The elevator doors screeched open as it arrived on the ground floor of the mid-sized apartment complex. Kevin stepped out into the sparsely decorated lobby. To his left, embedded in the wall, was a row of mailboxes with broken flaps and missing apartment numbers. To his right were some uncomfortable-looking sofas. Strips of yellowed fluorescent lighting dimly lit the space. The entrance on the far end of the corridor held a large door made from dark tinted glass, making the interior lobby feel relatively claustrophobic. Apart from the disrepaired mailboxes and aged seating, the narrow space held no distinct character.

Reaching for his bundle of keys, Kevin inserted one into his mailbox, where the aged hatch creaked open. Removingseveral letters, Kevin peered into the narrow slot to see a curious package lying in the tight space. The box was stark black and adorned with the cryptic logo ‘VFK’. Kevin couldn’t recall ordering anything in the past week, so he was puzzled as he reached in to fetch the mysterious item. 

Picking up the box, he noticed some weight to the parcel. More peculiar was the lack of details on the bizarre package. Kevin couldn’t even find a shipping address or label directing a postal worker to send it to his home. As he got out his mobile phone, Kevin retreated to the elevator. He searched through his emails to see if he could identify where the package came from, but nothing in his inbox indicated who the sender could be. 

Once inside the elevator, he tapped the button for the fourth floor while slotting his phone back in his pocket. He read through a few letters he’d gathered while the package lay tucked under his arm. Most were either bills or annoying junk mail, leading to a grunted sigh from the male.

Unexpectedly Kevin felt a pulsing vibration emitted from the mysterious box under his arm that caused him to drop the package, which hit the floor with a solid ‘thunk’.

“What the hell??” he declared aloud, gaping at the now motionless black box. 

The elevator dinged as the doors squeaked open on Kevin’s floor. Kevin lightly nudged the container with his foot to see if it would activate again. After another apprehensive kick, the parcel seemed to lay dormant for now. He carefully picked up the item, noting how it felt oddly heavier than before and walked the short distance to his front door.

Kevin’s apartment was a sanctuary of orderliness as he was a person who preferred routine and order and found comfortable predictability in his days. This was also reflected in how he decorated. The living area, adorned with tasteful minimalist decor, contained a plush ivory-coloured sofa against one wall, accompanied by a sleek glass coffee table. Thehardwood floors gleamed under the soft glow of recessed LED lighting. Neatly arranged shelves showcased Kevin’scollection of vinyl records and books. Adjacent to the living room was a dining area and home office, as Kevin worked permanently from his home. Through a curved archway, a gleaming kitchen with neatly displayed instruments and utensils lay in the compact space. 

As he placed the letters and junk mail on his coffee table, Kevin examined the package using both hands. Curiositymingled with caution as Kevin carefully peeled away a tab on the cardboard of the black box. Inside, he found an obsidian black device roughly the size and shape of a Rubix cube. At first, Kevin thought it was an elaborate puzzle or a futuristic prop, adding to his bewilderment of the current situation. The object was marked with intricate symbols that danced across its surface and pulsed in Kevin’s hands, which explained the vibrations he felt earlier.

Thoughts that this was some toy or item for a marketing stunt were the only plausible conclusions Kevin could come to. One thing was certain, whoever sent him the alien-like object had gone to a lot of trouble. With his eyes glued to the calming illuminated symbols and the dense pulse of the object in his hands, he slid down into his office computer chair. After several minutes, just staring at the object with an almost hypnotic gaze, Kevin felt himself startled when his computer dinged. After responding to a work message, he investigated the packaging the object arrived in.

The company name on the box didn’t ring any bells. With such an ambiguous acronym, it wasn’t exactly a surprise. Thename could be from any company. A quick online search gave little clarification, with numerous businesses and sites sharing the title ‘VFK’. Kevin sighed as he laid back in his revolving office chair. He racked his recent memories to see if anything he’d done would explain the arrival of this extraneous object. 

Kevin was an unassuming accountant working at home during the pandemic. He had found himself falling into some reclusive tendencies. He didn’t enjoy the outdoors or socialising in large crowds, so a life based in the safe confines of his home seemed to suit him. His life, ruled by his internal schedules and rituals, was predictable – leaving little surprises throughout the day.

During the early days of the pandemic, Kevin felt that these acts helped to keep his spirits up. Alone in his apartment, he was concerned about getting cabin fever, but as the weeks slowly turned into months, Kevin maintained a general sense of calm and serenity. Automation also played a vital role in Kevin’s life while he worked and lived within the confines of his home. Food deliveries scheduled each week provided him with food and essentials, exercise time built into his daily calendar maintained his healthy and slightly athletic build, and online gaming helped to fill his social needs. Given his solitary and secluded lifestyle, Kevin knew the package wasn’t a gift from a friend or family. 

On his third glance over the packaging, he noticed a piece of paper inside a plastic envelope stuck to the inside of the box. Tearing some of the inside cardboard, Kevin retrieved the plastic-wrapped documents. Snapping the casing, Kevin opened the paper to see a long list of terms and conditions. A quick scan of the wording on the document provided no further conclusion of the true nature of the object nor its reason for arriving on Kevin’s doorstep. His search was not in vain, as the bottom of one of the pages contained a customer services number. 

“Finally!” Kevin exclaimed.

Compelled by an inexplicable pull, he dialled the customer services hotline listed and held his mobile to his ear. Thephone rang, each tone reverberating with an eerie resonance. Kevin always felt awkward on the phone, preferring a live chat or email. Finally, a smooth, robotic voice crackled through the line.

“Thank you for calling VFK. We’re eager to help with your enquiry. Please select from the following options… For local network hubs, please press 1. For order information and tracking, please press 2. And for all general enquiries please hold for a member of our team…”

Hesitant at first, Kevin was unsure how to proceed before hearing another dial tone and the mechanical voice announcing,

“Thank you for holding. We appreciate your patience. Our team will be with you shortly. You are number 41 in the queue.”

“41?” Kevin groaned allowed. 

Being on hold reinforced why Kevin hated making phone calls. What could be a quick email would probably take an hour or two of his afternoon. Tapping his phone, he put the call on loudspeaker. He decided to sink into some work while he waited. The irritatingly upbeat hold music chimed from his phone while he tapped away on his keyboard. 

After a few minutes, Kevin could feel himself lose a little focus on his work. Hesitating on writing a simple email, Kevin’s grip on his computer mouse tightened as he stared blankly at his screen. Only one thing seemed to capture his thoughts at that moment. The soft and calming tones of the hold music echoed around his living room from the loudspeaker of his phone. The song had a strange effect, causing him to listen intently to the steady beat as his breathing adjusted to match it.

Kevin slowly shut his eyes, seeing the familiar spotted darkness one usually views as they fall into a deep sleep. Gradually, from the shadows of this darkness, a visual appeared. Kevin focused on the shapes within his mind’s eye, which he could identify as two circles. Both were so perfectly round and filled with a crackling static.

“Hello… hello… hello,” the words softly echoed from the shapes. The static within them increased with each word.

Kevin snapped back into reality with a jolt. He swiftly picked up his phone and stuttered into the phone.

“Uh… hello… hi there… Um… my name is Kevin Jacobs… and I had a package delivered from your company… but I didn’torder anything and don’t know why it’s arrived,”

Kevin stumbled over his words, trying to articulate the inexplicable events surrounding the mysterious package. To his surprise, the voice on the other end remained composed.

“Ah, Mr. Jacobs, thank you for your inquiry. Could you let us know your home address so I can investigate this for you,”

After responding with his address, the equanimous voice responded;

“I can see from the records here that you did, in fact, place an order yesterday at 05:34. Is there anything else I can help you with?”

“Wait… I haven’t ordered anything. I think there’s been some mistake…” Kevin replied, confused and irritated. 

Before he could fully respond, the line cut off, leaving Kevin baffled in disbelief. At this rate, he was ready to chuck the thing and get on with his work. Taking one last look at the mystical, black cube, Kevin gathered the package and sheets of paper and started for his garbage bin. En route, the glowing object emitted a high-pitched noise and jiggled like an alarm clock. As if sensing his actions, the object broke apart, releasing a sludge-like liquid as black and inky as the device itself.

Kevin, stunned in surprise, threw the object across the room, where it collided with his wall, spraying black ooze on its path. However, this was the least of his concerns as the ebony gloop coated his hand, which had held the item. Theunknown residue felt glammy against his skin, not boiling hot but uncomfortably warm. The black tar-like substance stuck to his hand, reflecting a shiny, glossy appearance.

“Fuck fuck fuck fuck!” Kevin exclaimed as he tried to shake the ooze from his hand, “What the fuck is this stuff?”

Running to his kitchen sink, Kevin frantically spun the tap, gushing water into the basin below. Thrusting his infected hand under the torrential flow, he grabbed a sponge and started wildly scrubbing at the inky substance. The water pouring from the tap seemed to glide effortlessly across his hands without any effect of cleaning the ooze. Worse still, Kevin noticed the gloop now trickled slowly beyond his wrist and was working its way up his forearm. 

Kevin could feel the warm substance on his skin. There was a subtle tinge of discomfort as it passed each hair follicle on his lower arm. A sizzling sound followed the disappearance of any hair on the course the black tar was taking as it edged its way to his elbow. His now thoroughly coated hand felt the strange aftereffects of the seemingly sentient liquid. Thewarmth from the matt-black layer had dissipated slightly leaving in its wake a perfectly dark replica of Kevin’s hand.Yanking it from the sink, Kevin stared with horror at the now glossy appendage.

Panic surged through him as the sludge moved with a purpose, forcing its way up his arm and creeping toward his shoulder, disappearing beneath the fabric of his t-shirt. He stumbled back, falling onto the tiled floor as the ooze continued to merge with his flesh. Kevin shrieked in alarm. 

Kevin tried clawing at the glossy surface with his free hand. His nails dug into the black ooze now fused to his skin. Surprisingly, Kevin could feel the sensation of his nails dragging against his smeared hand. His arm now looked foreign to him, a perfect replica of what once was his right arm now cast from a harsh and shiny, black substance. Pulling away his untainted hand, he noticed that the fingertips on his left hand were now contaminated and spreading. The warmth under the fabric of his t-shirt now edged its way over his right shoulder. Kevin was confident that the oozing liquid would cover his body entirely if he didn’t act quickly.

He sat up slowly as his head now started pounding. He grabbed hold of the kitchen cabinets and hauled his body up, swaying as he attempted to cling on for dear life. His body was weak as he trembled with effort to right himself. As the substance spread across his chest, Kevin felt an odd feeling growing deep from within. He sensed a heavy pinch of his nipples, followed by a twinge of dark pleasure. Confused and weakened by the strange events unfolding, Kevin felt his cock beginning to harden, tenting out his shorts.

Kevin focused all his full concentration on shakingly and fumbled back to his desk where his phone lay. In an attempt to escape from his desperate situation, he would have to make a call to 911. On quivering legs, Kevin hauled himself towards his home office. He groaned and grunted with each miserable step. Overwhelmed by the ache across his entire body and the growing dark lust building deep within him. Kevin wished for the suffering to end.

As he made it around the counter and into his living area, Kevin noticed that the malevolent cube he had fired across the room persisted in pumping out the viscous liquid. From ceiling to floor, a section of his wall the item had impacted was now blanketed in the thick substance. Just like with his arm, the gunge clingy to his wall and ceiling pulsed and grew at a rapid pace.

Kevin edged closer to the mass of liquid mercury on his grime-coated walls. The pulsing intensified as he drew nearer. Kevin’s arms were now entirely contaminated, including a large portion of his chest, stomach and back. The palpitating movement of the sludge in his apartment appeared to react with the ink tainting his skin as he drew closer. He felt an unsettling feeling coursing through him, a heady rush that was both intoxicating and terrifying. 

From the ceiling, a tendril emerged, slicing through the air with lethal precision and latching itself to his right shoulder. Before he could react, the substance shot a second tendril and latched onto his left arm with a speed and force that left him breathless. There was an intense strength to the tendrils as they effortlessly lifted Kevin’s weakened body off the hardwood floors. He screamed in terrifying anguish.

Now several tendrils sprung from the goop in all directions, colliding with Kevin’s appendages and further infecting his untainted skin. He was held, suspended from the ceiling, as the gunk began to collect around his struggling form. Moreand more of the ooze solidified around him burning off the remainder of his hair and coating his entire body with its warm surface. Kevin’s clothes were eaten away by the persistent slime, leaving him naked and prone to the sentient liquid’sonslaught.

From the moment the tendrils attached themselves to his body, Kevin felt a rush of overwhelming sexual desire. His entire body, now engulfed by the goop, felt as though it were being intimately and erotically caressed.  Kevin’s hard erection pulsed as the gunk purposefully massaged his cock as it wrapped around it like a form-fitting glove. The pain dissipated, replaced with ultimate and dark pleasure.

Kevin felt his vision starting to blur, and he began to fall unconscious. Before his eyes, he could make out, through a deep haze, the vision of two rotating circles. A sense of calmness fell upon the suspended male, as the malignant substance formed a human-sized cocoon in a jet-black, shiny ooze. From inside, Kevin could feel the liquid changing consistency and beginning to harden around him. 

Kevin could feel his jaw slowly being pried open by the goop and began to gradually fill with a gloopy tendril. The taste of the inky slime was strange almost like the harsh taste of rubber or plastic, but with a slightly acidic tinge. He continued to feel coolheaded by gazing at the swirling spirals within his view. Kevin could also sense a slight nudging from the hardened goop against his hole as a tendril slowly pushed its way inside. 

Similar to his mouth, his anal cavity was now filling to the brim with the thick, viscous substance. This onslaught was driving Kevin wild as his cock danced and throbbed within the firm grasp of the goop. His body was held rigid in the firm embrace of the dark cocoon as intense pressure hugged him on all sides.

Kevin was no longer a human male. As the symbiotic entity melded further with his being, his transformation began in earnest. His mind darkened, consumed by the entity’s malevolent influence. Before the darkness claimed him, he heard a voice – cold and emotionless – whisper in his mind.

“Submit… Obey… Surrender…”

– – – 

Outside of the hardened cocoon, fixed in position from numerous tendrils in Kevin’s living room, a sound chimed through the room. On his computer, an email popped up in his inbox. The title read;

‘Thank you for your order! Your package has been delivered and installed successfully.’

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