The Doom Of All Frogs
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Researcher Rasmusen was dying.

This wasn't an unusual state of affairs. Between the downturns of coffee addiction, sleep deprivation, the general aches pains three concussions gives a person, slow decay was just part of the background radiation. After all, everybody was dying all the time. Some just happened to be more aware of it than others.

Rasmusen's office was still the picture of order. Apart from the broken glass spilled across the floor, everything was nearly in order. The poster hanging on her wall still proclaimed that mankind would not go back to living in fear. Her supervisor's corpse hanging through her office's door was sporting an impeccable haircut. Pens inhabiting the coffee cup on her desk were nearly unspoiled, only a hint of blood splatter.

Framed photos adorning her desk still showed scenes of picturesque life. A graduation snapshot. Mother, father and little brother Joel posing on top of a tractor. Vacation stills from a trip to St. Augustine, with Researcher Rasmusen sitting at the edge of a fountain. Surrounded by statues of frogs, each denoting an hour of the day. A sword embedded in the ground acting as the center of a sundial. It had been noon then. It was midnight now.

There were alarms blaring outside the office. The sound had blended with the background of screams, ripping and tearing to form a nice medley of acoustic annihilation. Tinnitus had set in long ago, to the point where it was impossible to tell where the pounding noise inside her head ended and the screeching cacophony outside of it began.

The PA system, still somewhat functional despite the catastrophic damage inflicted upon the facility's innards, burbled a message about donating to some Foundation-organized charity for retired MTF veterans, along with inscrutable pre-scheduled afternoon announcements, concluding with a cheery wish to have a nice and productive day.

Underneath her desk, Rasmusen was breathing into a paper bag that used to hold her lunch. The applesauce previously meant for her stomach was now splattered on the floor and her trousers. That posture had been sustaining her for the past forty-five minutes, at least, give or take what felt like a few centuries. Containment failing hadn't been on her agenda when she showed up to work that day. There had been two meetings scheduled for the morning, about upgrading some RFID scanners in the Level 2 sector and adding Soda Pop to the break room vending machines.

Maybe the breach had been coming for a long time. One security flaw or mistake or oversight cascading over weeks and months, maybe years, until biding time turned to biting spines. Time was running out now, however long it had been in the making. Policy was one hour after catastrophic breach, on-site fail-safes were to be armed. Policy was that payment would be made to family and next of kin. When they were filling out the form, they had been allowed to choose their own cause of death. Rasmusen had selected an alligator attack as her preferred cause of death. Visiting the alligator farm had been the best part of her last vacation.

A thought had been creeping into her mind ever since the sound of glass shattering had stopped echoing in her head. There were two people required to begin the process of initiating their certain doom. One of them was the lead scientific researcher. The other was the lump of dead flesh currently hanging halfway through the door to her office. Peeking her head over-top her desk, Rasmusen could see a flashy gold lanyard hanging from his neck.

Gulping, she stood and strode forward. The lanyard itself was not sticky like she had been expecting it to be. The blood had dried, at least on the outside. From the sounds emanating from within the body when she opened the door, there were still plenty of fluids to be found inside. Looking down the corridor, a fist was forming around the golden ticket ensconced within her hand. Thinking of the thousands of people living on the outside. Joel was playing Minecraft on his phone somewhere, right now. She started walking.

Walking through the broken and jagged corridors of her former workplace was a great way to see some despair and depravity. Men and women were arranged in piles by security guards, using them as cover while firing their weapons at some unseen abomination just beyond her line of sight. The few living workers she passed were fighting, flighting, or fucking. Just the things you do when the world is crashing around your ears.

The break room was a scene of relative normality. Other than the few corpses strung around the room, an engineer sat at a table reading a newspaper splotched with dark stains, while one of his coworkers stood with hands on hips as a vending machine failed to dispense his energy bar. Cursing, he began banging on the machine with his fists as Rasmusen passed by.

In the high-level staff offices there were piles of corpses being burned. Some of them were massive and deformed, with bright white bulbous blobs emanating from their bodily orifices. A few of them seemed to be wriggling, but Rasmusen didn't linger to see the conclusion.

The science labs were a horror show. Men and women struggling to their last, impaled by shards of glass, girders of iron, and one another. The floor here was slick with blood and viscera and a chemical concoction reeking an odor akin to a recently cleaned toilet. It was hard navigating with eyes clamped shut, but looking away from one more pleading outstretched hand would have been too much.

A few members of the science team remained at their posts, working on various projects. Some of them handled broken test tubes, pouring them into equally compromised mixing jars as though both held some long-lost compound. Others were staring at broken equipment, looking through shattered microscopes and filling out now-irrelevant logs and paperwork.

Walking to Head Researcher Bolland's research quarters would have been a five-minute trip in a more peaceful era. A collapsing bulkhead plus fearful screaming had equaled several detours. Finally, inevitably, she arrived. Walking through a doorframe that had been torn from its hinges, she could see the remains of the door bisecting a filing cabinet.

For a few moments, it appeared as though the room had been freshly painted. Dark red covered most of the walls and ceiling. But by this point, Rasmusen knew better than to expect nice things. Standing still, the sound of gentle weeping wandered through the ambient terror, from somewhere beneath a pile of collapsed masonry.

Looking down, Rasmusen could see a pair of terrified eyes widely staring back at her. A human voice called out to her, the first she could recall hearing coherently since the world had started ending.


"I can't." Rasmusen leaned into the nearest clump of rubble, pushing it until it cascaded off the top of the pile like an avalanche. The wall behind her groaned ominously, but she paid it no mind. She was ready to die any day now. It didn't take long for the dusty bricks to reveal a similarly pale man. Outlined in blood, he was groaning in pain. A piece of rebar had sliced his arm neatly in two at the forearm. There was a tourniquet in place, along with a pair of deathly white human hands jutting from further beneath the pile.

"It's all over, it's all over…" Bolland repeated himself, flapping ragged lips at thin air. Rasmusen shook her head. "There's no, not enough time, doctor. We have to go. We have to go. There's nothing left to be done for us. But we can… we have to go, okay?"

Longing seconds passed as Rasmusen and Bolland stared at one another. When she had begun working for the Foundation, he had been someone worthy of looking up to. Now he was bleeding and broken and incomplete. She didn't remember when the crying had started, but her tears were falling on Bolland's face as she pulled him to his feet.

He had wished her well the last time she left Site-88, to head to Florida and see her family. Telling her that working together would be time he missed, but wishing her well all the same. Giving her updates on project progress at night, when she was back in her hotel. The picture of a considerate mentor.

Now, everything had turned to ashes in her mouth.

The nuclear bunker laid at the end of a tastefully furnished corridor. Gunmetal grey walls surrounded Rasmusen's field of vision. Behind her, Bolland quietly whimpered as he dragged himself in her wake. The end of his arm had turned whiter than printer paper, but with similar texture. The stump was covered by a strip of lab coat, stained rosy red. All of her memories of him substituted this ghastly visage for his healthy, ex-college athlete demeanor. More memory ruined. Not that they would be around along anyways.

Dotting the walls there were cheerful posters, covered with the dust shaken loose by the multiple explosions happening elsewhere on-site. Each one reminded the reader that nuclear annihilation was a last-ditch option, and that they should check with their supervisor, conscience and spiritual guide of choice to ensure that it was really the only option.

It had been a few minutes since any dead bodies had shown themselves. Rasmusen lost this brief luxury upon approaching the end of the line. The walls were lined with thin scratches, terminating in a gaggle of the damned. Dead and dying, they had accumulated here hoping for some solitary company. Maybe a say in their final fate. None of them were saying anything now.

There were only two key-card slots between them and the last door they would ever need to enter. Rasmusen kept trying to put her card in the slot, but it wouldn't fit. It kept missing. Tears welled behind her eyes as the card nearly succeeded in leaping out of her hand. Leaning against her wall, tears began falling on a body below. For a few moments she did not even recognize a hand resting on her back. They were both shaking just the same.

A rasping voice emanated behind her, past cracking lips. "Well, we're- got in, we're here."

Nodding, Rasmusen held her breath, before jamming the golden card into its appropriate slot. The husk which had once been her mentor, dragging himself to the identical mechanism, did the same. Before them, the door to their doom began sliding open. Ancient gears laboring against time as ages of rust shoring off with a shrill moaning. Flaking past them, the rust finally relented and with a final shuttering movement, the door was opened.

For a room which would serve to facilitate the end of days, it was a rather drab affair. Field grey walls impeccably utilitarian in their construction, dimly illuminated by a green monitor embedded into the wall opposite their entry point. It almost looked like an automatic teller machine, one which dispensed the end of days instead of a quick buck.

There was a message flashing on the monochromatic screen. Researcher Rasmusen took several stumbling steps forward and dragged her eyes across the screen.


Bolland moved from behind, stumbling forward until he draped himself over the machine. "Wait, stop, no, fuck- fucking fuck fuckfuckgoddamn!"

Beating his head, his hand and his stump against the uncompromising metallic exterior of the screen, he did not have sufficient blood to shed in order to satiate the machine. Slumping down over the stained glass exterior of the machine, he expired.

Rasmusen turned around. The Director's complex was not far from here. There was still time. Maybe.

Compared to the rest of the facility, Director Foster's office was the picture of order. A few fixtures had been shaken from the walls onto the floor, and there were a few gaping holes in the tile, revealing cavernous tunnels which belched a foul-smelling odor. Before the door leading to the Director's compound, a secretary with bubblegum-pink hair sat idly passing the time tending to her appearance.

The secretary was filing her nails aggressively. It was plain to see that the cuticles had long since been sufficiently worn down, there were now trickles of blood cascading down her fingertips. As Rasmusen approached her desk, she did not look up from her all-consuming task.

"I need to see, I need, uh, to see the Director. Immediately."

The secretary paused to make her vacuous eye contact. "He's in a meeting."

Rasmusen looked down to where the name plate for this woman would have been, but it was on a part of her desk which had scorched itself to oblivion. Clenching her fists, she leaned forward and whispered a rasping plea. "You need to tell him to… please tell him. Come out. It's time to let this thing go."

"If you want, I can pencil you in for after. But only because it's emergency. I know it's emergency."

Shaking, the secretary's finger circled a point on a dust-encrusted calendar, in blood.

Shoulders slumping, Researcher Rasmussen turned to sit down in the waiting room, staring intently at the crooked painting of multicolored frogs perched on the wall across from her. Each eye seemed to hold a secret, she was determined to unlock them all. Joel looking up behind each eye and asking when he was going to see her sister next. How to manage retirement funds. What the other side of hope was looking like.

Eventually, the Director was released from his crisis center meeting.

But by then, the world had ended.

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