The Doctor of Island Moreau

hurlpen

Mr. Hurlpen Jones is in an examination room within the offices of Oilcrawler Associates, LLC., waiting for his doctor.

He’s been waiting over an hour. For the last fifteen minutes Hurlpen has contemplated going out to ask if everything is okay; if they’ve just forgotten about him; he doesn’t want to be a bother. Just then, a man opens the door and enters.

“Hello, Mr. Jones. How are you today?” the man asks as he closes the door behind him.

“I’m reasonably well, ah— another nurse was already in here, she—”

“No, no, I’m the doctor—Dr. Patel, pleased to meet you. Dr. Fein, uh, can’t make it today, I’m afraid. I’ll be examining you. If that’s all right?”

“Oh, ah, yes I see— Maybe I should reschedule? I’ve been seeing Dr. Fein for many years—”

“Certainly, I understand. You were not notified of this change and this is unfair to you. I understand. But— There is something I think I should tell you although this is not the best time, but I see no way around it. Please do not share this information with anyone yet, but Dr. Fein is— There was an accident, you see. His patients for the day are being notified, but since you are already here, I thought I could see you, rather than just send you home.”

“Oh dear. Is it serious? I can reschedule, my complaint is minor, this is— is he all right? Was it serious?”

“Serious, yes. Dr. Fein will be unable to see patients from now on. You are welcome to choose another doctor of course, it doesn’t have to be me, I was just— I could fit you in— today. It’s rather a courtesy, a customer service, ah, thing.”

Mr. Jones looked at Dr. Patel. He seemed like a reasonable choice for a doctor. When Hurlpen first came many years ago to see Dr. Fein, it was not unlike this, he had just made an appointment with Oilcrawler Associates and Dr. Fein was the one who saw him. From then on Hurlpen had only ever seen Dr. Fein. That was twenty years ago.

Dr. Patel interrupted Hurlpen’s thoughts, “Why don’t we just get a scan and get your profile up to date since you are here. After all.”

“Oh, yes, okay. I didn’t mean to suggest that— Well, I’ve been seeing Dr. Fein for a long time.”

“Great. Please follow me, you surely know the way already. We will go to the booth and get a scan.”

The two men enter the carpeted hall and wind their way past a number of doors and into the tri-corder room.

“Please close the curtain, disrobe, and enter the booth, Mr. Jones.”

Along the wall are a series of hooks. Above them is a quaint, hand-painted sign reading, “No Electronic Devices.” Hurlpen remembers the sign from the original location of Oilcrawler Associates. Then, the sign was in the waiting room. The receptionist couldn’t bear the sound of people talking on their mobile phones. That was really her problem and not enough to demand that no one use phones, except that she was one of the original partners’ wives. And when she was unhappy, everyone around her needed to be unhappy too. So it was decided to honor her demand.

Hurlpen removes his clothes and hangs them on the hooks. Then opens the door to the booth. Inside it smells of disinfectant. There is an unsavory brown blob near the drain Hurlpen is careful to avoid. It looks slightly too translucent and gummy to be feces, but what else could it be? “Please stand with your feet apart and your arms straight down but not touching your body. Thank you.”

Whrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Tk tk tk tk tk. Whrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Zewmmmp.

“Thank you Mr. Jones, you may exit now and dress. Then we’ll go back to the exam room and talk about your concerns.”

Hurlpen exits the booth and puts on his underwear, pants, shirt, then he remembers something. He looks in the booth and the brown blob gone. “God damn it!” He tries to slide his feet across the tile to clean it, but isn’t sure which foot is soiled. Annoyed, he dresses fully except his socks and shoes, which he carries with him.

Back in the exam room, Hurlpen returns to the arm chair he previously occupied while Dr. Patel sits before a display screen to access Mr. Jones’ medical file and the results of the scan.

“Escuse me, Dr. Patel, are there any napkins or alcohol wipes or something available in here?”

“Hmmm? Oh, sure, here you are— this is strange.” The doctor says. “Are you a veteran of the military, Mr. Jones?”

“What? No. I’m a software engineer. It’s the only thing I’ve ever done. I guess.”

“Right. Well, I’m not sure what Dr. Fein has done here, but your record is— Nnnnot accessible to me right now. Uh, we can look at today’s scan though. Let’s start there.” Dr. Patel silently manipulates the display controls. Then he abruptly turns off the display, stands up and without looking at Mr. Jones says, “I’ll be right back, sir.”

In the meantime Hurlpen rubs his soles with the wipe, but it looks clean. He retrieves several more from where he saw Dr. Patel get them and methodically wipes his feet finding no brown smudge. “Hmmmm.” Twenty minutes pass. Mr. Jones sighs, “I can’t make the nine-o-clock now” he thinks to himself then sends an email through his glasses letting the office know he is running late. He checks the news, there is a new local story about a fire— not just a fire, but an explosion. Several people are reported dead. Mr. Jones at first thinks he’s imagining it, but he hears multiple sirens apparently coming to a halt near this building. He hears rapid footsteps in the hall and other activity. A few minutes later there is a knock on the door. “Mr. Jones?” someone shouts.

“Ah, yes?” Mr. Jones says, but receives no response. He repeats it louder, “YES?”

“Mr. Jones, this is— Are you dressed? Can I come in? I am agent Tuft of the FBI.”

“Yes, I’m dressed, please do come in.”

Mr. Jones hears whispering and shifting bodies. “Oh for Christ’s sake,” he says, gets up, and opens the door impatiently.

There are a number of apparently startled FBI types and two doctors including Dr. Patel. One of the agents instinctively draws his sidearm as they all look at Mr. Jones. “Good God— Hello. You are all welcome to come in if it helps speed things along. I have to get to my office.”

“Yes. Hello, Mr. Jones,” one of the agents says in a voice Mr. Jones recognizes as that of agent Tuft. Tuft without looking pushes the arms of the agent with the drawn weapon down. “Your doctor, it seems, found something unusual in your scan. Are you aware of it?”

“Aware of what?”

Another man takes over, “Hello, sorry, I am Dr. Durmstadt, the lead physician here. Can we all move into the conference room, please? Everybody, this way.”

The group awkwardly shifts from a let’s-attack-whomever-is-behind-this-door-without-enough-room-really positioning into a let’s-go-down-this-hall-without-enough-room-really positioning. An enormous tactically appareled agent waits for Hurlpen to join the file apparently wanting to be the last.

“Oh. Uh, thank you,” Hurlpen moves into the hallway.

As he does so, the agent taps him on the arm, “Ha’m, Strailin.”

“Huh? I’m sorry, I didn’t get— the name,” Hurlpen wasn’t sure if he heard the big man correctly. He maybe had an odd accent, but with so few words spoken, he wasn’t sure.

“Ah’m Starloat.”

“Sorry, ‘Starfloat,’ did you say?”

“Nah, Stropshot, tha call me. Iss.”

“Again, sorry, one more time?”

“Straighlink!, please amet you.”

“Straightline? Straightline, is it? Pleased to meet you as well.”

“Nah, Sinelig, Moishall Stintlot, jess tha.”

“I’m having trouble hearing you correctly, Spaintrot?”

“Fuss in altee, moigh! Lin trussin Soighloft, fuss!”

“Yes! I see, nice. Thank you.” Hurlpen hoped this utterance would sound like and end to the conversation and signal to his aural assailant that it was over.

Instead, the large man put an arm around Hurlpen’s shoulders and pulled him to a stop. “Gess fuss moigh row! Bessis fots jis? Lobe! Ha! Stebnal ess?” He said in a tone that suggested the situation was escalating.

Hurlpen searched for someone to help him, but the others had continued down the corridor and were winding around a corner— “Ah, yes. Uh, soo pleased to meet you, sir. We should catch up with the others, no?”

The hulking figure sniffed as it looked at Hurlpen with seriousness and said nothing for a few seconds. Then, “Ya,” and it fished out its wallet and began showing Hurlpen photos of what were presumably the giant’s family. “Togadiss,” it said and paused for a response from Hurlpen.

“—Ah, nice,” was all Hurlpen could manage as he swallowed hard.

Suddenly from down the hall another agent shouts something also unintelligible, “Giflefiss!” But it is enough to bring Hurlpen and the giant’s exchange to an end as the giant indicates that they should join the others.

They assemble in a small conference room that apparently doubles as the coffee room. It smells not half-bad.

Dr. Durmstadt continues, “Mmyess, Mr. Jones, you see, your scan is unusual. Dr. Patel, can you describe what you found, please?”

“Mr. Jones’ body has greater than two-hundred location trackers of various types and ages in his body. I have determined that approximately twenty percent of them are currently active, but this number is probably significantly higher as half of the trackers are not in the medical catalog and appear to be far more sophisticated than what we encounter— here.”

“Yes, alright, I think we can all agree that this is unusual.” Agent Tuft says, assuming control of the proceedings, “Mr. Jones. I’m going to ask you some questions. You are not under arrest, but I think you might have the right to an attorney because of Doctor/patient protocol. Do you understand?”

“Yes, perfectly. Please just ask the questions. How did I get two-hundred trackers inside me? Who would track me, why did Dr. Fein never mention these, are they all from within the last three months? What happened to Dr. Fein?” Mr. Jones rapidly asks of his interrogators.

“Those are some of the questions we also would like answers to. So, I think we can conclude, you had no knowledge of the trackers?”

“None. Whatsoever.”

“Are you now, or have you ever been enlisted in the military or contracted for the military or been employed by a governmental entity or contracted for a governmental entity?”

“Have I what?”

“Do I really have to repeat that?”

“No, no, no. I’m a software engineer. It’s the only thing I’ve ever done. I have never been in the military or done government work. I guess.”

Agent Tuft looks at Mr. Jones. Then he looks at the ceiling and leans back in his chair.

“Mr. Jones. You are— evidence. You may also be a witness. Dr. Fein was murdered this morning. This has not yet been reported in the news, but a crime has been committed and the investigation already involves the FBI and other agencies. I’m afraid we will have to detain you for a period. Are you agreeable to this?”

“Agreeable? Do I have a choice?”

“Yes. You have the choice between being agreeable or being held in restraints.”

“I’m agreeable.”

The Doctor of Island Moreau

Not Unlike

I’m lost in a dark queue. It’s like the most sophisticated queue to get in a club you’ve ever encountered. There’s the queue outdoors in the night, which is nothing. I make the cut and go inside. But there is no there in there. The entire thing is about the appraisal. Are you over twenty-one? Do you have the cover? Can you afford the two-drink minimum? Are you fit to be here? Are you fit to remain here? What do you have to offer? It’s so dark. There are black lights and gel lights flashing here and there. It feels like just around the corner is the real club with music and dancing, but it never comes. Indistinct, loud, thudding music; intoxication; it’s just part of the ambiance. Everything seems taken care of eventually. You’re hungry, you ask no one in particular for fifteen dollars worth of pizza and it comes. If you didn’t specify which kind, someone in some part of the procedure did. It was strangely effortless. Everything is. Decisions are made by the system. You succumb to a benevolent languidity. If you don’t want to look anymore, your eyes blur. You can sleep. You can eat. You can laugh and be silly, nothing seems to matter. If you try to swim to the light things get nasty. Your body hurts, your head hurts, your brain hurts. Thoughts literally hurt. Voices hurt. Talking hurts. Light hurts. The depths are the path of least resistance and the path forward and the path of fun and the path of danger. You only try the light out of curiosity, but it’s terrible. The party rages on in the dark and you feel if not love, a complete absence of unlike. A beautiful all encompassing not unlike and you are sure, that the entire universe does not unlike you and is connected to you and everything else in a perfect, wholly not unlikeable way.

Not Unlike

In a good mood? Maybe I am. You know dear, I ran into Oli Hansen this morning. They’ve been back only three months. He says hello.

RapeOfBelgium-171105-nytribune-crop.jpg

The Joneses? No, we don’t keep up with them any longer.

Say, Oli. Uh, you moved away before things changed. Maybe you don’t know. They didn’t make it. The Joneses.

You know, I always liked Jennifer. She was so much smarter than her husband, uh, Reginald—Reggie. I often wondered what kept them together. What brought them together. Our children were good friends. We would see them at the pool when they were younger. Tam and Jeff were in the scouts together! Remember that?

Oli. It’s really good to see you. I, uh— Do you want to hear something?

I’ve never told anyone this. We saw them, you know. The Joneses.

We knew they would fail. We watched—oh God. We could have helped but we didn’t. Maybe they would have succeeded if we had helped. Maybe. We didn’t help. We watched them and we knew what was going to happen and for some reason we accepted it. We believed it had nothing to do with ourselves. Rumors about potatoes ran rampant that winter. Rumors about coal, rumors about water, rumors about lice and rats and wood. There was even speculation about jelly beans. Every speck of color in the frozen ground became a potential jelly bean. I used a stick and a broken brick to investigate but never found a single one. They did fail, of course, just as we knew they would. If they would have waited as we did, things would be different. Did we want them to fail? How else to explain our inaction? Have you ever been in a war, Oli? Not necessarily as a soldier, but just as a civilian? Things happen. It’s not like we were trained to know how to act. We weren’t. It wasn’t our fault that they failed. Death was common in those days. It was everywhere. It was necessary. It was war, you see? Death is what war is. We couldn’t help everyone. The soldiers had it worse. We had no training. We didn’t foresee the situations we would experience. The soldiers had it worse. What do you do? What do you do if you kill your own man? Friendly fire happens. It’s a fact of war. They all say it is. It happens. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s inevitable. You kill your own man, well, that’s war. That’s what it is—Death. War without death would be something else. Peace? The own man was a casualty of war just as they were. You couldn’t know it was him just as we couldn’t know they would fail. Not for certain. The own man’s death is a fact of war. Not a fact of your own failure. You can’t save them all. Someone has to die. Some must die. That is war. That is what it is, Oli.

In a good mood? Maybe I am. You know dear, I ran into Oli Hansen this morning. They’ve been back only three months. He says hello.

The Inhabitation of Things [in progress]

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Part 1:  The Wall

An uncontrollable panic seized me. I had no memory of exactly how I became the wall and no sense of how I might escape it. My body was somehow gone from the room. The panic came as waves of terror so intense that I imagined the chemical that would produce such a feeling in the brain would diminish before a new injection of fear could begin. In the ebbing of these surges of rattling fear I could explore the rules of what had happened to me. I could move within the wall, changing the focus of where my center seemed to be. The center seemed to most naturally want to be at about head height though I could move to any location in the wall or ceiling.  I could feel the construction of the wall as I moved. Even individual nails which exerted more resistance to my moving than did the plaster and wood. The wall was made of gypsum board slats. Not like gypsum board now which comes in large sheets. These were sixteen inch wide horizontal bands and completely covered in plaster not just joint compound at the edges. The nails had ridges which were unpleasant to navigate through.

Part 2:  The Piece of Steel

A steel beam spanned the large opening between the living and dining rooms. At first I thought it was impassable for me in my current form. I went around it along the walls. Eventually, and with great effort I discovered that rather than moving past the beam as though it were an obstacle, I could pass into it. The piece of steel was another space unto itself. Time moved slow in the steel. Gravity was so weak relative to the density of the iron that it became inconsequential. From within the steel I could watch the inhabitants of the air world go about their business as time-lapsed pieces of animated dust.

Part 3:  The Betrayal

Part 4:  The Murders

Part 5:  The Car Chase and/or Fist Fight

Part 6:  The Loss / The End


Photograph found on oldnews.aadl.org.

The Inhabitation of Things [in progress]

Neutral Gray Interior 0.1

Missile Silo Diagram

Was it too much celebration? Or a lack of it? What happened that the abandoned silos became so unbearable after only a few short months? It doesn’t matter now.

I don’t think I told you that I returned to Earth a while back. You wouldn’t recognize it now. It’s still intolerably hot and still peopled, though sparsely, by the wretched and the greedy. The silos were apparently sealed not long after we left—well, sealed isn’t the word—they were entirely filled with concrete. You’ll forgive my background when I tell you that the chemical reaction that takes place when the cement cures generates heat. So the filled voids of the silos expanded as the heat built up, cracking the original surrounding structure. As the sea levels rose and the patterns of the rivers changed over millennia they eroded the entire complex. The cracked outer structures with steel reinforcement rusted and crumbled away so now giant phalluses of the inverted space within the old silos stand in place of our former happy if temporary home.

No. I have no plans to return there. I understand that in your situation you might think returning to life on Earth would be preferable to what we endure here, but I need you in your cell. It provides me with something wonderful that you would only misunderstand if I tried to explain it to you. I gave you immortality. To be eternally immured is your delicate, beautiful gift to me.

Neutral Gray Interior 0.1