The biologists observed as the former canine spewed its guts from its new thoracic orifice. It used them like a clam's foot to drag itself across the linoleum floor. Nathaniel's expression was one of intrigued confusion and mango.
He wiped the yogurt off of his upper lip.
"So…" one biologist began, considering his limited ability to believe what he was seeing. "You found this in your backyard?"
"Mmn," one of his peers intoned, shaking his head. "I mean, it backs up onto Lake Tarpon. If that's… goddamn, look at it." The attention all turned back into the clear window of the dissection theater. The group had cleared it of equipment for the observation. Its stomach, and partial degrees of its intestinal mass, flopped out again. With it, the organism dragged the mass of the former canine towards the wall opposite. "Is it… what, some sort of bastardized clam?"
Nathaniel hummed and nodded, rapping his knuckles on the observation window. "I guess. What in the fuck, though?" He dragged his fingers through his oiled, brown hair, pacing along the length of the hall. "Do you even have a dog?" he asked, glancing at the one who had brought it in. The peer nodded towards the dog, claiming it as his, leaving Nathan to groan in dismay. "What do we make of this? Your dog is a goddamn clam, using its digestive system as a fucking foot." Papers shuffled as he grabbed at the packet again from the side-table that had been taken from the theater. He flipped through the week's report from the environmentalists. For the fifth time now, he found nothing of note, especially not of this caliber. The papers scattered back onto the table.
"So, what? Do we call Bay News 9 or some shit?"
Nathan held up a hand. "No, no. We don't even know what this is. For all we know, there's a gas leak, and we're all high off our asses." The man was struggling to make sense of the situation, resorting to even the least likely of cases. Even if it were a gas leak, the chances of them all hallucinating the same thing were astronomically low. "We figure out what it is, I guess. We document it. We put it out to the other counties, see what they make of it."
Nathaniel made his way back to his workspace, plopping into his chair with the concerted notion of sending the pictures to the next county over. He first glanced over the morning news — new educational budgeting, another stolen car. His hands fidgeted with a Cavalier pen while he scanned the material. Still, there was nothing that would suggest something like this. As he dragged the pictures over into the attachments, his spare hand was on the telephone. Ever since they had implemented daily cross-county summations, he had their number on the brain. The chair beneath him creaked as he leaned back, palm across his forehead.
"Yes, you've reached the Hillsborough County branch of White-Semingway Environmental. How may I—"
The receptionist paused to dial the number, but not before speaking a brusque 'thank you, sir'. Nathaniel waited for the dial tone to end, his eyes glancing towards the monitor of his computer. It cut off abruptly. "Hey, Joseph, have you gotten any, erm, I dunno. Any strange reports today?"
There was no response from the other end of the line. He clucked his tongue and waited, hoping half-heartedly that he would just wake up. Waiting a while longer, he reached for the telephone, before a few mechanical clacks rang from the other end.
Nathaniel hesitated. His chair creaked again as he sat up, leaning over his desk again. He now noticed that the email he had been trying to send had gone from view.
"Yes? Who is this?"
"We have information that you may currently have a biological anomaly in your possession."
A breath left his lips, slightly ajar, his thoughts rushing in anticipation. "Yes, yes. The dog? What of it?"
"You have sufficient knowledge of the local area, yes? Worked in this area for six years, transferred from a Minnesotan research coalition?"
"I… I guess. Wait, how do you know this? What's going on?"
"We'll explain when we arrive. Please do not leave the building."
Nathan blinked a few times, considering the words carefully as a low tone played over the receiver. The line had disconnected abruptly after the other end had finished. His first instinct was to look for the others and try and speak about what had just gone down, but they were still engrossed with the window. Instead, he focused on the computer screen, searching through his 'Drafts' box for the email he had started. There was nothing.
He clicked his tongue and began another, browsing for the pictures. He searched his folders. And then searched them again. And a third time. On the fourth, he turned fully, grabbing for the camera hooked up to the computer. The buttons all flashed colors as it woke up, displaying the previews still of the anomaly. It was no longer reading a connection to the computer, though, which warranted his looking back up at the screen. It was black now.
He threw his eyes back, and became very aware of the hushed silence that had fallen over the office. The chair creaked and groaned as he stood and pushed it to the side, looking out a large window near his desk. It gave a full view of the parking lot (despite his requests to move to a better desk with a better view). There was a van parked out front that hadn't been there before, with words printed on the side. He couldn't read them from the angle he was at, but there had been no announcements for maintenance today.
A bell came from his desk, and Nathaniel jumped to it. He grabbed his phone up and flipped through the notification, reading quickly and only finding a garbled text message from one of the other biologists. When his eyes were up again, looking down the hall, they had been replaced by four men, each in a full suit. They were clearly not local — or at least, they were dressed far too formally for the occasion, accounting for the thin veneer of sweat across their brows.
"You've got something on your coat."
Nathan glanced down. Mango. "P-pardon me," he fumbled, tossing the coat onto his desk, covering the papers. "Who was it that you said you were?" he asked, approaching the new group cautiously.
"I didn't. I'm Doctor Hart. And I need your help."
"What did you do to my co-workers?"
Three of the men dispersed, coming back from where they came only briefly, returning with papers and a few duffel bags. "They were sent home sick for the day. Don't worry. They'll only remember that they got the day off, and that there was a cleaning crew coming through."
Nathan gestured towards the dissection theater. "And the… thing?"
"They'll only recall a vague notion of a strange morning."
The biologist nodded and sat on the edge of his desk, crossing his arms abreast. "Then, what? Why do you need my help? Some of them are far more qual-"
The man held up a hand and came forward, the others setting their things on another desk and clearing it of other objects. "Leave out the extraneous. Let's get to business, or pretty soon, we're going to have a fully blown environmental breakdown here."