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"Of The Mould"
Mark Samuels

The mould first appeared in a crater on a dead world at the rim of the universe. This world, with its thin atmosphere and surface battered by comets and meteors for millions of years, spun in a void of sunless dark. Perhaps it had been one of those comet collisions that had caused the mould’s existence, some unique arrangement of molecules in the comet’s slushy ice that had been mutated by radiation, something waiting to awaken and grow. The mould may have taken aeons to reach maturity and begin the process of reproduction. But when it did it grew rapidly, spreading over the surface of that dead world, across its valleys and craters and mountains, across the equator and from pole to pole. In the end its ghastly, greenish hue glowed like phosphorus in the darkness of that unknown quarter of cosmic space.

It did not think. But once it had conquered that first world such was its size and complexity that it became self-aware. The billions upon billions of simple cells formed a network whose instincts gave way to a debased gigantic hive-mind. The mould experienced a progressively horrible sequence of nightmares, a spiral of nameless dread. Its form of consciousness was not that of reason, but fed off its own derangement. And its monstrous visions grew more intense as it spread, more profound in their ineffable malignity.

When it had conquered that dead and distant world, after everything lay under its ghastly green surface, its nightmares demanded that it reach out across the void. And so trillions of spores were ejected into space, as light as gossamer, defying gravity, and they spread like a disease.

Endless terror, deeper, deeper, without cessation, this drove the spores of the mould on their voyage through the gas clouds and through the black spaces of emptiness. Nightmarish ecstasy was the mould’s sole purpose. It hungered and sought to consume the universe itself because of its nameless dread of something to which stark madness would be as a faded shadow.

The mould had no means of recognising any other form of consciousness apart from its own. As it reproduced, the nameless dread that assailed it grew exponentially complex. It seemed to be driven to experience the ultimate nightmare, the heart of horror, the petrifying vision that ends only in oblivion. And yet it was really in order to destroy itself that the mould consumed everything else, until there was nothing left to consume, until the entire universe was laid waste in its wake, and the mould could terrify itself into extinction. It was one entity, though separated by the inconceivable vastness of interstellar space, yet still joined by the spores it exhaled between worlds. And nightmares travel faster than light and are not bounded by the immensity of cosmic space.

When the spores found a world, be it asteroid or moon or planet, they would drift to its surface like soft rain and begin the process of assimilating whatever was found there. Where once there was a mighty empire with towers that reached to the heavens, soon there would be ruins, and the green mould consumed the creatures of that world with only their husks remaining to show that they ever existed at all.

The ravages of the mould increased as it multiplied. As immeasurable time passed, countless galaxies bore the evidence of its all-conquering reign. Where there had been a multitude of worlds of differing aspects, of arid red deserts, of misty and scarred blue ice, of airless grey dust, now all were identical. All bore the sickly green phosphorous glow, their surfaces entirely smothered by the mould: Canyons and mountains, plateaux and craters, cities and forests, ice and sand, even oceans (but here as a miasmal slime that went down to the depths). The mould flourished everywhere and anywhere that possessed a surface on which to grow. It mattered not if it were a world of liquid methane or water, or roasting close to a star, or far flung out in space, frozen at absolute zero.

Astronomers on distant worlds looked with horror at the development, were they capable of such a feeling, or if they had eyes at all. For multiform were the species of the universe, following different paths of evolution and modes of thought, though none were as the mould. But those that looked outward at the universe and wondered, whether they were taloned crustaceans, insectoid beings, a machine-species of incredible technological complexity, peace-loving mammals that gazed at the stars above the waters of an alien world, all knew the end was near and their kind would, ere centuries had passed, be consumed and participate in the moebian nightmares that the mould dreamed.

There was one insignificant species amongst the millions in the cosmos that succumbed to the mould after many vain attempts to resist its advance. They were hairless, upright apes on the third planet of an undistinguished star. The mould consumed the outer planets, the gas giants, and in turn the moons, of this solar system one by one and the species watched with mounting horror as the spores drew inexorably nearer, moving unaccountably against the solar wind and turning the red desert planet before their own that shade of sickly, glowing green as it had done with the outer worlds before it.

By the time the mould had consumed the third planet’s only satellite the hairless apes were in turmoil. Their civilisation was on the brink of anarchy and they were close to destroying themselves. The light cast by the planet’s moon at night was no longer white but of that ghastly green pallor, brighter in its phosphorescent glow, that had reigned throughout all those galactic regions the mould had conquered. There were morbid poets that wrote verses to the contagion and seemed to welcome the insidious nightmares that prefigured the species’ assimilation. But there were others, vainglorious, who fired rockets into the heavens, and watched with desperate hope the explosions that took place on their moon. The satellite bore a hellish aspect, utterly unfamiliar to them, because the mould had rendered it terrifying, like decay in a corpse.

And when the spores finally filtered down into their planet’s atmosphere, there were many more explosions and scenes of horror amongst the hairless apes as they turned on one another, blaming their own kind for the failure to resist what was inevitable.

But it was not long before the streets of their cities were thick with the mould, not long before slime ran in the water, not long before the apes found the first patches of green ichor on their skins. And then the endless dreams came and the apes were of the mould.

Once that solar system was consumed the spores travelled onwards, their numbers always swelled by the exhalations of the last world overrun by the mould. Across the unknown stellar gulfs spread the contagion, never halted in its expansion. There were other civilisations that tried to resist its advance, but all perished in the end. The wiser ones, who had thought and the means, elected to flee before the mould’s coming. But even these were consumed. After aeons, even those that fled had nowhere left to hide.

For the mould and its spores became omnipresent throughout the universe. Even stars that had cooled now harboured its presence. The gas clouds and the gulfs of space were choked with spores. And yet the mould had not achieved its goal. Although the entire universe had been laid waste, and neither life nor thought existed, save for the mould and its exponential nameless dread, still it had not achieved the ultimate petrifying vision that could terrify it into extinction.

And so the spores poured into those stars that had reached the final point of collapse, into the black holes scattered throughout the cosmos. The mould appeared in other universes and all points of time across those other dimensions. It spread and adapted as voraciously as it had ever done, unchecked and irresistible, from the beginning until the end of all existence.

But the ultimate, petrifying vision could not be glimpsed and the mould, conqueror of all, dreamed on and on in its hideous majesty and was doomed to experience and re-experience its nameless dread. For it was the mould itself that was the ultimate horror and of itself it had never dreamed. It groped hopelessly, as one in darkness gropes for the light, throughout all eternity, backwards and forwards through all space and time, until all that had been and will be was part of it, with no release from its nightmare.


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