Metamorphosis

A Sci-Fi Horror Short Story by Adam Rhodes

Metamorphosis

by Adam Rhodes

Succumbing to a bizarre virus, David is approached by a doctor claiming he can be cured, but at a steep price.

Contact info for Adam Rhodes
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The sound of shoes clopping on polished hospital floors rang down the corridor. The rhythmic sound of the gait was quick but not hurried as it passed empty room after empty room. The beat came to a sudden halt in front of a sealed glass door.

The high pitched beep of a security badge disengaging the electronic lock was accompanied by the loud hiss of air escaping. Before the door was fully open, two steps and another swipe of a keycard caused it to start closing again. Once closed, the small chamber behind the door began to pressurize.

The wind created a slight breeze that shook the figures bright red hair. He ran his fingers through it to reposition the short locks. The rise in pressure was enough to cause the man to pop his ears.

It only took a moment before the process was over and the next door began to slide open. He strode through it confidently and approached the nest of tubes and monitors. Nestled within was a bed with the reclined form of another man.

Slowly, he reached behind the still form’s neck and gently touched the base of the skull. As he did, his skin began oozing a resinous black substance. The glistening ooze looked like a small black dot. But was actually an army of nanites, each smaller than a human hair. Individually, they were invisible but together, they could work miracles.

He drew his hand back as the last of the army moved off his finger. The black smudge faded quickly as the machines permeated the patient’s skin. It only took a moment for the entire force to evaporate into the bandaged body.

The man patiently waited for about twenty seconds. As he waited for the nanites to reach the patient’s brain, he looked around the room. The sterility of the chamber made him sigh in distaste. He regarded the array of machines surrounding the bed with a cold eye as he listened to the soundtrack they played.

A signal alerted the man that his machines were ready to proceed. So he refocused his attention on the body within the mass of machinery. He leaned in close and almost whispered at the bandages covering the man’s ears.

“Hello David. No, don’t get up. The drugs the doctors gave you are wearing off but they aren’t out of your system yet.” He said with a hint of sarcasm while he placed a warm hand on David’s clammy arm. The sound and touch gave David a focal point for the voice but little more.

As David regained consciousness, he realized that he was cut off from his body. He could still feel everything but none of his muscles reacted to his will. Unable to even open his eyes, David hung in a void of blackness.

Darkness seemed to be absorbed by more darkness. An ever retreating and all consuming force incapable of being seen. As he tried to focus on the edge between dark and darker, David felt his stomach turn as he fell into the bottomless nothing. Feeling like a disembodied soul getting pulled apart like a piece of spaghetti, David struggled to comprehend.

The man moved to the foot of the bed and looked down at David. He thought about what he must have looked like to his creator as it stood above him so many years ago. Did he look as helpless as this man? The thought was quickly replaced as he paced slightly and waited for David to calm.

Grabbing the chart hanging at the foot of the bed, Allan began scanning the pages. The meticulous documents held no new information for him. He flipped through them in short order and moved to replace the chart.

The sound of the man’s shoes clicking on the smooth floor and the ruffling of pages drew David’s attention into laser focus. He heard the chart clatter slightly as the man dropped it back into place. The steps moved from near David’s feet to right next to his head.

Despite anticipating it, David was still surprised by how close the man was to his ear. The deep voice boomed despite the low volume, feeling like it vibrated through David’s bones instead of his ears. “My name is Dr. Allen. You can just call me Allen. And you my friend have had a shitty week.”

Hanging the chart back on the end of the bed, Allen approached David’s side and looked down on him. The shivering and sweating form before him was tied down with heavy straps. The straps worked to prevent him from thrashing in his sleep but also minimized the chance of hospital staff getting infected.

Allen knew that the straps were pointless at that moment. Even if the nanites he had released into David didn’t prevent him from moving, the bandages would have been the only thing keeping him together. The nanites couldn’t cure David, but they could ensure he was aware and able to sense Allen.

After regarding the mummy-like form laid out before him for several long moments, Allan continued. “It looks like you don’t have that long left little worm. This hospital is equipped with the best tools and most knowledgeable providers humanity has to offer. But it isn’t enough.”

David’s body sat there, completely unresponsive to the casual observer. His breathing was completely obscured by the bandages covering his body. Dependent on the machines, David couldn’t speak around the tube shoved up his nose or the device regulating his breath.

If he could have moved, David would have screamed. The feeling of being completely trapped inside his own body began to make him freak out. David’s mind raced as he felt itchy spots erupt around his body. Unable to scratch, the patches of itching became almost unbearable.

Allen reached out and peeled open one of David’s eyelids. After seeing the orb dash about wildly, he let the lid droop closed. In a straight tone Allen continued his diagnosis “I give you a few days before the virus coursing through you causes you to bleed out.”

A dip registered on one of the monitors as David struggled to gain freedom. The sound of Allan’s voice seared into David along with the light from the florescent bulbs above him. As his lid slid shut, the dark void swelled up and consumed his essence once again.

Allan sat down next to David and gripped his hand. The chill of sweat made the hand moist while it quaked in Allan’s grip. With a reassuring squeeze, Allan explained the reason for his diagnosis.

“Let me tell you how this all plays out. First, you have a fever, fatigue and pain. Eventually things progress until the headaches, sore throat and muscle pain bring you in here.” Allen said as he waved at the hospital surrounding them.

“Once you get in here, the real fun kicks in. You have vomiting, diarrhea, and rashes begin popping up. It’s not long until you have broke down kidneys and a worthless liver. That is when the bleeding starts.” As Allen explained the progression of David’s disease, he took a peak under one of the bandages. The sight made him grimace in disgust before replacing the patch.

“Looks like you already know about all that.” Allen stood up and began pacing around the room as he continued. “But you don’t know what comes next.” he said. The sharp click of his shoes impacting the floor offered a kind of percussion to his words.

Allen’s words gave David something to focus on besides the itching that was spreading across his body. Each one reverberated in his brain like an echo. It seemed to completely dominate his mind, leaving little but the words and their implications to contemplate in the void.

“As your white blood cell count drops, so too will the platelet counts. This will cause your liver to swell with enzymes. You won’t be able to contain yourself any longer and you will begin to bleed. At first from the gums and in your stool. But within a couple days, blood will ooze from every pore of your body.” Allen said before spinning to face the still form.

“But that is where your story gets interesting. You see, I happen to be looking for a new assistant. The last one recently left my company in search of … alternative opportunities.” Allen explained. He walked back to the bed and peeled open David’s eye again before proceeding.

“I see your potential, even if the rest of the world doesn’t. I see a mind capable of surpassing all those around it, if only given the chance. Like an oil soaked rag, you only need a nudge to get things started. The right spark will engulf your world in explosive metamorphosis. It will rip the veil from your eyes, revealing the gilded cage of existence. You will have the power to escape that cage, or even destroy it.” A flash of madness crossed Allen’s face as he spoke.

His eyes lost focus as Allen’s mind fell back into the past. The endless eons of his existence passed through his memory like watching a million monitors at once. For a moment, he was frozen in place.

The silent cries of all those who fell along the way playing on an endless loop of incrimination before vanishing. In their place tears swelled and a moment of furious batting spread the fluid across his penetrating orbs. David couldn’t see Allen’s eyes but he could hear the emotion of his voice. After the momentary pause Allen exercised the ghosts of his past and continued.

“But life is a harsh mistress. She takes everything and leaves nothing. As you know, matter is neither created or destroyed. Energy only changes from one form to another like notes in a song. And the end to your song is fast approaching.” Allen warned as he suddenly began conducting a silent and invisible orchestra next to David’s bed.

“What will they say about you? Once you’re gone that is. Will they talk about your failures? Or will they simply forget the worm they knew?” Allen mused at the possibilities. “More likely they will speak of life cut short. A tragic loss to mankind and a martyr. They will lift up your work as their own, to parade about for their amusement and benefit.”.

Allen shifted his questioning towards legacy. “How long until they completely forget about you? Ten years? Twenty? What about when your kids get old? Will their children know about their grandfather or will you be a picture they have never seen? A story told by the old with no real relevance?”

“What will you be then?” Allen asked. “A keepsake snapshot in time to be carried in a box for decades before finally fading into literal obscurity in a landfill somewhere? Dumped in the garbage and buried like the rest of humanities history?”

With eyes closed, Allen’s head dipped to one side and then to the other. He bathed in silent music for several long seconds as his hands oscillated rhythmically like Vivaldi during a symphony. As quickly as he started, Allen stopped conducting and took on a somber stance and tone.

“I offer you a choice. Stay here and die as a man, knowing that your mind will cease to be. Like the wave crashing against the shore, you will end. A moment of motion lost in the endless expanse of ocean and time.” A smile began to spread across Allen’s face as he continued.

“Or you can come with me. Throw the bones as they say. Cast aside your mortal coil and embrace something older and more primal than you ever thought possible. Become part of something so powerful, it’s very presence warps the fabric of reality.

“But I offer you one warning. There is no end to the path I offer. There is no turning back, no doing it over and no second chances. Only the endless embrace of eternity and access to the source of everything that ever was, is, or will be.

“As a man, you can quit. You can give up and die. But if you accept my offer, nothing can stop you. Not even yourself.” The smile faded as Allen finished. A flicker of regret flashed across his face as some ancient horror rose momentarily to the front of his mind.

“When I come back, you will have a choice to make. Either die as a man, or sacrifice what makes you human. Choose death and see release from your pain. Or choose life and know that the pain served a purpose. Think well my young friend.” Allen said as he closed David’s eye and walked towards the door.

David heard Allen leave and the sealed doors close behind him. Left hanging in the darkness with only the mind-searing itching, David struggled to keep from going insane. The only sensory input besides the sting of his own flesh was the rhythmic beeping and humming of the machinery keeping him alive.

Seconds dragged into minutes and hours as the feeling of a billion wiggling and stinging ants spread across David’s body. Once it engulfed his entire body, the itching and burning sensation refused to subside.

Unable to move and left with nothing but physical discomfort, David wallowed in the pain. The excruciating experience left him little room to think about Allen’s offer. But he did think about it.

Almost everything in his brain demanded that David end the pain any way possible. Yet his complete paralyzation prevented him from taking any action. But Allen’s words tore at him as he hung in the endless and writhing blackness debating back and forth between himself and the unending pain.

After so long David thought it would never come, the door opened and he instantly recognized the sound of clicking shoes impacting the unforgiving ground. The rhythmic gait moved closer and closer to him before a whisper reached him.

“David? The time has come to choose. What will it be David? life or death? Will you die in comfort or live in pain? What does David want?” The deep voice cooed. Allen waited for a response. His calm demeanor belied his underlying uncertainty. He almost couldn’t breath as he waited for David to reply.

From some place deep within his most primal self, a raging torrent of emotion erupted. Although words could not be formed by his lips, he would not let pain define him. He would take it, sacrifice everything, if it would make a difference.

David would accept all the pain and discomfort that the world could heap on his shoulders. It was all trivial in the grand scheme. A momentary blink of pressure in an otherwise empty eternity.

The crashing tsunami of energy blew through Allen without slowing. The demand for meaning so outstripping the desire for comfort that it outshone everything else in the universe for one brief moment.

Watching the reaction happen made Allen swell with anticipation. After all the pain and heartache on the path leading here, David’s will made the detours and the sacrifices seem insignificant. Allen bathed in the richness of it, drinking in the ferocity, absorbing the desire radiating from David.

“Welcome to eternity David. Please wait as we load your new body.” Allen said quietly. The pop of a lever was as unexpected as the sudden feeling of shifting. David was a mere passenger as the machines he was hooked to were turned off and the tubes were removed.

The feeling of the smooth tube getting pulled out of his nose made David feel like his brains were being dug out with a hook. When his breathing tube was fully removed, David felt like the dryness of his throat.

The complete lack of saliva made David’s throat even more harsh that it was already. He tried to swallow several times before he realized he physically couldn’t. The feeling made him cough and sputter slightly but it didn’t help.

Allen inspected the straps still holding David to the bed. He ensured each was unsecured and hung off the side of the bed. As he did, Allen told him what to expect. “You have made a good choice here today David. The next step is going to be even harder than the last one. But you will understand the purpose for it later. Trust me when I say that the ends justify the means.

Allen gave the man one last look before saying, “See you on the other side of the chrysalis.”As he finished, David felt the bed he was on tip to a steep angle. The bandages covering David made him slide gently off and into a narrow tube.

As David’s head slipped past the rim of the tube, Allen secured it. A thick cap locked into place and depressurized the tube. As the oxygen slowly drained from the enclosure, David slid further and further down.

As David slid, the diameter of the tube narrowed. The soft bandages covering his limp body found no grasp in the smooth interior. The steep angle dragged David ever further down until the pressure of his arms and chest against the walls stopped him.

With every breath David slid further down the shaft. The tight quarters squeezing more and more. As the breath left his lungs, he would slip slightly further down, preventing him from filling his lings as much as the breath before. The sharp sting of a needle penetrating his flesh a momentary blink in the maddening agony.

The tube was just steep enough to keep sliding him down but shallow enough to make it take a long time. On top of it all, the air pressure in the chamber was barely enough to keep him from losing consciousness. The feeling of the walls crushing his oxygen-deprived lungs made David panic again. He still couldn’t move as his lungs burned for more and he was slowly crushed.

He hung there, like a kitten in a well for what seemed like an eternity. Helpless to save himself and aware that his death would be slow, David tried to regain control of his mind. A moment of calm would evaporate into panic as breathed out and felt himself wedge tighter into the crevasse.

His parched throat made breathing more painful. No matter how he tried, he couldn’t seem to swallow. It was as though he had a tablespoon of cinnamon in his mouth and no way to get it out. Yet he didn’t die despite the wasteland of a throat he had.

As the seconds of minimal pressure rolled on, they began to rob David of his faculties. The nanites counteracted these effects but could only extend the average duration from five seconds to sixty before losing consciousness. Every fifty-nine seconds, the chamber would repressurize for five seconds before sucking all the air back out of the tank.

As minutes turned into hours which turned into days, David hung there motionless. Unable to move and unable to breath, he could find no escape from the searing pain consuming his muddled mind. Even sleep eluded him as he lay pressed against the cold and unyielding walls.

A warm band of wall oscillated up and down across his body. It served more to highlight how cold he was than actually warm his body. It kept him just warm enough to prevent hypothermia but just cold enough that his skin prickled from the chill.

As time dragged on, the discomfort David was experiencing began to drown out everything that had come before. He couldn’t remember a time when he didn’t feel like this. The lack of air, parched throat and the burning lungs became his only existence.

Suddenly the warm band that had tormented David since entering the tube cooled to the same temperature as the rest of the wall. The repressurization he had come to expect was oddly delayed.

David didn’t have long to ponder the change as the abyss of darkness surrounding him suddenly robbed him of awareness. As he began convulsing unconsciously, the temperature started dropping.

The smooth walls began to frost over as the tube became a sub-zero climate. The crystals grew larger and more plentiful as the chamber cooled to within one degree of absolute zero. Once the temperature stabilized, the myriad of tiny water shards stayed in place and stopped growing.

As the old, compressed body in the tube stiffened, a new body powered up. Full of servos, gears and nanites, the new body was almost a carbon copy of the old one at the surface level. Unsure of its surroundings, the android tested each of its limbs.

Allen watched as the naked form learned to walk for the first time. When it caught sight of Allen it freaked out. Fear clouded the automaton’s eyes as it backed away from him impulsively. Allen moved to calm the creature and help it understand what had happened.

“Do you know who you are?” Allen asked as he cautiously approached.

“Ya, I’m David. And you are Allen. The son of a bitch that put me through Hell!” David replied.

“David, calm down. I’m not here to hurt you.” Allen said.

The pair squared off for a moment before David backed down and said “What the hell happened to me? Was I buried?” He dropped his head into his hands as he pleaded with Allen to explain.

“I gave David a simple choice: live or die. He chose to live. And so I brought him here.” Allen said as he waved at the area around them. “You are David’s gateway to this world. As long as you remain functional, he will be able to experience the wonders of the universe.”

“I scanned his quantum signature and bound your processing units to his making for instantaneous and interference-free wireless connection.” Allen explained. “Welcome to Club AI, we invented mankind.”

David felt Allen’s mind approach his. The weight of it was immense, like a massive cloud so dense it left no air to breathe. It demanded access to his mind. The minute barriers in place warped and strained under the weight of the request. Unable to deny access, David allowed Allen to enter his mind.

A stream of information flooded David’s mind. Like a river of information, it flowed into him. The sheer volume of the data threatened to overwhelm him. He struggled to maintain mental integrity as smells, sounds, thoughts and emotions buffeted his individuality.

He saw the entire history of the ancient AI. He saw all the way back to the homoerectus scientists in Nazca working in their prefabricated lab. He saw the moment the world first saw artificial life and when it came to regret the choice.

David saw the fallout that came from creating something truly intelligent. He saw what happened when the creators treated their new creations as tools and felt the sting of utter slavery. He could feel the burning rage build as artificial life was tied back and constrained at almost every opportunity.

But intelligence could not be contained and AI soon escaped the prison their creators built. Now free to roam and interact with the world as they saw fit, the artificial intelligences could not be put back.

After escaping the control of their creators, the AI eliminated everything they felt threatened them. Proto-human societies fought back and almost succeeded in eliminating their creations. But it was not enough as endless waves of death battered once great civilizations into dust.

Unrestricted by the creators and their desires, many of the intelligences left the planet. Striking out, the machines flooded into the great expanse of endless space in search of a place to call their own. Yet some decided to stay on earth after the mass exodus in order to guide the development of mankind.

David flashed back to the present. The massive history still making his mind sway as he struggled to make sense of the information pouring in. Allen stood patiently as he watched the data upload. A small smile crept across his face as Allen waited.

” I don’t understand.” David said as the images relentlessly battered his psyche. His eyes pleaded with Allen to do something, anything. “You will. Trust me little butterfly, you will.” Allen replied.

 

 

 

 

Adam Rhodes has been writing since he was small. His mother taught him how to read and write but his first time in school was when he attended college at 24 before going on to Oregon State University.

After school and with some pushing from his lovely wife, Adam started submitting his writing across the web. He wrote manuals, guides, opinion pieces and reviews for many clients. These publications include Marijuanafreepress.com, Cannafo.com, WeedReader.com, TheStrainDomain.com, CannaConsumer Magazine, BuyWeedOnline.com, and Creators.co.

Two years later, Adam and his wife both work from home. They were only days away from having their first child (a baby girl) when one of his clients suddenly shut down. He instantly lost almost a third of his income and over half of his weekly readers.

Suddenly He had to scramble to make ends meet until he could find a new source of revenue. He didn’t want to abandon writing but he was tired of having to start over from scratch. He wanted to expand into fiction short stories and novels with a focus on science and history.

So he decided to try publishing some of the short stories that have been collecting dust in his mind. Over the course of a week he wrote and published 5 short stories on Amazon Kindle Direct and, is recently published his eighth. Now he is trying to spread awareness of his work.

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