Friday, April 30, 2010

[Mythos XVII] A Brief Interlude and History Lesson

With apologies to HP Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Charles Stross. Copyright 2010 Thomas James Hardman, Jr, all rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. References to real places and things may be included but their usage is fictional in nature and intent. Any similarity to real persons or parties is coincidental and should be seen as fictional in nature and intent.

Perhaps you'd like to jump back to the previous chapter?

How can you tell that a shopping center is a decoy, nothing more nor less than a Potemkin Village?

It's simple. The merchants don't want you to shop there.

Sometime in the late 1980s, I walked into a courthouse in beautiful downtown Silver Spring Maryland.

It turns out that if you get a speeding ticket, and do not pay it on time, you will get a summons. If you petition for a delay, and get a new court date, and then petition for another delay, it's quite possible that the issuing officer will not show up for the trial. This is a common strategy. It is not the strategy I used, not this time.

The officer was there, but I did not intend to fight the ticket, not exactly.

When my case was called, and the judge asked how I wanted to plead.

I did not make a so-called Alford Plea.

I made one of the most unusual courtroom gambits ever seen outside of high-profile organized crime show-trials of the 1930s.

"Your Honor," I said, "I'd like to plead guilty to all crimes, known and unknown".

The judge blinked, twice. The stenographer clicked away at her recorder. The police officer looked at me with an expression of total disgust; this case was the only reason he was present in the court on that day. His expression said, plain as day, "You couldn't have just paid the ticket, could you, ya jerk."

The judge said the same, more or less. "You couldn't have just paid the ticket?"

"Your Honor, I wanted my day in court, and then thought better of it."

"All crimes, known and unknown?" His expression hovered somewhere between amusement and distaste.

"Yes, Your Honor."

He whispered to a clerk, who did things to his computer terminal. Moments later, the clerk whispered back.

"So ordered. I fine you $45.00 and assess you one point on your driver's record, for exceeding the speed limit by less than ten miles per hour."

The gavel banged, papers were stamped, and down the hall they stamped my papers again, took my cash and gave me a receipt.

I had just plead guilty in a court of competent jurisdiction, and was now protected by the so-called "double-jeopardy" clause of the US Constutution. It's not like I exactly was getting away with anything much, but it's always good to know that there's no possibility of anything hanging over your head from your juvenile years. I understand that since that simpler -- more straightforward -- time, laws have been changed to prevent people from doing this sort of thing. But just in case anyone wants to try it in my case, all I can say is "the Constitution prohibits ex-post-facto legislation". If anyone wants to know why I did this, all I can say is "on advice of counsel, I wish to avail myself of protections against self-incrimination in the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution". I will then shut the fuck up and not say diddly squat. What happened in the past stays in the past. In any case, "there was no law against it at the time."

And no, I am not Michael H Kenyon, and I was never, neither in Illinois nor elsewhere, an enema bandit.

In the early 1980s, the Cold War between the Western World and the Communist powers escalated to new heights, and along with that came escalation of espionage activity.

Some of this got pretty much out of hand, or as out of hand as it could get without it becoming an international incident. Since everyone wanted to avoid an international incident -- international incidents could of course lead potentially to what was tactfully referred to as "mutual assured destruction" -- as a rule the bar was set a lot higher on what sort of out-of-hand activity would be considered eligible for escalation into the diplomatic realm.

Activity which in other eras would have led to public hangings after show-trials was, in this timeframe, pretty much brushed under the rug and studiously ignored. Yet it went on.

The Mitrokhin Archive conclusively reveals that the former A&P grocery store in Aspen Hill was a favorite meeting place for spies, but it also clears up something else: the spies had no idea that they were standing literally on top of an immense subterranean complex rivaling the Government Relocation Center at the Greenbrier Hotel.

It was in this early-mid-1980s timeframe that a certain escalation in international tensions triggered a lockdown at the facility, which the internal security system classified as ending in an actual nuclear exchange. The lockdown kept the place sealed for years, by which time the people inside had become very strange indeed.

Not too long after the Cold War ended with the peaceful collapse of the Soviet Union, rumors were widely circulated in the global internet, to the effect that extraterrestrials were building, or had built, vast subterranean complexes and were using them for purposes generally discussed in unpleasant terms. These rumors are now understood as out-of-work spies trying to nail down loose ends, and possibly to gather information that would be valuable on the resale markets.

The friendly folks who built our national defense system during the Cold War did sell off some of those assets, such as the old Nike missile sites which some folks have bought up and converted into residences.

Sometimes, they might get more than they expected by the time they actually take possession, but since the1950s, widespread public education has educated the public on how to prepare:

Such minor difficulties generally are controlled with ease. Sometimes, such facilities get infested and they just collapse the structure with whatever explosives might be required.

But how can you explosively decommission a structure nearly the size of the Pentagon, which was concealed by building a thriving (if sketchy) community of 32,000 right on top of it?

Well, first you have to find or make a way to get rid of the 32,000...

Did I mention that the way you detect a Potemkin Village shopping center camoflaging a massive subterranean bunker is by looking for merchants who don't want to do business?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

[Mythos XVI] Life Underground... and Otherwise

With apologies to HP Lovecraft, Ambrose Bierce, Stephen King, and Charles Stross. Copyright 2010 Thomas James Hardman, Jr, all rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. References to real places and things may be included but their usage is fictional in nature and intent. Any similarity to real persons or parties is coincidental and should be seen as fictional in nature and intent.

Perhaps you'd like to jump back to the previous chapter?

Ah yes, the end of an era. After nearly 50 years of defense contracting facilities at the heart of Aspen Hill Maryland, now there's not much there except a lot of stores surrounded by emerging ghetto, dysfunctional or non-functional everything, and a huge vacant building full of rapidly-evolving zombies prowling the halls. Oh, and a boatload of pissed-off cops caught between the zombies and a couple of thousand foreigners waving machetes at the sound of gunfire.

In 1963, the site of the demonstration is woodlands, second-growth forest spring up over former farms. Aspen Hill Road is gravel in most parts, and only half as wide as the majority of the side-streets in the nearby and new subdivisions:

By 1970, of course, things are far different:

This neighborhood used to be a lot more friendly, a lot more welcoming, or so it seems to me, with my imperfect memories and doubtless rose-tinted recollections of a time when we were all very much living in the shadows cast by the looming spectre of global thermonuclear war.

In 1970s, the murders hadn't yet started, as far as I know. People died pretty frequently, especially in high-speed car accidents. Yet people killed people mostly by accident, not with intent, and it's kind of hard to get away with murder when neither you nor your victims have enough strength to crawl from the wreckage.

This isn't to say that there was not any funny stuff, any spooky business, going on around here.

The gentleman that built most of the neighborhood was a survivor of the Holocaust, and before he got into the business of developing residential suburban subdivisions, he was in the business of building large apartment buildings and even skyscrapers, mostly in New York City, but some also down in the District of Columbia, where to this day the largest single apartment unit in town is in a building he designed and built. His New York buildings were characterized by, among other things, their connections to the subway, and their many levels of basement, moreso than seen in most New York City high-rise buildings.

A lot of people here know that the building taken over by the zombies was once leased -- from the time it was built -- by a defense contracting firm that at one time was this county's largest civilian employer. Yet they don't know that all three buildings the firm leased were connected by a network of tunnels.

One of those buildings was located right next to a grocery story. When the massive Mitrokhin Archive of Soviet espionage secrets was smuggled out of that failing country, it was revealed that for many years, Soviet intelligence officers would meet their defectors and spies-in-place at this grocery store. Of course, everyone else met there, as well, it being the only grocery store for miles around, for many years.

Interestingly enough, about the same time as the sole surviving building was constructed, another layer of building was erected atop one of the existing buildings. From an aerial photograph, or in the modern day a satellite image, it looks like the same building. But it's not. The newly constructed upstairs was initially a WT Grant's Department store, until Grant's put itself out of business by extending revolving credit to just about anyone, including, famously, people's dogs. Until quite recently, that had gone down in history as the largest bankruptcy of any US commercial enterprise.

Down below, however, it was not the famously open and airy environment of the Grant's store upstairs. WT Grant himself had achieved fame for pioneering the department store concept; he more or less took a thriving city market square full of all sorts of little businesses, put a roof over it, bought out the owners, and then paid them to keep doing the same job at the same place. This worked so well in the initial instance that he reproduced the experience all across the country, becoming fabulously well-to-do in the process.

Below, in what came to be known as "Grant's Tomb", it was windowless darkness, top security files and records, everything super secret and hush hush. Like possibly everything else in the area, it was possibly connected by tunnels to, well, possibly everything else in the area.

Look, this is Aspen Hill, not some five-star hotel out in the Shenandoahs; it's not the fucking Greenbrier.

Don't get your hopes up. This is not a story about some secret underground city with more people living under Aspen Hill than in the surface Aspen Hill. Nearly 32,000 people live on the surface in Aspen Hill.

I am here to deny, categorically, that sometime in the early 1980s a situation of DEFCON 1 was briefly declared, the facility went into lockdown, the DEFCON was downgraded, but failure of exterior sensors made it impossible to transmit the all clear inside the facility. Without the sensors informing the refugees that everything was safe as houses outside, and the air not choked with radioactive dust, and Ronald Reagan still President of these here United States, the lockdown would have continued until... April, 2010.

No, I deny it, categorically I deny it!

Actually, they broke out of lockdown closer to the Year 2000, when their old computers got borked by the Y2K Bug.

After nearly 20 years locked in what might as well have been a spaceship, people had become... different.

Living in totally regimented society, the people in that society became... different. So did society, both ours, and theirs.

Living on nothing but freeze-dried fallout-shelter rations for 20 years, that alone would do it to you.

And when, after 20 years, years of living in a subterranean skyscraper built on secret contract awarded to the lowest bidder, when after 20 years these people were at last permitted to go back into the light of day and the world as we now know it, they really truly were Not Like Us, and to make matters worse, they fervently believed that We Were Not Like Them, and that it was we out in the world who would have to adapt.

Then they set about finding or making ways to make that happen.

It's not like all of a sudden, at twelve midnight, January 1, 2000, all of a sudden the top popped off like the lid of a giant jack-in-the-box. It's more like a bank-vault door unlocked, and someone went out with their radiation detectors and air samplers wearing a space suit, and they did it about three in the morning and the very first surface person they ran into was someone picking up a pack of cigarettes coming from from a downtown bar. A Goth.

Well, the air up above was fine, but considering that one of their favorite films "down here" was the Charlton Heston classic "the Omega Man", it was about another week before they dared to show their faces outside. Even then, they went out in disguise, not in a space-suit, but in a ghillie suit. After a night spent disguised as a bush at the edge of a parking lot at an Aspen Hill gas station, they were much relieved to be able to conclude that the world had not been overrun by vampires. Slowly, they began to prowl the maintenance shafts outside of the underground complex, trying to restore connections to the outside world. Meanwhile, they did a little burglary and stole clothing in modern fashions, and did a bit if exploring. People who encountered them tended to interpret them as people who had maybe spent a full military career stationed in the ass end of somewhere so far out in the sticks that they had to pipe in daylight. Eventually they adapted, somewhat, but they never lost their habits of regimentation, and never achieved anything resembling cultural competency, or even open-mindedness.

They certainly didn't just emerge in mass, and go parading down the streets. That whole accidental lockdown thing was one of the biggest fubars ever in a whole Cold War full of snafu, and the government wasn't about to just dump 20,000 people with no modern job skills -- or even much concept of modern -- onto the job market. And 20,000 people who were totally used to living in a subterranean skyscraper didn't feel quite like abandoning home. For a whole generation under the age of 20 or so, that was the only home they had ever known. The population "down here" had grown substantially over the years. As the lockdown had happened with about 20 minutes warning, the facility had been only about half-full at the time; they'd had room to grow.

The staffers who had been in their 40s (or older) in the 1980s when the lockdown began, they could be surreptitiously snuck to a retirement in the rapidly-expanding gated retirement community of Leisure World. A lot of the people between the ages of 20 and their 40s, they were generally absorbed by the military or by top-secret contractors around the country. For those younger? The government knew a good thing when they saw it, a whole cadre of youngsters raised in regimentation that made the military look loose and sloppy by comparison, and more importantly, these youngsters had no alliance to anyone other than themselves and their parents, and no alliance at all to any element of society or to any social cause.

And with the April 2010 lease coming to an end and with it a final decommissioning of the underground intallation, it was going to be necessary to get all of these people aboveground, and almost all had been "resettled", mostly staffing local stores, or working and retraining in local offices, where they could be close to home, close to each other, and assist in keeping their home and origin secret, until the day when the government finally closed it down.

Now imagine their surprise, when the day after the last of them was "evicted", the place was subjected to a real electromagnetic pulse, usually symptomatic of a high-altitude nuclear blast, everything stopped working, and when they tried to get into the tunnels to get back to their old home, those tunnels were full of rapidly-evolving zombies infested with hostile alien software crafted by malicious Elder Deities from beyond time and space.

[Mythos XV] Of Mice and Men, and Pigeons, and BRAAAAINS

With apologies to HP Lovecraft, Ambrose Bierce, Stephen King, and Charles Stross. Copyright 2010 Thomas James Hardman, Jr, all rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. References to real places and things may be included but their usage is fictional in nature and intent. Any similarity to real persons or parties is coincidental and should be seen as fictional in nature and intent.

Perhaps you'd like to jump back to the previous chapter?

When you make the signal error of first opening a Schrödinger cat-box gate into incomprehensible alien dimensions, and then compound it by repeatedly exposing EPROMs to it, you're bound to wind up with your first ever sample of what will later be developed and marketed as FPGA, or field-programmable gate arrays, assuming that you hadn't already independently invented them or something like them. Yet even the FPGAs invented by humans in our history stream of timespace are not without security risks.

Comparably, even without having your mind exposed to the best evil efforts of implacable alien entities from beyond time and space, you can be batshit crazy all on your own.

Ask almost anyone, and they'll tell you that, sure, they've had that experience where they've thought they were all alone, and suddenly the hair stood up on the back of their neck, and they cautiously turned to see some predator stalking them, whether the predator stood on two legs or on four.

That's an ancient neural mechanism associated to the temporal lobe. Anatomically, it's right next to the so-called "God Spot" that seems to be activated by the "God Helmet".

It's better developed in animals which coordinate in pack hunting, whether they're orca or wolves. It's not actually telepathy, which doesn't seem to actually exist. Yet we frequently observe animals such as wolves hunting in packs with a degree of coordination which presupposes some form of communications of a complexity similar to military commands at the platoon stratum, yet much faster. With even the most powerful listening and recording devices, including microphones sensitive far into the ultrasonic and excellent real-time sonic signal analysis, we can't hear calls between wolves in a hunt, at least nothing that could convey instructions for the sort of behavior observed. The theory that they're cueing into their roles solely by observing the actions of the other hunting wolves is partially discredited by the fact that wolves far out of sight of the others (with a hill between them, for example) act in a role coordinated with the others in their pack. We can either assume that they have discussed this all beforehand, and have elaborated a set of contingencies for anything or that they have routes of communication via mechanisms we haven't identified.

Yet we have at last discovered that certain structures in the brains of pack-hunting carnivores, flocking birds, and even some large herbivores of the extremely gregarious types such as wildebeest, are developed to a degree not seen in more solitary hunters. And all of these show a heightened tendency to react to being observed, even by observers unseen.

Probably the evolutionary advantages of being able to detect hidden predators by directly communicating with them via minimal brain-to-brain signaling (or signals-detection) is of limited usefulness. For the homing-pigeon, and other migratory birds, it's clearly useful to have specialized nervous-system adapatations that can directly sense magnetic fields. Yet so far as we know, the advantages to the pigeons have yet to be exploited by other life forms developing the means to generate magnetic fields so as to lure pigeons to be dinner.

In human-created dataprocessing systems, buffer overflow attacks can smash the stack for fun and profit, and there are known attacks that cannot be protected against, at least not at the current state of the art.

Living neurological systems are nowhere near as fast as ultra-massive-scale integrated circuit electronics, but they are considerably more flexible, adaptable, at least when we're not discussing massively-parallel matrices of FPGAs. Yet look at it this way: machines generally don't care if they live or die, and don't have actual Darwinian concerns such as living long enough to reproduce their kind.

If you were a predator that hunts primarily by stalking, such as a cat, if your prey could receive communications that told it to sit still and not move as an attack was launched, you'd be eating well anytime you encountered such prey, and soon enough, a capacity to receive well enough to accept such a command would be bred out of the prey species. Yet, if a complete inability to receive such signals left the prey species unable to detect such commands at all, and thus easily caught by stealth, the evolutionary advantage would go to the prey that could detect transmission of commands, but not well enough to accept, interpret, and be subject to such commands.

Feeling the eyes of the tiger on your back is good, though it may not be enough to save you from the teeth and claws. Yet how much better off you are to have some warning than to have no warning at all! But when the tiger is thinking very hard at you, "do not see me," it's not going to help you at all if you obey. It will help you even less if you obey its command, given as it springs, "sit still while I kill you, prey". So, if you are lucky, you know that the tiger is thinking of you, but you don't know exactly what it thinks, and you can't perceive it well enough for it to paralyze you through pure loudness, but you can perceive it well enough to take warning.

Sometimes this mechanism is defective, in a variety of ways. Some people simply cannot sense another presence. Interestingly, this inability to detect predators is found in almost all cases among people who profess to be agnostic or atheist.

In some people, the mechanism gives continuous (or intermittent but acute) "false positive". Paranoia very commonly results from this feeling of impending doom, but even more frequently comes religion. Look at it this way, if you can make yourself believe that it's not a tiger, but a loving spirit or deity that is staring at you from some hiding place you cannot see, then you're rationalizing away a sensation of doom. In effect, you're deluding yourself into thinking that although you feel a sensation of doom and being endlessly stalked, it's a good kind of being stalked.

Some people, probably most, have an excellent ability to perceive when they are being observed from behind. Yet even these may know that something is behind them, and even have range and bearing sense, but not be able to tell all too well what exactly it is that's coming up behind them. As for me, I prefer to never be anyplace for long that doesn't have a nice solid wall at my back, or a mirror I can use to see if something's sneaking up behind me. I don't like open doorways, and I love a good lock on a well-closed door.

A lot of folks around here seem to have a combination of a good ability to feel real presences behind them, as well as some basic underlay of that constant sensation of being watched that so very much promotes susceptibility to the delusions of faith.

I suspect that these kind of folks have, probably not exactly consciously, that same sort of communication that wolves have, that enables wolves to coordinate their roles even when they cannot see each other, and are not vocalizing in order to not alert their prey. And, not quite consciously, when they cannot establish such linkages with others, tend to exclude them from the pack and thus relegate them to the role of the prey.

I suspect that however well-tuned is this sensitivity, the fact remains that they are highly sensitive. In the same way that the scream of a panther paralyzes before it deafens, with none more susceptible than the prey with the best hearing, when the alien deities from beyond time and space start whispering, these folks are already tuned in to that wavelength, with the volume knob cranked completely clockwise.

In the same way that the homing-pigeons have a built-in organic magnetometer, these guys have a built-in two-way radio talking between their unconscious minds, coordinating pack action. They are pretty much the dominant kind of humanity hereabouts. They make great military and paramilitary operatives, or workers in any field where seamless cooperation without much oversight is an advantage. They also are extremely effective as criminal gangs, and I often wonder if that wasn't their ancestry: roving groups of extremely effective killers who, like wolves, suddenly shift from minding their own business to devouring anything they can surround. Suddenly the signal is given, nothing anyone else can perceive, and, as suddenly, the killing begins.

They damn sure get possessed very easily, and make most excellent zombies.

The 2500 protestors who rose from their Salvia trance with their eyes glowing the lurid green of red-shifted Cherenkov radiation, they at least had some excuse, or perhaps personal blame. They had taken a mild overdose of one of the most potent psychedelic drugs known to man, Salvinorin A, a profound
entheogen drug
, used specifically to promote profound, if hallucinatory, religious experiences.

Such drugs work, in part, because they turn off the filters, which, so to speak, keep you from obediently obeying a tiger's commands to fail to notice it and to sit still while it kills you. Most people experience this as a feeling that there is another presence there, but an invisible one. It's as if you had an invisible tiger right in front of you; you'd feel the stare of predatory intent, but you could look all you want, you wouldn't see anything. Things which are felt, but not seen, are usually ascribed to the supernatural, perhaps to the divine. Yet what if you were taking such drugs, and a real tiger did in fact take up position behind you and start to stalk in and stare at you as it did?

Shamanistic faiths often have tales told down through the ages, of how a religious trance allowed the devotee to speak with a "spirit animal", usually a totemic animal such as a bear or a wolf. In almost all cases such legendary communing is with a sight-hunting gregarious predator of a species that adopts lone members into extant functional groups. Usually the tale tells of the hunted (the celebrant) becoming recognized as a brother, and being accepted into the pack. You've all got your radios tuned to the same wavelength, more or less, and established a common symbology, enough for some sort of two-way understanding.

When the alien software downloaded itself into the protestors, it was able to activate expression of genes which had created the original sensorium to receive it, or to perceive the intentions of stalking predators. Enzymes were flurried out of the cellular production machinery and they carved up red blood cells for the iron in the hemoglobin and for the oxygen the hemoglobin carried, and generated rather complex little structures out of magnetite in much the same way that magnetite is deposited in the trigeminal nerve of homing-pigeons. In the case of the celebrants, however, the magnetite was more associated with the neurology responsible for the auditory brainstem response.

Other structures were created as well.

Most weren't metallic or semi-metallic like the magnetite that continued to be bonded to neurons, worming its way from synapse to axon throughout the brain. Frequently the structures were just more of what had already been there. The alien software was, of course, constantly downloading more of itself, absorbing echoes of signal from the collapse of probability states encoded on the EPROM chips that had been exposed to alien realms. Enough of that software was present to have analyzed the DNA of the hosts, and -- so to speak -- the software had ordered the host physique rebuilt along slightly modified lines, more or less by activating introns and "junk DNA" as well as functional sequences usually not seen in adulthood. The former celebrants, the erstwhile protestors, experienced rapid cellular division in parts of their bodies, as muscle tissues expanded and calcium began to deposit into strategically placed sessamoid bones that would provide free floating anchor points, additional leverage and moment arms for increased strength. The alien software found the Opsin protein codings and went into overproduction.

All of this furious metabolism didn't occur without side effects. Aside from extreme pain, which the alien software quickly redirected, there was extreme hunger, which suited the alien software just fine.

The electromagnetic pulse that had destroyed most (but hardly all) of the infested EPROM chips had a variety of follow-on effects in the domain of tactics and strategy among the unaffected humans. The law-enforcement that had massed there was suddenly without radio or any other form of telecommunications and were effectively reduced to arm-waving, shouting, and blowing whistles. Further, even if astute parties and organizations outside of the affected area were to decide to take an interest (outside of the affected area, most of the planet's intelligence and military agencies suddenly had), the main roads to the general area were almost impassible due to disabled vehicles, and the streets surrounding the former defense-contractor facility site were fully jammed from curb to curb and in some cases, beyond the curbs. Nobody could call for help, and help could not get there, and would be a long time coming.

Starving as they stood there, changing as they moved, the zombies were hardly dead but were increasingly becoming life as we don't know it. Their victims, however, were mostly dying as fast as the jaws of the zombies could move.

Everyone knows what to do about zombies, they've all seen the movies. Those movies have been widely disseminated and made wildly popular due to good special effects, better writing, and even better promotion and excellent funding of both production values and distribution systems. We want people to recognize zombies instantly and to know how to deal with them as instantly, and people did instantly recognize the zombies, and the very well-trained police as instantly knew how to deal with them, and unlike almost everyone else there, they were well armed.. They fell back to their cordon of vehicles surrounding the place, and opened fire.

They even managed to get a most of the unaffected people behind the cordon as well, though the folks in the media circus didn't fare too well. It might be said that after the destruction of their equipment, they were without purpose, but while the zombies were piling up on top of them and eating them, they certainly provided a horrid form of entertainment.

These weren't your usual zombies; they were fast and getting faster, and as fast as they were wounded, they seemed as rapidly to heal. They also learned pretty quickly that they didn't much like getting shot, and that if shot in the head they could die (or just be incapacitated, which the alien software didn't want) and so they took their dead with them as they retreated to smash through the glass of the facility, and sought inside halls and protected positions to avoid the gunfire from outside, as they began to devour their own fallen.

A fresh egg contains no more nutrition than the chick into which it hatches, but it's a hell of a lot more digestible. In the same way, the fallen zombies provided a festering stew of alien-modified biology running at full metabolic load, and the more of their fallen they ate, the faster the zombies changed. Now shielded from the sunlight by the building, the opsins deposited and concentrated, the alien software expanded the orbits of the skull to get more surface with better granularity. The zombies were quickly transforming into something resembling giant drooling tarsiers with growing Smilodon fangs.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

[Mythos XIV] A Building, Though Unleased, May Yet Be Not Untenanted

With apologies to HP Lovecraft, Ambrose Bierce, Stephen King, and Charles Stross. Copyright 2010 Thomas James Hardman, Jr, all rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. References to real places and things may be included but their usage is fictional in nature and intent. Any similarity to real persons or parties is coincidental and should be seen as fictional in nature and intent.

Perhaps you'd like to jump back to the previous chapter?

Generally speaking, it's not a good idea to use entheogen drugs in a crowd setting, and the bigger the crowd, the less of a good idea it is.

Now add to the general badness of tripping in crowds by making the crowd about 10,000 strong, with about 2500 celebrants and the rest a mad and motley crew comprising a media circus of a dozen network satellite vans, a couple of dozen police squad cars with more officers starting to arrive by the van load, and the rather surprisingly large "local" population of Aspen Hill's "immigrant community", most of them outside the thickening police cordon, getting more than a bit raucous and agitated as they were generally rebuffed in their attempts to cross the cordon and join in solidarity with their compadres, half of whom were protesting the unfairness of Home Depot filing trespassing charges on day-laborers seeking unscrupulous drive-by employers, and the other half having a fairly impromptu "confab" with their Higher Power under the influence of a mild overdose on Salvinorin A, one of the most potent psychedelic drugs known to man.

At this point in time, the 2500 were about half-way through their trip, which in normal circumstances would mean that in about another three to five minutes they'd emerge from the hallucination and dissociation stage of the drug, and would be about as coordinated as the average alley drunk for the next five minutes, and thereafter be completely normal to all intents and purposes.

These were, unfortunately, far from normal circumstances.

In the basement of the former defense-contractor campus, a hole in the wall was enlarging by the moment. A crew of bank-vault burglars were cutting in from the outside, working from within a 5-foot concrete storm drain pipe, through which flowed -- at the moment, though this could change -- the three-gallons-per-minute flow of one of the lesser headwaters of the Turkey Branch of Rock Creek. During rainstorms of sufficient force, or duration, this concrete pipe carrying a small buried stream could entirely fill with water, in which case a containment pond offset and upstream could absorb overflow, and both cool runoff from hot asphalt of the surrounding neighborhood hilly streets as well as settle out sediment that otherwise would eventually clog this conduit.

What did the bank-vault guys want? Nothing in particular; they had simply been hired because they had the equipment, knew their business, and had been paid fairly well. Ordinarily they would have taken months or even years to dig their own tunnels to an ordinarily-inaccessible side of a vault known to be chock full of easily fenced loot and significant quantities of cash. Yet they had come to this job on a fairly spur-of-the-moment basis and were just making a hole in materials that were rather difficult to cut without explosives. Others would come along and strip away anything of worth, though there was no known vault full of lots of cash and valuables, so they were just making a doorway.

That they were very close indeed to making a gateway to another world, they could not know and did not suspect.

There was a vault in the basement, but hardly a safe full of valuables. Rather, it was full of computer chips from a supercomputer which had intentionally and repeatedly been exposed to a very minimal-aperture Schrödinger gate, operated only within a large and extremely well-shielded Schrödinger cat box.

This vault was hardly of extreme security design. It wasn't much more than a coat room that happened to have cinderblock walls; it wasn't intended to store the EPROMs and field-programmable gate arrays for very long, only until the chips could be destroyed.

Destroying the chips was not something that would be done inexpensively or easily. Part of the mechanism of the Schrödinger gate-in-a-box was that it left the wave functions uncollapsed, permitting a lot of contemporaneous spacetimes to co-exist. A sort of probabilistic "rhetorical conflation of irreconcilables" had to exist for the gate to open. How is this physically achieved? I'm profoundly glad that I cannot tell you because I simply do not know, other than that it has been rumored to have something to do with counter-rotating streams of hypercooled pseudo-matter, Bose-Einstein condensates, laser cooling, and stimulated emission of coherent entangled neutrons.

Exposure to the gate leaves the chips somewhat disentangled from our timespace and somewhat entangled with the particles that the aliens fire to re-etch the circuits on the chips we expose to them. They're trying to embed new instruction sets into BIOS, and they don't care if they're working with EPROM; they're re-hardwiring at the atomic scale in a sort of transdimensional nanotechnological software attack. These really scary things from the ends of their own incomprehensible universes are very fast indeed, and seem to have a deep knowledge of nearly everything that is far beyond our own, and we're not entirely sure how it is that they can instantly detect a gate and as instantly launch a bewildering barrage of attacks at any technology we expose to them. The one thing they can't attack is the Schrödinger cat-box itself; the instant they observe that in any way (much less touch it), the probability wave functions collapse and the gate was never there. All praise paradox!

Yet improperly destroying the chips also collapses probability wave functions and whatever is overlaid on the chips... solidifies, I suppose you could say. What was an exceptionally hostile suggestion, as it were, becomes lethal machinery. It starts to work.

The bank-job crew finished their doorway in mere minutes, and laid themselves and their equipment down on their "bobsled" and rolled downstream towards the place where the pipe exited into a concrete culvert, open to the skies, about a quarter mile away. Even as they rolled off, an even dozen persons on bobsleds of their own rolled into position and entered the building.

It took them mere moments to secure the room where the new short tunnel opened, and as the next dozen arrived, the first dozen fanned out to secure the nearby halls and rooms and to explore.

Part of the exploration was the opening of locked doors, primarily accomplished by smashing any locks encountered. When they came to the door sealing the room full of contamination From Beyond, it had two locks, which was an invitation to prioritize opening that particular door.

"Computer chips, old ones," said one man, turning it over a few times in his fingers. "Trash," he said, and hurled it into a bin full of others. It cracked as it hit, and that small change in state was more than enough to make the uncertain certain. Carefully maintained balances of probability collapsed, and the nebulous became sold, and the imaginary became real.

Out in the parking lot, 2500 protesters locked in the depths of their Salvia Experience suddenly all had the same dream within a dream. They jerked like hooked fish as their dream within a dream became a nightmare from which they would never escape. The entheogen drugs had put them in touch with a Higher Power, alright, but not a friendly one. It was whispering into their drug-enhanced temporal lobe with a data-rate far beyond any internet technician's dreams of bandwidth. Within minutes it would have re-written their internal operating system to the point where the machinery of their metabolism would begin producing new machinery, and once that happened, what had been human protestors would begin changing, metamorphosing through elaborations far more profound than in the life-cycles of insects. They wouldn't actually pupate, though, to emerge as some sort of butterfly of the occult. It was more typical of such cases that skin would first become rugose, then squamous, and then be shredded away by chitinous structures emerging from within, structures assuming shapes never before seen in this world, and probably not even in this universe. Those structures would, given time, assume proportions and geometry creating a transdimensional gate, one that wouldn't paradoxically collapse itself like a Schrödinger cat-box does to prevent itself from being observed.

No, once those gates were formed, observers everywhere would soon observe things like nothing ever before seen, things with shapes out of fever dreams, feasting on the madness and terror they inspired.

Forming those gates would take probably 24 hours. Long before then, however, infested victims would likely have plugged themselves into the global telecommunications network via the simple (simple for alien deities from other dimensions, that is) means of growing a modem in the neural tissues of the infested victims. Hey, how else are they going to download instructions for generating the structures to open gates?

Once they get into the telecom networks, and the computing networks, and the power grid, and the military logistics command-and-control systems, they don't need to open the gates to bring themselves entirely through for humanity to be well and truly fubared. At that point, we're all dead already, or as good as dead, it all being over but the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth in the outer darkness. There are far too many humans, far too dependent on technology, to survive for long at all when the technology either doesn't work or has to be destroyed lest it work against us.

Yet remember: these implacable aliens aren't coming to devour humanity, body and soul and hearts and minds, we're just tiny little flecks of icing on the cake as they feed and grow strong on the universe itself. They devour order and shit entropy, and it won't be long before they've collapsed this universe to the conditions that evolved them, one vast lump of neutronium in such concentrated mass that it falls into a condition opposite probabilistic waveform collapse... a place that is their steppingstone of raw uncertainty into the next nice orderly universe to devour.

Still, we won't much care about the fate of the universe if these things first devour our civilization and then ourselves in the general case, or the more specific and immediate case of devouring us personally as a run-up to devouring civilization. No, first save civilization, and perhaps you can save yourself.

Not far away, a house with a rather hideous roof-line that resembled a barn-builder's attempt to craft a camoflaged radome peeled open that hideous roofline like an unfurling tulip. With a sound like the world's largest automobile crash air-bag, huge balloons inflated after being pulled aloft by rockets.

It would take another minute for them to reach the required altitude and spacing.

One of the local news reporters, acting as a network stringer, was telling the world that something strange was going on here.

"...As you can see, Robert, the protestors seem to be waking up from their trance. They seem confused, disoriented. It's like they've been drinking, which our colleagues tell us is an expected after-effect of consuming the Salvia drug. But Robert, I don't think anyone said anything about it making peoples' eyes glow green. I mean, really glow, really green, John, can we get a close-up on someone..."

A set of capacitors that filled almost the entire basement of the house with the radome roof were imploded and dumped a massive electromagnetic pulse into the balloon-lofted antenna grid. Every coil of wire and semiconductor in line of sight within 5 miles instantly stopped being useful electronics components. Within the near-field zone of about 1.5 miles, even in basements, transistors exploded into puffs of smoke. All forms of electric lighting went dark. Microwave ovens burst into flame or even melted as their klystrons re-radiated the pulse. Every car within miles stopped working, along with their entertainment electronics. This included not merely the cars in the immense traffic jam created by the protest and the media circus, but also about 100 police squad cars, 12 SWAT vans, and two Mobile Command Center buses. Also disabled: automatic alarm and anti-fire systems. Sprinkler systems erupted into action all around the area.

As a result, none of the ensuing confusion and melee was recorded; cellphone towers and network-television satellite links were inactivated for miles around, along with all landline telephone and data networks. This was, after all, the point of the pulse, to prevent anything From Beyond from getting into the global networks.

However, something remained to be done -- much indeed remained to be done! -- about the living, non-electronic, non-networked, but still demonically possessed, people just re-acquiring coordination after their bout with Salvia. A lot of them were starting to rise to their feet, and they looked unhappy indeed. Sort of, you know, undead, to tell the truth.

Beneath the main basement, well-shielded from the pulse that had knocked the local surface world back into the Stone Age, two dozen special-squad burglars loaded up their "bobsleds" in the 5-foot concrete storm drain pipe with all of the loot they had found. Old computer chips had no special value for resale on the espionage markets, but they contained enough rare earth metals (and in this case, also a plague of infestations of malicious software coded by malevolent alien gods) to be worth the bother, especially if you had about a ton or more of them. They began to push them upstream towards the extraction point.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

[Mythos XIII] Crawl, Chaos! -and Quantum, Creep...

With apologies to HP Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Charles Stross. Copyright 2010 Thomas James Hardman, Jr, all rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. References to real places and things may be included but their usage is fictional in nature and intent. Any similarity to real persons or parties is coincidental and should be seen as fictional in nature and intent.

Perhaps you'd like to jump back to the previous chapter?

"If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”
        --Professor Stephen Hawking

"The law admits that it is possible to defame neither the dead, nor their murderers."
        --Old legal maxim

"Ia! Ia! Cthulhu Fthagn! Ph'nglui mglw'nfah Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!"
        --Abdullah Alhazred

"Go long on Goldman and short the fuck out of CDOs and Fannie Mae. Then when the smoke clears and people stick their heads up to look around, short the shit out of Commercial Real Estate."
        --My "Boss", in one of his more lucid moments

"What the hell is going on?"
        --Pretty much everyone, including myself

Salvia Divinorum is "not a party drug" but then again, neither is BZ.

BZ, of course, is specifically not intended to be a party drug; it is intended for use as a battlefield incapacitating agent, dispersed as a weaponized dust aerosol. It turns out to be quite effective as an additional element introduced to a battlefield that is already "hot", but the variability and delay of onset preclude its use as a sneak-attack weapon initiating hostilities. Also, the effective dose is rather high, compared to many other psychoactives that could produce disorder of the type a military might like to inflict on enemy ranks. So much is required that it couldn't possibly escape notice in a clear-air environment. People would be wondering "where did this dust storm come from?" and as the first people started to react, presumably someone would notice and report it back up the chain of command via radio or other signal techniques.

It would be hard to ignore the symptoms of someone succumbing to BZ; those who aren't actually paralyzed tend to run around screaming, not with fear, but with rage.

Salvia, and related entheogens would work far better, if you weren't concerned about a high casualty rate possibly exceeding that of a full frontal assault with standard infantry weapons, or the short duration of effects. Such chemicals have rapid onset and rapid emergence and short durations. Also, if your enemy was fighting a religious battle, or one in which religious ideas or ideals were important to morale or motivation, it might be a little counterproductive to knock them into a five-minute conference call with the Almighty, which would be about how they'd experience it.

Salvia Experience Painting

No, if you were going to give entheogen drugs to any troops at all on the battlefield, probably you'd rather give it to your own.

Aspen Hill, Maryland is a somewhat decayed "core suburb" about 12 miles due north of the White House down in Washington DC.

Its commercial heart, so to speak, is located right around an area you might call "the triangle", where Georgia Avenue and Connecticut Avenue intersect just north of each of their intersections with Aspen Hill Road. On all but one side of this triangle, and in the entirety of the triangle, are shopping centers and strip malls, and large parking lots that are usually only about a third full, at most.

On the one side where there's no strip mall, there is a very large cemetery. Beyond that, neighborhoods of houses and apartment/condominium complexes.

Behind one of the strip malls is a large office building. It's the last local offices of a very large transnational corporation that does a very brisk business indeed selling the machines of war and systems to utilize them. Some years before, they had absorbed another, much older, US-based defense contractor, and the new management absorbed a lot of older contracts as well.

Some of those contracts seem to have had more than a bit of evil influence on people associated with them. For example, that former contractor once employed one Fred Coffey, now on death row for the murder of a 10-year old girl, known or believed to be responsible for a long string of violent crimes against children. Almost certainly, someone visited the site quite frequently who was later found dead in his Florida prison cell with a plastic bag over his head, John Brennan Crutchley, the infamous "Florida Vampire Rapist". One takes a look at the known and probably careers in crime of these people, and one looks at how much they got away with before they got caught, and how long it took to catch them, and one might reasonably assume that some of these aforementioned "older contracts" might have inflicted their evil on more people than merely Coffee and Crutchley... and that considering those people, their professions, and the likely contracts with which they were involved, as much as the contracts warped them, that they inflicted their evil into their work on those contracts.

"For as you gaze into the darkness," wrote Nietzsche, "the darkness stares back into you."

Aspen Hill is also characterized, especially south of Aspen Hill Road, by rental properties with significant violations of county fire, safety, and occupancy codes. As for those who own properties, there are some which have comparable histories of violation, and which have been overbuilt to grotesque size.

Probably the majority of these are effectively worker barracks, often packed wall-to-wall in unsafe conditions, and the month-to-month renters are quite frequently not legally present in the USA.

On Saturday, May 1, 2010, bus-drivers in the area noticed an odd phenomenon. The usual passengers were where you'd expect them to be, but so were a lot of extra riders. All around the region, it was standing-room-only.

The number 48 Ride-On bus from the MetroRail station in Rockville arrived, standing-room-only and creaking under the weight of pasengers, at the intersection of Parkland Drive and Aspen Hill Road and disgorged all or almost all of those passengers at 11:54 AM, 12:15, 12:35, 12:55 PM

The return leg from Wheaton's station comparably creaked up the street and disgorged a full load of about 60 persons at the same intersection at 11:58 AM, 12:18, 12:38 and 12:58 PM.

At roughly half-hour intervals, thus, approximately 120 persons would alight at this intersection from buses headed both ways from both stations, and they would walk west down Aspen Hill Road, towards the commercial core of Aspen Hill.

Considering the rather appalling number of overcrowded "worker barracks" -- flophouses for out-of-work illegal alien construction workers -- located quite nearby, they were joined by a great many people who didn't need a bus ride to get to downtown Aspen Hill.

Aspen Hill is very well served by public transportation. As other buses arrived, packed standing-room only, quite a crowd began to gather.

They came in on the number 49 Ride-On, disembarking at the nearby intersections of Georgia Avenue and Bel Pre Road, getting off of the bus from the MetroRail station in Glenmont at 11:49 AM, 12:18, 12:48 PM, and on the same line from Rockville's station, at 11:49 AM, 12:19, and 12:49 PM.

They came on other buses as well. The other Ride-On routes could deliver only about 60 persons per trip, and although they did connect with other routes, they had a commuter rail terminus at only one end of the line.

The MetroBuses, however, could be packed full with almost 140 people. The "articulated" buses could carry many more. The L8 arrived full of passengers from as far south as Kensington, and disgorged their passengers in the heart of beautiful downtown Aspen Hill at 11:31 AM, 12:01, 12:31, and 1:01 PM. The combined Y7/Y8/Y9 lines each unloaded over 100 passengers in beautiful downtown Aspen Hill at 11:41 and 11:56 AM, and at 12:11, 12:26, 12:41, 12:56 PM.

All in all, about 3000 people arrived by bus and converged, more or less, at the intersection of Aspen Hill Road and Connecticut Avenue, and until 1:00PM, they did a little shopping, for which the merchants were mystifiedly glad Then shortly before 1:00, those who had already arrived greeted the new arrivals just getting off of the many buses, and they then converged on the major intersection, more or less. More or less... they couldn't all fit on the sidewalks, which weren't all that large. So where did they mass starting a bit after 1:00?

On the property adjacent to their goal, which was of course the neighborhood Home Depot store. They began to unfurl banners, and bring drums and noisemakers out of their backpacks, and to beat their drums, in the capacious parking lot of 4115 Aspen Hill Road.

The security people came out to ask them what exactly they thought they were doing and to get off of the private property. Someone who was clearly a leader of this event stopped haranguing the crowd with his bullhorn and presented a photocopied sheaf of papers.

"This a copy of your lease, man. It expire yesterday. You got no authority. You are dismiss."

And there on the lease instrument, there was in fact a date of termination of lease as April 30, 2010, on some 230,000 square feet of commercial real-estate, which was not only the largest single block of commercial real estate now on the leasing market in the whole Maryland side of the Greater Washington Metropolitan Area, but also a rather old building rumored to have asbestos issues and known for a fact to have been built astride a creek which had to be buried underground in 5-foot diameter reinforced concrete pipe.

At this exact moment, at a house next to a residential neighborhood storm drain grate providing upstream access to that concrete pipe, a powerful gasoline generator was started, where it began to power a heavy-duty industrial construction air-compressor whose heavy-duty hoses ran down through that grate and into that concrete pipe. Deep in that concrete pipe where it passed under the building, small yet very muscular men began to operate their air-hammers at a point which had been pre-determined -- from purloined blueprints -- quite some time ago. Above ground in the parking lot, far from any above-ground openings to the underground stream's pipe, the drummers were pounding out a rhythm not too different from the clatter of air-hammers.

The leader of the rally went back to haranguing people in Spanish, English, and Spanglish on his bullhorn, and the security officers laid hands on him to try to get him to stop or to at least to start giving out orders to disperse. After all, the final stages of dismantling and decommissioning had not yet finished, the decommissioning of a partially disassembled massively parallel supercomputer with every last writable chip infested with nasty nasty downloads from implacable alien entities trying to creep into our timespace to devour humanity, the planet, and then the rest of the universe, in about that exact order. Sensible precautions had evacuated almost all human personnel before this really dangerous part of the decommissioning started, on the theory that the less people who got exposed to infectious self-reproducing complex thinking From Beyond, the less emergent transcendant alien horrors could be instantiated and have to be dealt with, should anything go horribly horribly wrong.

The assembly's leader gave orders quite different than the expected "please let's go somewhere else". In mere instants, the security guard was in handcuffs in the back seat of his own Ford Escort, which was promptly, if fairly gently, inverted in the parking lot. This development was accompanied by a lot of rude laughter and a chant which was recorded by the reporter from the Gazette, phonetically, as "veetro peento peeg". Nobody seems to know what this means.

One large segment of the party -- about 500 strong -- began to march around the old Vitro building on the westward side, intending to meet up, at approximately the northwest corner of the parking lot of the Home Depot, with about 350 marchers arriving southbound on the western sidewalks of Georgia Avenue, who had disembarked the number 49 Ride-On buses at Bel Pre Road. All were bearing signs condemning Home Depot's policy -- unique in Montgomery County -- of prohibiting daily gatherings of day-laborers seeking short-term employment while illegally present in the USA.

Not incidentally, this rally point would obscure both sight and sounds coming from the nearby storm-drain grate down which led the heavy air-hoses of the industrial-strength burglar squad trying to more-or-less pull a bank vault job into the basement of the former Vitro Labs, intent on boosting every last bit of salvage they could cut into pieces small enough to fit through a 5-foot-diameter pipe.

That some of the salvage sitting down there was pretty much praying that they'd come and get it, because of what it intended for them (and everyone and everything else, too), they had no clue.

Neither had they any clue, those above -- the roughly 2500 protestors chanting "si se puede" and "we just want to work" and "how dare you keep our employers from finding us" and "Home Depot unfair to workers" -- what was waiting for them. How could they? Although it's widely been suspected, and for a long time, that some of our weapons are too advanced and horrible to have been designed by human beings, it's still officially secret that most of the global defense industry is pretty much re-selling the tools and childrens' playtoys of incomprehensible elder gods from dimensions alien to man.

Certainly they didn't know that while their bodies and minds had inherited weaknesses leaving them prone to victimization by such things, they also had evolved defenses against such things.

Lots of people complain about how they really wish that they could actually commune with their Higher Power.

They probably don't know that they're lucky they can't; they'd never get anything done. Or worse, they could wind up wandering the desert for 40 years, growing a five foot long beard, carving tablets of stone, dragged hither and yon by whispers from beyond mortal ken. Most people have fairly strong inherent defenses against hearing that whisper; if they didn't, they wouldn't be functional in the world for long enough to reproduce. Incapacity to commune with deity is a survival skill, and don't ever forget that.

Well, either they forgot, or never knew, or perhaps had no possible reason to suspect, that there was deity -- malevolent, foul, and intent on absorbing and destroying them, but deity nonetheless -- concentrated in about a ton of EPROM chips not 200 feet from the center of their crowd.

Did the leader know, or even have any possible reasons to suspect, when he downloaded "something from the internet" and combined that with his unlimited-texting cellphone account to assemble this flash-mob?

Either he could not have so much as suspected -- or perhaps he downloaded more than he wanted off of the internet, and had become very quietly if very violently insane -- when he convinced his fellow 2500 demonstrators to all sit down quietly and unthreateningly, even as carload after carload of police began to arrive (and the television news crews set up their satellite feeds and every last uninvolved local started watching this live on the news)...

...and to then demonstrate their solidarity with the authentic spirit of pre-european Native socialism by consuming unfortunately excessive doses of authentic Native American entheogen drugs, specifically the active ingredient of salvia divinorum, "salvinorium A".

At this point in time, I was starting to grasp the import of my "boss"'s repeated if cryptic phrase "bus routes of the damned", but what the hell did he mean by his constant references to dental offices, and health-insurance? -and I was definitely wondering about how to interpret "the enemy of my enemy is my friend".

In the basement of the now-unleased former defense contracting office and research facility, there was a sudden flare of a wicked green glow. That green is the color you get when Cherenkov Radiation is red-shifted. This might seem a trifle odd to anyone who knows anything about physics, but look: Cherenkov Radiation is what you get when particles tunnel through a given medium faster than the speed of light in that local medium. The green Lovecraftian Radiation is what you get when particles from a universe with a different constant of "c" enter ours, and are red-shifted down to our speed of light. This so-called "octaving of the Cth" has been the basis of quite a few classics of science fiction, of course, notably Cordwainer Smith's "Instrumentality of Man" series where it was the basis of "planoforming".

The Game of Rat and Dragon notwithstanding, this is a really bad idea, especially on a planetary surface. As much energy as it takes, if that energy becomes for even an instant misdirected, incredibly momentous events can be initiated. See also how "the Little Ice Age" got started by a volcano, and dig deep enough and you'll find out what exactly popped that volcano. Well, hopefully you won't entirely know, since that would leave you a mindless wreck gibbering in horror, assuming that you survived at all. But you don't need to understand exactly what was almost Summoned. All you need to know is that when the Summoning was botched, and not by all that much, the resulting explosion launched a significant part of the Java Sea into near-earth orbit.

And as the lurid green glow expanded a bit, as the minds of 2500 souls were opened to direct experience of and communication with deity by the entheogen drug from salvia, a concrete chip flew from a wall in the basement of a semi-vacated former defense-contracting facility. The hammerers in the storm drain, the bank-vault crew intending to steal anything they could carry, had broken through.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

[Mythos XII]

With apologies to HP Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Charles Stross. Copyright 2010 Thomas James Hardman, Jr, all rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. References to real places and things may be included but their usage is fictional in nature and intent. Any similarity to real persons or parties is coincidental and should be seen as fictional in nature and intent.

Perhaps you'd like to jump back to the previous chapter?

It may seem implausible to many people that we have access to alien dimensions, and that we have frequently had cause to regret this.

Well, because something might be plausibly deniable will in no way reliably determine whether something either did or didn't happen, or whether what may or may not have actually happened is plausible. Implausible things happen all of the time, with the commonly used example being the flight of the bumblebee; their wings are engineered terribly inefficiently and they appear to have an impossible weight-to-wing-surface ratio. As it turns out, it's not the wings that keep the bumblebee aloft quite as much as it is the way that it buzzes those wings which keeps it aloft. More or less, it's lfying along on a song and a prayer, with the prayer probably having far less to do with it than the song. It seems quite implausible and you can stand there all day long denying that bumblebees can fly, "the math proves it's impossible!" and if you stand there long enough declaring your absolute certainty, a bumblebee may fly right over and sting you on your ass.

It may seem entirely implausible that if you generate a spark between two pieces of wire, that a comparable spark will be generated at a comparable gap between comparable wires which are seemingly totally unconnected to the first pair of wires. Yet however implausible it may sound, the spark gap transmitter is the basis of all radio technology, and that means that one of the largest and most profitable industries on the planet is based on implausibility.

It may seem implausible that slightly impure pieces of ceramic can harbor intelligent life, and so far as we have been able to arrange it here on earth, none do. Yet such slightly impure pieces of ceramic are -- at blinding speeds far beyond human capabilities -- converting electronic signals into human readable formats. If you're reading this on a laptop, connected to the global internet by wireless, you're doubly implausible, aren't you.

When you put enough implausibilities together, quite frequently you've created a technology from natural phenomena. That's how we eventually got radio, and television, and Lawrence Welk and even Disco. Thus, a concatenation of implausible harnessings of natural principles led inevitably, or almost inevitably, to this:

Some would argue, thus, that acceptance of implausibility inevitably (or almost inevitably) leads to the pinnacle of art. Others would hear such a statement in such a context and die of a stroke while rolling around on the floor laughing. Yet all would probably accept that the more implausibilities you harness at once, the more astonishing, the more potentially useful and valuable, the result.

But really, it all depends on which implausibilities you are stringing together.

An unwillingness to accept implausibilities had for many years hampered the advance of modern physics. Experiments with the interference patterns of light passing through the classic dual-slit interferometry apparatus generated exceptionally repeatable data that rather defied any easy interpretation (italics mine):
For example, when electrons are fired at the target screen in bursts, it is easy to account for the interference pattern that results by assuming that electrons that travel in pairs are interfering with each other because they arrive at the screen at the same time, but when a laboratory apparatus was developed that could reliably fire single electrons at the screen[25], the emergence of an interference pattern suggested that each electron was interfering with itself; and, therefore, in some sense the electron had to be going through both slits.[26] For something that most people continue to imagine to be an unimaginably small particle to be able to interfere with itself would suggest that this "sub-atomic particle" was in two places at once, but that idea is strongly at odds with the truism, "You cannot be in two places at the same time," (see principle of contradiction). It was easier to conceptualize the electron as a wave than to accept another, more disturbing implication (from the point-of-view of our everyday notions of reality): that quantum objects are able to exist and behave in ways that defy classical interpretation.

Many people might consider this "implausible". Yet even more implausible things are done:
We present a detailed experimental analysis of a free-propagating light pulse prepared in a "Schrödinger kitten" state, defined as a quantum superposition of "classical" coherent states with small amplitudes. This state is generated by subtracting one photon from a squeezed vacuum beam, and it clearly presents a negative Wigner function. The predicted influence of the experimental parameters is in excellent agreement with the experimental results. The amplitude of the coherent states can be amplified to transform our "Schrödinger kittens" into bigger Schrödinger cats, providing an essential tool for quantum information processing. (Generating Optical Schrödinger Kittens for Quantum Information Processing , Ourjoumtsev et al., Science DOI: 10.1126, 2007)

And in case anyone has forgotten, Schrödinger's Cat is both alive and dead, and lives in not one, not two, but a veritable cloud of alternate universes.

Sort of like my boss...

He's not really my boss, more like a research subject that can't be allowed to be heard to speak, much less to escape from where we have walled him up like a monster in a tomb, where he taps out morse code that is recorded by nearly-illiterate psychotic convicts on an impromptu death row.

Yet in some ways, he is my boss, in the same way you are a robot to a text message on your phone that reminds you to go pick up the kids from school for their dental appointments. Not exactly the person who signs off on my paycheck, as if I needed one. His exposure to Something From Beyond has turned him into a sort of vessel for a very small (yet potentially extremely destructive) sub-set of a quantum computing life form that as best we can tell nourishes itself by devouring entire universes. We've been spared from its ravages mostly because it finished off its last meal so long ago that it's been reduced to digesting itself, so to speak. It's digesting my boss, or at least the sub-set is digesting as much of him as it can without destroying its own host processing environment.

It feeds by devouring information in some way we can't quite understand, and more or less excretes entropy, again in some way we can't quite understand. Our own universe is vast, and largely empty, with the only interesting parts being those which are characterized by accumulations of orderliness. Organized energy and matter and the intertwined relationships between the two are what make suns burn, create complex elements, and power the processes of life. It's this division between organization and emptiness, this concentration of energy and matter contrasting with the bitter cold and utter emptiness of the majority of the universe, that gives our universe life. All of our living processes effectively harvest the organization of matter and energy created by other organisms, all of which are ultimately dependent on the fusion of hydrogen towards a heavier, more grounded, nuclear state.

The most stable of all elements is lead, and eventually that's about all that will be left of our universe: accretions of lead and near-lead elements, with no more possibility of more fusion or fission and nothing to fight gravity. Depending on to which set of theories you subscribe, either we become an ever shrinking ball of neutronium, a black hole of such size and power as to suck the rest of the universe in with it when if falls out of spacetime. Other theories might postulate that the giant ball of neutronium tunnels through Hilbert-Hawking space into adjacent universes, a hadron at a time (actually a lot of hadrons into a lot of timespaces), providing new energy and matter. It doesn't matter much to me; we will all be long since perished as our form of life utterly requires a near absence of entropy. Yet something will probably live on. As near as we can tell, that is what are the Great Old Ones: beings that conserve information to themselves and gather it in any form they can ingest, quantum computers eating each other on the surface of a great ball of neutronium that's all that's left of their incomprehensibly old universe(s), adrift through all of spacetime on the immeasurable flood tide of transuniversal gravitomagnetelectric uber-force.

If any of these things ever managed to get all of their self into our universe, humanity would perish like a bacterium on the surface of a steak that's been dropped on the dining room floor near a hungry Rottweiler. Gobbled right up, not that the Rottweiler is worried about bacteria; the steak is what it's after.

The Great Old Ones would devour our universe in a few swift gulps, so to speak, just like a Rottweiler will gobble up a steak you might drop on the floor. The difference between the Great Old Ones and a hungry Rottweiler being, more or less, that unlike the Rottweiler, the Great Old Ones will actually try to talk with the bacteria. After all, they might be convinced to help walk the steak over to the edge of the table... closer to the floor... and to the waiting jaws.

Hence my boss, as it were.

He doesn't have any information coming in to him by any means we can detect, yet he told me that Goldman Sachs would be selling crap mortgage-backed deriviatives and then shorting them when they folded, and that's exactly what happened. When asked -- slightly before the crisis began -- how he knew this, the morse code came back through the roundabout relay and the response said, "It's fucking Goldman, how the fuck else could it be?" I went long on oil, figuring that would be where pension-fund capital would go when the housing market slid off of a cliff, and when the pension-fund capital stampeded into oil, I was there to sell it to them. When oil futures started collapsing I had funding aplenty to short the market until there was nothing left to short and no liquidity to short. That's because I held almost all capital, bonds, and notes, along with a lot of begging and promises.

Once I had piled up the tonnage and got less caught up in the moment and started to take more sober stock of things, I realize that even walled up in his tomb, even limited to talking via morse code, the "infovore" had managed to feed, and to feed by proxy: without doing anything more than lifting a finger to go tap tap tap, it had vastly reduced the level of discrete organization and the number of organized entities, concentrated information and energy, and attached it to its own metabolic support system. I'm the guy who drops food and water into the chute, and runs the pumps that keep the groundwaters of the Watery Branch from seeping in to flood his tomb.

Just to make up for the damage, I think I'll waste some of these huge piles of loot by going long on Goldman Sachs when every bit of commonsense says I ought to short them, and short them hard, and sell tranches of that shorting, and sell 'em to Goldman Sachs via proxy, and then buy t-bills with it. The only problems with that are that, first, this would take us back to the Bad Old Days when the appearance of Erin Burnett's hair was the most reliable predictor of Wall Street's behavior for the upcoming day; secondly, causing massive disruption is what the entity wants, at least for now.

But all of this is beside the point.

In the same way that he predicted the Great Recession -- or at least pointed out where it would start, and how -- now he's predicting that as his old lab is decommissioned, multiple groups will be swarming the area trying to get the Big Deal: about half a ton of supercomputer, a supercomputer that is seriously infested to the gills with downloads from the implacable ancient entities from beyond.

If anyone manages to steal any part of that, and g_d-forbid plugs it in -- much less plugs it into the unfiltered global internet -- the things that will get loose into our infosystems, economy, defense systems, and planetary ecology (in roughly that order) will make the threat posed by my "boss" small potatoes indeed, by comparison. As scary as he is, I think he's actually scared. Perhaps even terrified.

His messages are increasingly cryptic, even for a malevolent entity from outside of known reality. I can understand it when he goes on and on about tunnels and caves; but what's all this about health insurance, dental offices, and "bus routes of the damned"?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

[Mythos XI] Geas, Ghosts, Ghastliness, and Grim

With apologies to HP Lovecraft, Stephen King, Charles Stross, and Peter Watts. Copyright 2010 Thomas James Hardman, Jr, all rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. References to real places and things may be included but their usage is fictional in nature and intent. Any similarity to real persons or parties is coincidental and should be seen as fictional in nature and intent.

Perhaps you'd like to jump back to the previous chapter?

Some people feel that it's simply impossible that a place, a geographic location, could actually be evil.

Strictly speaking, it's not so much the place, as its history. It's not so much the location as what has happened there.

We've all seen those movies about Really Stupid People who take a bet that they'll survive the night sleeping over at a notorious haunted house where there's reputedly been a bit of the old necromancy and definitely more than a bit of murder most foul. You know, everyone thinks its going to be one big old party, folks get a bit tipsy, at least one couple sneaks off to the back rooms to get frisky, and next thing you know, poof, cue the scary music and cleverly framed shots of an undefined someone sneaking up the stairs with a meat cleaver in one hand and a severed head in the other.

Well, usually it's not that bad... usually. It's more commonly the case that people have no idea that they've just rented a room at the haunted house, or actually bought a real property with a real history of real carnage. They think they've bought a tidy cottage where they can spend a lot of time doing a bit of relaxing gardening, and the next thing you know, they're headline news on the front page, above the fold.

Before I was born, the family lived out west at the edge of the Navajo nation. Fascinating people, the Navajo, with fascinating beliefs which have really reasonable basis when you look past the tales they'll tell damn-fool Easterners who ask stupid questions to which any sensible person should already know the answers. The thing is, what makes perfect sense to the Navajo may not make sense to people who believe themselves to occupy the pinnacle of scientific culture and enlightened rationality.

If you ask a stupid question, you will get a stupid answer, or they might just stare at you as if they doubt your sanity. The stupid question a lot of Easterners asked - -after they'd built some nice government-funded cinder-block house complete with plumbing and central heating, and the residents knocked a hole in the northward wall and moved out and refused to return -- would be "now why the heck did you go and do that?" -and the Navajo would just look at them like they were crazy for asking such a question.

Well, to the Navajo, you must be crazy to ask such a question and actually expect an answer. When a person dies, until and unless really time-consuming and expensive rituals are performed, an angry part of their spirit will probably linger and even if it's not angry enough to harm you, it will unsettle your own harmony and that can have bad consequence. It's bad enough that an angry spiritual force might be hanging around in a house, waiting for someone to fall asleep there so it can disturb their harmony by infesting their dreaming; for that you can warn people not to sleep (or even enter) there by knocking a hole in the north wall. Everybody knows that when you see a house with a hole in the north wall, someone has died there and it's unwise to enter. But who but a damn-fool Easterner would actually speak about it? To name such a thing is to call such a thing... to confirm its existence to it.

This may sound like so much poppycock to the damn-fool Easterners... they come from humid places. The Navajo live in the desert, much like the Arabs, and its astonishing how similar are certain aspects of the Arab beliefs about the Djinni and the Navaho beliefs about the Chindi.

When the Navajo entered the lands they now call their home, they entered lands freshly vacated by a variety of calamities, although mostly they seem to have been unaware of the particulars. Then again, perhaps they simply prefer to not speak of it, at least not to damn-fool Easterners.

It seems that the Ancestral Puebloans, ancestors to today's Ute people, had a pretty well-developed agricultural and trading civilization, one that endured and genreally prospered for a timespan of nearly 800 years, a duration surpassed only by the Roman Empire and Imperial China. Then, practically overnight, they vanished.

There are a host of reasons for this, ranging from soil exhaustion and climate change to exhaustion of the vast but slow-growing desert forests they burned to fire their pottery which they traded as far away as Ohio and southern Mexico. And it may well have been that trade with Mexico which was their ultimate undoing: the same climate changes that deepened the desertification of the Sonoran Desert and the surrounding lands also caused significant failures of agriculture in the Aztecan culture to the south.

As the Chacoans abandoned their extensive settlements -- many of which rivaled the constructions of the ancient Greeks -- they were abandoning what had been fertile lands and cities that originated wealth for trade, open cities that invited the traveler to stop and do business, cities full of artisans mass-producing useful things of beauty such as clay jars and bowls. To this day, even fairly small fragments of Chacoan ceramic art trades at high price on the black markets of antiquarian fancy. You'd need to know very hard-to-find people to do any sort of dealings that could bring you a good price for any object without a pedigree of license. For those who don't have a special interest in collecting these things, they're pretty but pretty worthless; for those who do have that special interest, they're few and far between and increasingly difficult to obtain. Frankly, the inheritors of the lands -- and to some degree the culture -- of the Chacoans, want their relics back and Federal law supports this with significant legal penalties. After all, the way the natives see it, if you're getting the property of their ancestor by digging in their ruins, effectively you are robbing graves. In recent years, the Federal authorities have also taken this position... but they didn't always think that way.

Before I was born, places such as Chaco were pretty much buried in the dust of 500 years, as the Navajo didn't much like the place, it being full of ruins and there being no way to know in most cases whether or not (or how) anyone had died there... though it served well enough as a retreat and hiding place when the Europeans came, first the Spanish, then the Mexicans, and at last the Americans. When the damn-fool Easterners came, they thought that they'd dig around in the ruins to see if they could find anything interesting. For what it's worth, my dad had a part-time job on the weekend, helping to excavate various archaeological sites.

One of the things they found in profusion was bones. No wonder the Navajo didn't like the place much.

In 1999, a theory was put forth which was not widely accepted, to say the least, that the Chacoan culture had been conquered and terrorized by a marauding army of Toltec thugs who cowed their captured cities full of peaceful artisan industrialists and traders by butchering and devouring them. This notion shocked the academic community into an uproar of frantic denials. Previously the academic community had responded to emerging evidence with deafening silence. Yet other discoveries occurred over time and it became fairly clear that the original Chacoans had fled their fine cities to dwell in fortified caves in defensible cliffs such as Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde, digging in and holding their own until even more drought left them without any sources of water. Subsequently, it seems, they scattered into higher country, evidently moving frequently and settling only in small numbers. At one such site, known as 5MT10010 in southwestern Colorado, at least seven men, women and children were killed, dismembered, cooked, eaten, and shat out. At least one definitely human fossilized scat ("coprolite"), definitely containing partially digested human remains, was found there.

It seems that the invading Toltec weren't satisfied with invading the Chacoan civilization and driving off the inhabitants. It seems that they pursued the Chacoans everywhere they went, and then ate them when they captured them.

In 1976 I turned 18 and the local economy was lousy and in oil-rich Texas it was booming. 'Go west, young man," is what people were saying and it's what I did for a few years.

It's probably good that I did. The folks I hung with back in the day all seemed to have drifted into lifestyles which, as it turned out, wouldn't last long for them in all too many cases. A lot of them had been heading that way even before getting out of highschool. Heck, smalltime theft and daytime burglaries were practically the neighborhood sport and pastime. People would go steal something and get to talking about it and the "donor" would hear about it and go steal back whatever had been taken, and often anything else lying around. Of course, my own house had been burglarized several times, with police suspicion settling on various individuals, all of whom were at least acquaintances. The detectives were no doubt aware of this more-or-less fad for teen burglaries, and refused to prosecute on the grounds that they couldn't tell whether or not this was a case of someone borrowing something for longer than expected, or actual crime with criminal intent and actual victimization.

After having left all of this behind me for the three years I spent Out West, somehow my friends who had remained in the neighborhood culture of sociopathy remained mostly behaving like sociopaths. As I said, they never grew out of it and the majority of those wound up as do most people who don't grow out of being sociopaths: dead, disabled, or behind bars. Somehow, despite my upbringing, I did grow up out of my teen sociopathy just as you'd expect from any normal human being. And somehow, so did a lot of other people -- the majority, actually -- and more and more I started hanging out with them rather than with the folks who seemed clearly destined for careers as jailbirds.

One night I was hanging out, and drinking a few cold beers, with some neighborhood kids who were back from college for the summer. We hadn't ever been buddies back in the day, we knew each other on a nodding basis but that was about it. They ran in different circles than I did, not surprising since they had been studying hard towards the end of getting into school and making a success of their lives.

"So, did you ever get that stuff back?" asked one friend, who shall remain nameless.

"Uh, what stuff?"

My friend detailed the "haul" from a burglary that took place in maybe 1974 or so. That one was never "solved" by the detectives, who by this time had pretty much washed their hands of even responding to complaints of burglary of homes where teenagers lived.

"Let's see. A bunch of minor jewelry, some this-and-that, and um... a gold plated pocket watch. It had a railroad train embossed on it".

"Fuck! Goddamn it, that was my grandfather's and I was supposed to inherit it. I didn't even know it was missing."

"Well, it is."

I was starting to get pretty pissed off, I guess, so they handed me another beer and told me a story. A certain person we all knew had said that he'd got some swag and wanted to know if they wanted it. They had said they might, and decided to meet up someplace without adult supervision and where nobody who saw them would be surprised to see young guys hanging out. They met, and the swag was presented for possible fencing.

"I had to turn him down, since the little stuff wasn't worth anything to me, and the watch was too recognizable. Traceable, I mean, had the man's initials engraved inside it, fer Christ's sake. Everything was either worthless or too hot and we told him we wouldn't buy it".

I swallowed hard on the beer. I was contemplating some courses of possible action.

"Do you think he still has it?"

"Uh, no. He got all pissed off when we said we wouldn't buy it, and he threw it all into the woods."

"He. Threw," I said. "It. Into. The. Woods."

"Well," he said, "We all called him an asshole and gave him a bunch of shit and said we were going to beat him up, and he started crying and said he'd get it back for you."

"Why didn't you make him get it then?"

"It was getting dark. He said he'd go back for it the next day. I guess he didn't, eh?"

I was definitely all pissed off. "Goddamn it. That was my grandfather's watch. And my grandmother's earrings. Fuck."

I got up to go home and work out a plan of action.

"Oh," said my friend, "and one other thing."

I grimaced and asked, "What's that?"

"A doll."

"A doll?" I asked, goggling at him. "What, like a GI Joe or something? Not mine."

"No," he said, "A little wooden doll. Looked really old. Had these little white dots all over it, like little flecks of bone, or, what's that stuff, mother-of-pearl. Oh, and a piece of, like, red glass or something for a heart."

"No shit," I said. "Thanks for telling me," I said, as I stood up and left. More than oncoming autumn should have done for me, I felt a chill getting into my bones.

I first saw that doll when I was maybe four years old. My dad's boss was showing it to my dad. My dad's boss wasn't exactly a scary man, but he was a boss and I was supposed to be seen and not heard, in any case.

My dad's excavation work at Chaco came after some other excavation work done to prepare the way for the building of Navajo Dam. This was another reason my Dad's boss was scary. He was not a bad or mean man, not to me, but the last time he'd come by, he told my Dad that I had to go to the hospital to get shots. I did not like getting shots, although this one had not been so bad. They just scratched and poked me a little bit with the needle, on the side of my upper arm. They said I'd get a scab there, but I did not. This caused more than a bit of curiousity from the doctors, so they tried it again. This time I did get a scab, a big ugly nasty one that itched like hell but I was not permitted to scratch. My dad's boss was something I associated with annoyance and irritation more than anything else.

I found out only later that my Dad was one of a very few whites in the area that the natives trusted to show enough cultural sensitivity to deal properly with certain matters in certain affairs where the natives didn't want something done but the whites and the government insisted on. For example, to impound the waters behind Navajo Dam it was necessary to find and relocate all cemeteries and burial grounds because of a very real risk of a release of smallpox into the water from any corpses the waters might expose. For the natives, smallpox was pretty much swift and sure death, not that it would have done any good for any non-vaccinated whites. Smallpox resurrection was considered a possibility rather than a likelihood, but some was in fact found and thus I had to be vaccinated, even though that practice had been falling into disuse in the years since the successful eradication of that bane from North America. Sometimes when you go digging in places you shouldn't go digging, bad things are brought into the light. That's what happened. It happened more than once.

"The natives are restless," the man told Dad. "They are shutting us down."

"It's the house of bones, isn't it," said Dad.

"Yes, it is. But they're shutting down the excavations at Cliff Palace, too, and they want everything back that anyone found there. So, since you're the one who found this, you can be the one to decide whether to give it back to them. If you didn't tell them about it, I doubt they know you found it."

They talked a bit more, after the man handed my dad a cylindrical glass jar. I couldn't see what was inside.

Days or months or weeks later, I came upon the cylindrical glass jar, and saw what was in it. A doll, a little wooden doll, all dried and hardened, with little white flecks all over it, and a garnet in its chest like a little glass heart. My little hands were not strong enough to open that jar. That is a good thing.

Years later, I came across it again, and asked some questions and learned some things. My Dad was not exactly superstitious in any real sense of the word, but he told me it was probably best to just leave the doll alone, buried in a drawer as it had been buried in the sands of time in that old Anasazi cliff dwelling.

"What," I scoffed -- me being only about 13 or so -- "It's maybe going to give me an old Indian curse or something?"

He took the jar from me rather gingerly, and thought a long time, it seemed, before putting it back in the drawer.

"Do you really want to find out?" he asked.

I felt like being sarcastic, being the teen brat that I was, so I asked, "Won't g_d and Jesus protect me?"

He could be sarcastic right back: "First, you'd have to actually believe in g_d and Jesus. And they'd have to believe in you."

Then he softened up a bit, thought for a moment, and spoke.

"From what I've heard about it from the folks who study that sort of thing, Indian curses don't have much to do with g_d and Jesus. Whole different thing." He slid the drawer shut with a soft finality.

Many years have passed since I last saw that doll, and much has come to light about the circumstances in which it was likely created. Until the Toltecs and their bloodshedder ways invaded the open cities of the Chacoans, they'd been there for a long long time, trading with many other cultures, and the rituals and understandings of their descendants are complex and powerful indeed, and we can reasonably presume that their vast body of lore is but a shadow of what it once was before the invaders came. In the modern day, their descendants are known as a very peaceful people, yet even the warlike nations that surround them generally leave them in their peace, because it's well known that when you fuck with people who know the right kind of magic, they do not need warriors nor weapons to make Bad Shit happen to you.

In the modern day, the descendants of the Chacoans are famous, in part, for their dolls representing Kachina. Yet the modern Kachina dolls -- a few of which we keep in the house for various reasons -- are a far different thing from any dolls that might have been made back in the days when the Chacoans fled and scattered from the ritual cannibalism and brutality of their Toltec conquerors.

If you were an escaped surviving member of the priest class of the Chacoans, and you were hiding in an inaccessible cliff fortress hoping that the enemy wouldn't find you, but fearing that they would, and knowing what the Enemy were, and how they lived and what they ate, if you were an adept at the arts of the Indian Curse or related dark workings, don't you think you might leave behind something that your enemy might keep for their own, something that would do worse to them than they could possibly do to you? Something, perhaps, that they might carry away with them, carry back to their own people?

I don't know enough about this sort of thing to suggest that this is the function, the purpose, the intent and the power of this little doll, nor do I know that g_d and Jesus have nothing to do with an Indian curse. I do know one thing, though.

While I was away Out West, subdivision and development occurred where, sometime around 1974, a neighborhood juvenile delinquent met with others to try to sell them the proceeds of burglary, and unable to sell, disposed of the swag. For some years, until subdivision and development, that swag might have been just lying there on the ground where anyone could have picked it up. But if nobody came along and picked it up?

If my friends weren't lying to me for some reason I can't fathom, and were totally accurate about their description of where this meeting took place, then the subdivision and development and construction almost certainly paved over and buried what may have been the locus of an Indian curse meant to wipe out -- and for just cause -- an entire population. And where exactly would this... thing... be buried?

Under the back parking lot of the US Mail Handling Facility at the corner of Connecticut Avenue and Grand Pre Road... right behind K-Mart, right next to the Aspen Crossing Apartments, right across a rather narrow street from North Gate Park.

Remember, if a place can't be said to be cursed, perhaps it's not the place itself, but the history of the place, the things that have happened there. Do the spirits of the foully-murdered linger where they were slain? Could other spirits be lingering as well?

Perhaps you'd like to jump to the next chapter?