“Today saw the most fortuitous windfall imaginable. A small boy, the abandoned offspring of vagrants by the looks of him, sought refuge in the steam tunnels. I came upon him searching for scraps. He can clearly speak his own name, Jeremy, but struggles with language apart from that.
If, through my recent discovery of Orgonic science, I can devise some means of artificially enhancing his intellect, I will have done it. The holy grail of my decade long struggle since I fell from grace.
The short-sighted compassion of those horrid bastards of the Frankfurt School, who set us on this inexorable path to self-destruction, will have amounted to nothing. Generations of gradual cognitive decay, reversed practically overnight!
No law will be needed. No movement, no revolution. Only to offer as a commercial service the voluntary application of Orgonic intelli-hancement. Albert says the name isn’t as catchy as I think. But if I build it, they will come.
What mother would neglect her child by declining to improve its IQ? What father would not desire to give his progeny the best possible chance at success? The key, I’m certain, is in the organizing properties of this queer blue gas. Reich was kind enough to ship me some, that I might independently verify his findings. Not that the university will pay any attention, mind you.”
A paralyzing fear began to take hold. He’d really done it. He’d gotten his hands on some abandoned child to experiment on. Of all the creeps that boy might’ve wound up in the custody of, William was the worst, or at least a serious contender.
“The trepanation did not go as smoothly as hoped. Jeremy would not hold still, or stop whining. Doesn’t comprehend the importance of my work. Undoubtedly due to the poor stock he comes from. I might’ve drilled in just a bit too far. But whatever damage I may have inadvertently done will be reversed by the infusion of Orgone, I feel certain of it.”
The text was accompanied by another sketched illustration. This time a cross section of a human head, with a cylindrical device penetrating the skull, and a short ways into the brain. The exterior portion was a sort of threaded port, into which it seemed you could screw one of the Orgone filled glass tubes I’d seen Travigan take from the machine earlier.
“There have been certain…complications. Little Jeremy’s borehole is not healing properly. I don’t understand it. I’d have involved a qualified surgeon except that I would never find one who’d agree to perform such a procedure.
The pus replenishes itself faster than I can clean it away. The smell is atrocious. Jeremy only cries now, and runs a perpetual fever. If anyone discovered what I’ve done, I can only imagine what they’d think of me. Not understanding the larger importance of my work.”
I could feel him breaking down, evident in the slow change of his tone as I progressed through the journal. I wondered where it could lead to. Surely he was eventually discovered, and imprisoned for all of this? I felt I couldn’t bear any other outcome.
“The administration seems to have forgotten about me. All the better. I can accomplish everything I need to from down here. How long has it been? I could do with a calendar. Every so often, degenerate fools intrude to explore the tunnels. It’s a simple matter to isolate one from the rest. It pains me to take life, but I cannot continue my work without a reliable supply of Orgone.”
My breathing was short and shallow. Each page proved worse than the last, and it was a struggle to force myself to keep reading. There was seemingly no depth William hadn’t sunk to, while imagining himself heroic for it. Directionless rage began to grow in me without any productive outlet. After all, there was nothing left of him that I might take it out on. So I thought.
Suddenly, the lights went out. Everything was still, dark, and silent. “Professor?” I called out. “Zach?” No answer. Putting my hand against the wall, I could no longer feel any distant vibrations. The generator had either run out of gas, or broken down. Unless someone shut it down manually, those were the only possibilities I could think of.
I checked the battery meter on my phone. 19%. I went into the network menu and turned on airplane mode to conserve power. Even so, I knew I was fast running out of light. My heart rate increased, and I began to hyperventilate.
“Zach? Professor?” I called out through the open door. Loathe to leave the relative safety of that little room, but left with no other option. Now sweaty and nauseous, I tucked the manilla envelope under one arm and inched down the darkened corridor, arms outstretched so I might feel my way along.
Then, one of the lights sprang to life. Not thirty feet away, illuminating a silhouette I recognized as Zachary. He beckoned to me. “Where were you! When the lights went out I called for you and the professor, but you’d left me behind, you asshole!” He didn’t react. As I got closer, I began to notice something was amiss.
His outline was hazy. Whenever he moved his arm, the motion was blurred. Like a sloppy rotoscoped animation. I stopped in my tracks. Perhaps sensing that I’d figured it out, the form dissolved, revealing instead another one of those faint, ghostly projections. I could just barely make it out, and sorely wished they’d left the perceptor with me.
It had only stubby, vestigial arms and legs. Fine, fragile little fingers and toes, certainly not useful for anything. Its ribcage and spine elongated like the skeleton of a whale, or serpent. The mouth looked much too small to be used for eating anything, the teeth like fine, pointy little porcelain shards.
It stirred, detecting my presence. Then, slowly, turned to face me. I dreaded it, and internally, begged it all to stop. Some primal part of my brain intimately recognized it. Instinctive familiarity, now inducing waves of nausea and fear, cascading through my body. What is it? What the fuck is it? How can it be real?
It can’t. Just like that, my perception realigned itself. None of this could possibly be happening. I stiffened up, stared down the crippled little spectre, and dared it to continue existing. Can’t possibly be real! A hallucination. From fumes that build up down here, no doubt.
Truly, no doubt. Not a shred. There can be no such creature. What is it made of? If nothing, how could I see it? More likely by far that I was just overheated, my mind conjuring up this fever dream. As I grew more insistent about this, the vision began to falter.
First, the limbs shrunk, then vanished. Then the spine began to retract. Shorter and shorter, the ribs disappearing into it as it reached them. Finally, just the skull. I stared, as certain as I’ve ever been that nothing supernatural exists in this world or possibly could. With that, the skull folded in on itself, then vanished.
I fell to my knees and sharply exhaled in relief. Mind over matter. The small victory reinvigorated me. I set off down the corridor, now confident I would soon escape, prize in hand. But before long, I heard it. Softly at first, such that I couldn’t tell exactly what it was.
The echoing distorted it. Only as I drew near did it resolve into weeping. A small boy, by the sound of it. I hesitated. Another hallucination? But refusing to hear it had no effect. The weeping only continued, and grew louder as I approached the source.
“Who’s there?” I whispered. The weeping softened, then stopped. “Y…you’re not him. Are you?” Him? I knelt before the unseen child. “I came here with friends to find something. And to explore. Are you hurt? Where are your parents?”
I heard sniffling. Then the sound of a small body climbing to its feet. “I…don’t have parent. I don’t remember back that far. I get lost down here. Was cold outside, I just want get warm.” I reached out, but heard him withdraw. “Don’t touch! I don’t like! Nobody can touch, ever again.”
I assured him I wouldn’t. “Are you hurt? Do you need me to carry you?” More sniffling. “I can walk. I bleed, but….is just….my medical wound…” He sounded ashamed of it. Medical wound? I grew tense. Wondering if it could really be what I suspected. Heart gripped by dread, I asked for his name. “Jeremy.”
Not the same one. Or a prank? He should be nearly seventy by now. But, reality is what continues to exist, even if you don’t believe in it. And however severe my doubt, the sniffling only persisted. Then the weeping again.
Stay Tuned for Part 10!