This is the first in an ongoing series of loosely connected short stories. Each short will be complete on its own — this isn’t a serial novel, there will be no cliffhangers or anything. You won’t have to read any other short to get what’s going on in the one in front of you now. But if you do read all of them, they’ll slowly reveal the mythos of a larger world, starting from an incident in 1970s Ohio and going well into the post-apocalyptic realm that used to be Earth. The release pattern on these will be somewhat frequent, but irregular, as I’m working on them in between writing books, columns and keeping my full time day job. Eventually I’ll be formatting these to go up on Amazon, iTunes, Kobo, etc. so you can read them on your various devices, but they’ll post to this website first. As with all writing, word of mouth is everything here. If you like it, please recommend it to your friends, leave reviews on Goodreads (or whichever platform you prefer), or consider buying one of my books. Whiskey doesn’t pay for itself, you know. Here we go:
A Day of Knowing Short Story
“If you were the only human being alive on earth, and you’d never seen a sand dollar before, what would you think when you first found one?” I asked the pair of them.
Jen’s eyebrows knit together. A little lopsided ‘y’ formed in the folds between her eyes. It was cute. But then, everything she did was cute.
“I’m not following the train of thought here,” Peter said. He seemed to be emptying the entire sugar container into his coffee mug.
“I mean, you’d think it was a stone or something, right? Some little rock with a neat pattern in it. At least at first. Then when you walked down the beach and found another with the same pattern, you’d get to wondering. Then you find another. And another. Dozens of them, all with nearly identical, improbably intricate patterns. ‘Okay,’ you’d think, ‘clearly somebody is making these things. This is proof that I’m not the only human out there.’”
Nobody snapped at the bait.
“You’d think it was a sign, but it’s nothing. It’s not even a stone, it’s an animal. It’s just nature. There are all sorts of patterns in nature,” I said, and I pulled out my finishing move. I set an immaculate sand dollar in the center of the table, just beside the ketchup and the plate full of destroyed, runny eggs that Jen had barely touched.
Peter said nothing. He just kept pouring sugar.
“So you think we’re wasting our time,” Jen said. When she finally spoke, it was slow and measured. Emotionless. Adorable.
“No, of course not,” I smiled, if only to prove how totally affable and lovable I am. “SETI is a valuable, hell – a vital program. Now that we’re advanced enough to look for alien life, it’s a moral imperative that we do so. We’re obligated as a species to keep looking, if only for the sake of science. Even if we never find anything.”
“Bullshit,” Peter said. He looked at me as he spoke, never one glancing down at the ceaseless stream of sugar emptying into his mug. “There’s gotta be alien life out there. I’ve seen a lot of my little corner of the universe. No way in hell are we the most intelligent life in the whole damn thing.”
“No way in hell are you drinking that coffee,” Jen said.
“Of course not. It’s empty,” Peter said.
“Because it’s empty,” Peter grinned, a vicious little break in his face, entirely without humor. “That bitch of a waitress never came back with a refill. Now she’s got a solid mug full of wet sugar to deal with.”
Jesus. The people in this town dislike us enough without little stunts like that. You’d think they’d be grateful for our presence. Before we’d built the Big Ear here, the most remarkable thing about Delaware, Ohio was a stained wall that kind of looked like JFK if you squinted hard and tilted your head sideways. It’s always been a college town; you’d think they’d be used to visiting academics. But no, everywhere we went it was just glares and the cold shoulder. No smile from the waitresses. No chit chat from the bartender. No friendly advice from the pharmacist. No suggestive winks from the college girls…
These people had no reason to dislike us – we spent most of our time buried at the observatory. They barely even saw us.
Maybe that’s why they didn’t like us.
The waitress came by to drop off the check. I smiled at her extra hard. Look how god damn friendly we are, you stupid yokel. Love us.
She just frowned down at the mound of white spilling out of Peter’s cup, and walked away without a word.
These people, I swear to god.
Jen walked out in front. She walked like she thought she was being stalked by somebody, just one loud noise away from sprinting. To her, a walk was just an inconvenience between places she had to be.
“I’m telling you, that pattern is repeating,” Peter hollered from somewhere behind us.
I was in a light jog, trying to keep up with Jen. But I was also trying to make it look like I was just walking nonchalantly. Arms down at my side, legs sliding forward and back in barely controlled leaps like I was miming cross country skiing. I hoped it looked more natural than it felt. Peter didn’t bother trying to keep up. He just ambled along behind us, closing ground when we stopped for cars, yelling his half of the conversation without caring how many stares he gathered.
“I said, that pattern is repeating!” He yelled again. Like we didn’t hear him. Like we weren’t just ignoring him because the little old ladies of this town were worried enough about us bringing aliens down on their heads.
“I said, that-“ He started again.
“We heard you!” I finally yelled back. “Nobody’s saying it’s not repeating. I’m just saying the pattern could be natural. Nature’s full of patterns!”
Did he not even hear the sand dollar speech? God damn it, I practiced that for hours last night.
“Patterns that regular, that intense?”
I couldn’t jog-walk and yell at the same time. Jen was getting away. Her hunched shoulders bobbing away into the night, like some sort of sexy Frankenstein.
I decided to hell with Peter, and broke into a run.
“I said, ‘patterns that regu-“ Peter yelled after me.
Jen made it back to the observatory first. She’d already had time to kick her boots off – she always walked around the focus room barefoot – and was blowing her nose over the trash can, like an angel.
I could feel my face burning from the workout. Jen wasn’t even breathing hard. I looked at her tall, lean frame. Limp red hair. Thick black glasses. Beautiful, thin lips. Body like somebody had put a mannequin on the rack and stretched it out. I poked my own moderate paunch, straining at the edges of my worn Speedracer T-shirt.
Like she’d ever be with a shlub like me.
Peter came in last, still yelling his half of a conversation nobody had heard.
“-and you can’t use nature to dismiss an intentional pattern like this. Look at this – a full 72 seconds…”
He grabbed the sheaf of printout from globular cluster M55. He held it up to my face and shook it. I had a mad impulse to slap it out of his hands – it would be so dramatic – but I swallowed that down and just smiled at him. Weakly.
“Right man, look at the pattern. It’s all over the place,” I said.
“But those big spikes are unnaturally regular deviations from the hydrogen line,” Jen said.
My heart sank. It was the first uncute thing she’d ever done.
“Yes, those few spikes are regular, but everything in between is all over the map. Look,” I said, and I took a step back so I could stand between them. “I’m not saying it’s not weird, I’m just saying we need more info before we make something big out of this.”
Peter let out a low groan. He did that when he was thinking about something he didn’t like. Jen scratched her neck and looked away. Neither spoke.
I kicked open the door to the focus room.
“Merry donut day, nerds!” I yelled.
The lights were off. The chairs were empty. I set down the three cups of coffee and dozen donuts on my terminal. I thought I should bring a little peace offering after our tiff last night, so on my way in, I had asked a guy on the corner where I should go for donuts. He said “New York,” then walked away. So I had to swing by a phone booth and look it up in a soggy book hanging from a chain. Friendly town.
I shouldn’t be the first in. Jen should still be on the early shift, and Peter should be stumbling in by now, three hours late for his rotation, reeking of vodka and devouring his customary three plain pieces of bread. Should I call somebody? Who do I even call? We’re all volunteers. As far as I know we can just up and walk away. Jen could have pissed off back to…oh man, can you believe I don’t even know where she came from? God damn if I missed my only shot with her because I was too…
The door banged open and Jen shuffled into the focus room. She hadn’t changed her clothes from last night.
“Rough night?” I asked.
I laughed, because she didn’t.
“You could say that.”
“Oh, I was just kidding, because you were late and all… everything okay?”
“No, I had nightmares.”
“Ah, sorry. Happens to me sometimes, too.”
“I have never had a dream before in my life. Not that I can remember, at least.”
“Wow, that’s super interesting,” I said, “what was this one about?”
“I don’t know, it’s hard to talk about. I’ve never had to discuss a dream before.”
She fell quiet. Thinking before she spoke.
“I was watching television, only nothing was on…”
‘That’s the dullest dream I’ve ever heard,’ I thought about saying, but apparently she wasn’t done. Just putting together the words.
“It was static. Little white flecks dancing and zipping all over the screen. But there was a parallax effect. The little black flecks weren’t moving at all. Just the white ones. See, the black flecks weren’t flecks at all; they were the only visible parts of a background, or a bigger object. The white ones started getting farther and farther apart from each other, and I realized they were all moving away from something. They were making a space around a black spot in the center. Like they were afraid of it. It just kept getting bigger and bigger, and I couldn’t stop looking at it.”
“Huh. Well, that doesn’t sound too bad, as far as nightmares go. This one time I dreamed I had sausages instead of fingers and I got really hungry so I started eating my own sausages and then my dad-“
“It was just pure terror, the feeling I had when I looked into that black spot. I felt like everything I was, was being sucked into that space, never to return. And the worst part is, just before I woke up, I thought I saw something in there.”
I blew on my coffee. I waited a few seconds, but I guess she needed some prompting.
“What was in there?”
“I don’t know. I don’t remember. There was a face, and I knew it was young, but I don’t think it was human. And it was all black, anyway – how could I see a face in there? I woke up feeling so strange. The whole time I was walking down here, I was just so angry. But at nothing. I saw nobody. Just leaves and trees. Yet they made me angry. And then, when I walked in here, my first thought when I saw you was ‘I could kill this man and nobody would ever know it.’ Isn’t that strange? I’ve never had a thought like that before.”
“Ha ha,” I laughed the most unconvincing laugh in history, “well being killed by you might not be so bad…”
I regretted it the instant I said it. What does that even mean?
Well, nothing to do now except stare at our terminals in terrible, awkward silence. We stayed that way until three in the afternoon, when the police arrived.
“Afternoon,” the first officer said, poking his head through the door. He didn’t knock. “I’m looking for the workplace of a Mr. Peter Hoover. This the right place?”
I thought Jen would answer – she was closer – but she didn’t even look up.
“Yeah I uh…hey, what’s this about?” I said. I stepped around Jen and stopped a few feet away from the officer. I was about to shake his hand. Is that normal? Is that a normal thing to do with a cop? Or is that like considered a threatening action or…
“This is it,” he yelled to somebody on the other side of the door, then stepped in and stood off to the side.
A fat man in a dark blue windbreaker trudged in, looking like he was expecting bad news from a doctor. He puffed out his cheeks and stared in every corner of the room before looking at either me or Jen. He put his hands in his pockets and sighed.
“Uh is everything…?” I just trailed off.
“Turble,” the fat man said. I thought he might’ve just burped.
“Sherriff Turble. That’s me. I’m Turble.”
He sighed again, and fished through his pockets for something but apparently didn’t find it. He just gave up and let his hands dangle by his sides.
“Hi,” I said, “I’m-”
“Peter Hoover,” Turble said. His voice sounded like somebody had knocked the wind out of a Bassett Hound. “He works here.”
“He does,” I said, though I wasn’t sure it was a question.
“Beat up a waitress,” Turble said, and he pinched the bridge of his nose and exhaled loudly.
“What?” Jen blinked. It was the first time she’d looked up from her terminal all day. “What happened?”
“Peter Hoover beat up a waitress,” Turble said again. He went to make a gesture, it was almost a shrug, but he quit on it before it even got started. “Got him in lockup.”
Turble turned to leave.
“What? Is that – what do we do about that?” Jen called after him.
Turble said something like, “ahhhhhdungimmadambou-” as he walked away.
The other officer stepped out from behind the door.
“Hoover couldn’t remember the number for this place,” he said, “for his phone call. Couldn’t even remember the address. Just said it was ‘the space place.’ We had to come down here to let you know where to see him, when to post bail and all that. Sherriff Turble, he doesn’t like doing stuff.”
The officer smiled at Jen before leaving. The son of a bitch.
Peter looked like he’d withered since we’d last seen him. Though maybe that was just my own mental association after seeing him sitting on that little plastic bench in his cell, all alone. His head was down in his hands, and he was saying something over and over, too soft to hear. He looked up at us through red, swollen eyes. He’d been crying. I couldn’t imagine Peter crying, but this didn’t look much like Peter. It looked like somebody had freeze-dried what Peter used to be so he’d fit into a smaller package.
“Hey…hey, guys,” he said. He laughed a little. “Had a rough night.”
“What the hell happened, Peter?” I said. I wrapped my hands around the bars. I shook them a little. I didn’t expect them to feel so solid.
“I just…I couldn’t sleep last night. I couldn’t think of anything else but that fucking waitress, you know? The one from yesterday morning, at the café? She didn’t refill my coffee. Not even once.”
“So you attacked her.” Jen said.
“Yeah,” Peter answered, even though what Jen said — it didn’t sound like a question. It sounded like she was finishing his sentence. “I just, it kept going round and round in my head. And I kept getting angrier and angrier about it. And it’s like, she can’t get away with that. You know? People can’t get away with stuff like that. It’s the principle of the thing. The principle!”
“The principle? Of not getting enough coffee? Are you fucking insane?” I said.
Peter slammed his head right into the bars. Right where my hand was. If I’d moved a second later, it would’ve broken all of my fingers. A thick trail of blood ran down his forehead.
“What did you call me?!” He screamed so loudly his voice cracked. “What did you say? I’LL KILLYA. KIIIYAAA. KIYA MA!”
And then he was just making noises. Barking and frothing at the mouth. He headbutted the bars again, and again.
“Ahhh,” Turble sighed from the door behind us. “I knew you were gonna make more work for me.”
When we left, Peter was still scrabbling at the bars of his cell, trying to get to me. His eyes never left mine. He screamed nonsense syllables until his voice gave out. Jen didn’t seem all that fazed by Peter’s fit, but I couldn’t stop my own hands from shaking. I could barely hold my coffee cup steady.
The waitress had filled it right up to the top – I mean, to within a millimeter. Why do they do that?
Scalding liquid kept seeping over the rim, running down the ceramic and burning my fingers. I set my coffee down. Jen was staring out the window of the All Hands Diner, watching cars pass through the rain. They plowed through the increasingly large puddle forming in the intersection of Williams and Washington, kicking up great arcs of cold slate water. Every once in a while, one of those arcs would catch the passing headlights from another car, and light up. Like tiny stars suspended in mid-air.
“Pretty, isn’t it?” I said.
“Hmm?” Jen blinked and looked at me.
“I said it’s kinda pretty – the headlights in the rain. Looked like you were watching them.”
“No,” Jen said, “I was thinking about Peter.”
“God,” I let out a breath that practically winded me. I guess I’d been partially holding it all this time; breathing high and shallow in my chest. “I know, right? Why would he do that?”
“Exactly,” Jen said, “it makes no sense. Why would he beat her up? And then leave her alive? I can’t figure it out.”
“Yeah I – wait, what’s that?”
“They said he caught her all alone while she was closing up, then hit her with a ketchup bottle and stomped on her for a while. Then, what? He just took off? I can’t for the life of me figure out why he stopped.”
“Because…because he didn’t want to-”
“You can’t be in here,” the cook was standing at the head of our table, his arms crossed, one hand clutching a greasy, foot-long kitchen knife.
“Why not?” Jen tilted her head up at him.
“You god damn well know why not,” our waitress piped up from behind the cook, “your friend nearly killed Kelly!”
“But that’s got nothing to do with us,” I said, trying to keep the pleading out of my voice, for Jen’s benefit.
“The hell it doesn’t,” the cook said, “you university folks always come in here, looking down on us, thinking you can use us and our town however you’d like. Well we don’t need you. We don’t need you, and we don’t need this. You get up and get moving the hell away from my restaurant right now. I’ll give you three steps towards the door, and then you’re gonna be the fucking breakfast special.”
“Come on, Jen,” I was trying to figure out how to save face from this. Maybe I could say something clever at the last minute, right as we were making the door, when it was too late for them to come after us.
‘Can’t we hash this out?’
‘I guess we better scram…ble.’
Damn. No good.
‘Looks like YOUR special is…’
Jen reached up and impaled her hand on the tip of the knife. A bright red spurt of blood shot out across the cook’s filthy white apron. Another sprayed the waitress in the face as Jen wrapped her hand, still impaled, around the blade of the knife and yanked it out of the stunned cook’s hand. In one smooth motion she slid the knife out of her own flesh and opened a foot long gash on the cook’s arm. He yelped and leapt backward. The waitress’ eyes roved about in her head. She was trying to find the voice to scream. Jen was already standing up from her seat at the booth, her eyes on the waitress. The knife moving towards her.
“No!” I shot out of my seat and grabbed her wrist. She dropped the knife. I hustled her out the door before anybody could gather their wits and react. I was trying to get to her run with me towards the observatory, but the most she’d manage was a hurried mosey.
“Come on,” I urged her, “pick up the pace.”
“Why?” She said, a bit of a giggle in her voice.
“Because they’ll kill us!”
“Not if we kill them first, which I was about to do if you hadn’t stopped me. Why did you do that? It was stupid.”
“Why?” I spun around and pulled her wrist to my stomach, drawing her close. I grabbed her jacket with my other hand, shaking her there. “Because you can’t kill people!”
“Sure you can,” she laughed, “it’s actually really easy.”
“You shouldn’t!” I screamed into her face.
Her expression fell. Her thick eyebrows swept together. Her thin lips quivered. She looked so lost. I didn’t even know what was happening, but it was happening. I pulled her in the remaining few inches and kissed her, hard. I poured all of my fear, and worry, and confusion, and pent up lust into that kiss; I poured out the accidental touches as we both reached for the same printout; I poured out my furtive glances — visions of her chewing her hair in the sickly green light of her terminal; I poured out the way I felt about her tiny earlobes and emptied every sleepless, masturbation plagued night into her. I poured it all out. I left myself nothing.
When I finally opened my eyes, hers were staring back into mine, wrought with concern.
“What’s wrong?” I said.
“I’m spurting blood all over your crotch,” she said, gesturing to where I’d pinned her injured hand against my belly.
Sure enough, my slacks were soaked through. I looked like a vampire who had pissed himself.
“Let’s get back to the focus room,” I said, my one true moment utterly defeated. “I think something’s going on with that signal.”
We made it to the observatory without further incident. Hardly anybody was out in the downpour, though it was barely mid-day. We’d left the lights and the terminals on, and the door unlocked. In my haste, I’d even abandoned my tea right there on my desk. It was cold and bitter — appropriately like puddle water — but I belted it back anyway.
I would need it.
I steered Jen into the kitchenette and bandaged her hand with our cracked plastic first aid kit. The paper slips surrounding the band-aids had gone slightly brittle with age, but gauze is gauze, and alcohol is alcohol. With that done, I hauled her chair to my terminal and sat her beside me. She had seemed to go almost catatonic after the kiss. I chalked that up mostly to shock, and only a little to my own personal charisma. She was clearly overwhelmed by it all. I studied the printout of the signal, but it meant nothing. Just a line executing a pattern of spikes and dips on a sheet of paper.
“Does this mean anything to you?” I showed her the printout, waggled it in her face as gently as possible. “Does it…say something to you? First Peter starts acting strange, then you – something’s going on and it started here.”
No response. She wouldn’t even make eye contact.
I got up, plugged my headset in, slotted in the tape with the signal on it, and listened. Nothing exceptional, just an ululating bass tone interspersed with some clicks and squeals. I played it backwards, and heard backwards squeaks and clicks.
Well, what did I expect? The devil’s voice commanding me to kill? Jesus, what was I doing? I was supposed to be a scientist, and yet at the first sign of distress I started chasing extraterrestrials. How childish. The girl must be doing this to me. I needed to get my head on straight and think this through rationally. That was my strength. So, what common denominators did Peter and Jen – and only Peter and Jen, out of all the inhabitants of this entire miserable town – share that could be responsible for such dramatic changes in behavior? Nothing, save for the signal, this room, and me. Could it have been something in the room itself? A chemical leak of some kind? We used no chemicals here. There’s no other lab even close to the observatory. The harshest thing around is printer ink, and I doubt that causes murderous urges. Another question: Why am I apparently exempt? So the question actually becomes: What commonalities do Peter and Jen share that I-
The squeal of an office chair, swiveling. I glanced to my left – Jen was still seated there, motionless, staring off into space. I turned very slowly toward the dark corner containing Peter’s workstation. A figure slumped in the shadows. Lumpy and bald.
“Peter?” I said.
“Haaaaa…” It was part a laugh and part a frustrated groan. “That is me. Peter. And you? And you?”
“I-it’s me, Peter. Do you know where you are?”
“No,” the figure shook its head slowly at first, then more and more violently, like it was trying to dislodge water from its ear. “Yes. Sort of. I know, but I forget what it is to me. This place, what is it to me?”
“What are you, drunk again?”
“What?!” The figure fired out of the shadows, grabbed a fistful of my sweater, and threw me from my chair. I hit the cupboards in the kitchenette and lost my breath. I slid to the cool tile, and tried to calm the ebbing tides of color that threatened to overwhelm my vision.
“You think you know meeeuuugh-“ Peter vomited suddenly. A torrent of chunky crimson.
“Ah Jesus, Jesus god,” Peter moaned, and he collapsed in my chair, beside Jen. She still hadn’t reacted. Might not have even blinked.
My vision cleared, and I found myself fixated on the puddle of vomit. It looked like Peter had been eating raw hamburger. There was something whole in there. He hadn’t even chewed it. Just horked it down his neck in one large gulp, like a duck. It was waxy and had delicate little swirls like a…
I looked at Peter, sitting in the light now. His shirt was torn and covered in blood. He was barefoot. His fingers were twisted into arthritic-looking, inflexible claws.
“Peter?” I said. His head swiveled vaguely toward me, but his eyes were unfocused. Bloodshot red, so wet he was practically crying. “Did you just puke up a human ear?”
“Should I not have done that?” He laughed deep in his belly, “too much. Couldn’t keep it down. Too much.”
“Jen, get away from him,” I said, trying to keep the urgency out of my voice. I don’t know why, but instinct told me that it wasn’t my words, but any hint of panic in my tone that would set Peter off again.
“Why?” She said, not pulling her gaze from the nothingness she was focused on. “It’s just Peter.”
“Did you not just hear what he said? He…he ate somebody. He’s not-”
“I’m here,” Peter said, and his eyes focused on me for the first time. They were awful. They were so… human. It looked like he’d been sobbing hysterically all night. I could sense a plea in those eyes, something that couldn’t make it past his lips.
“I know you are, Peter,” I said.
“I’m here,” he said again. “I’m here. I’m here. I’m here.”
I started moving toward Jen slowly. Peter’s eyes locked on mine all the while, though his body remained otherwise rigid. I took a step toward them.
Another step. Not far now.
I reached out and grabbed Jen’s arm. I guided her up from her seat and past Peter. She followed me listlessly, like she was sleepwalking.
I took a step toward the door, Jen in tow, never taking my eyes off Peter.
“Imhereimheimhimhimimim,” Peter’s syllables flowed together. His eyes were still locked on mine. Dull blue shot with flecks of green. Tears. Pleading. Human. And then…not. “IMHE. IMHE. IMHE HERAM HOA HANUK.”
I had only a split second between the moment that I realized this was not Peter anymore — not in any form I would recognize him — and the moment he lunged at us.
God, so fast.
I was on the floor. A sound like feedback in my ear, one eye not working. Something was scrabbling at my leg like an animal, but my sensory information was coming in starts and stops. My brain was muddy. If I could just get this damn sound to stop for one second so I could concentrate…
When I finally did shake the cotton from my brain, Jen was straddling Peter, who lay prone on the floor. His legs were shaking. Jen was doing something to him, but I couldn’t see what. Her back was turned to me. I got to my knees and shuffled toward the pair of them.
“Jen?” She didn’t respond. Still grabbing at something. Maybe wrestling with Peter? Trying to subdue him? I should help. I need to save her, so she can see what kind of man I really am. Or at least, what kind I want to be.
“Jen, I got him,” I said, just as I came around her shoulder, and saw what she’d been doing.
Peter was dead. Beyond dead. His neck had been torn open, laid bare by Jen’s fingernails, which were still inside his throat, poking, probing and ripping. She was yanking at something hard in there, over and over again, but it wouldn’t come free. His spine. She was trying to take his spine.
“Jen?” I said. “I think you can stop now. I think he’s dead.”
Jen’s head snapped toward me, eyes like a two day hangover, tears streaming down her cheeks, gaze thick with a plea she couldn’t seem to speak.
The secret is bleach.
That’s all. Just bleach, a bit of time, and a lot of fresh towels. That’s how you clean up a very large amount of blood. The big pools are no problem. It’s the little spots that will trip you up. There were little spots of crimson in the keyboards of our terminals; drips of red in between the stapler’s lever and handle; blood mixed in with the coffee at the bottom of Peter’s mug. I got all of it. Every bit. I had plenty of time. Only the Big Ear volunteers come down to the focus room anyway, and I was the only one of those left. The hardest part was dragging the bodies. It seems so much easier in movies. But it’s not like dragging a heavy couch or something. Bodies are limp flesh — they catch on things. They slip through your hands. They bend strangely. It took hours to get Peter and Jen into the woods behind the array. It took hours more to dig the holes.
Really, cleaning was the easy part. It’s silly how big a deal everybody makes of it.
“Blood never comes out.”
Nonsense. Unless they’re speaking metaphorically…
As a scientist, I cannot definitively state that the signal is what caused Peter and Jen’s violent outbursts. My sample size is too small. There were only three of us. I can only say that it is my hypothesis that something in that signal causes human beings to slowly lose all semblance of humanity and become something violent and animalistic. It remains only a hypothesis, until such time as I can test it and prove the results. I burned all of the printouts, but the tape recording of the original signal is sitting beside me on this greyhound bus, in the bottom of my backpack, wrapped in a clean towel. I left a note on the focus room door. Some bullshit about worker’s rights and the true agenda of science. We were all walking out en masse, I wrote. Going to join a new lab that would pay us a fair wage for meaningful work. The university would pull three more lucky volunteers from the astronomy department, and work would continue without missing a beat. Their work. My own work is only just beginning, and there’s so much of it ahead. I will document the true effects of this signal. I will prove my hypothesis. For Jen and, to a much lesser extent, for Peter. I will employ only the most rigorous testing methods, going forward. And I will need a much, much larger sample size.
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