In a dark cavern, far below the surface, far from the life-giving sunlight and clean air, under a mold-slicked ledge, the egg cluster pulses. If unfortunate spelunkers were to shine their headlamps on the throbbing clutch, they might shriek from the sudden shock of discovering such alien evidence of life.

The cluster is roughly the size and shape of a human heart, though on closer inspection looks more like a hanging bunch of grapes. The chitinous stalk that connects the eggs and secures them to the overhanging rock accentuates this comparison. No human eyes will ever lay claim to their discovery, though, for this chamber is a secret place in the earth. Once a bubble in primordial lava that never burst, its fragile membrane instead hardened into encasing walls more secure than the strongest iron vault.

Only recently has the pressure of water from above breached this place; an underground lake that formed centuries before when an earthquake opened a fissure and spilled trillions of gallons of ocean into the darkness. A thousand vast waterfalls, each dwarfing the great Niagara, poured with relentless force and filled the cavern with froth and thunder. In time, the earth settled, the flow from above diminished, and in one small corner a slow dripping began. The remnants of the titanic flood leaked into a hollow and drilled a hole into the rock. Down, down over the ages the drops fell, until they pierced the stone and breached the tiny space where the egg sac now hangs. That explains the moisture, but the progenitor of the swollen embryo remains a mystery. Perhaps the catalyst had lain dormant in the dust, awaiting only the salty kiss of the stagnant ocean water. The truth may never be known.

But today, an eldritch biological chronometer reaches its terminus.

2023.01.20 – 2023.11.11

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