Thursday, November 22, 2018

Evening and the Bones

For the moment, nothing more could be said. It was as if silence had become a physically tangible wall choking the air from my space, my womb. I sat in a steep oak chair with my eyes closed. I was alone and motionless; disquieted. The room, as it was, felt not of winter cold but dead cold like the skin of a cadaver. Without conscious effort, I could feel my arm twitching. It forced out a soft, grotesque motion: the motion of stroking the pallid gray flesh of a helpless decaying body. In my mind, I leaned to meet its imaginary stomach. No warmth issued from its bowels; I heard no utterance of its confessions.

The real world outside wavered at the edge of darkness; too shadowed to see, too light to enjoy the promise of solitude. And here I was, awake yet dreaming of fragile life cradled in the relentless grasp of despair. How I had come to be here, in this old shack on the outskirts of a dying neighborhood, was not entirely a mystery but somehow the details of my arrival escaped me at present. Swimming through the murky waters of memory, I came to a new vision.

Memory -

It was a frozen and bitter December. During the ride in my Oldsmobile, she and I had talked. She had such a lovely little girl’s voice. Its sopranos sang to a deeper, more primitive element in me. An element I had never recognized before.

Thinking back over things, I could have been more careful. Was I getting cocky? Possibly. Pride cometh before the fall. This business was too easy sometimes. For eight months, I had been on my own, away from the confines of institutionalization. And here I was, the by-product of a failed attempt to rehabilitate and integrate me back into society. One thing is certain: hindsight is definitely not 20-20. I was no farther along in knowing where I was going or from where I had just come.

When I picked her up from the corner that night, she was delighted. I knew then that I had achieved her complete trust. Several weeks had been invested in this one. I was somehow determined to make it more personal. Hopping in the car like a jovial little insect, she threw her bags on the floorboard and smiled generously. If I didn’t know better, I might have thought she was in love with me. At first, it hadn’t been that simple. She had ignored me. I remember pulling up to the curb after school on the first day. It was Monday.

Hey. Do you need a ride home? It’s okay. I work for your school. No? Okay, well, if you ever need anything, just ask.

I drove away then, watching her run back into the school.


How’s it going today? Was school fun? Listen, I didn’t mean to scare you yesterday. I just thought since it was chilly, I could get you home safe and sound. So, how ‘bout it? It’s all right.

She had looked at me reluctantly. Her hesitation was to be expected but I wasn’t worried. I would break her soon. Finally, she nodded and slowly approached the car. Could it be this easy? I thought. She leaned into the open passenger window and I finally got to hear her magic voice. I smiled and leaned over to pull the latch from the inside. Shutting the door, she scooted away from me. I didn’t blame her. I would be afraid of me, too. Loosening up on the ride home, she asked me little questions. Simple little questions like what my name was, where I lived.

Julian, and I live on Woodland Street.

She seemed pleased by this information, as if it made all the difference. After that day, she never held back.

Reality -

I carefully opened my eyes to the inviting darkness. It must have been several hours before I finally moved. My chest heaved deep as if I hadn't taken a breath for an eternity. I stood, stretching my muscles taut, feeling the stinging ache of atrophy. The room churned: a lifeless abyss, each window cloaked behind thick, black blankets attempting to keep out the offensive light. Through rips and tears in the fabric, the harsh light had intruded upon my meditation in the bedroom. But now, it didn't matter, I saw that the sun had faded away by the absence of rays that previously smeared across the nearly impenetrable shroud of cloth.

The contours of my environment shifted slowly, almost imperceptibly, over the last few hours but I could see the changes. I was aware. As the carrion flesh of shadow rippled over the walls and floor and came slowly to life, I beckoned its specters to join me in my awakening. Everything was in place for the grand show: the girl in her gag and crying, the bed with its layer of dust, the steep oak chair, the filmy glass nightstand, the darkness and the knife. I grinned wide as I set to work. Oh God, how she screamed. The ripping sounds of muscles pervaded the space within my skull. Suddenly. I felt nauseous and then the world fell black.

I opened my eyes. To my dismay, I was standing above the jagged tongue of a stairwell overlooking the foyer. Teetering back and forth, threatening to plunge headlong down three flights of stairs, I thrust my arm out to catch the rail. My body swung sideways, pivoting on my right hand that gripped the railing and I slammed against the wall running along the stairs. I pulled myself back up and grabbed my chest. Near miss, I thought. Turning back to the stairs, I saw their smoke colored planks leading down three levels and into an impenetrable void. Their descent into the darkness of the foyer was oddly intimidating. This feeling was understandable since these stairs nearly became the instrument of my demise. Though I knew the stairwell had to stop somewhere near the floor, I couldn't see or remember where.

A minute later, I had forgotten about my brush with death and began slowly descending the stairs. The entire house's wooden bones creaked and groaned, the force of my weight pushed hard into its cancerous ribs. Termites became fat off the marrow of this ancient skeleton and I could smell the burnt scent of their feast, the faint gnawing of their multitude seemingly echoing inside my brain. It occurred to me that termites were very similar to maggots. What an insightful comparison. Wood and meat.

Memory -

Weeks later, I’d brought her my supposed home on Woodland street. She had actually thought I lived here. As we walked to the porch, I told her I’d just moved in and was in the process of remodeling. It seemed like a reasonable lie. I opened the front door with all the chivalry I could muster and swung my arm to beckon her in before me. As we entered, I noticed she didn’t seem to mind the absence of furnishing: the emptiness. The walls were austere and unremarkable. Expect for a curious pattern made by a knot in the wood grain below our feet, the bareness was hollowing. She set about exploring the rooms with child-like eagerness. I stayed behind, paralyzed by the oh-so-familiar anxiety that overcame me in times like these. I felt empty. My eye sockets could sink in, my lungs collapse, yet I would be unaffected by the change. I would still be a shell. It wasn’t yet time. Soon, it would be.

Reality -

Each step made the acid in my legs singe and burn into the very tissue that afforded me movement. But I took the stairs with conviction, letting the pain invigorate my senses. I scanned the room and realized I had reached the bottom and was now standing in the middle of the foyer. The room itself was dimly lit by the moonlight creeping in through the dirt-caked windows. In between two Bay windows in front of me was the entrance (or exit however which way one might perceive their starting point) of the house. Before me, a door: simple yet monstrous. It was a door leading to a wholly different world, a separate and terrifying reality…outside. I froze before the door’s swelling form, fearful that what I would expose by opening this gateway would be too much for me to bear. At one time, it was easy to pass through. Not now, after what I have done. That changed everything. I relented.

My greatest fear was not that I would be arrested or even condemned to death but that I would be discovered and certainly no one would be able to understand my passion. I knew someone was out there watching me. I could feel them, their eyes glazed and fixed upon me, burning with accusation. I decided at that point to test my strength or rather, challenge my weakness.

Methodical, defiant and unyielding in my gait I moved to the very threshold that, although once seemed so far away now towered before me. My arm lifted from my side slowly, automatically rebelling against a fierce desire to pull away. My fingers wrapped tightly around the old brass handle of the door and ever-so-gently began to twist. The metal bolt squealed as I turned the knob. The door was unlocked. I reached to open it but then I stopped. I don’t need to prove myself. I am fully capable of bringing down the world with a whim. Why would I be afraid of punishment? Capital Punishment served only to extend the legacy of the martyr.

I turned, heading back to the stairs near the back of the foyer. A bright light hit the left side of my face. A sharp, razor-bladed worm dug deep through my brain. I clenched my face with a clawed hand and grunted in pain. What the fuck is wrong with my head. I fell forward and once again, everything went black.

Walking in the hallway near the bedroom from whence I had just come earlier was extremely disconcerting. At times I felt I was repeating parts of my life in random order with no real purpose or direction. Slaughterhouse 5 came to mind and I chuckled to myself. How long had I been here? Days? Minutes? Wasn't it all very relative? It only took a second to plunge a Butcher’s blade into a chest and puncture vitals to the height of murderous ecstasy, yet imagine the time and patience involved in delicately removing the various organs from the abdominal cavity and placing them across the bed in alphabetical order. If only I had the time to label each nerve ending, I would have been content for an eternity. Funny, I couldn't remember the last thing she said before she expired.

You see, in the world outside murder was not only a sin against the godheads of Western Philosophy it was also a crime against humanity. Laughable. I didn’t see its importance. We all died one way or another. Who’s to say it wasn’t the proper way of things? I found it empowering to be aware of how easily one could be deprived of that life. One life wasted or was it redemption I delivered?

Bringing her here to this all-but-forgotten shanty was the best idea I’d had in a while. It gave me every opportunity to take my time with things and reminisce on my glory. I decided to return to the location of my blackout. Plodding back down the stairs again, I looked back at the ominous front door. Shivering at its foreboding form, I turned away from it and back towards the stairs from which I had just come. Making my way across the front room, I turned left into a narrow corridor. 10 feet further, on my right, the bathroom entrance yawned wide at my passing as I crossed into the kitchen beyond.

I breathed out a long and thankful sigh. The porcelain tiles, the decrepit cabinets and my earlier fortune of finding a nearly perfect blade in the drawer: all of it beautiful. I began to love this room, segregate from the others. Alone, it represented a time where life was basic and animal. What an incredible idea it was to have an entire room devoted to the consumption of flesh. For a moment, I fantasized about devouring an entire body in this very room. I would eat from the floor and laugh at my ingenuity.

Illuminated by the waxing moon, the kitchen gleamed with a faint, ghostly glow. I crept like a madman through the streams of phosphorescent air then it suddenly occurred to me that I still held the knife in my hand. It felt like such a part of me, I hadn’t noticed it until now. Slowly elevating my arm, I carefully examined the blade, twisting it in the moonlight to clarify how much blood it wore. My hand entered the light for a brief moment and I saw more crimson dulled and drying on my skin. I need water. Not to cleanse, that doesn’t concern me. I needed to drink something other than tears and screams. I longed to purge the hollow feeling in my guts. Black

Memory -

I awoke recalling a memory. A room full of doctors: neurologists studying me, probing my brain like some bizarre medical curiosity. According to them I had a problem. I got the impression they weren’t familiar with my affliction by the way they all stared, transfixed, at my Cat Scan. The next few hours were blurry. All I heard were theoretical diagnoses thrown around: Encephalitis, Transient Ischemic Attacks, Meningitis, cock, fuck, mother fucker. That was only the beginning of my hell.

I found myself one day like a drugged lab rat: drooling and semi-conscious from the effects of Thorazine, Haldol, Xanax: a chemical cocktail. Lying in my own feces in the corner of the cafeteria, I realized I was a prisoner of my own mind-forged manacles. That night I left. I walked out into the darkness and never looked back. It’s interesting to note how poorly secured and supervised some institutions can be. This was all after my parents had left. Left, died. A bank account full of money became my Parents’ legacy. I found a suicide note from my father:

Life is a series of pain. I know what pain means. I have opted to be without it. Sarah was a wonderful wife and I did love her. That’s why she has to come with me. Goodbye, son.

They found my mother dead from a gunshot wound to the head. My father had hanged himself from the closet rod.

Did I blame them for dying? No. Despite their successes, they weren’t happy. Who the hell was? I can’t say I didn’t contribute. It wouldn’t have been appropriate if I hadn’t. Their prodigal son had given them all the suffering any sane person could handle. Once when I was younger, they found me covered in the blood of our cat. They had discovered it gutted in our garage lying next to an old fishing knife. That little act landed me in therapy for a summer. There were many other things that lead to that point. Ultimately, I had been abandoned but I didn’t care. Even though I had money, the house was taped off. Police investigation. I had no place to sleep. Hotels had always been there but I needed to be out in the world. I needed to be exposed to life.

I spent most of my nights following people around the city. If they took a cab, I took one and followed. If they went to an apartment, I waited outside and watched. No telling how many thousands of dollars I’d spent on Taxis and keeping their drivers indifferent. I never bothered to talk to these nameless people I stalked. I was merely fascinated by the futility of their lives. I was living this worthless existence vicariously through the others. Finally, I came to the understanding that everyone else was nothing more than an extension of myself. A puppet or servant meant only for my amusement. Egocentricity at its finest.

I was lost and wasn’t relishing my discovery. Then one evening on a park bench, I was found by a police officer and taken to a shelter. Supposedly, I didn’t get out of bed for an entire week. The staff said I had been catatonic for eight days. It was then that some sympathy-ridden asshole in Social Services came to the conclusion that I was not a viable member of society. Maybe he was right but that still did not excuse the subsequent 5 years I was forced to spend inside a mental center waiting to be cured of my supposed ailment.

The medication I was given at least helped with my blackouts but now that I had stopped taking it this loss of awareness began occurring more frequently. My memories waned and my eyes came back into focus. I was still alive.

Reality -

Leaning into a sink, I gulped greedily at the fluid pouring from a squalid, rusty faucet. An unexpected benefit of a negligent water company: running water was still being provided despite the many years of non-payment. The bathroom brimmed with a thick gamy smell, similar to that of mold or old death, and I choked a few times from swallowing too much of the pungent air. My throat began to sting so I stopped drinking and turned off the faucet. The clouds of putrescence grew faintly visible as I struck a match and lit the small candle found earlier in a drawer along with the knife.

I was refreshed, however dingy and gritty the water had been, and I felt born anew in my task, my destiny. Wiping the back of my hand along my chin, I noticed the sink. Its history was all there written in scars. This old washbasin had borne these scars well: the chips, scrapes, mars and cracks of olden times. Times of lovers sharing passion upon its egg-white surface, times of demons thrusting crying faces underneath its flowing liquids. The stories could be heard humming through the wind holes in the attic, gurgling from the dank recesses of the basement, through every pipe, every wire, every spring, every fiber, every particle. I was sure of this: the magnitude of what I had done will overpower any tale ever told from within these walls.

Looking at my face in the glistening grease of the mirror, I could suddenly see the innocent child beneath a heavy layer of sweat. I was something, or someone, I suppose. Wrapped in the skin of my father but brandishing none of his honor. For the moment I was reacquainted with a feeling long since foreign to me: regret. Julian, you son of a bitch, I thought. Look at your face; a man’s face yet not even your 28 years showing with black hair like your mother’s. Your eyes like sparks of blue, so humble. You are like them, like her: the little girl. I sobbed. Head buried in my hands, I wept until I managed to regain my focus. What the fuck is your problem? Think, goddamn you. Think! I had wasted too much time and I was much better than the amateur I was behaving like. To think, my first murder was more controlled than this. I suddenly felt embarrassed.

The most frightening revelation for a murderer is to realize that he is something like a human being. Many of us appeal to the God-complex, the idea that we somehow have been given ability or right above all others. Another idea is that we are below the general masses and that concept, in itself, affords us the option of behaving in an animalistic way. We feed, if you will, upon the weaker strain of humans: anything to separate one from the typical population. All of these images are weak justifications. Me? I am different. I am a new breed. What I feel in my bones is something different. I am not a messianic figure, I am not a caged and angry animal; I am something of a more evolved killer. This is simplicity in its purest form.

I turned toward the bathtub, the rust in its belly looked very much like the drying blood on my hand and knife. I decided that I would get inside of the bathtub and we would grace each other’s presence; mingle our sickness together. The brown water ran over my feet, filling fast. Easing back into the curve of the tub, I longed for absolute baptism. Soft water soaked in through the eyelets of my boots. The sensation was oddly satisfying. I relaxed even further, feeling the tides ebbing upwards to smother me. Then what began as the pleasant tingle of old water started to burn. I leaped from the tub cursing at my foolishness. Poison pipes, I reasoned. Now I wore the thick stain of red bathwater, the chemicals from its rotting pipes still antagonizing my body. Nothing to worry about. I felt more free and alive than before. The smell of filth mixed with the air and almost caused me to vomit, so I evacuated into the hallway. Black.

I crouched over her body. How did I get here? Of course. Another blackout. I didn't remember taking the stairs again. She was still there, lain out on the bedroom floor contorted from struggle; bleach white from loss of blood. Her chest had been torn open by my dissection. The empty cavity that remained enticed the mental image of a seashell shucked of its invertebrate occupant. I chuckled to myself, the first sound I had made since the bathtub incident. How long ago was that? I was worried for a moment that the sun would be returning soon with all of its incinerating vengeance to lay waste to my loving darkness. I saw a clock on the wall above the bed and entrails that had since become its comforter, one hand on the twelve and the other in between one and two. I strained forward squinting to see through the gloom but the hands did not move. There was no electricity in the old house. Time, no…life had been frozen for my benefit. This night would be my eternal triumph.

A wet noise issued from some nameless organ as my foot stepped across its wrinkled folds of yellows and greens. After all, we were all yellow and green on the inside. No one knew this better than me. I must have forgotten to include this particular piece in my artwork. I chastised my sloppiness as I bent to retrieve the missing fragment of my human masterpiece. Picking it up casually, a glint of passing headlights beyond the window shot throw a hole in the shroud and illuminated a peculiar revelation. What was this? I looked closer, still unable to mentally accept what I saw. Reaching into my pocket, I lit another match. With a flare of red-orange, my pupils dilated and focused. Upon the organ appeared something strangely terrifying. Letters had seemingly been inscribed into the outer skin of the crushed, wet sac. Letters. Words and symbols. My stomach began to churn. I knew that I had nothing to do with the defacement. The question is, who did?

Stumbling backwards, I wanted to run out into the night. Unimaginable horrors crowded my mind, distorting my conscious. What did this mean? Was it a surgery, a mad doctor perhaps? What about an injury? I still held the organ I now identified as the Pancreas in my bile-soaked hands. I looked closely at the writing, or scarring of words etched into its fleshy wet layer. Glaring closely, I could smell the reek of digestive juices. I turned the words over and around to see if they made sense at a different angle. The most I could tell, they were symbols similar to hieroglyphics or pictographs from some ancient race. What the hell were they doing on a 14-year-old girl’s pancreas? I scanned through the other pieces of her lain on the bed. All of them…covered in the same esoteric writing.

The madness I now perceived was beyond any that I had ever delved into before and, being no stranger to the concept of dementia, I was now certain that I had entered into a newer, deeper stage in the deterioration of my mind. As my thoughts twisted and gurgled behind my eyes, the sickness returned. Black.

I came to lying in the bed, under the covers no less, with a tangle of moist bowels wrapped around my torso. I had apparently placed a portion of the liver in my mouth, its delicate casing punctured slightly between my grinding teeth. Did I do this to myself? I must have. Surely it couldn’t have been the little girl rotting on the floor. I laughed aloud at the humor of it all and then decided to check up on the sweet little child that had followed me here so effortlessly. At first I thought I might have been in a different room. I scanned around. This was the exact room I had been in before. Her body was no longer lying where I had left it. The shock didn’t hit me entirely until I heard the scream. A horrible scream like the sound of a choir being ripped apart limb from limb. The noise ripped through the wooden hollows of the house. I sat up, my chest exploding with its heartbeats. A surging fear swelled up from my stomach, heavy with acid. Dear Jesus Christ, what the fuck was that?

I felt my knife next to my clinched fist beneath the blanket and I gripped it tightly. Rising from the soiled bed, I sloughed off the guts decorating my body. I managed towards the doorway to the balcony with palsied, uneasy steps. Who was in here? I gasped at the idea that the police had already found me. 13 murders and no one knew a thing. How could they have arrived here so fast? How could they have known? Why would a pig scream like that? No, it wasn’t the police. I cocked my head as I picked up a slight scraping noise issuing across what I perceived to be the downstairs entryway. Slowly, carefully, I crossed to the railing of the second floor. Part of me wanted to slice my own throat, to end it all right here and now on my own terms. I decided against it. I needed to find out who the intruder was.

Stepping to the edge, I peered into the moonlit depths below me. A dim blue light gleaming from a shattered window creased the depths of the foyer. Intensely scrutinizing every portion of the wooden floor below, I found nothing. Not a fucking thing. Yet, still I heard the scraping like claws across a rib cage. But now, the sound was easily isolated in the kitchen. Were they looking for me? They must have moved the body and not noticed me lying in the bed. That was the only realistic answer. Goddamn them. Now was the time for vengeance. Black.

I realized now that I was in the kitchen. It was empty. This disease had become quite a curse. I stood in the middle of the room wielding my surprisingly sharp weapon. Apparently I had not found who I was looking for. I had almost forgotten what my original intention was but I was suddenly reminded by a sickly bubbling noise coming from the bathroom. Someone was in there. I could smell their stink. Only 10 feet away, I knew I had them within killing range.

One step at a time, slowly, silently, I made my way to the door. A strange light blinked on, pouring from the bathroom. A flashlight, I thought. Sliding against the wall, I kept advancing until I reached the trim around the door frame. Twisting my neck patiently around the corner, I caught a glimpse of who it was that invaded my domain. An old man was trimming his beard with a pocketknife before the mirror. He was dressed in worn and filth-laden clothing. The noise I had heard was the running water from the sink. Obviously, a street urchin had found his way here. I mouthed the word fuck to myself for forgetting to lock the front door. Such carelessness.

Returning to the task at hand, I slowly began sliding down the wall to the floor and, knife in hand, I crawled below his range of vision. Behind his legs now, I could smell the urine on his pants. I flinched at the ammonia of his body, so impure: repulsive. That didn’t stop me from plunging the knife deep between his legs. I could feel the softness of his genitals as my soiled blade plunged achingly into his groin. In that split second, he inhaled sharply and then hissed in pain: an unexpected reaction. I could imagine his testicles split and drooping with tiny veins. I imagined the blood squirting from the tip of his penis in sequence with his heartbeats.

As I stood so did the knife. I must have slit his anus and his lower back before he turned to gaze into the eyes of his assailant. His face was a mask of terror mixed with surprise, an intense combination that was uniquely common to those who are stabbed by surprise. I’d seen this face before. All of his dreams had faded with his expression. I swung the blade randomly at his face shaving bits from his nose and cheeks. His hands flailed violently in vain to provide cover from my assault. He howled and yelped against the blows like a dog being kicked over and over. I stopped, stepped back to look once more at him and then, my coupe de grace: I drove the blade’s point between his ribs and straight into his heart. Covered in a sheet of blood, his life wasted away.

As he died, I’m sure he could see me smiling above him. He had almost paid for his mockery of my artwork. Still, something nagged at the back of my brain. Why would man in need of a simple shaving wrap me with the intestines of a murdered girl after I had blacked out and proceed to finish shaving in the bathroom before going back to his home underneath some bridge downtown? Nothing made sense but I didn’t feel sorry for him. He’d just been in the proverbial ‘wrong place at the wrong time’. Some other force was at work here. I knew not yet what is was but I was certain that someone else was in this house; someone like me. The writing on the organs, the missing body. This was the new challenge I had been looking for.

Finally, I managed to roll the dead weight of his portly body into the bathtub; my old friend, how you burned me so. I still felt the itching sting of arsenic, lead, chlorine, mercury, acrylamide, carbon tetrachloride, ethyl benzene, styrene, xylene: whatever industrial side-effect that had seeped into the fetid waters over the many years. With any luck, the acidic saturation would eventually melt any trace of the vagrant intruder and save me the trouble of disposing of him later. Now, where was my little princess? Someone had moved her and I would stalk through every inch of this shit hole until I found her.

Moving with newfound purpose, refreshed from my activities, I swung around to face the bathroom door and stepped through into the black. Flashlight beams irradiated out into the hall pouring a dirty yellow glow into the air. It blinked twice, then the batteries died. Black.

Memory -

Friday. She mentioned her father to me. It seemed I had finally won her confidence. Come to find out her father was a sour man with many ghosts to bear. He had molested her a few years before. I started to feel sorry for wanting to kill her. Supposedly one night, he came to her and forced himself upon her virginity like a marauding cannibal, ready to expose the soft, white underbelly of the child’s innocence. His was the true transgression. I was only a minor player in the Theatre de Suffering that was her childhood.

How pathetic it was to maintain such emotion, especially for this yapping dissection project but still I felt something of remorse for her. What horror the world fosters and in this the animal side of the human race dwells. In truth, we are all animals wrapped in a delicate sheath of social standards and powered by false moral conviction. We simply learn to hide away our morbidity as a matter of public courtesy but when we are alone late at night, we all hunger for violence. Some of us even hunger for our own children.

Have you ever considered why, when you watch the nightly news, all of the breaking news stories revolve around the concept of death and despair? “Tonight on KMM, we will take you to an abandon mansion on the outskirts of a quiet suburban community where the body of an unidentified 14 year old girl was found dead. The killer is still at large.” The media knows what you want. That’s why they exist: to nurture this need, this desire for destruction. This is why I exist: to plant the seeds from which the harvest of carrion can be reaped.

I drove her home that evening in silence. I suppose she didn’t know what to say to follow up such a deeply scarring revelation. Honestly, I didn’t really care to comment. When we arrived at the corner near her house, she got out of the car and turned to me as she shut the door.

Are you sure about that? What if your parents find out? I imagine we’ll both be in trouble. All right, I’ll pick you up here at seven. Don’t tell anybody, okay? It will be our little secret.

With that, she spun around and trotted down the street with such satisfaction in her gait. I sat there staring for a moment, wondering to myself why she had just asked me to take her away the following evening. She must have been waiting to bring it up all night. What a father I would make to her. I laughed to myself. What an excellent father, indeed.

Reality ­-

I sat on the back porch smoking. Grinning, I had to wonder how I managed to light a cigarette while I was out. It occurred to me that I really hadn’t given much thought to my affliction. Perhaps I somehow lived two completely different lives. One life is an ever-spiraling downgrade into oblivion and the other, well, who’s to say what that other life could be?

The backyard wasn’t really even a yard at all. It was an overgrown field of refuse and broken promises. It was a cemetery of old dreams and squandered plans. With the moon shining brightly down upon me, I could clearly see the now three-wheeled tractor in repose: its silhouette like a skeleton of some hulking beast that once ruled the earth, content on resting for an eternity against a backdrop of farmland and shadow. The old shed was the beast’s only companion yet it offered no solace to the unforgiving winds of demise.

I stood to stretch my aching legs. They pained me as if I had just run several miles without stopping. Maybe I had. I arched my back and popped a few tendons back into place. The cold air of winter aided not in my relief. As I stretched, I caught glimpse of something moving. I immediately crouched down to conceal my position. Focusing into the hazy air, I saw something creeping almost soundlessly from the shed towards a large Oak tree that hovered over the east side of the yard. I approximated it to be about 90 feet away from the porch. I smashed out the cigarette that had been cupped inside my hand to avoid notice. The blister would be manageable. Whatever it was, it appeared to be bipedal and humanoid; some neighbor kid fooling around at night? I hadn’t been too concerned by its presence until the idea sunk in. Could this be the one like me? Could this possibly be the one who took my child and hid her from me? Everything inside me said ‘yes’.

The 20 feet from the shed to the tractor was made noiselessly; a quality I found utterly admirable as I watched the figure creep behind the shadow of the tractor. Their stature was not as impressive. Nearly 5 feet 5 inches tall, likely they weighed only 110 pounds with a full stomach. Alas, I know better than to make foolish assumptions based only on size. I had known men considerably smaller able to retrieve a person’s brain from their skull with little more than bare hands and a set of teeth. I was well aware of the fact that whomever it was knew nothing of my being here. The figure had moved so nonchalantly from place to place, their ignorance was obvious. Besides, I hadn’t done much to give myself away. Frozen in position, camouflaged within the stain of grays and blacks across the earthen plain, I watched. Interesting, though, how they seemed so casual about their intentions, whatever those were. I started to grow nervous. What if I was dealing with a seasoned professional; someone far more experienced and better equipped than I? What if they were testing me, sizing me up like a shark circling its prey? Now was my chance to move. I needed to gain ground on them. If my suspicions were true, I needed to find an advantage.

Slowly, I pressed and flattened my body closer and closer to the dirt. Like an elusive spider, I darted in and out of the shadows cast by the tall grass and trees. I, too, had made little or no audible sound as I weaved toward the side of the house and I found myself impressed with my own agility. Perhaps I was more formidable than I first conceived. Backing around the house’s concrete corner and into a narrow side path, my gaze burned into the shimmering space around the tractor. There had been no movement since I’d seen my enemy settle there. A small part of my brain twitched as I envisioned them crawling towards me in much the same manner; weapon in hand ready to cut me down. They’d strike out from the umbra of night. If so, my guts would warm me for only a few short minutes before I finally suffocated on my own blood and vomit. I knew this fantastic paranoia would serve only to bring about my demise so I abandoned thought altogether and instead relied only on animal instinct.

This side of the house was overgrown with a creeping vine. Though I had not yet been on this slender path before, I expected that it would disgorge me somewhere near the front yard and I could go back inside to plan my next move. Yet still, against my better judgment, my eyes refused to tear away from the fading image of the tractor. I prayed for something, an indication that they were still behind the tractor with no knowledge of my escape. There was nothing. No wind, no rustling, nothing. Finally, I peripherally saw that I had made it to the front. I stood up and sighed in relief.

Opening the front door seemed almost ironic. At first, I was fearful of the implications on exposing my deeds but now I felt a sense of concealment as I closed the door quietly behind me and snuck silently up the stairs to the master bedroom. Of course, I remembered to lock the door this time.

As I entered the oh-so-familiar room, the innards strewn across the disheveled bed sheets were a comforting sight. A small part of me felt almost happy to be amongst such gore and tragedy. This was my original purpose. How it came to such deviation, I know not but at this point I had prepared myself for just about anything. Just then, I heard the scream again. I was ready. I didn’t even recoil against the agonized reverberation. It had to be them: the one like me.

My terrible weapon gleamed in the darkness like a beacon leading ultimately to pain and death. I crept into the void surrounding me. The air seemed darker than before almost as if I had stepped into a cavern forever with-holding the embodiment of midnight. I followed the light of my ‘scalpel’ to the edge of the balcony. Looking below once again, I beheld them. They stood in the middle of the entryway, frozen, listening. I made no sound as I slunk across the awning along the railing overhead. Scrutinizing their form, I noticed with aid from the light that they weren’t breathing. They knew I was here.

Suddenly and without warning, they looked up at me. My heart ceased beating. My veins tightened against the coagulated blood within their core. My God, it was her. The girl was alive. No. I had to be going mad. It was impossible. I killed her with my own hands. I’d gutted her. She smirked at me as if she could see every detail of fear smeared across my alabaster face. I screamed at her. What the fuck do you want from me? She simply smiled brighter with a knowing and aware expression staining her sunken features. I wanted to run out into the night tearing my eyes from my skull. I wanted to burn alive inside an inferno with only my memories to distract me from the agony. She opened her mouth, I could see where I had excised her tongue, and then she ran into the black of the entryway. Most of me wanted to escape into the night and leave this hell house in my wake. The smaller part of me needed to find her.

I circled from above. Running down the same stairs, I started towards the front door offering escape from the madness. As I struggled to unlock the deadbolt, I heard a noise. It wasn’t the characteristic scream of my hellish nightmares; it was a small, fragile sobbing. My chest heaved with a mixture of eagerness and trepidation. Quiet. I had isolated the noise among the ringing echoes of silence. Moving with the sound, I had found its birthing place. I moved to the basement door. Pressing my ear against the old walnut door, I could hear the sound clearly. It was the girl deep within the bowels of the cellar. She mourned for her old life: a life of hidden complexities and torment. I imagine that anything would be better than her present form. I still wondered what force allowed her to exist even after death. It was then that the idea dawned on me: the writing. Somehow, they gave her life beyond death.

Opening the passageway unto the infinite darkness beyond, I sensed a sadness welling from inside me. I knew then that I was not a good person. I was a plague that infected an innocent world. Had I been so wrong? Compared to the vastness of existence, what was one simple life? Nothing. I knew that even though I had deprived a silent victim of their suffering that I was an unsung savior. Yet that was all before this: before the pain of life beyond death. This had to be a nightmare perpetuated by my dementia. I couldn’t have seen or heard what I was hearing now: a sobbing corpse lying in wait of its murderer in a shadow-drenched concrete grave. I had finally gone mad.

Standing at the foot of the stair leading unto the carrion hollow below, I listened to her cry. She had spoken no words, she had uttered no confessions and only now did I realize the gravity of my actions. I resolved to take one step at a time. Step one; I felt a quiet fall upon the scene. Another step. The sobbing had stopped. She knew I was here. Thrusting the blade before me, I had prayed to God she would fall upon it accidentally thus ending my fear of what I had done. Reaching the last stair, I could not will my feet to move. Edging closer to the basement floor now filled with a foot of reeking fluid, I found my purchase upon an old wooden crate. Balanced carefully, I leaned into the clenching fist of mute air. No noise issued forth. I placed one foot into the muck. A slurping sound echoed against the stained walls. My other leg cautiously slunk into wet black. As I slithered into the abyss, my mind envisioned a myriad of horrible endings to the story now being written apparently for my demise: a gruesome zombie flailing in the darkness gripping my neck and crushing out my breath, a squalid little girl stabbing me in the stomach with a rusty scalpel. I could imagine a variety of agonizing ways to die.

It wasn’t until she had finally gripped my wrist that I had realized she was really there. The bony hand stretched across my forearm was too much truth for me to bear. I screamed and shook my arm loose. Turning towards the stairs, I felt another hand upon my ankle. As I ran, a force caught me and sucked me underwater. I was going to drown. Thrashing about, gasping for air but only drawing in deep gulps of waste, I saw my death.

Memory -

Thank you for making love to me, she had said. I had only remembered now that we had sex. She had seemed to climax several times although, at the time, I thought it was the ingrained expectations from times with daddy. Now, I knew she meant it. She had fallen in love with me. It was as though I had become her angel of deliverance. I was the one to carry her away from the pain of incest and rape and take her to a safe place among the bones of fantasy now riddled with worms. She would have been mine forever if I’d wanted her to be. Sitting in my car, she smiled brighter than ever before. This was her freedom. I spoke aloud against my better judgment: Let me take you away from here. Her smile widened. Okay, she said.

Reality –

A faint rasping filled the silent depths of my watery tomb. I fully awoke and looked up into the eyes of a wholesome face. I love you forever, she said. With that, her hand came down upon my throat with a slashing motion. At first, the blood seemed out of place. Suddenly, the flow of life from my wound came gushing out as naturally as a fountain spewing its cascades into the basin. Choking, spitting, I tried to speak out to her. She placed a single bony finger to my lips and shushed away my resistance. The pulsing of my heart pushed pint after pint of my blood out into her open hands now sweeping handfuls into her mouth. I deserved this. Whatever it was that caused this to happen, I knew I was its reason for being. Then, suddenly, as I looked up to the black surrounding me, I saw myself. My own laughing face was looking back at me. Did I continue to live on in some morbid state? I smiled again as I gazed upon myself. Julian, you and I are the same. Fading away, I knew that I was more than I seemed. I was forever.

Dead Sleep

I haven’t slept for 42 days, 18 hours, 36 minutes, 23 seconds. 24 seconds. I’m almost out of my pills. I only have enough to last me until tomorrow. Then what? I’ve been here in this room now for 16 days, waiting to die. They never did see this as a possibility and how could they? No one would have thought that sleeping could kill you. Since the dawn of consciousness, man has always viewed the unconscious as a state of regenerative vitality, of metamorphosis. Now, in the present, the idea of sleep has changed. It has become the assassin, the murderer of millions.

In the early part of the 21st century, mankind reveled in the newfound breakthrough of sub-conscious ‘swimming’. Through the application of mind scanners and virtual injectors, scientists developed a method of seeing into the mind of the unconscious human. The original concept was developed by the 42 year old Dr. Mark Campbell, a psychologist with the far-fetched vision of tapping into the secrets of the universe, which he believed lay dormant inside our very brains; billions of neurons containing a vast network of unrealized genetic knowledge. The idea was thought to be laughable by most of the top leaders in the field of psychology, and finding himself rejected by his colleagues, Dr. Campbell sought the support of independent finance. Three years later, the privately owned research corporation known as Lu-Sidity gave Campbell aid. The founder and C.E.O., Blain Meidosky, was an eccentric philanthropist who historically had taken interest in visionaries like Campbell. With unlimited resources, Campbell was able to create an interface that allowed him to virtually experience the inner thoughts and dreams of any willing human being.

Less than one year later, the very first test subject, Marilynn Carter, a 23-year-old cancer patient, died in her sleep. She had volunteered for the experiment under the pretense that they would find a cure for her lung cancer inside her very skull. The cancer went into remission only a few short days later and Campbell made headlines in every publication in the world. Eleven months after her procedure, her family reported that they hadn’t spoken with her in several days and were concerned. The police found her at home in bed, her body was crushed and twisted in an agonized parody of her once beautiful self. Authorities would have surmised that she’d been murdered by some unspeakably violent killer, except for one strange element that no one could explain. Her eyes still moved. They followed the movements of anyone in close proximity: a detached, blank stare that invoked a most horrifying visage. These were dead eyes rolling around inside a dead skull, unable to perceive the tragedy that had overwhelmed her in her sleep.

At first the police thought she was still alive despite paramedics confirming death. They rushed her to the emergency room. After several days of examination by dozens of specialists, they finally checked her background, tracing it back to the facility now known as ‘The Dream Pool Corporation’: the company that boasted the ability to swim into the mind of anyone and tell them anything they asked, headed up by none other than Mark Campbell. Of course, Campbell’s team of public relations experts buried the incident as circumstantial. Swimming had no known side effects and was pronounced ‘completely harmless’ by the National Committee for Ethical Sciences.

Since Ms. Carter, thousands of people flocked to the facility desiring to treat illness, expand knowledge and find answers to the secrets of life itself. Even after the accusations that Dream Pool was responsible for Ms. Carter’s death, people ignored the warnings and kept going.

I remember my first visit. I was skeptical about the claims and decided to go see for myself. The plaza inside the structure was unbelievable: a great marble dome covered the lobby, adorned with flying banners draped from the ceiling. Everything else was made of tempered glass, very clean and prismatic, shining a rainbow of refracted light across the gray and black Italian marble floor. As I walked into this marvelous building, I smiled. Maybe I knew then that it was everything they proclaimed to be.

My mother was the one who convinced me to go. She had gone several times. The times I was around when she returned were memorable. She would rant and rave about how enlightening it was to have such a wise and benevolent man as Dr. Campbell lean over you and, at almost a whisper, speak unto you the very vibrations that comprise our meaning. I chuckle now at how naive she was; how naive we all were. I still wasn’t quite sure I would follow through but as I walked up to the front desk, it was the attractive redhead that finally did me in. Filling out the paper work was quite the task, but all I could do was imagine what it would be like.

Two hours later and I was laid out on a table, bristling with wires and contacts, breathing deep the fumes of anesthetic. Small machines were mounted above me, scanning, scrying into my skull like a gypsy hovering over her crystal ball. As these luminescent 'wasps' buzzed around my head, I felt a knot form in my stomach: regret. I tried to justify that what I was doing was, in fact, a perfectly fine thing to do. What's the worst that could happen? An injection of microbe-sized robots took me out of my pondering as I winced with the stick of the needle. I wasn't sure, but I thought I heard the Anesthesiologist begin counting in Latin. Or was it French? It seemed like only seconds later and I awoke. I heard my name...

"Mr. Bitterman, Isaac Bitterman...Can you hear me?"

I blinked against the bright lights overhead. There he was, the fabled Dr. Mark Campbell. He hung over me for a moment like a saint and I could see in his eyes that he was pleased: an odd sort of elation that only came from possessing power; influence. I looked deeper into his eyes. He wasn’t Jesus Christ, after all. He was just another man filled with the fire of greed. I realized it all boiled down to control. I deduced then, perhaps through my conspiracy-tainted mind was that he was getting more out of it than any one of his patients, although I wasn’t sure how it worked out. He smiled brightly and asked how I was feeling. I nodded. I sat up and an orderly offered me a drink, orange juice, I think. As I drank, Campbell told me the answer to my question: what happens after we die? He said in an evangelistic tone that we transcend our bodies and join together in a convergence of soul energy that exists on a completely different plane. He told me that the traditional concept of God was a fallacy and that we, ourselves, were God broken apart and forever yearning to reconstitute into a final evolutionary form beyond anyone’s imagination. I had the impression that he had been asked this before as his explanation was well versed. I thanked him with as much honesty as I could muster, hoping not to betray my suspicions. As I left, I felt empty. What was the point of living anymore? There were no more questions to be asked and nothing more to fulfill. I was hollow.

The following year was very profitable for Dream Pool. Campbell had placed in the top five of the most wealthiest people in the world and soon, he would be number one. The impact on society itself was remarkable. Science was reinvented, religion transformed. Nearly the entire world population had entered the 'New Jerusalem' of The Dream Pool. The cost had dropped dramatically over time, most likely due to Campbell’s need to consume more and more brain waves from the masses. The process itself became more impersonal. One of the last times my Mother visited, she had told me that now the doctor spoke to her from behind a frosted glass wall and that she couldn’t even make out his face. The proverbial ‘commitment to customer service’ had failed. Crowds were ushered in and out as fast as possible as an endless line formed, day and night, outside the Dream Pool complex. As the obsession grew, so did the body count. Hundreds of individuals were found, just like Marilynn Carter, twisted into indescribable, boneless masses. All of them had seeking eyes, an obvious result of swimming. Yet still, our governments, the police, no one stepped forth to stop what was happening. I only went that one time, but that’s all it took. In 2012, they finally came to the conclusion that swimming wasn’t as safe as they had thought, but all of this was so far after the fact that it didn’t matter. At least 3/5ths of the population had been to the Dream Pool and millions were dying. Dr. Peter Wisp, one of Campbell’s operations managers, came forth in a press conference and stated that swimming was the cause of the previously unexplained deaths and that there was a temporary cure for the problem. Of course, the rights of ownership were held by Lu-Sidity. They said that something change inside our brains whenever we swam and that the only way to circumvent death was to avoid sleep. The media was in an uproar as was the rest of the world. How could anyone just not sleep? The average person can only survive without sleep for 14 days. Dr. Wisp provided an answer: the Anti-REM pill. This drug allowed humans to purge their neural necessity for sleep by re-configuring the neurotransmitters and hormones that made it a requirement to sleep. Every 2 hours, a person would withdraw into their mind and experience what would come to be known as ‘Accelerated Bio-stasis Induction’ or ABI. Natural sleep was forgone by speeding up the brain to one thousand times faster than normal. So this pill gave us the ability to stay awake and survive but there was one catch: the side effects of sleep deprivation, severe hallucinations and vertigo, still could not be avoided. After 13 days without sleep, our government decided that it was illegal to attempt to drive or operate machinery until a suitable alternative could be found.

Factories closed, businesses went bankrupt due to the fact that most could not afford to rehire and retrain employees who had not yet contracted the affliction within 13 days. All life froze in the midst of despairing times. Economies crumbled leaving nations defunct and unable to provide for its population. All eyes turned to Dream Pool. Campbell was at the center of it all. Pill distribution began worldwide. Any cost for the drug was eventually nullified but you had to be in an area where they offered the drug. They couldn’t afford to bring them to you. This left millions still without any options but to wait until their mind and body finally succumbed to the ‘dead sleep’.

20 days ago, I walked through Phoenix. The bodies filled the streets in various stages of decay but still their eyes wandered. It’s hard to explain how it feels to walk through a desolate city with thousands of dead people staring at you as you walk by. The eyes. That’s what I remember the most. As I stepped into a pharmacy, now controlled solely by Dream Pool, I saw a particular body, a young woman lying in the aisle, who had not made it to the counter in time. I imagine that the clerk, who had most likely witnessed her death first hand, had found it difficult to concentrate on anything else in the last few days. In the beginning, state officials worked within the communities to remove and dispose of the dead, but that too became monetarily inefficient. So, the dead remained where they had fallen. It used to bother me, but in the past weeks I have seen so many die from the new plague, I've become desensitized to death. After all, my own mother was the first for me. That’s really all it took.

I remembered opening the door. I called out to her. When she didn’t answer, I made my way through the kitchen and into the back bedroom where she slept. I heard her voice finally reply in a weak rasp. She had tried to stay awake as long as possible but the elderly were not strong enough to maintain, even while using Anti-REM. The last thing she spoke was my name.


Sleep overcame her and at once her body began to writhe and contort. I could hear her bones crack as they broke from the muscular strain. She screamed and I couldn’t help her. That was the first and last time I remember crying. The final images I could pull from my fading memory before running out of the house and into the sunlight were her eyes. They looked right at me, into me, as if to say ‘Why didn’t you do something, anything?’ She watched me as I backed away. I wondered if somehow, she still knew what was happening. Maybe she was still alive in her mind and the pain had now become eternal. They never did prove whether or not the victims were aware of what they experienced after death. Besides, who said physical death was the end? Even Campbell never really answered that one.

I have realized my purpose and, in my struggles, I’ve managed to come this far. The only thought in my mind is to find Campbell...and kill him. He alone is responsible for this apocalypse and the only reason why I lasted this long is to see him burn. I am beyond the pills’ necessity. Unmitigated retribution fills my veins now. He will be here eventually and I will be waiting. All it takes is one second of focus and concentration, one bullet. And in that final second, I will allow myself to slip away like the rest of them. For this task, I purchased a rifle with a high-powered scope from an arms dealer in Mexico 24 days ago. He told me that the gun could stop a charging elephant but that I wasn’t worried about. Come to think of it, I‘ve never been so free of anxiety. After contacting a close friend inside the Dream Pool organization, I learned that Campbell had planned to make an appearance yesterday to proclaim his sympathy for those who had died in Phoenix in the last few weeks. He conveniently didn’t make it. The speech was delayed for one day due to rioting in the entire metro area. That should have been a sign. It seems everyone knows they are going to die soon. No one wants sympathy. For Christ’s sake, find a fucking cure, you bastard! The last thing I want to hear as my skeletal structure crushes into meal is some fat cat saying he’s sorry for capitalizing on my eventual demise. But isn’t that what they all say? 'Sorry to tell you this, but there is no God, there is no Devil. We just said that so you would give us your money.' Typical. So many innocent victims suffering, dying for one man’s conquest of El Dorado. The City of Gold.

I looked out the window this morning. The sun’s harsh light burned across the sand. My eyes hurt but I couldn’t stop staring at its beauty. Thousands of flinty, ghost-like images became prismatic through my hallucinations. I have been in this desert for too long. My room stinks of liquor, sweat and pain but it’s only mildly uncomfortable, almost like a coffin would be. I pictured my world lined in plush velvet and walnut. What would be my eulogy? 'Isaac Bitterman, Our savior from tyranny.' Maybe I’ll leave a note just in case I’m famous. Or maybe I’ll die in obscurity and it won’t matter. Check the clock. Check your rifle case. Wash your face and eyes. You need to see and look presentable. Almost time to leave. I picked up the phone, called a taxi and then lit a cigarette. Faces were laughing at me in my smoke. I smiled back. Soon I would know what was so funny to them.

Eduardo, my taxi driver, dropped me off at the conference grounds. I was very early but I needed to plan this out thoroughly. No room for mistakes in this game. I scanned the area and noticed several guards were being posted in nearby buildings. Only two towers remained unoccupied and I had to move to one of them before that happened. I tried to appear inconspicuous but, with a large case slung over my shoulder, I wasn’t very successful. I heard a voice boom from behind me and I instinctively ran into an office building right in front of me. I didn’t see who it was but, if I had to kill more than one person to get to Campbell, so be it. I charged up the stairwell in hopes of losing my pursuer but I could hear them gaining. Floor seven...Floor eight. Floor nine. I stopped. No sounds came after me. Had they left? No. They were still there but farther back than I suspected. I opened the side door into an office hallway. Luckily, I was in the front of the room, near the windows overlooking the square. Although, it wasn’t a good idea to try and shoot someone point blank with a sniper rifle, it could be done and it’s what I would do if necessary. I opened the case nimbly and screwed on the stock. Loading the weapon took no more than 2 swift motions: I’d been practicing. As I pulled the gun to my shoulder, I crouched down and leaned back against a support beam behind a toppled cubical wall. This vantage point gave a clear shot to the door. Drops of perspiration formed on my forehead and cheeks, my hands were shaking. I never knew it would be this hard to stay in control. Taking several short breaths, I held in the last of them and listened intently. Were they still out there waiting for me to make a move? We could be stalemated here for a long time and, if so, I could miss my chance to take Campbell. What would become of me then? Too many thoughts coursed through my head all at once I couldn’t see straight. Everything began to waver like surrealistic water pouring into the room, drowning me in colors. Then, I snapped. The door opened slowly and I could see a hand brandishing a 9-millimeter handgun. Training my scope on the arm, I followed its length up to the emerging face of a police officer. He wore a beard and his dark, sunken eyes narrowed as he glanced cautiously around the room. For a split second, I felt bad for the guy, he didn’t have anything to do with Campbell’s desecration of the human mind or his dictatorship over the remaining populace. He was just doing his job, but then again, so was I. I gave him a few seconds to look around, thinking that perhaps he would just leave, giving me no reason to kill him. After he was satisfied, he would surely go on to another level. As I relaxed just slightly, I shifted my back leg making the slightest shuffling noise. Damn. He perked up, turning my direction

"Who’s there? Come out of there. I won’t hurt you, I just want to talk."

He stepped fully into the room and slowly swung his gun from left to right. I knew I had no choice at this point. The world was over-flowing with casualties, all dying for a purpose whether peaceful or malign, whether meaningful or worthless. He just happened to be in that proverbial ‘wrong place at the wrong time’ and I was the Angel of Death. Nostrils flared, dust, blood, old dreams and emptiness. I smelled them all, flowing from me. As I squeezed the trigger, still unsure if I wanted to be a murderer like Campbell; a devourer of innocence, I whispered something. What did I say? I whispered to this man, this lost soul as I inhaled the poison air he would never have to breathe again. A blast of light exploded from the muzzle of my weapon. He never saw anything, not even a look of surprise on his face before the back of his head burst into streams of thick red. I fell into a slump. Maybe now, when I die, I will go to hell. I never thought so before, but I’ve changed my mind.

I waited for 2 hours. Alone, I counted the minutes for an eternity. I had been listening to a crowd gather outside for at least an hour. Their voices blended together to form a kind of hum that reverberated throughout the square. I wondered if someone else was out there, holding a gun or bomb or something, harboring the same notions, the same contempt that I myself had. If so, I wouldn’t be surprised. In fact, I would be grateful. I pictured myself embracing some faceless hero amidst a mass of flashing lights and cries of joy. Never the less, I still planned on being that hero. My companion and I waited, he more patient than I in his pool of crimson humility. Finally, after some time, I could hear voices begin to cheer. How blind they were. I pushed myself up and took one last look at the dead policeman still bleeding on the floor. It’s amazing how much blood a person really has. I wonder how much will pour from Campbell. Will it be as rich and pure as the man I’d slain only 2 hours ago? Clinging to my ‘sword’, I stepped to the window.

Quite a significant crowd had gathered since my arrival, but I still could not see Campbell. I sought throughout the audience to see if I could spot that hero I’d dream of earlier. All of them looked like cattle waiting to board the truck headed to the slaughterhouse. A world filled with cowards! Thankfully, I was not afraid. I had been able to justify every action I’d taken up to this point. This was the moment I would shine. My body ached but I held to my resolve. Nothing could stop me now. I looked down again, closer. It was time. Campbell stepped to the podium. The microphone screeched as he cleared his throat, a throat I would soon puncture.

"Dearest patrons, it is my honor to announce to you that we have found a cure."
Gasps stirred the air. What kind of new cruelty was this?

"We have spent countless hours in the labs researching our database to find some answer to the tragedy which has befallen our world because of my vision." What am I hearing? This has to be some sort of ploy to alleviate the fear and regain support.

"I will cut to the chase. After examining our records of those who have visited our facilities, we came across one and only one mind scan of an individual with the knowledge of ending this plague that has covered our world for the last year. This is wonderful news, however, we need to find this person, if they are still alive, and rescan their mind so we can accurately extract the information we need to develop this cure for what has been the greatest tragedy in our entire history. I implore each and every one of you to come forth if you have any information pertaining to the whereabouts of Isaac Bitterman. He was born here and it is my hopes that someone among you knows who and where he is."

A shock fell over my body. I couldn’t move or even think. Was there some way he could have known my intentions and he was using this as a way to draw me out? I questioned my contact at Dream Pool. Did he slip and divulge my secret? What should I do? Take the shot, take the shot, Isaac. I took aim.

"Please, anyone who knows this man, come forth. This could mean the salvation of us all!"

I shook with a tremor never known to me before this moment. Take aim and shoot. All I could do was focus on his heartbeat. I could see it in my scope. I could taste his blood. I hated him, but a part of me wanted to believe. Then, I realized, there was someone pushing through the crowd. It was Eduardo. I’d forgotten that, out of lack of sleep and ego, I foolishly shared with him my plan to assassinate Campbell. Without thinking, I targeted him. It must have been out of reflex, some sort of survival instinct that drove me to pull the trigger. Eduardo fell into the crowd as a fine red mist surrounded his back and chest. I reloaded. The onlookers spread apart, running in all directions, scrambling to take cover. Then I saw Campbell pointing to my position. And the guards came running. I knew I had no hope of living beyond this moment so I stood up and walked to the edge of the window so everyone could see. I screamed to Campbell.

"You fucking liar! I’m the Angel of Death! Behold, Campbell, your reign slips away!"

As I pulled my rifle to my chest, I smiled. He could not escape and I was free from guilt. I knew that I was doing the right thing. Instead of taking cover as I expected him to, Mark Campbell stood firm at his podium. He spoke into the microphone once again.

"Isaac, I know that’s you. I can see you. I am not a liar. I made a mistake. But, if you come down here, I promise that together we will save this Earth. Put down your weapon. All I want to do is to make right what I’ve wronged."

I believed him. I don’t know what it was but I truly thought he meant what he promised. Perhaps it was my longing for vengeance that caused me to hold my cross-hairs over his heart. I heard feet trampling up the stairs and I knew I didn’t have much time. I was falling victim to Campbell’s charisma like everyone else. But, hope remained within me. I slowly lowered my gun. What the hell was I thinking? Was I destined to become one of Campbell’s pawns in his quest for global domination? So be it. Someone would take my place eventually and I, the fool, would be martyred for my actions. The Police flooded the room and forced me at gunpoint to drop my rifle. So, I did. I was handcuffed and pulled out of the office by my hair. I cursed my foolishness. Through the flock of sheep, I was drawn, heading directly to the front of the square. Campbell looked down upon me with almost fearful eyes. He then surprised me by reaching out to me: a gesture I did not expect from a tyrant such as him. It seemed as though he really did need me to make everything right again. I flushed with a sense of hope and joy. Maybe he really was trying to correct all that he has done. A bright light shone down upon me as I was escorted through the reverent masses to the height of the stage. It was to be my destiny to be exonerated as the one man that saved humanity, only in a different way than I had first envisioned. I looked up to Campbell, gazing into his emotional eyes tearful and caring. He reached out to me. I was truly happy and I felt nothing but love for this man that I have hated for so long. As I stretched out to take his hand, to join him in his journey to heal the world, I heard a snap. I fell. I couldn’t feel my legs. Then, several cracks and pops followed the first. I felt a pain that could not be described. I looked down and saw my body folding in upon itself, crumpling under the strain of spasmodic muscle. My view twisted around until all I could see was the dirt beneath my broken legs. That moment, I felt the tears drip from my convulsive eyes. I could hear the screaming and commotion as my body crushed together. Here was this hero, this savior dying right in front of them. And with me, died the hopes of all humankind. Campbell leaped from the stage and removed a device from inside his coat. Throwing several straps around my chin and forehead, he flipped a switch and I felt a nauseating wave of energy begin to yank and pull at my brain. He leaned close to my ear.

"You will stay alive long enough for to me go back in there, you fuck. I need the information in your head to keep these sheep alive. Can you imagine how powerful I will be then? All I need is the cure and then I'll be finished with your useless husk. Or maybe, I'll keep you alive in a museum, spending every agonizing second being pointed at by school children and people you'll never know. You belong to me, all of you."

I was terrified. I knew all along, I was the fool, the coward. The audacity to think that I, one faceless maggot in a world of feces, could make a difference. Campbell stood and brushed the dirt from his suit. A guard helped him back to the stage and began to speak once again to the murmuring audience.

"People of Phoenix, do not worry. We have secured a way to keep Mr. Bitterman alive until we are able to uncover the formula for ending this plague. I want to thank each and every one of you for your participation in capturing him. The guards will be posted on this very stage to hand out the money we promised after I have left the area. And, of course, you will all be at the top of the list to receive treatment. Thank you again, God bless!"

The mass of traitors erupted in cheers and exaltation as Campbell, the devil himself, waved and walked down the stairs to an awaiting helicopter. I was finished. My fate was to die under the scalpels of Campbell's machines or worse, to be hung up in a display case and fed intravenously for the entertainment of all those we betrayed me. I prayed to a deaf God. My body was mangled and unusable. It was only my mind they wanted. I felt myself being lifted up in a stretcher and carried toward the awaiting vessel. My eyes focused on the people, some laughing and pointing, proud of themselves. Somewhere embracing each other, child and parent, brothers together, triumphant. Then, my gaze fell upon one man, or rather boy. His burning glare pierced the very heart as his fingers clenched into fists and released. A terrible mask of hatred draped over a sweet, youthful face. Through the child’s flowing hair, I could see a boy forced to be a man in a world full of pain and injustice. When I saw him, I thought of myself when I was but a child. I never had the worries he had, nor did I suffer as much. I drifted away from him but I took one final look. It took me a moment to notice that he was now yelling. I couldn't quite make it out over the general noise that filled the air around us. But, then the sounds seemed to yield to his small voice and I heard him say Campbell's name. Campbell had heard him, too. I struggled to crane my broken neck, now numbed by the drugs pumping from the machine on my head. I managed an inch or so and I say Campbell's attention be redirected to the boy. In the interest of public approval, Campbell stepped from the throng of guards and extended his hand to the boy in a hearty greeting. The boy leered up at Campbell and I could see that's when something was wrong. With a strong and determined hand, the boy swung open his dirt-stained trench coat to reveal an elaborate detonation device strapped to his chest. This boy was a walking time bomb. Campbell's guards rushed forth as the young man, no longer a child, grabbed a hold of Campbell and held out the remote detonator in his other hand. The guards froze. I smiled. This was the hero I fantasized, the savior whose name would echo unto infinity.

I finally managed to lean back. I didn't need to see anymore. I was free. After all I had done and all I had meant to do, nothing was in vain. I'd given this boy a chance to get close and make his move. The sky was deep blue, much like the ocean, and I felt myself floating towards it, into its endless depths. The warm sun kissed me for the last time as the heat from the explosive thrust through the air, consuming everything.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

7 - 06-20-13 Interlude

Isaac had begged Kennedy to have the baby but she was set on an abortion.  She'd already apologized for cutting each other with a razor blade leaving long, thin scars across both their bodies, but Isaac didn't care.  He wasn't out to win any beauty pageants.  It was the baby he wanted.  He and Kennedy had decided to marry but, in hindsight, neither one of them had their heart in it.  At the time it was just something that seemed to be the right decision what with the baby and all.  But after several months of pregnancy and bickering, Isaac had asked Kennedy if she was happy.  Her response was a wordless sigh.  It was enough to tell Isaac that things had taken a wrong turn.

Yet still. Kennedy was pregnant with their child.  That was the most important thing to Isaac.  He already had a name picked out: Layla.  It was from the Eric Clapton song.  At this point, he knew the child was a girl.  Kennedy was days away from giving birth, but their relationship had been strained.  He had taken a job working for a carpentry company, and between the hours, and Kennedy's predilection for wild behavior, it was enough to drive a hard wedge between them.

After many months of arguing back and forth, the day came.  Isaac had convinced Kennedy to have the child (under the false belief that they would give the baby up for adoption), and she gave birth to a healthy baby girl.  Of course, after she found out Isaac had no intention of giving up Layla for adoption, Kennedy was more than upset.  It was as though Kennedy didn't want anything to do with the child.  Apparently, motherly instinct was not all inclusive.  Isaac took to raising her as best as he could.  He doused her with love and attention any chance he got.  Kennedy moved out of their city apartment, and then one day Isaac received a package in the mail with instructions on where to sign to dissolve their marriage.

In the end, he didn't care.  He signed the papers, put them back in the mail, paid the last month's rent, and made for a countryside manor left to him by his late parents.  It needed a lot of work but he was up to fixing up the place.  Besides, the warning he had been given by his friend from the Special Forces, however surreal it had been, was a constant thing inside Isaac's mind.  Killing his friend was one of the worse things Isaac had ever done.  Shooting someone you know is a lot harder than shooting an nameless enemy as it was in Afghanistan.  But after seeing was the only thing he knew to do.  Since that time, Isaac had stashed the revolver away in a lock box inside his closet.

Ham and eggs became the staple diet along with a variety of vegetables Isaac was trying to grow in a contained garden.  Layla was growing fast, and Isaac knew it was important to interact with her as much as he could.  Isaac continued to work as a carpenter for a local farming contractor in charge of erecting barns, and other such structures.  In his off hours, Isaac would spend time with little Layla teaching her everything he knew about the world, which wasn't as much as he would like to tell her.  Kennedy had been gone and unreachable for some time.  During his divorce, Kennedy had surreptitiously worked in a monthly child support fee that was way beyond what Isaac expected.  He thought perhaps she was getting money from the government somehow but didn't question it.  At this point, he hadn't spoken to her in several years.  But the money kept coming.  Isaac was at least grateful that the mother of his child wanted to help in some way.  Then, one sleepy Sunday afternoon, he gets a call.  Kennedy was dead.

He'd heard about the ordeal with the New York City Influenza.  That must have been hard on Kennedy.  The things she had to do to survive while the FEMA and the CDC were trying to sift through the rubble one stone at a time.  In Isaac's mind, it was just another Katrina.  The failures of the government to act in time to save the optimal amount of people.  Isaac had never spoken directly to Kennedy.  The conversations always took place through a mutual friend who happened to work for a very specific branch of the CDC involving highly contagious diseases.  Isaac wasn't exactly sure to what degree his friend was involved, but it seemed high up; like top shelf liquor.  You want the good stuff, you pay for it one way or the other.

Being a survivor of the disease, Isaac had guessed that Kennedy was something of an anomaly.  He imagined her bantering on about her experience and how helpful she could be to the right test market, and for the right fee.  The last Isaac knew, Kennedy had volunteered for a very hush-hush experiment, and that no other details were given.  He didn't know what exactly she had volunteered for but he had a feeling it was not good business.  A month later, Isaac received a check for $150,000 dollars and a note from Kennedy that simply said "Take care of her for me.".  A week later, a Sunday, the phone rang.

"Hello, is this, uh, is this Isaac?"
"Yes.  Who is this?  How did you get this number?"
"I don't have time to explain.  I just thought you should know.  K, I mean Kennedy, she's, well she's dead.  It was the experiment.  I can't go into details.  I am afraid I've said too much already."
"Who is this?"
"My name is Andrew.  That's all I can say.  I'm sorry for your loss.  K, er Kennedy seemed really nice.  Listen, I've got to go.  I hear something.  I think there is..."

The phone went dead and Isaac slumped onto the floor with the receiver still in his hand.  He sobbed.  As if on cue, Isaac could hear Layla begin crying in the background.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

6 - 06-08-13 The Experiment Part 1

The experiment was a wild success.  At least to the observers.  Andrew had recently graduated With Honors with his Psychology degree from the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor.  Of course, it wasn't until his second year in an internship for a psych assistant that he got the call for another, surprising opportunity.  Andrew hesitated at first.  The caller, a Mr. Felder, asked if Andrew could keep a secret.  The clandestine nature of the conversation made Andrew nervous.  Eventually, though, Mr. Felder explained that the research was restricted, and that only the select few researchers would know the complete details.  Being his first real job offer just out of college, Andrew accepted.

A female subject had agreed to spend the week in an isolated testing facility.  At first, no other information was provided.  When Andrew arrived at the facility the following day, he was given more information.  The subject, a Ms. Kennedy Walsh, had signed a non-disclosure agreement, as did all personnel working on the project.  And for that week, surprisingly to Andrew, she had agreed to spend the entire time handcuffed in complete darkness.  The purpose of the experiment wasn't completely clear to Andrew, but he went along with it just the same.  His involvement in a high profile experiment of this nature would definitely increase his chances at other lucrative job offers in the future.  How could he say 'no'?

Cameras had been placed throughout the facility, which was no more than the size of a one-bedroom apartment.  Day and night, Kennedy would be watched by researchers in her little part of the world.  Andrew had never met her personally but she seemed like a nice enough girl.  From her photos, he had noticed a series of scars across her body, which made him think of abuse and neglect, although he didn't mention the observation to the other doctors.

From what he was told, Kennedy was a survivor of the New York Influenza outbreak just a few months ago.  The plague had all but wiped out a large portion of New York City in just a few weeks, but eventually the virus became less infectious and died out.  Kennedy was a volunteer nurse in one of the last remaining medical facilities in the city.  She was also apparently immune to the NYI virus.  According to her file, ever since the event her behavior had become somewhat erratic and unpredictable.  Andrew didn't blame her but then again, he had never spoken to nor met her so it was all conjecture.  How does one behave after being holed up in a hospital for weeks, eating the dead for survival, and coming out on the other side only to be told it was just a local thing, and the CDC couldn't get there in a timely fashion?  Andrew just shook his head at the failures of the government but in the end it wasn't the government that bothered him.  Science will find a way to overcome no matter what.  He supposed that it wasn't really his job to question the 'whys' of everything and just get on to the 'hows' and whatnot.

The experiment was simple from an observer's perspective.  Ms. Walsh, or K, as she was commonly referred, was to be handcuffed to a stable beam in the middle of a dark room.  No one was to come or go except for to offer her food and water.  To Andrew, this seemed like an awful waste of time until the variable was introduced.  There was a dog, if one could call it that.  A dog that was hideously deformed from what amounted to a myriad of scientific experiments.  Andrew was appalled at the idea of introducing such a creature into the darkness with the subject.  He had heard gossip of what the animal might do to poor Ms. Walsh.  Eat her alive was the general consensus.  Andrew would have spoken out in protest had it not been for the chief medical officer Dr. Donald Regan expressing his concerns over the livelihood of both patient and project.  Little did Andrew know at the time but Kennedy was the project, not the patient.

The dog was named Henry.  He belonged to Dr. Regan and while many people would protest the various experiments to which Henry had been subjected, the truth of the matter was, Dr. Regan was trying to cure him.  Henry suffered from Canine Influenza, a newer virus that was generally easy to overcome for the animal.  Dr. Regan, a firm believer (and probable share-holder) in the unnamed pharmaceutical company had a vaccine administered to Henry when he became ill.  In most cases, the vaccine is safe, but there are rare cases where it can cause negative side effects.  Andrew didn't exactly know if Henry's current physical state was a result of the vaccine or Regan's efforts to cure him, and he wasn't about to ask.  Clearly, the Doctor had a lot of love for that dog.  It just didn't seem professional to bring it up.

The main research observation facility was located just a few feet away from the house being used for the experiment.  In the event of a problem, researchers could abort the project at any moment to save either the dog or the girl. Or both depending on what everyone expected to happen.  The cameras placed throughout the house were extremely sophisticated: thermal vision, night vision, motion-tracking, even electromagnetic field reading.  These cameras were accompanied with various audio devices scattered throughout the small building.  Every little sound made inside that shack would be recorded.

Andrew stared at the bank of monitors inside the observation room in awe.  He suddenly began to wonder why he was actually here.  What was a Psych major doing in this room with all of this technology?  No one had ever really given him clear instructions on what he would be monitoring.  For the second time, Andrew thought about how this would boost the hell out of his resume' and decided not to question it.  Movement on the monitor shifted and caught Andrew's attention.  They were bringing her in.  This was the first time Andrew had actually seen K in person (well, via camera at least).  She seemed calm and willing.  That made Andrew relax just a bit.  Then he watched as the guards pushed K to the ground and handcuffed her to the beam, leaving one hand free to feel about in the pitch blackness.

Without a word, the guards left and K just sat in the dark room.  Andrew could tell her eyes were trying to adjust to the darkness, but he knew probably before she did that she wouldn't be able to see anything at all no matter how hard she tried.  There was simply no source of light.  Every single crack, window, doorway, and splitting seam of the old house had been meticulously filled in.  She might as well have been blind.  But yet, she did not seem panicked or afraid.  Perhaps living through a biological disaster somehow strengthened her against such fear.  Andrew would never know the answer as to why she wasn't afraid.

There was a back entryway into the house that was separate from the main quarters, with a double door access to keep out the light.  Apparently that was a very important part of the experiment.  Andrew watched as a second team of guards brought in Henry.  He was even more hideous than his photos.  'Jesus' Andrew thought.  How is that thing still alive?  Henry limped into the first entryway, gasping and heaving through tumors sprouting around his snout.  His body was half-limp like a stroke victim, but he managed to drag his legs, covered in oozing boils, across the linoleum and into the second door.  The guards closed the first door to keep out the light, and the opened the second to let Henry loose inside the house; the very same house where K found herself handcuffed.  Andrew couldn't help but sit down in a chair in front of the monitor.  The gravity of everything hit him all at once.  Suddenly, he felt like he was watching a horror film.

Henry sniffed around the room, seemingly aware of the presence of another creature.  His movements were slow, and looked painful to Andrew.  After several minutes of walking/crawling around in front of the second entry door, Henry decided to make his way into the main living area, which is where K was handcuffed.  Andrew could tell K also sensed something.  Suddenly realizing he couldn't hear anything, Andrew grabbed a pair of headphones and threw them over his ears to get the full experience.

"Hello?" K asked into the darkness.  Her voice carried a slight tone of concern at not knowing who or what was in the room with her.  Apparently she had not been told the details of the experiment.  Upon not getting a verbal response to her question, K repeated herself. "Hello?  Who's there?"  Andrew noticed on another screen that her vital signs were also being recorded.  He could see K's heart rate and pulse climbing rapidly. She was afraid.  Then the grotesque sounds of Henry's heaving and squishing along the floor became more audible.  He was moving toward the sound of K's voice.

K squirmed against her handcuffs, flailing an arm out into the darkness to try to feel whatever was around her.  She was out of reach of everything.  The bed was just a few feet in front of her but her reach was just not quite long enough.  Andrew wasn't sure she would be reaching for the bed if she could see anyway.  He did think she would probably be reaching for the nightstand where the baseball bat rested.  Wait.  A baseball bat?  Why was that there?  Was it part of the experiment or just a simple oversight by the setup committee?  Suddenly, a thousand unanswerable questions flooded Andrew's mind.  One particular question stood out among the others.  Why was he in here by himself?  Where were the other researchers?  Andrew had become aware of certain things that did not make sense, and had the sneaking suspicion that he was also a part of this little experiment somehow.  Still, he could not take his eyes off the monitors despite his own fears.  He had to keep watching.

Henry, the monstrous dog, made his way around the beam where K was cuffed.  He seemed to be able to see her in the pitch black of the house.  The dog stopped to study her.  Andrew and K could both hear the sick sounds of Henry's raspy breathing.  No doubt at this point, K could probably feel his hot, stinking breath wafting across her face.  She didn't move.  Andrew glanced quickly at the vitals monitor and saw that her heart rate was spiking.  Her pulse was elevated.  She was indeed afraid.  But Henry just sat there and stared at her until he eventually got tired and laid down on the hardwood floor in front of K, and fell asleep.  His snoring wasn't any more pleasant to listen to than his breathing, but it sounded more subdued.  K's vitals evened out a bit once she realized that death was not immediately forthcoming.  She too fell asleep.  Andrew could hear them both snoring in a cacophony of snorts and grunts.  He looked at his watch.  It was 2 AM.  Andrew, all by himself, settled in to a reclining seat in front of the monitors and dozed off.  It was the scream that woke him.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

5 - 05-22-13 The Diary: Addendum to Part One of The Beginning

<Official Document> Excerpts from unedited diary log of Dr. Michael Anderson found on scene.

May 1: I received a call from a Dr. Mosango, a resident physician in the Kikwit region of Zaire, Africa. He had some exciting news about a new strain of Ebola.  I was less than enthusiastic about taking on a new venture, but the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had agreed to pay my way out into the field for further examination. As a side note, I was not particularly prepared and had to have a second rate professor take over my classes for the semester.  I do hope the students do not suffer as a result of incompetent tutelage.

May7: The flight to Africa was long and uneventful.  Even the in-flight film wasn't particularly entertaining.  I landed just after 3pm.  After meeting with Dr. Mosango, who has insisted I refer to him as Carl, I am convinced that something more is happening than a simple classification or reclassification of the Ebola virus.  For a long time, many in the scientific community have thought bats were the reservoir of the virus. Carl has found a new strain that behaves in very peculiar ways.  I need to get to my hotel and get some solid sleep before I can examine the evidence at hand.

May 8: After grabbing a soft bagel from the hotel's lobby, I met with Carl to discuss the day's plan.  I must say that, for a scientist, he is extremely robust and energetic.  I find the change most welcome.  Here is a large man who is truly enthusiastic about his work; not a common thing among my colleagues back home.  Carl sits me down in front of a bifocal microscope to examine a cell cluster.  At first, I assume that the virus he discovered is a bacteriophage as all of the bacteria in the growth medium appear to be dead.  As I look on, however, these bacterial cells suddenly appear to be reforming, or, dare I say, rejuvenating.  I turned to Carl astonished, and he simply smiled back at me as though he knew that something amazing was happening.

May 10: After some experimentation, Carl and I have learned that the virus will attack and kill a cell, but then somehow it will infuse the dead cell with the power to regrow itself.  We still do not know the mechanism behind this process, but clearly we are not dealing with Ebola or any such hemorrhagic fever.  This virus was something new.  I don't want to presume too much, but, if this works the way I imagine, it could very well unlock the potential for human beings to extend life indefinitely.

May 24: It has been some time since I have written in my diary.  Carl and I have been hard at work trying to make sense of a remarkable discovery.  The military showed up today, at no surprise to myself.  Carl seemed a bit unnerved but I explained to him that any scientific discovery that could potentially benefit the military was routinely visited.  This seemed to calm him somewhat, although I fear the US government will take over this project, thus wresting it out of our hands and taking all the credit.  General so-and-so did his cursory overview of our project, seemed unimpressed, and then left without a word.  In truth, I was relieved that Carl and I could continue our research unabated.

June 17: I came across something today that both Carl and I find extremely disturbing.  In an effort to apply the unique attributes of the virus to human cells, we chose mice as our test subjects.  An injection of a small portion of the virus caused the mice to die.  This was not unexpected.  The surprising part was that, after a few moments, depending on how much of the virus was injected, the mice that had clinically died had come back to life.  Normally, this would account for a significant scientific breakthrough.  Unfortunately, it was a matter of moments before the reanimated mice began attacking and eating the unaffected mice in the same cage.  I think back to George Romero's "Night of the Living dead".  Have we discovered the mechanism that reanimates the dead?

July 24: The infected mice have gained control over the population.  Carl and I decided that the best experiment for this type of pathogen was to expose it to a neutral atmosphere.  Affected and unaffected alike behaved in ways that were anticipated.  The infected overcame the uninfected in mere minutes.  Imagine if there were human subjects.  My primary goal now is to find a way to somehow disable the reanimation process of the virus, or, at best, find a way to kill it without harming the host.

Aug 18: Carl is dead. He tried to escape from the lab and the armed guards shot him.  Apparently they know that this experiment is more important than human life.  I don't agree with their decision but I think Carl is now free from all the terrible things that I am now expected to perform.  The Maker Rest his Soul.

Sept 1: I can't help but stare at the microscope.  I know now that any efforts I make are all being recorded.  Honestly, I don't mind. I just want all of this to be over. Let's hope that all these crazy, religious bastards slip up and let me go.  I may be a scientist, but I am also a man who has a family.  I'll be damned if they take that away from me.  I will do my best to get in touch with some important people that I know.  If I could only get out of this mess...