“Have you guys heard the Yanny Laurel thing?” Johanna slurred. She was four beers in and desperate to add some levity to the dying party.
“No,” was the chorus of replies. None of them had. None of them cared much, either. Freida and Joe were independently thinking up excuses to make their escape, while Robert, who wanted the others to leave so he could try to f*ck Johanna, just shrugged.
Johanna watched the others with disappointment. She didn’t want the group to disperse yet.
Freida noticed her friend’s mopey expression, so she obliged. “So what’s Yanny Laurel?”
“Oh my God, it’s so weird.” She fumbled her phone out of her jeans, then tapped its cracked screen a few times. “Check this out!”
An audio file began to play.
“Okay?” Joe replied. “So?”
“So what did you hear?” Johanna asked.
Freida and Joe, in unison, replied “Yanny.”
Robert didn’t say anything. He stared at the floor.
“Rob?” Johanna prodded. “Did you hear ‘Yanny’ too? Or ‘Laurel?’”
“Wait, you heard ‘Laurel?’” interjected Joe.
“Yeah, wait — what?” added Freida.
Johanna laughed. “See! I told you it would be cool.”
“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.
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.
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.
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”
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”
I was lucky enough to be the next-door neighbor of a world-class chef. Like, legit world class. Like, Michelin star class. Yeah. The real deal. Stewart Therriault. Maybe you’ve heard of him.
One of the benefits of living near Stewart was getting to try all the sumptuous, creative dishes he’d make whenever he was home. Seriously, the guy cooked all the time. As soon as I’d see the lights go on in his house, it was only a matter of time before thick, luscious aromas wafted into my home. And, because he was a great guy, he’d often bring over a plate or two for me to try. “It’s all practice for the restaurant,” he told me. Continue reading “A Gifted Chef”
I was ten when it happened. My tenth birthday. I was in the woods with my uncle and father and they were making sure I knew how to shoot. Before I could hunt deer, I had to show them I could hunt bottles. By that, I mean I had to hit ten bottles from ten feet away, using ten bullets. It wasn’t much a test. I could’ve done that when I was seven. My guess was they just wanted to do something special with the number ten. I would’ve preferred ten cakes.
Thanks to my well-placed shots, the first three bottles exploded in glittering, green shards. Against the sullen backdrop of the sun-punctured gray sky and the forest still recovering from last year’s fire, it looked hauntingly pretty.
Even though I’d worn my ear protection, I felt discomfort in both my ears. It wasn’t the normal ringing I’d encountered before, though. It was a painful buzzing, like flies were trapped by my eardrums.
I looked over and saw my dad and uncle both rubbing the area around their ears. They’d taken out their plugs and looked uncomfortable and confused. I pulled off my own and asked what was going on. Dad shook his head and said he didn’t know.
“Mother of f**k!,” my uncle exclaimed, prompting a burst of giggles from me and a slap upside his head from my dad. But then we saw what had caused his outburst.
The seven remaining bottles were floating. They stood, motionless, three feet above the rocks where they’d been placed. The buzzing intensified and the three of us cringed. It was like a colony of bees had descended on the quiet forest.
“Let’s go,” Dad said, grabbing my hand, and we started walking back the way we came.
Then the world ended.
My father and uncle were hoisted into the air. I shrieked. Their eyes grew wide with fright and they held their rifles in deathgrips while pointing them in every direction in a futile attempt to threaten whatever was assailing them. I remember how my dad looked right before it happened. The instant before.
A one of the levitating bottles flew with impossible speed. It struck my dad in his open mouth and shattered. Glass stuck inside his devastated gums, tongue, and cheeks. My uncle, now screaming, was met with the same hideous assault. Both wailed around the glass impaling the soft tissue of their mouths while I tugged at my dad’s leg, trying to pull him back to Earth.
30 years later, their screams haunt me more than the sight of their blood. But blood poured. Blood gushed. In a haze of uncomprehending horror, I watched as the shards extracted themselves from the mouths of the men and began to carve. Lips were amputated. Cheeks were excised. Flesh dropped to the forest floor. The buzzing in my ears reached an unbearable level, and with a sharp cracking sound, everything went silent.
Deaf, I huddled against a large tree and sobbed. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the violence. In a noiseless, surreal nightmare, I saw the glass carve their gums down to the roots of their teeth. Their heads jerked forward in a powerful movement and teeth exploded out of their skulls and into the sky. I followed their trajectory and saw, for the first time, a patch of dull, green light behind the gathering clouds.
I looked back at my father and uncle. They’d stopped moving their arms and legs and trunks. The violent forward motion had to have broken their necks. My uncle’s eyes gaped and darted in every direction, but Dad’s were on me. They expressed pain, but something else, too. It was comfort. Even in the bloodbath, he wanted me to know it would be okay.
It wasn’t okay.
The green light intensified and I saw the outline of something – that’s still the only word I can use – something – in the sky. The first thing that came to mind was Medusa’s head. It had a spherical center and countless, serpentine spires jutting from it at every conceivable angle. Liquid patches of light traveled between the spires, and as it descended, I felt the buzz which had deafened me vibrating my hair and fat.
It reached the treeline. It was the size of a house. My dad and uncle had their eyes on it as their ruined mouths wept. The spires stopped mere feet away from the three of us. A sliver of green shone on the two men, and they began to shake wildly.
If they hadn’t been paralyzed from the tooth extraction, the shaking would’ve ensured it. They flopped like electrocuted ragdolls pinned to a corkboard; arms, legs, hips, backs – all contorting in ways that would splinter and pulverize their bones. My father’s knees bent forward, hyperextending until his toes were touching his hips. My uncle’s lower jaw swept back and forth. There was no conceivable way they were still alive.
With a sense of resignation, I realized I couldn’t move. I was pinned in my position, helpless to do anything but stare at the carnage. I assumed I would be next.
The green light flashed red. The tattered clothing on my relatives split and fell to the ground. The glass, which had dropped to the ground after finishing with their mouths, took to the air again. It sliced through their bodies in long, deep incisions. The red light intensified, and I watched as their splintered, fragmented bones were hurled from their bodies toward the liquid light on the spire-studded object. In a final, hideous act, their eyes dropped from their boneless sockets and pulped brain matter followed them.
Two motionless bags of flesh hung in the silent forest.
If I passed out at that point, it wasn’t for long.
My eyes opened to the sight of the husks of my uncle and father being prodded by one spire each. Skin flopped back and forth. Any remaining blood rained onto the floor of the abattoir nouveau below them. The light had shifted from red to something else I’d never seen before. It was as if they were trapped in a beam of shadow; it wasn’t perfectly black, but dark gray.
Black fluid began to drip out of their skin. It puddled in the mess of blood and organs on the ground. Their flesh wounds began to close. The dripping slowed, then stopped. The bodies started to regain their original shape.
My despondent resignation grew teeth as fresh fear suffused my small body. The skins were full again. The arms and legs moved, as if they were being tested. Eyes sprouted from the empty sockets and teeth filled their mouths. After a couple minutes, they looked exactly like they had before they’d been murdered.
Everything blurred after this.
I remember them slowly descending to the ground. I remember their mouths moving as if they were talking to me, but in my deafness, I heard nothing. I remember trying to run, but being stopped; stopped and held against the chest of the thing who looked like my father. The twinkle of concern in his eyes was gone.
I was carried through the forest to our house. I remember Mom starting at the sight of my nude father and uncle entering, but then I lost consciousness. When I woke up, I was in my bed. It was the day after my birthday.
As I said above, it’s been 30 years. I am still deaf. Everything continued as if nothing had happened, other than a freak accident due to a combination of a misfiring shell and my shrugging off of my hearing protection right beforehand. I even told Mom about it all, and she just stroked my hair and told me it must’ve been a terrible nightmare.
There was no warmth in her eyes.
My mother, my father, and my uncle still live on the same street. I live across town. I don’t see them very often. They express great sadness at this and message frequently, but I can’t forget what I know happened – what I know wasn’t a dream.
Over the years, there have been clues. Every so often there’d be a newspaper article about strange lights in the sky or messes of blood and organs found in the forest. They’re things that are always explained away by auroras or animal attacks. Weird stuff, but not anything that’ll make people think more than twice.
Five years ago, I was on my way to the supermarket on my bicycle when my chain fell off. I pulled over onto the sidewalk to fix it. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw another cyclist crossing the street. Then a car made an illegal turn and the cyclist had to swerve out of the way. He fell onto the ground. I looked up and realized it was Dad. He was picking himself up. A small gash had appeared on his elbow. Greasy, black liquid trickled down his arm.
He saw me and smiled. Then he looked at his arm and sighed. He lifted the bike back onto its wheels, walked up to me, and signed, “your mother and I miss you.” He hopped on the bike and rode away.
I just stared at tiny black drops on the pavement.