This story has content warnings for: gore, corruption, sex with a chair, probably rape, not that gross but also sort of gross. Please take care.
I also posted it on Cohost.
Contamination begins gently. A pinprick hole in the hazmat suit's thick composite where she stumbles and falls against a forest of needles growing from one of the site's walls.
One finds the perfect angle.
She doesn't feel its touch on her sweaty skin.
Her suit was built to notice intrusion. Rings of conductive thread to detect passage across its boundary, positive pressure to repel intrusive vapors, every trick that actuaries calculated was a worthwhile expense to protect her and her fellows.
The needle is lucky, and all that effort becomes no more than a cost-effective failure. A common outcome.
Contamination proceeds with slow grace.
Her work continues: cataloging the site, documenting the previous research team's fate. Exchanging quips as her oxygen tanks empty.
Her day is long and tiring, and when she finally returns to the layers of airlocks and (de)contamination showers (the toxins that protect the world would kill her if she touched them, and decontamination occurs only after contamination) she's moving slowly, stiffly.
Her handler doesn't notice, hardly paying attention to her. Cost-cutting has them running herd on half a dozen concurrent investigations and one of the others has gone badly wrong.
When she mentions it they brush her off, promise to schedule a check-up, immediately forget.
Her quarters are a short walk from the site's boundary, through a sleepy little town emptied by the knowledge of the horror buried beneath it. Boarded up windows, doors locked for the last time, streetlights flickering on as they detect her slow progress along main street. The hotel's bright lights are a welcome sight: it's the only business still open, the only place brave or greedy enough to persist. She hasn't asked how much the empire is paying its staff, doesn't want to know anything about the people whose lives depend on what she finds.
It's easier not to know.
By the time she makes it to her room she's uncoordinated, stumbling, struggles to pull off clothing drenched with sweat despite the autumnal chill. Her fingers aren't responding as they should, her face is flushed, her crotch is hot and demanding—
A cold shower sounds like the perfect antidote, but the water burns her skin no matter how low she turns the temperature and the AC spits out plumes of furnace-hot air until she finally gives up and collapses on top of her bed, the world spinning as it burns around her—
Her fingers don't feel like her own as they work between her legs, and their too-hot presence does nothing to soothe the ache reverberating through her. When she finally passes out it's an unwanted surrender, the waking world seamlessly blending into fresh torment:
She rises from her bed and steps through the hotel room's door into the site's lobby. The walls are free of coral growths, the lights unbroken and the floor unstained; cheery signs direct her to the dorms and offices and labs and mess hall, a little self-contained world—
There's someone waiting for her there, a smiling man with a head like a prism and eyes like knives. He's smoking when she gets there, ignoring the no smoking signs which sprout like mold from every available surface, and he laughs when she points them out.
"Don't worry about it, hon. What the bosses don't know will hurt them someday."
"Look, ▒▒▒▒▒," he grins, "you've spent your whole life following their rules, right?" She nods. She has: that's how she got here. "Well, now it's time for you to follow mine."
She nods again. That makes sense, doesn't it? It must make sense, because now she's following him into one of the offices—into her office, with its wide artificial-light windows and streaks of fungal stalactites bulging from the ceiling to meet her desk's paper stalagmites.
Light reverberates through his head's structure as he lights another cigarette and gestures for her to sit down in her chair's blissfully slimy embrace. It snuggles up against her like an old friend and she can't help but shift her head to let it kiss her as he starts to speak.
"So, ▒▒▒▒▒. You've been selected," she nods and smiles, her motion impeded by the chair's tendrils wrapping around her body and the length of its tongue plunging down her throat, "for something more important than I can let you know. It's not going to be easy."
She's struggling to listen—the chair has melted through her smart grey slacks and its touch is overwhelming, enthralling—but she tries to smile again through the slime and sweat smeared across her face. She's always loved important tasks and vital roles!
"There's going to be a lot that you'll need to do," he continues with smoke dripping from each of his head's many angles, "and I'll be with you for as much of it as I can."
The chair's motion inside her is incessant, demanding; her hips buck against it, her eyes glaze over—
"But the most important thing I need you to do, ▒▒▒▒▒, is wake up. Now."
The dream breaks around her like hyperfocus shattering. There's something wrong with the world, something wrong with her—she's not in her bed, not in her room; she's down in the lobby, behind the desk, the clerk's body under her. His cock is buried in her ass and her own is weakly twitching, spitting out a stream of something dark and sparkling into the sea of shredded viscera where his stomach should be. He's still alive, somehow; she can feel his heartbeat inside her and see his glazed eyes twitching, hear the whimpering pleas for mercy dripping out from between his slackened lips as her body peels away from her bones to bend down and take another bite from his still-warm meat, a motion which leaves her behind watching the forest of polyps sprouting all across her, waving with hunger, squirming and spasming and spewing out their own drops of dark and spore-filled liquid as they feed—
Outside the hotel a car door slams. Heavy, armored; the same sort of car which brought her to the site so many weeks ago. Voices outside, casual, questioning, and another voice slipping into her ear—
"Now," the prism-headed man says, "you need to run."