By William Markiewicz
(continued from last issue)
This "archival" story was inspired by a few of my dreams which I linked together.
The construction site is busy but the purpose of the various activities is not really clear. We cut wood for complex structures (drawings with measurements enclosed). We also load tons of stones and sand on trucks headed for destinations unknown to us (a few samples of transported materials are enclosed). In sum, neither I nor my companions can make the slightest sense of what we are doing, which certainly annoys us!
The workers and population give an impression of a disciplined and well organized society surprising in a mass with such varied languages and nationalities. The discipline is perhaps facilitated by the fact that practically the whole adult population bel ngs to societies, groups, circles which take up almost all the non-working hours. Sects and philosophies of every kind flourish. I have also noticed the disappearance of some of my workmates. One striking detail: before their disappearance I noted somet ing strange in them but am unable to define what gave me this impression.
Besides this, two of our agents whose zealous sense of duty impelled them to participate in everything possible. seem also to have changed. All I can say is that they no longer inspire my trust.
We are in a giant mining centre, extracting copper deposits and quarrying stone. We also receive shipments of other minerals and metals. We carry out a variety of mineral amalgamations (enclosed detailed description of those amalgamations). Our specialis s wonder if there is any method to what we are doing. From the amalgamations we build complex forms but have no idea of their possible use. These devices, once completed, leave our centre for unknown destinations.
We are fairly treated. Recreation and the abundance of liquors surpass anything to be found in the Soviet Union. Great freedom is accorded to all kinds of cults. The atmosphere on Sunday is reminiscent of Hyde Park in London. In spite of such liberty, th re is a feeling of oppressive discipline emanating more from some individuals than from laws or rules. We sense something strange in one part of the population, as if united in a silent conspiracy. Still, I can't offer any proof -- only this working colo y gives me the unpleasant impression of a cam[p for adult boyscouts. I can only indicate impressions but I obey the orders given me to report absolutely all I notice.<.P>
Confidential order to all agents who are authors of similar reports: Focus your attention essentially on the "human strangeness" aspect. From now on this will be the principal object of your observation. Report all additional information immediately, in luding impressions.
When Swedish Secret Service Agent "G", in one Indian labour camp, received the assignment to observe people, he immediately concluded that the most interesting to observe would be those who isolated themselves, but their very isolation seemed to present nsuperable difficulties. If anyone seemed suspicious -- but in what? -- when observed at close range the same person became ordinary and uninteresting. Why then did they inspire such uneasiness? Expecting anything, the Agent became alert as a fox; he red ced his nourishment to those elements which were least likely to be drugged, avoided alcohol and anything that might weaken his acute powers of observation. He understood that over this great human mass of which he was one part, floated an undefinable d nger and that on his shoulders as well as on the shoulders of his colleagues lay a burden of responsibility beyond his understanding. The agent became more lean and dark, his eyes had the feverish glance of someone under const! ant tension. Luckily for him, among the multitudes of physical types, his physiognomy wasn't remarkable. After a certain time, tired and resigned, he realised that he must relax the reins. When he had almost lost all hope, a fortunate coincidence put him on the trail.
After work one afternoon he took a walk on the edge of the settlement. There, where the noises of the nearby jungle mixed with the sounds of the settlement, he noticed a group of workers cutting trees. One of them looked at his watch signaling his comrad s that the work day was over. They slung their axes across their shoulders and started toward the settlement -- except for one who, at a distance and with his back turned to the rest of his group, didn't notice the signal. The agent, with the ingrained h bits of observation, stopped automatically and watched. The man cutting wood seemed almost to take his rhythm from the sing-song emitted by a far away transmitter. Suddenly a large dry branch fell heavily on the woodsman. The blow must have been violent nd the branch jagged because his arm started to bleed heavily. The agent's first impulse was to run to help the wounded man, but he froze, realizing that something odd was happening; the woodsman continued cutting wood and sin! ging as the blood poured from the wounds. The tree fell to the ground -- yet the woodsman continued to strike the empty air! The distant sing song ceased and only the woodsman's voice, singing in rhythm while chopping air, could be heard. No man could have emained on his feet during such a hemorrhage.
Suddenly the woodsman stopped his movements. He glanced at his wound, seeming to have just perceived it, looked at the puddle of blood at his feet as though it didn't concern him, then, as if drawn by an invisible string, moved toward the agent. The agen ducked quickly behind the bushes but though the woodsman couldn't see him, he continued, as though drawn by a magnet, in the same direction. The agent moved; the woodsman moved faster.
It was useless to try to hide; this bloodless automaton was clearly after him. The agent waited and when they met face to face he was nauseated by the glare from the glassy and expressionless eyes.
Suddenly he felt a powerful electrical discharge and a bluish flame burst from the woodsman's head. The agent felt a burning, his breath stopped, and he lost all notion of time. Regaining consciousness one instant later, he realised he had leapt backward several feet. The woodsman was still advancing and before a new charge came the agent drew and fired his gun. The woodsman continued, insensitive to bullets, and screaming with all his might, clearly calling for reinforcements.
Panic endowed the agent with superhuman strength. He realised that he must silence the monster at any price. The new flame discharge didn't stop him. Grabbing the monster's axe, he swung at its neck. The head, wreathed in flames, fell to the ground -- an continued to scream!
The agent, acting mechanically, moved only through an instinct of self preservation. Lifting a huge stone, he dropped it with all his strength on the head, totally covering it. Only blue flames danced around the stone in the fading light of sunset.
He got as far away as possible without losing sight of the strange image, fascinating because impossible. Hours were passing. He observed, waiting for other developments but the flame diminished and slowly disappeared as if lacking fuel. Finally it was n bigger than the light from a cigarette.
A stray dog approached the decapitated body and sniffed. The agent chased it off and this intrusion of a new element brought him back to reality. He pulled the body by the legs toward the deeper jungle, knowing that in a few hours the animals would have ade short work of it.
He returned cautiously to the head. The flame had disappeared completely. Feeling no more fear of attack, he disposed of it in the bushes also and looked quickly around; nobody could have seen anything. The distant colony murmured soft human noises, just as usual when work finished at dusk. With staggered steps, he returned home.
The spy satellite was at its most effective at this hour. The agent reported all he had to say, then threw himself heavily on his bed and slept like a stone.
He had a strange dream: there was a villa in a luxurious garden. Strollers emerged from the villa full of banter and light conversation. Yet a vague indefinite 'absence' of something emanated from them. Their animated conversation was more like a recorde group monologue than an exchange. For some reason they seemed to be animated automatons rather than living beings.
A man in white, perhaps a doctor, approached him and commented: "You see, those people have no souls."
The dream left the agent thoughtful. His malaise persisted and his stay in the workcamp became an infernal nightmare. There was an oppressive sense of something beyond his power of comprehension and he couldn't bear to stay any longer.
The next day, by way of satellite, the coded order arrived. "Immediately take the first plane toward Europe. Your mission is ended."
(Continued in the next issue)