Dr. Bourke prys a crowbar into the station’s doors, frozen over in the Arctic blasts of a still-raging three-day blizzard. He lifts his goggles and removes his parka’s hood, revealing eyes wary of what horror lies beyond the doors. Bourke knew he was entering a hell, he knew something wicked had plagued the crew at the station, man’s last refuge on the top of the world. What he didn’t expect was his scream, like a tiny baby’s losing his binky. Bourke fears the worst: he’s turning into a damn baby.
“Hello?” he asks, knowing an answer isn’t coming. “Rusty?” He sweeps the beam of his flashlight around the station, scanning for something, anything, and steps lightly between what’s left of the research team: Dinosaur onesies. Fisher-Price basketball hoops. Cheerios, everywhere. A rattle. Diapers. Evacuated in the team’s final moments. As Bourke presses further into the cavernous rooms, the darkness presses still, wrapping itself around the thinning beam, struggling against the weight of the black. The dark has won. The light flickers once, twice, and dies. The smell… is deafening.
Bourke shakes his flashlight. Nothing. His heartbeat pounds his ears. His breath grows heavier, faster, stinging with diaper smells. He trips over a cardboard box sending tiny white balls into the cavernous nothing. “The hippos… they were hungry.” A low howl echoes from the halls and scrapes his ears like chains on steel. Bourke isn’t alone. He steps back, the howl moves closer, sending Bourke stumbling in the blackness. He can hear the howling breath, closer, behind him. He falls. His face smashes into Dr. Sanders, or what’s left of Dr. Rusty Sanders. His applesauced babyface had seen the horrors awaiting Bourke, just before Sanders pooped. Bourke screams, and poops himself. He’s flailing in poop. His own, and the baby’s. “I’m… I’m a damn baby!”
A hot breath and warm tongue laps up the sweat dripping from Bourke’s brow. He’s wincing, paralyzed, covered in poop, and waiting for the inevitable, only to glimpse from the corner of his eye a heap of fur and the tell-tale panting of his dog, Francisco. The blue-black retriever hovers above Bourke, whose unease jilts to a cracked smile, still holding to the edge of his life, his adult life, as his fingers grip the dog’s ears and scruff for something familiar.
“Oh, Franny, it’s just you! Good boy.” The dog laps at Bourke’s tears of joy, then barks and circles Bourke, scratches the ground, hunches its back and releases a big poop. The biggest poop Bourke has ever seen. Francisco whines as he squirts poop across the room. He stops when he’s finished, only to hunch again, pooping, and whining, and pooping once more. Bourke tries to stand. Something pulls him.
A hand — a tiny pink lump, damp with Juicy Juice, and using the last gasp of strength in its fleshy fist — grips Bourke’s shoulder and digs into his skin.
Bourke struggles, only sinking him further into a quicksand of OshKosh B’gosh. Francisco howls, snaps at the ground, indistinguishable now from the poop, becoming a brown, convulsing mass pulling Bourke closer to the ground, until the dog’s cries fade down a hallway. Bourke’s body disappears under the mound, he reaches out, his arm is swallowed, then his hand, a few fingers, and he’s gone.