Introduction

This blog is about the ongoing adventures of Frank Clay, the Quantum Unstable Man, and his team. This is the next draft of the story that was told a daily basis at https://twitter.com/QuantumUnstable then collected weekly at http://thequantumlyunstableman.tumblr.com/. Any questions or comments are appreciated.

Check out the Character List for Book One
Start from the Beginning
Check out the Character List for Book Two
Or jump to the beginning of Book Two.
Or if you’re caught up, see the Complete Character List that is (more or less) kept up to date.

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Drown Your Troubles?

“Drown your friend?” the other merperson repeated. “Why would we do that?”

“Because you’re crazy!” I yelled at her, frantic over having to watch Tam drown on the other side of this glass. “Because you said they were a problem!”

“We’re not drowning anyone. Relax. We’re just filling up the room so that we can safely open the door.”

I wasn’t buying her act. “You don’t need to fill the room all the way just to open the door! Look at them, Tam doesn’t even have a rebreather on!” The water had nearly reached neck height, soon Tam wouldn’t be able to stay above the waterline! However, there was still a couple feet of air left in the room, we could still save them. But for some reason instead of taking advantage of the last couple of breathes of air, Tam dropped down into the water. Did they not see us? Did they not know me and Crag were out here fighting for their life? “Hold on, Tam!” I yelled, banging on the glass, trying to make them see that we were here, that they weren’t alone. “We’ll save you!”

Crag moved to help me get past the merpeople. He wasn’t very agile in the water, but he was large.

“What are you doing?!?” Pem demanded, as Crag pushed him back..

“Trying to save my friend!” I yelled, moving toward the controls.

“Save them? But they’re fine! Look! Look inside!”

I turned to see that the entire room was now filled with water and Tam was floating in the center of it, motionless. They was dea…no, wait…They were moving now. They turned their head toward us and strangely seemed to be in no hurry. They was surrounded by water, no air anywhere, but they didn’t seem to be having any trouble. Was they…ok? Tam looked right at me and signaled for us to wait. The door opened and they then swam out to join us.

“You don’t have a rebreather on,” I said, uncomprehending.

“Why would I need a rebreather?” Tam asked. “This body was designed to survive in the vacuum of space. A little water’s not going to be a problem for it.”

“Oh,” I said. It was the best I could do. Crag seemed even more dumbfounded. I looked at the merpeople with a look of apology. Then I turned back to Tam. “It’s just when I saw you in there with the water rising, I thought you were in trouble. Pem told me that one of us was being a problem, so when I…”

Tam looked offended. “So you thought it was me?”

“It looked like they were trying to drown you! What was I supposed to think?”

“You would think we would drown someone?” Pem gasped.

I could see there wasn’t really an answer that could get me out of this. I knew the only recurse I had was to change the subject and change it quickly. “Ok, if not Tam, then who is causing you guys trouble?”

“That’s not a bad idea,” the merwoman said. “We should take them to her.”

“Her?” I asked, thinking of Toleuk, the only woman currently in our group. If something was wrong with Toleuk, we had to see her immediately. I was fairly sure that she could be drowned. “Yes, take us to her right away.”

“Come on,” Pem said, leading us down the hall. At the end of the hall was another room, but it was not Toleuk on the other side of that window.

“I have no idea who that is,” I said, honestly.

“You have no idea?” Pem asked me and then the others. “We found her with your people. When we tried to save her, she attacked us.”

“She’s not one of us,” Crag confirmed. “The rest of our team were Trolls like me. Frank was the only, uh, whatiscalled…human among us.”

“And Tam,” I added. “Who we came here to rescue. But that person…I mean, no offense, but she looks like one of you.”

“Like one of us?” the merwoman laughed. “Are you joking? Look at her dorsal fin, her coloring, her strange face.”

I didn’t know about the other things, but I had to admit that upon closer inspection the face did look a bit different than the other merpeople I’d seen, more human, less fishy. Still, as far as I was concerned that didn’t change anything. “She’s not one of us,” I told them.

“She was with you,” Pem reiterated, “attacked the people who tried to save her.”

“Ok, I still don’t know who she is.”

“If you don’t know her, then what was she doing with you then?”

I didn’t like his accusatory tone, even through the distortions of the water, as if I was to blame. “I don’t know what she was doing there with us. I didn’t see her there. I was too busy having rocks fall on my head and trying not to drown.”

“Well, you nearly failed at both of those things,” the merwoman retorted, sourly. “If we hadn’t saved you, you’d be dead, so sink the attitude.”

I tried to take a deep breath with the rebreather on and it mostly worked, creating some large air bubbles in the process. “Right. Sorry.” To hide my embarrassment, I turned to the woman again on the other side of the window. I watched her as she thrashed about frantically.

“She’s like a madwoman,” Crag said. “Are we sure she’s not possessed by a demon?”

The merpeople exchanged a glance. “Is he serious?”

Tam shrugged. “I think it’s highly unlikely that this is some kind of possession, but then again, I’ve seen much weirder things.”

The woman’s limbs moved as if they had minds of their own. Each finger moved wildly, as if the woman didn’t understand how they worked. But there was something else, the way her limbs moved, almost…almost…almost as if she were…trying…trying to eat through her fingers? Why would she be tr…And then it suddenly all made sense to me. “I know who she is! I know what she is!”

to be continued…

At the Mercy of the Fishmen

“Ow! What the hell was that? Your collar just attacked me.”

“One,” Pem replied, seemingly bored with my pain, “it’s a rebreather and, two, it didn’t attack you.”

“It did!” I yelled back at him. “I felt it!”

“No. That was just the rebreather injecting a tube into your blood stream.”

“It did what!?” I exclaimed, redoubling my efforts to remove it.

“How else do you expect it to be able to oxygenate your blood?” Pem asked like a man who didn’t have a collar injecting itself into his neck

“You could have warned me.” I wondered what else they might be pumping into my system without me knowing it.

“You know, you are very accusatory for a landbreather we just saved from suffocating at the bottom of the ocean.”

I didn’t like his tone or the subtext, but I was really at his mercy. If I wanted to get anywhere or see anyone I had to play nice. “So this means I should be able to get around your city, right?”

“Right. You can come with me and we can see your friends.”

So I slowly crawled down from the bed and into the water. I was now submerged to up a little over my waist. Pem slipped under the water and swam out of the room. I took a deep breath and tentatively went down into the water. I continued to hold my breath as I considered following after the fishman into the hall. If I went, I’d lose the only air bubble I knew existed anywhere nearby. If this rebreather didn’t work or if it suddenly stopped working I’d be in serious trouble. I waited for my lungs to start to burn, but it never came. It felt weird not breathing, but I seemed to be able to stay alive without it for the moment. I guess the rebreather really was doing its job. I was getting good at accepting weird things, I was in a city of mermaids at the bottom of the ocean in a different dimension after all.

I swam out the opening into the hall. “Just this way,” he said, it was a weird muted, echoey, high-pitched sound. I gave the ‘ok’ sign, but he didn’t seem to understand. “Is there a problem? Do you need to visit the restroom? Is that what that gesture was?”

I shook my head then made swimming gestures before pointed ahead of us. Pem snorted, bubbles coming out of his gills. “You know you can speak, right? The rebreather makes it so you communicate underwater like normal people.”

“It does?” I asked, tentatively, not trusting that it would actually work.

“Yes. It does,” Pem said. “Now, tell me, are you doing ok?”

“I’m…doing fine. Apparently. Everything seems to be working surprisingly well.”

“Surprising? What’s so ‘surprising’ about it?”

“Nothing,” I said, remembering that I was kind of at this guy’s mercy at the moment. “It was just…a figure of speech. My friends?”

Pem was quiet for several seconds then said, “Yes…right this way. Most of your…companions are still recovering, but I can take you to the one that is awake.”

“We were attacked by some kind of monster,” I explained as we swam. “It was all tendrils wrapping around us, feeding on our lifeforce.”

“Oh, you got tricked by a giant leechvine.” He said it all a little to matter-of-factly “That explains the symptoms. I hear those things can be quite deadly.”

Pem brought me to the cell where Crag was being held. I banged on the window to get his attention. He looked confused, seeing me swimming next to the fishman. I tried to signal for him to wait and not panic, as Pem started to let water into his room. When it was nearly a third full, Pem swam in and I followed.

“What’s going on here?” Crag asked as we came to the surface.

“Pem and his people saved us,” I said, hoping the rebreather wouldn’t have any issues now that I was back in the air. “If you want to come out here. You’re going to put on one of these rebreathers. They will have to inject themselves into your bloodstream.”

Crag looked worried. “Do I have a choice?”

“You could just stay in here and let me worry about finding everyone else.”

“I can’t let you do that. I’m a deputy. I swore an oath. It’s my duty to look after you and my fellow deputies, and my sheriff. I’ll wear the collar.”

Crag took the collar without complaint. His was, of course, much bigger than mine, but it fit around his neck easily. He snapped it home and joined us in the water. We all swam out into the water-filled hall. “All right, what about the others?” Crag asked, after I explained to him that he could now speak under water.

“Most of your kind are still recovering, but there is one of you that has been a problem since we brought you all in. I would like to take you to them in the hopes that you could calm them down.”

“Of course,” I said. “We’ll do what we can to help.”

We swam down the hall. Crag seemed to have some problems keeping up, which made me wonder if he even knew how to swim. He ended up making his way mostly by crawling along the floor. It wasn’t the fastest or easiest way to get around but it more or less did the job.

When Pem came to a stop, there was already another fishperson there waiting for us. I moved passed them toward the window looking into the next room. I was surprised by who I saw on the other side. It was Tam! They were in a room like the one Crag and I had been in. They were filling the room with water, but whereas with Crag and I they had stopped the water when it reached the height of the bed, here the water had already risen past it and it was showing no sign of slowing down. It became clear that they weren’t just partially filling the room so that they could move in and out easier. No, they were trying to fill the entire room with water! They were trying to drown them!

“Stop!” I yelled at the second fishperson. Pem quickly grabbed a hold of me. I tried to swim at her. I struggled against him, trying to get free. “Let go of me! I won’t let you drown my friend!”

to be continued…

My Doctor, the Fishman

The monster let out an answering scream and jumped back away from me. “What the hell?” it grumbled.

I paused. “…What did you say?”

“Geez, I was just coming to check on you,” the creature said, shaking out what must have been its ears. “You don’t have to scream at a guy. You nearly gave me a heart attack.”

It took my brain a couple seconds to process this. “…wait. What?”

“I said…” the creature began to reply before I interrupted with the most clever question anyone had ever heard, “You talk?”

“Of course I talk. How do you expect us to communicate?”

“I didn’t,” I admitted, looking away from embarrassment. “Until a few moments ago, I was expecting you to attack me.”

“And why would I do that? If we wanted you dead, we could’ve just let you drown. That’d been a lot easier for everyone.”

“Maybe you like your food to have some fight left in it,” I argued in my defense. “That’s not unheard of in predators.”

“Do I look like a predator to you?”

I gave him a serious once over. He had a more or less human upper half. Below his waist, however, was a fishtail, except it was smooth like a dolphin’s. Or maybe a shark. His hands were webbed and his fingers were long and curved. And his teeth were sharp and pointy. I figured ‘kind of’ was not the best answer, so I changed the subject. “Who are you?”

“My name is Pem and I’m the medical assistant here.”

I nodded, but his answer raised a very important question, one that I couldn’t hesitate to ask, “And just where exactly is ‘here’?”

“This is one of the medical facilities within our city.”

“And you city is…?”

“Merapolis.”

“And that is…where?”

The fish-man creature glared at me. “If you’re trying to ask if we’re still under the water, land-swimmer, yes, we are still underwater.”

That meant we were probably still close to where the island had collapsed. That was some good news. If we had to escape that meant it wouldn’t be that far to reach the portal and get out of this world. But to do that I needed to find the rest of my party. “And my friends, the others I was with? Where are they?”

“Those were your friends? They were very different from you. Much larger. Are you their child?”

“Child?” I didn’t know whether to laugh or be offended. But with this fishman watching me closely, I tried to stay calm. I still didn’t know who they were or what they wanted. And I didn’t know where I was, where my friends were, or how I could get out of here. All I knew, if Pem was telling the truth, is that I was underwater and that put me at a great disadvantage. Not only could he clearly get around a lot easier than I could, but judging by his gills, he could also breath in the water. And there was no reason for me to suspect he couldn’t just fill the rest of this room with water. It was already halfway filled. I was left without many choices. “No,” I told him. “We’re actually different species.”

“Ah,” he replied. “That makes more sense. Sort of. It doesn’t explain what you’re doing with them. Or why any of you are out here. You’re airbreathers, but I saw no, what’s it you call them? Those things that float at the upper edge of the water?”

“Boats?” I suggested.

“Yes. Boats. I saw none of those.”

“I hope you don’t mind, but I think I’d prefer to see my friends first before I start to share anything with you.”

Pem slowly nodded. “I can understand you feeling that way, but I don’t know how wise that would be.”

“And why’s that?”

“For one, the passage to where we’re holding your friends is all underwater and you and your friends don’t seem to handle water too well.”

“We can handle water just fine. We just can’t breathe it.”

“Well, you have to admit, that would be a problem in an underwater city.”

“You seemed to have been able to get us into these rooms, so it couldn’t have been that big of a problem.”

“We did. You want me to take you around in our holding pods?”

“If that’s the only way I’m going to be able to get around without drowning, yes. Then do that.”

“Ok,” Pem said. “Wait here. I’ll see what I can do.”

I chuckled. “Where else am I going to go?”

He stared at me suspiciously for several seconds before diving under the water and swimming away. I waited patiently – what else was I going to do – for about twenty minutes before he returned. “Here,” he said, as he emerged from the water. “Put this on.”

I looked at the collar in his hand. “What is this?” I steamed. “Are you trying to chain me up? Am I a prisoner?”

The merman gave me a curious look. “This is a rebreather,” he said. “Basically a set of artificial gills. It’ll help you breath underwater. I thought you would prefer this over the holding pod, but if you’d rather be confined to a small bubble instead of just putting this on…”

I wanted to argue with him. I still didn’t like the looks of his ‘rebreather’, but if he was telling the truth, this was definitely preferable. I’d rather not be constricted more than I had to. I’d rather not be constricted at all, really, and putting on a collar felt like I would be. But I was stuck in this room already, at his mercy, putting on this collar probably wouldn’t be making things much worse for myself.

I took the collar and snapped it on around my neck. There was a noise that sounded unnervingly like a lock slamming shut. I tried to take it off, but it wouldn’t go. It was stuck! I couldn’t take it off! Just when I was about to scream at my captor for betraying me, I felt two sharp pricks on burying into either side of my neck.

to be continued…

Out of the Ocean and Into the Small Room Filled with Water

I woke up with a suddenness that almost left me on the floor. I was sitting up before I even knew where I was. I was surprised to find I could see, that it wasn’t dark anymore. And I was alive! At least I didn’t think I was dead. I didn’t seem to be dead. This revelation took me by such surprise that it took me a little while to realize I could also breath.

I wasn’t under water anymore!

I was alive and I wasn’t underwater. I was in air that I could breath. How did that happen? Where was I? I looked around. I was in a room. I was in an empty room. Alone. How did I get here? And where was here? And where was everyone else? What happened to the others?

I took a deep breath. I had to think. I was alive. That was good. That meant whoever had me probably wanted to keep me that way. I hoped. I wasn’t restrained. That was probably a good sign, too.

I let myself relax. I was safe. I was alive. This was good. I let myself feel that and put away the worry for a second. There had been such ever-present danger for so long, always going from one thing to the next. It was good to have a second to be calm. I was truly happy to be alive. I had not been looking forward to drowning. I was glad I was alive and I could breath. I was happy to be dry and away from all that water.

And then just as I started to let my guard down, I heard a unexpected noise. It sounded like something opening. Like a…door? I looked around, but there was no door anywhere I could see. How had I gotten in here without a…and then I saw the opening, about the size of a vent. And there was water streaming out of it. Within seconds, water covered the floor and it wasn’t stopping.

Wherever I was, they clearly hadn’t taken me very far away from where they had found me. The water smelled of the ocean. I was still in it or near enough to it. Was I in a submarine? If I was, I think it sprung a leak. Maybe it had taken damage trying to save us. If it had, then I was sorry. By trying to save us, these poor people had doomed themselves. Now they got to drown along with us. I wanted to believe that was true because as bad as it was for them and me, it was better than the alternative.

As the water continued to rise, I slid back on my bed away from it, as if its touch could hurt me. I stood up and started looking for exits. The ceiling was a single solid piece. There were no vents to crawl out through. I sincerely doubted I was going to be able to bust my way through it or through the walls. But I had to keep looking for a way out. There had to be one.

The water kept rising and rising, but I couldn’t find anyway to escape. Soon the water level was nearly up to the bed. I thought this was it. Soon the whole room would fill with water and I’d drown. I tried to take deep breathes to oxygenate my blood so I could hold my breath longer. Maybe after the room filled with water I could escape through the opening, the water pressure would have equalized so it’d be pushing against me as I tried to swim through. And go where? The whole place had probably filled with water. I had to try. I wasn’t going to just give up. I was going to just stand here and let myself drown.

And then, just as suddenly as the water had started, it stopped. Why did it stop? Did someone plug the leak? Did that mean that we weren’t completely submerged? Maybe we were on a boat that had smacked into a sandbank. That would certainly make it easier to escape than being in the submarine at the bottom of the ocean.

But before I could get my hopes up, I saw something swim into my room. Something big. I looked around again for some way to escape. I didn’t find one this time either. I looked for something to defend myself with, but there wasn’t anything in the room, not even a pillow on the bed.

The creature swam into the room and came right toward me. I kept looking for a way to escape, but there really was nowhere to go. Everywhere but where I stood was covered with five feet of water. The water level seemed to have stopped rising, so at least I wouldn’t drown. No, all I had to worry about now was the massive creature swimming into my room, heading right for me. The large creature sprung out of the water barely a foot away from me and reached out toward me. I screamed for help.

to be continued…

The Island Becomes Quantumly Unstable

“What?” Tam shouted back as they tried to dodge tendrils. “You know how to beat them? Then what are you doing standing there like an idiot? Do it already!”

“Right,” I said before reaching into my back pocket for my travel instability extractor. I pulled it out and extended it. Then I slammed it hard into the closest tendril I could find. I pressed down on the bottom and instantly the tendril began to glow!

I watched as the glow spread down the tendril. Then the other ones began to glow. Soon the entire room was lit up by the glowing tendrils. “Frank,” Crag yelled. “What the hell is going on?”

“It’s ok,” I told him. “This is supposed to happen. I’m stabilizing the instability. This should give us a chance to escape.” But then, as if to defy my comment, then tendrils began to thrash wildly.

Oh, right. Here comes the painful part.

As the tendrils convulsed, we did our best to avoid them, but our best turned out not to be so good. The trolls especially took a beating. Tam and I who were a good deal smaller than them, managed slightly better. But then the brightness got too bright. Covering our eyes wasn’t enough, we had to squeeze them to keep from being blinded by the light. And that still wasn’t enough. Dodging became impossible. All that was left for us to do was curl into little balls trying to block all the light we could and hope for the best.

Then the shaking stopped and I realized that the light was gone. I started to open my eyes. I could hear the others start to make relieved sounds. As I blinked away the leftover spots in my eyes, I began to look around. There were no tendrils in sight. None. They had completely disappeared. We had won! It was over! The monster was g…

And then, just as we began to feel happy in our seeming victory, the island began to collapse underneath us.

The ground beneath our feet was caving in right under our feet. We had to run as fast as we could, but every one of was so worn down. We couldn’t escape the collapse. Even if we had had the energy it might have been impossible, but in this state we barely managed to put up much effort. Almost as one, we all fell down into the hole beneath us. I was expecting to hit rocks and be crushed from the avalanche coming down from above, but there was no floor. We fell for several feet and then hit water, smacking into it hard and with great surprise. It hurt when we hit it but at least it wasn’t rocks, I told myself.

Though there was no hard floor, that didn’t mean the ceiling still wasn’t falling on us. There was no way to go up and most of us were too tired to swim, so we sank. We sank further and further under the water. We did our best to stay away from the falling rocks, but we could only do so well in the slowness of the water.

I lost track of the others quickly. It became increasingly dark. And everywhere I looked there were rocks. I had no choice but to swim down away from them. And as I got deeper any source of light got further away. But then air started to become a problem, specifically my lack of it. I could feel the need for more start to grow in my chest.

Except going up wasn’t an option. Up were rocks and those rocks were coming down. So I was forced lower and lower, away from my next breath. I could feel my lungs starting to burn with the need for more oxygen. I tried to swim around them. I couldn’t worry about the others, wherever they were. I couldn’t save them and myself. And saving myself was looking to become my abilities. The only light that remained down where was Tam’s and it was growing dim.

I had no choice. I had to go. Me dying wouldn’t save anyone else. I tried to swim up, but there really was no way past the rocks. So around it would have to be. I swam down and out, but I couldn’t swim fast enough. I had gotten too close to the rocks. They were coming down too quickly and I couldn’t get away from them. Down I went again to try to get around them, but I was too slow. I couldn’t get past them.

This seemed to be the end for us. We escaped dying at the hands of a giant lifesucking tendril monster only to drown when it collapsed in on itself. The monster had pushed us to the limit and now here we were being pushed past that limit by water and falling rocks.

But I couldn’t give up. I knew I was going to lose, but I had to keep trying. I had to keep trying to get around these rocks. I had to keep trying to get back to the surface. I had to keep trying to help my friends and I had to keep trying to get back home. I couldn’t give up even as the entire island fell in on us, pushing us down into the bottom of the ocean.

But as I swam with all my remaining strength, my lungs continued to sear in my chest. I couldn’t keep from thinking that this was the end.

And then I saw a light.

At first, I thought it was Tam, but the light was not red and hadn’t they fallen in the other direction? The light was coming toward us and it was getting brighter. It distracted me enough to slow my swimming and get hit by a falling rock. The little air I had left in my lungs was knocked out of it. I watched with terror as bubbles escaped from my lips. I tried to push off of the rocks, but it was pushing me down too fast. I couldn’t escape it! This was going to be the end.

And then the bright light was upon me. I could feel something grab me. Something hard and unyielding wrapping around my waist. I could feel it pull on me into its bright light. And that was the last thing I saw before everything went black.

to be continued…

The Island is Going to Kill Us

The floor of the cave, the entire cave itself, was shaking. For a second, I thought there was an earthquake. But. no, I realized, it was the tendrils. They were beneath the ground and they were angry and they were all trying to come up.

I ran to the nearest troll I could find. It was Toleuk. She was lying on the ground, unconscious. I tried to shake her awake, but I couldn’t shake her any stronger than the ground was already shaking her. “Toleuk! Wake up! Or we’re all going to die!”

Toleuk’s eyes slowly opened, but only half-way. She was still very groggy. The tendrils had sucked out too much of her lifeforce. “Come on,” I told her, trying to pull her up, but she was too big, too heavy, to just pick her up. “You have to get up. We have to get out of here.”

“Huh…?” she mumbled, clearly not registering anything I was saying.

“We have to go! We have to go right now!”

“Go…?”

“Yes, we nee…”

Then tendrils began to erupt from the ground! They were larger tendrils than the ones we had faced before, thick like tree trunks, and they began to tear the ground beneath us apart as they bursted out into the surface. They were going to tear the cave apart. “Up! Up! Up!” I yelled at Toleuk and thankfully she started to get to her feet. “Come on! Come on!”

“I am, I am,” she said. Her voice was barely more than a whisper. Her movements were almost in slow motion. I looked to the others. They weren’t doing much better. Tam was trying to get Domoban to his feet. Crag had one of the deputies up, I couldn’t see which one. We were all so weak, but the tendrils they were going strong and the ground was being pulverized from below. It would be gone soon enough and then all there would be was us and the tendrils.

“We need to move,” Tam said, coming toward me, holding Domoban up. I would’ve been impressed with their strength if the entire cave wasn’t threatening to come down on our heads. “What’s our plan to get out of here?”

“Our plan?” I replied, still working on getting Toleuk up.

“Yes. Where’s that magician friend of yours? Or Kink? Do you have a transport?”

“Are you kidding me?” I said. “We had a gerbil, that’s it.”

“A gerbil?” Tam growled. “You came to rescue me with a gerbil!?”

“We had a gerbil. It’s gone now.”

“So then we have nothing?”

“We have what you see here. That’s it.” I gestured around us. We could barely make out the trolls amidst the tree trunk tendrils.

“We need to go!” Crag yelled, two deputies leaning on him. “We have to get out of this cave before it kills us!”

“I don’t know if climbing is going to be enough”

“There has to be somewhere on this island that is safe.”

“I doubt that,” Tam yelled back trying to be heard. “I don’t think this is an island at all.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” Crag asked.

“It means,” Tam said, “that I’m pretty sure that this creature is actually the entire island.”

Crag looked like he wanted to argue further, but we were quickly losing ground that didn’t have giant tendrils sticking out of it and the cavern ceiling had started to fall in on us. The ways we could die was quickly increasing and the means of escape were vanishing.

“We need to escape and we need to escape now!” Tam yelled at me, but that was looking less and less likely. The rocks beneath us were being smashed, a line of escape was disappearing. The walls were coming to pieces, climbing out seemed unlikely.

Giant tendrils were everywhere and more were appearing every second. And everyone looked like they could barely even stand up. The trolls were out on their feet. Only Crag was managing it without any great effort and that was because he barely spent time in a tendril. Tam was standing, but they were doing it with great concentration.

I, on the other hand, was feeling surprisingly strong. How could that be? I had been wrapped tightly in tendrils and been seconds away from being eaten. I’d felt the energy being pulled out of me. And yet, I felt nearly as strong as I always did. There was something I was missing. What made me different than everyone else?

Well, I was the only unmodified human here. That was different.

…Or wait, I’m not unmodified, am I? I do have a modification, don’t I. My quantum instability, that was what separated me from every other person in the world, across the timestream and all the dimensions. That’s what I had going for me that no one else had. My quantum instability had been building up for the past couple days. And if that’s what the tendrils had pulled out of me, then that would explain why I was feeling so strong and no one else was.

So if the tendrils had absorbed my instability that meant it was in them now, meaning… “I know how to beat them!”

to be continued…

Tam Put on the Red Light

A hand, a large hand enveloped my own and began pulling at me, pulling me up. But the tendrils stayed wrapped tightly around me. The hand was pulling me up, the tendrils were pulling me down and that left me frozen, stuck in the mouth-like hole at the bottom of the cave.

It was Crag! He had leapt to save me. And even more miraculously, he had managed to catch me before I had completely vanished down the hole. I had been so sure he was going to be too late. But here he was, holding my hand, pulling me with all his might. But the tendrils hadn’t given up either, they were still pulling me down. I could feel both of them tug at me. I could feel the opposing forces tear at me. It was so painful, but I held on with all I had. The other option was unthinkable.

But the tendrils weren’t going to give up so easily. I could feel their moistness slip over me, moving up my body. Thin little tendrils geow upwards towards my chest and my upper back. They wrapped around my shoulders and up my arms. I knew that whatever this creature was, it wasn’t going to give me up. It was hungry and wanted more. We were running out of options.

Then it came to me, our one way out. “Tam!”

“I don’t think she’s going to be able to reach you,” Crag said through gritted teeth.

“I know. That’s why you need to go and free them.”

“Them?”

“Tam! You need to free Tam! Only they can get us out of here!”

Crag glanced up behind him to the prone Tam, wrapped in tendrils, held aloft just over his head. “Are you…?”

“Just do it!” I shouted.

Reluctantly, he let go of me with one hand and reached up. He tugged at the tendrils holding Tam, but nothing happened. They wouldn’t give way. “It’s not working,” he told me.

“You have to let go of me. Completely.”

“I can’t.”

“You have to.”

“But then you’ll die.”

“I’m going to die anyways. Freeing Tam is the only way I have a shot at living. That any of us do.”

As soon as I said it, I could feel the truth in that sentence. I could feel my life’s energy leaching out of me through the tendrils. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to hold on for much longer, that none of us would, that it was already too late for us to try to fight back. But that red glow emanating from Tam, what I had already seen them do with that energy, I knew they could save us.

Or at least I hoped they could. We needed them to. If they still had enough energy. We had no other choice. “Do it,” I told Crag. “Free them.”

Crag reached up toward Tam, but he couldn’t reach. “You have to let me go,” I told him.

“But then it’ll pull you under.”

I could feel the tendrils squirming their way upwards, closer and closer to Crag. It was going to get him, too, and then we’d all be out of luck. “You have to do it now! We’re running out of time!”

“But…”

“Now!”

Crag let go of my hand and I was tugged quickly down beneath the lip of the mouth. I reached out desperately to grab onto anything I could. But all there was to hold onto were the tendrils, the slick slithering tendrils. Any grip I could mange slipped out of my hands almost immediately.

I was being stuffed into the hole, into the mouth, and all seemed lost when suddenly the tendrils began to convulse wildly. I was thrown back and forth by their distressed spasms. I could tell immediately that something was wrong.

It was Crag. I could see just a bit of him through the top of the hole. But I could see that he was trying to free Tam. He was pulling violently at the tendrils wrapped around them. It must have been effective because it seemed to be hurting it. The tendrils were in pain. It was only a matter before they struck back. And then we’d all be in serious trouble.

I could see the tendrils swarm toward Crag and within seconds he disappeared from my view. I could only assume they had him. The tendrils once again wrapped around me, tighter this time. They covered nearly every inch of my body. I was completely unable to move. They pulled me downwards into the mouth. I was being consumed. There was nothing I could do to stop it.

And then came the red light. It washed over everything. It was brighter than ever before. Even with my eyes closed and the tendrils covering most of my face, I could still see it. It seeped through every crack, filled every corner. And it hurt. It hurt me, but even more than that it hurt the tendrils. It really hurt the tendrils. They began to spasm uncontrollably, shaking and convulsing. Which would have been a good thing if I hadn’t currently been in their grasp. For as much as they were tossing me back and forth, I could’ve escaped from the tendrils’ grip if only I’d had something else to grab on to.

And then a giant hand appeared. I looked up and saw Crag’s face. It took a second for him to pull me from the spasming tendrils. He lifted me up out of the mouth with ease. My eyes quickly found Tam who was sitting in a tendril-free area of burnt rock. Tam was breathing heavy and their glow was all but gone. “You all right?”

“Just great,” they said. “You?”

“Oh, yeah. Real peachy.”

I looked up to spot the others, but they weren’t up in the air anymore. The trolls had been thrown about the pit by the spasming tendrils. “We need to get the others,” I told Tam and Crag. “And we need to get out of here as soon as…”

And then the ground began to quake.

to be continued…