[Original Novel] Down in the Steam Tunnels, Part 7

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Previous parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

They never let up. It’s like an Andy Kaufman routine. I can explain every last detail of how they fake everything and they just carry on with the charade anyway. Absolutely infuriating. Moreso because the projection trick really did shake me somewhat. That’s a terribly cruel prank to play on someone in a place like this.

After a few minutes of walking, we came upon a door. Locked, but rusty, such that with concerted kicking we managed to bust the door open. It was mercifully much cooler than the corridors, and less humid. Dust hanging in the air adhered to the thin layer of sweat coating my skin, forming a sticky film.

The room was concrete like the tunnels but dressed up enough to be livable. Well furnished, although overtly out of date. The nearest shelf bore a rotary telephone, drum of slides, and a phrenological model of a human head with dotted lines demarcating the regions of the skull to be measured for qualities like ‘wistfulness’, ‘vigor’, ‘ingenuity’, and ‘criminality’.

Then, I noticed the machine on the far wall. With the gauges, dials and knobs. And a faint blue glow radiating from the open service panel. Could it be? The room before me didn’t match what I’d seen in the photos. They couldn’t have been taken here. Which means this must simply be where the machine was stashed once the study concluded.

Flipping the light switch accomplished nothing. Evidently the bulb was burnt out. But my eyes were already adjusted, and aided by the faint blinking lights on the face of the machine, so I was able to make out the room well enough to navigate it.

the professor cooed. He unscrewed the glass tubes full of glowing blue gas from within the machine, then pocketed them. There sat a gurney adjacent to the machine, a tangle of thin wires strewn across it, terminating in small metal pins. The sheets were, in places, stained brown with long dried blood.

I softly queried. When no answer came, I looked behind me to study the professor’s face. He appeared uncomfortable, as though deliberating how much I should know. He turned and rummaged through the contents of a shelf, then produced a stack of notebooks.

While I began reading the first notebook, Zach fired up the old fashioned slide projector. Remarkably the little bulb was still good, but the lens needed a bit of cleaning to render the image satisfactorily clear. I glanced up now and then to study the slides. Most matched up with photos I’d already seen reproductions of.

The first notebook was simply a dry, by the numbers description of daily procedures. What I would expect from a disciplined scientist. But because of the format I couldn’t get a big picture sense of what he’d been up to. So, I continued to the second notebook, which turned out to be a journal.

Perverse, atavistic ideas I was all too familiar with. I recalled a humanities course which, for a few days, covered the shameful error of American eugenics. Whole enclosed villages erected solely as someplace to imprison those deemed unfit to live in healthy society, much less to reproduce.

There were, for many decades, impassioned arguments put forth by what at the time passed for learned men, that we should all have to carry eugenic certificates attesting to our level of hereditary fitness. That we should marry not for love, but with a view to creating offspring that are in certain ways an improvement over us.

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