by Michael A. Cantu
It had endured in the imitation body, thus far secure and undetected by the
others up to this point. Confusion and hysteria were rampant in the camp.
Each of the men had basically broken and crumbled mentally as the reality of
their situation had become more clear to them. This is exactly what it
wanted: keep them off balance, unsure, panicked so that the alien's true
intent was kept hidden as much as it's own identity was a mystery to them.
It didn't want to be here; this terrain was not hospitable and not populated
enough for it's liking, add to that the fact that these humans were all
fucking trigger happy and just as hostile as it itself was, it had rapidly
come to the realization that it's best option would be to flee the planet
all together. If the subterfuge and deceit held out just a bit longer,
perhaps even ten hours or so, then it could escape and not worry about the
men at Outpost #31 or anywhere else for that matter. It should all come to
fruition. . .if only it wasn't for the damn helicopter pilot -- MacReady.
The ropes dropped to the chair as loose and limp as spilled intestines from
a slaughtered cow. Clark stared uneasily at Mac. His eyes shifted to the
chopper pilot trying to sneak a peek into the man's fatigue addled mind.
"What Have you got in mind, MacReady?" Clark noticed that Mac was taking a
Swiss army knife to a piece of wiring in his hand. Kssk, kssk, kssk. . .The
blade scraped lightly across the red plastic to reveal a tangle of copper
beneath, lacing one across another into a tight mesh.
"We're going to have a little test. Palmer, you and Windows tie everyone
Garry, frustrated by MacReady's accusatory antics had had enough. He
stepped up, the base commander of old, and attempted to reassert control
over the group as best he could sans his revolver.
"Come on! Let's rush him! He's not going to blow us all up!" Words just
didn't carry the same weight as a good .357 at your side, and right now,
MacReady had that and a shitload of dynamite bandoleered around his person.
No one took Garry up on his suggestion. No one, except Childs.
The thick, African-American mechanic ambled over to where Mac stood and
measured him up. They had played a lot of poker before and Mac was as good
a poker player as he was a chess player. . .pretty poor.
"He ain't tying me up." Childs said his words with as much steel and grit as
he could muster in his voice to try to force Mac's hand. No way this
motherfucker was going to sit him down helpless next to one of those
"Then I'll have to kill you Childs." Mac was rather matter of fact about the
remark, like he was merely telling him he'd be taking out the garbage and
retiring to his room shortly thereafter.
Childs stood his ground. "Then kill me."
Mac strolled calmly up to Childs and leveled the gun at his forehead, a dull
gleam from the fluorescent overhead shining on the barrel. Someone might
have thought it to be a bad joke, but the punchline of the .357's hammer
being pulled back by Mac's thumb into firing position let everyone know,
immediately, that this was not.
"I mean it."
Off to the side, unseen by either of the men or anyone else, Clark had
unsheathed a scalpel from his sleeve. He lunged quickly at Mac and raised
the blade for the strike, all Mac had time to see was a blur of motion and
instinctively he reacted.
He pulled the trigger, the hammer slammed home, and with a flash of fire and
the acrid smell of sulfur Clark took one right between the eyes as the
bullet turned his brain to mush.
Palmer nervously finished his sloppy knots at the table where Doc Copper and
Clark lay next to one another. He'd never been scared of Mac before, sure
he was a big grump, but you could always count on Mac to have some J&B
nearby when you needed a drink or pass the time with some impromptu flying
instructions, but now. . .He didn't know what to make of him. Was he
delusional? Psychotic? This was going to need more than weed to get
through. This called for something on the order of a goddamn horse
"This is bullshit Mac!" he stopped the tying and wiped his sweaty brow.
"Finish it Palmer!"
"They're dead Mac!"
A short while later, Palmer had finished as Mac ordered and once he was
done, Mac instructed Windows to tie up Palmer near Childs. A silence fell
over the room as Mac spoke.
"We're going to find out who's who. We're going to find out who's the
thing. See, watching Norris in there gave me the idea that every part of
him was a whole, every piece was an individual animal with a built in desire
to protect it's own life. See when a man bleeds, it's just tissue. That
blood from one of you things won't obey when it's attacked, it'll try and
survive. It'll crawl away from a hot needle say.
One by one the men had their thumbs slit by Windows and one by one each
thumb was milked into a clear glass petri dish lined up on a table near
MacReady. Nauls was the last to be cut. The damn blade opened his
epidermis like the worst paper cut he ever had multiplied by ten. Nauls
thought he felt it hit bone. His stomach lurched, slightly. If he had had
any food in it, it would have been all over the floor. Windows stepped away
and finished with his own thumb and then backed away as MacReady directed.
For a moment, it didn't know what to make of it's new surroundings. At
first it had nestled within the veins of the core mass of the imitation;
however, once it spilled forth into the dish, newly separated from the host,
it gained individual sentience and took in it's surroundings. Blearily it
peered through the dish it was nestled in. What was going on, it had no
clue. For the first time in awhile it became truly worried. Nothing like
this had ever occurred at the Norwegian camp. Over there, the men and the
thing had basically engaged in a vicious battle that didn't require much
strategizing, but then again, the thing had never encountered a man like
MacReady. He had a new trick up his sleeve, and the thing didn't like where
this was going.
One after one, the dishes were lifted and one by one MacReady was jabbing
something into it. What, though? Whatever it was he kept bringing the thin
object to the tip of his torch moments before he touched it to the blood.
Was it a thread? Was it a needle? As Mac grabbed the petri with the
imitation blood, the viscous fluid saw indeed it was a needle. Normally
this would not have caused any panic save for one thing. . . the tip was
glowing white hot.
SCREEEE! The blood leapt from the dish and hit the floor as Mac dropped the
dish from his hands as he found out that his test was totally on the money.
He had found out who the thing was, and as he raised his flamethrower to
fire he stared into the already metamorphosing maw of the last person he
thought was not human.
. . .Palmer. . .
Everyone in the room felt the hairs on their necks stiffen and bristle as
the scream from the dish let them all know what was just around the bend.
The blood crawled along the floor out of sight and vanished into the cracks
of the floor seeking refuge from the needle that had pricked it.
Palmer, his face calm, almost pensive, quivered as if something underneath
was pushing through. Nauls seated off to the side of the couch in his own
chair struggled to tear through his bindings as if they were spaghetti
strands, but the ropes held him tight. He could hear his own screams in his
head just as clearly as the Child's and Garry could hear his. He didn't
want to see what was next, God no, like some child awaiting the Jack in the
box to pop out and surprise him, Nauls didn't want to see what Palmer had
ready to pop out of him. "Get me out of here! Jesus Christ, get me loose!"
Windows stood transfixed, dumbfounded that the human body was undergoing a
rapid metamorphosis right before his eyes. His flamethrower pointed down to
the ground, he didn't even notice Mac couldn't get his to ignite as a lick
of flame popped forth but not in a steady stream. Foomp! Foomp! Mac tried
everything he could to juice up the thrower.
Grrraawwkk! Wet, throaty noises were rising from within Palmer as his face
began to distend and fill out. His eyes swelled from his sockets as he
stared in the direction of the men. Garry and Childs continued to scream
like children as the nightmare thing lifted them from the floor and stood up
with the couch still tied to it. It flailed and strained to break it's
bonds. Snap! The ropes frayed at last and dropped loose from the
Palmer-Thing as it stood to it's full height of seven feet.
"Jesus Christ," Windows thought, "he grew over a foot in under three
minutes. . .Jesus Christ."
"Windows blast him!" Mac barked above the din of the hysterical men.
Windows snapped out of it and aimed the flamethrower at Palmer as it
launched itself skyward in an inhuman display of agility. It then descended
to the floor as quickly as it had leapt to the ceiling and attacked the
startled radio operator.
Nauls began to cry, cry like a baby as the hideous Jack In The Box opened
up. Palmer's head, or what use to be, split open to reveal a maw filled
with rows of teeth an inch long. Nauls covered his eyes as best he could
but found that it was worse to only hear what was going on in the room than
to see it. Windows screamed as the thing took him.
Mac rushed over to the flamethrower as Windows dropped it to the floor,
while Palmer lifted the radio op into the air with a thick tongue like
appendage which whipped out of the split head. Windows kicked and jerked as
each bite from the creature crushed the man's skull.
Palmer-Thing knew it had little hope of surviving this melee, but it was
going to try as best it could to survive, it's only choice was to try rapid
assimilation of each member of the station. It had already started work on
Windows with it's first bite. Within it's maw were a series of glands which
were even now injecting millions of cells of recombinant DNA that would
allow the physical form of the host to be placed under control within
seconds. Once the host body was overridden of the original's control, The
Thing could begin total assimilation at a later date. Suddenly, a blast of
heat enveloped the creature and it knew the conflict was coming to an end.
Mac could smell the acrid stench of The Thing's flesh
as the first stream of flame struck it. It was
cloying in the confined quarters of the rec room, so
much so that if he didn't extinguish it shortly after
it died it could threaten to overcome the men with the
fumes and smoke.
"God damn you, die! Die!" was all he could think. The
creature had tossed aside the limp, broken corpse of
Windows into a corner just before Mac had let loose
with the flamethrower. Once more he blasted the
abomination with a jet of fire and this time, the
creature turned toward him, seeking him even if it was
blinded by the fire it was enveloped in.
Palmer-Thing could feel it's body beginning to
deconstitute and become nothing more than a morass of
protoplasmic mush as the flames ate away at it.
MacReady, it thought, must find MacReady. The
creature lashed out blindly not interested in what it
struck or if it caught empty air, it merely wanted to
find the one person who had so far, constantly second
guessed it's every move and thwarted it's plans.
"MacReady. . ." It tried to speak, but as it did, it
took in a gulp of flame which began to immolate it
from within. The end was near, time had run out, and
Palmer-Thing caught a fleeting glimpse of a figure
ahead of it -- MacReady stood in it's path, hands
clutching the torch, ready for another shot if he had
to take it. Palmer-Thing rushed past the seated men
and ran towards Mac in a last ditch effort to kill
MacReady saw The Thing as it made a beeline for him,
instinctively sidestepping without looking he let the
charging adversary carry himself toward a nearby wall
and smash straight into it.
BAM! Drywall and splintered wood exploded as the
monstrosity crashed through and exited the rec room
into the maelstrom outside. The harsh Antarctic wind
fanned the flames around the creature as it flopped to
the snow beneath it's feet and lay still. Mac was
right behind, lighting a stick of dynamite as he walked
to the opening in the wall. He heaved it toward the
flaming hulk and watched as the explosive blew apart
the charred mass in seconds flat. He stared at where
the creature once was, his eyes distant and glazed as
the wind carried red embers of The Thing
across the camp's perimeter.
Garry was sobbing, terrified by what he had just seen.
It was too much to comprehend. Too much and too
fast. He looked over at Childs and saw that the
usually macho mechanic was hiding his eyes behind his
hands. Off to the side of both of them was the part
of the couch where Palmer sat before he came apart.
The creature's infectious bodily fluids were all over
the seat. It could have been his imagination, but. .
.but did something move in the corner? Garry looked
up and saw Windows, his slumped over body haphazardly
laid out in the corner suddenly twitch.
"Mother of God, it's alive." he muttered quietly.
"Burn it!" Nauls screamed.
"Hurry up MacReady!" Childs saw the movement as well.
The last they saw of Mac he had chased the Palmer-Thing
into the storm, who knew if he heard their cries out
in the gale.
"Burn it! Burn it" Garry and Nauls chimed in together
hoping their chant would be heard.
Windows-Thing was reconstituting. The crunch and snap
of bone and muscle as it rapidly rebuilt itself was
heard above the wail of the wind. It's misshapen head
blinked a pair of yellowed eyes that weren't there
before, and from the tips of it's fingers, a series of
claws jutted outward with sickening ease. Before it
rose to it's feet Mac opened up on it with the
flamethrower once, and then twice. It mewed and
hissed as the flames overtook it, shuddered a few
moments and then went limp again. MacReady took
pleasure in watching it burn and let it cook for awhile.