How the Homunculus War Begins: A Short Story

crime scene

Detective Bruce Kelley put out his cigarette, took a sip of his nasty-tasting, long-cold coffee, made a face of disgust, swallowed the sip of old coffee anyway, and took his time lighting a second cigarette, carefully watching the suspect every moment, as he did each of these things, without saying a word. After taking a long drag from his latest cigarette, he broke the silence. “Murdock. Mr. Peter Murdock. The crimes in which you are the prime suspect are serious, but I don’t think you’re taking this investigation seriously — at all — and I want to know why.”

“Detective, I haven’t committed any crimes. I have only been accused of killing two people, whose names I don’t even know, but as I have told you, repeatedly, I’ve never killed anyone, and never would. I’m not that kind of person.”

Kelley snorted. “Let’s talk about something else, then. Do you enjoy reading comic books, Mr. Murdock?”

“As a matter of fact, I do. Why do you ask?”

“I used to read them myself, when I was a kid. Spider-Man was my favorite, but I also liked Daredevil. And, I gotta tell you, of all the fake names I’ve ever been given by people with obviously fake IDs, ‘Peter Murdock’ has got to be the most pathetic fake name I’ve ever seen or heard . . . but maybe that’s just because we’ve both read a lot of Daredevil and Spider-Man comic books. So, here’s my next question: what’s your real name?”

“What? I don’t understand. Are you sure that isn’t my name? Hold on a second — I’ll consult my homunculus.”

“Your what?”

“You know — the little guy inside your head. The one who sees through your eyes. The dude behind the steering wheel, and at the control panel. You know, the one who decides what you do. Don’t you ever talk to yours? I wouldn’t know what to do with my life without the help of my homunculus.” He then gave the detective a huge, childlike smile.

Image source: http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=8844

A Man, and His Homunculus

The detective said nothing, and was still processing these words when the suspect spoke again, roughly a full minute later. “My apologies, detective. My homunculus was apparently playing tricks on us both, but I don’t know why. He now tells me my real name is Reed Stark.”

Detective Kelley put his unfinished cigarette out, right into the cup of swill which, two hours ago, had been half-way decent coffee. The cigarette hissed, as the lit end hit the liquid. “Reed . . . Stark. Of course he did. Are you quite sure about that name, though? Why not ask him if he meant to say ‘Tony Richards,’ instead? I thought we had already established that we’ve read the same &%$#ing comic books, you lunatic!”

“No, he says he’s sure it’s Reed Stark. Absolutely certain. If you can’t trust your own homunculus, detective, well, then, whom can you trust?”

“Well, ‘Mr. X,’ you’ve already been thoroughly searched, so there’s no point in asking for ID that says your name is Reed Stark. Look, Mr. Stark, Murdock, Richards, Stan Lee, or whatever your name is, I think we’re done here — at least for now.”

The detective picked up the handset-part of the old-style, land-line phone on the desk between them, in this small room which was so barren that the suspect had, until the detective picked up part of it, and talked into it, thought of this shiny black telephone as the room’s sole piece of ornamentation. Speaking into the phone, Kelley said, “Yeah, have the guard take Mr. ‘Murdock,’ here, back to his cell. We’re not getting anywhere with this, and there’s no point in my wasting any more of my time questioning him.”

“Um, detective, that’s not ‘Murdock.’ I told you, my name is Stark. Reed Stark. I don’t know why my homunculus –”

“Shut up. Just — just shut up.”

The suspect did not argue, and the guard arrived quickly, removed the restraints holding the suspect to his chair, but did not take off his handcuffs. As the guard left with the suspect, Kelley spoke once more. “Guard — don’t take him back to the same cell. Put this man in isolation.”

“Yes, sir.” They left. The door closed behind them. Detective Kelley picked up the phone again.

“This is about the murder suspect with the obviously-fake ID — the one who claimed his name was Peter Murdock, and had poor-quality fake ID to match. Change the name on his intake records to ‘John Doe.’ Run his fingerprints again, just in case the system missed a match last time. Also, get in touch with the psychiatric unit at the state hospital. Tell them we’ve got a dangerous head case coming their way, and to be ready to receive him — and warn them that he is the prime suspect in a double homicide — which he claims not to remember . . . . What was that? Yes, actually, I do believe him — the part about him not remembering killing those two men in that blind alley, anyway — that much I believe. This guy thinks there’s a little man in his head who tells him what to do — a ‘homunculus,’ he called it. I’m about to go google that word right now. No, I’ve never heard that term, but I know a psych case when I see one, and this guy’s definitely nuts.”

Once locked in his isolation-chamber, the suspect asked his homunculus what to do next, but heard no answer — so, instead of just asking silently, he asked again, aloud. To that, he heard a response, sort of: snoring. His homunculus was, apparently, asleep.

“I guess I’m supposed to sleep, too, then,” he said aloud, to no one in particular, and with that, he stretched out flat, right on the floor (ignoring the small, hard bed which was attached to the far wall), and instantly fell asleep.

Soon, the suspect was dreaming. He heard the voice of his homunculus, and it sounded oddly, subtly different than normal — and familiar, also. He finally recognized it, for he had heard it in multiple superhero movies: it was the voice of Stan Lee.

Trans-dimensional portal now open for transfer of both powers and equipment. Begin transfer immediately. Matt Murdock, code-named “Daredevil,” with two billy clubs — complete. Peter Parker, code-named “Spider-Man,” with web-shooters, and extra cartridges of web-fluid — complete. Reed Richards, code-named “Mr. Fantastic,” with unstable molecules for uniform-purposes — complete. Tony Stark, code-named “Iron Man,” with latest version of Extremis-augmented, body-integrated bio-armor — complete. Files containing knowledge regarding the use of new abilities, and equipment, now being transferred through trans-dimensional portal — complete. Begin extraction and installation of all files . . . wait . . . processing . . . processing . . . complete. Peter Reed Murdock Stark, it’s time to wake up now. You have important work to do.

The suspect woke up. He spent a few minutes using his newly-enhanced hearing to listen to conversations going on in every room in the building, until he was certain no one was nearby, except for those locked behind bars. He smelled for the distinctive smells of gun oil, ammunition, and gunpowder — and again, found none that were too close. His homunculus then told him, silently “This may seem a little strange, at least the first time,” and then flipped the newly-installed ‘armor’ switch, at which point the suspect saw his body and jail-inmate-uniform quickly covered with red-and-gold armor familiar to many fans of comic books, around the globe, although those same fans would have found the presence of billy clubs and web-shooters unusual, attached to Iron Man armor. “The unstable molecules will let the armor stretch with the rest of your body, so don’t bend the bars to escape — just stretch between them, instead, for that will make much less noise.”

As always, he did as he was told by his homunculus, without question, nor hesitation. His armored and elastic form slipped through the bars easily. Once out, though, his amplified hearing and enhanced sense of smell warned him that someone, probably a guard, was approaching. Spider-sense then confirmed imminent danger, so he jumped to the high ceiling — and stuck there. He held his breath as the guard strolled casually down the corridor. The guard was nearing the end of his shift, and was sleepy — but he would have noticed bent or broken bars to a cell. Due to his fatigue, however, he did not notice that the number of empty cells in this particular corridor was one more than it should have been — and he had no reason to look up.

Once this guard exited the far side of the corridor, the escaped prisoner crawled along the ceiling, and then noticed a ventilation shaft. It was covered by a metal grille, but the elastic powers of Reed Richards nullified that obstacle, as he simply oozed through the small holes in the grille, web-shooters and all — thanks to those unstable molecules from which the Fantastic Four’s uniforms are made. Within seconds, he was completely inside the ventilation shaft.

From inside his head, he heard the next instructions from his homunculus: “Head for the roof.” He did so, soon finding his way completely out of the ventilation system, and on the roof of a police station, in a small city in a world without superheroes. On this particular Earth, superheroes existed only as copyrighted characters in comic books, movies, television shows, and the like.

He spoke quietly: “Homunculus? What should I do now?”

“You need do nothing but accept our gratitude. Your mission is now complete.” The homunculus flipped the armor-switch back to the ‘off’ position, and the red-and-gold armor retreated from view. He then flipped another switch, and the escaped murder-suspect fell to the ground, able to see and hear, but unable to move. He heard four separate voices in his head say, “Thank you,” one after another. During his escape, the homunculus had reproduced by fission, splitting in half once, then each half splitting into two parts again — a new means of reproduction their species’ scientists had only just developed, and was only being used by experimental prototypes, such as these four particular homunculi.

A pair of small, green-skinned homunculi then crawled out of each of the murder-suspect’s ears, causing red blood to pool under his head, on the roof. “Ugh, human blood is so nasty,” one of them said. “Red is such a sickening color for blood!”

“Get used to it,” said another, “for I’m sure we will be seeing a lot more of it in the next few weeks.”

“Weeks? More like just a few days,” said a third of the green-skinned quartet. “In this universe our scientists recently discovered, no super-powered humans exist at all, except in what the humans call ‘fiction’ — stories about things which never actually happened, at least not here. The problems we have repeatedly encountered with these super-powered humans, every time we try to take over the Earth, will not exist here, with this Earth, at all. No one here will have the power to oppose us!”

The green homunculi were now marching, in a triumphant circle, around the paralyzed human. Although he could not move, their walking finally brought one of their faces into plain view, so he could see the strangely-shaped, green chin of his homunculus — and then he knew his planet was as doomed as he was, as he slowly bled out, unseen by any other human, on the rooftop of a police-headquarters building.

Secret_Invasion_Vol_1_5_Textless

A Skrull. Four tiny Skrulls, in fact. They didn’t even see the need to kill him before they activated tiny versions of Iron Man’s armor, and flew off, in four different directions . . . each to become someone else’s new homunculus, no doubt.

His last thought was relief, for he was blacking out, and knew he would not personally have to witness the destruction of his world’s civilization, and the enslavement of its people . . . but he saw no way either one could be avoided. Right now was, he thought, a much better time to die.

# # #

[Image credit — the “homunculus” image, above, was found at this website: http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=8844, and the picture of the head of a Skrull was found at http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/Skrulls.]

[Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. No similarity to any living nor dead person, nor institution, is intended, nor should it be inferred. This story is not being sold for a profit, but is a work of fan-fiction available on the Internet, for anyone to read, for free. No copyright infringement involving characters owned by Marvel Comics is taking place, since this work is not being sold for a profit. If a representative of Marvel Comics requests it, this blog-post will be deleted, but it is expected that having this story available on the Internet will only increase, not decrease, that company’s sales and profits.]

Can Defenders of the Police in Ferguson, Missouri Explain These Numbers?

fergusonThe source of this image is an official website of Missouri’s state government: http://ago.mo.gov/VehicleStops/2013/reports/161.pdf.

As shown above, when white residents of Ferguson, Missouri are stopped by the police, there is a higher contraband hit rate than is the case with Black residents. However, Blacks there have traffic-stop rates, search rates, and arrest rates far higher than those of whites.

Blacks in Ferguson are 63% of the population. In 2013, Blacks were stopped by the police there 4,632 times, compared to only 686 times for white drivers.

If anyone wants to convince me that the Ferguson Police Department is not a racist organization, operating, as a group, to continue America’s long history of oppression by skin color, they’ll need to explain these numbers first.

DWB (“Driving While Black”) should never be a cause for a traffic stop, but it still is, all over the USA. If you don’t believe me, conduct this simple test:  ask a Black person, old enough to drive, what a “DWB” is, and then ask if it really happens, in America, in 2014.

It would be going too far to state that all police officers are racist criminals. The fact is that many police officers do not fit that description at all. However, it is also true that many other police officers are criminals of this type, and they tarnish the reputation of all police officers, and police departments, by their actions. America should do something, now, about our “criminal police” problem. It isn’t limited just to Ferguson, nor only to Missouri.

[Credit:  Thank you, to the Tumblr-bloggers at http://sassygayklavierspieler.tumblr.com/ and http://fishingboatproceeds.tumblr.com/, for bringing this chart to my attention.]

Forgiveness: Not a Virtue, But a Dangerous Practice

Over the millennia, religion has done much harm, in myriad ways. Of the major world religions, the one that places the greatest emphasis on forgiveness is, to my knowledge, Christianity. This was an error in reasoning made many centuries ago, and it is impossible to calculate the amount of harm this doctrine has caused . . . but the number of people harmed by this terrible idea certainly numbers in the millions.

Consider one of the most oft-quoted passages from the New Testament concerning this topic, from Matthew 18:21-22 (NASB):  “Then Peter came and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.’” Seventy times seven is, of course, 490, but it is rare to find anyone who takes that number literally. It is much more common to encounter the explanation that large numbers were viewed differently in the ancient world, and “seventy times seven” was simply a way for Jesus to say, in a way Peter would understand, “an indefinitely large number.”

Now, consider what we know about the modern world. At least one-third of women are raped during their lifetimes. Serial killers often murder dozens of people before getting caught. Powerful people, in positions of public trust and great responsibility, betray that trust for their own selfish reasons. This list could be much longer, but I trust the point has been made:  you live in a world with many others in it who are not nice people . . . and many of them have no intention of changing.

Consider this:  a newly-married woman discovers her husband is betraying her in one of the worst possible ways, by sexually molesting children who live in nearby homes. She decides to leave him, and contacts her (devoutly religious) family, asking for help – only to be told that marriage is a sacred covenant, divorce is a sin, and the evil deeds of others are, according to the Bible, supposed to be forgiven. “Pray for him,” she is told — but the real support she is asking for is not given. She tries to forgive him. She stays in the marriage for many more years. The unsurprising result? Dozens more children are abused by the man over the following decades, with far-reaching, horrible consequences.

That last example was not hypothetical. The woman, and her family, are people I know.

There are people – many of them – who simply do not deserve to be forgiven for the crimes they commit. They are dangerous, and will remain so, until and unless they are stopped. Some stop only when they die — and those deaths, I do not mourn. Others are caught, tried, convicted, and imprisoned. However, those people are, too often, released while still dangerous, due to another nonsensical idea (that of having paid one’s “debt to society”), or simply because prisons are overcrowded with many people who only committed non-violent illegal acts. Both problems are easy to solve, however. First, we should stop locking up non-violent offenders – that’s the obvious part of the solution. The other part is more difficult, for it would require major legislative changes:  the abolition of specific, time-limited sentences for violent criminals.  Why lock up, say, a murderer or rapist for ten years, and then let them go, more dangerous than ever? It would make more sense to leave such people – anyone who is clearly dangerous to the rest of us – locked up for life, or at least until they have become so weakened by illness or advancing age that they are no longer capable of harming other people.

What about lesser offenses? What if, for example, you catch someone you know in a harmful, deliberate, and malicious lie? Should you forgive them? My answer is often a flat “no” – at least, not until the person has regained the trust they have damaged or destroyed, and sometimes that simply is not possible. (Who decides when trust is restored? The person who was lied to, of course.) Forgive a pathological liar, and what you are really doing is inviting them to lie to you again. A far better thing to do would be to warn others not to trust the liar, and explain exactly why that is the case.

Some who wish to cling to their religious beliefs, even when those very beliefs cause obvious problems, have devised a way to try to get around the problem that forgiving those who harm you, or your loved ones, invites further harm. You are likely to have heard it, or something like it:  “I forgive them, but I will not forget what they have done, for they may well do it again, and I must be on my guard.” Such a statement is an improvement over total, unconditional forgiveness, but it is not without problems. First, if one is constantly vigilant for a repeat offense, has forgiveness really taken place? Not by the Biblical standard of divine forgiveness of the evil deeds of people, it hasn’t, as Hebrews 8:12 (NIV) makes clear: “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Many other verses tie the acts of forgiving and forgetting together. Separating the two, as many people do now, is an improvement, to be certain . . . but it is in no sense an idea rooted in either the Bible, or in traditional Christian doctrine. It is, instead, a modern concession to reason and common sense.

What about really small things?  Accidents, honest mistakes . . . that sort of thing?  Is there a problem with forgiveness in those sorts of situations?  No, there isn’t . . . but there also would have been no problem with not getting angry at a person for such a “crime” in the first place. As a good rule of thumb, if it made perfect, rational sense to get angry at someone because they did something truly terrible, then it does not make sense to forgive them for it ten minutes later, nor the next day . . . perhaps not even until they die, because at that point, the chances of them repeating the offense drops to zero. In other words, it isn’t yet time to forgive a person who still poses a danger. This is simple logic.

Monsters in human form, like everything and everyone else, are part of the physical universe. If one or more of them does something terrible to you, or to someone you care for, it makes sense to take steps to prevent their repeating such an act. It does not make sense to forgive them for it. To do so is the equivalent of telling the universe that you want you or your loved ones to have to endure further suffering. That is not a logical way to live one’s life. “Forgiveness is a virtue” is a pernicious idea – one we should, as a species, leave in the past, if we want to make progress in the future.

The Story of the Void, Chapter One

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The Story of the Void, Chapter One

He couldn’t blame his parents for naming him Richard Wayne Dahmer. He was born years before Richard Ramirez, John Wayne Gacy, or Jeffrey Dahmer had killed their first victim, after all. However, he was not so old that he escaped being tormented in school because he shared names with serial killers.

He hated school, and had dropped out.

Richard had then, predictably, found a low-paying job. He was a janitor. Dealing with other people’s trash, and cleaning things, wasn’t a big deal to him. He found the job easy. He stayed there a few years, and finally moved out of his parents’ house, and into the lowest-rent studio apartment he could find.

Then, one day, everything changed for him. It was payday, and, when his shift was over, not having a bank account, he walked to a nearby grocery store which cashed checks for a small fee. Leaving for home, he was followed. It was getting dark. No one was around when a bigger man stepped around the corner of a building, pulled a gun on him, and demanded his money.

There was no fear in Richard. There was only rage. Richard lunged at the man, and struck him with both hands, on the side of the man’s head. This did, of course, give the would-be robber a chance to fire the gun, and the bullet did hit Richard, but it didn’t kill him. He was moving so fast, in a weaving path, that the robber nearly missed, and the bullet merely grazed Richard’s neck. He was bleeding, but not heavily.

The other man didn’t fare so well. After Richard hit his head, as hard as he could, it slammed into side of the nearby building. Knocked unconscious, he dropped the gun as he fell to the sidewalk, and stopped moving, except to breathe. His eyes were closed.

With his attacker unconscious, Richard was completely out of danger, but his rage didn’t fade. Three hundred dollars was all he had, and this guy had tried to take it by force? Without pausing to think, Richard already had his hands around the guy’s throat. He tightened his grip. Just as the choking man made his final noises, a third person came around the corner of the building. Amy Fletcher was blonde, five foot five inches tall, and dressed like she was on the hunt for sex. She wasn’t expecting to see a man getting strangled, and she screamed when she found herself facing exactly that.

“No witnesses,” said Richard, primarily to himself, and he grabbed the nearby, dropped gun. Amy ran, back the way she had come. Richard followed her until he could see her retreating form clearly, and then he stopped, aimed the gun as best he could, and fired.

This was Richard’s first time to ever fire anything bigger than a BB gun, and he missed. He fired three more times, and missed each of those times, as well. The fifth shot, however, severed Amy’s femoral artery, and she bled out within two minutes. Richard saw her drop, assumed she was dead, and simply ran. Another woman who lived nearby heard the shots, and called 911. The police arrived quickly, and found the two bodies, but Richard was gone.

When police detectives had blood from the crime scene analyzed, though, they learned that three blood types were present, The O-negative blood was that of the strangled man, and the B-positive blood was found to be Amy’s. There was no body to match up with the A-positive blood from Richard’s neck, and spots of it were later found, in a winding trail, leading generally South for nearly six blocks. At that point, Richard’s wounds had clotted, and no more blood had fallen for the police to find.

His rage still consumed him, however. The next person he encountered, he decided, would be the third one to die that night.

After that, there was a fourth. Before sunrise, a fifth was added. When the sun came up, Richard stumbled upon a manhole, removed the cover, and lowered himself into the sewer-drain below, then replaced the cover. There was very little water in the tunnel underneath, but it had a foul smell. He found a dry spot, laid down, and went quickly to sleep.

After sleeping for about twenty minutes, Richard had a seizure. He had several more before waking up, many hours later. When he found another exit, it was dark again. He was calm.

He was calm, that is, until he encountered another human being. At that point, the rage returned, and he started killing again. He killed many, one after another, that second night. The day after, he slept under a bridge. This time, the police caught him. Once awake, he resisted. The police, acting in self-defense, shot him.

Everything went black for Richard. He did not know about the ambulance arriving on the scene minutes later, or the successful efforts of a surgeon, working for hours at a nearby hospital, to save his life.

Few others knew about this success, either. The doctor was found dead shortly thereafter, the victim of an apparent heart attack — and the official spokesman for the hospital announced that Richard Wayne Dahmer, suspected killer of twenty-two people, had died in surgery. No one outside his family mourned his fabricated death. Not even his family questioned it, for a cadaver from the hospital’s morgue was altered to resemble Richard. The ruse worked, and Richard’s shocked parents were fooled.

Richard was alone, and awake, in a completely dark room, weeks later, his rage finally fading. As far as anyone but his captors knew, he was as dead as his victims.

* * *

This story continues here:  https://robertlovespi.wordpress.com/2014/01/19/the-story-of-the-void-chapter-two/