The Secret Doctors of NASA: A Surgeon’s Nightmare

OR

(Horror stories about space.)

“The Secret Doctors of NASA” is a series of memoirs, diaries, and reports from actual doctors employed by an undisclosed arm of NASA between 1970 and 2001. These writings contain true accounts of the unusual and often highly-classified medical conditions experienced by astronauts during and after their space missions. Following the defunding of the clandestine medical program after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, the majority of these accounts were left, forgotten, on tape drives in a NASA storage facility. In 2016, a former intern, whose job was to clean out one of these facilities, discovered them. Two years later, he is ready to release what he found.

Thus far, the following reports have been released: A Dentist’s Discovery, A Psychologist’s Suicide.

Releaser’s note: This account is from a post-surgery oral memoir dictated by an unnamed surgeon to an anonymous NASA official. The background circumstances are unknown.

A Surgeon’s Nightmare

Look, I’d been awake for two straight days. You guys have been putting us through hell with all the injuries from the Hephaestus Project, so forgive me if my results weren’t as great as they could have been. But come the hell on – what do you expect when someone comes to me in that condition?

So you want to know what happened in my own words? Fine. But don’t get pissed when I call your practices into question.

The patient was admitted with significant injuries to his legs, torso, arms, and head. On the surface, they appeared to be lacerations, which was strange because their severity would have caused near-instantaneous exsanguination and they would’ve gone straight to the morgue, not to me. Closer inspection revealed the wounds had been sealed by intense cold, as if the patient had been frozen either while being injured or immediately after. He was still clinging to life.

Continue reading “The Secret Doctors of NASA: A Surgeon’s Nightmare”

Randall’s Chatty Leg

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(Horror stories about limbs.)

It’s been just me and my brother for the last fourteen years. No one else. He’s Randall. I’m Joe.

Randall thinks his leg doesn’t belong to him. I thought he was crazy. He is, of course. We both are. We’ve always been. But this seemed different. Still, I didn’t believe him until his foot started to talk.

“I’m gonna hurt you, Randall,” the foot announced. It was the middle of the night. The voice woke us both up.

“See!” shouted my brother. “See!”

I bolted upright and turned on the bedside lamp and looked across the room. My brother’s fat foot was sticking out from underneath the sheet. His toes were wiggling.

“I’ll walk you off the roof and you’ll go splat all over the sidewalk. Just like your Daddy did.” Continue reading “Randall’s Chatty Leg”

Dumbwaiter

Our new house was an old house. We spent tons of money on renovations and upgrades before we could live there. The basement was particularly heinous. After a while, it started coming around, looking less like the pit of despair from when we bought it and more like the man-cave I dreamed of. Once everything was done, we finally moved in.

One of the kids was poking around in her closet the other day and discovered an old dumbwaiter. I never knew we had one of those. It led down into the basement, but apparently the compartment had been bricked up before we even moved in. When setting up my man-cave down there, I just plastered over the brick like any of the other walls.

My daughter was pretty disappointed when I told her I wasn’t going to break down the wall and make the thing functional again. She wanted to send me little presents from her room while I was watching the game in the basement. Still, she liked hanging out in her closet and pulling the thing up and down. I figured there were worse things she could find interesting. Continue reading “Dumbwaiter”

The Old Mine Outside Town

For the last month, I’d been pestering Mason to come with me to explore the old mine outside town. It was one of those places everyone said was haunted. You know the type. Of course, most places like that have scary legends to keep people away so the goth kids can go and f**k one another in peace. There was nothing really haunted about those spots, of course. This mine, though, kept even the goths at bay.

There were so many rumors about why the mine was haunted and downright dangerous. Some said it used to be a government uranium mine during the Manhattan Project and you’d get irradiated the minute you set foot inside. Others claimed that after the Civil War, town officials had used the place to secretly imprison and torture freed slaves whose vengeful ghosts would kill anyone foolish enough to explore. Even though there was no evidence for any of that, folks still insisted it was too dangerous to visit. It had grown to become a town legend. People were told never to go in, so they stayed away. Continue reading “The Old Mine Outside Town”

There’s something very wrong with my parrot.

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I have an African grey parrot named Perry. He’s been part of the family for 25 years. I’ve known him my whole life. When my parents were alive, they taught him a bunch of words and phrases and he’d always make us laugh.

Lately, though, he’s been saying things we never taught him. Certainly not things we’d ever say, either. Nancy, my wife, was in the kitchen with her friends the other day when they all heard Perry squawk, “it bathes in tears and reigns beneath our feet.”

They all laughed and wondered what the hell I could’ve been watching on TV for the bird to pick up a phrase like that. They continued their lunch, but ten minutes later, Perry started again:

“It reigns beneath our feet. It reigns beneath our feet. It reigns beneath our feet.”

Then he squawked and screamed and rattled his cage so hard that he almost fell off the table. Nancy checked to see if he was okay, and he chirped and allowed her to stroke his head with her finger. He seemed no worse for wear.

That night, after I’d gotten home and Nancy had told me about Perry’s weirdness, I let him out of his cage to fly around the house. He was always well behaved and never knocked anything off shelves or s**t on things we cared about. He stepped out of the cage and onto the table, but he didn’t take off. He just stood there, looking around.

“Go ahead, Perry,” I coaxed. “Go get some exercise.”

He remained stationary, but he watched me; the pupils wide in his beige eyes.

“You okay buddy?,” I asked. I was concerned for the little guy. He’d always been in great health and never acted weird. This was entirely unlike him.

Perry cocked his head and stared into my eyes. For some reason, I felt a chill run down my spine even before he spoke – almost like I knew he was about to frighten me.

In a deep tone I’d never heard from him in all my years, he uttered, “beneath your feet.”

Something knocked on the floor directly below where I was standing. I jumped about a mile and stepped away from the bird, who hadn’t moved. “Still beneath your feet,” he said.

The knock came again. It was a hundred times louder and so powerful my ankle twisted under me and I fell sideways onto the couch. The floorboards where I’d been standing bulged upward. One had cracked. Nancy came running downstairs asking, “what the hell was that?” I told her to go in the kitchen and call the police – someone was in the cellar.

Nancy and I waited by the door for the police to arrive. They got there quickly. We let them in and they went into the basement. A couple minutes later, they came back up. “No one’s there,” they told us.

“Wait, then what –”

The older cop cut us off. “Can you come look at something with us?”

“Okay,” Nancy said, “but what is it?”

“Just come downstairs.”

We followed the cops into the basement. Neither Nancy nor I go down there very often. I was a little embarrassed by how gross and dusty it was until I saw marks in the dust-covered floor and countertops.

“Are those footprints?,” I asked, more to myself than to anyone around.

“That’s what we thought,” said the younger officer. “But they look pretty weird for footprints.”

We got to the part of the cellar that was under where I’d been standing. The cops aimed their flashlights at the wood above our heads. An indentation was clearly visible. It almost looked like a punch, but the shape wasn’t of any hand we’d ever seen. It looked like it had too many knuckles; too many bones.

“What the hell?” I traced my finger over the indentations. I shivered.

Upstairs, Perry squawked. The floorboards around the indentation began to leak. Liquid dripped into my mouth and I sputtered. It was salty and reminded me of the taste you get after crying for a long time.

“Did something spill upstairs?,” the older cop asked.

“Yeah, maybe the bird knocked something over.”

“Is that him making all that noise?”

I nodded. “He’s been weird all day.”

We headed back upstairs and the cops told us to call if we have any other concerns about someone being in our house. Nancy and I thanked them, and they left.

I stared at the damage to the living room floor. Perry hadn’t knocked anything over, but there was a small puddle on the wood. He’d gone back into his cage and sat in the corner, quietly clucking. I approached the cage. There were little, wet footprints around it. They were his prints. It looked like he might’ve lapped up some of the water that’d been on the floor while we were in the cellar.

“What’s going on, bud? You having a rough day?” I tried not to think about what had happened. There had to be a reason for it. Maybe the wood had warped. The basement’s always been damp and gross. That had to have been it. The wood warped and trapped moisture was dripping out of the fracture point. But then there was Perry.

Perry stared at the bottom of the cage, still clucking. He didn’t look up. I reached out to pet his head, but he struck my finger with his beak. Not hard enough to do any damage, but with enough force to let me know he wanted none of my affection.

I looked at my pet with sympathy, wondering if he was just getting old and losing his mind. He remained in the corner, trembling slightly. Something caught my eye. There was red on the cage where he was sitting. I looked closer. It was blood.

“What happened, Perry?,” I asked, and reached inside to pick him up, knowing I was in for a pecking. Before I could grab him, he spoke in that same, chilling voice:

“It will bathe in blood and claim the sky.” He paused, then slowly spoke. “Twenty…. seven… days.”

I picked up my bird to see how badly he was hurt. But before I could assess his wound, I saw what was in the corner where he was sitting. Something entirely unexpected.

Perry, my male, African grey parrot, had been sitting on a bloody, black egg.

It’s been 24 hours since all this started. Perry seems no worse for wear, but he fights whenever we try to pick him up. He does everything he can to remain by the egg. I don’t know what’s happening to him and I have no idea what he means with any of the stuff he’s saying. Whenever he talks now, it’s just “26 days” followed by the word “hours.” The number of hours keeps going down. And I haven’t heard it, but Nancy swears she hears soft knocking coming from the basement each time Perry makes his announcements.

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Elf on the Shelf

elf

Grandma would always warn me that the elf on the shelf was watching to make sure I wasn’t bad. Growing up, even when it was nowhere near Christmas, the elf would observe me. The elf would judge me.

With my brother and cousins around all the time, it wasn’t easy to be good. But I tried. I tried really hard. When I’d make a mistake and be mean to one of them, I felt the elf staring at me. It would remember that moment. I’d picture it waiting until I was in bed, then running and tattling to Santa. No matter how much I screamed and sobbed to it, the elf wouldn’t answer. It would just watch and wait for me to do something bad again. It knew me too well.

On the fourth of July, I burned Marisa with a sparkler. I didn’t do it on purpose. I mean, I meant to burn Marisa, but I didn’t want to hurt her. I just wanted to see what would happen. Unfortunately, she got hurt pretty bad. Grandma had to take her to the hospital, but not before she got out the belt and whipped me until I couldn’t sit down.

After Marisa’s mom came over to give me a beating of her own, I was left watching Neil, my little brother. Grandma was still at the hospital. Neil watched TV while I tried to walk off the pain from the beatings. Before Dad died, that’s what he’d tell me to do. “Walk it off, you little f****t.”

I walked a lot.

When I got to the living room, the elf was watching me. It knew. Its wooden mouth was open, almost like it was screaming accusations.

“You’re a bad kid.”

“No one likes you.”

“Santa thinks you’re terrible.”

“You’ll be a bad man when you grow up.”

It didn’t actually speak, of course, but it was obvious that’s what it meant. It was the same stuff Grandma said to me, day in, day out. And somehow, I always made sure to live up to it. Try as I might, I couldn’t be good. At the age of eight, I was already certain I was rotten to the core.

Months went by and my best efforts yielded punishment. If I wasn’t accidentally knocking over a vase in the kitchen, I was tracking mud into the hallway. It invariably ended with my pants around my ankles and my grandfather’s old leather belt smashing into me as I tried not to scream. Screaming would only make the beatings last longer.

When it was finally over and I inched my jeans and underwear back up, I told myself I’d be better; that I’d be a good kid from here on out. And for a while – for the entire month of November and into December – I was.

Grandma, Neil, and I went to get our Christmas tree on December 4th. We came home and decorated it while cookies baked in the oven. I remember Grandma lifting me with her strong, solid arms so I could put the star on top. The star had been her daughter’s. My mother’s. It was one of the only things left that had belonged to her.

On December 5th, after Neil and I had gotten home from school, we were playing around. Like all brothers, we played rough. With him being six and me being eight, I was quite a bit bigger. When we were wrestling and I was spinning him by his arm, I made a mistake. I let him go and send him right into the Christmas tree. It fell onto the hardwood floor. Ornaments broke. Lights went out.

The star shattered.

In an instant, I was panicking. I knew Neil would tell Grandma. I knew the elf in the other room would learn what I’d done. I’d been good for so long that I’d started hoping I might get Christmas presents. After this, though; after breaking the one thing Grandma had left after her daughter was killed by Dad, I’d be doomed. Grandma would beat me senseless. The elf would tell Santa. I’d get nothing. And Neil would taunt me with his presents.

Something sparked inside me. What if the elf hadn’t seen what happened? What if Neil didn’t tell Grandma?

I was very busy for about an hour. By the time I was done, Grandma would be back from work any minute. I knew I might not fool her, but I’d fool the elf. That was most important; it was he who talked to Santa. Not Grandma.

I wore Neil’s face into the living room and looked at the elf on the shelf. He stared back with his black, judgmental eyes.

“I’m sorry I knocked over the tree and broke the ornament,” I said, doing my best impression of Neil’s high voice. I thought about his body cooling on the kitchen floor and his blood making a mess everywhere. Maybe Grandma would believe he fell on a knife if I cried hard enough.

Under the mask of my brother’s skin, I peered at the elf through the eye holes. The skin tasted awful, but I had to breathe through my mouth because the nose holes line up right. I wondered if the elf believed me.

“I’m sorry, elf,” I squeaked again. I heard the garage door rising and a car pulling inside. Grandma was home. I felt a new rush of panic. I glared through the cold mask at the arbiter of my Christmas fortune. The door connecting the garage to the kitchen opened and I heard my grandmother’s shrill, hysterical shriek.

“Elf,” I whispered, as tears mixed with my brother’s blood and cascaded down my face.

The elf on the shelf turned its head 360 degrees as its mouth opened and closed. When it faced me again, it spoke: “You’ve been very bad, Neil.”

I fell to my knees in fervid, incomprehensible relief. Some part of me heard Grandma still screaming, somehow even louder when she came into the room and saw me. Again, the elf spoke, “You’ve been terrible Neil.”

Grandma whirled around and looked at the elf, but then shook her head back and forth like she was trying to get ahold of herself. I stood up. Not wanting to ruin the illusion for the elf, I held the mask to my face until I left the room and sat down in the kitchen. Grandma didn’t try to hit me. She didn’t touch me at all. I piled the skin back on Neil’s head and told Grandma he fell. She didn’t answer.

It didn’t matter, though.

20 days later, in my own, warm room at the hospital, I got some very nice Christmas presents. The doctors and nurses were so kind and gentle with me. One even hugged me after I’d opened my gifts. The gifts weren’t exactly what I’d hoped for, but they were better than nothing. So much better. I giggled to myself as we hugged. When the nurse asked what I was laughing at, I lied and told her I remembered a funny joke. She smiled, and I was surprised to see a tear running down her cheek. I didn’t think much of it, though. All that mattered was I’d won. I’d finally fooled the elf on the shelf.

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My Wife, the Artist

pumpkins

Jen and I love Halloween. We go all-out when decorating our house and yard. The neighborhood kids love to see what we put up every year and even their parents are impressed by the scale and sophistication of the decorations we use. We don’t just give out candy, we invite the trick-or-treaters into our home to see our setup. Pumpkins, spiders, skeletons, ghosts – you name it, we’ve got it. Our local newspaper even did a feature on us last year. “A Safe and Spooky Spot for Local Kids.” It wasn’t much more than a fluff piece, but it felt good to have our work celebrated.

A project Jen’s been working on over the last fifteen or so years is her “Halloween Town of Horrors.” It’s the centerpiece of our trick-or-treat trip around the house. The town takes up our whole dining room table and it’s a darker take on those big Christmas villages people like put out in December. The architecture is very Tim Burton-esque; lots of strange looking buildings, exaggerated colors, and blood splatters, while the townsfolk lurk in the shadows like little purple zombies and space aliens. As the years have gone by, Jen’s taken her Halloween town from a couple small buildings to the sprawling, populous nightmare-scape it is today.

This year, Halloween came and went. We had a blast. Jen’s Halloween town was a huge hit. Even adults from around the neighborhood came over to take a look. Jen loved the attention; she wanted to be an artist growing up, but, sadly, it wouldn’t pay the bills. As we cleaned the house, Jen picked up one of the townsfolk dolls. Its clothing had a little tear that needed to be fixed. Sighing good-naturedly, she gathered the rest of them into their box. I love those dolls; their aesthetic works beautifully with the town Jen puts them in. They range in size from a raisin to a lemon; some have distinguishable features, others don’t. It takes a while for her to make each one – between 2 and 5 months – but her effort always yields a product that’s perfect for Halloween. Until she can carry one to term, we both agree they shouldn’t go to waste.

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Wikileaks rejected a State Department document and demanded that I destroy it.

wikileaks_logo_text_wordmark

My uncle worked for the State Department. He died a couple weeks ago. As per State Department policy, whenever one of their higher-ranking employees dies, the Department sends a small team to the home of the deceased to ensure they had no sensitive documents in their possession. It’s not that they distrust their dead colleague – they just don’t trust his family.

The Department team came to my uncle’s house one morning, spent a few hours rifling through his closets and drawers, and left with a small pile of papers. They expressed their condolences for my loss, then left. I never saw them again. Not even at the funeral.

On the night I visited and found him on the floor, dying of a heart attack, he told me something. It’s something I would’ve preferred to have never heard; something that made me wish I’d gotten to his house 20 minutes later to find him dead.

“Rockville Bank. Rangeley, ME. Deposit box 4426.” The key was on the ring between his car and house keys.

I pocketed the key before the paramedics arrived. He was dead by then. I went through the motions, arranged what needed to be arranged, and let the State Department do their thing. Last week, I drove from DC up to Rangely. I showed the bank the documents proving I was in charge of my uncle’s estate and owner of the contents of the box. The bank manager unlocked the main lock on top, then left me to unlock the other one on the bottom. Inside was an envelope containing a single sheet of paper dated August 4, 2016, that looked like it had been pulled out of a fire. I took it from the box, left the bank, and read it in my car.

I have to preface this by saying I’ve never been one for conspiracy theories. In fact, I think they’re all a bunch of bullshit. We landed on the moon. Oswald killed Kennedy. Islamic terrorists brought down the twin towers. Vaccines are safe and important. None of the major conspiracy theories have been able to hold up under scrutiny, and all the exponents of the theories are, in one way or another, unhinged. But.

But.

There’s nothing inside me that can adequately explain away what I read on that sheet of paper. Yes, it might be a hoax. During the long drive back to DC, I’d almost convinced myself that it was. But my uncle wouldn’t do something like that. He took his work seriously. He was passionate and moral. All the evidence pointed to the fact the document was real. And if that were the case, people needed to know about it. That had to have been why my uncle had hidden the file away. He wanted me, or someone else, to disseminate it after his death. I made up my mind, and when I got home, I submitted it to Wikileaks.

Five minutes later, I received a phone call. “Destroy the scan you sent us. It is not real. Destroy the file and the physical document. Do not attempt to submit it again. We know who you are.”

I hadn’t provided any personal information to Wikileaks. They don’t even ask for it. And hardly anyone has my phone number. Plus, no one else knew I had that document in my possession.

If anything could have proven the document was authentic and important, that was it.

That all happened last Friday. Every day since then, I’ve gotten calls from different numbers, all asking the same questions. “Is it gone? Is it destroyed?”

Each time, I hung up without saying anything. This morning, though, the voice on the other end said something different. “You will die if that document is leaked.”

I hung up and called the police, who said they would send a car over. But I’m still worried. I am going to destroy the document, but not before I transcribe it. Not before I put it online. Even if they get me – even if they kill me – I’m not sure I want to continue living in a world where the contents of that document are real.

I’ve replaced the burn marks with dashes. The content is still discernible. The context is still available. Whatever happens with this, once it’s out in the open, my conscience can be clear. If this is my last day alive, maybe I’ll be rewarded for bringing this to light. God knows if I live through today, I may never sleep again.

U.S. Department of State: Wikileaks & JA documentation — — summary

JA ordered multiple attempts on the — of BO JB HC according to — sources in — of Ecuador, London. Electronic surveillance of the — is ongoing, although human intelligence —. Following — offer of funding, most attempts linked to JA have stopped. Tactical reversion to JA — Embassy of Ecuador, London — budget to silence sexual assault — and smear accusers in tabloid — as promiscuous or drug users.

JA has accepted the — GBP sum in exchange for keeping secret US UK BZ IT — for refugee experimentation. (See cable —) — experimentation via biological, chemical, radiological, —

— — refugee populations in SY being moved — — —, though Ciprofloxacin shortage makes it difficult to keep enough alive before reaching BZ and IT labs. JA accepting variable sums to hold back information — to sick and dying refugees.

JA received cables — from RU re: US initial success in UK lab — Zika manipulation. Zika reengineering and subsequent failure — reanimation of dead tissue.

Loss of containment in FL, US, GA, US, LON, UK — some bodies regaining movement and autonomy — — following brain death. In some cases, full recovery. — motivation altered. Wikileaks and JA rejecting — reports for GBP 1M per. Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and others complying — —.

Final note:

JA assassination attempt on — — 2016 reported successful by — Ecuador, London and US team — via gunshot wound to head. Body — reanimated likely — dormant Zika — accidental exposure to lost mosquito — LON, UK lab. JA new motivation unknown. Gunshot — covered by hair styled — over wounds. Still responsive to — and communication.

Internet in general still unaware of bioengineered — outbreak. — and family of citizens in US and UK — — reanimated dead without anyone knowing it. Monitor cables from — and RU. Avoid mosquito exposure.

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The Empty Cribs on Hawthorn Lane

pacifier

The bloody pacifier I found hanging from my tree belonged to Alyssa Harris, who went missing from her crib two nights ago. I figured it had to have been Alyssa’s when I saw it, but while I waited for the police to arrive, I realized it could’ve belonged to Matthew Roman. Or Muhammad Ahad. Or maybe even Hailey Davis. Over the last four years, they’d all vanished.

Hawthorn Lane developed quite a bit of notoriety in 2015 after Matthew and Muhammad disappeared on the same night. The Romans and the Ahads lived four houses apart, and as far as the detectives were able to tell, the children were abducted within minutes of each other. Both houses were securely locked and there was no sign of a forced entry.

As far as I’m concerned, though, the notoriety and brief rush of attention from the national news wouldn’t have happened if their disappearance hadn’t been on the anniversary of the 2012 abduction of Hailey Davis.

Hailey’s case was special, if it could be called such a thing. That’s because on October 1st, 2013, exactly a year after she went missing, pieces of her were found stuffed in the mailboxes of every family on the street who had, or were expecting, children. A swarm of investigators, both local and federal, descended on our quiet, suburban lane, and worked around the clock for months before admitting defeat. There was no evidence.

No fingerprints. No hairs. No mysterious DNA.

When the media came to town in 2015 after Matthew and Muhammad went missing, the rumors started. Rumors and threats. People from all over the country decided to get involved. They felt it was their duty. They began sending harassing letters and making threatening phone calls to the single adults who lived on Hawthorn Lane. These were people who’d lived here for years; people who had grieved alongside the parents and families who’d lost their children. But that didn’t matter to the crazies, who’d been thoroughly brainwashed by cable news into believing the abductor had to be someone from the neighborhood.

In December of 2015, a Georgia man named Alvin Stovall drove 300 miles up the coast, parked in front of Jose Partida’s house, and shot him to death when he came home from work. Alvin was certain Jose was the murderer of Hailey Davis and the abductor of Matthew Roman and Muhammad Ahad. He’d heard from a cable news anchor that Jose had a criminal record. That, as well as Jose’s name, was all Alvin needed to justify his action.

What the anchor had neglected to mention was Jose’s record was from 1977. And it was for nothing worse than being a passenger in a stolen car. Jose did his three months, got out on his 22nd birthday, and had been a model citizen ever since. He was my friend.

After Jose’s murder, the local police were ordered to keep a tight lid on any information pertaining to the disappearances. When Alyssa Harris was reported missing two days ago, it was printed on page four of the local newspaper. So far, there hadn’t been anyone from the major media outlets poking around. I know it’s only a matter of time, though. Yesterday morning, someone who looked like a reporter was tailing the police cars when they came to investigate the bloody pacifier. For the rest of the day, my phone rang and rang. When I answered, whoever was on the other line just hung up.

That alone was enough to make me worried. My name is Luis Goncalves. I’ve been on Hawthorn Lane for 40 years. I’ve lived by myself since Robert passed away in 1999. Jose Partida was my next-door neighbor. While I appreciate the efforts of our law enforcement officials, they weren’t able to stop Alvin Stovall from murdering my friend. They aren’t able to stop whoever is taking the neighborhood children. I’ve resorted to keeping my pistol holstered to my side all day, every day; even in my house.

I know that may sound paranoid, but look at it from my perspective. Someone is abducting and killing children on my street. An innocent man was gunned down because the news media has convinced a large group of people that Latinos are dangerous criminals. And yesterday morning, hanging from a small branch on a tree in my front yard, was a pacifier dripping with a child’s blood. I can’t take my chances.

All that said, there’s one more thing. I’m reluctant to talk about it, because it’s something I saw when I was experiencing a dizzy spell from my blood pressure medication. I’d blacked out from the medication before, so this could’ve been nothing but a hallucination. Still, these days, with everything that’s going on, I think it bears mentioning.

I was washing up after a midnight snack. The sink is in front of a large picture window that overlooks the front yard. Since it was dark out, I couldn’t see anything but the reflection of myself and the kitchen behind me. I was already feeling dizzy from my medication, but it wasn’t severe enough for me to have to sit, so I kept cleaning.

As I washed the last dish, the overhead light blew. The kitchen went dark. It took a moment for my eyes to acclimate, but I could now see the neighborhood outside. And there was something across the street, opening the Richter family’s mailbox.

A wave of dizziness went through me and I gripped the edge of the counter to steady myself, but I’m certain, despite what I’m about to write, what I saw was really there. It was a pale, nude man with freakishly long legs and even longer arms that protruded from his hips, rather than his shoulders. Despite him being bent down, it was obvious he was tall enough to peer through a second-story window.

He paused with the mailbox half open, then abruptly stepped away and turned around. In two, long strides, he crossed the street into my yard. He gazed through my kitchen window with massive, gray eyes. I stared back. A toothless mouth opened, stretching wide enough to fit a basketball. I reached for my pistol. Through the glass, I heard the sound of infants screaming from deep inside his throat. His mouth shut, then twisted into a grin. Then his long, spindly legs carried him away, down the street, and into the woods.

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In our quest to drill for more and more oil, I think we finally went too deep. Part 2.

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Part 1.

The following hours passed in a blur of frantic calls to corporate, systems checks, and a near riot when the divers refused to collect the rapidly-dispersing grease slick that used to be John Edmundson.

The tension broke when Gervaso Zaragoza, whose headache had returned with a vengeance, grabbed a wrench that weighed almost as much as he did, hoisted it over his head like he was going to hit someone, and then toppled backward and fell on his a*s. It’s amazing how the humor of someone falling down can diffuse a volatile situation. After a few minutes, the divers stopped complaining and did their part while the rest of the crew shut up and went back to work.

I hadn’t told anyone what I’d seen in the water. As far as corporate was concerned, a catastrophic failure in the hydraulics system was what had pulped their employee. Yes, people with knowledge of the systems involved would be able to dispute it, but at the moment, which was what mattered, no one did. I’d be able to talk with corporate later in the week, once I knew what was going on, and they’d appreciate me keeping it from the rest of the crew. A plausible lie is always better than a disruptive truth.

During the commotion, when I was trying to get everyone to calm down, the “tentacles,” or whatever they were, had fallen back to the floor of the plain. They sat in straight lines at the bottom. I dumped all the data showing their movement to a pair of USB sticks, pocketed them, and purged the storage array of the evidence.

For the rest of the day, I sat at the console and did my best to work without interruption. While the calls to and from corporate had slowed, every 45-or-so minutes, I’d be forced to respond to another board member’s secretary asking the same questions I’d already answered a dozen times. Thankfully, as the day came to an end, even those calls died down. It was quiet.

My direct supervisors left via helicopter in the early evening. I was in charge for the weekend. It wasn’t a new experience; the upper management of the platform had the freedom to go back to the mainland and visit their families a few times a month, and they did so as frequently as possible. I was used to being in charge. In fact, I enjoyed not having anyone breathing down my neck.

In the morning, more of the crew were reporting headaches. Gervaso was not one of them. He said he felt a lot better, and even volunteered to take the shifts of a few of his colleagues who were under the weather. His supervisor, Quan Williams, who felt like s**t, told him to do whatever he wanted. I found out about that much later.

I’d been busy since early in the morning, working remotely from my dorm, and using my laptop to control one of the drones. I was studying the tentacles. Overnight, one had moved. Not much, but enough to warrant my investigation – especially because it was touching one of the platform’s support beams.

To make matters worse, the bottom was exceptionally murky. Sediment was floating in a thick cloud. Visibility was awful. While I could see the tentacle touching the platform through a visual/sonar composite, the resolution was low. It was obvious there was movement on the floor of the plain, but its source was invisible. Part of me was certain something was being intentionally hidden.

Around noon, Anand, the head medic, knocked on my door. I met him in the hallway. He informed me that 34 of the 66 crew members were sick with debilitating headaches. I told him to keep me abreast of what was going on, and if anyone took a turn for a worse, to keep it quiet and come to me immediately. He nodded. I think he understood the importance of avoiding another commotion.

I didn’t have to wait long. Anand came back at 2pm. He looked upset. When I asked who’d gotten worse, he looked around, then put his finger to his lips, shushing me. I nodded and he beckoned me to follow him. I did.

We traversed the labyrinthine staircases of the platform. We were heading toward the mechanical room. I hated the mechanical room.

The mechanical room was where all the heaviest equipment was located. It was always loud, always filthy, and always dangerous. Pumps and engines rattled and expelled noxious fumes while hydraulic cables transported fluids under pressures so high that a leak no wider than a human hair could cut a man in half. The crew who worked down there were a mixture of brave and insane. They’d been putting in double time over the last few weeks as they tested and prepared the platform to begin its main drilling cycle.

Anand and I reached the room and found five crewmembers being kept at bay by their supervisor, Karen Vant. When they saw me, they started asking questions – all relating to Gervaso Zaragoza, who’d volunteered to work there for the day, and Frank Panagakos. I’d never met Frank before, but I knew he was one of the newer mechanics on the platform. Karen told her guys to shut up and let us through. To their credit, they did.

Karen, Anand, and I walked down the main corridor between two massive generators. Karen told us how all the holes in the platform from the accident with Edmundson had been patched. All but one. The one we were coming up on.

The mechanical room was essentially the basement of the platform. Below it was nothing but pipes, cables, and water. I saw the hole ahead of us. As we got closer, I saw there was something coming out of it. Something bright red and glinting in the harsh, overhead fluorescent light. My breath caught in my throat.

We approached the hole. A hundred feet below, greenish-gray waves heaved against one another. I got on my knees and peered down, making sure not to touch the thing coming out. On the northern support beam, a thin line of red rose out of the Gulf, all the way to the underside of the platform and over to the hole. Once inside, it stretched down the corridor. Karen asked me if I had any idea what it was. I lied and told her I had no idea. Anand urged us forward, and we continued down the corridor, following the red tube.

We turned corners and ducked under cables and piping until we reached one of the hottest, noisiest, and filthiest corners of the room. Gervaso was there, facing Frank. They stood, motionless and open mouthed, staring at one another as we walked toward them. They didn’t move or acknowledge our approach.

The closer we got, it became obvious something was very, very wrong with them. The red thing had grown up Gervaso’s leg and chest and appeared to have entered his face under his chin. But that was the least disconcerting part.

The light was dim over here; blocked by the piping and machinery. I had to get in close to see exactly what was happening. Karen produced a flashlight without my knowledge and as soon as I was within a foot of their faces, she flicked on the light. I gasped.

Gervaso and Frank were joined by thin, red veins. They appeared to have sprouted from Gervaso’s eyes, and they entered Frank’s face at various spots in his mouth, eyes, and forehead. They trembled slightly, almost like they were shivering. As I watched, another cilia-like vein pushed from the center of Gervaso’s eye and twirled outward, searching for purchase, before settling on Frank’s temple and slipping inside.

“What is it?,” Karen asked. I looked at Anand. He shook his head. A string of drool oozed out of Frank’s mouth.

“We can’t leave them here,” Anand said. “They need to get to a hospital.”

“Can we move them?,” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Anand told me. “They might move on their own if we ask.”

“Gervaso, estas bien?,” I asked. He didn’t answer. He didn’t move. “Frank?” Nothing.

I took the flashlight from Karen and touched it to the veins. They stretched under the pressure, but didn’t react. I pressed harder.

“Maybe you shouldn’t –” started Anand, but I’d already pressed hard enough to detach one of the veins from under Frank’s tongue. Frank exhaled heavily and his left eye turned to look at me. Before any of us could react, the entire platform shook.

“What the f**k was that,?” Anand practically shouted.

“I have no idea,” Karen answered, wide eyed. “It felt like something just crashed into one of the support beams.”

Will be concluded.

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In our quest to drill for more and more oil, I think we finally went too deep. Part 1.

plain

I’ve worked in petroleum engineering for 35 years. Most of it has been in the Gulf of Mexico, though I’d done a bit of contract work in the Middle East and Canada. After the BP disaster, there’d been quite a bit of pressure on the major petroleum companies to use extra caution and increase their R&D budgets to design safer technologies to prevent another environmental catastrophe. For most of the people in my position, that meant more work and less pay. Of course.

My most recent employer has been one of the big American oil companies. I’ve been stationed on an experimental, semi-secret offshore platform in the Gulf of Mexico. I say “semi-secret” because we’re using a lot of new, highly-proprietary technologies. If our competitors were to learn about them, we’d be set back a few years and countless billions of dollars. All outward appearances would suggest we’re a normal platform that’s outfitted for extreme-depth drilling. If only the competition knew how deep we were going.

The platform is right near the edge of the drop off leading to the Sigsbee Abyssal Plain. One of the new technologies we’ve employed involve our remotely-operated submersibles. They’re basically just submarine drones with lots of cameras and equipment on them that can go super deep. All the ones we’d used in the past needed to be tethered to the surface using a fiber optic connection.

The physical connection had its pros and cons. Fiber optic connections are speedy as all hell, which means commands and data can be sent back and forth to the drone with no meaningful lag. A major downside, though, is that a physical cable limits the maneuvering capabilities of the drone. At the depths we were hoping to reach, the topography was unknown. Previous attempts to send tethered drones ended in failure when the cables were severed by the terrain.

Even with our best satellite, sonar, and early-drone imagery, our knowledge of the area we wanted to drill was terrible. The resolution was too low for any meaningful data to be gleaned. We knew there was oil down there – lots and lots and lots of it – but until we could develop new ways to map the bottom, we were screwed.

A guy named Masaharu Ajibana changed everything for us. He’d been a materials scientist we’d brought on to work on some of the ceramics composites in our drill heads. When he saw the new, undisclosed materials we’d been wanting to employ in the future drills, he must’ve spent four straight days poring over their properties with an enthusiasm I’d never seen in a person over the age of five.

At the end of those four days, Masaharu not only understood the materials better than the team who invented them, but he’d gotten an idea about how to transmit data through miles and miles of murky saltwater using some bizarre form of piezoelectric resonance unique to the properties of the new ceramics. Essentially, a transceiver on the drone would resonate at the same frequency as one on the platform. Once the transceivers were locked in an oscillatory pattern, smaller, tighter waveforms from a second set of transceivers would traverse the oscillation “cable” linking the drone and the platform.

Nearly every scientist in every department in the company said this was entirely impossible. Still, there was enough support from a few key players in R&D that Masaharu’s claims were investigated. Investigation led to cursory confirmations. Cursory confirmations led to experiments. Experiments led to shocking successes. And shocking successes led to the fastest development and deployment of a new technology in the history of the company.

It’s that technology our company employed three weeks ago. We’d been using a fleet of nine drones to map the abyssal plain of Sigsbee Deep. There’s one “hub” drone and eight “mappers.” The hub has one main resonator which communicates with the platform, and eight smaller ones which communicate with the mappers. We were dumbfounded not only by the simplicity and ease of the data transmissions, but by the richness of the data we were seeing.

Another technology we’d deployed for this project was a small, cable-form drill mounted on the mappers. Its drill head was equipped with our new ceramics and could cut through the bottom of the plain with ease. The cables were 3000 feet long – not anything major – but they allowed the mappers to confirm the massive salt sheet we’d assumed was covering the oil deposits.

Once the drill cable maxes out, a tiny device gets deposited in the cavity. It’s mostly multilevel sonar with some seismographs and embedded communicators. Nothing too advanced. It measures minute seismic activity and sends it back to the hub. The data gets processed by our CPU cluster and is incorporated into our future drilling plans.

As I said, we’ve been mapping for three weeks. A week ago, the seismographs started picking up some bizarre activity. And something else happened. It’s something neither I nor the onboard medics can adequately explain.

Last Tuesday, Gervaso Zaragoza, a member of my team, went to the infirmary complaining of severe headaches. He had no history of migraines and until the headaches started, seemed to be in perfect health. The severity of the pain grew as the day went on. After a couple hours, he was screaming. When I stepped out of the infirmary, another team member came to me and casually mentioned the seismic activity of the plain had been rising all day. On a whim, I asked him to send a sleep command to the seismographs. A minute later, Gervaso was fine.

We resumed the operation of the seismographs later in the afternoon. Gervaso, who was resting but otherwise alert, was unaffected. I knew it had to be a coincidence and did my best to put the event out of my mind.

On Wednesday, the mappers were spread in a wide circle out from the hub. They were pinging the interior of the circle with extremely high-resolution sonar, as well as multi-laser topography measurements as the circle widened. The goal was to see if there had been any appreciable surface shifts since the last measurement three days earlier. With the seismic activity we’d experienced, I’d expected some shifts to be detected.

There were no shifts. Instead, there were a series of long, unbroken convexities lining the sea floor. The scan resolution was extremely sharp, and we could clearly see the digitized images of straight lines pushing nearly a meter above the plain. Even with the scans, I wanted to see a camera feed, so I directed the camera to send a raw feed to the platform. The light on the drone went on, and the screen displayed a long, perfectly-straight mound in the silt that stretched for miles. The other mappers displayed the same thing.

The onboard geologist wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a seismic event being the cause of the convexities. He said we knew very little about the seismological properties of the salt plate beneath the plain. The pressures of the silt and water above it and the oil and gas below made for an intensely complicated interaction model, and even though he’d never heard of the type of thing we were seeing, instances of symmetry in natural geology were well-known. He mentioned the basalt formations at Giant’s Causeway. And that’s how he left it.

I wasn’t convinced. Even though I’m not a geologist, it seemed odd that such obvious and large changes could occur with the comparatively-little seismic activity we’d seen. Even though the activity had increased as we’d observed it, it still hadn’t come close to reaching an intensity that would have moved such a large amount of rock and water.

Two days later, on another mapping mission, I took manual control of one of the drones. I’d had the guys from robotics outfit another couple cameras and lights to the outside. I guided the sub along the tallest of the convexities and positioned it about a foot above its surface. All the cameras and lights traced along the convex surface. No visible change from the other day.

I extended the drill. The drill head sank into the convexity and stopped. It was stuck. The transceivers on the hub reported error transmissions from the mapper. I reversed the drill, backed it out, and tried again. Throughout the platform, I heard a number of sharp reports that sounded like gunshots. In the other room, shouts of surprise and screams of fear rang out. I ran from the control panel to see what was going on.

John Edmundson was lying on the floor. A hole had appeared in his belly. A sucking sound filled the room coupled with John screaming with an intensity I’ve never known to be possible. He moved his hands to the wound in an attempt to plug it, but with a series of horrible, wet cracks, his hands and arms were pulled into his belly. Above him, a hole exploded in the steel ceiling, its ragged edges pointing downward. I realized John was being pulled down to the deck below.

I ran down the steps and watched with profound horror as the man was pulled through a series of holes the size of dimes, all the way through every floor in the platform, down to the water. I ran down each floor, watching the column of gore disappear ever downward. Two minutes later, a foam of pulp and entrails floated in heap on the choppy surface of the water.

I slowly plodded back up the steps, unsure if what I’d just seen could possibly have been real. I was jolted out of my contemplation when I realized, behind the shrill voices of my coworkers, an alarm was screaming from the drone control room. I ran back upstairs, past my traumatized colleagues, and made it to the control room. The camera feed was gone.

I rewound to the moment I’d left from the room and started at the screen with disbelief. The convexity below the drone shook like an electric shock had coursed through its bulk. Then, the silt covering it began to fall away. It wasn’t a rock formation. Ripples of peristaltic convulsions seethed along a gray, scarred surface. A hole opened in the surface of it and the drill cable began to get sucked inside. As the 3000 feet were being consumed, the camera showed a vacant column the width of a dime pointing straight up. I realized that must’ve been what had killed John.

Once the drill cable disappeared, the screen went black. The drone, presumably, was gone. The other drones were still mapping away with mechanical obliviousness. I called up the real time sonar data. The convexities had disappeared from the sea floor. I pulled back on the sonar map and tried to figure out what I was seeing. The sonar feed was slow; around 2 frames per second. Still, there was no mistaking what was coming on screen.

The convexities had all lifted from the abyssal plain and were waving back and forth through the water. They were massive; easily 7000 feet long. I couldn’t figure out what was causing them to move. Then, as the reality of John’s death started to sink in and the strangeness of what the camera showed before it went out began to take hold in my mind, I came to a realization that was impossible to ignore. What I was seeing wasn’t an effect of bizarre, deep-sea geology. They were colossal, writhing tentacles.

Will be continued.

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Making Faces

face

I was torn from my sleep by the sound of my daughter’s screams. I rushed across the hall and saw Jessie standing in front of her bedroom window. When I wrapped my arms around her, I noticed her pajamas were soaked with sweat. The screams tapered off and gasping sobs replaced them; her tiny body heaving as it attempted to take in more air than her lungs would allow.

I picked her up and carried her into my room. We sat on the bed and I held her until she’d calmed enough for me to ask what happened. She shook her head. Hot tears spilled down her cheeks.

“Please, sweetheart – I promise it’s okay. What happened?”

Jessie’s wide, blue eyes stared into mine, still leaking away the memory of whatever trauma she’d endured. She pulled my nightgown, beckoning me to come down to her level so she could whisper something in my ear. I obliged.

“There was a big girl in my window making faces at me.”

I lifted my head again to look at Jessie, still feeling the hot condensation from her breath in my ear.

“A big girl?,” I asked, puzzled. Jessie nodded and wiped her eyes on her sweaty pajamas.

“Come on,” I told her, forcing a smile. “Let’s get you in the tub. I’ll let you use my bath bomb.”

For the first time since the ordeal began, a smile flashed across her face. Finally.

As we waited for the tub to fill, Jessie held me around my waist. Her crying had stopped, but she still trembled. I stroked her hair and told her it was okay, over and over, while wondering what could have possibly scared her so badly. This type of episode was entirely unlike her. Quite the contrary; I’d always walk in on her sneaking peeks of scary movies on TV even though I’d told her, in no uncertain terms, that she wasn’t to watch them. But still, even though she’d seen some creepy monsters and murderers, they’d never given her nightmares.

When the tub was filled and the bath bomb was releasing bubbles and glitter and scents that delighted and relaxed Jessie, I helped her out of her pajamas and into the water. She sat there peacefully as her tiredness caught up with her again. Her eyes closed. I continued stroking her hair.

After a little while, knowing she needed to go back to bed, I shook her awake. She opened her eyes and saw me, prompting a smile. But then she stiffened, her eyes widening, and screamed again. I reached into the tub and grabbed her, trying to hold her close, but she pushed and clawed at me, trying to get away.

I cried out to her, “Jessie, what is hap –” and I stopped. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something behind me. Something at the window.

I whirled around, yanking Jessie against my back as I shielded her from something I hadn’t even properly seen. But soon I had. And my own panicked shriek drowned out that of my daughter.

Peering in through the bathroom window was a round, wide face. Pale white with small, jaundiced eyes, it pushed against the window screen until it fell out and clattered on the floor. The face moved toward us on a dowel-thin, articulated neck connected directly to its chin.

“Get out!,” I shouted, mustering up as much violence in my voice as possible.

The neck was blocking our path to the door, and the hideous face turned and stared directly at me before opening its mouth and saying one word: “Jessie.”

A paralyzing wave of incomprehensible terror bloomed inside me. The voice was low and droning, like a normal woman’s voice slowed and pitched down an octave. I felt Jessie stiffen against my back and she pressed her face against my spine, as if trying to hide inside me.

More neck came through the window, the vertebrae bulging against its tight skin as it swayed in the space around us like a long finger with a hundred knuckles.

“Jess……ie.” The voice was even deeper now; I felt it in my chest and bowels.

The face moved toward me and I struck it with my fist. My hand thudded uselessly against its forehead. Before my eyes, the face began to change. Its features elongated, then contracted. Its mouth stretched to its earlobes, then shrank down to a pinhole. The entire topography of its cheekbones and chin and jaw shattered, then reformed. A second later, I was looking at a terribly deformed version of my daughter.

“Jessie.” It exhaled heavily. Hot, stinking breath filled my nostrils.

The strength in my arms vanished. The stability in my legs evaporated. I dropped to the floor, helpless. Jessie was exposed.

“Jess…ie.” The long neck wrapped around my daughter like an anaconda and pulled her toward the window. Jessie, no longer screaming, struggled to breathe against its constricting grasp. Her face reddened. The terrible thing drooled black fluid onto the top of her head. Jessie stopped struggling. She, and the creature, disappeared into the night.

My body regained its strength and I bolted to the window. In the dim light of the crescent moon, I watched the long legs of the thing carry my daughter away into the woods.

I called 911. The police came. They investigated for days. I was the only suspect in her disappearance, but as days turned into weeks and weeks stretched into months, the trail had gone cold. Even if I was still a suspect, they had nothing to even hint at me being the reason for her disappearance. And, in fact, there was evidence to the contrary.

During the initial investigation, when every nook and cranny of the house was looked at, when every piece of furniture was upended, and when every inch of the property was examined, there were only two pieces of evidence; neither of which had anything to do with me, other than to help corroborate my story.

The first morning of the investigation, officers noticed a trail of glitter from the bath bomb stretching from the bathroom window all the way through the yard and high into the trees at the mouth of the forest. When an officer scaled one of the trees, he found glitter stuck to leaves 25 feet up. It was strange, they admitted, but in their words “glitter gets everywhere.”

While they were quick to dismiss that as direct evidence, they couldn’t explain the other thing they found. Smeared across the window in Jessie’s room was the greasy, distorted shape of a woman’s enormous face. When the lab analyzed the cells that’d been left behind, the results were “inconclusive.” The samples were deemed “non-viable.” To me, that meant they wanted to hide what they’d discovered. After a long while, the active investigation was closed.

It’s been six years since Jessie was taken. I live alone in the same house, and every night, I go to bed wishing my daughter would come back to me. Recently, I noticed my bedroom windows had started getting dirty faster than they usually did. I washed them and didn’t think much of it. Not until this morning.

This morning, I woke up to find the outside-facing side of every window covered in grayish, translucent grease. For a while, I struggled to understand what had happened. Then I got to the picture window in the living room. It, too, was filthy. But there was something in that filth. Outlined against the wide piece of glass was the impression of a large face and a thin, articulated neck. The same face I’d seen that night. And next to it, clear as day, was the print of another, smaller face.

Jessie’s face.

Supported by the same, terrible neck.

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