Bogleech.com's 2015 Horror Write-off:

" The Breakfast Horror "

Submitted by Mort Harris

It happened not all that long ago, in the spring of 2011, when I was still at university, a student of Ancient Greek with a particular interest in the comedies of Aristophanes. It was a bright September morning as I was unwrapping a generic-brand toaster pastry for my breakfast, a standard meal for me in those days. It was nothing too unusual, with vaguely pinkish frosting that may have tasted like strawberry or may have merely been food coloring to denote the strawberry filling inside.

 

However, this particular toaster pastry was unusual, inasmuch as a small patch of greyish mold was growing on one end. Though my true passion was for Argive literature, I had also since my childhood been interested in the study of molds and fungi (indeed, I had selected biology as a minor to further my studies). Toaster pastries, loaded as they were with a variety of preservatives to keep them fresh, were not usually conducive to the growth of mold, and I was interested in what kind of tenacious mold could thrive in such an environment – and perhaps how it had gotten on the toaster pastry while it was still in the silvery package. Here was something strange and wondrous, and I carefully set the toaster pastry in a jar in my closet, labeled “Thalia’s – Mold Study”, to keep my roommate from throwing it out. And there I let it sit to grow, silently thriving in the dark. I opened another toaster pastry, and was pleased to find no greyish mold upon the end. I breakfasted, and forgot it for the moment; my classes were about to start. It was not until after dinner that I was able to return to my mold experiment; I had considered cutting the moldy toaster pastry up into various pieces and subjecting the mold samples to different conditions. Any mold that could thrive on the biologically hostile surface of a toaster pastry would surely be a tenacious little creature; even the most cursory of studies might provide a clue as to the identity of the mold growing on the pastry.

 

However, when I opened the closet door that night, I was greeted with a startling sight – the mold had by now crept around to coat the entire back and sides of the toaster pastry. The pink-frosted surface was still pristine, but the rest of the toaster pastry had been wholly given over to the mold. The nearest genus that I could discern was Penicillium, but it lacked the particular greenish tinge of the Penicillium with which I was most familiar. It did have a particularly furry aspect, which reminded me in some ways of Botrytis cinerea, but I did not recall Botrytis as a usual habitué of breads, being more of a vegetable inhabitant. Was it perhaps growing on the strawberry-y filling? And what of its strange and unusually rapid growth?

 

I attempted to search the Internet for terms such as “fast mold growth”, but most of my results were along the lines of “my bread got some mold spores in just two days” rather than “my toaster pastry molded over in a matter of hours”. I consulted my many mycological tomes, some already host to their subject matter, but I could find no mold that would act so strangely. The hour had drawn late, and so I turned in to bed, hoping that I might be able to find answers in the morning.

 

But when I opened the closet door that second morning, I only found more questions.

The mold that had been growing on the toaster pastry had nearly doubled in growth, and had put out what I could only assume were sporangia, but … no. It was still the same grey and fuzzy texture, indistinguishable from the rest of the mold, and had none of the structure I would associate with sporangia. I had called them that merely because they were sticking up and away from the molded surface of the toaster pastry, five growths spaced fairly equally around two of the edges and a larger, bulbous growth on a third. I asked my roommate to inspect the molded-over pastry, but she also professed befuddlement at what kind of mold could grow that fast and in such an odd structure. Palpating the new growths with a tentative finger, I discovered two deeply distressing things. The first was that the structures did not have the squishy texture of mold – instead of being uniform masses of easily yielding fibers, they had a little give before turning rigid, more like feeling an arm than a piece of mold.



The second was that the mold was making noises.

 

No mold that I knew of made noises, except for the one project where they had turned the electrical actions of the ever-adorable and ever-helpful Physarum polycephalum into synthesized music. This was no mold … or at least no mold of Earth.

 

As I had biology class that day, I had previously contemplated taking it in to show my professor; but now, I was too afraid. Foolish I, that I did not! Perhaps he would have had the presence of mind to call someone qualified to deal with it, though who might have possessed that title remains a mystery; perhaps even now the horror would be contained. I have heard reports of similar instances in times since, and I have often since wondered if I have doomed our world.

But I digress. I went about my business for that day growing increasingly preoccupied. The mold had mewled. There was no other word for its vocalizations. It had sounded high-pitched, and, while I had no experience in the field of mycological vocalizations (for which I can hardly be blamed), to my ears, it had sounded pained. Was it the strange existence in which it had found itself, or perhaps the antimicrobial agents on which it was feeding? Strange though it now seems to me, at that time I felt a growing concern for the mold, and after lunch, I returned to my dormitory in order to examine it further.

 

In the time between checking the mold in the morning and returning to my dormitory, the growths had developed further, looking almost like the head, legs, and tail of some small grey animal. I unscrewed the lid of the jar, as the growths were now beginning to press against the glass walls. It continued to make its pitiful mewling noises at me, and I searched the Internet diligently and long: and returned nothing. I made a pact with myself that I would make a full investigation on the morrow, which was the weekend, when my schedule was marginally more open, and I might have had a chance to visit to the laboratory.

I would never have that chance.

 

Late that night, so late perhaps that it was already morning – I did not bother to look at the clock – I was awakened by a loud rattling coming from within the closet. I opened the door, somehow already knowing what was causing the rattling. My suspicions were confirmed as I saw the molded-over pastry shaking, now half out of its jar, its mold-growths now with the full semblance of a grey animal’s limbs and features, resolved into a hideous approximation of an Earthly feline. As I watched, the wretched thing wriggled further out of its jar, and the pastry-mold-creature made a few hesitant motions on the shelf of the closet on which I had placed it, wriggling like a bird fetus emerging from its prematurely cracked egg. It looked around, mewling, fixing me with a baleful gaze, the lightless black depths of its eye-analogous structures seemingly piercing my spirit, transfixing me where I stood before it sprang, empowered with its new existence. I ducked.

But it had not sprung for my throat; it had sprung for the window, open to let in the fresh April breezes. It perched on the windowsill, tensed …

And took flight for the stars.

 

I will never forget, as long as I live, that hideous, hideous creature, born of mold and toaster pastries. I will never forget how it seemed to climb the air, treading it with its mold-paws in all defiance of natural law. I will never forget the coruscating rainbow of colors that it emitted from beneath its tail as it flew – perhaps that rainbow was what gave it propulsion; such a creature already should not exist, so I would not question if its matter were somehow more rarefied than the gross flesh of natural beings, if the merest action of photons were enough to lift it off the ground, heading for the upper limits of the atmosphere, its rainbow-trail extending without seeming termination.

I still wonder where it has gone, whether it has left us blissfully in peace and continued for the depths of the interstellar night, or if it has stopped in orbit and undergone another transformation, spreading spores like the later stages of a Cordyceps, but one that has foregone hijacking the minds of living Arthropoda, moving straight on to causing inanimate matter to convey it to the heights. I strongly suspect the latter, for I have heard reports of similar instances, whispered of in the depths of Internet chat rooms and even hinted at in scholarly journals. Was my case the first, or was some other pastry the first victim, transmuted from delicious breakfast to unearthly creature, or even instrument of doom? I have felt no ill effects in the years since, but who can guess what its effects might be as it further spreads and evolves?

But I digress again. Most importantly, I will never forget the chanting I heard as it flew, chanting from no discernable source, but which seemed to celebrate the unholy mockery of all that is dear and moldy. My God, that chanting! That hideous, hideous chanting! Indelibly impressed upon my brain, I can still hear it even now: “N’n’ia! N’n’ia! N’n’ia! N’n’ia! N’ni’ia! N’n’ia! N’…”