/ Archeological Research Entry: 219.7
/ From: Research Team Theta – The City of Suns, Quetzal System
/ Personal Log: Xolo Gutierrez, Male, 17 years standard 
/ Record Begins: The 7,419th day of the Locust Calendar
/ 21 days prior to the beginning of the phage
/ Begin Audio Transcription

entry one: 00:02:446:7419-19:05

There’s a place, up near the hub, that I don’t think anybody knows about. I don’t think it officially exists. I looked for it in the city schematics and I couldn’t find it. It just says, “vacuum storage” on that whole section of the map. But I’ve been there and it’s not in vacuum. At least not the part that I saw. It’s got full atmo. And it had full grav too, weirdly enough. I can’t even wrap my brain around how there’s grav that close to the hub.

The storage part is right, though. There’s… something stored there, for sure. Something that I don’t think officially exists, either. I’m not even sure it’s supposed to be there.

I’m going to go back again tomorrow.

entry two: 00:02:446:7420-22:28

So, I went back to that place near the hub again today while everyone else was celebrating The Day of Bears in the city center. It’s kind of a goofy holiday so I didn’t mind missing it, though I did snag a honeycake when I got back. Those things are awesome. 

Anyway, I went back. 

It’s basically a large, open room with weird, rounded, kinda melty-looking walls and this… thing… just sitting right in the middle of it. There’s no lights that I can see in the walls or ceiling but, at the same time, it’s not dark in there. Like, I can see just fine once I let my eyes adjust. Just another thing that’s weird about the place, I guess. 

I was going to try to figure out what the thing in the middle of the room was, but it honestly creeps me out so I spent the time examining the walls instead. That sounds stupid but the walls are actually really interesting. The walls aren’t smooth and straight like you’d expect. At first, I thought they looked like they were melted but that’s not exactly right. I mean, there are places where the wall seems to flow. There are ripples and bulges in the walls like water that got frozen in place. But there are also places where the walls look like they’re almost crystallized. Like, hard facets and sharp edges all jumbled together. 

Did I mention that the whole room is curved? There aren’t any flat surfaces or corners or sharp edges of any kind. The walls and ceiling flow together to make a dome and the floor slopes gently down towards the center. The whole place feels like the inside of some weird, squashed egg.

I was going to spend more time in there today but I got this weird feeling like something was in the room with me. You know that itchy, back-of-the-head, “someone’s watching me” feeling? That. And I kept thinking that I saw something moving out of the corner of my eyes but, when I turned, there was nothing, just the curvy walls and the thing in the middle which hadn’t moved. 

I know that it hadn’t moved–hasn’t moved in a long time, actually–because there’s dust everywhere, and the only thing that’s disturbed the dust is my own footprints. Nothing has moved in that room in a long time. Except for me, I guess.

It was creeping me out, though. So I left.

entry three: 00:02:446:7427-13:02

Man, school has been brutal this past week. So much homework. Next week is the Feast of Crows and we all have to do this big presentation on the meaning of the holiday or whatever. And we’ve got to give the presentation in costume. Which I, of course, have to make. It’s taking me so long to get the feathers grown.

Anyway, the point is that it’s been five days since I went to the room up in the hub. But I went back this morning. Everything was just as I’d left it—dust, silence, gravity, and air. Five days and my footprints are still as crisp and clear as the day I made them. There must not be much airflow in there.

I had psyched myself up to get a good look at the thing in the middle of the room this time. I examined it from every angle and I gotta say, I have no idea what it is. I don’t even know where to start. The best description I can come up with is that it looks kind of like someone threw a heavy blanket over a piece of heavy machinery. Like, a zero-grav loader or something. But that doesn’t quite fit either. For starters, the whole thing is made out of some sort of solid metal. I think. It’s hard like metal, at least. Yeah, I touched it. It took me like fifteen minutes to work up the courage, but I eventually put my hand on it. It wasn’t cold like you expect metal to be and, when I pounded on it, it didn’t sound hollow. It didn’t sound like much, in fact. But that could be the room… it seems to eat noise.

The whole thing is smooth. There’s no writing on it or anything except for this one odd symbol that seems stamped into it. A bird of some sort, I think. No idea what that’s supposed to mean.

So yeah, all that buildup and I still have no idea what The Thing is, why it’s there, and why the schematics don’t think it exists.

entry four: 00:02:446:7428-23:27

It’s gotten bigger. I don’t know how it’s possible for a big hunk of metal to get bigger, but I swear it has.

I went back again this afternoon and something felt off. I walked around the room, examining details for about ten minutes until I noticed my footprints. The ones from where I stood until I worked up the guts to touch The Thing. They were sticking out from under it. That shouldn’t be possible unless it moved or grew, and I went around to the other side I saw that the dust was still smooth and undisturbed right up to the edge of The Thing.

So yeah, it’s gotten bigger.

entry five: 00:02:446:7432-15:48

I haven’t gone back to the room in four days. I told myself it was because of schoolwork, but that’s a bunch of crap. My Feast of Crows feathers are just about grown in and I haven’t really had all that much homework.

The truth is, I’m scared.

I told Jami about the room. I told him all of it: the weird walls, the sunken floor, the strange Thing in the middle… that I think it’s getting bigger…

He wanted me to take him to the room but I told him NO WAY. He kept pushing me and I eventually told him that, if he wanted to see it so bad, he could go himself.

And then I told him how to get there.

I haven’t seen Jami at school for two days. I think he went up to the room. What if he got hurt? I think I have to go back up there to make sure he’s ok. I’m going to take my recorder and my freaking pasárutakua stick this time

entry six: 00:02:446:7433-03:22

Oh my God. Oh. MY GOD. I am going to die. I am going to die. I killed that thing, and I am going to die. The Thing is going to kill me. It’s not attacking me anymore; it’s just standing there, staring at me. It’s going to kill me, though. I am GOING TO DIE.

entry seven: 00:02:446:7434-07:02

So, yeah. I’m probably going to die here, in this room. Soon. Also, I think I killed Jami. At least, I killed something, and I think it was Jami.

I came up here yesterday to look for him because I felt so guilty for pointing him up here and then not going with him. And then, when he didn’t show up for school two days running, I worried that something had happened to him up here—maybe he broke his leg or something or something, I don’t know—and nobody would know where he was.

He’d just be sitting up here, in pain and alone… and no help coming…

So, I came up here. And something definitely happened to him, all right. If it was him. Based on the past twenty-four hours, I think it was probably him…

Sorry. I’m rambling. So I came up here to look for Jami, and, when I stepped into the room, I just knew that something was wrong. The light was different, the room seemed larger, and there were WAY more… tracks in the dust. My footprints were still there, of course. And I could clearly see where Jami had been. He’d grown crow’s feet for his Feast of Crows presentation. Teacher’s pet. So there’s my footprints, Jami’s crow-prints, and… other tracks. Smallish, round marks and long drag marks in the dust. I walked all the way around The Thing, looking at the tracks closely, trying to figure out where Jami had gone. It was weird, there were no tracks going OUT of the door except for mine. But Jami was clearly nowhere to be seen.

I was totally confused. I walked up to The Thing, and, for some reason, I touched it again. I don’t know why I did it. I really don’t. I mean, I was pretty well creeped out by it; the last thing I wanted to do was to touch it. But I did it anyway. I touched it and then I killed Jami…

So tired. I’ve gotta rest for a bit…

entry eight: 00:02:446:7434-18:44

I’ve been asleep for hours. The room hasn’t changed a bit—The Thing doesn’t seem to have moved—but I know it’s been a while.

The room hasn’t changed, but I have…

Ok, focus. I’ve gotta get this recorded. Where did I leave off?

Right. Touching The Thing. So, as soon as I touched it, several things happened. First, the doorway closed. I don’t know HOW it closed. It’s not like it actually had a door on it. It was just an opening, you know? But when I touched The Thing, that opening disappeared. It made a weird popping noise when it went, too. I remember that clearly. Funny the things you remember…

The Thing was hot under my hands which, for some reason, I hadn’t removed. I jerked my hands back and grabbed my pasárutakua stick. The room was humming—a deep thrumming sound that I could feel in my bones. And then The Thing… moved.

Moving doesn’t quite describe it. It… flowed. I don’t think it has a set shape. I think it just changes to whatever makes sense to it at the time. And when it changes from one form to another, there’s this weird flowing thing that happens. That’s what it did though. It started flowing and, seconds later, there was this big, spindly, spidery thing standing there, crouched over a smaller, skeletal form. The skeleton suddenly jerked into motion and lunged for me. I didn’t even think; I just swung my pasárutakua stick like the skeleton was a flaming puck. All those years of training, the varsity championship… it was instinct more than anything. There was a sickening crack and it fell to the ground, still and silent, glazed eyes staring at me.

I knew those eyes. I know it was Jami. I know it was. I didn’t know how that… thing… could be Jami, but I knew it was.

Of course, now I have an idea how Jami could have ended up like that.

Oh, Jami. I’m so sorry. I really messed up. I wish I’d never told you about this place. I wish I’d never come back…

entry nine: 00:02:446:7435-01:12

I keep passing out. Side effect of whatever is happening to me, I guess.

Where did I leave off?

Ok, right. So, I killed the skeleton thing, and I had just realized that it was probably Jami. I’m standing there in shock when The Thing suddenly jumps at me, knocks me to the ground, and pins me with three of its spider legs. Of course I’m screaming, but it doesn’t matter. The room sucks up sound and my screams end up sounding like moans. Maybe that’s all they were anyway…

It grabs my head and forces one of its other appendages down my throat and I gag as it pumps something into me. Then it lets me go and moves over to the thing that was Jami, lays down on it, and then everything is still again.

And then I passed out.

When I came to, it was standing again. There was no sign of Jami. The Thing was just standing there, in the middle of the room, not moving. I tried to get up but I was too weak.

And then I noticed that my arms were skin and bone… it’s like all my muscles had melted off. I’m not sure how I was able to move at all, honestly. I still had my Feast of Crows feathers, though, which—combined with the skeleton thing—was a pretty terrifying look, really. Not something you want to see when looking at yourself.

I DID moan then. I didn’t have the energy to scream…

When The Thing didn’t seem to notice that I was awake and moaning, I fumbled on my recorder and started to make this record of what’s happening. I figured that, even if I didn’t make it out of here, someone would eventually find this room just like I did, right? I had to tell them what happened in here and warn them to get out.

That was the plan, at least. But I guess I just started screaming that I was going to die…

Sorry about that, whoever gets this.

After the screaming, I passed out again.

I’m still so tired… I’m…

entry ten: 00:02:446:7437-20:57

Don’t think I have much time. That last bit of sleep did something. I’m not… the way I was. I’m not as weak as I was last time. And either I’m bigger or the room is smaller now. Either seems possible, but I think it’s the first thing.

I have a theory. I think The Thing is like a.. a vector. It gave me some sort of virus that’s changing me. Maybe it is the virus. Either way, I think it’s making me into… something else.

The Thing is still sitting in the middle of the room but it also seems smaller than I remember. My silly Feast of Crows feathers are more than ornamental now. They’re big and lustrous and I can feel them in a way I never could before. They’re not a costume, anymore. I think… I think they’re functional. I…

Sorry. Zoned out there for a moment. Head is swimming. Keep mentally drifting off. Having weird daydreams. I dreamed I could fly. I want to fly. That would be awesome.

I feel so closed in…

Also, it’s been ages since I last had something to eat. I’m hungry. I don’t think I’ve ever been this hungry.

entry eleven: 00:02:446:7438-11:09

It’s not just me; The Thing is changing too. It has feathers now, just like me. I think it has fewer legs, too. Why did I think it had shrunk? Or did I get bigger? I don’t remember… Anyway, it’s about the same size as me. This room is small though. Claustrophobic. Maybe that’s why The Thing always stands in the middle of the room. It feels like I do. Like the walls are too close.

I’m hungry.

I think it’s trying to talk to me. Not… not out loud. This room doesn’t like sound. I heard The Thing in my head, though. I think.

It’s hungry too. Selfish. It already ate Jami. Didn’t share.

entry twelve: 00:02:446:7438-25:19

The dreams are so intense. I’m not asleep, but I’m… not… here. I can’t… I can’t remember… I can’t…

entry thirteen: 00:02:446:7439-13:12

Hungry. I’ve never been this hungry. I need to eat something. The Thing isn’t food. I tried. It didn’t like that. We fought. We’re both recovering.

It’s mad at me. I know because of the dreams.

The feeling is mutual.

entry fourteen: 00:02:446:7439-24:45

I need to get out. The Thing needs to get out too. We need to get out. The space is too small. We’re filling it up, and we are so hungry. We beat the walls in frustration but it doesn’t seem to make a difference.

I lose myself for hours at a time now, lost in the waking dream of The Thing’s thoughts. I come to my senses every once in awhile, and I keep trying to update this log… for some reason. I don’t remember why. I remember that it’s important, though. I just don’t know why…

entry fifteen: 00:02:446:7440-02:27

Out. We’re getting out. There’s food out there, and we need it. I think we can push through the walls now. I tried it. They seem to be… softening. The walls gave a little when I pushed on them hard with most of my legs.

We’re going to get out. We’re going to do it together, and then we will eat.

We’re so hungry.

There’s food out there. I know. I remember. The Thing knows what food is. It ate Jami. I killed him, but The Thing ate him. Wasn’t The Thing’s food to eat, but it did. Selfish.

I told it there was more food out there.

I told it that there was a whole city of Jamis.

/ End Audio Transcription
/ Research team requests confirmation of message receipt
/ Conclusions:
/ Evidence of phage origin confirmed
/ Phage responsible for destruction of the City of Suns
/ Theta research mission to Quetzal system complete
/ Research team recalled and en route to New Lima
/ We are so hungry