The red sands of Mars brushed against his feet. Greg Matteson looked out at the Martian landscape through the visor of his space helmet and the only thing he could think about was wishing that his wife Victoria was at his side this very moment to experience the magic and wonder of overlooking an alien environment.
Matteson never thought in a million years he would ever experience walking on the surface of another world. But it was thanks to the miracle of a top secret project called “Shadow Jumping” that made this moment possible. He took in a deep breath and suddenly a voice was heard over a transmission inside his helmet which spoke to him.
“Dr. Matteson… you read me?”
“Loud and clear. I made it and she is a beauty.”
“She, sir?” The voice said in confusion.
“The red planet. I only wish… I only wish Vicki were here. God, she would love this.”
“I don’t think that would be possible. Only authorized personell know about this project.”
“I know that… just sayin’… wish she was here.”
Matteson took in a deep breath inside the helmet and began to proceed further onto the red surface.
Was it possible? He thought to himself. Was it truly possible that just ten minutes ago he was back on earth and teleported or in this case Shadow Jumped to an entirely different planet? A planet untouched by human civilization.
In the ground in front of him he noticed something digging through the sand. What seemed like one life form became several, crawling through the dirt. A look of bewilderment formed on his facade as he watched a tiny colony of these life-forms sprout from the surface. They looked serpent-like and Matteson knew that they were parasitic life-forms. Small slugs or not it was amazing that more life flourished here than just tiny strains of bacteria.
Matteson noticed the slugs moving through the dirt in his direction. He tried to keep his distance but they were already in pursuit. One of the parasitic life-forms leapt up through the dirt, lunging at him, biting his arm, its teeth puncturing the arm sleeve of Matteson’s suit, slithering its way inside. The computer’s voice inside Matteson’s helmet spoke: “Warning… suit in danger of
containmanation to atmospheric exposure.”
Matteson made an attempt to flee from the life-forms that were pursuing him through the Martian sand. But the attempt to flee was useless as a parasite slithered inside the suit. Matteson could feel the slimy creature make its way through the helmet, slithering its way across his neck. He fell to his knees as the life-form bit his neck and he passed out surrendering to a void of total darkness.
When Matteson regained consciousness he found himself laying on a bed inside a medical lab. He thought it was all a dream until he saw the parasitic creature in a containment tube next to the bed. Matteson flinched at the sight of the alien life form which lay motionless inside the jar.
Dr. Allison Reynolds, dressed in a hazmat suit gave him an insulin shot and noticed that he had awaken.
“Glad to see you’re alive.”
“We had to bring you back and we discovered your little stow away.”
“Is it alive?”
“No. It died shortly after arriving here. When you were on Mars they lost track of your heart rate that must have been due to the attack.” Dr. Reynolds said, pointing to the lifeless parasite.
Matteson quickly sat up.
“Careful,” Reynolds said. “You need to take it easy.”
“Sorry… feels like I’ve been asleep for a thousand years. How long have I been out?”
“A few hours.”
“And how long do I have to stay in quarantine?”
“Not long. Just sit tight… relax.”
“Can I at least get some coffee in here?”
“Not at the moment. I can’t give you any outside sustenance at the moment. Not until we’re sure your body is uncontaminated by any sort of Martian bacteria.”
“Damn,” Matteson said. “Can I at least get a cigar in here?”
“Again… no,” Reynolds said with a smirk. “That’ll contaminate the quarantine area.”
“Well… it was worth a shot, doc,” He said, leaning back with a smirk.
That night Matteson lay in the darkened quarantine room with only the glowing screen of a computer monitoring his body. On the screen red lines indicated the healthy flow of his bloodstream. But the red lines became blue.
The next morning Dr. Reynolds drew some of Matteson’s blood. The feeling of nervousness gripped him like an iron fist as he noticed a puzzled expression formed on Reynolds’ face.
“It’s just… well… your blood is dark blue.”
“Now I wouldn’t get all worked up about this,” Reynolds said. “It could be temporary side effects from the planetary jump.”
“You’re telling me I shouldn’t get all worked up about this?” Matteson said, climbing off the bed.
“Easy for you to say… You’re not the one stuck in quarantine,” Matteson said, pacing around with the look of agitation.
Reynolds noticed there was a swelling extending from the back of Matteson’s neck.
“Greg, there’s a lump…” Reynolds said, trailing off in mid-sentence.
“What do you mean a lump?”
“On the back of your neck.”
Matteson felt the large bump.
“Hold on,” Reynolds said. “Don’t touch it.”
Reynolds leaned in to take a closer look at the swelling. Its movement startled her. The bulge moved like as if it was breathing.
“Oh my god,” She said.
“What does that mean?”
“What do you mean it’s moving?”
Dr. Reynolds rubbed her glove against the lump which wiggled as if agitated by the touch of her finger.
“Let me do a blood sample. Sit down,” Reynolds said.
Matteson produced a look of confusion. “Wait. Blood sample?”
Reynolds dabbed a cotton swab with alcohol and rubbed it across the back of Matteson’s neck. She made an attempt to press the needle against the swelling but the lump began to leak a dark blue substance.
“Oh shit,” Reynolds said.
“What do you mean, oh shit? I feel something trickling down the back of my neck. What did you do?”
“Just a second,” Reynolds said, quickly reaching for a petri dish and scooping up the dark blue slime substance emitting from Matteson’s neck.
She held the petri dish in front of Matteson’s face. He looked at the substance with a baffled look in his eyes.
“I’m going to take a look at this,” Reynolds said, leaving the quarantine area with the petri dish.
“I hate to say this Greg… but I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
“So what are you saying?” Matteson asked, sounding hesitant to even fathom the thought of her answer.
“I don’t know. That’s why I have to take a look at this but I can guarantee it has something to do with the life form inside the jar.”
Matteson sat down on the hospital bed with a look of agitation. “All I want to do is see my wife.”
“We can get her for you.”
“It still wouldn’t be the same though,” he began. “I can’t hold and kiss her.”
“Well you should know this problem isn’t going away anytime soon.”
“Yeah, I know. You shouldn’t remind me.”
Reynolds chuckled. “I’m going to examine this,” She said, referring to the petri-dish.
That night Matteson tried to sleep but couldn’t. How could he? He was trapped inside quarantine, unable to leave. He was beginning to think that this project wasn’t even worth the risk of loosing anything. They started this project with the hope of colonizing other worlds since Earth was faced with over population. Matteson was hoping that Shadow-Jumping would be the key for colonizing other worlds. But with his current situation perhaps more research was needed to decipher planetary jumping.
The next morning when he awoken he found a strange new burst of energy. Reynolds went to check on him and she was in utter shock when she saw him doing pushups with only one arm. Never in a million years had she ever seen someone do such an act right in front of her eyes. She sure as hell never recalled Matteson being able to do such an exercise.
She entered the lab, fully suited. Matteson staggered up from the ground not even breaking a sweat.
“What brings you here?” He said, gazing into her eyes.
A look of shock formed on her face as he noticed his pupils had changed color. In fact his eyes didn’t even look human.
“Greg,” She paused, having problems, comprehending with the situation. “Have you looked in the mirror?”
Matteson shook his head, “No. Why?” He said.
“Your eyes… they’re different.”
Matteson quickly entered the restroom, looking into the mirror and was bewildered to see that both eye corneas had completely taken on a new transformation.
“What the hell?” He gasped, unable to breathe and even swallow. “I can’t let Vicki see me like
this.” Matteson clenched his teeth in anger, “Why is this happening?” He shouted just before punching a hole through the wall.
The impact of Matteson’s fist hitting the wall made Dr. Reynolds flinch. She backed away from him with a startled look in her eyes.
“Sorry,” Matteson apologized. “I can’t believe one little organism is doing this to me. I mean if its venom poisoned my system… how come I’m not dead?”
“Well I did manage to run some tests,” Reynolds said in a quivering voice. “There are traces of the creatures venom in your blood stream but the cause of the jump is causing the side effects.”
“So what are you saying?”
“The strength in your body is speeding up so fast that it’s causing it to age quickly and eventually the infection will cause your body to die.”
“How long do I have?”
“It’s hard to say at this point. But not only is it causing your strength to bulk up but it’s mutating your body.”
Matteson noticed Reynolds’ face cringe even more. She watched as dark blue slime oozed from his lobe just before the ear fell to the floor.
Matteson’s eyes widened and broke out into a horrified expression as he noticed his own ear lay dormant on the ground. He kneeled down to grab it.
“Don’t touch it!” Reynolds shouted. “I’ll get some prongs and a petri-dish. I need to run some tests.”
“But that’s my ear.”
“It’s just a precaution, Greg.”
“I don’t think it matters now. I mean look at me. I’m changing as we speak,” Matteson growled just before he punched another hole through the white sterile wall.
“I’m just glad that wasn’t my head,” Reynolds said, taking a big gulp.
“Well, then I hope you won’t punch a hole through me when I tell you this…”
“Tell me what?”
“It’s your wife.”
“What about her?” Matteson said, his eyes widening.
Reynolds had to admit that his expression sent chills tingling down her spine.
“I told you… I didn’t want her to see me like this!” Matteson said, producing a snarl which sounded unearthly.
Reynolds cringed at the sound.
“Greg,” She began, “I spoke to her the other day. I couldn’t just tell her that you were dead.”
An all too familiar face appeared behind the plastic glass, looking into the quarantine area. It was Victoria.
“I told you I didn’t want her to see me like this!” Matteson shouted.
Vicki looked at her husband with a flabbergasted look. To her astonishment he didn’t look like himself. But she already knew he was infected with an unknown contagion. Something truly alien, something not of this world.
Matteson was now enraged by the expression on his wife’s face. He produced a hideous roar and Vicki disappeared from sight. She quickly made her way down the corridor.
Reynolds spotted two large lumps sprouting from each side of Matteson’s upper posterior. His roar of rage turned into agony as he felt his skin stretch, his body continuing to grow.
Reynolds ran for the exit and made an attempt to close the door to the containment area but Matteson rammed his transforming body into the door sending Reynolds spiraling into the air just before she slammed against the wall.
An alarm throughout the corridor went off, “Attention! Attention! Red Alert! There is a breach from Quarantine!”
Matteson burst through the doors. He was no longer human but a vial creature bent on rage. The venom surging through his system was not only changing his outer structure but his psyche as well.
Matteson’s pursuit down the corridor was cut short by armed military personnel. Their guns aimed, wasting no time, firing at the rampaging beast, feeling pain surge throughout his body which was now riddled with bullet wounds.
His body was no longer humanoid but had now taken on a mantis-like appearance. His body continued to contort, enveloping Matteson’s body completely in agonizing pain. But it was the bullet wounds that forced the shambling mutant to tumble to the ground. The armed guards continued to fire at Matteson and it seemed like he was dead. But he staggered from the ground, rearing his hind legs into the air, extending his seven foot body into the air. He rammed his claws into the ceiling, forcing large chunks to tumble onto several armed guards.
Matteson produced a shrieking roar. There was not an ounce of humanity left inside of him. He was now a vial entity. Matteson’s body was plagued with more severe pain as large bat-like wings tore through the skin on his dorsal, spanning a six foot wing span.
Matteson, now an alien creature no longer of this world pursued the armed military police up until the moment when his heart beat began to slowdown. His body fell to the floor and his breathing was slowly coming to a halt. He was beginning to slowly expire.
There was a window further down the corridor and Matteson seized the opportunity for escape. Shrouds of shattering glass landed on the floor as he leapt through the window, sprouting his massive wings.
“Don’t let him get away!” A military officer shouted.
Bullet holes riddled the wings of the creature before it was able to take flight. A group of innocent spectators screamed and began to flee as the carcass fell to the ground while armed military guards calmed down the spectators.
A week later Alison Reynolds entered the research laboratory, walking with a cane to support her mending leg. Her eyes widened as she gawked at the remains of the carcass, remembering everything about the incident up until the moment she lost consciousness.
Reynolds limped over to Dr. Knowles who was hunched over a small research cage, poking at a specimen with a pair of tweezers.
“Did you run any tests on, Greg?” Reynolds asked.
“Well, you might want to see this,” Knowles responded, not even taking his eyes off the specimen. “I found this inside the carcass.”
Reynolds limped over, taking a look inside the cage while Knowles continued to poke at what appeared to be a tiny version of the creature Matteson had transformed into. Reynolds’ eyes widened with pure shock.
“Where did you find this?”
“It was hatched from an egg.”
“What? You mean it was just reproduced A-Sexually from Greg’s body… but how?
“Don’t know. But it’s a great guess that the virus allowed his body to inhabit strands of amphibious D.N.A.”
“But how could the body still reproduce offspring if it were dead?”
An overwhelming ounce of unsettlement lingered over Allison Reynolds. She quickly limped over to the containment room, containing Matteson’s carcass which was shrouded in darkness until she turned on the lights, revealing a sight that made her body tingle with fear, forcing gooseflesh to sprout from her skin. Her eyes witnessed true terror as she peered through the window, overlooking the the containment room, infested with hundreds of the spawning creatures, hatching from eggs which were sprawled out onto the floor. There seemed to be no end as the creatures seemed to procreate from the carcass.
Dr. Reynolds peered into what seemed like a dark void into madness, watching the infantile creatures viciously claw at each other. She let out a scream just before falling to the floor. Knowles ran to her aid but it was too late. Her heart had already stopped beating. She was dead and Knowles heard the unearthly shrieks emitting from within the room. That dark void into madness.