by Mary Anne
His torch illuminated the otherworldly form. "Halan!" he called, "I've found it." Richard held the torch higher, observing the spread of the thing as it crept up the wall. A photo of it would resemble a mould that you might find on a neglected peach. A still image though wouldn't capture the unnatural movement of the thing: it bubbled and pulsed and shadows seemed to pass over its surface. He had finally found it - he should be enthralled. Instead a feeling of dread suddenly seized him.
Shuffling sounds from the next room chilled him. He took one more look and then headed towards the noise. Standing at the door he called his friend's name once more, this time in a whisper.
Now Richard could hear a pained moaning. He shone his torch in the direction of the sounds and what he saw confirmed his worst fears: the old ones were right – the thing was a replicator. It had covered most of Halan's body and was already producing hundreds of spores that would each be a perfect replica of his friend complete with his mind and memories, though the bodies would be controlled entirely by this creature. He could see Halan's eyes pleading for help. He turned to run instead but fell to his knees as though paralyzed. He screamed.
His dropped torch had rolled a short distance away and was pointing towards his hand which was alive with grey-green and a small, perfect copy of his face.