Rob Does Words
Treating fiction poorly since 2019


It took a while before people realised what was happening.

See, there were two issues that appeared to be separate but were, in fact, the same. Firstly, people across the world were dying in their sleep for no reason. It could be anyone, age, sex, health – didn't matter. It was random and totally arbitrary.

Second was the black ooze that appeared soon after all the deaths started. People initially thought they were related, since the ooze only appeared after the deaths started, but since most of the larger nations had tried to cover up the deaths in some way or another, not all of the information was available to investigators and so they were deemed unrelated.

The sleeping deaths were interesting, but the subject matter was so morbid that it didn't really hold the public's imagination, at least not the in the way the media would have liked, so instead they focused on the ooze.

No one could tell where it came from, and like the sleeping deaths, it was random and seemingly arbitrary. One thing that was clear almost immediately, though, was that the ooze appeared at night and was benign, or inactive, during the day. Scientists the world over were scratching their heads while noting that there was nothing even remotely similar to the ooze anywhere else in the world. Some of the more fringe communities had decided that it was an alien attack that had failed and we should be thankful for some vague deus ex machina for saving us.

Which leads to me. Well, not really. But it might as well. My husband was an investigator into a handful of sleeping deaths in Chicago, Illinois. They had started in the early winter and had kept a irregular schedule since. It’s May now, for reference and I know of 16. I'm not supposed to know; security levels and all that, but Dave, he’s a talker. Was a talker.

I haven't seen Dave in almost a month now. Like I said, he had been investigating since the end of last year and had seen more in three months than the rest of his career up to that point.

I remember it being sometime in late February when we had that talk. Where he said he and his partner had discovered something that they shouldn't have and it may lead to trouble. He wouldn't say exactly what it was, but I knew from the way he was talking, it was bad. He told me that if he disappeared before the investigation was complete there was a 50/50 chance it was of his own choosing. The last thing he told me before saying we could never discuss it again was that if it wasn't of his own choosing then he and his partner would probably end up dying very publicly and more than likely as heroes.

That hasn't happened yet, so for the time being I know he's alive. And I need to find him.

Across the world in almost every major city there are scientific research labs dealing with things that are significant yet at the same time almost never reported on. Almost everyone's day to day lives are filled with the things that labs like this research, yet we don't even realise what it’s like before these things make it onto the supermarket shelves. We take this sort of research for granted.

This lab isn't researching things that we will, sometime in the future, take for granted but it is using that environment of ignorance to ensure that what it is researching remains hidden within lines of excessively boring budgets and overly verbose memos. No one outside of the company paid any attention to them. And even if they did, most of the facility was involved in legitimate research undertaken by people paid enough to not quit yet not enough to know the full extent of what was going on in other parts of the building.

There were parts of the facility all those people had no idea existed where all the interesting stuff was happening and in a cliche worthy of a Hollywood B-movie, they were all underground.

Four people stood around a large glass container, like the sort you would expect to see in a bad scifi movie where the bad guys were growing human bodies. Inside the container wasn't anything resembling any body, human or otherwise, instead there was a thick black substance that bubbled away quietly. It was the largest single concentration of ooze in the world.

It had taken almost a week and nearly enough power to light up Wyoming, but they had managed to make the ooze not only boil, but also make it stop trying to escape the tank.

“Now what?” one of them asked.

“God, I didn't even think we’d get here. We should call the boss,” another replied.

“Except we can’t. This isn't an emergency. He’ll be here on schedule,” the third, the putative leader of the group said, scratching something into a notebook. “For now we keep it at this stage and monitor until the boss gets in and tells us what the next step is.”

“What if it dies?” the fourth asked, his hand on the outside of the slightly warmed tank.

“I wish you would stop insisting it’s alive.”

“Look, just because it comes from death, doesn't mean it, itself, is dead. Remember how it acted when we put it inside?”

“It’s just energy. Energy reacts differently in different situations. Just leave it be and wait for the boss. In fact, since we’re stable here and there's no indication of contamination, you guys can go for some R and R.”

“We can go home?”

“I wouldn't recommend it, but go and chill out in your apartments here. You know, use the facilities that they provided for you. Enjoy the next few days while we have the time to relax. I’ll call you if anything goes upside down.”

“Well, ok. I’ll come back in eight hours to swap out with you.”

“Make it ten. Get some sleep.”

I knew the lab existed thanks to Dave’s research and I knew something was wrong inside. I also knew that Dave had made mention of this particular place for a reason. Something inside me, something that had been getting louder and louder the more I thought of all of the weird things that had been going on this year, told me I was in the right place and it was the right time. All I had to do now was figure out why.