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John Carpenter's

 

Heart Failure

by Geri Baker (Talon)                                     

 

"MacReady! Mac, get your gear on!" Norris turned to see the station commander and Doctor Copper approaching the burned out shell of the Norwegian chopper, where he stood with Mac and the others. Watching Mac cast his eyes skyward to scan the horizon and gauge the snowfall, he looked back at the smoldering hulk the two Norwegians had flown in on, hell-bent on killing a dog. It didn’t make sense and he shook his head to clear his confusion. As Garry and the Doc drew nearer he took his cue to leave and along with Windows and Palmer and headed back into the warm interior of Outpost 31. He, like the others, was noticeably quiet as they re-entered through the main entrance and shook the snow from their clothes, each man lost in his own train of thought. Windows made straight for the radio room, presumably as directed by Garry, and Palmer headed off through the corridors towards the room he shared with Childs, presumably to get high and chill out after the afternoon’s events. Taking a few minutes to let the heat return to his limbs, Norris chuckled and shook his head, he liked the assistant mechanic. Always with a joke or a quick one-liner, how could one not warm to his roguish character. Even Garry, the stern, no-nonsense leader of this strange assortment of men tolerated his slovenly appearance and constant weed fuelled kitchen raids. He strolled towards the rec room and had to stand aside to avoid Bennings who limped past him muttering under his breath about roller skates and Stevie Wonder. Watching him storm off down the corridor, Norris headed inside the rec room to find Nauls sidling up to the window, a large grin splitting his face. Palmer entered through the other door, having found his headphones and was now watching the two men through glazed eyes. "Ay, you stay the hell outta my kitchen, man. You hear me Palmer?, I ain't gonna have any damn food left to feed y’all, you keep getting the munchies you burned out, rink-a-dink pothead!" Nauls said sternly to the grinning asst. pilot. "Relax man, we got plenty to do us till spring. Besides it ain't only me." Palmer replied. Outside the three could hear the rising whine of the chopper’s engines starting as Mac and Copper began their journey to the Norwegian camp. Norris remembered he was late for his medication and left the cook and the stoner to return to his room. "Mac’s really taking it up huh?" Nauls said to nobody in particular as he watched the copter take off. "He knows what he’s doin' Palmer replied confidently as he replaced his phones and strolled off, lost in his own little world. Both men were unaware of the eyes that watched all too intently from under the Ping-Pong table, where the dog had settled unnoticed.

A short time had passed since Mac and the Doc had left for the Norwegian camp, and things had settled down again at Outpost 31. The men had returned to their individual duties except for Bennings who was under doctor’s orders to rest, and Palmer who had nothing better to do than float about the camp. It probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway, he had a reputation for being lazy. That’s why Garry had paired him up with Childs, who had a reputation for not taking shit from anyone. The arrangement had worked out quite well, not just because the two became fast smoking buddies but because Childs was a good instructor. "Hard but fair" in his own words. Palmer had turned up late the first day he was due to work with Childs and had been smoking heavily that morning too. Childs took one look at him and told him to go outside where the raging wind was howling to change the oil in all the dozers and tidy the interior of the cabs as well as punishment. After that Palmer was never late again and only smoked when the work was done. Prior to this he had bought weed off the guy who dropped in supplies every so often, and as a reward for getting his act together, Childs had shown Palmer how to build special growing heaters and lamps for cultivating their own little stash, much to Palmer’s delight and Garry’s annoyance. At this particular moment the toker was trying to find his lighter that he had set down and subsequently forgot where he put it. Mumbling incoherently, he walked back to his room in disgust to grab a spare box of matches he kept beside his bed. Elsewhere Windows was in the radio room still trying to contact McMurdo and not having much success. Giving up, he grabbed a copy of Photoplay and began to thumb through the well-worn pages. "Very Superstitious…writings on the wall!" blared at high volume from the kitchen where Nauls was busying himself getting the men’s evening meal ready. This infuriated Bennings who was just down the hall trying to get some shuteye in peace and failing miserably due to the voice of Stevie Wonder. "That’s it" he muttered, leaping up from his bunk and limping outside to the intercom. Punching the call button with his fist, he spoke gruffly to the skating cook. "Nauls…. Will you turn that crap down? I’m trying to get some sleep…. I was shot today". Nauls had rolled over to hear and replied "Oui, bwana…. Will do". Skating back over he changed his mind and instead took some milk from the fridge to add to the mash potato. "What the hell he know bout music anyhow?" he thought to himself as he checked the steaks. Satisfied they were grilling nicely, he wandered to the shelves to get a little salt for flavor. Down the other side of the hall a fur lined snout poked it’s way through a doorway, scanning ahead. Seeing no one the Norwegian husky took a couple of steps forward, its tongue lolling down the side of its mouth. Pausing by Bennings’ room the dog seemed to be pondering something, as if it was contemplating the wounded man. After a moment it sensed movement in the opposite side of the hall and padded along to investigate. Norris had retired to his room earlier to take his medication, and was now re-reading a survey on the glaciers in the surrounding area. Blair had asked him earlier about core samples they had found containing an abundance of long dead microscopic bacteria, and he was trying to ascertain the exact age of the ice. As the dog entered his room he turned in surprise, "Hello boy…how you doin' there eh? So you wanna tell us why those crazy assholes were trying to send you to dog heaven?" he asked the dog who just stared straight at him. Pausing briefly to allow the dog sufficient time to answer, Norris chuckled and ruffled his ear before turning back to his survey. The dog nudged the door gently with his hindquarters to close it over, and then sat down, still staring at Norris who had his back to the dog and was totally engrossed in his study. He was reading a section about the backscatter effect in this region, when he heard the sound. It was a strange hissing sound, almost like someone was breathing heavily through clenched teeth. He frowned and was about to turn when he saw a red liquid trickle past his left leg. "Blood?" He thought "What the…..". Then he realized the dog was still in the room. The sound changed to a low bubbling growl, and was now accompanied by ripping and tearing noises. Sweat stood out on his brow, as he tried to identify the sound. Ever so slowly he turned…..And in an instant came face to face with all of his nightmares rolled into one horrifying, mutilated Thing. The thing that had once been a dog was now stretched and distorted to almost twice its original size. It’s snout had contorted and elongated into a gaping maw which the bubbling was emanating from and it’s paws had twisted into mangled claws which were reaching out towards the terrified Norris who stumbled back towards the wall. Tentacles sprang out from its bloodied and twisted torso to wave whip-like in the space between them and it’s eyes collapsed and ran down onto the gore soaked floor. Norris was whimpering like a child now and had frozen, traumatized in shellshock. It was too much for his mind to comprehend, but it didn’t matter. It had stopped working long ago. More tentacles and entrails snaked across the floor towards Norris and the Thing moved in for the kill. This was the last straw and his weak heart shuddered into arrest and gave up. He sank to the floor clutching at his chest, his face contorting in pain. The Thing paused for a moment at this, not understanding, but not halting its attack. As it closed on him it started to retch and vomit a thick, white liquid over the dying geologist which started to digest his skin and his clothes. A terrible burning pain gripped him as it started to eat away at him and the tentacles rendered his flesh and bone apart and melding them with it’s own. The claws began to rip open his stomach to spill his intestines out and the Things own entrails filled the hole to assimilate him from the inside out. His jaws were separated with a crunch and two bony protrusions entered his eye sockets to remove the top of his head. The imitation process took about forty-five minutes, The Thing was in no hurry and had plenty of time to finish undisturbed. Halfway through it began the reconstruction process and re-built an exact imitation of Norris, copying his mannerisms, his memory and even his bad heart. When it had finished it returned to its dog form and left the room, leaving the Norris copy to finish on its own and get dressed. It walked to the mirror and looked at its new face, it’s new home. Grinning evilly from ear to ear, the Thing reached down to pick up the torn longjohns it had discarded in the process and bundled them into the closet. They would be undisturbed there until a more suitable place could be found. As Nauls called out for the guys to grab their supper, Norris left the room to grab a plate. He was feeling a little peckish after all…

 

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