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Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Mothman Story

            “So,” Johnnie Taylor smiled awkwardly at the technician who was prepping his machine, his hands questing to cover his genitals as he stood before her stark naked, “Is this the weirdest request you have gotten?”

            The tech, a younger woman with bright purple hair and multiple face piercings, glanced over her shoulder at him and shrugged, “Not by a long shot, sadly.”
            Johnnie looked at his toes and blushed. He had never been able to talk to women, even in a semi-professional capacity, and it had taken him four visits to the Green Serpent before he had worked up the nerve to buy an hour in a machine, simply due to the fact that he would have to potentially be naked in front of a female technician. His nightmare had come to pass, but his curiosity about the machines and the particular fantasy he had chosen had finally won out.
            He stammered, “Actually, I’m mostly just amazed that you have a memory like this on file-“
            “We have everything you can imagine: hallucinations, dreams, drug trips. I’m pretty sure we even have a memory harvested from a dog in here...well, back when there were dogs.” she gently beckoned him to the machine, touching him gently on the shoulder with her rubber gloves. He shuddered at her touch slightly and let her guide him into the bed of the sarcophagus.
            He flinched again when the two large metal struts slid across his torso and waist like two thick pythons and snapped into place. His breathing grew shallower and the technician smiled at him, “Just relax. This wont hurt and it is perfectly safe…well, unless you deviate from the memory. Then it will overheat.”
            “Yes. Basically, don’t fight the memory, and don’t try to force the outcome. If you do…well, let’s just say that you would be exceeding safe operating parameters.”
             “Okay, gotcha.” he let out a long breath, “How do I know if I am deviating?”
            “Oh, trust me. You will know.” she winked at him, and his heart sped up more. She dialed in a few numbers into the touch pad on the underside of one of the struts and gently fixed delicate metal supports around his head to keep it in place. Just before she slid the plastic shell over him, she winked and murmured, “Sweet dreams.”
            Johnnie closed his eyes tightly as a grinding sound filled the machine and a sudden burst of gas vented from sections along the inside of the plastic sheeting. He panicked for a split second before the gas took effect: his eyes slid shut and he fell into unconsciousness as easily as drifting off to sleep in a warm bath.
            He opened his eyes and blinked for a moment: it was very dark, and the crisp autumn air whipped at his face. He was standing in a meadow, the likes of which he had only read about, the likes of which would only have existed before the last war. The wind sighed through the tall aspens and he found that he was holding a flashlight and was dressed warmly in a down jacket and a knit hat.
            He was just about to flick the light on when he felt a breath on the back of his neck. He turned fast and screeched, “Who’s there?”
            A loud laugh echoed around him, and when he flicked his light on he found himself staring into the face of a girl. She looked about his age with her brown hair pulled into pigtails under a similar knitted cap, her cheeks rosy from the chilly air.
            She laughed again and pointed at him mockingly, “Oh, Mr. I’m-not-scared-of-the-dark! I nearly made you pee your pants!”
            “Shut up, Sara!” Her name came easily to his mind, and he immediately remembered who they were and what they were doing: they were on a school trip, he had been hoping to get Sara alone to ask her out, and they had spent the afternoon chasing each other around the woods and were now very turned around.
            “I think I found the path, Jake.” She turned and gestured, “I found a sign anyway.” she pulled her own flashlight from her pocket and flicked it on, “Come on, it’s back this way.”
            He let her take the lead, glancing up into the canopy of trees anxiously, the wide space making his physical body shiver with fear. Sara led him a few dozen feet through the trees until her light reflected off of an ancient tin sign, its words almost illegible.
            Johnnie frowned and shined his light on the sign, “Private property, trespassers will be…” he strained to make out the last word and when he did he stammered, “Shot. Trespassers will be shot.”
            Sara looked at him warily, “So, not the path then?”
            “No. I don’t think it is.” Johnnie sighed and looked back the way they came, “Maybe we should go back to that clearing and wait until morning?”
            “Yeah, morning. The thing that isn’t going to come for another eight hours?” Sara shook her head, “It’s gonna get pretty cold soon, Jake. We need to get back.”
            Johnnie sighed and started to turn in a full circle to check their options out when he found himself staring into two bright red points of light in the woods, glaring back at him with enough brilliance to illuminate the branches around them. Johnnie blinked rapidly, and just as quickly as they had appeared, they were gone.
            He gasped, “What the hell…?”
            “Did you see something?”
            “You didn’t see those lights?”
            “Lights? Like someone’s flashlight?” Sara asked, hope making her voice lilt.
            “No. They were red, and really bright. You honestly didn’t see them?” Johnnie asked, the hairs on the back of his neck standing on end.  Sara shook her head distractedly and Johnnie glowered, “Hello? Is someone there?”
            No human voice answered. Instead, a tree groaned as if some tremendous weight had leaned against it, and the leaves shivered. Sara balked and pointed to Johnnie’s left, “Oh shit! I think I see them! Look!”
            Johnnie turned, just in time to see the red after-glow of the same two lights evaporate into the darkness. He nodded, “Yeah, that was them. They were over there though.” he pointed towards where the tree had shifted, and an identical groan echoed again.
            “Well, this is getting heavy fast.” Sara whispered. She groped for Johnnie’s hand in the darkness, and he gripped her fingers tight, trying to mask his own trembling.
            Johnnie carefully switched off his flashlight, and at Sara’s questioning look he hissed, “Turn your light off for a second. I want to see something.”
            She shook her head in mute terror but switched her light off. Instantly, everything was plunged into a solid darkness so absolute that Johnnie couldn’t see Sara standing beside him. He whispered, “Stay as quiet as you can.”
            She pressed herself against him in the dark, and his brain secretly wished that he wasn’t so terrified so that he could enjoy the feeling of her breasts pushed into his back. He had just started to relax enough to have a typical male reaction when the wood lit up violently. His pupils slammed shut, trying to block out the hideous red light that seemed to press into his skull, trying to tear it apart.
            Both he and Sara screamed and fell to the ground, and when Johnnie’s lungs swelled for another howl, he paused. The skin on his face was hot as something breathed fetid, stinking gas against his shut eyes, close enough that his pores could feel the vapor of saliva splattering against them with every breath. Johnnie forced his eyes open, and found himself so enveloped with the red light that he knew in a split instant of horrific clarity that those intense crimson orbs were not lights, but eyes.
            The creature stared back at him, its leech-like round mouth bristling with teeth. That was all that he could make out in the stunning red brilliance: many, many rows of teeth. It turned its head slightly to the left, almost curiously, and brought its head closer. Johnnie instinctively threw himself backwards. His eyes shut again for an instant as he fell into the thick loam of the forest floor, and when they opened again, the darkness had returned.
            Johnnie blinked, trying to force the spots that the creature’s eyes had left on his retinas away, but after a few moments of scrabbling in the dirt and shouting Sara’s name it was obvious that both the creature and the girl were long gone.
            “No…” he whispered, his hands starting to shake. He pulled himself upright, and began casting through the bushes frantically, looking for anything to tell him where Sara had gone, “Sara!”
            There was a sudden flash of light and a static growling through the trees and everything around him jolted sharply to the left. A searing pain shot through his eyes, and he fell to the ground, trembling in fear. Everything returned to the way it was in what must have been less than a second, and a second light illuminated the clearing: a steady red light.
            “Come here, you bastard!” Johnny screamed, and he hefted his flashlight like a weapon. The static tore through the world again, and everything pulsed between a blinding white light and the red of the creature’s eyes. A strangely flat woman’s voice echoed around him from every direction, “Mr. Taylor, you have deviated from the memory.”
            “I have to know what happened!” Johnny found himself shouting, “Where is she? What is that thing? I have to know!”
            There was a sharp popping noise, and a whirring, and Johnnie blinked rapidly as the world around him dissolved into pleasant white light. The plastic that was domed overhead slid aside, and he found himself looking at the purple-haired girl.
            “Welcome back. How was it?” Sarah, the technician, asked, her smile wide and genuine, “How was your encounter with a monster?”
            Johnnie was shaking so much that he could barely breathe and he hissed, “I don’t know what I was imagining…but that thing wasn’t a monster…it was a demon!”
            “Could very well be for all we know.”
            “What do you mean?”
            The tech began to pull him out of the machine, “That was a memory harvested from one of the colonies on Titan. We had over fifteen donors from four different biodomes there give us almost identical memories…and none of them knew each other.”
            “Wait…” Johnnie blinked rapidly, “You mean…”
            “I don’t know. I mean, everyone’s heard reports of weird lights being seen by the colonists, and strange voices in the white noise there.” Sarah handed him a towel and guided him over to one of the benches. His knees were weak and when she let go of him he collapsed gratefully onto the seat, “Who knows? It could be some sort of mass hallucination or something, but each of the memories was so oddly specific…”
            “And have people been disappearing like that?”
            “People disappear everywhere all the time. It doesn't matter if they are here on Earth or on one of Jupiter’s moons. Every time there’s any sort of civilization, people vanish.” There was something terribly sad behind her eyes when she said that, and Johnnie knew better than to ask her to explain.
            That night, Johnny pushed aside the blinds of his window and stared as hard as he could through the oppressive black curtain of the clouds, longing desperately for even the smallest glimpse of a moon he that knew despite himself was still there.

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