. But to their dismay, the newborn hadn’t survived long. The research team lamented that they might have saved the baby, nursed it to health in the lab in an artificial pool they had constructed.
In awe at their great luck at finding two intact specimens of what should have been a long-extinct creature, and their terrible luck at missing out on having a living specimen, the research team carried on, and performed a necropsy on the newborn male as well.
Though he was a fraction the size of his massive mother, the baby plesiosaur was still as big as a couple of oversized bulls.
They found a sizable gash in his belly, which was the most probable cause of his death. The wound exhibited signs of tearing and shredding. At first, the team thought the creature, unsuited for movement on land, had passed over a jagged branch and died in its struggle to get free. But there was evidence of bite marks on one of its limbs. Inside the newborn plesiosaur’s belly, they found the partially digested remains of two dogs. Plesiosaurs were believed to subsist on seafood, but it wasn’t so surprising that the hungry newborn had tried to eat whatever came its way. The dogs looked as if they had been swallowed whole. They were covered in that greyish-pink oozing substance.
The islanders confirmed that a few of their dogs had gone missing in the days following the storm and that they had seen signs of some large animal moving in the jungle. They would have normally investigated themselves, but had instead reported it to the research team. The team included security details. It was one of those security teams who found the newborn plesiosaur.
Results of the molecular studies were just as bizarre. Apparent anomalies in both animals’ genetic make-up seemed to indicate that the samples had become contaminated. There were sequences that matched those found in marine birds. The collection crew was expert, so the likely cause was the unsterile environment in which they had to work.
But even the samples collected under controlled conditions inside the facility exhibited similar results. The team began to take a closer look at the plesiosaurs’ physiology, cellular anatomy, and genetic sequences.
Several days later, the Tranenbloud team started noticing something strange. There were dogs hanging around the facility. First two, then a third joined them. They would stand, sometimes pace around the building. Some of the scientists and security personnel noted being creeped out, even in their official reports, because the dogs seemed to be watching them, and waiting for them when they left to drive over to the village. The dogs never did anything, never behaved aggressively. They just watched.
The islanders claimed the dogs weren’t theirs, and it was unlikely they were stray. They strictly enforced their rules about the treatment of animals—both domesticated and wild. They asked if earlier members of the research team—those who had already left—might have snuck in some of their pets and forgotten them on the island.
One day, a guard tried to get close to one of the dogs. He laid out a piece of meat to entice it closer. He got bitten, and though the wound and the guard exhibited no abnormalities in the days that followed, and the dogs continued to merely watch, the team was more cautious after that.
One of the older islanders seemed to have some insight. Most of the others thought her ideas were old superstitions. But Agency personnel know better than to dismiss superstition outright. The leaders of the research team listened to her story. The islander believed that the dogs had been possessed by a primitive spirit that hungered to become a higher being. She feared that this put the human population on the island in danger. There were a few species of monkeys on the island. But the humans were the highest beings in the vicinity.
As if on cue, dead monkeys began to appear near the research facility and even the village. One of the security teams found what appeared to be a dead homunculus in the jungle, only it looked deformed or rather half-formed, as if someone had made a crude attempt at molding the human form.
Upon autopsy, the homunculus was found to have organs that were too rudimentary for a hominid to sustain.
There was something gruesome about the dead monkeys too. Some of them looked like they were mostly eaten. But a few had only specific organs missing…the reproductive organs.
A few islanders reported seeing one of those eerie dogs being frightened off while feeding on a monkey. When the villagers came close, they saw that the monkey was female and her guts were torn out. On examination, only her ovaries were found to be missing.
Days later, the research team and the islanders noted the presence of strange-looking monkeys in the island’s jungle. The monkeys seem to be watching, just like the dogs did.
That was when both the research team and the islanders began to give greater weight to the elderly islander’s stories about the devouring spirit. The research team did what they did best, research. They believed the elderly villager’s warning came from an old story circulated among the original settlers of the island about wicked shape-shifting demons that began their existence as amorphous clouds and gained a true life by devouring soul-possessing beings—life fairies, angels, and humans. Sometimes, however, the demons came into the world far from a suitable target, and being in danger of blowing away if they did not become corporeal, they would devour “lesser” creatures like animals and monsters so as to shift into those shapes temporarily.
The Tranenbloud research team analyzed their scientific findings in the context of that old legend of the devouring spirit that changed shapes.
They had been so preoccupied with the prospect of studying a prehistoric animal that had survived to the modern age that they hadn’t at first realized the connections to knowledge the Agency had already gathered on the phenomenon they seemed to be witnessing.
Captain Rosemere understood the research team’s curiosity, their horror, their caution, their recklessness. He understood the islander legend. What he didn’t understand was the science. He set aside the report and tuned in to the briefing right when the science was about to be explained.
“For a while now,” the briefer said, “we’ve found correlations between various shapeshifter legends around the world and the existence of an organism that we call a phagomutant. It’s a primitive organism able to absorb the genetic material of another organism and incorporate the genetic material of whatever it devours into its own, thereby being able to phenotypically express selected parts of the devoured organism’s genome.”
Specialist Luna crossed his arms. “Meaning?”
“It can change its shape and function, increase in complexity. Go from being a simpler organism, say one with a rudimentary liver and kidneys, to a more complex creature that has the liver and kidneys of a human.”
Captain Rosemere frowned. “What about our brains?”
The briefer nodded. “I don’t see why not.”
“Just like that? Instant evolution?”
“Not evolution. Adaptation.”
One of the other men flipped through the file, a look of distaste on his face. “Why is it taking the reproductive organs?”
“It wants the cells in the body that become any other cell.”
The briefer glanced at Rosemere. “Specifically germline cells. Eggs and sperm. It seems that if the organism is too big to eat in one sitting, or if the phagomutant doesn’t need actual food, or doesn’t have time…it’ll go straight for the reproductive organs.”
“So basically, it eats you and then becomes you.”
“Not you specifically, it’s not cloning,” the briefer said. “It’s just learning the basics, even combining and re-shuffling, and then making its own ideal form.”
“Sounds like a lot of trouble. Wouldn’t a straight copy be easier?”
“Seems logical. But we think what’s happening is that the phagomutant wants to keep all of the best properties of the organisms it devours. So…dogs have a better sense of smell than we do. We have opposable thumbs. If you could choose, and you were aiming to become the ultimate organism, you would choose to keep both those properties, rather than abandoning the canine sense of smell just to become fully human.”
“So it’s some kind of mutt.”
“They never found a real plesiosaur after all,” someone muttered. “They found a pretender.”
“Before we lost contact,” the briefer said, “the research team sent one final summary report. They posited that the first organism, which might have either originated from the plesiosaur or actually been the plesiosaur itself, began to devour creatures one by one, until it gained enough intelligence to see what the next step up the chain was. The dogs understood that the humans were the ultimate target, but they were unable to get close once people got their guards up. Only one dog was able to bite a human, but because it did not obtain any germline cells, it was not able to transform. That’s what they think that homunculus was.”
“If there was just one, how did they end up with multiple creepy dogs and monkeys running around?” one of the containment specialists asked.
The briefer paused. “We don’t really understand anything that’s going on it. I mean, not really.” She brought up some images from the early science reports. It looked like greyish-pink gelatinous material stretching up and forming little stalks. “There are some animals capable of reproducing by budding off. Jellyfish have an asexual phase when they form polyps. The team never actually saw a phagomutant transformation. It’s only a guess, but we think the phagomutant’s cells partially regress into simpler forms that are easier to manage, during which they can bud off and form new organisms. Then the cells differentiate again into more complex forms.”
“And when they become a new creature, a new shape, they can eat normally to gain mass?” Captain Rosemere asked.
The briefer nodded. “We believe so.”
She continued. “The research team further posited that the phagomutant was content to be what it was, until it came near organisms that were more advanced than itself—evolutionarily speaking. Mammals. The plesiosaur shell may have been dead, but the core organism or organisms managed to stay alive. And whatever natural mechanism triggers their urge to devour was triggered.”
The psychic specialist unfolded his arms and leaned forward in his seat. “So it has a biological imperative beyond just multiply. Its imperative is to…advance. And then what?”
“We don’t know.”
“Well, it’s gone beyond monkeys now,” Captain Rosemere said, “so we need to find out.”
Captain Rosemere did not presume to know how to get out of every pinch. And this shape-shifter business was something neither he nor any other member of his team had ever encountered before. But there was a reason they were sent in. Them with the “no monster” symbol inscribed on the stocks of their rifles. Them and not the other strike teams trained to deal with the supernatural and the extra-scientific. They weren’t there to contain or capture first.
As the strike team moved through the jungle, heading for the research facility, Psychic Specialist Luna suddenly called a halt. Sunset was approaching. They would need their nighttime gear soon enough.
“I feel something,” the psychic said. “It’s strong.”
“Is it human?”
“Yes, but…the briefer said there was no psychic on the research team.”
“You’re sensing one?”
“The islanders,” another voice on the comm line suggested.
“Could be a trap. Those phagomutant things could have eaten a psychic and developed the power.”
Captain Rosemere gave the orders for the team to split up, one group to continue on and follow the psychic signal, while the other kept watch for any traps. Based on the timelines of transformation that the research team had provided, it was likely that the phagomutants had advanced to a human stage.
To his surprise, the psychic signal was leading them away from the research facility and toward the village.
They moved past the empty village to a stand of mountains. Captain Rosemere didn’t like the idea of being on low ground while being unsure if the party on high ground was friend or foe. Half his team watched from the treeline. They watched for dogs and monkeys and anything or anyone that looked remotely suspicious.
One of the men found a system of cave openings. If anyone had entered any of the openings, they had covered their tracks well. Luna only knew the energy he sensed was above them. He didn’t know how to navigate the caves, but the team soon found what they believed to be signposts etched into the cave walls. They mapped as they went, and slowly made their way up.
Someone heard a noise and signaled everyone to freeze and drop to the ground just before half a dozen armed guards came pouring out of the openings on either side of the tunnel they were traveling and surrounded Rosemere’s team.
Captain Rosemere recognized the uniforms of the research facility guards, but before he could speak, they started yelling at him and his team, ordering them to take their helmets and face gear off.
Rosemere ordered his men to follow the instructions. When all faces were exposed, the facility guards instructed the strike team to look around at each other and confirm that each person was a recognizable member of the team.
“Confirmed,” Captain Rosemere said, after he glanced at every face. “You’re checking for phagomutants?”
The head of security stepped forth. “Are you here to help us get them?”
Captain Rosemere stood up.
“We are. But we need to know what’s going on. And we need to confirm that you are who you say.”
The head guard nodded.
The guards led Captain Rosemere and his team deeper into the caves. He signaled his team to keep alert. For all they knew, they were walking into a den of phagomutants. For all they knew, they had all been exposed to whatever that goo was, and it was already too late. His team knew what the action-of-last-resort was in such situations. The Agency would contain the whole island and “burn” it, either with actual fire, or with some kind of extreme disinfectant.
The research team might have figured as much too. But the islanders, they’d had no idea that their decision to tell the Agency about that beached plesiosaur might result in all of them dying.
The strike team was led into a high-ceilinged cavern with a clearing where some makeshift bedding was laid down, buckets of water, meal rations, equipment, medical supplies, and a few other sundries.
Captain Rosemere was introduced to a steely-eyed woman whose eyes he guessed had more recently been filled with wonder and the excitement of discovery. She simply introduced herself as Polly. She was the research team leader.
Polly brought the strike team up to speed. Shortly after taking human shape, a few phagomutants snuck into the village and destroyed all of the islanders’ communication devices. They were intelligent enough to know what they had to destroy.
The research facility had its own satellite uplink, but the phagomutants, who seemed to number a couple dozen or so, had managed to overpower one of the security guards and use his uniform and credentials to get into the facility and sabotage its communications.
After the research team and the islanders figured out what happened, they gathered together and took roll to determine if any more people were missing. They tried to figure out what the phagomutants wanted. The phagomutants hadn’t spoken in any of the interactions that the islanders or the research team had with them. But their actions spoke enough. They had devoured and killed two people. They seemed to be trying to isolate the people on the island.
“We couldn’t figure out why,” Polly said, “but then—“
“Get to the point, Doc,” a voice said from among the gathered crowd of islanders and researchers.
An elderly woman stepped out of the crowd. She smiled warmly at Captain Rosemere, and he noted also that his psychic specialist stepped beside him. Polly introduced the elderly woman as the one who had first mentioned the legends of devouring spirits.
“I’m the reason they’re coming after us,” the elderly woman said. “I’m the reason we had to flee to these mountains. I’ve told your colleagues here what they must do, but none of them have the stones to do it.”
Polly lowered her eyes and shook her head.
The elderly woman insisted that they must sacrifice her and burn her remains thoroughly to assure that the phagomutants didn’t devour her and gain her special abilities. For it would be disastrous for such ruinous beings to have such great powers.
But the research team and the islanders all agreed and decided that, on the contrary, they must protect the elder woman. They must hunt down and capture or kill the phagomutants.
They’d been trying to come up with a plan. The security teams had managed to kill a few phagomutants. At first more seemed to be arising, but in the past couple of days, it seemed they were limiting their numbers.
“But whatever their reason for waiting, we can’t count on their restraint to last forever,” Polly said.
Rosemere told them that his team had a satellite phone. They could contact the Agency and arrange for a quarantined airlift to get everyone off the island before they burned it. But the islanders objected. They wanted to stay and defend their home. The only help they asked was help in taking back their island from the phagomutants.
“She’s psychic?” Rosemere asked his specialist later that evening when they took a shift guarding the cavern openings. He and Luna were speaking of the elderly woman.
“She’s more than that,” Luna said. “I can’t really discern it. It’s like I’m nearsighted and I’m looking off in the distance trying to make out distinct shapes without my glasses on. All I can tell is that the shapes are complex. If my powers are a triangle, hers are…do you know what a buckyball is, sir?”
Captain Rosemere held up a hand. “I get it. She has significant mental abilities. Is she holding back?”
“I can’t quite tell, but I don’t think so. Maybe she’s more like a big muscle-y guy who’s sitting down. He’s not actively restraining his muscles. But if he had to use them, he could use them pretty quick.”
“You know, those things might come after you too, if they’re considering people with advanced mental abilities to be the next step in evolution. It might be why they’re limiting their numbers. Because there are fewer mentally advanced folk to go around.”
“I can’t tell if it was them or something else, sir. But I felt uneasy when we were walking through the jungle.”
“No shame in that. I’ve got a not-so-great feeling in my gut too.”
“It’s not in my gut, Captain. It’s in my mind.”
“You think it might be them? The phagomutants.”
“If it is, then they feel like…worms crawling in my head, searching, not for me. Just…”
Rosemere felt the shaking before he heard someone calling his name. He sat up in bed and turned to see Luna.
“Something is wrong,” Luna said. His face was dripping with sweat.
Suddenly an alarm—one of the portable units—began to sound. Flashlights, floodlights, and torches were lit, and everyone gathered in the center of the cave.
They performed a roll call of everyone excluding the guards who were keeping watch at all the cavern entrances. Everyone was accounted for except one person.
The psychic islander, the elderly woman with knowledge of legend, she was gone.
“They took her,” someone cried out.
A man marched toward Captain Rosemere. “We were safe up here until you showed up. You led them here.”
“Maybe, or maybe they just found us,” Polly said. “We couldn’t hold out forever.” She turned to Captain Rosemere. “We needed you to come.”
Despite the fear and panic that made its way through the assembled group, Polly and the islanders’ unofficial mayor managed to calm everyone well enough to figure out when the elder had last been seen.
It had been less than an hour.
Somehow, the kidnapping phagomutants had managed to avoid being seen by the strike team patrols that were circling the bottom of the mountain.
“I can sense her,” Luna said, looking down one of the cave mouths. “We can follow them.”
Captain Rosemere hadn’t yet devised a plan before the phagomutants had taken a hostage and forced him into immediate action. Now, he had no choice but to react. He asked his men to gear up and allowed a few of the islanders who insisted on coming to join them. The islanders’ familiarity with the their home turf would help, so long as they stayed back if there was any fighting. He left some of his team behind to protect the rest of the people in the mountain.
The Tranenbloud facility’s security detail had noted that some weapons were stolen on the night the communications equipment was sabotaged. The phagomutants hadn’t fired those weapons on anyone yet. They might have other plans.
Luna noted an impending sense of unease as they moved into the jungle at night. Their goggles were better than night vision. They could see as clearly as if it were a mildly sunlit day.
The psychic signal led them back to the research facility. The facility seemed to be powered. The outer floodlights were on. The strike team kept their face gear on. Luna confirmed that the elder was inside. She was still alive. But he couldn’t tell if she was hurt. He couldn’t tell her state of mind.
At Rosemere’s silent signal, they breached the emergency exit at floor level. He kicked in the door. Bright white light poured into a completely dark room.
Captain Rosemere felt the others moving into position to sweep the room and be ready to fire.
He was covered head-to-toe in his uniform and gear, but he could still sense the humidity in the air. It had developed in the closed room from all the drips and leaks in the pipes and hoses that fed and maintained the huge pool in the middle of the room, which was still half-full. The research team had set it up when they still hoped to find the newborn plesiosaur alive.
From above, they heard a sudden commotion, screams and screeches. The team began to run up the steps. Halfway up, Luna suddenly gasped, cried out, and collapsed on the stairs. Captain Rosemere ordered two men to stay with Luna and the rest to double-time it. They broke through the door of an upstairs laboratory. Rosemere dropped to his knees and was a hair from squeezing the trigger on his rifle to shoot at the figure before him. The man had his back turned to Rosemere, but he was armed. The man dropped to the ground, his stolen weapon clattering on the tile beside him.
Captain Rosemere glanced around the room, then released the trigger. He lowered his weapon.
They were too late.
The elder sat on a laboratory stool, her elbow propped on the laboratory benchtop. Her hand was rubbing her temple. She looked wan and worn. Around her feet lay a dozen people—human beings—all dead. Two were locked in hand-to-hand combat and seemed to have given each other fatal blows with the daggers they were holding. Another was lying on the ground, being fed upon by a dog. A strike team member shot the feeding dog with a dart, knocking it out. It might be taken into custody and the studied, if someone else chose to do so.
The remaining humans were collapsed on the floor. They seemed uninjured save the blood that was dripping from all their eyes and mouths.
Whatever she had done, Luna had felt it. He had recovered himself and rejoined his team. He stood beside Rosemere.
The elder shook her head. “A grave sin I have committed here,” she said.
“You were just defending yourself,” Luna said. “And we were too late.”
“What harm would have come from letting them devour me?”
“Much harm, I’d say,” Captain Rosemere said. “These creatures became human, but they didn’t develop consciences. They still seemed to be acting on instinct. If they couldn’t handle being a regular human, they would never be able to handle the great power that you possess.”
“Alas that I didn’t die before I had to wield it.”
Luna took off his helmet and face gear. “Do you know if…I can’t tell if there are more of them.”
“The human ones are dead.”
Luna exhaled. “Then we still have work to do.”
“You could have done that before,” Captain Rosemere said. “Or any time.”
She shook her head. “No one person can protect this island. The stories and legends, the knowledge contained within, that is my true power. That is my legacy. I can pass the knowledge on to you. Then you, the many, can do what I, the one, cannot do. You can find use for that knowledge.”
“Is that why you let us build that facility here and study that thing?” Luna asked.
“I’d never encountered them before,” the elder said. “I thought at worst they must be reckless creatures. I didn’t really think they were demons.” She closed her eyes and bowed her head.
Captain Rosemere and Luna stayed with the elder, while the rest of the team secured the facility. He gazed down at the bodies of the fallen phagomutants. He wondered if the phagomutants were able to absorb more than just genetic information. They knew their way around the facility, around the village, far too well.
They looked no different from any other human being he might encounter.
But he stared at the blood seeping from their eyes and mouths and wondered how long it would be before they would start to seep a greyish-pink ooze.
Copyright © 2017. Story by Nila L. Patel. Artwork: “Rosemere’s Strike Team” by Sanjay Patel.