Many Midnights

   The Mass


            Peering down into the hole Josh could see the small featureless blob at its center. It resembled a wet marble, but displayed an organic quality, as if it was alive somehow alive.

Was it an egg? Was something gestating inside of it? But if so then what had laid it?

Being worrisome by nature Josh resisted the urge to simply bend over and pluck the thing from its resting place. Without knowing what it was he couldn't risk touching it.

"If only I would've paid attention in Biology class," he lamented.

He got down on his hands and knees and stared at the thing. Anyone else would have seen dollar signs, trying to take advantage of such an unusual discovery, but not him. He had morals, for better or worse, and just the thought of exploiting whatever life might be lurking inside the thing did not appeal to him.

"I'll call Jimbo," he announced to no one. "He'll know what to do."

            Jimmy, or Jimbo as Josh called him, was his cousin, and was good at chemistry and biology. He'd be able to figure out what it was.

            Josh slipped his cell phone from his back pocket and fumbled with the buttons. Something was messing with his equilibrium, distorting his ability to think straight, but he managed to push the first four digits of his cousin's number.

The phone fell from his hand.

"What's happening to me?"

The screensaver of his mother stared up at him from the ground. Her rotund face reflected her compassion for anyone she encountered and her still-brown hair (a marvel at her age) stuck out in a frenzied display due to the brisk wind of the day the picture was taken.

As if in a dream Josh saw the ground rush up toward his face. He knew that he was the one falling but it seemed as if it was the other way around. His senses could hardly tell the difference.

Before he knew it he was face-down in the dirt.

Only the dirt wasn't actually touching his face. It was still several inches away from the tip of his nose.

Holding his breath Josh realized where he was, and the thought sent a shudder throughout his body. He tried not to breathe or open his eyes but couldn't resist the urge.

He opened his eyes.

The first thing he saw was darkness as a dank odor assailed his nostrils. His stomach threatened to empty so he had to keep his mouth closed as tight as he could. The fact that he wasn't able to lift his head out of the hole was not lost on him. He was however able to arch his neck back slightly, allowing just a hint of daylight into the small chasm that he was situated in.

There, roughly ten inches below his face, was the mass. It quivered like a bowl of jelly in a moving car, occasionally coming to within inches of his nose. A tendril, no thicker than an ant's leg, snaked up from the central mass and wormed its way toward Josh's cheek, and then his eyes, and then down to his mouth, delicately brushing along the flesh as it went.

Josh recoiled from its touch and kept his mouth shut. He still couldn't move so he had no other choice. All he could do was hope the thing would lose interest in him and lie back down in the hole.

The tendril paused with its probing and settled in the crook between Josh's lips. It then began to swell, doubling its girth.

Then he heard a familiar voice.

"Josh? Is that you with your head down in that hole? What are you doing in there?"

Josh wanted nothing more than to jump up and embrace his cousin, but all he could do was lie there. He didn't dare open his mouth.

"Josh? Are you all right?"

The tendril tapped Josh's nose.

Jimmy bent down and reached for his cousin.

The tendril slid over Josh's cheek, toward his ear.

Jimmy shook Josh. He tried to roll him over but couldn't move him.

The tendril flicked Josh's earlobe.

Jimmy pulled his cell phone from his pocket. "Okay, Josh, don't move. I'll call for help."

Josh suddenly stood up. He oriented himself and ran his hands over his face, exhaling deeply as he did so. A sheen of dirt and sweat coated his calm expression.

"Are you all right?" Jimmy asked again. "I thought you were hurt."

Josh smiled. The glint in his eyes spoke volumes. He said nothing though, instead gazing past his cousin as if he wasn't there. His smile grew, nearly splitting his face. He saw a whole new world to explore, to be conquered, to be devoured. He saw an opportunity unequaled in the history of his race.

Jimmy reached out for Josh but was brushed away.

"I'm fine," Josh said with no emotion. "All I ask is to be left alone." And with those words he walked away. After all, he had work to do. He didn't have time for delays.