by Rick Scabrous
First entry—October 31st
If a fate befalls that does not bode well enough for my story to be told of my own frightened lips, then I implore whomever has read these words to heed my warning and proceed with due caution. My home, where I presume this diary has now been discovered, sits across from Thaddeus Stronghold’s laboratory. Once a fine friend, Thaddeus had converted his residence into a dwelling of experimentation—and as I direly believe, a dwelling of torture—all in the name of science.
When we were still on good terms, I was privy to his maniacal ideations and fantastical suppositions. There was this machine, you see—at that time unperfected, he had freely admitted—that Thaddeus claimed should, in theory, allow one to mentally perceive the free-floating movement of gravitons; a kind of melding of both the mind and an unperceivable physical reality. Silly, it may sound, but the practical implications for such a machine could be far reaching.
The graviton machine is engineered to harness and amplify the functional capacity of various sections of an individual’s brain, specifically targeting neural clusters within the occipital lobe and prefrontal cortex. In the hypothetical, the user can perceive the gravitons, which emanate from all physical matter, and seem to move in and out of our plane of existence. And, theoretically, once the electrodes are removed, this effect could last minutes, hours, or days. One could rapidly glean the keenest of insights into any and all matter which they have gazed upon, whereas the behavior of the gravitons are reflective of the unseen components of the mass within. Thaddeus had explained it as such: If you were a customs officer, for example, who was only able to randomly search less than one percent of the cargo that moves through your checkpoint in a given day, with a little training and a much smaller version of the beastly sized graviton machine, you would be able to determine, with stunning accuracy, the contents of any unit, along with its exact mass and weight. And soon mental projections would form. You could have Superman’s eyes with the click of a switch.
But the question of its safety was sadly in doubt. The machine in its unperfected state might in fact strip gravitons—or other important bits—from the user and cause hideous damage or a ghastly death. And there may be other unseen and unpredictable dangers as well. Thaddeus, however, was not so foolish as to try it on himself, or God forbid on any other human being.
That is why he bought the rats.
I was invited to witness his first live experimentation with the graviton machine, and Thaddeus had ensured me that I would safe from harm, be it to body or brain; but for the rats, he could make no promises. The machine itself was a glossy obsidian color with the sheen of brushed steel. In shape, it appeared to be a cylindrical trapezoid with its widest side lying flat against the hardwood attic floor. Thaddeus and I were safely behind a specialized glass dome, which enclosed us as the large machine warmed itself into action. Why such a thing would protect us was beyond my understanding (along with the answer as to why I was even there at all). Seeing the consternation across my visage, Thaddeus iterated that no harm would befall us, and this he said as the hulking dark machine thrummed lowly, like a massive hive of restless hornets trapped inside a giant drum.
The half-dozen rats were in a large wire cage, and a score of electrodes were aligned equidistantly along the outside. Thaddeus had no intention to activate specific, minute areas of the rats’ brains in order to achieve a desired effect; rather, he had only wished to test for hazardous results: sudden illness, brain damage, and such. And as Thaddeus had pointed out, it wasn’t as if the rats could explain what they had seen.
Once the machine was charged to full effect, the electric lights faltered and the entire expansive attic was enveloped in a glowing maelstrom of deep purple light. The befuddled rats stumbled over each other drunkenly, squeaking with heightening celerity, and many convulsing with violent muscular spasms. And then, suddenly, the rats went mad and had begun to tear into each other with their vicious ratty teeth. After one rat had torn the face from another, I begged him to stop the experiment and to free them from their cage. “They’re innocent creatures!” I cried out. But Thaddeus claimed that it wasn’t safe and that the machine must wind down before we cracked the seal to our dome enclosure. And by the time the murderous machine had cycled out, all the rats were dead; they had eaten each other alive. The last rat, almost fleshless, with half its skull and all four legs exposing bright-white bone, had devoured into his own soft belly until it stopped with a strident deathsqueak.
It had died with its own innards betwixt its bloody jowls!
The exquisite horror!
And I asked him, yelling like a madman, “How can you even think of using such a thing on a person?”
Offended, he retorted that the machine was not finished, and that trials would go on for months before human testing. That the rats, he claimed, had given him invaluable data.
But I couldn’t understand nor accept his callous disregard for life, or humanity. “They ate each other,” I’d rebuked. “This cannot be ethical, and I would venture a guess that it is blatantly illegal.”
These words, he had assumed to be a threat. He chased me from his lab in a sudden rage, waving a shaft of metal piping. I’m just glad he didn’t turn on the machine to be rid of me! My nerves out of sorts, I called the authorities and told them what I had seen, but they immediately patched me through to animal control. But they’d said: What do you want me to do about it? Rats, right? Call again when he’s killing cats or puppies and maybe we can talk about a fine.
In not too long, he was bringing cats and dogs into his home, and I swear to the Good Lord that I once heard a sheep braying in the gloom of a September’s night. A man is not much bigger than a sheep, I had thought, with a fiery pain in the pit of my stomach. And at that time, I had again called the authorities. And perhaps I’d embellished my accusations.
When the two patrolmen arrived, Thaddeus appeared from the rear of the house and welcomed them into his home; long enough for a tour, no doubt. They had ambled out from the back of the house fifteen minutes later and then they were on their way. He had waved them goodbye, and then he lifted his eyes to my bedroom window. And in the foreboding light of the moon, we shared an intense and mutual gaze—one of contempt; one of knowing. And then he vanished.
The next time I’d phoned the authorities was after I heard the tortured, caprine screams of a goat. But the police had warned me that I could be prosecuted for making false allegations against my neighbor and for the misuse of a public service. I begged for them to trust me, but they said they needed proof. And yet tonight, evidence or not, I felt obliged to call a third and final time because he had crossed an unspeakable threshold.
I was quite surprised to see his light on out front. His dwelling had always given off the impression that no one was home, because Thaddeus hated interruptions. But tonight—Halloween night—the light over his front stoop was lit, and I watched in terror as the first of the children flocked to his door. They used the knocker, and as they banged away, the sound sent sharp pangs into my soul, and tears from my eyes. I stood statuesque, terrified he’d to try and lure one of those babes into his horrible abode.
Those sweet costumed children were lured to Thaddeus’s front entrance with the promise of confections, but at an unseen threat against their young lives—like heat-hungry moths to a murderous flame.
His heavy wooden front door, the one I’ve never seen him use, made a yawning groan as Thaddeus came out with a tray of candied apples wrapped in blood-red cellophane. It’s poison! screamed my inner voice. But then I reasoned that he would not want his specimens dead.
Human testing would begin soon, if it had not already.
I counted thirty-seven children in all who had come and went. All had left unharmed, each one with a candied apple. Eight tolls gonged on the side of the old church bell and the streets were once again quite: no more fresh laughter or capering feet. But I continued to watch to be sure, for his light continued to burn.
To my horror, at exactly 8:11 p.m. two young girls, perhaps six and nine years of age, raced excitedly to his dimly lit front door. No parents in site. My skin crawled with apprehension, and I feared for these two exponentially more than I had for the others. Maybe because they were dressed up like mice—or rats!
Like the others they used the knocker, and the dull mahogany thuds, faint by the time they had reached my ears, sent icy waves of unease crashing against my spine. But Thaddeus did not answer. And I thought that perhaps I was the mad one, or maybe I’ve—
The door opened, and he was empty handed; although, he’d had half a tray of apples when last he showed his face, gifting them so eagerly to the exuberant children. He shrugged, and I could hear their short-lived whines of disappointment. Then his eyes lit up. He became animated, said something that I could not hear, and then he smiled! I haven’t seen that man smile for at least ten years, but there it was, apocryphal yet charming. He waved the children inside. And though I knew not what he had promised, I could too easily guess what fate would await them. With childish effervescence, the two naïve fools followed him inside, and the door fatally slammed shut. The faint snick of the lock was the labored chop of a dull axe to my heart.
I scrambled for the telephone and dialed the police again straightaway. I stated that I had just witnessed an abduction, and that the man across the way had taken two young girls into his home against their will.
The police pulled up seven minutes later, lights warbling, flashing blue and red against that pernicious black edifice which contained Thaddeus Stronghold’s laboratory. They cut their lights and then stepped quickly to the door. I pumped my fist triumphantly, happy to have finally gotten that bastard. He would not expect the police, and they would certainly—
But as they approached, the front door opened wide like a starving dark maw; and the hinges croaked like its thirsty, arid windpipe. That scrofulous smile had again stretched across his face. When the officers spoke to him, he offered a puzzled expression. Then he motioned, apparently inviting them inside.
And still I pray that those innocent girls would be saved. Oh please, God, save them from the fate of the rats!
Ten minutes passed and . . . nothing. Then fifteen. And then, after twenty minutes, the light over the front door extinguished. Thaddeus himself came out with a set of keys, trundling almost cheerfully toward the police car. Strangely, he stopped and peered upward at the clear black sky above him, which was spangled with innumerable chips of lemon ice. I could see the polished rat-bone color of the half-crescent moon glistening against his malevolent eyes, and I swear it was as if he was seeing it all for the first time. He smiled so brightly that I now know that his sanity must have cracked like some irreparable tectonic fissure. Moment later, he tore his gaze away, got inside the police car, and keyed the ignition. He pulled the car around the property, with the headlights out. Then I heard the grinding sound of one of the garage doors to the rear of his home. Had the policemen been murdered? This must end.
And it must end now!
It was at that time that I began this diary entry in order to inform whomever finds this testament, in the case I do not return. I, Gabriel Hearthland, have resolved to take care of this thing myself: to bring it to its necessary end. I’ve loaded my semi-automatic handgun, and I have steeled my heart, knowing these may in fact be my last known words—my dying words. But I shall summon the courage for the sake of those poor young girls. Thaddeus had expected the policeman, this I know, but he doesn’t expect me. I still have within my possession the keys to the front and backdoor from six years back when Thaddeus had asked me to bring the mail in and keep an eye the his place while he studied in Germany for several months, poring over the newly discovered lost research of Dr. Mengele.
This is my my destiny, and possibly my own hideous demise. May Christ protect me as I attempt to stop the untold evils of Thaddeus Stronghold!
* * *
Second entry—October 31st
I have made it back to tell my incredible tale!
As soon as I had left my backdoor, I slinked like a thief and stole across the way to Thaddeus’s Mansion of Terror. His front entrance was still invitingly wide open, but I questioned if that was a trap—either for myself or for the policemen that will soon arrive to repatriate their comrades. So I went first to the backdoor, hoping Thaddeus had long forgotten that I still possessed a key. With luck, the locks had not since been replaced. The key penetrated and rolled smoothly through the workings of the deadbolt, and the back door sprung open with an ominous creak.
In the gloom, I carefully eased my way to the back staircase, which I knew to be hidden behind a false wall to the rear of the kitchen pantry. I was nevertheless fretful that Thaddeus had riddled his home with silent alarms, or deadly booby-traps, knowing the manner of things he partakes in and the risk to his progress that an unchecked visitor could bring.
I carefully ascended the spiral iron staircase, ever so mindful not to make a sound, as I was sure the vibrations would carry into the capacious attic, where the graviton machine is kept. And it was running, I knew, even before I heard it because I had felt that same vague buzzing in my head as I did when he’d tested it on the rats. I then shuddered with the awareness that I was not under the protection of the glass dome. But likely neither did those little girls, my mind rejoined on their behalf.
I slowly crept to the apex of the stairs. The heavy door to the lab was slightly ajar, just enough for me to peek inside, and I knew I’d be hidden within the swaddling darkness of the narrow stairway. The machine was giving off such intense light—in a swirling gurge of violet, plum, and aubergine. Spying to the right of the door, I gasped at what I saw: both policemen were dead, lying supinely with their skulls smashed hollow, like so many pumpkins on the streets tonight. It appeared as if they had acted on some reverse suicide pact, having simultaneously shot one another between the eyes.
“It’s okay to come out, Gabriel,” announced Thaddeus. “Bring your pistol. You’ll wish for it before all is said and done.”
He must have known that I was coming. Everything within told me to run down the steps before it was too late. And though my brain was already benumbed from the machine, I continued to think of the girls. I pushed through the heavy iron door, and it lowly bellowed like a dying bovine.
I aimed my pistol at Thaddeus, who now stood in plain sight, unarmed. He was not behind the dome as I had expected.
“It’s so beautiful in here, Gabriel. I’m so glad you’ve joined us,” Thaddeus said in disconcertedly soft tone.
“Where are the girls?” I demanded. But as I gazed at Thaddeus, I saw thin fluorescent-pink strings either coming out of him, or into him, or both. And they seemed to permeate laterally in all directions, passing through everything in the room, and all without obscuring my eyesight. Is was as if I was seeing it in some other way.
He pointed, and to my astonishment, the girls were just off to my left. My attention had been so fixed on the officers (who had no strings connecting them to anything at all) and on Thaddeus that I had not noticed the children. They too possessed an infinite number of strings that connected them to each other, to myself, to Thaddeus, and traveled diffusely through the walls to countless others. The girls had their backs to me as they gazed into a large mirror against the wall. They were watching their own strings, which flowed constantly with sinuous spindles, like bright pinkish fluid; the highest and the brightest concentration of which seemed to be actively focused around their cortex, like a bustling terminus.
Then I had noticed how my own strings connected to them and to Thaddeus. And it was . . . beautiful. I had lowered my gun without thought.
Thaddeus walked up, put his hand on my shoulder, and said, “You see it now, don’t you?”
“The pink strings?” I had asked.
“Our Universal Soul,” he’d answered with such an easy smile. He said, “I had tried to perceive the actions of gravitons out of an academic pride, for personal gain. But then I stumbled upon this specific frequency. A frequency which amplifies itself and is not only self-sustaining, but proliferates itself through a positive harmonic loop. I’ve found there is a profound effect on humans and it does not cause the rage and insanity that it had with all the lesser beings. And now I no longer have to be around the machine to see the Truth. And the stars, Gabriel. My God, you have to see the stars!”
I looked to the policemen. And Thaddeus said, “I did not kill them. Nor are they truly dead. They chose their own fate after I had demonstrated what happens to a living thing’s strings at the instant of bodily death. I had snapped the neck of a small dog, and we all watched his section of the universal soul journey out into every other conscious being in the world. And so he became a part of us. And because they understood, because of what they had come to know, the policemen were finally immune to their existential fears and were joyful in knowing that death was the most desirable of all things. Of their own accord, they wished to return to the infinite oneness: what the Hindus call the Supreme Brahman; what the Buddhists call Nirvana; and what Christians call the Everlasting Peace.”
“But what about the girls?” I asked.
“They saw too, and they were so happy,” Thaddeus replied. “And they begged for me to kill them, but I wanted to wait. I wanted you to see it too, Gabriel . . . my friend.”
And at that point I began to understand his madness. I felt serenity inside my heart, knowing that all conscious beings were connected by one expansive stretching of a common soul. This revelation struck me hard, like a heavy fist of knowledge against the glass jaw of my ignorance. Our universe only exists due to our collective awareness, where every individual interacts within a three-dimensional plane, stretching out our collective soul in rubberband-like strings. Once the ego, our sense of self, is snuffed away, the strings snap back to the others in the collective. And thus we are one step closer to a true being, the Ultimate Union; man’s redemption after falling from—
“I can see it in your face,” said Thaddeus, his eyes glinting in the purple light of the machine. “You understand now, don’t you, Gabriel?”
I nodded and smiled brightly.
Then the youngest little girl in her mousey costume walked up to me and pleaded, first with her eyes and then with her lips: “Please, mister. I just wanna go home.”
I nodded. And then Thaddeus said: “Yes, my darling, you are free to go.” She smiled joyfully and took the pistol from my hand, slid it into her mouth like a Popsicle, and then pulled the trigger. Her brains splattered the wall and her strings snapped away to where they belonged; and I could feel it like almost like soft and gentle kiss.
And it was beautiful.
Then the other one, an older sister I’m guessing, ran up to us, begging through her tears, “Please! Please, mister—me too!” I nodded again and Thaddeus smiled with kind eyes. Then she pried the gun from her sister’s dead hand and gobbled it like a lollipop and—Bang!
And it was beautiful.
As the machine hummed out its stygian rhythm in the background, I asked, “What happens when you turn the machine off?”
Thaddeus said: “It can no longer be shut down. It’s as if it doesn’t want to. And right now it’s only running at one-tenth of one percent power! I had initially refused to turn it higher for fear of what may happen.”
I ambled over and retrieved my pistol from the older mouse-child. Then I pointed it at Thaddeus’s grateful, smiling face. “Thank you!” he cried, and I squeezed the trigger. I could see the strings snapping away from his living brain tissue as it left his skull through the massive head wound.
Now I had proof that Thaddeus was insane!
Scared to run the machine at greater than one-tenth of one percent? Ha! I immediately turned the dial to full power. And now I can still hear the humming of the machine—I can still feel it—from my bedroom as I write this. I can taste it in the air against my tongue. The dark house across the street now glows fulgently with deep purplish light; as does the sky above it. And now I see that Thaddeus and I were wrong about the stings only being attached between conscious beings. I can now perceive the sinuous strings that connect everything in the universe to everything else; not just sentient creatures. These pale pink strings are so much fainter, but they radiate in all directions. Every quantum particle wants to snap its strings back into the oneness. And the only thing that prevents this from happening at any given instant is the awareness of the conscious mind. Once all intelligent life has been eradicated, all matter being observed will return to the shared infinitesimal oneness. All so all conscious observers must perceive the truth. And soon you will know it too!
The machine is still warming up, but it will soon have the range to reach every living being on this planet. In time our little corner of the galaxy will be united and indivisible. And for any intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, it’s only a matter of time until those civilizations will create their own machines and shall thus discover the truth for themselves. Oh, I am too excited to wait! This is a time for celebration. I wish to be with you all right now, and with any luck, soon you’ll sense a purple humming deep within in your brain—and you’ll taste it, you’ll see it, you’ll want it—you will to be compelled to join us because of The Knowing!
And it will be beautiful!
Other writing by Rick Scabrous can be found at his website.