Rickman’s Plasma, by William Meikle

He would call it “Soundscapes of the City”, and it would make him his fortune, of that Rickman was certain.

How could it fail?

All it had taken was a reconfigured dream machine. Courtesy of Dreamsoft Productions, a particularly skilled burglar, and the latest software from MYTH OS, Rickman’s visions of bringing his music to the world were now that much closer to reality.

For the past forty nights he’d sampled and tweaked, taking the raw sounds that streamed into his loft apartment from the city outside. He merged them with his dream compositions and formed them into a holographic construct of sound and light and ionised gas, an ever-moving plasma bubble that hung like a giant amoeba in the centre of his room.

As they swam, his creations sang, orchestrated overtures to the dark beauty of the night.

It had been a long, hard journey to this point. During those first few days everything was sharp and jagged; harsh mechanical discordances that, while they had a certain musical quality, were not what he needed… not if he was going to take the world by storm. The plasma had roiled and torn, refusing to take a permanent shape, and Rickman despaired of what the city was telling him. Everything was ugly, mean-spirited. The music of the city spoke only of despair and apathy and his dreams didn’t make a dent when he overlaid them.

Then he had his epiphany.

Aptly, it came to him in a dream.

It starts with thin whistling, like a simple peasant’s flute played at a far distance. At first all is black. The flute stops, and the first star flares in the darkness. And with it comes the first chord, a deep A-minor that sets the darkness spinning. The blackness resolves itself into spinning masses of gas that coalesce and thicken: great clouds of matter reaching critical mass and exploding into a symphony. Stars wheel overhead in a great dance, the music of the spheres cavorting in his head.

Rickman jumped from his bed and pointed his antenna upwards to the sky.

Almost immediately, he got results.

The plasma formed a sphere, a ball of silver held in the holographic array. At first it just hung there in space, giving out a deep bass hum that rattled his teeth and set all the glassware in the apartment ringing.

Things changed quickly when he overlaid his dreams.

Shapes formed in the plasma, concretions that slid and slithered, rainbow light shimmering over their surface like oil on water. They sang as they swam, and Rickman soon found that by moving the antennae he was able to get the plasma to merge or to multiply, each collision or split giving off a new chord, the plasma taking on solid form.

But it still wasn’t right.

The good stuff only really started to happen this very night. He played back his previous recordings while keeping the antenna pointed skywards.

The plasma roiled.

The sounds became louder, more insistent, especially when he pointed at a certain patch of sky.

Soon he had a repeating beat going, with a modulated chorus above it that rose in intensity, and rose again as the plasma started to pulse.

He set his recorders going and started experimenting, feeding the recordings back to the plasma through his thousand-watt speakers, merging the sounds with the compositions from his dreams.

Within the hour, the globe of plasma was responding to his dream overlays. When he played the recordings back at full volume, the plasma swelled. The music grew, the chords overlaying each other in an orchestrated dance.

Rickman was so excited that he didn’t notice the walls of his apartment beat in time to the music.

Nor did he spot that when he turned his back, the plasma ball grew, stretching like an inflating balloon. Cobalt blue colours flashed and it surged.

Rickman was its first victim.

The cops arrived ten minutes later in response to a neighbour’s complaints about the noise.

When they burst through the door a plasma ball of rainbow colours rose to dance in the air in front of them, a swirling aura of gold and purple and black.

The sound started.

It was low at first, almost inaudible, but it rose to a crescendo until their ears were buffeted with raucous, mocking, piping: a cacophony of high fluting that crashed discordantly over them.

Then the smell hit them, the foetid, unmistakable odour of death that caught at the back of the throat and threatened to send their guts into spasms.

The cops ran.

They didn’t look back, and all the time the crazed fluting danced in the air around them. They called for help, but each shout only brought a fresh surge in the plasma. The air above the plasma crackled with electricity, blue static running over the formless mass.

It dragged itself across the floor, leaving a grey, glistening streak of slime behind it.

Within the protoplasm things moved: detached bones flowing, scraps of clothing fused with unidentifiable pieces of flesh. The surface boiled in numerous small lesions that bubbled and split like pieces of overripe fruit.

But worst of all was the source of the fluting. A huge, red, meaty maw that pulsed wetly in time with the cacophony.

The younger of the cops made it to the elevator and slammed the button. He screamed, frustrated, as the doors were slow in starting to move. He let them open just enough to slip inside before he turned to look for his partner.

She was less than two yards from him, arms outstretched, pleading. He began to move towards her when she stopped and was jerked backwards like a marionette. Her mouth opened wide into a scream and she fell forward, her right hand hitting the down button even as he stretched out in vain.

The door began to close and, no matter how hard he strained at it, he was unable to stop it from shutting completely. He could do nothing but watch the events in the hallway beyond through the small window.

The plasma had caught her by the ankle. Oily colours flowed across her body, the protoplasm gripping her tight.

She struggled hard, to no avail.

Their eyes met, just once. Her mouth opened as if she was trying to speak, and that was when the swirling blob engulfed her head and the noises from her throat ceased to sound human.

The protoplasm surged again, and suddenly the window of the cab was coated with slime.

The cop gagged and fought hard to keep down the bile as a human foot, still trailing bloody threads behind it, floated across his view.

She was the second victim.

The cop spent the next fifteen minutes persuading his superiors that there was a problem in the tower block. In that time the plasma ate the little old lady in number 621 who played her radio too loud, the three kids jamming on electric guitars in 437, and the family in 223 who had been watching the latest Disney animation on their 60 inch TV screen.

By the time the cop’s backup team arrived it had already filled the whole of the ground floor public area. The cop made sure he was first back through the door, but what met him made him step back immediately.

The floor was covered by a shimmering rainbow blob nearly four feet thick. There were things embedded in it – blood and hair and bones and eyes, all jumbled like a manic jigsaw, fused and running in to one another as though assembled by a demented sculptor. And in the middle of the floor, something rose up out of the mass: a forearm stripped to the bone, skeletal fingers reaching for the roof. On each fingertip a grey, opaque eyeball stared blindly out at him.

That wasn’t the worst thing, though. The worst thing was the way the bones of the wrist cracked and groaned as the hand turned, the fingers flexing and bending as all five eyes rolled in bony sockets and stared straight at him. The mocking cacophony of high fluting crashed discordantly over him.

He raised his gun and fired.

The noise echoed loudly in the hallway.

The plasma surged again, enfolding the cop until he fell into it, like a drowning man going down for the last time. The plasma rolled forward, forcing its way out onto the sidewalk beyond.

The backup team saw what happened to the cop. They started in with their own weapons.

The air filled with the noise of gunfire.

The plasma surged and took them.

Sirens blared as the squad cars of more backup teams arrived in the street.

The plasma surged and took them too.

The Mayor got involved ten minutes later. Assembled in his room were the Chief of Police, the Mayor’s press officer and the Chief of the Fire Service.

“So what is it doing now?” the Mayor asked.

“Still growing,” the Chief of Police answered. “And still feeding.” He was white as a sheet, and visibly trembling.

“How many casualties?” the Mayor whispered.

“Too many to count,” the press officer said. “It has covered three blocks… and we don’t know if anybody is still alive in the area.”

“That’s it,” the Mayor said. “Call in the National Guard… and somebody close that window!”

Outside, the crazed fluting of Rickman’s plasma filled the air.

People screamed.

The plasma surged.

It took thirty minutes to muster the National Guard. In that time, the plasma spread by five blocks in every direction.

If a noise sounded, it consumed whatever made it. Trucks, people, dogs and subway cars, all fell under the surging protoplasm, and all served to fuel its exponential growth.

The National Guard brought in jeeps.

The plasma ate them.

They brought in choppers.

The plasma ate them… protoplasmic tendrils shooting skyward to suck the machines out of the air.

The Guard used bazookas.

The plasma surged, and suddenly, the Guard were gone.

The city was full of noise.

The plasma fed.

The President got involved twenty minutes later. Assembled in his room were the Chief of Staff, the Head of Homeland Security and the Director of the FBI.

“So what is it doing now?” the President asked.

“Still growing,” the Head of Homeland Security answered. “And still feeding.” He was white as a sheet, and visibly trembling.

“How many casualties?” the President whispered.

“Too many to count,” the Chief of Staff said. “It has taken most of New York State… and we don’t know if anybody is still alive in the area. It will be here in minutes.”

“That’s it,” the President said. “Call in the Air Force. We’re going to nuke it… and somebody shut that window!”

Outside, the crazed fluting of Rickman’s plasma filled the air.

The plasma lay along the eastern seaboard, covering most of New York and New Jersey.

Flocks of birds cawed and fluttered.

The plasma ate them.

Three passenger jets inward-bound from Europe passed overhead at thirty thousand feet.

The plasma threw up tendrils and ate them.

The bomber carrying the nuke came in at over a thousand miles per hour.

The plasma ate it.

The nuke exploded, creating a fireball of white heat and radiation more than a million degrees centigrade.

The plasma ate it, surged, and headed for Canada.

The President of the European Union got involved an hour later. Assembled in his room were the heads of the UK, France and Germany. The President of Russia was on a TV screen, linked in by satellite.

“So what is it doing now?” the President of the EU asked.

“Still growing,” the Russian President answered. “And still feeding.” He was white as a sheet, and visibly trembling.

“How many casualties?” the President whispered.

“Too many to count,” the Prime Minister of the UK said. “It has covered most of North America and is heading south and east fast… and we don’t know if anybody is still alive anywhere. It will be here in minutes.”

“We only have one option,” the President said. “We hit it with every missile NATO and Russia have, and hope for the best. And somebody close that window!”

Outside, the crazed fluting of Rickman’s plasma filled the air.

Over a thousand nuclear weapons were launched in the next fifteen minutes… enough firepower to start – or finish – a global war, enough mega-tonnage to destroy every city on the planet.

The plasma ate them all and surged.

The last human beings on the planet got involved an hour later. Assembled in a lab at the South Pole were scientists from the US, Brazil, France and Germany.

“So what is it doing now?” the Brazilian asked.

“Still growing,” the head scientist answered. “And still feeding.” He was white as a sheet, and visibly trembling.

“Is there anybody left?” someone whispered.

“I doubt it,” the Frenchman said. “The last we heard it had covered the rest of the planet and was heading south, fast.”

“We only have one option,” the head scientist said. “We keep quiet, and hope it passes.”

The crazed fluting of Rickman’s plasma filled the air.

The scientists sat in silence, barely breathing.

Their generator kicked in noisily.

The plasma surged.

William Meikle is a Scottish writer, now living in Canada, with ten novels published in the genre press and over 200 short story credits in thirteen countries, the author of the ongoing Midnight Eye series among others.  His work has appeared in a number of professional anthologies.  His current best seller is The Invasion, a sci-fi alien invasion tale with mass carnage, plucky survivors, and last minute rescues. It has been as high as #2 in the Kindle science fiction charts (and #4 in Kindle horror ).  Click here to view and buy William Meikle’s books at Amazon.com.

If you enjoyed his story, please let him know by commenting below!

Illustration by mimulux.

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14 responses to “Rickman’s Plasma, by William Meikle

  1. Oh man, that was great. I thought it would keep going until God and Heaven had to keep quiet.

    The only thing I found awkward, though, was the narrative: it begins like any other, and progresses into what one would expect to read in a chain e-mail story with a joke at the end, or a kid’s picture book.

    Anyway, very original in my books. I myself haven’t read anything like it.

  2. Hi Rick, thanks for the comment. As the author told me, this one was written “tongue-in-cheek”. The author is very talented and has had a lot published — my favorite book of his so far is THE MIDNIGHT EYE book #1, THE AMULET. I’d recommend it to any Lovecraftian.

  3. I think the concept for this story is great. I have always speculated on what one could do with sounds in the realm of opening dimensions, altering realities if you could find the right notes, or frequencies.

  4. The end of this story made me laugh out loud, eliciting comments from my coworkers. We decided I would probably be the only one of us who would be able to survive.

  5. Pingback: My Creature Feature Fiction | William Meikle·

  6. I must admit the music theme didn’t do much for me, but I should have know that William would be his normal brilliant self. I plane to read Revanant next. Not one thing have if read from the wily Scott that I haven’t loved. Mike, you remain a fantastic editor. Thanks to you both.

  7. I really enjoyed this. You captured the horror and parlayed that into my imagination. That’s key to any successful horror story. Thx.

  8. This was amazing. It wasn’t exactly Cthulhu Mythos, but still retaining a Lovecraftian feel. I love the humorous bent to it. And there’s that awesome “Music of Erich Zann” undertone it. The music-plasma-thing seems so like a shoggoth to me.

    This was amazing. Mike picks out some amazing writers. Suitable for such an amazing editor.

    BRIAN

  9. I keep seeing William Meikle name pop up on various anthologies, but haven’t actually gotten to read anything by him yet. This was my first exposure to his work and I loved it. Convinced me to check out his work on my Kindle. This guy is good.

  10. A dark composition to all devouring plasma. This world need this all devouring plasma ,,the human should face the test of their limit. How tiny and helpless we human could be in front of Mighty Yog.

    Brilliant story telling and thanks for letting past the all devouring plasma. It’s always surging.

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