Author's Note: Years ago (six years ago, actually) I finished my first novel. It's on Wattpad, and at the time I was very proud of it. Now, I can see it's full of plot holes and implausibilities. I made a plan to start editing it a few months ago. And that's when the idea for this story was born.

It's set vaguely in the same universe as my first novel, but they have very different plots and characters. This story is also a crossover with my Old Friends 'verse, a series of short stories posted here on FictionPress.

Currently there are thirteen completed chapters, counting the prologue. At the minute the plan is to update every Monday, which will hopefully give me time (and motivation) to finish the story soon.

A Girl, a Murder, and Twelve Dreadful Children

Prologue

"...Whatever the sound is, it is a worrying sound," says Mrs. Rouncewell, getting up from her chair; "and what is to be noticed in it is that it must be heard. My Lady, who is afraid of nothing, admits that when it is there, it must be heard. You cannot shut it out..." – Charles Dickens, Bleak House

Clack. Clack. Clack.

The awful, repetitive sound echoed around the containment area. Mr. Caleb ground his teeth and turned up the radio. The screams, crashes and clangs of a heavy metal song filled the air. It was no use. Even through the racket the noise was clearly audible.

Clack. Clack. Clack-clack-clack.

Nothing on earth could drown out that sound. When the creature in the cage wanted to be heard, it would be heard.

Clack. Clack.

It sounded as if the creature was pacing around its cage. Mr. Caleb knew better than to go and look. The last caretaker assigned to this part of the complex had gone and looked. His blood still stained the walls and floor. No one dared go near enough to clean it up.

Clack.

Cell Block J was separated from the main complex by a long and winding series of passageways. Each was cut off from the others by a heavy, reinforced steel door. The knowledge that he was so far away from other humans, shut up in the depths of the earth with that thing, was enough to make Mr. Caleb want to run away and never stop running.

The Jupiter Project had sounded like a good idea on paper. Find cures for all the world's diseases! Gain a new understanding of how the universe worked! Discover what sort of creatures lived on distant planets!

But then some genius had a bright idea. The thing in Cell Block J was the result.

Mr. Caleb was so distracted by his thoughts that it took him a moment to realise the noise had stopped. He looked up, half frightened and half hopeful. Had the thing gone to sleep? Or even better, had it died?

The "living room", where the caretaker sat while on duty, was separated from the actual cell by a long tunnel and another steel door. In spite of that, the noise of the thing's claws was always loud and clear. So the only explanation for the sudden silence was that it was no longer moving.

Hours ticked by. Mr. Caleb listened to the radio, read his newspaper, watch TV. The whole time more than half his attention was devoted to listening. Somehow the silence was more unsettling than the noise.

At half-six in a morning a sudden inexplicable terror seized him. The creature had escaped! It was the only explanation for the silence!

Had he thought about this logically, he would have realised there was no way it could have escaped its cell without making some noise. But he was not thinking logically.

He picked up his gun and tiptoed down the brightly-lit tunnel. There wasn't a single shadow in the tunnel. There were no corners where anything could hide. Yet he still had an awful feeling that something was watching him.

Mr. Caleb reached the steel door. It was locked at all times, except when the feeders arrived once a day. There were no windows in the door for him to look through.

Common sense demanded that he stop and think about this. But common sense had been completely silenced by utter panic. A voice whispered in his head, egging him on.

He pressed the override button.

The door slid open.

The cell's bars were bent and broken. Mr. Caleb looked into the cell. And a hundred eyes looked back.


Blood dripped from the creature's many mouths as it stalked down the tunnel. For years it had memorised the routine of the caretakers and the feeders. It knew their comings and goings better than they did.

And now it had only to wait until the next caretaker arrived.