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Thursday, March 17, 2016

Yulyeong part 1

To the living damned contained in Camp 22 the events of the night was the only miracle in memory; an insidious thought in these conditions where the mere hint of hope can drive a man insane.  If you dreamt of escape or freedom from Kwan-li-so it was almost a guarantee you wouldn’t make it through this hell on Earth; many had taken their own life to escape the torment of the hard labor camp.  The baby was born after the work shift ended at 10AM; the guards had locked them in for the night after the group finally recited all the prison camp rules without flaw.  Many believe the birth was ironically induced by the hard work put upon the women that day; they were forced to run carts up and down a hill like cattle for several hours, a production without any purpose beyond cruelty, the same large stones carried down the hill would be rushed back up.  The guards did this so pregnant women would miscarriage, but it seemed to have the effect of inducing labor for one nameless women, new to the camp, already haggard, hunched over, bleeding from scabs on her feet and hands.  When she wasn’t sleeping or working she was weeping, another wail to join the cacophony of ever present sorrow at Camp 22.   

There were at least forty of them in that cramped space.  Most nights nearly all of them would fall into sleep instantly upon selecting a cramped space on the floor, passing out from exhausting and starvation, but there was too much excitement in the air tonight, and electric charge that pulsated through the whole group.  They were careful to cover up their excitement, arousing the guards suspicions at this hour would result in the torture and beating death of a few.  Several offered scrapes of clothing to help stem the flow of blood from the women in labor, which was no small sacrifice; all prisoners were only allowed one pair of clothing to last the rest of their miserable lives.   The women had bitten down so hard on a pine comb that several of her teeth cracked free from her weak, blackened gums, bouncing off the floor into secret spaces.  Some saved the teeth; it would be all they would have to remember the nameless women by.

She trembled and heaved throughout the night, her body casting a wet blanket of steam over the cramped quarters of their cell.  Some tired of the spectacle; their dreamless sleep was the only escape from the daily dread of life.  Finally, with the last geyser of blood and amniotic fluid the baby quietly slipped out of her dark ruby interior as her body finally gave in to blood loss and exhaustion; she died with a weak barely audible rasp.  Some prisoners ate the afterbirth raw; cooking was strictly forbidden, and they were all starving, on the verge of collapse.  Starvation was the leading cause of death here; the daily diet of 30 kernels of corn and salt couldn’t sustain a ten year old, never mind a full grown adult working hard labor for all waking hours.  Food was more valuable than gold.  It was not uncommon to hear about a prisoner picking undigested corn kernels from animal shit for sustenance.  Eating rats and frogs whole was a treat; the prisoners are given no meat, they were forced to catch their own and skin them with their bare teeth.  Some were even considering eating the fresh cadaver of the new mother.

The most miraculous aspect of the birth was the baby’s quiet demeanor; it never cried out or made any sort of fuss.  The wail of a new born was not present, only ghostly silence passed from its lips.  Several women tried breast feeding the baby to no avail; malnutrition ran rampant.   It was thought that despite the miraculous birth the baby was doomed to be lost.  Surely it would be discovered by the guards as work resumed at 6AM in the morning, and they would cut the mewing youngling down like an errant weed. 

But when the shift began at 5AM it was nowhere to be found.  Those that fell asleep early in the night assumed the labor ended in miscarriage, and that is the story the guards received as well after a few broken bones.  The last person that had seen it alive had dosed off with the bloody thing wrapped in her caring arms, but when she came to her senses it was gone.  Some thought they had hallucinated the whole thing; their minds and bodies approaching the end of their meager existence.  The guards dragged the inert body of the mother from the cell; her crimson trail stained the cement and would be all that was left behind, when the prisoners returned they would be too exhausted to turn their thoughts to the events of the prior night, and like a bad dream all note of the baby’s birth would be passed from memory.

But the baby did not die, it grew up in that hell, behind the walls, and the secret places where the rats and bugs held council.  Its skinny, pale androgynous body could pass as either man or woman; nobody had seen enough of the poor creature to quantify it as either.  Its skin held taunt over a skeletal frame, like an animated corpse.   With deep obsidian eyes it has held silent witness to every barbarism imaginable, torture without end at Camp 22.  It would whisper to the prisoners being box tortured, unfortunate souls locked in a confining 4 foot boxes for days upon weeks without being able to stand or stretch out.  Many would die from blood clots after release; the few survivors would blame the whispering creature on their own fleeing sanity.

It would leave the guards secret treats and trinkets.  Tobaccos collected from discarded cigarettes were meticulously rolled into new joints and distributed in secret under the guise of night.  It held no special hatred for the guards or love for the prisoners of Camp 22.  It would donate a skinned frog to a prisoner one day, and then awaken a slumbering guard the next before his supervisor could round the corner.  Despite the cruelty of its conditions, despite never feeling the warmth of human kindness itself, the fire of compassion burned deep inside the creature that simply became known as the “yulyeong”, Korean for “ghost”.  

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Concerning the biology and brief history of vampires...

Vampires are one of the earliest races of men, land sharks on two legs; they have rows of sharp fangs cramping the space of their mouth as they pile onto their swollen gums in chaotic order.  Many vampires are deformed with desiccated, skull like faces and cleft chins; blood is the main source of nutrition for the vampire, and the only source of true replenishment.  For this reason many vampires appear shriveled, slow moving, on the verge of starvation, ribs and bones jutting out of grey skin, stretching its leather like consistency, muscles atrophied and knotted, their nails black and thickly coagulated with keratin.  Only deeply gorging on the blood of many victims will make the vampire appear anything close to human as the hemoglobin revitalizes their flesh, gives it a pinkish hue.  The eyes of a vampire resemble giant blood blisters, red and swollen sacks that sit deeply in the sockets of their skull, edges frayed and cracked like a poached egg.  Vampires are either completely bald or have long flowing, albino hairs that are slow to grow and drape from the skull like dangling spider webs.  A true vampire would never be able to woo a sane human capable of sight, or smell, as the odor of a vampire is quite repugnant even to the most calloused sense of smell.  Despite the tall tales woven through time vampires have not been able to successfully blend with humans since the passing of the lepers, but the myth of the vampire persisted from the race memory of man, since the earliest tribes of man hunted each other to utter extinction.  During this time, when the oxygen was rich, and the mark of man’s footprint was fresh upon Pangea, many various races of man existed.  There were giants, ogres, trolls, and smaller gnomes and elves and various species of leprechaun.  There were reptiles that walked on two legs and spoke in slithering syllables that could not be replicated by mammalian tongue, lycanthropes that could bend their form at will, and different mutations of all kinds that took the shape of man.  The vampire was only one of them, and a small portion at that; most vampires can trace their lineage back to one or two ancient caverns, inaccessible now due to earthquake and mudslide, the ravages of time and the ever so slowly altering landscape of the world.  They were nearly wiped out by greedy human hunters who valued their many rows of fangs for trophy and trade.  The sun burned their parched pale blue-grey skin, only nocturnal travel was possible, but even Neanderthals could move at night under the light of the moon.  During the day the vampire would sleep in the shade or in loose soil below ground, discovery meant a slow death.  Extinction closed in as other humanoids hunted them across the planes of Pangea; their caves were ripe with the dead, stacked in the corners and burned to make room for more.  A plan was formed among the elders; the one benefit of being a vampire was the ability to hibernate below ground, taking sustenance only from dirt and rot like a dark flower.  The vampires surmised they could outlast all other tribes of man simply by hibernating underground and waiting them out as the tribes of humanoids on the surface world wiped each other out.  Hundreds of years would pass, maybe even a thousand, and the vampires will rise to a fresh new world.  A properly fed vampire could cling to life for centuries if careful enough. 

Life as a vampire is anything but romantic; it means hiding in dark alleys and underground, feasting on rats and vermin, the constant tug of blood lust never out of sight, always in mind.  Filth and darkness become your closest allies, the creatures of the night your subtle teachers.  Some vampires have been known to nest in septic tanks and sewage pipes; they need very little oxygen to survive.  For many vampires clothing is optional; their grotesque and pot marked bodies naked, like grotesque wild animals, a mockery of modern man made flesh.  Many are missing genitalia; the unused organs turn black, wither and fall off like rotten fruit.  Vampire reproduction is rare.  Female vampires can give birth, but first they must engorge their womb sacks with blood, a difficult achievement in the wild and even more difficult in the modern world of men.  After being impregnated by another vampire they will undergo a blood orgy, preferably the victims would be captured beforehand.   The couple would feast on the human blood of multiple victims until the female vampire drunk on hemoglobin, was ready to conceive.  Vampires give birth to broods; several siblings rise at once in a communal womb sac, this uterus is prematurely removed from the female vampire and placed deep underground to mature undisturbed in the rich soil, preferably a graveyard or crypt.     

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Brain Freeze

Brain Freeze (first draft) -

It was night again outside, a brief shade from the cold sun whose warmth never seemed to reach them.  The nights were short this time of year; the days in contrast were unbearably long.  Insomnia had set in for the first couple months working there, something he was warned about but never thought it would happen to him.  It was strange; he thought the loneliness of being separated from friends and family would get to him first, but it was his internal clock that sabotaged his sleep and sanity.  He barely thought of his family, or friends; society seemed so distant and inconsequential to him.  All he could think of was Patrick and his rage.  He wanted to lose himself in his work but found it hard to concentrate on anything in particular.  He wasn't even sure if he remembered his first couple months here at all.  It was all such a blur.  Everything was out of focus; he looked at himself in the mirror and did not recognize his face.

His partner in crime, a brilliant recluse named Patrick Murray, had been locked in the Arctic Circle for months trying to crack the cryogenics problem.  The idea was nothing new; cryogenic research had been around since the 60’s.  Aspiring immortals, some of the rich and fool hardy subscribed to the idea of freezing their brains after death and slow rot claimed the rest of their bodies.  The hope was that a few hundred years from now technology would make brain transplanting possible, but the reality was the that freezing flesh caused significant damage to the host, ice crystals would crudely cut through precious brain matter as they formed.  If technology ever made brain transplants possible it was likely the rich “corpsicles” of 1966 would come back mentally retarded, vegetative, or worse.

Patrick Murray was a spindly man with wild inquisitive eyes, a stern face outlined by a salt and pepper beard that betrayed his kinder side.  His energy and enthusiasm were contagious; he had a self-professed love of life that Carl found inspirational in these dour times.  Mr. Murray was always talking self-improvement, he held strong to the overly optimistic belief that anybody can accomplish anything with enough time and drive.  When he wasn't peering into a microscope he was doing Pilates and push-ups in his personal quarters, squats by the mess hall.  He was so obsessed with health and physical conditioning that Carl remembers when they first met during a company get together at a pizza parlor back in the states that Patrick had to excuse himself mid meal to run a couple miles around the strip mall because he was worried about consuming too many carbs.  Coworkers were reaching for bread sticks and seconds while Patrick ran alone outside, shirt slogged with sweat in the mid-July sun.  Despite being older than Carl he looked to be in far better shape.  Carl had the middle age bulge, where Patrick had a perfect six pack.  To try to close the gap Carl took to the gym several months before being deployed to Outpost 13149, but he found out quickly that he couldn’t compete with Patrick’s fanatical workout schedule.  It certainly took his confidence down a few pegs to know that for months on end he would be locked in a rigorous work schedule with someone who appeared smarter and stronger than he was in nearly every way, but the research was too exciting to pass up for personal reasons.   

 Murray had developed a means of plastination that would keep the structural integrity of the brain intact for centuries.  Using an aldehyde-stabilized method of cryopreservation he could capture the center of personality and identity in the brain, the connectdome, and essentially copy it to a hard drive where it would be stored digitally.  From there he could reproduce the flesh in a plastic mold for the brain, and duplicate the synaptic structures with great fidelity using 3D printing techniques.  The only downside was that the process involved destructive scanning of the host brain; when the brain is analyzed it is immersed in a toxic chemical bath that destroyed the cellular structure of the tissue, and once the brain is frozen it is cut into fine slices for analysis.  The original brain would be entirely destroyed, replaced with something closer to a plastic brain.  

For months Patrick and Carl would replicate the process on rabbits, goats, and pigs with successful brain transplants to all of them.  The real hurdle was human trials.  Because of the sensitive nature of the experiments and the need to sub artic temperatures for the cryogenics the company that funded them had decided to send them to a remote outpost in the Arctic Circle where the Geneva Convention had no reach.  There they could begin analyzing and plasticizing brains from human cadavers.

For several months the team hit setback after setback.  The first twenty some samples were disasters, the plastination of the cerebral cortex proved to be a massive challenge.  More samples were hastily flown in from Russia.  Carl didn't want to imagine how they came across so many new samples that were entirely intact.  These people looked like they died in their sleep.

After months of failures the normally optimistic and sunny Murray had become introverted and non-conversational.  They would sit in silence for hours contemplating the specimen under the objective lens of the microscope, and then he would toss the slide away with a sigh like it offended him.  Carl would hear the delicate slide shatter in the biological waste bin.  Hundreds of brain slices left to rot in a trash bag.  Hundreds of memories and personalities callously discarded.  The situation was tense; nerves were on edge. 

One day Carl decided to get some fresh Artic air to clear his head.  The area had just been pounded with another snow blizzard, a heavy snow drift had threatened to collapse part of their tool shed where they kept the Snow Cats snow-mobiles, really their only means of escape if any emergency happened.  Carl propped a ladder against the frost covered shed.  The aluminum bent in a bit bringing down some tumbling icicles but seemed stable enough.  The roof was dense with ice, but he felt like he could hoist his body on top despite the slippery slope ahead of him.  He cautiously began lifting his body and then his snow shovel on to the roof but felt his body slowly start to slide down the frictionless surface of the packed ice.  He rammed his fist into the adjacent undisturbed snow but it wasn’t enough to hold his body weight, and he suddenly fell back.  His fingers caught the edge, one last gallant effort to not fall off the roof, but the fingertips painfully caught the sharp edge of the metal gutter, slicing off the tips of his index and middle finger before falling backward into the snow below.  He was more embarrassed than anything.  The fall wasn’t far, just enough to knock some of the wind out of him, but the snow softened most of the blow.  He was calling himself a fool under his breath when he heard the tool shed buckle, dumping the roof top of snow directly on top of him.  There were a few desperate breathes, a muffled cry, then all faded to black.

Carl woke up later in Patrick’s room to the smell of ammonia and tickling numbness on his lips.  Patrick kept Spartan living quarters, the bare essentials only so that he could focus entirely on his work.  Carl’s eyes were blurry, unfocused.  He felt dazed.  He suspected he had been concussed by the snow and Patrick carried his limp body here to recover and regain some warmth.  The idea of Patrick finding him like that embarrassed him further.  He was wearing fresh clothes, so he was sure his co-worker and part-time mentor had redressed him when he found him soaked in his own sweat under the snow drift, probably on the verge of hypothermia.  He had to thank him; he had probably saved his life.  He already felt overshadowed by Patrick is almost every way, he was sure this would swell his ego to astronomical proportions had he not hit a wall with his cryogenic research.
 
Carl’s head felt like it was swimming in the bottom of the ocean as he turned around to look and see where Patrick was.  He was startled to see Patrick had been sitting silently in a dark corner of the room, observing Carl carefully, expectation fat and pregnant in his eyes.   He explained how he found Carl, and his embarrassing story was re-animated with words.  Carl wanted to hate this man, there was a bitter jealousy welling up inside him.  He hardly heard Patrick talk, all he could see where the strands of his neck stand up, and the urge to yank one out, dig his teeth into it, and pull like a dog tugging at his rope.  His irrational feelings made him feel like a monster, but he could do little to stiffen them.  Any lingering bitterness towards Patrick before the accident seemed amplified tenfold by his concussion.

When Carl found the strength to move his legs Patrick carefully helped him wobble to the mirror above the sink to examine the bump on his head.   Patrick claimed he received the nasty gash from the fall.  He didn't remember hitting his head in particular but was sure those details would pronounce themselves after he has had time to recover.  Carl fingered the back of his skull where an ugly new scar seemed to part his hair while Patrick smugly explained how he required stitches as well, and that he was very lucky that Patrick knew basic first aid.  Yeah, real lucky.  He knew the swelling should concern him, but for some reason outside of the unexplainable seething anger he felt towards Patrick he was generally numb to his situation.  He felt like he was sleepwalking, even though he never suffered from the malady himself, he felt like he could injure himself with little consequence.  The oddest thing about it all was that although Carl could tell it was his face in the mirror he felt like he was staring at a stranger, like he didn’t identify with his own image.  Everything felt like a bad copy of a bad copy.  He had to stand in the mirror, staring deep in his own eyes looking for the spark that was him.  He was an alien intruder in his own body, operating the body’s gears and levers but divorced from it all the same.   He huffed into his palm to smell his own breath, and then grabbed a toothbrush.  It flexed and snapped immediately in his grip.

Carl giggled; the cartoonish way it easy sheered in half struck him as funny.  He grabbed the floss and the entire plastic container folded and fell to the floor in a bird’s nest of string. It was if his hands had lost all gentile tactility and have become deadly instruments.  When he grabbed an object he had lost all sense of when to stop squeezing, how much pressure to apply.  They had become industrial strength vices.  He grabbed the sink facet and it twisted off with ease, sending water jetting from its rivets.  Patrick seemed astonished, frantically scribbling notes into his flip book; a Cheshire cat smile crossed his lips.  Carl caught it from the edge of his vision and blacked out for the second time that day.

There wasn't much left of Patrick after Carl tore through his body, tearing it limb from limb like a rabid animal.  His perfect abs were shredded and laid over the back of a chair like a blanket.  Carl pulled the biceps right out of his arm as Patrick howled; in a distant corner of his mind he begged forgiveness but ignored his pleas.  Laugh at me?  Laugh at my failures?  My pain amuses you, now your pain will amuse me.  Patrick’s shredded arm was slick with blood; Carl had trouble holding the slippery tendons between his fingers and he yanked and tore at his flesh. 

His rage didn't end with Patrick.  The whole lab was mocking him; the entire laboratory was a cruel reminded of his failure.   Tiles were ripped from the ceiling.  Pink insulation was ripped out of the wall in bundles.  Wires were severed like arteries.  Desks bolted to the floor were easily upturned; broken glass covered the floor like ice, each step was a heavy crunch.  Carl would barely register what he was doing.  He felt like a puppet with no puppet master, but something brought his tantrum to a grinding halt.  He had thrown the television against the wall.  The cathode ray tube exploded with a pleasurable pop, and out of the rubble a DVD marked “Carl’s surgery” caught his eye.

He fumbled with it; his fingers were slick with sweat, blood, and bits of dry wall, and stuck the disc into a working DVD player.  What he saw made him wish he could rip Patrick apart all over again.  It was a video shot from within the compound looking out a window aimed towards the shed that Carl had fallen from.  It was if Patrick was waiting for him to fall, expecting it like a trap, and set up the video camera to capture it.  Carl saw himself in the video but couldn't shake the feeling of detachment, like he was watching someone else act out the role of Carl.

When he fell in the video, and the snow piled on his unconscious body, Patrick stood by for a full twenty five minutes, an eternity before pulling him out from under the snow.  What was he waiting for?  Then the video skipped suddenly to a surgery.  It looked like Patrick was operating on a split watermelon, then Carl realized to his appall that Patrick was operating on his head, the scalp split back to reveal the skull beneath.  He watched in horror and traced the scars on his scalp with his fingers as he watched his own brain being removed, dosed in chemicals, and copied.  He was the first successful plastination of a human brain.  Patrick finally did it.  He used him as his guinea pig.  Perhaps the brains weren't fresh enough?   

Whatever the case Carl hardly cared; he could not see past his hatred; the betrayal by Patrick left him feeling empty and used.  He needed to get out of here before someone from the company figured out the murder that transpired here and what he really was.  If they found out he was the first human with a plastic brain he would be subjected to a battery of tests and questions that he did not want to answer.  In fact he could imagine a lethal response to such inquiries.       

Carl’s thoughts become jumbled and mixed up.  He can feel his intelligence fading like the dying embers of a fire.  All that is left is pure bestial rage.  His fist goes through the screen; glass digs into the knuckles of his fist.  He licks the blood off his hand, practically lapping it up like a dog.  Blood begins to slowly leak out of his ear, but he doesn’t notice.  He is too busy ripping wire from the ceiling and dangling from the exposed I-beam like a monkey.  He feels the warm embrace of ignorance as his brain slowly melts, memories turned to mush, humanity shed until Carl sits on the floor in a convulsing vegetative state, the last gasp of a suffocating brain.  Had Patrick been alive he might have given him the chemicals necessary to keep his brain frozen and plasticized, but Patrick’s body lied in strips of flesh on the floor, some of which Carl has chewed on in primate curiosity. 

Carl dies again, but it is not the end. 

He awakens in another lab, another place, another time.  Patrick’s secrets are discovered by the company.  Carl’s brain is now data waiting to be copied and deleted by whim.  He awakens in the company lab, a multi-million dollar state of the art facilities, surrounded by strangers, his last memory of falling under the snow in Antarctica.  He can’t move.  He can’t feel.  He is only a brain, eyeballs, a bundle of copied, plastinated nerves.  Thoughts come slow and painfully.  He screams silently from the confines of his jar, and is melted.  The process occurs time and time again, and Carl is caught in a purgatory of silent pain and desperate dreams…

Friday, February 19, 2016

Sketch dump 02/19/16




















Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Decapitator - part 8

The Decapitator – part 8

The summer camp was a bustling hive of summertime splendor.  Campers ran to the destination of their next craft activity, expending pent up energy from a long gray winter, stretching their youthful legs before fall approached and drove them indoors once again.  Every sunny minute was valued, summer vacation was not to be spent callously, rather every moment was precious; you wanted to live in its splendor indefinitely and look back longingly on it for the rest of your life.  For the summer camp of Talooli it would be the last summer any of them spent alive.

The camp broke ground on the 18th of May, 1945.  It was a chance to give low income families a place to send their kids for the summer.  While some camps focused on discipline and survival skills, preparing young adults for a career in the military or park service, Camp Talooli focused on fun, on giving kids a place to escape the trials and tribulations of home life.  By the end of the first summer it was clear the camp had a long future ahead of it; already families had booked the camp solid for the next three years.

Sure there were spook stories; all camps had them.  The popular one had been of a witch that once stalked the woods, eating children, making people’s hair turn white, generally being a nuisance to the god fearing people of the community, until an angry mob had hung her.  But she didn’t die, the legend says that the witch kept taunting onlookers for days after being hung, until eventually she was cut down and decapitated by the local burgomeister; a Puritan man with a staunch disposition.  With her last breath the severed head spat a curse onto him, claiming that after death he would serve her like a faithful dog in Hell. 

The hanging spot of the witch is said to be a gnarled ancient looking Elm tree plotted on the edge of the clearing between the camp and the thick woods beyond.  Counselors would sit under it on beach blankets as they recanted their own version of the local legend.  The tree had rather sinister angles to it, the branches were twisted, and the trunk seemed to have been sheared by lightning at some point in its ancient history.  Fertile ground for ghost stories and supernatural speculation of all kind.  Too bad the legend was mostly true.

As the camp increased in population and popularity the facilities expanded past what the original owners had foreseen.  Plumbing was a major issue.  All those kids had to poop somewhere.  A spot about twenty feet away from the haggardly “witch” tree was chosen to dig a latrine well.   The ground was soft and malleable; the crane had no issue digging the deep trench soon to be filled with raw human sewage and kiddy turds.  An outhouse was placed over it, and the deed was done without a second thought.

That very night at midnight something sinister emerged from that pit.  The ground swelled and heaved out the shape of a man that proceeded to kill every living thing in the entire camp.  Luckily it was during the pre-season lull when counselors were first getting oriented with the camp they would be working at all summer; the last summer of their short jubilant lives.  The senior staff was numbered at a scant twenty three, and the next day twenty three mutilated bodies were accounted for at what would be known as the Massacre at Lake Talooli.  The spine chilling fact that lingered in legend for years to come was that most of the victims were missing their heads; none were recovered or ever found in the outlining woods.  No suspects were ever blamed for the crime.  The legend of the Decapitator was born.    

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Frosty - part 1

Rough draft, first write through.  All the writing here is in its rawest, pulpiest form.  After review this all has the potential to change drastically as all writing does; I am posting these as more of a driving factor to getting work done for myself.  The more I post the more I am motivated to post and work on more.  The Decapitator, The Strange Case of Madame Web, Frosty, Empire of Ants....will all be revised and tightened into better works.  My hope is to someday include them all in an anthology novel, but first my brain needs to puke out these words.  The fanzine will continue as well.  Any feedback is greatly appreciated.

Frosty

It was night again outside, a brief shade from the cold sun whose warmth never seemed to reach them.  The nights were short this time of year; the days in contrast were unbearably long.  Insomnia had set in for the first couple months working there, something he was warned about but never thought it would happen to him.  It was strange; he thought the loneliness of being separated from friends and family would get to him first, but it was his internal clock that sabotaged his sleep and sanity.  He barely thought of his family, or friends; society seemed so distant and inconsequential to him.  All he could think of was Patrick and his rage.  He wanted to lose himself in his work but found it hard to concentrate on anything in particular.  He wasn’t even sure if he remembered his first couple months here at all.  It was all such a blur.  Everything was out of focus, he looked at himself in the mirror and did not recognize his face, for it was not his own.

His partner in crime, a brilliant recluse named Patrick Murray, had been locked in the Arctic Circle for months trying to crack the cryogenics problem.  The idea was nothing new; cryogenic research had been around since the 60’s.  Aspiring immortals, some of the rich and fool hardy subscribed to the idea of freezing their brains after death and slow rot claimed the rest of their bodies.  The hope was that a few hundred years from now technology would make brain transplanting possible, but the reality was the that freezing flesh caused significant damage to the host, ice crystals would crudely cut through precious brain matter as they formed.  If technology ever made brain transplants possible it was likely the rich “corpsicles” of 1966 would come back mentally retarded, vegetative, or worse.

Murray was a spindly man with wild inquisitive eyes, a stern face outlined by a salt and pepper beard that betrayed his kinder side.  His energy and enthusiasm were contagious; he had a self-professed love of life that Carl found inspirational in these dour times.  Murray was always talking self-improvement, he held strong to the overly optimistic belief that anybody can accomplish anything with enough time and drive. 

When he wasn’t peering into a microscope he was doing Pilates and pushups in his personal quarters, squats by the mess hall.  He was so obsessed with health and physical conditioning that Carl remembers when they first met during a company get together at a pizza parlor back in the states that Patrick had to excuse himself mid meal to run a couple miles around the strip mall because he was worried about consuming too many carbs.  Coworkers were reaching for bread sticks and seconds while Patrick ran alone outside, shirt slogged with sweat in the mid-July sun.  Despite being older than Carl he looked to be in far better shape.  Carl had the middle age bulge, where Patrick had a perfect six pack.  To try to close the gap Carl took to the gym several months before being deployed to Outpost 13149, but he found out quickly that he couldn’t compete with Patrick’s fanatical workout schedule.  It certainly took his confidence down a few pegs to know that for months on end he would be locked in a rigorous work schedule with someone who appeared smarter and stronger than he was in nearly every way, but the research was too exciting to pass up for personal reasons.   

 Murray had developed a means of plastination that would keep the structural integrity of the brain intact for centuries.  Using an aldehyde-stabilized method of cryopreservation he could capture the center of personality and identity in the brain, the connectdome, and essentially copy it to a hard drive where it would be stored digitally.  From there he could reproduce the flesh in a plastic mold for the brain, and duplicate the synaptic structures with great fidelity using 3D printing techniques.  The only downside was that the process involved destructive scanning of the host brain; when the brain is analyzed it is immersed in a toxic chemical bath that destroyed the cellular structure of the tissue, and once the brain is frozen it is cut into fine slices for analysis.  The original brain would be entirely destroyed, replaced with something closer to a plastic brain.  

For months Patrick and Carl would replicate the process on rabbits, goats, and pigs with successful brain transplants to all of them.  The real hurdle was human trials.  Because of the sensitive nature of the experiments and the need to sub artic temperatures for the cryogenics the company that funded them had decided to send them to a remote outpost in the Arctic Circle where the Geneva Convention had no reach.  There they could begin analyzing and plasticizing brains from human cadavers.

For several months the team hit setback after setback.  The first twenty some samples were disasters, the plastination of the cerebral cortex proved to be a massive challenge.  More samples were hastily flown in from Russia.  Carl didn’t want to imagine how they came across so many new samples that were entirely intact.  These people looked like they died in their sleep.

After months of failures the normally optimistic and sunny Murray had become introverted and non-conversational.  They would sit in silence for hours contemplating the specimen under the objective lens of the microscope, and then he would toss the slide away with a sigh like it offended him.  Carl would hear the delicate slide shatter in the biological waste bin.  Hundreds of brain slices left to rot in a trash bag.  Hundreds of memories and personalities callously discarded.  The situation was tense; nerves were on edge. 

One day Carl decided to get some fresh Artic air to clear his head.  The area had just been pounded with another snow blizzard, a heavy snow drift had threatened to collapse part of their tool shed where they kept the Snow Cats snow-mobiles, really their only means of escape if any emergency happened.  Carl propped a ladder against the frost covered shed.  The aluminum bent in a bit bringing down some tumbling icicles but seemed stable enough.  The roof was dense with ice, but he felt like he could hoist his body on top despite the slippery slope ahead of him.  He cautiously began lifting his body and then his snow shovel on to the roof but felt his body slowly start to slide down the frictionless surface of the packed ice.  He rammed his fist into the adjacent undisturbed snow but it wasn’t enough to hold his body weight, and he suddenly fell back.  His fingers caught the edge, one last gallant effort to not fall off the roof, but the fingertips painfully caught the sharp edge of the metal gutter, slicing off the tips of his index and middle finger before falling backward into the snow below.  He was more embarrassed than anything.  The fall wasn’t far, just enough to knock some of the wind out of him, but the snow softened most of the blow.  He was calling himself a fool under his breath when he heard the tool shed buckle, dumping the roof top of snow directly on top of him.  There were a few desperate breathes, a muffled cry, then all faded to black.

Carl woke up later in Patrick’s room to the smell of ammonia and tickling numbness on his lips.  Patrick kept Spartan living quarters, the bare essentials only so that he could focus entirely on his work.  Carl’s eyes were blurry, unfocused.  He felt dazed.  He suspected he had been concussed by the snow and Patrick carried his limp body here to recover and regain some warmth.  The idea of Patrick finding him like that embarrassed him further.  He was wearing fresh clothes, so he was sure his co-worker and part-time mentor had redressed him when he found him soaked in his own sweat under the snow drift, probably on the verge of hypothermia.  He had to thank him; he had probably saved his life.  He already felt overshadowed by Patrick is almost every way, he was sure this would swell his ego to astronomical proportions had he not hit a wall with his cryogenic research. 

Carl’s head felt like it was swimming in the bottom of the ocean as he turned around to look and see where Patrick was.  He was startled to see Patrick had been sitting silently in a dark corner of the room, observing Carl carefully, expectation fat and pregnant in his eyes.   He explained how he found Carl, and his embarrassing story was re-animated with words.  Carl wanted to hate this man, there was a bitter jealousy welling up inside him.  He hardly heard Patrick talk, all he could see where the strands of his neck stand up, and the urge to yank one out, dig his teeth into it, and pull like a dog tugging at his rope.  His irrational feelings made him feel like a monster, but he could do little to stiffen them.  Any lingering bitterness towards Patrick before the accident seemed amplified tenfold by his concussion.

When Carl found the strength to move his legs Patrick carefully helped him wobble to the mirror above the sink to examine the bump on his head.   Patrick claimed he received the nasty gash from the fall.  He didn’t remember hitting his head in particular but was sure those details would pronounce themselves after he has had time to recover.  Carl fingered the back of his skull where an ugly new scar seemed to part his hair while Patrick smugly explained how he required stitches as well, and that he was very lucky that Patrick knew basic first aid.  Yeah, real lucky.  He knew the swelling should concern him, but for some reason outside of the unexplainable seething anger he felt towards Patrick he was generally numb to his situation.  He felt like he was sleepwalking, even though he never suffered from the malady himself, he felt like he could injure himself with little consequence.  The oddest thing about it all was that although Carl could tell it was his face in the mirror he felt like he was staring at a stranger, like he didn’t identify with his own image.  Everything felt like a bad copy of a bad copy.  He had to stand in the mirror, staring deep in his own eyes looking for the spark that was him.  He was an alien intruder in his own body, operating the body’s gears and levers but divorced from it all the same.   He huffed into his palm to smell his own breath, and then grabbed a toothbrush.  It flexed and snapped immediately in his grip.

Carl giggled; the cartoonish way it easy sheered in half struck him as funny.  He grabbed the floss and the entire plastic container folded and fell to the floor in a bird’s nest of string. It was if his hands had lost all gentile tactility and have become deadly instruments.  When he grabbed an object he had lost all sense of when to stop squeezing, how much pressure to apply.  They had become industrial strength vices.  He grabbed the sink facet and it twisted off with ease, sending water jetting from its rivets.  Patrick seemed astonished, frantically scribbling notes into his flip book; a Cheshire cat smile crossed his lips.  Carl caught it from the edge of his vision and blacked out for the second time that day.

There wasn’t much left of Patrick after Carl tore through his body, tearing it limb from limb like a rabid animal.  His perfect abs were shredded and laid over the back of a chair like a blanket.  Carl pulled the biceps right out of his arm as Patrick howled; in a distant corner of his mind he begged forgiveness but ignored his pleas.  Laugh at me?  Laugh at my failures?  My pain amuses you, now your pain will amuse me.  Patrick’s shredded arm was slick with blood; Carl had trouble holding the slippery tendons between his fingers and he yanked and tore at his flesh.  

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Decapitator - part 7

The Decapitator Part 7 –

The process of transmogrification from human to Grave Dog is a slow and excruciating ordeal with many opportunities for folly; a carefully crafted form of torture with the aim of erasing personality through pain.  To purge the sentient human, uproot the soul from the frame through extreme pain, and then replace it with a bounty of pure necro-slime, is a process that can take months even for a witch or warlock with close ties to the spiritual realm.  Preparation for the grim ritual can take even longer.  Necro-slime is mined from the deepest dead pits; mold choked chambers where offspring of the old ones pack the ancient dead, lost rulers of the reclaimed world.  A burial mound of at least fifty cadavers is left to ferment with bundles of spider moss and albino bat droppings for years, even decades, slowly rotting, the flesh eventually coagulates into a green slime on the cold dungeon floor.  The chamber must be made of strong stone or granite or lime, none of the noxious gases from the exposed decay can be allowed to slip away into the Earth.  If the necro-slime is exposed to fresh air before it has properly fermented it will lose its deadly potency.  Many witches and vampires of the new world have spent years using zombies and other indentured slaves carving out these chambers in the deep Earth with their bare hands, scabbed palms, and bent back fingernails; many were left to rot in the same spot they died toiling under the witch’s watchful gaze, their bodies dropping dead from complete exhaustion in these dark subterranean chambers.  If the witches let their slaves eat at all their feast would likely be a hardy plate of rat guts and insect stew, or even a cannibalized fellow worker, most witches are happy to let their slaves starve to death and replace them with fresh meat.   

The victim to be transformed into a Grave Dog is placed in a metal contraption that should invoke images of the medieval iron maiden; after the chalk board of the mind’s eye is erased by horror they are strapped inside and encased within the artfully crafted metal casket.  These devices are said to resemble gargoyles and demons whose names have been lost in time along with the tongue of their language.  After the mortal mind withers and dies as it retreats from the horror of this realm and is replaced by the chaos mind induced by necro-slime.  This imbues the master with total authority over the Grave Dog vessel.  The slime is carefully poured through inseam holes in the mouth, nose, and eyes; great caution is taken to ensure none of the precious burial chamber sludge is lost in the process.  The slime is also said to cause total seething madness if ingested or if left on exposed skin for a short duration, the only remedy for it is suicide or death.  All of the slime is used during the ceremony to ensure successful transformation.  Incantations are intoned in a semicircle around it to impress its master’s name deep into the flailing psyche of the victim.  The screams of the victim are slowly replaced with more bestial tones, it is said that leaving the victim exposed to pure moonlight will also strengthen the blood bond of the necro-slime.

The future Grave Dog is left in a heavy steel cage for several days as the process winds down; its un-needed internal organs bubble into mush.  A Grave Dog has no need for lungs or a stomach; it will no longer draw air or attain sustenance from food for it is an instrument of death; it only needs blood.  The flesh grows pale, almost translucent, the muscles bind and form knots under the skin.  The Grave Dog’s head is covered and concealed by an ancient ceremonial helmet or magic bound leather straps to bind it from biting at its handlers in its rabidity; a muzzle to stiffen its strength until unleashed.  While a proper Grave Dog will never attack its true master its ferocious nature will lead it to attack anything and everything that moves around it.  The mere hint of life can cause a Grave Dog to roar with quaking anger; it is only content with absolute still silence, perhaps a reflection of their nature as undead, for the dead seek the comfort of the quiet eternity of the grave to reflect on life.  In this way the Grave Dog is like the ancient ones, the old ones, the space eaters who raged at the intrusion of light into their dark realm after the explosion of the Big Bang, and vowed vengeance on all life for its noisy trespass.