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The shape billowed up out of the water of the San Francisco Bay.
It was greenish-black, mottled, and lumpy. It swelled as it rose, and in moments it was the height of the bridge's support towers.
The traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge came to a complete standstill in response. All across the bridge, people got out of cars, some even climbing on top of trailers or clambering over the first set of railings to get a better view of the thing that continued to rise and expand.
The thing was eerily
On the bridge, hundreds of camera phones pointed and transmitted the bizarre image to social media. The sounds of screams and car horns mingled; a few beleaguered motorcycle officers blocked off the bridge's entrances, called for backup, and desperately tried to keep traffic moving off the bridge.
"Hey, you see that?" A woman driving on the western side of the bridge pointed. A long tendril ran down from the rising shape to the water. "Is it like, a hot air balloon?"
"What do you expect me to know for? I'm seeing what you are."
"I don't know! It's weird. It scares me."
The driver's wife shielded her eyes from the setting sun that silhouetted the hulking shape. "I dunno, looks like some kind of dumb fake thing to me. It's gonna turn out to be the new promotion for, what's the company with the weird
"The one with the cartoon dog?"
"Yeah, I think so. It's gotta be some dumb marketing thing."
Far above their vehicle, thin, whiplike cords reached through the air, searching for purchase. A small flock of birds, alarmed, took to the air.
Unseen by the gawkers, the birds were snatched from the air one after another with sharp cracks. Bloody feathers drifted downward on the ocean breeze.
The doors of the news van opened and it spawned a tangled mass of controlled chaos.
"We are on location. Yes. We have eyes on it. Yes. No. We can be live in five."
The producer disconnected the call and started typing furiously on her phone as she snapped out directions to the crew, who were already moving to set up.
A man with coiffed blond hair pulled on a sports jacket and straightened his tie, moving automatically. He couldn't take his eyes off the thing hanging in the sky. The producer's voice continued.
"No, over there, we need to get the whole bridge in the shot. Jason, fix Adam's makeup. Sixty seconds."
Adam tore his gaze from the massive, unearthly shape upstaging the Golden Gate Bridge and looked over at his producer expectantly as the young man rushed over to touch up his foundation. She handed him a tablet and he scrolled through it for a few seconds before raising his eyebrows.
"This is really what we're going with, Sarah?"
She didn't look up from her phone or slow her typing. "That's the word from on high. 'Confused fascination.' Don't want to unnecessarily start a panic."
"They're really not going to evacuate? I mean," he waved, turning his head to stare at the skyscraper-sized greenish-black thing menacing the bay.
"If it was dangerous, the government would shoot it down. We're live in fifteen. Read the lines, pretty boy."
He gave her back the tablet and raised his hands in surrender, puffing out his cheeks and subconsciously smoothing his eyebrows. Then he looked up at the waiting camera with a confident smile and a raised eyebrow.
Sarah activated the tablet's teleprompter mode that made the text readable at a distance. She held it up behind the camera with one hand and with the other hand held up three fingers.
"It came from the water, sir. Witness cell phone video shows it coming right up out of the bay and rising up over the bridge."
The admiral narrowed his eyes at the muted video feed of the blond man gesturing with a wry look of fascinated confusion at the thing intruding on the skyline.
The commodore, who had been typing furiously, pointed at the monitor in front of her wordlessly.
She had pulled up a telescopic photograph of the thing and zoomed in on the mass that dangled under what appeared to be a massive, lumpy, greenish-black balloon.
The mass hanging under the bulk of the balloon had far too many eyes and eight arms tipped in jagged claws. Longer, thinner appendages were haphazardly placed in an even distribution around the mottled thing.
The admiral considered the image then turned. "That's one ugly potato. Status on those fighters?"
She continued typing. "Two squadrons in the air inbound from Lemoore, ETA seven minutes."
Adam nodded, smiling at the camera with practiced ease.
"That's right, John. I'm being told the mayor's office has issued a statement requesting that San Franciscans remain calm and remain in their homes. The mayor's office did not provide any additional information on what the unknown object actually is. My producer is telling me we have verified with the Federal Aviation Administration that no flight plan has been filed for any hot air balloon or experimental craft in this area.
"Whether this is a prank, viral marketing gone wrong, or something else, well, we'll just have to wait and watch in confused fascination. I'm Adam Roberts, KXSF News."
He held the smile a few seconds longer before Sarah spoke.
"Clear. All right, we're going to try to get in closer. Let's roll." She was already typing furiously on her phone.
"Social media's got closeups, that thing's got tentacles. Hell yes we're getting closer." She hissed at the hapless production assistant as he almost dropped the camera. She took it from him and shoved him toward the waiting passenger door of the van.
Adam climbed into the shotgun seat and turned back to watch the bloated thing hovering in the air above the bridge in much the same way that bricks do not. Was it getting closer to the bridge?
More of the massive thing's long, thin arms had reached out to secure it to the bridge. The admiral narrowed his eyes, and glanced at the screen that showed a composite radar map. The fighter jets were less than a minute away.
"Sir, the senator and the Joint Chiefs are requesting a report. They're waiting on a secure line."
The admiral snorted, not looking away from the screen. He replied to his commodore in a low voice. "President's got bigger fish to fry, then?"
"He does enjoy his fishing, sir." She didn't blink.
The admiral kept staring at the screen, tense. "That right there. Was that there before? That... black stuff?"
The black spot swelled as the
The screaming and shouting intensified. The traffic officers were doing their best to evacuate the bridge, but it was slow going.
One of them looked up to see the growing sphere of reflective black liquid budding from the side of the thing touch the support cables of the bridge. He felt the structure rumble as the beams and cables of the bridge screeched in distress.
One of the support cables snapped and tore through vehicles and their occupants like tissue paper. Drops of the black substance slowly fell in viscous blobs that began to burn away asphalt, metal, and flesh wherever it touched.
The thing's whiplike arms descended to the traffic lanes and it began lifting cars and trucks into its waiting maw.
Sarah was in her element.
"I don't care what the sign says! Stop! Here! We're parking here! The station will pay if we get a parking ticket! I'LL pay for it! STOP!"
She was out of the vehicle before it had stopped. "Move your butts, people! Come on, get the shot lined up quick. Adam, come here."
The blond man raised his eyebrows and let her shove him into position.
The producer gave him a very brief, very rare smile before she swatted at the young man approaching with the makeup brush.
"NO, Jason! No time! Get out of the goddamn shot! Adam. Honey. Sweetie. Dumbass. Listen to me."
He kept looking away from her at the thing that was pulling the bridge apart, anxiously straightening his tie.
She slapped his hands away from it and pulled it roughly, ruining the knot.
"Listen. To. Me. This thing is the next 9/11, ok? Treat it like it's 9/11. All those people are about to die. You have to do this thing justice, ok? Can you do that for me?"
He blinked, dazed.
She slapped him.
"Don't think. Read. React. Report. Be a journalist for me, ok? I'll handle the thinking, you get the Pulitzer. You got this."
He stared at her in stunned silence for a beat as she jumped behind the wincing cameraman and insistently held up three fingers. Two. One.
He paused, his mouth working. Sarah stabbed a finger at the teleprompter tablet. "Whether this is... a mutation, some undiscovered form of ocean life, or some kind of engineered life form, we do not currently know."
He turned toward the bridge, giving the camera a clear shot of the ongoing attack. "The creature appears to have some form of incredibly strong tentacles or vines which it is using to pull itself onto the bridge. According to my producer the sounds you're hearing now are the sounds of the bridge's imminent structural failure. My God."
He paused. Another sound rose. And rose.
"Son of a--!" The reporter covered his head involuntarily as the fighter jets swept by close enough to set off all the car alarms in the vicinity. He spun, gaping, then straightened, his eyes wide.
"It appears fighter jets have arrived! They are engaging with the creature!
"They're not hurting it at all." The commodore typed and realtime footage from the fighter jets jumped onto the control room's massive monitors.
The nose camera footage showed the fighters' guns impacting on the surface of the creature's skin. The high-resolution, high-speed footage revealed that the damage to the creature was limited to small pockmarks.
"Switch to missiles."
The pilots acknowledged.
"WHAT IN THE HELL IS THAT." The married couple gaped in horror as a rope of mottled green-black flesh as wide as a tree crumpled the trailer of the truck ahead of them. Barbed claws at the end of the appendage had carved into the truck, supporting enough of it that as the appendage was pulled back, most of the truck came away with it.
"We have to get out of here, we have to get out of here, we have
"I'M TRYING, THERE'S NOWHERE TO GO."
"Stop yelling at me!"
"THEN DON'T TALK WHILE I'M DRIVING!"
The Subaru screeched through the space the truck had occupied and wove around into a lane partially occupied by traffic cones. The compact car plowed through the cones with abandon as its driver tried to put distance between it and the massive creature attacking the bridge.
Explosions rang out, rocking the already-teetering suspension bridge.
The creature did shriek then.
"Minimal effect, but they're pushing it away from the bridge."
"I'll take that," the admiral said, staring intently. "Tell them to hit it with everything they've got strafing it from the east. If we can get it away from the civilians we can capture or kill this thing at our leisure."
His orders were put into effect with the efficiency of military discipline. As he watched the screen, the shape continued to be peppered with explosions that pushed it farther out into the bay.
The nervous young man approached again, saluting. "Sir? There's another call."
The admiral shook his head. "The Joint Chiefs can wait until this threat to civilian lives and property is addressed. You can tell the senator I said that."
The young man shook his head quickly. "No, sir. It's your wife."Previous Next