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A Night With The Machine (Dark Aether)

The day after he discovered the machine, Scottie had Sky hire a contractor to seal off the room the machine had appeared in. It was safest by day, he figured, because it looked like just a machine then. It was a creepy, rather extraordinary machine; but just a machine nonetheless. He’d considered paying them triple just to get it done within a day, but it turned out they needed no extra incentive to build the wall quickly in the presence of the thing.

Scottie and Sky sat back against the wall on the far side of the room and waited. He glanced at his pocket watch from time to time, waiting for it to happen. The world above darkened, night fell, and a few moments ticked by before it began.

That sick drowsy feeling grew stronger. Where it normally only emanated within a few meters of the machine, it now radiated out further. They could feel it on their side of the room and Sky laced her fingers through Scottie’s, holding his hand tightly. The machine’s tank started to sweat like a cold glass of water on a hot humid day. The ‘sweat’ appeared to be a translucent green slime that seemed to ooze from nowhere. It grew thicker until it covered the entire thing, the fluidic gel flowing around the machinery it encompassed.

If there was any doubt it was living, the fact that the thing seemed to be groaning now would probably have put to it. The goo had swirled and tightened at the front of the machine, coloring into large white orb with a red pupil that wandered aimlessly. It had done the same on the top, except this was purple, though they couldn’t see if it was another eye.

Sky leaned over to Scottie, whispering, “Okay, you were right, the door was a necessity. Can we get the hell out of here now?”

Scottie chewed his lower lip nervously and shook his head, “Not just yet.” They rose from the ground and hugged the wall as they walked toward the door, keeping as much distance as possible from the gelatinous hulk enveloping the machine. Scottie drew his sword from its sheath, nodding to the door, “Get your gun and be ready to blast the hell out of that thing if it does something… unexpected.”

“Unexpected!? Like what? Grow an arm? Scottie!” Sky hissed as Scottie left the door and stepped slowly toward the blob. Sky drew her pistol and leveled it at the thing, though there was nowhere in particular to hit from the door. The eye might have been a weak spot, but there wasn’t much of a chance she’d leave the doorway without very good reason.

Scottie approached the creature carefully, sword out in front of him, almost as much a weapon as a tool for trying to gather a sample. He suddenly stopped and crouched, launching himself straight up into the air. He looked down at the top of the creature and yelped.

“What!?” Sky yelled, dropping all pretenses of being quiet now. The thing didn’t seem to be reacting, so Scottie just held up his free hand, which was shaking rather profusely, bidding her to be quiet for the time being. He reached toward the thing with the sword and set the blade against the goo. The ‘skin’ had an elastic quality that caused the blade to skim the surface, seeming to not dig in. He must have caught something though, because the blob let out a howling wail.

Scottie jumped and pulled back the sword just as a bullet zinged past his ear. He backed away quickly, not bothering to turn back, knowing where the bullet had come from. The noise coming from the thing was deafening and he clasped one hand over one ear, but he dared not let go of the sword, keeping it pointed at the thing.

He saw the bullet, lodged inside the strange ichor coating the machine. It floated almost weightlessly for a few moments before sinking slowly through the sludge. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity it reached the ground, shifted, and rolled free of the blob and into the dirt

Scottie looked back to Sky, an expression of shock on his face but no match for the pale haunted look his wife wore. She was swaying on her feet and the hand in which she held the gun dropped to her side. He needed to get her out of there, but his eyes were drawn to that bullet. Throwing caution to wind he dove onto the stone floor for it. The creature made no move but howled even louder at his proximity. He growled and snatched up the bullet and scrambled back toward Sky.

Scottie sheathed his sword and slipped the bullet in his pocket, picking himself up off the ground and charging for the door. He looped an arm around Sky and pulled her outside, slamming the heavy iron door shut behind them.

With the door shut, the wailing didn’t seem so bad and the effect the machine had on both of them seemed to subside. Sky shook off the shock and looked to Scottie, “What in the hell was that!?”

Scottie could only shrug, leading her out of the underground and back up onto Loner Lane. He dug into his pocket and pulled out the bullet, holding it up noticing a very light film of ooze clinging to the metal. As he marveled at it, he said off-handedly, “We’re gonna need some help.”


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