Frank called the feds. The group that call themselves the SMSC, he called them. I don't know how he got their number -- maybe one of the interviewees had it -- but he called them. I didn't object, because how could I? How could we fight this thing?
So we let them handle it. We arrived at the prison this morning to see dozens of black SUVs outside. A man met us at the gate and introduced himself as Special Agent Ian Fish. "You'll have to wait outside the gates," he said. Frank told him he was the one who called in the tip. "Yes, I know," Special Agent Fish said. "You'll still have to wait outside. It's for your own safety."
So we waited. I was glad we weren't allowed in. Occasionally, someone would check up on us. Finally, a few hours later, Special Agent Fish himself came out and talked to us.
"I want to thank you," he said. "We've been getting reports now from all over about these little toys appearing, growing bigger, and then disappearing. Sometimes they kill, sometimes they don't. We've evacuated this part of the prison in preparation for the capture or termination of this entity." As he explained, I realized something: this was new to them, too. They had never seen this and they had been at this far longer than we had. This must have been the Boojum just born, what Steward called the Manufactured Newborn.
"We've got it cornered now, though," Special Agent Fish said. "I don't think it's like the others. I don't think it can move around like them. I think we got lucky today, thanks to you." He smiled at us and then a very loud explosion boomed across the prison. Dust billowed into the sky as one of the walls of the prison collapsed. Something shifted, something moved, and then, faster than anything I'd ever seen, it leaped out.
It was big. As big as a car. It had legs like a centipede, many and jointed. It looked patchwork, like it had constructed itself from any materials on hand. I saw prison bars and chair legs and bones. I saw a dark red splotch that must have been Hickson's heart, but in the middle I saw something else. In the middle I saw a snowglobe just sitting there, like it was its brain.
It was a quick nightmare. It didn't give anyone time to think. It moved before they could fire and when they did, it wasn't in the place where they fired. Special Agent Fish took out his firearm and started shooting, while Frank took my hand and we both curled up inside the car, hoping we wouldn't get shot.
It was over before I knew it. No more shooting was heard. I peered outside and saw it. It had climbed up on a fence and one leg had...it had ripped a hole in the world. No one said anything, no one shot their gun, they just stood their as the thing ripped the hole wider. On the other side...it looked like nothing I've ever seen. I only saw a glimpse. Just a glimpse. It looked like an engine. A monstrous engine. The thing pushed itself through the hole and it closed itself afterwards.
We didn't want to stay there. Frank drove away before Special Agent Fish could find us again. Whatever had happened was no success for them. We didn't want to stick around if they got suspicious of us and decided to throw us in jail or worse.
But as we drove away, I kept thinking about where it went. The Newborn. I would need a name for it.
The Cheshire Cat. That's what we'll call it. The Cheshire Cat. Appearing and disappearing at random, vanishing into whatever hell it came from.
-- Carol Baker