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John Carpenter's

That Thing Killed Them

by Clark

Each and every vibration caused by the beating of his heart felt like an entire football squad was attempting to sack him simultaneously. Still, Clark knew he had to remain calm, and must not let too much nervous perspiration swallow the tiny yet dangerously sharp scalpel clutched in his shakily tensed fist. What better way for that damn thing to try and confuse everyone but to accuse everyone else. A conclusion Clark came to what seems like an eternity ago now. Time moves slowly when all of your friends have been needlessly murdered, a fact he knew all to well now.

MacReady could easily be the thing he thought. Why else would he go at such length to accuse? It seems like he’s just trying to eliminate all his threats, him and Childs. Accuse, accuse, accuse. Even they are both still human, what gives them the right? Being around that dog doesn’t amount to shit. Clark ran this thought over and over again in his mind. Nothing happened; it didn’t burst into a fury of grotesque spaghetti noodles and grab him. Not like it did all his dogs. His friends. I am not that mother-fucking thing! Clark thought as he ran over the events of recent in his mind again. 

*** 

How could he not be sympathetic? It was a helpless malamute; just like members of his pack. It was making a confused escape from rifle wielding madmen in a helicopter, he had to take it in. “Easy… easy,” Clark pet the distraught canine gently. It was hurt, shot just above the right leg. That rather intensely determined Norwegian after what seemed liked a million failed shots finally met his target, albeit not fatally. Since Commander Garry made quick work of that assault-rifle toting foreigner, Clark on instinct brought his attention and expertise to his new comrade.

The situation actually made him a bit nostalgic for a moment. It was junior year at Oxford doing a course at the veterinary complex. Clark at the time was working as an intern at the campus’ animal hospital, and actually the only available vet of any kind on hand at the time; when Ms. Parker brought her beloved Pomeranian in. The actual vet on hand was out to lunch. Apparently Ms. Parker’s neighbor thought he could ‘confuse’ her dog as a raccoon and shot it with his .22, in her own back yard no less. That’s a whole other story though; one Clark remains hazy on. What he remembers is saving that dog’s life. Ironically enough, it was those actions and a precession of others like it that ultimately led to his application acceptance to enlist at outpost number thirty-one as its dog handler.  

There was no time to stroll down memory lane; Clark had to put his expertise into action. It was time to extract the slug deep in this malamute’s hip. The crunching sounds made by the forceps rubbing against the inner flesh of the dog were depressingly disgusting, yet mostly masked by the poor thing’s howling moans. Dr. Copper was just finishing up the dressing of Bennings’ leg wound that was also delved out by the crazy Norwegian. “I’m going to be a little while. This thing is pretty deep.” Clark said, as he carefully navigated his way inside the gaping wound. 

It took him over an hour, but he did it. He successfully removed the slug and dressed the wound. It all was much easier retold about than done, but done nonetheless. It seemed as if it was going to pull through. Clark was glad. He was proud, confident, but mostly glad. Glad he could save a life. In fact, his sympathy for this refugee dog was so immense, that he decided he’d just let it roam about as opposed to immediately reporting it to the kennel in dog town. What could be wrong about that? He thought, after all the events the pooch had been through, the last thing he wanted to do was coop it up in a cage. Not only that, but it should get a chance to relax that wound a little before having to meet a whole new pack.

Clark set the dog gently on the floor. It slowly rose to its feet as he quickly filled a small bowl he found on a nearby counter along with a can of chicken and beef dog meal. He filled the bowl and motioned to the dog. “It’s nothing to write home about I know, but it’s sustenance. I’m sure you’re not up for making another trek across the snow to find a better choice either!” The dog inched toward the dish on the floor in front of it. Clark silently watched the dog for a second longer, and then turned out into the narrow hallway toward dog town.

Feeding the dog reminded him he should feed the others as well. Usually he would have by that time, but he and the rest of the team had been a bit distracted that morning. An ominous wind gust blew in from an unknown nook in the walls within the section of hallway in the camp known as ‘dog town.’ The sound was just as chilling if not more so than the sub-zero Antarctic temperatures themselves; at least in a psychological sense. The eerie tunnel of blowing air was forgotten when the dogs quickly rose to their feet and congregated near the gate of the kennel at the sound of Clark’s feet as they twisted the still winter wood below them. They lightly whimpered in delight and anticipation.

“Back. Sit.”

Clark firmly commanded them, and they obeyed with extreme discipline. They were like the well-worn comrades of a military squad; having mushed through the cool tundra sustaining the elements, surviving only as a team and otherwise perishing alone. A pack that could easily make the best Iditarod participants seem like bush leaguers. Clark was their leader, and they looked up to him for direction and protection. He slid the latch on the door over to release it and pulled it open. Each pooch had their own dish, which he then set out in front of them. He always fed the pack leader, Charnauk first. Charnauk was a mighty malamute and huskie mix, easily the strongest and smartest of the pack. Clark treated all the dogs with equal respect, but it was Charnauk that he always told to keep the others in line, and that he did.

*** 

The events of that brisk winter morning led Dr. Copper and MacReady out into the Antarctic abyss to the source of the helicopter flying dog assassins to search for survivors, for answers. They came back with something all right. They came back with that… thing. It was steaming and moist in the most disgusting way perched atop that examining table. The same one Clark had just used to operate on the dog refugee. After a moment of being frozen in awe and disbelief, the odor set in, and with that Clark had enough. He stepped out into the dim narrow hallway, and covered his mouth with a handkerchief he slid out of his pocket to cover his mouth. The stench had triggered his gag reflex slightly.  Nauls the young cook followed behind him.

“Man, this is some sick shit! I mean, what is it?!?”

Clark lowered the hanky and turned to face Nauls and give him a response, “Fuck if I know. Let’s go shoot a game of pool in the rec room to forget about it.”

“Sure man, anything… to forget. Forget about that thing. That shit’s nasty!”

Clark was lining up his next shot; it was the thirteen ball with the light orange stripe around it. Corner pocket he had called a moment before. He lined up his shot, and just as he took it someone in the room called out in surprise, and it made him strike the cue ball off target. It was Bennings. “Clark! Could you put this mutt with the others where it belongs?!” The cue ball rolled harmlessly past the orange striped thirteen. Clark let out a sigh, “Yeah, ok.” It probably was time for dog to meet his new family anyways.

By now its wound had probably clotted slightly. No actually… strangely enough, it was more than that! Clark was dumbfounded. The wound was already scabbing and the dog barely had any noticeable limp! How can this be? It had taken a hit from a high-powered rifle at close range just a few hours earlier. There is no possible way it could have healed that much in such short time! There was even tissue and muscle damage from Clark removing the bullet that would have caused for more healing time. It made him think again about the heaping stench from the Norwegian camp. Then it made him think about not thinking. Good plan he thought, just get some rest and blow this strange day off.

Down the narrow howling wind filled hallways of the camp from the rec room to dog town, Clark pondered the dog’s wound again. He then remembered that he didn’t want to think about it anymore just yet. It was hard for him to get it out of his head; it just didn’t make sense, but after seeing that… thing; and just all the events of the day altogether, nothing was out of bounds anymore. Adding the possibility of impossibility somewhat curbed his swirling thoughts, at least for the time being.

This time the sound of the twisting floorboards under Clark’s feet didn’t excite his canine chums. They were tired, and their bellies full. He slid open the latch and opened the door. The dog stood solemnly outside the door. “Go on. What are you waiting for?” Clark motioned for it to enter the kennel. Finally after another moment of hesitation, it entered the kennel; it laid in the middle with the six dogs of outpost thirty-one’s pack flanking it on all sides; all resting, not disturbing a soul. Clark looked the dogs over one more time. A fine pack he thought, many a trek over the Antarctic tundra was had. He shut the door, latched it and creaked out of dog town, flipping off the lights on his way back to the rec room.

*** 

Clark sat down on his bunk and let out a low grunt. What a fucked up day he thought again. He slid out a small metal box from under his bunk, making a hiss sound as it slid across the floor. He blew a thin layer of dust that had collected on top of it into the cool air in front of his face. Upon opening it he drew out a large knife that folds into the handle. He clutched it in his hand and laid down on the bunk and shut his eyes. 

He was right in the middle of a dream when MacReady shook Clark awake. “The fuck you want MacReady?” He mumbled while rubbing his eyes; and began to hear a strange sound off on the side somewhere. Almost like a surreal reverberation of the howling wind that swirls in the hallways of the camp. “It’s the damn dogs Clark! Something’s up their ass and I don’t know what!” They made their way toward dog town, Clark just a step behind having to hesitate a moment to throw on a jacket. It always feels that much colder when just waking up. 

As they got closer the sound became clearer, at least partially: dogs yelping and crying out in pain. Sheer fear rang out in their howling. Still there was a second sound, this one indescribable. It was a cluster of tones and pitch that scaled from the highest to lowest octaves and rang out simultaneously. Clark began to panic. His family needed him, now. He practically shoved MacReady to the ground and sprinted ahead of him. 

He got to the kennel and slid the latch and tore the door ajar. Dead air with a hint of something foul emitted from the kennel. There was just a moment’s passage, and then after what seemed like much longer to Clark than a moment, three dogs in a row seemingly from nowhere flew practically right through him. Getting the wind knocked out of him as the result of being pushed to the floor. From the corner of his eye he could see something reaching out for him from inside the kennel, a kind of weird spaghetti noodle type thing, a bright pink colored spaghetti noodle. It squirmed intensely, and the thing let out another unearthly croon and Clark kicked the kennel door shut and re-set the latch as he stood up. MacReady met him by the kennel’s door. 

“It’s weird and pissed off whatever it is. 

Another helping of unwanted noise danced on Clark’s eardrums. It was the sound of his dogs this time. By now some of the other men were standing around the outside of the kennel. MacReady was barking orders to them; while wielding a shotgun. Clark felt frozen in panic; at a complete loss as to what to do. Just left to helplessly ponder as to what is attacking his pals. His family.

MacReady swung open the kennel door and then they caught their first glimpse of the thing in action. That is just one way to put it, probably the simplest. Clark stared in horror as he watched it wrap one of its disgusting spaghetti noodles around Charnauk, or what was left of him. It seemed he was covered in an erosive substance of some sort and was partially deteriorated, in a completely literal sense, as if being entirely doused in sulfuric acid. Clark noticed a small chunk of the wire kennel wall was missing in the corner behind Charnauk. It was a no brainer that he was the pack leader, very quick and intelligent, unofficial Iditarod champion. In chewing out a whole in which to escape, he was not quick enough.

Panic and confusion filled the vicinity –with obvious reason-- and MacReady and Garry opened fire at the mass of distorted flesh. It seemed as though the hot balls of lead did nothing but annoy the thing. The slugs just disappeared into its pulsating and shifting flesh. MacReady had called for Childs to retrieve the flamethrower, it seems the only solution would be to cook the thing to a crisp. 

It was when a spaghetti noodle wrapped itself around Chinook and MacReady missed the noodle –at least Clark tried to convince himself MacReady was aiming for the spaghetti noodle—that he had had enough of this idly standing by, watching his dogs be killed by this indiscernible mass festering among them. He attempted to seize the shotgun in MacReady’s hands. Garry, who was futilely firing slugs from his handgun into the monster ceased to break up Clark and MacReady. Then Childs moved in to burn it.

***

The painful and unheard of deaths of half of his pack left Clark in a bitter hostile thought pattern. He stood towards the back of the operating room among the other men, staring blankly. A case of partial déjà vu – they were all huddling around yet another burning bulbous array of extraterrestrial flesh. Only this time is was the remains of the dog thing in place of the twisted oddity from the Norwegian camp. It was a distorted heap of three of the dogs, and looked like something that Hieronymus Bosch might have painted. Clark felt sick to his stomach. 

Blair determined that the alien life form imitates living organisms. Meaning it was that dog, and was going to mimic Clark’s dogs, and even possibly members of the team. Of course, being alone with that dog thing for a period of time led to much scrutiny. The team began to look at him funny. Especially Blair, staring him down whist he was drawing blood samples from the surviving three dogs. Clark knew who he was, but began to have his doubts about the others around him.

Blair flipped out. He was making hypotheses of the thing and its corresponding agenda and he determined it wanted to reach civilization and assimilate all life on earth. In the midst of his craze he killed off the remaining three dogs. This was Clark’s last straw. In his mind he was alone now. All his canine companions were dead; but that was the least of his worries. Clark had to watch his step; the rest of the team grew more suspicious every second of whether or not he is Clark. Mainly because he was alone with that dog thing when it first arrived. Then it was like dominoes.

Sabotaging the blood in storage was another accusation that didn’t belong in Clark’s direction. It wasn’t completely, more so on Dr. Copper and Garry, the holders of the keys. It didn’t change the fact that the others quarantined him. Drugged and tied down in the rec room. Eventually, Clark was given a window to make a move. Norris had had a heart attack during the situation involving MacReady being human or not and all the men where in the operation room. That’s when Clark found the scalpel. It would have to do; he had surrendered his own blade to MacReady when the command was “passed” to him.

Norris was one of those things, and killed Dr. Copper by turning its chest into a gaping maw with triangular fangs and eating his arms off. It let out a low roaring gurgle in the process. The doctor instantly bled to death on the floor. Once the men burned the Norris thing and made sure it was dead, they all were once again in the rec room pointing fingers. This was Clark’s chance; he just had to remain calm. MacReady ordered everyone to be tied down, and Childs fought this notion. This prompted MacReady to raise Garry’s pistol to Child’s forehead and asked him one more time to sit down and wait to be tied.

My dogs. My friends. My family. Dammit, this is for them, Clark thought. He briefly reminisced about the last trek he went on with the pack. It was just a few days ago, before that thing came as a dog not unlike his own pack. There was a bad storm with harsh winds but that didn’t deter Charnauk and the others to make it back to camp safely. These thoughts made Clark’s heart rate increase. It was time, now or never. He clutched the scalpel in his fist and made a lunge for MacReady. Clark locked gazes with the barrel of the gun in MacReady’s hand and almost instantaneously felt a brief burning sensation in his skull. 

And then he felt nothing.

 

THE END.

 


 


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