"Have a seat, Ms. Bauer. I appreciate you meeting me this late at night -- laboratory time is at a premium, even for me."
"Of course, Dr. Gilman." Kristen reclined on the examination table. She shivered, then briefly wondered why. She was used to being cold at the doctor's office, and her paper robe didn't provide much warmth. But Dr. Gilman's lab was warm, almost stuffy.
The pale, balding form of Dr. Gilman appeared from behind an immense, donut-shaped imaging unit. "You passed the last batch of tests with flying colors, Ms. Bauer. In a few hours, your diabetes will be a thing of the past."
"But that's not all you're doing, right? The data you showed me . . ."
Gilman interrupted her, holding up one latex-gloved hand. "Yes, we should see sharp increases in abstract reasoning and other intelligence markers. And you'll never again have problems with, shall we say, drive and motivation?"
Kristen blushed. "Will you put me under for the splicing?"
"You've read my work, Ms. Bauer, so you know that isn't necessary. And let's not call it splicing. Mozart didn't splice together themes in his Jupiter symphony, and I'm not splicing your genetic material. You're the first movement in a symphony of genetics, Ms. Bauer -- you're a pioneer for your whole species."
Kristen suppressed another shiver. "You're the pioneer, Doctor. I'm just the patient."
"Nonsense, my dear. You're willing to trust a procedure that would stagger the imaginations of the so-called scientists at this university. It took me a long time to find someone who understood my work and wanted its, shall we say, therapeutic benefits?"
Dr. Gilman changed his latex gloves, then picked up a syringe as big as his beefy forearm. "The serum comes first, then I'll wheel you into the MRI so I can watch brain activity throughout the procedure." As he pointed to the imager with one hand, he used the other to inject the needle into Kristen's shoulder.
Kristen felt the sharp jab of the needle, then clenched her teeth. That's the last needle I'll ever have to put up with. No more insulin injections!
Kristen's arm began to tingle. A hot wave spread into her torso, then flowed down each of her other limbs. Her head felt too heavy to lift, but she felt the warm air on her skin as Dr. Gilman wheeled her into the MRI unit. The tingling across her body became a grasping, scrabbling sensation -- like fingers wriggling against her skin, but from inside her body. Keep it together, girl. Tell the doctor what's happening.
"The tingling is . . . intense, doctor."
"Once the first stage is complete, that should fade. I'm inserting the probes now."
Kristen felt wetness on the soles of her feet, then the sharp pain of a scalpel. Two swift cuts on each foot, then knees, hips . . . by the time the scalpel reached the base of her skull, she felt a wave of dizziness. Blood loss? I wasn't expecting anything invasive . . . or this painful.
"The Thulykos stage is complete, Ms. Bauer. Rest a moment, then we'll start the second stage."
With great effort, Kristen lifted her head. Translucent cables pulsated with clotted liquid, pumping a greenish-yellow fluid into her body. Wincing in pain, she twisted her neck to the side. In the burnished steel of the imager housing, she saw her own face, crimson rivulets spreading downward from the corners of each eye.
I'm crying blood? "What's happening to me, doctor?"
She felt a clammy pressure on her forehead as Dr. Gilman pressed her head back down onto the table. "Lie still, dear. Mustn't mess up the readings.
"I'm going to start the second stage. Remember, you'll feel some psychic dissociation; you've got to fight it with everything you've got."
Keep it together -- keep yourself together. You're Kristen Bauer. You're Kristen. You're Kristen . . . Kristen . . .
Repeating her name again and again, Kristen became aware of a cool sensation around her scalp. No, it's deeper than my scalp -- must be something internal. The cool sensation coiled around her head. You're Kristen . . . but that thing in your head isn't . . . Kristen . . . Kristen . . .
The cool tendrils wriggled and flopped inside her head. It feels like they're coming out of my ears! And I can't feel my body anymore!
Kristen tried to lift her head, but her neck refused to respond. She could feel her muscles tensing up, but her head didn't seem to move.
"How do you feel, Ms. Bauer?"
"I can't feel my body, and I can't move my head. Help me . . ."
"What's your name?"
"Kristen . . ." Did I say that? Or did the thing in my head say it for me?
"Excellent. Then it's time for the final stage. The stars are right, as they say."
A wet, wriggling explosion, a scream of pain, then a lurch as the examination table collapsed against newly created bulk. I can move again, and I can see! There's Dr. Gilman, the imager, the hallway, the office . . . I can see it all -- see it all at once. And see myself . . .
Pointing an eyestalk downward, she saw a mass of glistening tentacles, each uncoiling and tentatively waving in the air. Her other eyestalks whirled and swirled as she beheld the entire room in a single glance.
"What's your name?"
"I am Kristen Bauer. I am Thulykos. I am Shoggoth!"
To be continued...
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