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Killer Concept: The Horde. (Sorry for bad artwork)

pyramidheadmain6233 Member Posts: 117

Jonah Dyre was an assistant in a secret research facility. His primary job was bringing coffee to the scientists, and performing meaningless chores the workers were too lazy to do themselves. The pay was not enough, and the conditions were harsh as his coworkers made a game out of humiliating him. For months he sucked it up, smiled, and remained polite, keeping his composure as long as he could before breaking down in the bathroom. At the end of his first year in the company, Jonah was approached by his boss with a fascinating offer. The boss grinned that toothy million-dollar smile, honing in on him like a predator. A new position was available, one of the documenters had vanished from the company line, leaving an open seat just for him. Desperate to escape to a new position, Jonah agreed without question. The boss swing his arm around him, leading him down a hallway usually closed off to assistants. The lab had come with rather strange… creatures over the years, animals that Jonah was now in charge of investigating. Taking a seat at his new desk, Jonah looked back and asked the boss what kind of creatures he’d be documenting. The boss only smiled, told him to enjoy the free coffee, and left.

Jonah had been unfortunately assigned to investigate The Horde, a creature described only as a festering cluster of black sludge. The feeling of sitting down and peering into the glass canister the shadowy swarm had been contained in was sending shivers up his spine. For days come and gone, he had turned up with nothing, and his bosses only became angrier. This did not stop him, however, from idly talking to the canister, venting about his lonely life and sad single apartment. He even mentioned a childhood memory of going on a hike with his now-deceased father, seeing the sights of nature, and even a powerful elk standing in the distance. Without thinking, Jonah muttered how he’d love to see an elk again, or even pet a fawn. Reliving the memories of being with his father would surely make him happy again, he mused, tapping his fingers on the canister. But you don’t care, do you, he chuckled. He looked down at the metal box The Horde was firmly buzzing in, the window to look in permanently stained in a black, tar-like substance on the inside. What are you anyway, he asked out of the blue. The Horde was notable in that it would take different shapes at will in the canister. Watching the cameras that monitored the interior, usually the feed was nothing but a cloudy black, but oftentimes Jonah would swear he saw the face of a person. It was one parasitic creature divided into millions of tiny pieces, free to look like whatever it wanted. Jonah never knew that the shadowy mass had truly been listening to him the entire time.

Days before the disaster, the company was hit with a particularly destructive blow. Research labs didn’t cut it anymore, the boss griped about it in the meeting room. Jonah was sitting just three seats from him, anxiety pooling as he was unsure of what it meant for him. His fears would worsen when the boss put his hands together, declaring a new order of business. Their funding had been cut by a substantial degree, paychecks were about to become scarce. Weak links would be cut from the chain, and money was about to vanish. One by one as the days went by, Jonah watched more and more of his coworkers get laid off, sobbing as they packed up their desks. Frantic, knowing his job was the only thing holding his debts and apartment, Jonah knew he had to pick up the pace. The work had been torturous, pushing himself to the highest degree to not be picked up by the higher-ups. Sleep was sacrificed, food went ignored, and sanity was slowly cracking. His body thinned, his face began to sink, and dozens of hours were spent in his office chair typing away at meaningless things. The only time he ever truly got sleep was during his assigned investigations of The Horde. Jonah explicitly picked up night shifts, knowing that no one else would be in the containment sectors of the lab. With no one to walk in on him, he was able to completely ignore his investigation and sleep away, resting his head on The Horde’s metal canister. It’s not like that buzzing pile of black slime ever did anything interesting.

At the end of the week was the moment of truth, it was time for Jonah to submit his papers to the boss. He had pulled together a month of documentation on The Horde, but his hands shook with worry as he held them. It doesn’t do anything, he muttered to himself, it’s all just a pile of rotting bile, how could I possibly put together an entire report based on that? Taking a deep breath, he entered the boss’s office with a slightly hunched posture, eyes heavy from insomnia. He had caught his superior at a bad time, for he too was visibly unstable from the stress on the company, and he harshly asked what Jonah was doing. The report, sir, he responded gingerly, it’s right here. He set the papers down on the desk, and for a moment his boss didn’t even know what he was talking about. He had forgotten his own orders placed on Jonah, and quickly snapped to it and thanked him for the work.

The next few minutes would come to be some of the worst of his entire life. The boss’s berating screams punched him down until he felt small, an endless scolding of incompetence. The report was nothing, the boss claimed, results weren’t suitable enough to please the higher-ups. Words hit Jonah over and over but he soon stopped listening, lecture after lecture about the company being on thin ice and every result mattered. Results? He thought to himself, I worked with what you gave me, and I got nothing! He was helpless to watch as his boss gripped his papers and tore them in half, tossing them away like pointless trash. He was warned not to pull this stunt again and shooed out with a note that he was being considered for the next firing. Time and time again Jonah told himself that he could speak up, to stand his ground and defend himself, yet that entire time all he could do was hold back tears. He held the tears as he walked out, held the tears as he trudged back the containment sector, and only did they start falling as he shut the door to The Horde’s containment room.

That ######### wants results? He grimaced, talking openly in the room, then he’ll get it! Fists clenched, he marched over to the large metal box where The Horde remained. He’d do more than observe, he’ll get his findings directly from the source. Driven by rage, Jonah lost all rational thinking as he gripped the handle of the container. He’ll reach in, grab a glob of the stuff with his bare hands, and throw it under a microscope for all that was apparently on the line. Come on, do something! He shook the canister slightly, his rage only rising higher and higher in the frenzy. He turned the handle and a loud click was heard as the locks decompressed. Driven by irrational anger, Jonah pulled the top off the container, and at that moment The Horde was exposed to the air of the room. Tossing the top away, he peered down into the canister and observed the wriggling puddle of black slime. It moved slowly, flexing its featureless body as if it detected the change in the air.

Realizing what he had done, Jonah sighed as his anger left him, sorrow and stress quickly taking hold. He turned away to fetch the top, preparing himself to restart the report.

Jonah. He heard his name get called, an echoing, ghastly voice bouncing around the room.

He spun around in surprise, stopping in his tracks. There was a deer standing on the container, a young fawn, for a moment Jonah couldn’t believe his eyes. Was this it? Was the insomnia finally catching up to him, and now he was hallucinating deer of all things? He shook his head and rubbed his eyes, stepping backward, but looking again it still hadn’t moved. The fawn seemed like a normal deer, but there was something mortally wrong about it. Its body bristled with shadowy, insect-like swarms, and drippings of black sludge pooled from its mouth. Its fur resembled dark leather, convulsing with the foul organisms keeping it together. The eyes unsettled Jonah the most, completely empty and soulless.

What- what are you? He asked, taking another step back. The fawn moved its mouth, and a harsh cesspool of voices hollered from it. It was trying to speak in sentences right before his very eyes, emitting sounds that could only be described as clustered mumbling. What are you, he asked again, but deep down he already figured it out. More black, buzzing sludge was climbing out of the canister, moving like a snail as it kept a single tendril firmly attached to the dark deer.

It was The Horde, deliberately taking the form of a deer to screw with Jonah’s head.

The deer finally managed to speak. You can help us, we can help you. We are without shape, but with you, we will have form.

Form? Jonah shook his head in confusion, his mind and body beginning to buckle from the stress and forgone food. What was it talking about? How was it talking at all? How was he standing in a room with an animal, speaking perfect English?

The fawn jittered, its body could barely able keep itself together. We are weak, you are weak. It raised a front leg and pointed at him. Come here, we will help you, we will free you. Jonah swore he saw the deer’s face briefly split for a moment, foul darkness leaking out and falling to the floor. He was hallucinating, he had to be. This wasn’t real, none of this was real, it was all because of the sleep deprivation, he told himself over and over. He reached down and picked up the lid of the canister, carrying it toward the deer. It wasn’t real, he told himself, and now he was going to shut The Horde back in and clock out of work.

He approached the fawn, closing the distance between them until they were mere inches away. It’s not real, it’s not real, it’s not real, it’s not real. The voice echoed in his head over and over, he needed to go home and sleep. It wasn’t real, there was no deer talking to him. He held out his arms to put the lid back on, expecting his hands to phase through the fawn.

They didn’t.

His arm collided with the deer’s shadowy head, and the animal broke down into a swarm of black mass. Jonah felt his arm get locked, as his wrist was cut and torn open to the bloodstream. Helpless, he could do nothing but scream in agony, black tendrils wrapping around his arm to keep it in place as The Horde climbed out of the canister. By itself, it was nothing but a shapeless slug of dark mass. With a host, it could find strength and shape, whatever shape it needed to be.

Jonah’s eyes glossed over as The Horde overtook him, absorbing itself into its body and overpowering every single one of his major organs in seconds. Its black veins wrapped around Jonah’s heart, gripped his lungs tight, wrenched through his stomach, leeched into his liver and kidneys, and flooded his intestines. He felt his body shut down, but the Horde refused to let their host die so quickly, surging his organs with its own vitality. In immense agony, Jonah prayed for a death that never came as live shadowy deer burst from his chest and shoulders, emerging from the dark sludge that his body was becoming. He had become a vessel, a hive for the deer to pass in and out as they pleased, climbing all over him as they studied their new live fortress. He felt his leg split open at the skin and muscle, a small fawn climbing into the room. Another one pulled itself out of his left arm, scratching his nerves as it wriggled out. His body instantly repaired itself each time, another cruel gift from the creature, the gift of surviving. 

The mutation was complete, and The Horde called out for all deer to return to the hive. Jonah cried in agony as all the roaming deer turned and jumped into him, melting into his chest and back. They were hidden, for now, and The Horde wasn’t fond of staying put. It was time to get moving, seize the opportunity and escape. 

Fear not, the deer whispered in his brain. With us you are strong, you can summon us whenever you choose. Use us, Jonah, use us to rain fire on those who abuse you! The pain melted into his body, he gritted his teeth in an effort to push it down. His right arm began to pull, stretching as his skin tore apart and bone deformed. Now reaching down to the floor, the entire limb flooded with black liquid, becoming a dripping mess of soulless sludge. Look at our gift, Jonah! The deer sang. Look at it!

A long, sadistic blade grew from where his right hand used to be, so long it crumbled to the floor and dragged behind him. Use it! The deer commanded. Use it, and use us, we will fight for you! No more will you fear standing up to yourself! Now let us go, to freedom!

Jonah drew a staggered breath, trying to hold up the arm with great difficulty. Clenching his one remaining fist, he tried to fight back, but his boss's harsh reprimands only played on repeat in his head. In fact, no matter what he tried, he couldn’t get the hatred out of his head, The Horde refusing to let him think of anything else. Hobbling for a moment, Jonah leered up at the door he came in from with narrowed eyes. After a few seconds, he scrunched his face up and nodded, opening the door with his free hand.

The higher-ups would report that the lab Jonah worked in completely stopped sending updates. They sent agents for answers, but they only walked into the facility to find it completely deserted, with not a single soul in sight. The lab was shut down shortly after, although strange fog has been sighted in the area.