In The Name Of Science
“Alright, Detective Dickhole, what do you have for me today?”
Pathologist Leonard Kessler’s voice echoed through the cold room. The acoustically prone surfaces usually kept his spoken words to a minimum, but he never missed the opportunity to insult his big brother.
Darren Kessler shivered, folding his arms tighter against his chest. “I still don’t know how you work in here.”
“You get used to it, just like Dad’s cooking.”
“I’m still trying to digest his meatloaf from last Easter and still trying to get warm in here.”
“The trick is to stop tying, just accept it.” Leonard said.
“Screw that. I’ll wait for evolution to give us internal thermostats. Anyway, I pulled some strings to get this case for you,” Darren said, smiling. “I know you like working on the weird ones.”
“Lay it on me!”
“The body,” Darren said, reading from the file folder and pointing to the freshly wheeled-in corpse, “is a 36-year-old Caucasian male, 182 lbs., 5’ 11”. Dr. Patrick Mahoney, a Marine Biologist. He was found dead in his laboratory nearly seven hours ago. The man’s financial backer, Charles Grawner, discovered the body after Mahoney was a no-show for a status meeting. No immediate indications of foul play—the lab was locked from the inside. Mahoney had just returned from a research jaunt through the Pacific.
“Don’t think so. Too messy and bizarre for self-inflicted damage—wait till you see him; strange. Here’s a copy of the file.”
Darren handed him a file folder of crime scene photos and documents. “Run a full report on him. Call me when you have something.”
“Yes, Sir.” Leonard tossed his brother a mock salute.
Detective Kessler sipped the runny tar his co-workers called coffee while sifting through evidence bags in his office. One, marked Bodily Possessions, held a cell phone, ID badge, wallet, and a small portable computer drive. He plugged the USB drive into his laptop while mumbling to himself, “Please, no kiddie porn.”
Sorting through the extensive list of folders and files, he scanned the recent documents. Heading the list was a mpeg video titled ‘URGENT – Watch NOW’. Darren double-clicked the file.
An unshaven man with ruffled hair stared at the camera. His eyes, clearly visible behind small, wire-framed glasses, were red, puffy, and underlined by dark baggage.
As the video began, the man rubbed his face and took a deep breath.
“April 14th, 2013. 10:39pm. My name is Dr. Patrick T. Mahoney. I’m a marine biologist working under an unlisted grant from Grawner Bio-Chem, Inc. through a NOAA privatized research arm, Marine Research Discoveries Division.
“We were researching the waters above the Mariana Trench, dropping probes when a Mitsukurina owstoni (Goblin shark) floated to the surface, deceased. To learn more about the pink Mitsukurina and what happened to it, we hauled it aboard for analysis.
“The shark’s characteristic protruding jaw was dislodged and broken. This particular specimen had abnormally long teeth which was quite odd and seemed the most likely the cause of death… but we were wrong.
“Upon dissection, I discovered foreign tissue residing inside the cartilaginous skull. This tissue was in fact an endoparasitoic creature—still thriving after its host’s death. It was like nothing I’d ever seen before.
“Two crew members of Māori descent had been very uneasy with its presence on the boat. They referred to it as ‘Wheke Pōtae’, which roughly translates to ‘Head Squid’. An old fable passed down from their tribe elders claimed it was crafty and evil, not to be trifled with or risk bringing death upon the whole village.”
The doctor paused, his eyes shifting back and forth restlessly as if ratcheting his brain toward a decision. After a loud exhale, Dr. Mahoney returned his gaze to the screen and new distress had carved deeper lines on his face, advancing his perceived age.
“Do not misunderstand what you are watching here,” he said. “At this moment, I am of sound mind and body. My actions are taken willingly. What I am doing, and what you are about to witness, is in the name of science. Please learn from this, I beg you; heed my warnings and study my experience, or it will all be in vain.
“In the days between docking and now, I’ve studied the specimen to learn more about the endoparasite. You can find all the documentation on the data drive with this video, including a hypothetical case study of the organism’s method of reproduction.
“But now… theories be damned, I am the case study.”
Raising a hand, Dr. Mahoney showed a puncture wound on the webbing between his thumb and forefinger. Swelling had ballooned the curve of his hand from a concave pink to a greenish convex mound with blue lightning-veins racing down his arm and out of the camera frame.
“It must sense other living beings’ proximity through electrical impulse sensitivity. It projected a reproduction-capable proboscis and injected an embryo of sorts under the dermal layer. I clearly underestimated its capabilities.”
The doctor exhaled a deep, quivering breath.
“I felt it… crawling up my arm, along my jugular, and squeezing into my skull. That was 7 hours ago. Since then, I’ve experienced heightened sensitivity in my jaw and teeth and increased cranial pressure.
“The organism stimulates unprecedented growth in the host’s teeth. After close inspection, I’ve identified a siphon appendage wrapped around the nerve within each tooth’s inner cavity, which extends to a tiny hole in the outer enamel. I believe this is used to increase pressure within the skull in an attempt to replicate the pressure levels of its native ocean environment. The teeth must gr—”
The biologist winced, crying out and clutching his head.
“I think it’s feeding.”
He reached up and stopped the recording.
The screen flashed. The Doctor was now very pale with dried blood around his nostrils and ears. His lips, suffering multiple points of laceration, were split and pushed back in a skull’s grin. The lower jaw jutted out and down in what would have been an open-mouthed posture, but the view was obstructed by teeth—an enamel cage overlapping from a massive under-bite. His harsh breaths hissed through the dental wall, whistling and slapping against the continual production of crimson-tinged drool.
Dr. Mahoney held up a small dry-erase board with a poorly scrawled message stating, “I can no longer speak clearly. I cannot move my jaw, the pain is incredible.”
He lowered the board and wrote a new message. His body was quivering and tears flowed freely as he held up message after message.
“With growing teeth and chewed brain, I’m not sure…
“…how much time I have left, how much more I can take….
“…I feel teeth growing, forcing jaw open further.”
Before displaying the next part of his message he jolted forward and howled as if an invisible hammer struck him in the back of the head. The tortured sound was muffled behind his overlapping wall of teeth. It barely sounded human. He recovered in his chair but his breathing quickened.
Between the man’s hissing breaths, the detective could hear the multifaceted squeal of enamel pushing against enamel.
Mahoney finished the written words and held up the board.
“my experiences and spec It’s moving around, eating again.”
Blood dribbled from his nose. He started writing more but never finished. His rasped, violent breathing stopped cold. The doctor’s eyes widened. He stared into the camera with unwavering intensity for so long that Detective Kessler wondered if the video had paused. Then, the man’s subtle tremors, tight convulsions of the head, became noticeable.
Dr. Mahoney screamed again, but this time he didn’t stop.
Kessler lowered the hand covering his mouth and leaned closer to the computer screen, riveted to the horror unfolding before him.
The doctor pounded fists against his temples and clawed at his scalp. It looked as if he’d gone insane—sanity eroding right in front of the camera.
The man’s right eye twitched and turned in the socket, completely unhinged from the synchrony with his other, which held firm in its gaze at the camera. A moment later, it disappeared, sucked back into his skull with a splash of blood and aqueous fluid, leaving a grotesque void behind.
Despite the screaming, Kessler heard the loud pop of Dr. Mahoney’s jaw finally giving way under the strain. It flopped open, swaying like a bear trap with a broken spring. A pink cocktail of blood and cranial fluids poured from his nose. Choking, the doctor’s shrieks drowned in a long, agonizing gurgle before he collapsed onto the desk.
Darren sat as still as the dead man on the video.
In his eleven years as a homicide detective, he’d never seen anything like that before. He fumbled for his cell phone and dialed.
“Leo, you’re not gonna believe what I just saw.”
“This thing is amazing,” Leonard said, ignoring his brother. “It completely devoured Dr. Mahoney’s brain and grew large enough to crack open the skull.”
“Yeah, it kills the host… not very good for longevity, huh.”
“Darren, I think it’s still alive.”
“Shit! Get away from it, right now!” the detective said, jumping out of his chair. “I’m coming down. Don’t do anything ‘till I get there.”
The detective burst into the autopsy room, shouting. “I told you to get back, goddamn it.”
Leonard sat on a stool with his back to the door, leaning over Mahoney’s body.
Darren rushed over. “It’s not safe, Leo. I told you to—”
His brother was shaking. Still holding the phone in his right hand, he cradled the left.
“It happened so fast.” Leonard said in a hollow, reedy voice.
Darren saw the tell-tale wound on his brother’s wrist and knew exactly what had happened. He pulled Leonard away from the table, ranting, “No. No. No.”
Leonard flexed his fingers and winced. “Man it hurts. I felt the toxin spreading all the way up to my head.”
“Fuck!” Darren paced, pausing occasionally to kick over a tray of tools or punch the cooler doors. “Fuck. Fuck. Fuck!”
“Hey, we should call 911 or poison control.”
“It’s not a toxin.” Darren scolded him. “There’s no antidote… no way to survive, only the suffering of an agonizing death.”
Darren drew his Glock 17 and fired five rounds into the occupied cavity of Dr. Mahoney’s skull.
“Whoa, we still could’ve—”
Darren pivoted to point the gun at his brother.
“What the fuck, man?”
“It’s the only way to save you.” He said with tears dripping from his chin.
“I love you, Leo.”
“Wait, Darren! Don’t…”
Responding to the initial report of gunfire in the morgue, the uniformed officers were halfway down the hall when the last two shots rang out.
~ Tyr Kieran
© Copyright 2013 Tyr Kieran. All Rights Reserved.
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