The artifact was completely impenetrable to all forms of matter except living human flesh


"It was designated 88-0009-ATY, but in the files it's also referred to as Oul's Egg, or simply 'the Egg'. Technically it wasn't egg-shaped, but an ellipsoid, a three-dimensional oval. One point eight nine eight eight metres along the long axis, circular cross-section expanding to zero point seven three four zero metres at its widest point. About the size of a man. Mirror finish. Completely silent, completely inert. No measurable temperature, no noise or vibration from within, no electromagnetic emissions, no movement.

"You could reach your hand into it. If you were wearing a ring or a watch they'd get stopped. A subcutaneous implant, also stopped. But your hand would pass through fine. Your shirt sleeve would be bunched up against the exterior shell while your arm went all the way in. But nothing else. Knives couldn't damage the shell. Scalpels, no. Drills, no. Bullets, no. Cutting lasers, no. An extremely expensive industrial hydraulic press was destroyed trying to make it crack under force.

"The lasers were an interesting test. The laser light was all reflected. And I mean all of it. All light falling on the shell was reflected. That's thermodynamically impossible for a mirrored surface. All mirrors are imperfect. This one wasn't. The same happened when the Egg was tested with thermal radiation, microwaves, ultraviolet, gamma rays, X-rays, radio waves... which meant that there was no way to scan the Egg's interior. Except by reaching inside it and feeling around.

"This was done.

"Volunteers had to be brave. There could have been machinery, chemical reactants, sharp edged blades moving at high speed, anything. Obviously the volunteers couldn't wear protective clothing; the gloves couldn't go through, only their bare hands. But a systematic search of the Egg's whole interior found nothing. It was reported that the Egg felt warm inside; in fact, a hand put into it rapidly began to overheat. It turned out this was the volunteers' own body heat, unable to escape, because it was being reflected back on their hands by the shell. The Egg itself had no measurable temperature.

"Living human flesh could penetrate the Egg. Portions of your body which would be considered "dead" could too: toenails, the top layer of skin, body hair, tooth enamel. Blood could. Blood dripped out of an open wound on somebody's arm could. Fingernail clippings, fine.

"Air couldn't pass through the Egg. Including air held in a volunteer's mouth, nose or lungs. As a result, a volunteer couldn't climb into the Egg without rupturing their lungs, and this was not attempted. Fillings in teeth couldn't pass through. Contact lenses couldn't pass through. The rest of a human head could, with no problems, although the experience was profoundly unpleasant, something akin to live burial.

"Now the obvious question at this point in the briefing is why all these tests were performed on live humans, instead of animals, namely lab rats.

"Lab rats couldn't penetrate the Egg.

"Wood couldn't penetrate the Egg. Inorganic matter, no. Metal, no. Dead vegetable matter, no. Live plants, no. Live rats, no. Live mice, no. Dead animal flesh - meat - no. Living higher animals, no. Dogs, no. Apes - a female ape was obtained to experiment on, she was returned unharmed - no. But humans, yes.

"Living humans, yes. Living human flesh, yes. Dead human flesh, no. Or so it seemed at first. A severed human hand, no. A skull, no. Preserved organs, no. But then it was found that surgically removed human organs would pass through with no problem. Which was initially confusing. But then a pattern was discovered: permeability depended on the alive-or-dead state of the originating human of the body part in question. A body part of a living human? Yes. A body part from a dead human? No.

"Some ethical debate followed.

"Several convicted prisoners who had been given the death penalty were approached. Several of those approached expressed an interest in furthering the cause of science, in exchange for a relatively swift timetable and a relatively peaceful execution. One man was selected. A great deal of bureaucractic and legal documentation was processed. The man was transported to the experiment laboratory at Tarczal Mountain. The first forty centimetres of his arm were inserted into the centre of the ellipsoid, and he was made to breathe air mixed with increasing amounts of carbon monoxide, inducing sleep, suffocation and finally death. This experiment was scheduled to begin at 14:00 hours, local time, 1st July 1988.

"From this point onwards there is a four-day gap in the official record."


"At around midday on 5th July, following two consecutive missed scheduled communiques by the Tarczal lab's Operations Commander, a party of armed investigators arrived by truck at Tarczal's ground level entrance. Here, it was discovered that the facility's Emergency Black Site Containment system had been manually triggered, flooding the personnel elevator shaft, freight elevator shaft, emergency stairwells and camouflaged vent shafts with a layer of cement eight feet thick.

"The idea behind the EBSC - versions of which are still in use to this day though none have ever been activated - is to protect the outside world when something goes catastrophically wrong at a black laboratory site. The canonical example is a contagious biological hazard or a radioactive hazard. It protects the world from whatever may have been spilled, and it protects the world from knowing that the black laboratory existed in the first place.

"Given that there were never any dangerous biological or viral substances present on the site, the investigators surmised that there had been a leak in the Tarczal laboratory's nuclear generator, and the Operations Commander had bravely sacrificed himself and his subordinates to contain that leak, rather than risk another disaster on the scale of Chernobyl.

"Thirty-eight people were killed.

"The incident was covered up. This was not difficult; all of the thirty-eight on the black site had airtight cover stories already in place. The project was abandoned and the site sealed off. The matter was forgotten until forty-eight hours ago."


"There was no leak."

Next: halfway homes, catacombs, twilight zones

Discussion (59)

2008-07-13 18:48:28 by YarKramer:

Hmm ... interesting. I wonder how this one will tie in with the rest ...

2008-07-13 19:44:07 by Chris:

I just started coming to this sight, so I haven't read anything else on here, but if they're as interesting as this I'm very interested.

2008-07-13 20:26:36 by PseudoFenton:

Very intriguing opening, looking forward to more of this story =D

2008-07-13 21:14:18 by Josh:

Could this be the same "egg" that Marcus uses to initiate the crashes? That's what immediately came to mind.

2008-07-14 07:37:24 by jerome:

I googled this, this is the only source I found on this "oul's egg". This could just be purely made up.

2008-07-14 08:32:13 by Crane:

@Jerome: Made up, you say? Why I thought it was in the "Fiction" category because it was all true! And I suspect the Egg didn't like us humans playing silly buggers with it.

2008-07-14 09:42:55 by Piers:

Maybe the egg gave the convict crazy powers, and he went on a rampage, and they closed it off just in time. Or maybe the egg gave him some terrible knowledge of something, and he closed it off himself to prevent the knowledge from being misused. Or something.

2008-07-14 10:31:55 by PseudoFenton:

@ Piers: I'd go with "Or Something" I'd personally bet more on the fact that the egg reflects everything, that coupled with only allowing living things inside makes me think that its a fail-safe system because putting something thats dying/dead in it causes it to reflect 100% of that? (Yes, science according to me allows you to reflect death, shh, I play too many games clearly). Although it might be that the flesh as it dies is cast out from the egg, maybe cell by cell as they die, which would make sense as it's preventing any from entering it. If it was atom by atom instead of cells, then them being fired at high speeds could produce something a-kin to beta radiation (less effective as they'd be larger atoms, but still), that would make sense to then lock down as if it was a radiation leak. Either that or because none of the gasses can get to the hand/arm, and because the egg wont allow dead things in it, the arm stays alive, and then its a very scientific opening to Idle Hands... (okay, I don't really think this one), but in theory as they gasses would take a while/the arm would take time to "die" then the effect of the "radiation" would last for a considerable time, enough to panic the people there into lockdown? Well thats my... three-pennies worth =D

2008-07-14 10:50:23 by RossSmith:

The reference to filling the base with concrete as a containment measure makes me wonder if our host has been watching Doctor Who :)

2008-07-14 18:22:44 by Thrack:

I originally though that this was happening after one of the Crashes but then I did a Google search for the following terms; "Tarczal Mountain", "1st July 1988", and "Chernobyl" the last of which brought me here, so these events are apparently set in moderns times and in fact before any of the other events as far as I can tell. At least... I think so. Were any discoveries made at around this time? Such as teleportation or the message?

2008-07-14 18:52:41 by Ian:

@PseudoFenton: Oh my god.... Zombies!?

2008-07-14 21:58:33 by pozorvlak:

Thrack: my attempt at a Fine Structure timeline is at, but it's badly out of date - fancy updating it for me? :-) But no, there's been no reference to events in the 1980s so far, IIRC. Anyway, excellent stuff! I do like it when you do something completely left-field like this, and look forward to finding out how it fits in...

2008-07-14 23:40:59 by Vitronus:

Thoughts: What is the egg's mass? Is it full of air? It was mentioned that radiation bounced around inside the egg, unable to escape. This got me thinking about transferring energy to or from the egg. You could use a rope of light-coloured hair made from a living human: put the end of the 'rope' in a warm waterbath to give it energy, then put that end into the egg, where it would radiate (and also conduct, if there were air). To get energy out of the egg, use cold, dark-coloured hair that would (hopefully) absorb more energy than it radiated. I can't think of any practical for such a technique, other than to adjust the egg's internal temperature.

2008-07-15 00:04:42 by PseudoFenton:

@ Ian: Yes! Zombies! (well, maybe, but I do like my zombies so I'll upgrade to a yes =D) @ Vitronus: I'm pretty sure it means the radiation was *instantly* reflected back, and therefore trapped the heat in the hand. Not that it reflected about inside, as in theory it would then be possible to edit its temperature and possibly give it energy to move etc so make noise, all of which it doesn't. @ Everyone who thinks this is connected to Fine Structure: Um, it's in its own sub-folder already, and yes I know that doesn't rule out the fact that the sub-folder is a cunning trick to divert us from unlocking the secrets still left to us in Fine Structure, but cummon, its probably another story entirely like the Ed stories, so please just appreciate it independently currently? & finally, @ Myself: Stop posting so much so frequently! Gah, some people hey?

2008-07-15 00:19:16 by Fourd:

I imagine taking an organ from a living human, placing the organ inside the egg, then killing the human would have a similar effect to whatever happened here.

2008-07-15 01:03:47 by Thrack:

PseudoFenton, yes it is in it's own directory but that directory is in the Fine Structure directory, just as the 1970- directory is. I am rather curious as to how that criminal's hand was kept inside of the Egg while he died (or she, I don't recall that being mentioned). Was someone holding it up? After all, it's not like they could have set his arm onto a table inside of the Egg. I suppose the Egg is at absolute zero? How odd.

2008-07-15 03:05:22 by Protector:

I wonder where the heck we found it.

2008-07-15 13:27:01 by DanielC:

Anybody see any significance of the dimensions 1.8988 m and 0.7340 m? I made them do all kinds of things to one another but didn't immediately see any mathematical constants I was familiar with, at least. Anybody else have better luck?

2008-07-15 13:32:17 by PseudoFenton:

@ Thrack: Aye yes so it is, fair play I didn't realise that, I only saw that there was a new directory made. I revoke my idiocy. And yeah, I was thinking that too about it being true zero in temperature, which in theory if it has 100% reflection of radiation is possible to achieve and more importantly maintain. The significance of all of these facts in connection to the grander picture eludes me however, (now that I've been informed that its connected to the rest of Fine Structure). Looking forward to seeing this pan out.

2008-07-15 21:58:20 by Doomsought:

The egg is somehow both a white hole and a black hole at the same time... actually its probably a black hole inside a white hole with some pure quantum wave form machinery embedded between the event horizons, likely using gravity, or a series of quantum satellites, the quantum computer controlling the egg some how selectively turns off the even t horizons.

2008-07-16 07:08:40 by Kochier:

I wonder what the 4D man can do to the egg...

2008-07-16 07:22:11 by Val:

It can't work at a celluler/molecular level, because it would let animals through, thay have a similar chemical composition. I think it somehow measures "inteligence". It was hinted about it in other parts of the storyline (something about humans being the only 3+1d manifestation of intelligence in our universe) Could it be a switch, constructed so that only a human could activate it?

2008-07-16 14:36:20 by Mick:

I has to be intelligence that allows passage, that at least fits. Hmm. Interesting. I can't wait to see what happens next.

2008-07-16 14:45:15 by qntm:

To answer some of your questions: 1) This is fiction, but it's flattering that you thought otherwise. 2) This *is* part of Fine Structure, otherwise it wouldn't be in the Fine Structure directory, would it? 3) You cannot take something's temperature without transferring heat from the object to your temperature probe. The egg does not radiate heat (or any other kind of electromagnetic energy) nor does it conduct heat, so it is impossible to measure its temperature. When you put your hand inside, the egg doesn't let any heat escape your body. Instead it functions like a perfect insulator, which is why your hand becomes hot. 4) Mick is correct. It might turn out that I need to add a third part of this so I'm changing "To be concluded" to "To be continued".

2008-07-16 20:57:02 by Val:

This egg seems to be a good hiding place against a catastrophe. Or a transpot capsule. Travel through the middle of the Sun? Why not?

2008-07-16 22:22:00 by ratherdashing:

IF you don't die first

2008-07-16 22:42:36 by Overmind:

It seems like it might be something that is... almost designed for Anne. The 4D man (Mitch) may be able to 'see' into it due to being able to see around its 3D structure, unless it is also 4D, but he would not really be able to go easily inside it either, remember that it specifically disallows stuff like Oxygen from entering, but remember that Anne does not require Oxygen, and it seems to be of the perfect size to contain an adult Human being, thus suggesting it is probably for Anne somehow. Lets see how this guess goes...

2008-07-16 22:44:12 by Overmind:

Or perhaps, from Anne, perhaps that is how she was born, or some kind of transportation that originally brought her here... Sorry for the double-post, no editing features...

2008-07-17 02:54:42 by JeremyBowers:

Ah, I think I figured it out, but I don't want to say it if I'm right since it's unfair to spoil things. So here's the MD5 of my answer, if I'm right I get to claim fame and if I'm wrong I get to disappear into the ether... f697573fe409bca46ee6f389a07ca12b (It's 23 words, don't bother trying to guess it. I mean that from a "don't waste your time" perspective, not in a snotty tone of voice.)

2008-07-18 21:05:22 by Paradoxia:

"It was reported that the Egg felt warm inside; in fact, a hand put into it rapidly began to overheat. It turned out this was the volunteers' own body heat, unable to escape, because it was being reflected back on their hands by the shell." Wouldn't the egg already be too hot to put your arm inside by now from the cumulative heat of all the volunteers? Wouldn't that convict's arm cook long before he dies of carbon-monoxide poisoning? Or is there something I've missed?

2008-07-18 21:12:43 by Paradoxia:

I also wonder about the fact that it does not let air through, but does let through the oxygen in your blood. What constitutes a part of you? Why is the air in your lungs not a part of you if the water in your blood is? What would happen if you were to hold water in your mouth and attempt to put your head through? And (sorry if nit-picking a bit much here), what about the minute traces of toxins which are in all of us from pollution? If iron fillings don't constitute as part of you, yet haemoglobin does, where do toxins fall in? Do they simply travel back up the bloodstream when you stick your arm in (probably not possible biologically speaking but just a possibility).

2008-07-18 22:58:45 by qntm:

Paradoxia, regarding the internal temperature of the egg, you're still not getting it. If all the heat emitted by the volunteer's hand is reflected back onto the hand, then *none* of it gets absorbed by the egg, so the egg does not increase in temperature. Likewise, if the egg is not emitting thermal energy (which it isn't), there is no way to tell what temperature it is. It could be incredibly hot and simply containing all that heat.

2008-07-19 07:37:41 by YarKramer:

You know, Sam, I've been spending too much time on the MINERVA: Metastasis forum. I've been half-expecting your responses to be to the tune of (a) cryptic statements which neither confirm nor deny any of our theories (perhaps in-character, as one of the prominent figures in the story), (b) a blanket statement, outside of the discussion, to the effect that SOMEONE'S got the right idea, or collectively we have in general the right idea, (c) "The whole answer's already there, you're just overthinking it," or (d) smeg-all. Or, of course, a combination of any or all of the above. It's honestly rather refreshing. ;)

2008-07-20 08:18:18 by Dean:

I wonder what the egg would think of a transplanted body part in a living human if the original donor is dead? Do you think an alive but brain-dead person would be rejected?

2008-07-20 17:09:43 by Paradoxia:

RE: Heat of the Egg Oh, I think I understand. The heat from your hand is reflected back into your hand and carried away via your bloodstream?

2008-07-22 02:47:17 by Knut:

What i would like to do is to teleport something into the egg. That would realy be fun to watch.

2008-07-24 16:39:14 by Dannii:

How much head does a hand produce? Overheating seems possible yes, but would it really be "rapid"?

2008-07-28 12:45:47 by Val:

Dannii: You can try it yourself by wrapping it into some plastic or some other kind of insulator. Or try wearing some thick winter gloves in hot weather :)

2008-07-30 15:11:11 by rosspresser:

If the Egg appears to have weight -- I.e., if you can lift it (while wearing inanimate gloves) and feel its weight -- then it must be reacting with gravitons.

2008-08-05 00:17:59 by Thumpy:

sorry to be a killjoy, but why would you need to use a whole human for the experiment? it's stated that live human tissue (ie a liver or something which can still be transplanted) will enter the structure, so why can't you just put that half way in and then just wait for it to die?

2008-08-05 00:20:42 by Thumpy:

oops, i should read more carefully, it's not whether the tissue is alive or not, it's whether the person is alive or not... but then y wouldn't a human hand pass through... unless the person bled to death after they chopped it off...

2008-08-07 19:55:10 by TheFinalStand:

This is interesting, maybe the "leak" was caused by somebody (the convict) placing their hand in the egg, then dying. I would imagine that the egg suddenly closes off, slicing the hand off. But then something is inside there that isn't flesh from a currently live human. So the egg reacts violently somehow. Or maybe the egg opent some strange portal into itself. It never mentions whether the subjects feel anything moving themselves through, so maybe that happens, and as the convict dies, the portal remains open, unleashing some strange energy from within that people are immune to if their hand or anything else passes through the egg. Man, that's a long post, and my first too on this topic.

2008-08-10 16:04:42 by TWM:

How would the egg react to extreme pressure, say, the bottom of the ocean? I realize it would be a bit of an undertaking to do it. Another remarkable idea issues forth from your brain, Sam. Keep 'em coming! (Incidentally, I disagree with the whole 'names can only consist of letters' whatsit, but realize the need for it) TWM71

2008-08-14 06:31:45 by David:

Doesn't the egg appear to have many of the properties that Anne Poole has that were stated in Amber? "Dr Poole seems to be opaque to X-rays now, likewise the RF radiation we use for magnetic resonance imaging. And her skin is now completely impenetrable: she severely damaged the longwall mining equipment that ran into her in the coal seam and we've found no scalpel or needle which can harm her either. Likewise, pills and medicine taken orally would remain undigested and take no effect. She can inhale and exhale, but the air she breathes out is chemically identical to what she takes in, which means foreign gases have no effect on her." Impenetrable, Opaque to all radiation, Eating and breathing are not actually passing into your body if your body doesn't absorb it (Remains in a tube... technically "outside" the body still).

2008-08-14 19:34:09 by sandygarg:

It has something to with the Human Genome. A human dna is different from any other living being's DNA. And any part of the body.. hair or a drop of blood contains the the original human DNA.

2008-08-14 19:40:34 by sandygarg:

the egg represents the human history. Everything that a human is today(and ever was) is stored and wired in its DNA. I wonder what would happen if an Ape (or the immediate predecessor of humans) were made pass thru the egg.

2008-08-14 19:45:51 by sandygarg:

when the test person died...just at that moment... each molecule of DNA present in the part of hand inside the egg .. could have spawned a clone of the original person. that would lead to creation of millions of clones.. seeing which .. someone activated the EBSC.

2008-08-19 04:16:50 by Cody:

Good story. Just one thing. The title is a bit... long.

2009-03-07 09:26:44 by Bombardier:

The displacement (not necessarily the internal volume!) of the egg is .5342 cubic meters, if I've done the numbers correctly. No mention is made of the thickness of the shell (if there is one) and with only man-meat able to penetrate it, it would be hard to determine with any precision. Can't help but wonder if an eyeball taken from a living donor could be placed in such a way that the lens is inside the egg but some tissue remains outside, then put a camera and light (very small ones) just outside the eggs surface. Could one get a look at the insides that way? The upthread suggestion of putting the amputated arm of a living person inside the egg and then killing the donor is a good one, however how would one keep the detached arm from falling out? As the egg is a perfect ellipsoid the bottom of its interior would be a point and impossible to balance anything on a perfect point. The problem that apparently resulted may well stem from the arm being inside, outside and in the interface at the moment of death. Outside on its own being no problem quite obviously. A rash experiment... I'd want to first know how the egg would react to a placenta, first from a live birth then from a stillbirth.

2009-05-02 20:10:05 by Val:

By being certain that the egg selects based on intelligence (this has also been confirmed by The Chaotician - the egg was just a trap waiting for a human body to being taken over) I would rather test it with a mentally retarded person, or a very small child.

2010-02-16 04:10:11 by JeremyBowers:

I was wrong, very wrong, but for the record, my guess was (without the quotes and with a single newline added on the end): "This is how Anne hides from the effects of the Crash. Mitch presumably has another option or it simply doesn't natively affect him." (In Python, import md5 and run: md5.md5("This is how Anne hides from the effects of the Crash. Mitch presumably has another option or it simply doesn't natively affect him.\n").hexdigest() to confirm.)

2011-07-07 15:53:05 by Anonymous:

I suspect that there was a nuclear disaster, which is why the concrete sealed off the place. I suspect this disaster took the form of the prisoner's arm which was inside the egg being rejected as non-living from the egg upon the prisoner's death. In the form of gamma rays of sufficient energy conversion to total the original mass.

2012-01-16 09:06:46 by jonas:

This is somewhat related to The Fifth Gift, a science fiction short story by localroger, which you can read at "". The first gift in that story has intelligence similar to the Egg, distinguishing between living and non-living matter. (To see this in action, you have to read the story much further than just the description of the first gift.)

2012-03-30 12:20:15 by jonas:

And there might be yet another related story, see

2016-08-27 08:26:28 by Elmshire:

I'm pretty sure if you backed into it right, you totally could get a whole, living human in there.

2017-07-26 16:19:32 by stellHex:

Huh, I never knew that there most ominous possible English sort story title had already been discovered! That's pretty impressive. And, oh, man, I really love "anomalous object" experiment logs, and this is a masterful entry into that category.

2019-12-18 03:55:04 by The Apocalyptic:

You should really turn this object into a SCP, qntm.

2020-04-07 18:10:37 by gwern:

Even if air can't pass through, liquids must, and so you could work around that limit and get into it alive by using liquid breathing with fluorocarbon.

2020-05-31 14:21:53 by Reader:

@gwern, it seems only liquids that are part of or came from living humans can pass into the egg, so blood can but an artificially introduced liquid would not be able to. It remains to be seen how the egg can differentiate between the two.

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