The Story of the Void, Chapter Three


The Story of the Void, Chapter Three

Previous chapters:

Ch. 2 —

Ch. 1 —

* * *

By the time Richard realized he was losing the details of his existence, he’d already forgotten his middle name. It wasn’t long before his last name was gone as well. Scared, it took Richard a long time, one night, after an unknown number of “nights” or “days” in solar orbit, where there is no true night nor day, for him to fall asleep.

When he slept, he rarely remembered his dreams. This one, he remembered.

He was plummeting to his doom, from a great height. As he got closer to the ground, he wished he were not there. And then he wasn’t. He fell right into the ground, and then kept going. What in hell is going on, he thought? He thought of his last science class, for the first time years.

He was trying to figure out what was going on when the direction of his fall reversed itself. It was an odd sensation. He felt as though he’d turned inside-out. However, he wasn’t too disoriented to think, and he realized he must be inside the earth. He didn’t know what would happen if he returned to his normal state while inside liquid or solid rock, but he didn’t want to find out, either. He waited, therefore, until he came flying out of the ocean on the other side of the earth.

He woke up. Earth was recognizable in front of him. Soon, it was larger in his field of view. He reasoned that he must be moving very fast. How fast, he thought? He didn’t know.

Richard didn’t want to come out the other side, above — what, the Indian Ocean? — some ocean, apparently, he thought, as he tried his best to picture all sides of a globe in his mind.

In the dream, he remembered having the idea that his density were under his conscious control. He had lowered it to essentially nothing, and had passed right into the ground. No longer dreaming, he raised a hand and looked at at.

Rather, he tried. It wasn’t there.

Panicked, he ran. On what? There didn’t seem to be a floor below him. A door did appear after a time, though, and he opened it, reasoning that what lay on the other side must be better than what there was here, where he apparently didn’t exist.

He opened the door, and saw two corridors before him. On the left, a bright light shone, but was very far away– he couldn’t tell how far. On the right, the passageway became darker as it receded from him, until an absolute darkness appeared, in which no detail could be seen.

He stepped just inside the passageway on the left, choosing light, at least for now, over darkness. He closed the door behind him, after passing through it, whereupon it promptly vanished. The earth grabbed his attention, which wasn’t difficult, considering that it appeared larger than before.

The corridors could no longer be seen, but they could be felt. He could control his density. The singularity had . . . had . . . told him this. So they knew. Wait — they? Who are we, he thought, and where did the singularity go?

It was then that he realized no one had told him about a singularity. He didn’t even know the word. The idea had been communicated to him, but not by anyone he could see. By the singularity itself, conscious, apparently, only from the time he, and his small space pod, had fallen into it.

The space pod had been destroyed — ripped apart. Richard remembered that. He did not remember losing his hand, nor the rest of his body. But, wait, there it was now — but faded. He could see stars through it.

With a thought, he increased his density. The stars vanished. He stayed that way for a time. He slept, and woke again. Earth was larger still. He could see South America, and remembered studying it in school.

He was obviously moving quickly, and chose to reduce his density to a very low amount (making the stars appear though him again) before encountering the atmosphere. It would be good, he reasoned, to slow down, and not repeat his dream with his actual life.

When the atmosphere came, he knew right away, for the thin bits of matter he was permitting into his body’s normal, human-shaped volume lit up, flaming from the friction. He became aware of the heat, but it did not hurt him. Arriving at sunrise, some from the unlit side of the earth thought they saw a meteor. On the sunlight side of earth, no one noticed, for the light of his re-entry was indistinguishable from the sunlit clouds watched in that morning’s sunrise.

For a time, Richard saw little but flame, but it began to fade once friction had slowed him down enough that the heat radiation produced was no longer visible. He could still perceive it, as a color he had never seen before (and would be helpless to explain), but he could use the parts of the spectrum normal humans can see to look “above” it.

He puzzled over his seeming to intuitively understand physics, which he had never studied, while he used this knowledge to slow himself down, and land, slowly, at normal density for a human. He was glowing red-hot, still, from the heat of re-entry, but did not feel uncomfortable. A lone tree nearby caught fire, and burned up quickly, but there were no other trees to which the fire could quickly spread. There was dried grass and leaves burning, though, and that could spread — just more slowly. Richard felt compelled by conscience (a completely new feeling for him, and he didn’t know why he had one now, but not before) to put the fire out. As soon as he had cooled off enough to do so, he put the fire out by stomping it out with his boots.

Boots? When had he put boots on, he wondered? How did they survive re-entry, as had, mysteriously, the clothes he had on, including a favorite t-shirt from when he had been a teenager, lost, in a move, years ago? He tried, but could not figure out how this was possible.

He wondered one thing, above everything else: where was he?

The question “What was he?” was a better question, but that didn’t occur to him for about twenty minutes after he stomped the last of the fire out.

Once he was sure it was extinguished, he started walking forward through a grassy area, along a gentle upward slope, following his shadow to keep himself going the same direction, and practicing his density-control as he walked, which caused his shadow to fade, disappear, and then gradually reappear, over and over. He found that he preferred walking at about half his normal density, simply because he didn’t weigh as much in that condition. He walked for many hours; later that day, he was walking away from his shadow, because the sun had passed overhead, and was now behind him in the sky. Later, the sun set. Richard then stopped walking, until a dozen or so stars were visible. Richard set his gaze on the brightest star he could see, near the horizon, that was in the general direction he was going, for he didn’t want to double back by mistake and come back to the burned remains of the tree near his landing-spot. He walked all night.

[to be continued]

The Story of the Void, Chapter Two


The Story of the Void, Chapter Two

For chapter one:

* * *

Richard had no way to know how long he’d been flat on his back, in a bed, in a dark, locked, otherwise-empty room. He was angered when the lights came on. They were bright. The door opened. A man in an expensive suit walked in.

Richard’s brain went into “attack mode,” and told his body to kill this intruder. Having recently undergone major abdominal surgery, though, his body wasn’t up to the task. He collapsed in a heap at the man’s feet.

“That wasn’t very smart, Richard. However, we don’t need you for your mind. You’ll work fine.” The man turned to speak more loudly, in the direction of the open door. “This one will work! Have him ready to launch in a week!”

“Launch? What launch?” Richard hadn’t been conscious since being shot by police after a killing spree. He was furious, but powerless to do anything about it. “Who are you? Don’t I get a lawyer or something?”

“You killed twenty-two people. You were captured and shot by the police. A doctor worked for hours to save you. As far as anyone knows, though, he failed. The world thinks you’re dead, and absolutely no one misses you, or will look for you. Don’t expect a lawyer. Yes, you’ll be perfect.” The man left before Richard could gather the strength to attempt attack again. The lights stayed on — for the rest of the time Richard was in the room.

Richard received drugs through an IV tube. He got angry at one point, and ripped the IV out of his arm, spraying blood all over the place. Gas then entered the room through a panel in the ceiling, and, when he could finally hold his breath no more, he inhaled a small amount, and it knocked him out.

When he next regained consciousness, he was held motionless by restraints. A new IV was in his other arm, and a feeding tube had been placed down his throat. He was surprised he didn’t gag, for he had no way to know that one of the drugs entering his body through the IV tube suppressed his gag reflex. His fury filled his thoughts, after only a little while, but it made no difference. He could do nothing except heal. A week later, he was judged healthy enough to survive a launch into space — maybe — by a team of doctors whom he never saw. Most of them had medical and/or ethical reservations, of course, and expressed them. These objections were ignored.

One doctor never voiced objections. He was the one who was monitoring this unusual patient when he had a strong sedative administered, and then taken to a small space probe, atop a tall rocket. By that point, the other doctors had all been reassigned, and some were already dead, seemingly from natural causes. The rest followed soon thereafter, by “disease” or “accident.”

Richard was still heavily sedated when the rocket was launched. Accelerating him into space nearly killed him, but that didn’t bother the computer which piloted the space probe. It didn’t need Richard’s assistance, and simply monitored his vital signs, relaying them back to Houston Space Central. He had no viewport, and so did not know that he had been placed into orbit around the sun, in earth’s orbit, but in the opposite direction.

Months earlier, a powerful, automated telescope, in solar orbit, had detected something no one in NASA had been able to explain. It was located in earth’s orbit, also, on the far side of the sun, where the earth would be or was, six months into the future or past. It revolved around the sun at the same speed as the earth, and in the same direction. It might have just appeared there, or it might have been there for billions of years. There was no way to tell, for the simple reason that no one had looked at that region of space before.

After it was discovered that the object’s x-ray signature resembled that of a black hole, the decision was quickly made to keep the anomaly a secret, lest a panic begin. In other wavelengths, though, it appeared as a planet-sized object of the expected temperature, or didn’t appear at all. The distribution of readings along the electromagnetic spectrum baffled all who were allowed access to this discovery. It wasn’t perturbing any orbits with the gravitational pull it would have if it had, say, the mass of the earth, or even of earth’s moon. As far as NASA’s scientists could tell, it had no gravitational effect on anything.

A robotic probe was sent to the far side of the sun, equipped with observational and communications equipment. It sent signals, right up to the point when it had encountered the anomaly. At that moment, it fell permanently silent.

The loss of a $950,000,000 space probe would be hard to hide from Congress, so the second probe, the one containing Richard Wayne Dahmer, was stripped down, and less expensive. It did not have the sophisticated sensing equipment on the first probe. It was sent simply to learn what effect, if any, close proximity, and then an actual encounter with, the enigma in earth’s orbit would have on a human being, and then send that medical data back to earth. No well-known, expensively-trained astronaut was needed; what was, rather, was someone deemed completely expendable. Richard, therefore, fit the criteria for this mission perfectly. No one connected to the mission saw any reason to inform Richard, himself, of any of this, and so he had no idea what awaited him. But, then again, neither did those people who merely thought they were controlling his mission.

He got furious, repeatedly, but that didn’t matter. After three months, his windowless probe encountered the anomaly. Once again, mission monitors for NASA saw all communications from a probe go dark, all at the same time. The conclusion was that the anomaly was incompatible with human life, and that the involuntary passenger on the probe had died.

Richard wasn’t dead, however. He, and his probe, fell into the mysterious singularity. Like a black hole, it had an event horizon. The probe passed through it, entering a void out of which it could send no signals back to earth, and inside which it detected, just as it vanished, the first, purely-robotic probe NASA had sent. The message about this discovery could not escape the event horizon, however, and so there it stayed.

The singularity woke up. It was conscious now. It had reversed direction, acquiring the momentum of Richard’s probe, in its entirety, as if the singularity itself had no mass. It was headed toward earth, along that planet’s orbit. It also vanished from the view of the sun-orbiting telescope which had first detected it. No one on earth knew it was coming.

Richard Wayne — no, just Richard, that was enough, he needed no other name now — was awake, and undrugged, now. There was no evidence of the probe that had held him for the last three months. He saw only the void. He didn’t see the singularity. He was the singularity, and the singularity was him.

The brain tumor that had been exerting ever-increasing pressure on that part of the brain responsible for moral reasoning — for ethical behavior — was now gone, along with Richard’s physical brain, itself. Only his consciousness remained, unimpaired by the undiscovered tumor which had turned him into a raging psychopath.

He wasn’t angry any longer, and, although he didn’t know it, he was now heading towards home.

* * *

The Story of the Void continues here:

The Story of the Void, Chapter One


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: