[For more information please reference the previous document in this sequence.]
“He’s bluffing,” Dr. Hyde says. He’s sitting in an office that looks far more casual than it has a right too. The furniture doesn’t match. The walls are a soft, warm brown that’s almost covered over with bookshelves stuffed with various bricabrac. The desk he’s sitting in front of is a vast oaken thing that fills much of the room’s available floor space.
The office belongs to the Director. The Director is the highest authority at site 14, reporting directly to OS-5. No one knows his name.
The director looks at Hyde through narrow eyes and says, “Bluffing.”
“Yeah,” Hyde says. It’s obvious he’s edgy, nervous, a wayward student in the thrall of a stern teacher. “Bluffing.”
“He’s not bluffing,” Jenkins argues. She’s more comfortable here, more relaxed. Either she’s not afraid of the Director or she’s doing a better job of keeping it hidden. “We tested the stuff we gave him on a number of Class 4 personnel and none of them held anything back. Some of the stuff, frankly I wouldn’t have minded if they skipped.”
“It doesn’t make sense,” Hyde argues. “The way he described the aftermath of that meeting his friend had with the demon-thing at City Hall? That’s clearly the result of some kind of psychic energy. Our thaumeters went crazy when we visited the site. Brain bombs. Gotta be.”
The Director raises an eyebrow. “Your argument being that these demon entities could not possibly have used brain bombs in this instance?”
“My argument is, why would they? You’re going mano e mano with a guy who you know you can overpower? You don’t toss a psychic grenade at him. It’s overkill. Worse, it’s plain stupid.” He charges ahead, more confident now that he’s getting to his point. “We know who uses that kind of tech,” he says. “If it’s got brass and glass and a hint of magic they’re all over it. Demon things from wherever? Not so much.”
“The Church has no reason that we know of to be interested in this guy,” Jenkins argues. “Now maybe they were there. Maybe. But my money says it was just a coincidence.”
“Coincidence? Can you HEAR yourself? The amount of sense that doesn’t make is staggering. He’s a PLANT. I’m telling you. Or something. He gave us what he thought was the truth but his memories were altered.”
“Equally implausible,” the Director says.
Hyde begins to object. “With all due respect-”
“Jenkins,” the Director says. “Explain to your colleague why it’s implausible.”
“Because…” Jenkins squeezes her eyes shut for a moment, thinking. “Because if you’re going to give someone a cover story it needs to fit the facts? The very fact that this one raises so many warning flags argues against it being a red herring.”
The Director nods almost imperceptibly. “Very good. Has there been any change in his behavior pattern?”
“If by ‘change’ you mean, has he stopped acting weird for no apparent reason then no,” Hyde replies. “We’re holding steady there. I’m telling you-”
“Then thank you for you time,” the Director says rising from his chair. “I believe both of you know the way out.”
Vincent sits at the computer terminal and stares at the blinking cursor on the screen. He’s got the computer’s word processing program open. He’s typed, “All that you love will be carried away,” on the screen 586 times. “All That You Love Will be Carried Away” is Vincent’s favorite Stephen King short story. It’s his belief that short King’s short fiction is the best work he’s ever done.
Back when he was working at the gas station he would read fat Stephen King books during the times when he wasn’t mopping the floor or helping customers. He’s read Everything’s Eventual eleven times and Nightmares and Dreamscapes seven times.
On the next line he types “All that you live will be carried away,” and smiles a little to himself. Once upon a time he found small religious comic book called “This Was Your Life” wherein the main character of the comic dies and is shown a film of all the things he’s done in his life. The point of the comic is that the man has done more bad things than he realizes and is deserving of hell, but all Vincent can think is that if he is ever shown the events of his life played out on a screen in real time he’ll know he’s in hell already.
“Maybe this is hell,” he thinks. “Maybe I died back there in the river and everything since then has been an elaborate hallucination; a bizarre after-life or…something.” He laughs. And then frowns. This isn’t hell. At least he’s relatively sure it isn’t. Hell doesn’t come with helpful staff and doctors trying to tell you you should really take something to eat. But he can’t help but wonder what kind of place would have those kinds of amenities. Not a prison.
In a sense of course he is a prisoner, but it’s clear that this isn’t anyone’s idea of detention. This place…he can’t be sure, but it seems like it’s big. He’s only seen glimpses of the outside hallway, but occasionally there are people walking past. The CCTV camera in the corner makes him think he’s probably not the only one being watched. Sure, old Norman might be looking his way from time to time, but Vincent can’t quite bring himself to believe that he’s sitting alone in a room with a single television watching him. In his mind there are other screens, other rooms. Other people.
How many? In his mind it’s a lot. But why?
These people, whoever they are, seem like they’ve got some purpose, some reason for doing all of this. They didn’t laugh when he told them about the demon things, or the Something that bonded with Frog’s finger, or the black circle in the clearing in the woods. They didn’t ask if he’d been using drugs or if he had a history of mental illness. They asked for more details.
They believed him. And that made him think that they had seen this kind of thing before. “A regular X-files kind of operation,” he thinks. Only in the X-files, it was just the two agents working on digging up the weirdness right? Not a whole facility devoted to it. How much weirdness in the world is there? How many people like him are being mined for information. How many monsters and ghosts and…who knows what are being tracked by these people?
“Frog would flip his lid if he could see this place,” Vinny thinks.
Frog. Remembering his friend sends a bitter twinge through his gut. And then the voice of conscience says, “Frog wouldn’t just sit here wondering would he. He’d have a plan. He’d find out.”
Vinny has never been good with plans. He supposes he could just ask Dr. Jenkins. Maybe he’d even get a response. “But,” he thinks, “Could I trust her to tell the truth.” And then another thought: “Frog wouldn’t.”
So WWFD? Get the lay of the land for starters. Vinny closes out the word processor and starts digging around on the computer terminal. He’s got fairly limited access here. Can’t even open up any kind of file explorer. He tries accessing the hard drive through the internet browser and hits a wall there too.
Stymied he looks for something else, anything else. After all, the terminal has to connect with some bigger network, so there’s got to be a portal to that functionality somewhere. For a moment he feels a twinge of fear at the prospect of getting caught, but then he thinks, “And what can they do to me if they DO catch me? In for a penny, in for a pound.”
After a bit of digging he finds what he’s looking for. A dialogue box pops up asking for a password. “Well what did you think dummy?” he asks himself. “They were going to roll out the red carpet for you?”
And then the question comes again: “What would Frog do?”
Frog would try to figure out what the password was. Frog would try to deduce what each of the researchers would choose based on what he knew about them. But then, Frog believed he was a genius.
“What could it hurt? You’re already sitting here.”
So Vinny pretends he’s a genius. The only two people he knows anything at all about here are Dr. Jenkins and Dr. Hyde and what he knows about them isn’t much. Mostly they want to know about him. Want to know about Frog. But sometimes they’ll let things slip. Vinny knows that Jenkins has kids. At least two. Knows that at least one is a girl. What was her name?
Hyde? Well Hyde’s a bachelor. The kind of guy who tells himself he’s staying away from commitment to hide from the truth that no woman would want to spend the rest of her life with him anyway. “I feel ya buddy,” Vinny thinks. Still, not much to go on there. So back to Jenkins.
You’re a woman like that, you have a daughter what do you name her? Vinny tries to imagine himself as a woman picking out baby names. It is the hardest thing he’s ever done. But after a while something comes into his brain. “Celia.”
He laughs a little. Yeah. Right.
But then it’s there again, insistent, nagging, almost a whisper in his mind. “Celia.”
“It’s not Celia,” he thinks. “And even if that is her daughter’s name you think they’d let her use it as a password? Probably it’s a string of completely random letters and numbers. Place like this, security up to here, yeah, it’s not gonna be that easy.”
So Vinny thinks, “Fine. Just so you’ll shut up,” and types in C-E-L-I-A. The computer blinks for a moment.
Incorrect Password. 2 Attempts Remaining.
See? It couldn’t be that simple. Place like this, they’re going to require uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, probably a special character or two in their passwords.
Special characters. The idea sticks in his head. You’ve got to come up with a weird password, doesn’t mean it’s got to be complete nonsense right? He tries: Celi@.
Incorrect Password. 1 Attempt Remaining.
But now he’s on a roll, because he remembers Dr. Jenkins saying something about her daughter being seven years old. Vinny does the math, figures that means she must have been born in either 2004 or 2005. And assuming the system requires that passwords be at least eight characters long…
He types, Celi@2005. Takes a deep breath. Closes his eyes. Hits “Enter”.
And when he opens his eyes again, he’s through.
For a moment he just sits there staring at the computer screen his mouth hanging open, his eyes wide, unbelieving. “No,” he thinks. “That did not just happen. That did not just work. No WAY was it that easy.”
But then another thought comes. “Time to think about how improbable it is later. Right now you need to get to work. You know what you’re looking for.”
And he does know. But he doesn’t know how to find it. Not at first.
And instead he finds the rest of it. The rest of them.
All those monitors he figures Norman is watching. Only it’s not just Norman. Can’t be. There are hundreds, thousands of entries here. Instructions for containment. Descriptions of things drawn straight from the pit of a monster’s nightmare. The end of the world, now available in a wide array of terrifying flavors.
He doesn’t know how long he reads. He skips from one file to another, his eyes flickering over the screen. Not everything is here. Dr. Jenkin’s security clearance must be limited because there are sections that are blacked out, the spoilers of the damned, [REDACTED] and [DATA EXPUNGED] popping up over and over leaving him to imagine the horrors beyond the void of his knowledge.
At some point he thinks, “No. This is all a joke. It’s made up. It has to be. Something like this…All of this…it can’t be real.
But he doesn’t believe it. He keeps reading. And maybe it’s hours or days later, but at some point he leans back, rubs his eyes…
And realizes he’s not alone in the room.