Is it edible?
John had neglected to attend Fred due to a mixture of work obligation and scientific curiosity regarding what rapid evolution Fred might engender out of self-preservation when under duress. The man was in fact currently in a factory far away and was therefore missing the multiplication of supple appendages and the initial autonomous mobilization of his son’s “brother.” What John was observing at this very moment far exceeded the progress of his humble desk ornament, yet Fred was but one entity to the factory creature’s legion and thus his progress was admirable if middling.
There were eight extremities, evenly-spaced and spread like the spokes of a squirming, grotesque wheel. Fred shifted and his tentacles pressed against the desk. For a single tremulous moment it was uncertain whether they would hold; quivering, they arranged themselves to evenly distribute the body’s weight. Slowly at first yet gradually quickening, they crept forward to the extreme edge of what had been Fred’s home. The feelers curled around the termination of the desktop and wavered in the stuffy, thick air. Fred had not yet developed eyes and so for what seemed an eternity he patrolled first one way and then the other, attempting to locate an escape route.
He dropped to the floor heavily and remained still. Tenuously the tendrils began to wriggle and then lifted Fred’s bulk once more. Food and water. Each new area was greeted with the same desperate analysis. Is it edible?
Chair. Desk. Floor. Wall. Books. Shelves. Paper. Wastebasket. Door. Methodically the creature followed along the walls, across the center of the room, as far up as it could reach.
But there was a draft under the door. Fred like all living things instinctively knew where he needed to go. He could not fit through the crack at the entryway. His tendrils snaked under to explore the other side. He needed to get out; if he were unsuccessful in the attempt the study would become his tomb.
One day passed, and then two. The portion of the house he occupied was silent, a forbidden no man’s land where he was quarantined and isolated, leaving him free to move about uninterrupted. Steadily Fred winnowed his bulk into ever-longer extremities. These feelers reached broader swathes of the hallway yet encountered nothing of value to the monstrosity. Still they persisted; surely there was a way. Surely there was something to eat. If only they could reach…
John was almost never home. Darren had been sent away. Cheryl never paid attention to him and was in either case indisposed and walled off in a drug-induced stupor. Without his boy, Scout was idle when heard a foreign sound in his home. It was soft enough that he did not bark, for Cheryl admonished him whenever he alerted her to things he found amiss. Instead the dog padded dutifully up the stairs to investigate, sniffing the air suspiciously and catching the aroma of an unknown entity. He’d caught this smell once before when John brought an odd container home. Scout had barked then and was reprimanded as always, but he remembered. He’d been wary of the package. He knew there was something wrong with it. He didn’t like it and he made that fact known even though his efforts were fruitless and his people heartily disapproved.
The dog saw the tendrils a bare moment after cresting the top of the stairs. They were snaking out from the bottom of a doorway, seeking a mode of egress. He knew this was a threat to his family. He knew that if they heard him, punishment would be forthcoming once he raised the call. He knew, too, that they weren’t likely to hear him but instinct is a strong master. He barked and rushed forward. The body of the creature was hidden from him. He drew closer to the tentacles and seized the nearest, ripping it asunder with his teeth. The dying end wriggled; there was a small orifice near the tip which latched onto Scout’s muzzle, dripping digestive juices and burning the animal. He yelped in surprise and pain but did not relent, darting for the next appendage. The other tentacles retracted swiftly after Fred was damaged and would not venture forth again.
Cheryl did not hear Scout’s cries. She was thoroughly entrenched in the drug-addled sandcastles of her mindscape where she would remain for several more hours. Scout howled at the blank face of the study door, but Fred would not emerge. He would have to find another exit as that one was far too dangerous. The injured tendril flopped uselessly, oozing. Fred backed away as far as he could, limping slightly in a manner reminiscent of a spider with a missing leg. The remaining tendrils coiled upwards and found a new possibility: John hadn’t latched the window when he left. Pressing upward, the tentacles opened a gap and fresh air entered the stifling prison. Patiently and persistently Fred dragged himself upward to the windowsill. He remained precariously poised for a moment before teetering off the edge, freefalling toward the outside world below.
Scout paced in front of the door and sniffed, but could not detect the creature’s presence any longer. He remained there indecisively, not wanting to abandon his post before alerting his owners to the trouble but no longer sensing the danger in his home. After a time, he padded back downstairs to resume his usual spot in the living room where he could monitor the exits and kitchen.
Fred was suspended for only a matter of moments, his appendages twining in the rushing air as he made his journey inextricably downward. Had anyone seen him, they would have been confused by the chicken breast with what looked like streamers whirling around it dropping from the second story window without anyone in the room above. There were no observers, however, as no one wished undue contact with Helling house. The creature dropped into the bushes and was so still that a slug gradually oozed onto one of the tendrils, having decided to make a beeline for a tasty-looking plant.
It is edible.
Digestive acids went to work immediately and the appendage wrapped around its prey. It would take much more to resuscitate Fred, but the bushes were plentiful small creatures to feast upon. His hunger was ignited. He needed to adapt and grow. He needed to explore his new environment.
It is edible.
He had all the time in the world and no one would miss him.