21

For Colonel Templeton Hargis it was just too much.

Hell was bubbling below his feet, and the man who had made it was frying in his own mad doctor’s stew.

He looked around at the horrified faces of his men, staring at the manhole where Dr. Trimble had just disappeared. He saw reflected in those men’s faces his own confusion, his own feelings of helplessness.

The Soviet Union was half a world away now, a very distant threat to the national security.

But the hell-spawn created by Dr. Trimble in his satellite laboratory was right beneath their butts. And the trouble was it seemed not to have the faintest inkling that it should be patriotic and loyal to its creators.

The motherfucker would eat anything!

Hargis ripped off his helmet and threw it to the ground. He grabbed an M16 from one of his men.

“Let’s scrag that thing!” he said.

He stuck his rifle barrel down the manhole and let ’er rip. Other soldiers stepped up along with him, aimed down the hole, and began firing, making a furious din.

The kick of the gun was gratifying in his hands, but as soon as his initial wave of anger passed, Hargis realized that if that blob thing was as big as the people who’d escaped the movie theater said it was, it was going to take more than a hail of bullets to snuff the bastard.

He knew just the thing, though.

“Gimme a satchel charge!” he called, as the rifles finished emptying their ammo into the hole. “Short fuse!”

He had good men. Within seconds one of them was hauling a package the size of a phone book up to the hole.

“Let ’im have it!” ordered Colonel Hargis.

Connected to the satchel charge was a rip cord. The soldier pulled this and efficiently dropped the charge down the hole.

It took no orders to make the other men step away from the opening.

Ker BLAM! The explosion trembled below the feet of Colonel Hargis like the devil’s own flatulence. A gout of flame ripped up from the hole, rising twenty feet in the air.

“Chew on that, slime ball!” said Colonel Hargis.

That oughtta do it!

The rumble from the explosion died.

But then another tremble started up below his feet. First a simple movement… but then, suddenly a violent shaking.

“What’s happening?” said Hargis, struggling to stay on his feet.

“I think,” said Brian Flagg, turning and starting to run, “I think you pissed it off.”

“Hey! Kid! Where are you—”

But Hargis never did finish his sentence.

He was cut off by the explosion of gunk, shooting up from the manhole like God squeezing a pimple.

The creature… it was coming up!

Streamers of the thing whipped around as it rose, grabbing Hargis by his shoulders and hauling him up with it. Hargis found himself abruptly stuck to a rising geyser of burning, churning fluid.

Rising up, up, toward the night sky.

Hargis knew that this was it. But he was too hard a man, had seen too much action, to go out without a fight.

His M16 blazing in one hand, bullets splattering into the column of pustulance, he reached with the other to the series of hand grenades strapped across his chest.

He pulled the pins.

Eat these, too, slimeball he thought even as the creature swallowed him, acids violently eating away at plastic, skin, flesh, blood, and bone.

Meg Penny watched as the column blasted up, snaring the soldiers and carrying them up, stuck in slime.

“Get outta here!” said Brian Flagg, catching her by the arm and pulling her down the street along with him.

Up and up went the creature behind them, emerging from the sewers. Finally it reached the peak of its ascent far above Morgan City, and it began to fall back down, angling out over the street. It slapped down onto the pavement, roiling and congealing into one large ball of coagulated muck.

Meg and Brian had reached higher ground before the thing fell. The noxious slime missed them.

But as they turned, they saw it snaring others—townspeople slower than they. What soldiers remained were firing into the mass.

The creature rolled over them like a wave of used Vaseline, strangling their cries instantly.

“It’s a mountain!” said Meg.

“Get back!” cried Brian, tugging her along with the escaping crowd of people.

Deputy Briggs was among them, and shouted orders. “Back! Everybody back!”

Chaos surged. Everything was in total pandemonium.

And among it all the Blob struck.

Hungry. It was still hungry.

Colonel Hargis’s grenades went off inside it, lighting a chiaroscuro of green and red within in its form, but explosives couldn’t stop the oozing thing from cruising on in search of more food, more food.

Reverend Meeker had never been much of an eschatologist. But he knew something of what the Bible had predicted about the End Times. And this looked like something biblical, all right. The judgment of God, come to Morgan City.

“My God,” he said, watching the creature roil along. “The Day is come!”

Deputy Briggs grabbed him. “Come on, Reverend. Gotta get out of here!”

“You don’t understand,” said Reverend Meeker, gazing up at the monstrosity, acceptance and resignation on his face. “This is all prophesied in Revelations!”

Deputy Briggs tugged him along anyway.

Meanwhile a pair of soldiers nearby were working with a flamethrower. One held the weapon while the other lit it. There was a muffled thump! as the flames poured out.

“You’re hot!” said the lighting soldier.

The soldier holding the flamethrower turned. The creature was heading straight toward him, a tidal wave of horror.

The soldier aimed and hit the trigger. The flames roared out, wrapping the monster in smoke and fire.

“We got it!” cried the soldier. “We got the thing. It’s burning up!”

But then a pseudopod shot from the Blob as though from a cannon, heading straight at the nozzle of the flamethrower. It struck with such force that the tanks on the soldier’s back exploded, engulfing him in a fireball.

Flaming fluid splattered over the street.

A splash of it fell on the Reverend Meeker, setting him alight. The Reverend screamed and fell, writhing on the street.

“Reverend!” cried Meg, seeing the man go down, his arms and back on fire.

“That fire extinquisher!” said Deputy Briggs, pointing over to a fire truck parked nearby. Meg dashed over to it along with the wounded deputy, and together they hauled the heavy, shiny cylinder off its mooring and over to where the Reverend Meeker lay burning and screaming.

The Blob rolled forward, just thirty yards away.

Meg blasted Reverend Meeker in a cloud of C02. The flames were snuffed out.

“Come on, get out of that thing’s way!” ordered Briggs, pulling the half-conscious, groaning reverend along with him.

Meg turned.

There it was, rising up above her: the creature, wriggling and quivering with rapacious evil and hunger. Even as she looked, a pseudopod detached from the mass and shot forward toward her.

Not thinking, just reacting, she turned the fire extinguisher on it. The C02 hissed out, slapping against the pseudopod like the hand of a ghost.

The pseudopod stopped. It recoiled, like a snake, writhing in pain.

Meg backed away, having bought some time for herself. Thinking: The C02—it stopped it for a moment. She sprayed some of the stuff onto her hand.

The cloud wrapped her hand in an arctic chill.

“Cold!” she said. “It can’t stand the cold!”

She had to tell Brian! She whirled around to find him.

“Brian!” she cried. “It’s just like in the freezer.”

But Brian was nowhere in sight. Only the frightened, smudged face of Deputy Briggs was there.

“He ran for it, Meg,” said Briggs. “He’s gone. Now let’s get going ourselves. Town Hall. It’s got the strongest walls in the city!”

They retreated.

The creature, like a wobbling, slow-motion avalanche of dung, followed, squeezing easily through the stores and office buildings on either side of the street. As Deputy Briggs carried the moaning reverend, Meg lugged the C02 canister along behind, pausing every ten seconds or so to blast errant streamers of goo. Invariably the pseudopods would wriggle back into their parent, in spasms from the cold. Once, when she accidentally released a particularly large cloud of gas, the stuff sprayed over the nearest part of the crawling Blob.

The thing cringed back, and they were able to gain some yards.

“Good girl!” said Briggs. “Keep it going. Town Hall just ahead.”

The whole street seemed to bow under the Blob’s weight, cracking as it streamed along. Meg let it have another, longer blast, and then dodged back. Pseudopods waggled wildly behind her. The Blob shuddered, then flowed on, inexorably.

Even as they mounted the steps of the Town Hall, the thing flowed its hellish protoplasm up after them, a deadly tide lapping up toward their feet. The C02 canister banged up the stairs, heavy and awkward to drag, but Meg couldn’t drop it. It was their only hope.

She sprayed. The Blob quivered, drew back.

The horrid stench, acid and blood, acid and death, was everywhere now, mixed with the smell of burning. But all that Meg could smell was the C02. Her hands were numb with cold.

“Hurry!” cried a voice from the top of the stairs. “Get in!” Someone was holding the door open for them.

“Thanks,” said Briggs as a man scurried out and helped drag Reverend Meeker inside. “Come on, Meg! Get in!”

Meg Penny let loose a long blast. The Blob pulled back, rearing like a fat, giant cobra.

And hurled itself, coming down at her like a blanket, cutting off the light from burning fires and the remaining streetlamps.

An arm reached out and pulled Meg through the door. The Town Hall door slammed shut, locked, and latched.

With a mighty thunk! the door was hit from the other side. It bowed in with the tremendous pressure. But it held. Tendrils of Blob issued through cracks.

But Meg Penny knew what to do now. She aimed the nozzle and let blast. She described a circle around the door, covering all the cracks quickly. The wriggling streamers shivered and shot back, as though shocked by electrodes.

“Doesn’t like that,” said Meg.

She turned and saw to her relief that all her family, Kevin included, were among the huddled masses in the Town Hall. She saw Moss the mechanic, Jim Adams the banker—so many people were still alive! She’d thought so many would be dead.

“Pull all the C02 you can find!” cried Deputy Briggs. “We can hold it off!”

You hold it off!” cried Arnold Thatcher, the baker, from the back of the hall. “We’re getting out!”

He dived toward a back window. Pulled on the latch, as the crowd rippled with agreement.

“No, wait!” cried Meg, desperately. “It’s all—”

But even as she tried to finish, tried to haul her fire extinguisher toward Thatcher at the window, the man got the latch loose.

The window angled open on its hinges.

A jet of Blob streamed through, right on top of the man, engulfing him.

Meg aimed the nozzle and fired off a blast of C02 gas. But with a choked gurgle the issuing stream stopped. The canister was empty.

People started screaming.

Moss the mechanic, though, had already stepped up to the nearest fire-extinguisher placement. He pulled open the door, ripped out the canister, and started spraying the arm of gunk.

The effect was immediate. The Blob retreated back out the window, but it carried its prize with it. Meg had one last impression of Arnold Thatcher the baker being dragged out the window, already dissolving in this portable living acid bath.

Moss kept the blast going long enough for others to close the window and latch it.

“That’s not enough,” hollered Briggs. “We’re going to have to barricade every window, every door, here. And let’s get those fire extinguishers! There should be some in the hall, and lots in the basement!”

The people set to work, doing their best to barricade themselves from harm. Streamers of Blob snaked through the front door, and Meg Penny yelled for help.

Within moments Moss was there, spraying, and the streamers retreated.

Then two men ran up to Briggs, each holding a fire extinguisher. Small fire extinguishers.

“Is that it?” said Briggs. “There’s gotta be more. You just didn’t look in the right places!”

He was interrupted by a loud scream from a woman who was scrambling away from an air vent.

The Blob was squeezing through!

“Shit!” said one of the men with an extinguisher. He hurried over to the vent and blasted the monster’s pseudopod with a plume of gas.

The streamer of Blob wriggled back.

The man was just helping the lady back to her feet when another, larger spout of slime suddenly spurted from a nearby chimney.

It wrapped around the man, knocking the fire extinguisher from his grasp.

“Help!” he cried.

He was able to say only that one word before the pseudopod pulled him into the chimney and up into the darkness.

“Oh, my God!” cried someone. “Look! The front door!”

Meg Penny looked. Briggs looked. Everyone looked. But there was nothing to be done. The door latch, bending with the renewed bowing of the doors, snapped even as they looked.

Crack!

And the doors started to buckle.

“No!” a man cried. As one, ten people, including Briggs and Mr. Penny, ran to the front door, pushing against the barricade of desks and cabinets to keep the doors in place. But the fissures in the wood continued. And whenever there was the smallest of cracks, the Blob would squiggle though.

Moss climbed up on the barricade. He aimed the nozzle of his canister and fired at the streaming stuff coming through a particularly large crack. One good gust pushed it back for a moment—but then, with a strangled, coughing sound, the canister went dry.

Deputy Bill Briggs, straining against a bookshelf used to block the door, cried, “We need more C02 up here!”

He was pushing for all he was worth… if they could just get some more fire extinguishers… They had to be here if these nitwits could just find them and—

Briggs heard a crack. The next thing he knew, books were scattering everywhere, onto the floor by his feet.

The creature. It had pushed through the—

Like a pincer two segments of the Blob blasted out, flowed around Deputy Bill Briggs’s waist, and closed in on him.

They burned! Oh, God, they burned… !

They sank through cloth and flesh.

Meg Penny watched helplessly, holding on to her mother and her baby sister Christine, as the Blob wrapped around Deputy Bill Briggs and pulled him through the bookcase.

Screams. Crack of wood. Snap of bone and splatter of blood. And then the lawman was gone.

The sight of the deputy being dragged—clutching a book shelf as though that would check the terrible force behind him, eyes rolling in horror and pain—was the final blast on the survivors’ nerves.

Those nerves snapped.

Pandemonium struck.

People screamed and panicked. They ran toward the basement and the other rooms, leaving their posts by the barricades.

And with an extra surge of power the Blob began breaking in.

Windows smashed. Doors buckled, then shattered. Whole sections of wall and roof were cracking and bulging. Plaster rained down on Meg Penny and her family as they stood rooted in place with terror, watching the Blob wiggle through the new cracks.

On the floor, in the middle of the chaos, the Reverend Meeker had recovered. Seeing the hell squeezing in on him, he began moaning and speaking deliriously.

“And the great voice said to the seven angels, go your ways and pour the vials of wrath of God upon the Earth… and lo, there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon men which had the mark of the Beast… !”

Meg Penny heard this scripture, but she was too terrified even to comprehend what the reverend was saying. She just clung to her family as the Blob put more and more pressure on the once sturdy Town Hall, until the rafters and the solid brick of the walls began to squeal and tremble as though in terrible agony.

“Mommy!” cried Kevin. “Don’t let it get us!”

But Meg Penny knew the truth. It was going to get them. The monster was going to get them, just as it had gotten the others.

She was too frightened and horrified to even wonder what had happened to Brian Flagg.

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