Me and the guys were doing a sweep of an old oil refinery when I found the eggs. I guess they liked the heat because they were all clustered right around the fractal distillation chamber, which gets up past 720 Fahrenheit when the crude oil is being heated up. The whole building was scheduled for demolition though, and it was our job to make sure the place was cleaned out.
“Anyone want a souvenir?” I shouted. Guess the crew was in other parts of the building. The eggs were about the size of my fist, all black and covered with thick bristles like an especially paranoid cactus. Only one of them was really even intact — maybe it’s because the refinery hasn’t been running in awhile, but five out of the six eggs was cracked and leaking some kind of thick, rotten smelling jelly. I was more motivated by the clock than curiosity though, and I was about to mark the room as clear when —
“A souvenir. Want a — want a — souvenir.” The voice was muffled and frail, but it was definitely coming from inside the egg. I crouched down next to it, scooping up the spiny ball in my work gloves.
“So what are you supposed to be?”
“Supposed to be,” was all that chirped back.
Yeah maybe it was the fumes in this place getting to my head, but there was something profoundly sad about that little echo. I dropped the egg into the pocket of my overalls, intending to show it off to everyone at the pub after work. *Intending* being the key word there. We didn’t finish clearing the place until almost 6, and then there was a last minute permit issue that had me driving around collecting signatures until past 9. I was dead tired and so ready to collapse at home that I barely remembered the weird egg in my pocket.
If it wasn’t for its little spikes, I would have forgotten it entirely. It must have liked my warmth though, because it seemed like it kept trying to huddle closer to me in my pocket. When I got home and put it on the counter I could actually hear a soft rattle as its spines shivered against the tile.
“You got a name?” I asked it.
“You got — you got —”
“Can’t you say anything more? I’m Phil.”
“You got — a Phil?”
That’s all it could do. Echo me. Was I weirded out? Yeah sure, but it was cool too. I felt like a hero for saving it, and I guess I was feeling protective because I hated watching it tremble like that. I put the thing on an oven rack and set it to 100 F, keeping the light on to check on it occasionally.
“Anything more — Phil? Anything more?” Still just an echo, but it felt like there was more deliberate thought behind it. The voice was getting stronger, but it was still shivering. I turned the heat up incrementally and it continued to encourage me until I hit the max temperature of 550 F. I figured if it could survive being pressed up to the fractal distillation chamber, then it could survive this too. The egg seemed to be loving it sure enough.
“Supposed to be. Thank you Phil.”
I never remembered saying thank you, but it could have picked that up while listening from inside my pocket. I was only intending to let it bake and warm up for a little while, but I was so tired that I just fell asleep on the couch watching TV.
“Phil! Phil! Phil! Phil!” Shrill, insistent, urgent — the first sound I heard when I woke up. Still half-asleep, I raced to the oven and turned on the light. Thick black jelly was dripping through my oven rack. Had I accidentally killed it? I opened the door and a wave of sulphuric air brutally forced itself into my nose and down my throat. I gagged and reeled back, desperately searching for an oven mitt to save the little guy. The shell had shattered into a dozen pieces, and there was nothing inside but the charcoaled goo.
“Phil over here! Look what I found!”
It wasn’t dead. It had hatched. And it was peaking out from my cupboard with a bottle of seasoning in each hand. Wide red eyes without pupil or cornea took up the entirety of its face. Black skin with green fuzzy splotches like fresh moss. Two long fingers on each hand, with little mouthes at the end of each which it was speaking from.
I wasn’t afraid or anything, but shit was I surprised. It had already formed a perfect circle of spilled herbs and spices on my counter. There was a wide assortment of opened bottles and jars that it would stick its fingers into before deciding whether to spill the contents into the circle or move on.
“Stop that! You’re making a mess!”
“Phil — Phil — Phil — It’s a circle, Phil!” it squeaked with pride.
“What the fuck are you?”
“Fuck you — fuck you,” it mimicked in a voice which was obviously a crude impersonation of me.
I spent the next twenty minutes chasing it through my apartment, trying to trap or corner it somewhere. Of course the little bugger thought it was just a game, and it squealed and giggled with delight as it evaded my grasp over and over. I briefly considered calling my landlord, but somehow this seemed like something that would end up added to my next rent payment.
I was already late for the demolition though and I couldn’t fool around forever. Eventually I lured it back into the oven where it seemed most comfortable and slammed the door tight. I used a bike lock to secure the oven shut, cranked the heat down to 200, and left for work.
I worried about leaving that thing in my apartment all morning, but I managed to sneak off on my lunch break to race home and check on it. Just seeing that my building hadn’t burned down or anything was a bigger relief than I realized. Then there was the palpable tension as I opened my front door, half-expecting my place to be torn to shreds. Everything was exactly how I left it. Even the oven was still closed —
Although the bike lock was on the ground, and it had been turned back up to 550 F. I took a deep breath and turned on the oven light, jumping back as I saw the wide red eyes blinking in sluggish contentment on the other side of the glass. No harm done — I fastened the lock back on, this time pushing a heavy recliner to block the door as well. Imagine my surprise when I saw the creature hiding under the chair I was moving. Or the bump from inside the cupboards, or the squealing giggles coming from my bedroom.
I counted at least six of them before my lunch break was over, and the more I searched, the more circles I began to find. On the carpet, in the closet, on top of the TV — little circles of herbs and spices, and when they ran out of those, they improvised with whatever they could get their hands on. Mustard, mayonnaise, crumbled chips — there must have been a hundred circles in my place. Meanwhile my phone was ringing every five minutes, the demolition crew yelling at me and wondering where I was.
I couldn’t leave them in here alone — God knows what they’d get up to. I couldn’t stay to watch them either though. I just opened a window and did my best to chase as many of them out as I could. They seemed bigger than they were this morning — almost the size of my head now — and their strong fingers had no trouble scaling down the brick building to escape.
“Anything more, Phil?” Perhaps that was the original one, but I couldn’t tell for sure. It clung to the outside of my building, hesitating to look back at me. “Supposed to be happy here, Phil. Supposed to be home.”
My phone was ringing again — so God damn impatient. Answering with one hand, I grabbed a broom in the other to push the creature farther away from the window. Hoping the rest of them would find their way out when they were ready, I followed the siren call of my cell phone and went back to work.
That was the last time I’ve seen one of them, and I guess I should be thankful for that, but I’m not. I could tell something was seriously wrong when I was still a few blocks away from home. A dozen trashcans were lined up in the center of the road, and I had to get out of my car to move them. All the trash had been removed, and it was spread on either side of the cans in the shape of a long, evenly curving line.
When the trash had all run out, it was replaced with anything and everything to continue the unbroken line. Broken wood, loose bricks, stolen bicycle’s and street signs — all jumbled together. It just looked like a giant mess here, but I bet if I looked at it from the air it would be shaped like a perfect circle. Two or three blocks — maybe a half-mile wide.
Please tell me that’s not another summoning circle.