Having successfully made it through Narita Airport's customs and baggage claim checks, Tosh Matthews thought he had it made - until he spotted two well-built gentlemen in black suits marching in his direction.
Uncertain of what to do, Tosh looked around. Inside the airport terminal, the passing Japanese citizens paid him little mind. In an orderly fashion, some strolled towards the gate terminals, while others hurried for the Narita Express a.k.a. N'EX, luggage in hand. Joking, smiling, laughing, frowning, perhaps enjoying the flood of Tokyo sunshine that poured through the ample terminal windows, they all passed Tosh as though he wasn't there. Only he was. And the men in black suits were clearly zeroing in on him.
Tosh yanked his cell phone to his ear and started walking towards the restroom. But what was the Tokyo equivalent for 911? How did he contact the police here? Cursing himself, he realized he had no idea. He may have lived the first ten years of his life in Japan, but now at the age of thirty, he was more clueless than a card-carrying gajin.
Even in this crowded terminal filled with conversation, laughter, shouting, and all the usual crowd noises, the wingtip shoes of the men in black clattered in unison on the hard linoleum floor as they relentlessly moved towards Tosh. The beleaguered Asian-American thought about phoning Yuki, but he decided he shouldn't drag her into this, whatever "this" was.
Heart pumping in fear, Tosh gently stopped a middle-aged Japanese couple passing in front of the restroom. In decent Japanese, he said, "Excuse me. Can you help me please? I'm lost."
The man, sporting dignified gray hair and expensive eye glasses, merely frowned and said nothing. However, his white-coated wife smiled and tilted her head forward. "Where were you headed?" she asked.
Tosh bowed. "I was hoping to take the N'EX to Tokyo Station. Are you headed that way?"
"Why, yes," the white-coated woman replied. "In fact -- "
"In fact, nothing," her frowning husband replied.
His wife was taken aback. "Why, Akira. That's not very kind. This man needs our help."
"This man," a deep and monotone voice spoke, "falls under our jurisdiction." It was one of the two men in black suits who had pursued Tosh. Maintaining a flat, emotionless expression, the hard-faced man flashed a set of credentials before the middle-aged couple. The husband merely turned to his wife and lifted one of his silver eyebrows, but his wife actually gasped. Her brow furrowing, she gave Tosh a quick once-over, as though he were a common criminal. Then, arm in arm with her smug-faced husband, she hurried away from Tosh, leaving him alone with the two men in black suits.
Without changing expression, one of the two Black Suits said, "Please come with us, Mr. Matthews."
Tosh frowned. "How do you know my name?"
Picking up Tosh's lone suitcase, the other Black Suit said, "Follow me."
The implied severity of what might happen if Tosh didn't go with the man convinced Tosh to comply. The fingers of his right hand nervously tapping his pants leg, Tosh followed.
The black suits ushered Tosh outside, where the sunlight was so bright Tosh had to squint. At the curb, a long, shiny black car of unfamiliar make and model awaited. Black Suit #1 stepped into the driver's seat, while Black Suit #2 stowed Tosh's suitcase in the front seat's passenger side. Then, with a welcoming expression of his hand, Black Suit #2 bid Tosh get inside the mysterious black auto.
Tosh wanted to yell for help; perhaps he could get the attention of the throng of Japanese who filled the sidewalks, got into cars and cabs, strolled across the crosswalks. But Tosh's intuition told him not to be an idiot. Wishing he were back in Glendale, Oklahoma, Tosh obediently climbed inside the black car's opulent back seat.
The dark leather upholstery was tasteful and smelled new, and the entire interior - generous seats, dust-free dashboard, spotless floorboards - sported a factory-fresh look. But what factory?
Once Black Suit #2 shut the passenger door, Tosh gulped and glumly pondered his fate, whatever it might be.
"Relax, Mr. Matthews," Black Suit #2 said as Black Suit #1 started the ignition and pulled the car out onto the street. "As they say on TV, we just want to ask you a few questions."
Maybe that was true, but it certainly wasn't obvious. Minutes passed, how many Tosh couldn't say, as he was subjected to absolute silence. He noticed the faintest trace of aftershave from Black Suit #2, and as his peripheral vision had plenty of time to study the man, he wondered about the rutted scars that ran across the man's sturdy chin and right cheek, as well as the nose that looked as though it had been broken more than once. Clearly, this was a guy who'd seen plenty of physical action.
As Tosh waited, the car driver negotiated the heavy Tokyo traffic like a pro, which he probably was. Tosh couldn't tell how far they'd driven, or where they were going, though he knew they'd covered plenty of territory; he wished one of the black suits would say something. What were they, kidnappers? Members of the Yakuza? Agents for the Japanese equivalent of the FBI? What had been on those badges they flashed in front of the middle-aged couple at the airport?
Finally, Black Suit #2 spoke. "Why did you come to Japan, Mr. Matthews?"
Struggling to appear nonchalant, Tosh shrugged. "To visit a friend."
Tosh felt his face grow cold. He didn't want to get Yuki in any trouble, but if he lied to this guy . . .
Black Suit #2 short-circuited Tosh's dilemma. "You came here to see Yuki Shimura." A declaration, not a question. "What business to you have with Ms. Shimura?"
"Well," Tosh said guardedly, "we, we're old friends. Yuki has asked me to visit her in Tokyo lots of times. I just decided to take her up on the offer."
"Just like that?"
Tosh made a small grunt and nodded.
Several more minutes passed as Black Suit #1 drove through the automobile-clotted Tokyo streets.
"Mr. Matthews," Black Suit #2 said, "did you come here to find your missing brother, Kenji Matthews?"
Tosh laughed nervously. "No. No, why would I think Ken was in Japan?"
"Why would you think he was someplace else?"
Tosh had no idea how to reply to the cryptic question.
Black Suit #2 wasn't finished. "Have you heard from your brother?"
"Are you sure?"
"No, I haven't heard from him."
"Have you heard from Dr. Eiji Honda?"
"No." An honest answer at least.
"Do you know anything about an Operation Regicide?"
"No." Tosh cursed the sweat beading on his brow.
"Have you received any strange computer disks in the mail lately?"
"No. No, I haven't." Sweat ran down Tosh's face; this was getting too close for comfort.
"Is there any reason we should believe you?"
"Look, I'm telling the truth. Who are you guys anyway? I don't think you can legally detain me this way."
Black Suit #2 allowed a slight smile, his first since he and his well-dressed companion had muscled Tosh into the car. "You're not in America any more, Mr. Matthews."
Black Suit #1 turned into an intersection a tad too fast, ignoring a spiky-haired teenager in a black T-shirt who was in the crosswalk. The startled teenager leaped back just in time. In the rearview mirror, Tosh could see the angry adolescent shouting and waving an upraised fist.
"What are you guys gonna do with me?" Tosh asked.
"Only what is necessary."
Tosh's fear was turning into anger. "Now what the heck is that supposed to mean?"
"You Americans are easily excitable, aren't you?"
Tosh didn't like the man's superior attitude. "I demand to see the American ambassador."
Black Suit #2 offered that wan smile again. "But does he demand to see you?"
Oh, so now the guy was a comedian. "Yuki Shimura was expecting a phone call from me a long time ago. Thanks to you guys, she never got it."
Black Suit #2 stared at Tosh blandly. "And when was it that we forbid you from using your cell phone, Mr. Matthews?"
Sure enough, they'd never said he couldn't call Yuki. But while he was still in the presence of these two refugees from a paranoid's nightmare, he had no intention of calling her. Instead, his reporter's assertiveness kicked in. "Do you guys represent the Japanese government?"
"What was on those badges you flashed in front of the middle-aged couple at the airport?"
Still no reply.
"I asked a question."
Black Suit #2 looked straight ahead, as though Tosh hadn't uttered a word.
Then, totally unexpectedly, Black Suit #1 pulled the strange black car to the curb of a modern, multi-story apartment building and braked. Black Suit #2 slowly turned his head, let that creepy little smile slither onto his face, and said, "I believe Ms. Shimura is waiting for you inside, Mr. Matthews."
Tosh yanked on the door handle too hard; he had expected it to be locked. He couldn't believe they were letting him go this easily. Figuring they were going to pull Glock pistols with silencers at any moment, Tosh slowly eased out of the car and stepped backwards onto the sidewalk.
Black Suit #2 cocked his head towards the front seat. "Don't forget your bag, Mr. Matthews."
Tosh got his suitcase, and as soon as he did, the long black car of unknown make and model pulled casually out into the Tokyo traffic, and soon, the car and its two enigmatic occupants blended in with the glut of cars and cabs and trucks crawling down the street.
Exhaling in relief, Tosh dialed Yuki's number. She answered while he was in mid-sigh.
"Tosh?" she said in perfect English. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing," he replied. "Nothing at all."
For Tokyo, Yuki's apartment was quite large. Two pastel couches, three generous easy chairs, a wall screen TV, and a sprawling home theater system didn't even begin to fill her spacious living room, and the guest bedroom in which Tosh had left his suitcase was bigger than Tosh's apartment bedroom back home. Of course, twenty-eight year old Yuki Shimura was one of Japan's most popular interview journalists; as of late, she had even cut exclusive interview deals with some of Japan's hottest music stars and TV celebrities.
Tosh knew it wasn't polite to stare, and he'd been trying hard to be discrete, but as Yuki gave him a guided tour of her apartment, she seemed even more alluring than Tosh remembered. Her valentine-shaped face, alert eyes, pixie grin, and lithe body would have turned the head of any thirtysomething bachelor. Add her perky manner, playful wit, and sharp intelligence to the mix, and she proved practically irresistible. Of course, he was the one who had cut short any possibility of a romance between them the last time he was in Japan. But now, he wondered if he had made a terrible mistake. Still, Tosh's love life could wait -- he had come to Japan to find Ken, and he wasn't leaving the Land of the Rising Sun without his big brother.
Standing with his hands in his pockets, Tosh admired the living room's glass-topped coffee table and teak book shelves. "Nice place you have here."
Dramatically, Yuki put a hand to her head. "Oh, Tosh, I'm so glad you said that. I live and breathe for your approval, you know."
Tosh snickered. "Very funny."
"No, really," Yuki replied. "I haven't slept a wink since you said you were coming."
"Is that so?"
"Yes, not one wink, really. A million winks maybe, but a single wink, definitely not." After a perfectly timed deadpan, a smile burst upon Yuki's face, so radiant it was as though the sun had blotted out a bank of dark clouds. "Hey, Tosh, relax. You've been wound up like a Diet investigation ever since you got here."
"Sorry," Tosh said in a small voice. "Uh, Yuki, is it, uh, safe to talk here?"
"What do you mean?" she asked. But as she was speaking, she sat on the couch and began scribbling a message in English on a yellow tablet.
"I mean, is it okay if we talk about certain, you know, sensitive subjects?"
"Like your brother Ken standing me up on my wedding day?" Yuki cued Tosh to continue as she scribbled.
"Yes. That. And, and other things."
Yuki finished the scrawled message and held the tablet up for Tosh to see. "What other things? Oh, you mean your arrest for shoplifting back in the states?"
"Arrest for -- " Tosh had difficulty reading Yuki's English alphabet handwriting. "I've never been arrested in my -- " Just then, Tosh deciphered Yuki's hand-scrawled message:
The place was swept for bugs this morning. It's safe. I've got resources in high places.
Tosh cocked his head. "Yuki, if it's 'safe' to talk, why didn't you just say so in the first place?"
Her brown eyes went wide. "What? And have you miss out on all the cloak-and-dagger intrigue?"
Tosh shook his head and grinned. "You haven't changed a bit."
"You have," she replied. "With that new haircut and goatee, you're even cuter than you used to be." She put a hand to her chest and sighed. "Be still, my beating pancreas."
"Cute." Warmth suffused Tosh's cheeks, and he felt more than a little embarrassed to be blushing. He was here for serious business, not fruitless flirtation.
Yuki let out a little laugh and touched her chin. "I'll stop. I know you didn't come all the way to Tokyo, Japan just to see me."
"What do you -- "
"I know you came here to find out about Ken."
Tosh eyed Yuki warily. "How did you know?"
She shrugged and moved to the sliding glass doors that opened onto her apartment patio. "Like I wrote on the tablet, I have resources in high places. And besides, Ken called me."
Tosh's eyes widened. "He called you?"
"Yes. And I know about his call to you. I know where he is."
Tosh grasped Yuki by her upper arms. "Where?"
"Staying in the rural residence of Dr. Akihiko Takashima."
"The Akihiko Takashima?"
"Japan's premiere monsterologist? Yes, that's the one. I believe he worked once or twice with your late mother."
"Yes," Tosh replied, finding this new information hard to believe. "Why is Ken staying with Dr. Takashima? How did he get there? Who else knows?"
Yuki held a finger up. "Whoa, keemosabe. One question at a time." She opened the sliding glass patio doors. With a welcoming flourish of her hand, she motioned towards the balcony. "Why don't we talk out here?"
"All right," Tosh replied.
Tosh sat at the marble balcony table while Yuki seated herself across from him. The view of Tokyo was spectacular from up here; the Tokyo Tower, still the city's tallest structure, was clearly visible, as were dozens of buildings and pagodas and streets and parks, all given a golden glow by the afternoon sun.
A cool breeze caressed Tosh's cheeks, and it helped a bit to quell the hammering of his heart. "So. Tell me what you know."
Yuki smiled, then proceeded to tell Tosh all about Operation Regicide. She knew everything, including what had happened to Ken there, but she wasn't sure about the secret project's current status.
Tosh nodded. "How did Ken get to Tokyo?"
"He swam. Incredible, I know. But he was in his weregodzilla form, and just as Godzilla unerringly finds his way to Tokyo, so did Ken. The G cells gave him the homing instinct, as well as the strength and will to make it."
"How did Dr. Takashima find him?"
Yuki smiled and briefly looked out over the terrace. "It was more a case of Ken finding him. Once Ken reached Tokyo, he was exhausted, and he reverted to his near-human self."
"Yes. Dr. Takashima says that Ken vacillates between becoming almost human again and becoming almost completely Godzilla-like. When he's in near-human form, he has all his former intellect and memories."
"No one spotted him when he made it to Tokyo Harbor?"
"Some people no doubt did. But people reporting monsters in Tokyo is nothing new. Most of the reports turn out to be false alarms. And human-sized monsters - even if Ken is over two meters tall - are a rarity, as I'm sure you know."
Tosh smiled and nodded.
"Ken waited until night, then he found a phone booth. Using his Japanese calling card number which he'd already memorized, he called Dr. Takashima, whom he'd interviewed before, and asked for his help. Dr. Takashima complied by having Ken secretly picked up and brought to the monsterologist's country residence outside Tokyo."
Tosh stroked his goatee. "Dr. Takashima knows about Operation Regicide?"
"Yes. He knows even more now that Ken's staying with him."
Tosh leaned forward on the balcony table. "Did Dr. Takashima tell you what Ken said to me when he called?"
Yuki's eyebrows pushed down. "Not exactly."
"He said my name, then he asked for help. After that, the line went dead."
Yuki shrugged. "Dr. Takashima didn't tell me anything about that."
"When did you last speak with the good doctor?"
"Yesterday. He told me you could call him tonight around 9 PM."
"Tell me," Tosh said, lowering his voice and leaning even further over the balcony table than before, "have you actually seen Ken?"
Yuki looked pensive. "No."
"Do you have any reason to distrust Dr. Takashima?"
Yuki raised her eyebrows in surprise. "Of course not. What are you getting at?"
Tosh told Yuki about his adventure with the two strange men in black suits who had whisked him from the airport and subjected him to a barrage of questions that had been too close for comfort.
"That is weird," Yuki said, chewing a fingernail.
"Any ideas on who those guys are working for?"
"Hmm. Sounds like a CCI operation to me."
"Crisis Control Intelligence?"
"The same. Since Katagiri's death five years ago, the CCI has become more cloak-and-dagger than ever. I hear they're up to their trench coats in Operation Regicide."
"That's what my sources tell me."
Tosh shuffled in his seat and once again looked out over the panoramic view of Tokyo offered by the apartment balcony. "So what is Dr. Takashima going to tell me when I call him at 9?"
"How you can get in contact with Ken."
Tosh glanced at his watch. "Sounds like a long wait."
Putting her elbows on the table, Yuki rested her chin in her hands. "Doesn't have to be." Her petite grin belied the mischief twinkling in her eyes.
Tosh chuckled. "Oh, no. That look definitely means trouble."
"Trouble? Now how could a wild night on the town in the Roppongi district possibly get anyone into trouble?"
Tosh grinned; he'd have preferred a couple of quiet hours of TV and Yuki's famous foot massage. "I suppose there's no way out of this."
"Not unless you want to catch a fast subway back to the airport." Yuki shook her head and smiled. "Seriously, I think you'll like it. What've you got to lose?"
"Oh, that. Sorry, babe, it's already shot. I'm afraid I've confessed to the tabloids about our torrid love affair last summer."
Tosh took the bait. "And just where did we have our little fling?"
"Paris. Rome. Toledo, Ohio - the usual honeymoon hot spots."
"So we got married?"
Feigning indignation, Yuki pulled back her head. "Well, of course. You don't think I'm some cheap American girl, do you?"
Tosh grinned and rested his chin in his hand. "Running down the red, white, and blue will get you nowhere."
"Then I guess I'd better stop doing it."
For a moment, Tosh sensed there was more behind Yuki's comment than their usual banter.
As though she too sensed the awkwardness in the air, Yuki re-donned her perky face. "There are lots of places to eat in Roppongi. Hungry?"
Tosh pulled up his lower lip and nodded. "A little."
"It's Johnny Rockets then."
Leaning back as he crossed his arms, Tosh laughed out loud. "Johnny Rockets?"
"It's either that, or sushi a la mode."
"Hmm," Tosh muttered, "guess it's Johnny Rockets then."
Yuki banged her palm on the table. "That's the spirit!"
Tosh rose from the balcony and followed a chattering Yuki inside. Her infectious frivolity had almost made Tosh forget about the grave reason he was really here. But he didn't figure anything - not even a two liter bottle of saki - could do that.
One hour later, beneath the streets, shops, restaurants, and traffic of Tokyo, dozens of subway train commuters were riding the Oedo Line to the Roppongi district. One of those commuters was twenty-year-old Takashi Utsui. Though rush hour was over, the subway car was still pretty crowded; standing midst a throng of his fellow citizens, Takashi held onto one of the subway car's plentiful loop handles as he moved in rhythm to an alternative rock track he was playing in his head. Who was the group that did it? He couldn't remember. But the tune was already hard-wired into his brain.
He noted the decidedly disapproving looks from some of his fellow subway commuters, including a middle-aged lady in an expensive white coat and a burly salaryman in a dark suit and boring tie. Maybe they didn't like the fact that he hadn't taken a shower in a couple of days, but tough. These thirty- and fortysomethings - salarymen, housewives, professionals - were all so old. And they smelled so clean and fresh, just like the morons on those stupid TV deodorant commercials. Takashi's contempt for such "conventionals" moved him to gyrate his body more vigorously. His legs and arms bumped into the people around him, but he didn't care. In fact, he thought it was funny.
Tiring of the game within seconds, Takashi stopped and stared out the windows at the subway tunnel lights that flashed by in a steady blur. Takashi thought they looked better when he was stoned - which, presently, he would be. Naoki awaited him for drinks and winks at the Hard Rock Café in Roppongi; yeah, tonight promised to be another wild ride.
Without warning, people in front of Takashi collided with him; he collided with those behind. What the -- As though pushed by a giant hand, Takashi and his fellow commuters were shoved towards the rear of the subway car. Several subway patrons gasped. A few swore. One yelled.
Someone had slammed on the subway train's brakes - the conductor, no doubt - but what the puke for?
Now dead on the tracks, the subway wasn't budging.
Takashi and most of his fellow commuters were not happy with this development, as evidenced by their boisterous babble.
"Hey!" Takashi yelled to no one in particular. "Get this damn thing running! I got a hot date, man! Naoki won't be kept waiting!"
The subway car doors slid open, though the train wasn't even close to the next stop. Several commuters gasped. Takashi impatiently shook his head -- just what the Judas Priest was going on?
The burly salaryman in the dark suit spoke. "Perhaps there has been an accident. Or an emergency."
"Yeah!" a thin old man with wire-rim spectacles agreed. "M-Maybe we better get out of here!"
That did it.
Takashi and his fellow commuters rushed towards the open door, and few had any qualms about shoving other subway travelers out of the way. Now outside in the cave-like tunnel, Takashi looked both ways. Despite the subway lights lining the wall, the tunnel was dark, especially compared to the brightly-lit subway car; Takashi's eyes had to adjust to the murky gloom. He had been in the number two car, and commuters in the car in front of his had already emptied out beside the tracks, where they milled restlessly about.
Takashi smelled something damp and rancid hanging in the air of the subway tunnel, and he wrinkled his nose. Dead cat, anyone?
A scream echoed throughout the subway tunnel -- a man's scream.
A second scream followed. Then a third. A fourth.
Carrying on as though they were afraid of being nerve gassed, terrified commuters ran in the opposite direction of the first train car, from which the screams were coming. Takashi sneered. Wimps. He wanted to see what all the excitement was about. After all, it might be cool if one of Tokyo's many street gangs was cutting up the conventionals in car #1.
Takasahi loped towards car #1, ignoring the people who collided with his legs and shoulders as they fled in the opposite direction. The footsteps of Takashi's less courageous commuters clattered behind him and quickly grew faint. Soon he was the only one left from the second subway car - the only one who hadn't run away.
At first, it was difficult to make out anything in the muddy gloom as he approached the back end of the first subway car. On the shadowy tiles beside the subway tracks, human-like shapes writhed like tormented phantoms. A few steps further, and Takashi slapped a hand over his mouth.
Oh, my God --
They weren't phantoms after all, they were people, but there was something profoundly wrong with them. Takashi couldn't estimate how many there were, but the shuddering mass seemed to be the whole of the first car's occupants. Moaning, several had dropped to their knees and gripped their faces or stomachs; a few lay on their backs, rocking back and forth on the tunnel tiles. Still others propped themselves up against the tunnel wall or leaned against the subway car, and two or three staggered about like shock victims after a blinding explosion.
As Takashi's vision sharpened, his first jolt of loathing was confirmed: The faces of the people he was looking at were infested with dark, moist lumps. And the lumps were moving.
The sodden cheek of one gray-haired man slowly expanded to softball proportions; a college co-ed's glasses popped from her eyes as her upper face puffed out like a blowfish; the neck of a young salaryman swelled as though it were being stuffed with oranges.
And then there were the screams. The moans. The whimpers.
Takashi felt his stomach thrash.
In an instant, he realized what he was looking at: tumors. Cancer tumors. He'd looked in a medical book about tumors at school, and it had shown bright, glossy photos of nasty-looking tumors, some on people's faces, some removed from people's lungs and brains, some so putrid he could barely stand the sight, though he'd laughed at them to get a rise out of ever-sensitive Naoki. Now it didn't seem so funny.
A big, athletic teenage guy with moussed black hair grabbed Takashi's arm. "H-help me," he said, his words thick and nearly unintelligible. When he opened his jaws again, Takashi saw why - attached to the roof of the guy's mouth were three large black tumors, each the size of a fat leech.
Aghast, Takashi shook the guy away. "Get off of me, man!"
The teen reached out for Takashi once more, then fell to his knees and stayed there.
The screaming and moaning and whimpering slowly diminished into scattered echoes as afflicted commuters dropped lifelessly to the subway tunnel's tiles. They were dead. And the others were likewise quickly dying of speeded up cancer.
Takashi shook his head, his lips pulling downward in disgust as he backed away. "What the hell's going on here? What -- "
That's when he saw it, something even more unbelievable than the mass of subway commuters perishing before him -- a huge, indistinct mass, brownish-green in color, that oozed out from behind the front of the first subway car like a gigantic, boneless skull. The putrid stink radiating from the thing was overwhelming, and Takashi thought he might throw up.
At first, Takashi thought he was looking at an immense internal organ. Then he decided it was an industrial-sized amoeba. But that was before he remembered the textbook pictures of cancerous tumors removed from people's bodies, and he realized he was looking at a living tumor as big as a Volkswagen Beetle.
It had no legs or arms, but it did have tentacle-like tendrils that groped along the tiles and the side of the empty subway car like blind feelers. And it also had one eye -- a large, wet, green eye -- in the middle of its slick body. That lone eye was staring intently at Takashi as though he was the last meal on earth.
Takashi slipped from the floor and fell to the subway tiles, banging his elbow; a jolt of pain shot up and down his arm like an electric current. "Hey!" He realized the creature's tendrils had fastened around his ankles and yanked forward, the cause of his fall. And now the thing from which the tendrils emanated was moving closer.
"Naoki," Takashi whimpered, thinking of his girl friend, wishing he'd treated her better, praying to the gods he would wake up from this nightmare and find himself in her welcome arms. "Naoki . . . "
Pain gripped Takashi's chest as though a hot spike had been shoved between his lungs. Ugly brown and red tumors burst out upon his hands, and purple-black bruises erupted across his bare arms until the normal skin tones of human flesh became a passing memory. Vomiting across the subway tiles as the tendrils dragged him along had to be the worst of it - until the thing Takashi had mistaken for an industrial-sized amoeba opened its gaping, slit-like mouth and pulled him inside.
© Todd Tennant 2004