By J. B. Tilton
"Corruption is like a ball of snow, when once set a-rolling it must increase."
The cocoon burst open. A sickly green ooze spilled out of the cocoon as it fell in pieces on the cavern floor. The light from a full moon filtered into the cavern through cracks and fissures in the ceiling. It cast strange shadows throughout the cavern reminiscent of a flickering candle in a room filled with stacked crates.
As the pieces of the cocoon fell to the floor, a creature stepped from the cocoon. It looked around the cavern; as if looking for a lost item or companion. A crooked, evil smile appeared on its' lips, if they could truly be called lips. A guttural growl escaped its' lungs; a growl which might be more truly defined as an evil laugh trying to be suppressed.
It was an ugly, evil, misshapen creature. It stood nearly seven feet tall. Its' arms and legs were bent in strange, unnatural angles and each ended in claws. It stood silently for a moment, still looking around the cavern. Then it stretched its' misshapen limbs as a man might stretch after a long sleep.
It did not notice the strange sarcophagus-like fixture farther back in the cave. The stone coffin was almost completely covered by rock and debris from some ancient collapse of the ceiling above. Obscured by the rocks and dirt were strange runes; the type not seen on earth since before the crusades.
The creature moved to the entrance of the cave. It looked around and saw nothing amiss. But it did sense a difference. A long time had passed. A very long time. It sniffed the air. It gazed up into the sky, searching the vast expanse for a sign which might tell it when and where it was. Yes, a very long time indeed.
Its' black skin glistened as the moonlight struck it. Its' eyes glowed red as if they were two embers in a dying fire. The nostrils were split wide, almost as if it had suffered some unspeakable accident. But it was apparent the nostrils were natural for the creature. Saliva dripped from its' mouth.
It raised a clawed hand to the moon above, looking as if it might, at any moment, grasp the globe of light and pull it from the sky. It curled its' three fingers into a balled fist.
Thirst, it thought. Yes, the thirst has returned. I am weak, very weak. But that will change. It will change very soon.
It moved down the edge of the hill where the cave was located. Half way down the hill, the creature turned and looked back up at the cave entrance. It concentrated for several seconds. Suddenly, the rocks surrounding the entrance moved of their own accord and covered the entrance to the cave.
The creature smiled again, and then moved on down the hill.
* * *
A figure climbed from a hole in the top of the hill. The opening had been nearly completely covered by rocks and dirt. But a think shaft of light had penetrated the dark cavern inside. It was that thin shaft of light which had led the figure out. It had seemed like mere child's play to dig through the tons of boulders and dirt which had blocked the egress from the cavern. The sun in the east was just beginning to rise.
It appeared to be human, but just barely. Its' face was almost featureless. It had eyes, nose, a mouth, ears; but beyond this, it had no apparent description. As if its' face was an unfinished bust with only the most rudimentary features in place. Waiting for the sculptor to add in character and completed features to give it an identity.
The figure climbed down the small hill. Its' mind was cloudy. Its' memory seemed to elude it. As if on total instinct, it seemed to be following a trail. Not a physical trail, like a woodsman might follow, but a mental trail. As if some impression had been left behind and only it could follow the impression.
It moved off towards the rising sun, not knowing why. Just with an urgent need to go in that direction; a bloodhound following a trail it could neither identify nor explain. Only with an overwhelming compulsion to follow the trail.
It was shortly past noon when it came upon the body. The body of a man, perhaps in his mid- or late-20s. The body was lying next to a strange vehicle. Apparently, the vehicle had broken down, and the young man was trying to fix it when . . . what?
The man-creature placed its' right hand over the body's' forehead. It then closed its' eyes and lifted its' head to the sky. It did not do this as a conscious effort; the act was something that it felt compelled to do.
It appeared to shudder for several seconds, then removed its' hand. All doubt was now gone from its' mind. It knew what its' course was. Its' mind was no longer clouded; its' memory apparently fully restored.
It moved the body of the young man off the road to a small grove of trees. It removed the clothing and jewelry the man had been wearing. Carefully, almost gingerly, it dug a hole and placed the body inside, being careful not to be seen. It covered the body with dirt and carefully packed the dirt down. It then moved down the hill a short distance and looked back at the unmarked grave. The grave was almost unnoticeable from where it stood.
It returned to the road and finished changing the tire on the car. Later, as it drove east, its' face had already begun to change. It began to take on the features of the body it had only recently buried. It would take a while, but in a short time, it would look exactly like the person in that grave.