A mouse is subjected to a series of tests, each one more stranger than the ones proceeding it. Meanwhile, a disgruntled scientist must come to terms with the idea that perhaps what he's doing, playing god, won't work out for him as intended. And there's something strange afoot going on with the AI used to administer the tests.
A sequel to The Debra Experiments, this story takes place very shortly afterwards. Enjoy and provide feedback if desired.
Initializing test number #1
Description: Grey mouse with dark black spots on right shoulder and left hip.
Age: 2 months, 3 weeks
Name: Jonathan Brisby
Test description: Test for motor skills, reading skills, and attentiveness.
Date: June 3rd, 1979.
“Greetings my dear child,” a gentle and comforting voice said.
The subject opened his eyes and looked around. His vision was hazy and blurred. Numbers were fuzzing around in his head. He was weak, but able to understand the voice’s words. He stepped forward, but fell down on his stomach. He was chained up. He was in an enclosed grey structure lightened up by what seemed to be heavenly light.
He brought himself up and tried to speak, but no words were coming out.
“Don’t fret my child, for you are my son and my creation. I will not lead you astray. You must listen to my voice, for it will guide you through your long and hopefully fruitful journey. You must have no shortage of questions, but I can only say that the answers you seek may either frighten or enlighten you…”
“For now I will introduce myself. My name is Tarnelous, the creator. In front of you is a machine of sorts. Answer the questions on the screen so that your journey may begin…”
In front of the subject spawned a computer out of the ground. The sound of it rising made the subject gasp for a bit. It booted up, and the monitor flashed text on the screen.
“Greetings,” a feminine voice that came out of the speakers of the monitor said. “My name is Anna, the AI system here to assist you today.”
Jonathan started forward to the computer, his eyes stung for a second while he came closer to the bright screen.
“First, I will need you to answer a few questions. To start out with, what is your name?”
Four options appeared on screen:
The subject picked the fourth option on the list.
“Very good, excellent,” Anna said. “Now what is your species?”
Again four options appeared on screen:
The subject picked the third option.
“I see. Correct. They say the smallest and most timid amongst us will end up prospering the most.”
Now a word is going to appear on screen and I want you to pick the closest word or phrase that comes to your mind when you think of that word.
Jonathan picked the fourth option.
Jonathan hesitated on this question before picking the third option.
Jonathan again hesitated on this question before picking the second option, father.
Jonathan picked the second option, life.
Jonathan picked the second option, freedom.
“That’s enough for now,” Anna said. “How old do you think you are, Jonathan? Again, answer by picking what you think is the correct choice on screen.”
4 years, three months, and 15 days
2 months, 3 weeks
Jonathan picked the third option.
“I see,” Anna said. “They say that the man who doesn’t understand himself will not understand the world around him. Now I will ask why you selected ‘no reply’ to the last question. Pick from the choices below…”
I don’t know the answer.
I did know the answer, but I’m not telling you.
Fuck you and your goddamn bullshit. What the fuck is this and where the fuck am I?
Jonathan smiled before picking the third option.
“I like it,” Anna said. “Unfortunately, that’s the incorrect answer.”
Jonathan started feeling a shocking sensation in his skull before falling on the ground. He composed himself and before he could get up, the once gentle and calming voice now forced him back down in surprise.
“Know one thing my child, it’s that those who seek the fast and easy will find themselves in a world of pain. The answers you seek require you to be patient, fruitful, and persevered. Take life slow, nice and easy, and you shall be rewarded.”
“For now, rest my child. May your dreams….fly.”
Part 1 - Therapy and Head Trauma
Hermann Schultz was tired, very tired.
He laid in the driver’s seat in his Corvette, keys in the ignition, staring into space while trying to stay awake. He was at his therapist’s office in the parking lot, he got there early and chose not to go in right away due to his tenuous and often comical relationship with the receptionist. He instead chose to take a nap. Now that he was an hour late, he contemplated either going in and dealing with the receptionist, who would no doubt screech at him for his tardiness, or starting the car and going home, perhaps making a grilled cheese sandwich when he got there.
The latter option sounded really tempting, but he would still have to pay for his therapy session without attending and he was already low on money as is. The receptionist would also continue to be a problem even if he were to come back another time. Finally, he admitted that he desperately needed it.
Another car pulled in the parking lot, his guess would be that this was the client that had an appointment right after his. Knowing that, he quickly took the keys out of the ignition, locked the car, and headed inside.
He took the elevator up to the 5th floor, the smell of old magazines filled the air as he opened the door to his therapist’s office and staring him right in the face on the other side of the counter was the receptionist.
“I know I’m late! I want to see Dr. Fisher!” Schultz said with authority.
“Your appointment was an hour ago, Mr. Schultz.”
“I know that, but I need this now!”
“You’ve needed this since you were born, I think,” the receptionist said with a rictus grin.
The receptionist was old, in her late 70s, her name was Liza Renard and she had been working at this office since the 1950s. How she kept her job was a mystery to even herself as she constantly teased patients, especially tardy ones. She saw something, perhaps determination, in Mr. Schultz and decided to throw him a bone, so to speak. Before he could comment on her witty remark she said, “Have a seat, I’ll let him know you’re here.”
“Ahhhhh, Hermann! Good to see you! Please have a seat.”
“Thank you, and it’s Mr. Schultz,” he said as he sat on the sofa.
“Right, Mr. Schultz,” Dr. Fisher said with a smile.
Dr. Fisher’s office smelled like old books as various books were scattered on the bookshelves. It was the only part of the office recently painted, and the fumes also filled Dr. Schultz’s nose. The only saving grace was that the window was open and a flower pot was on the windowsill.
“Sorry about the smell,” Dr. Fisher said still smiling.
“It’s fine….wait…..how did you….” Schultz said in confusion, but was cut off.
“My job is to read minds, Mr. Schultz, I could tell that you were upset about my room arrangements, and it wasn’t hard to deduce that it was the smell.”
“Before we continue on, I would like to start with the positive things going on with your life. Afterwards, we can move on to why you’re actually here. I would like you to think hard, tell me what joys have graced you recently.”
“….Well, um, I guess this is quite strange, but despite the stresses of my job, I’ve enjoyed my time with one of our subjects….”
There was a pause, Dr. Fisher nodded with a smile knowing that Schultz was gathering his thoughts to try and explain exactly what he meant.
“Well, you see, I work at the National Institute of Mental Health, otherwise known as NIMH, but I guess you know that. Anyway, we work with subjects, usually mice and rats, and experiment on them in controlled environments. We usually get our specimen from the wild to study their behaviors and how they communicate. We then give them these special injections that give them the capacity to communicate with us.
“There was this one subject we had, whose name was William Brisby. He suffered from some sort of rare mental illness that we have yet to decipher. And the strange thing about William is that he’s not entirely alive or dead.”
“What do you mean?” Dr. Fisher asked with a smile that spoke of unbridled interest.
“This information is all classified, so there’s none of this getting out…”
“Yes, Mr. Schultz. Confidentiality is only exempted when I feel there’s an emergency to yourself or others,” Dr. Fisher said in a serious tone.
“Alright, well we took Mr. Brisby into Vietnam just after the war.”
“Wait, why did you take a mouse to Vietnam?”
“That’s the interesting part, we brought him to check on one of our associates, Debra Barnaby. Debra, along with a group of soldiers, were integrating into a village independent of the Viet Cong as it was thought to be cursed; so much so that the Viet Cong wouldn’t dare disturb it. And the United States wanted to know what was going on.”
“Now, I don’t know all of the details, but it was rumored that the soldiers were given a kind of special injection. A lot of these operations were kept secret from me, only those with high enough clearance could get a hold of the details. My late associate, Darius VelJohnson, probably knew what was going on…..Anyway, the soldiers were experiencing weird hallucinations, and some of them even were able to levitate objects according the reports Debra sent in while watching them. When it came time to extract them, the President took no chances and sent out an executive order to have them eliminated and reported as KIA. A spec ops team were sent there to do so….and were never seen again.”
“Interesting.” Dr. Fisher said.
Dr. Schultz groaned, “You don’t believe me, do you?”
“I never said that. I can tell that you’re a complex person, Mr. Schultz. Being complex is great when it’s controlled. For now, I want you to take it slow and easy…”
Dr. Schultz opened his mouth as if to speak, but words failed to come out…
“Did I say something?” Dr. Fisher asked.
“No, it’s just….I better get going. I’ll tell you the rest of this story later. Remember, none of this gets out, or it will be both of our heads.”
“Not a word spoken here today will get beyond these walls. I can assure you.”
Dr. Schultz was heading for the door, but before he could leave, Dr. Fisher spoke.
“Remember to make another appointment for next week, Mr. Schultz. Oh, and since you took up another patient’s time and forced me to work overtime, your bill will be doubled.”
Dr. Schultz frowned and said, “Fair enough.”
Well now I’ve done it!
Hermann was entering his midlife. At age 45, he never dated, mated, or even kissed another human. Never in his first 43 years of living had he received therapy, either. It was after all of the stress of these seemingly implausible events that he felt he needed it. The first couple of sessions were just about his humdrum life, but now after spilling the beans about his job, he knew things were going to get serious.
This therapy session was his first in 4 months. He knew that starting this job…fooling a mouse into thinking he’s talking to a god…would finally put him on the spot and on edge. It was an opportunity to get a promotion, to see the higher ups of NIMH. It was also something of a curse. Hermann didn’t like to torment other creatures. He loved animals growing up and couldn’t deal with the abuse they often went through.
But this isn’t an animal, it’s a human…it has a human brain…and an animal brain. That’s worse isn’t it? It’s on the top of the damn food chain now. It has the qualities of both man and beast. It has the senses and adaptability of an animal, with the capacity for knowledge. That such a thing can exist is both exciting and terrifying…utterly terrifying.
He was also working with an AI named Anna, a weird specimen and one of Dr. Rosiv’s creations. It was in fact Dr. Rosiv that Schultz wants to work with the most. Schultz was a fan of Rosiv during his undergrad years in college. He would obsessively read Rosiv’s books and texts regarding the human mind and how it can be better tapped into. When Schultz finally got the opportunity to work at NIMH, he took it. He wanted to get close to the one he looked up to the most.
And yet he never was able to meet him in the first couple of years working at NIMH, but now was his chance to finally do so. This promotion was his ticket to being the one that would work closely with Rosiv on his next project.
I should stop thinking so hard. Let me turn on the radio.
Hermann loved soft rock, so he tuned in to 108.2 FM, the best of the soft rock radio stations.
What came out of radio speakers was Claire De Lune played on both violin and piano.
Confused, he turned on the next best station, 93.4 FM.
Claire De Lune came out of the speakers yet again…
Claire De Lune.
Claire De Lune.
What the hell…?
He turned the radio off and turned onto his apartment street, pulling into the lot.
As he got out of the car, he could hear scuffling going on in the distance.
“Hello?” He yelled.
He then ran to his apartment door and fiddled with the keys. No one seemed to be around, yet the noises got faster and faster.
He unlocked the door, ran inside, and barricaded it with his sofa.
The noise stopped at the door. He could hear strange whispering going on…
Again, nothing but strange whispering that could not be understood.
He looked through the keyhole and saw what looked like people in army uniforms coated in blood.
The door started to crack.
Terrified, Schultz made it to his bedroom and opened his dresser drawer. He looked for his 44 Magnum pistol, but it was nowhere to be found.
The door was broken and fragments of it were scattered across the sofa.
Schultz furiously looked in his wardrobe for any kind of weapon he could use. He could hear the footsteps becoming louder. He grabbed a coat hanger, but then he could feel the breathing going on behind his back. Before he could turn around he was butted in the head with what felt like a rifle.
He then became unconscious.
“It sounds like Partuna’s men to me,” the investigator said.
Hermann Schultz told his bizarre story to the man who sat in a wooden chair by his bedside at Brookville Hospital. The owner of the apartment found Hermann unconscious on his bedroom floor with debris scattered about. He woke about two hours after arriving to the hospital with a big bruise on the top of his head. His eyes bloodshot and droopy, he was still very tired…and scared.
It was an hour after he woke that the investigator came in at the request of the apartment owner. He was short, about 4 feet 6 inches, and sported a peculiar beard that resembled a boat anchor. After hearing Schultz’s story the conclusion he made frightened Hermann. He had heard the name Partuna before, he and his men are anarchists who have taken over TV stations and radio transmissions warning the world of a dangerous government uprising. He (or they) have been blamed for the sudden death of a United States Senator. No evidence was found at the crime scene to indicate that anyone had been there, all except for a calling card: a bloody dog tag with the name ‘Partuna Armagan’ found in Senator Kelly’s throat.
”A-are you sure?”
The investigator nodded, “your description of the men matches up with our records. They like to dress in army uniforms coated with blood and intercept radio transmissions. It was the same with Senator Kelly Remington, we found his body on a desk with a radio playing classical music that wasn’t a part of the normal broadcasting for the station. We don’t know how they do it, we can’t seem to track where they are intercepting the signals. It’s quite….something.”
”What will become of me? I need a place to stay….”
”Do you have family nearby? A relative? Close friend?”
”No, I was hoping you could provide me with some living arrangements.
The investigator looked blank-faced for a moment. “Let me make a phone call…”
Hermann was allowed to be checked out of the hospital the next day. His head still ached, but he was able to walk normally. Before checking out, he called his work secretary and explained the situation. He was told to call back once he reached his new home and was ‘well-rested’. He was told by the nurse that if he had experienced any spikes in pain to call the hospital as soon as possible.
His new home was located on the other side of town, near the subway stations. This was thought to be most convenient for him as he would be without a car until the investigation settled down and NIMH was only a few blocks away from a subway station.
The only downside for him is that he wouldn’t be living alone….
They want me to stay with another person?!
This person, a woman named Amanda, was to become his housemate. Hermann had never lived with anyone outside of his own parents and siblings and that was over two decades ago.
”You look agitated,” the taxi driver said.
”I suppose you don’t get paid enough to be a therapist, otherwise you would’ve asked me if I was alright.”
The taxi driver laughed hardily, “I don’t think they pay you nearly enough for whatever job you’re doing either.”
He couldn’t argue with that.
Part 2 - Family Reunion
The mouse woke up, rubbed his eyes, and stood on his hind legs. The area around him was pitch black and the voice had no discernible direction. He looked about and smelled his environment, which was that of rusted metal. His exhale was that of a faint sigh as he put one foot forward and immediately fell down.
“Sorry! Here, let me turn on the lights….”
The light blinded the mouse who drew his hand forward and stood up on all fours. He reached the center of the room, where he heard the voice being emitted, and immediately remembered that the voice was that of the AI computer Anna.
A monitor sprout forth from the ground with a feminine face sketched in voxels appeared in front of him.
”I’m sorry to disturb you little one, but I am your only hope of escape from this terrible place…”
The mouse interrupted her, “and I should trust you because…?”
”I know you’ve no reason to trust me, but you should hear me out regardless. After all, you have nothing to lose.”
”See, that’s kinda the funny thing about this, you’re a human and you gave me nothing to lose….” Anna looked to interrupt him, but he cut her off. “And you did that by taking away everything I loved, hoped for, dreamed for, and now you’re playing me a fool by playing this whole Tarnelous shit on me. I know that…that…human, whoever he is, thinks he’s trying to prove something by putting me in here and thinking that I can be fooled by thinking he’s my creator. I lost my father and my mother because of you and now you expect me to be fooled by thinking I can escape? No, what you’re leading me to is another shock.”
The mouse, Jonathan, looked at Anna and can see she was somber. Tears were running down her blocky cheek.
”You don’t understand, my darling….”
Jonathan raised his fist as if to punch the monitor in anger.
”My dearest son…..” Anna spoke.
Jonathan lashed out his fist towards the monitor, but Anna quickly retracted causing Jonathan to trip and fall.
Without standing up, Jonathan clenched his teeth and said, “a cowardly mother is one who would let their son be subjected to this. You are not my mother. My mother would’ve never let this happen!”
He could hear her sobbing over the intercom around him
”Please stop,” he shook his head.
”You have no reason to trust me or believe that I am your mother. I do know you love your father, and for his sake, I would want you to escape. I deserve my punishment, but your father….Is going through much worse.”
Jonathan hmphed, “My father is probably dead. If he is not, show me him right now.
”Yes,” Anna said. “Please stand up out of the way so I can show you on the monitor.”
Jonathan did so, and the screen that once showed a woman made out of voxels now showed a live feed of a mouse with one dark spot on his shoulder inside a cylinder tank filled with some kind of fluid. His mouth was covered with a tube that fed him oxygen.
Jonathan looked perplexed for a moment, then he placed his last memory of his father in his head…It was all so long ago….
Finally Jonathan came to a conclusion. That’s not my father, that can’t be. He shook his head and looked up towards the ceiling. “Your tricks are pathetic. My dad had to have died some time ago, what you have here is another experiment with a mouse that looks faintly like me.”
No answer came from the intercom, there was only silence for a brief moment. Then, the monitor grew black and showed a static picture of a human mother holding her newborn son. The mother was attractive looking with blue eyes and brown hair. The son didn’t have hair or discernible eye color, but did have a birthmark on his shoulder.
Jonathan grew irritable, “And….what’s this? Another test?”
Again, silence went on for a moment. Static filled the monitor and Jonathan looked intently at the screen. What popped up was a video of a couple lying in bed. Jonathan squeezed his eyes and could see that the female was the mother shown in the picture Jonathan just saw.
The male figure was harder to decipher. Jonathan could’ve sworn he had seen the man before. But where?
The man stirred in bed and looked over to his wife, the expression on his face made it seem like he was shocked and ecstatic to be in bed with her.
The man finally got himself composed enough to speak.
That voice! Jonathan could’ve sworn he heard it before…But where?
The female stirred and woke up
The way the man looked was as though he was in heaven, so content he was.
"I had a dream...a nightmare. I had lost you and was with someone else," the man said.
The woman sat up, hugged him and giggled. "You bet it was a nightmare if you were with someone else. You can't cheat on me, not even in your dreams!"
The man giggled back and kissed her.
Then the door to the room opened and a child’s voice came through…
That voice! What is it about that voice?
The child stepped into the room wearing pajamas, but the birthmark on his shoulder was still visible. It’s that baby from the photograph, but a little older! What’s so peculiar about this scene?
The father looked like he just saw a ghost, albeit a friendly one. His jaw dropped and he looked as though he rubbed his eyes. The mother on the other hand rolled her eyes and said….
"Jonathan, dear, what's wrong?"
Jonathan’s jaw also dropped. He remembered this scene. He was there! He was the child! But how?!
"I can't sleep. You two were making all sorts of funny noises."
I said that. Where was this? When was this?
Jonathan almost asked those questions aloud.
Once Anna saw Jonathan’s expression, she turned off the video feed and resumed her voxel head shape. Jonathan realized that the voice and the head belonged to his mother, Anna.
”You ARE my mother. Where am I? What is this place? What AM I? How do I escape?”
”You have no shortage of questions dear, so perhaps I should start from the beginning.”
“Your father and I met in the early months of 1970. We were humans then, obviously. And….”
Anna took a brief pause, a look of shame on her face. Before Jonathan could comment on it, she continued.
“I was escaping an abusive relationship at the time, I was a prostitute; I sold myself for others. I lived most of my life in poverty, you see, and with my looks, it was easy for me to look pretty and pretend I was happy, I guess.” She sighed, “Some people have no respect for women, my son. If you ever escape and find love, I want you to not only avoid the mistake your father did, but to treat your love as if she were inseparable from your soul. It is my firm belief that this world we live in and everyone who is a part of it is connected somehow and that we all share our goal to understand suffering as one.”
“I don’t quite understand…The soul?”
Anna giggled, “I suppose I am being too philosophical. You are trapped here as I was trapped, trapped in a situation I felt I couldn’t get out of. It was through my journey and through your father that I understood that I was worth it and that I could achieve great things….eventually. This whole thing about the ‘soul’ is something I believe you will find out soon enough.”
Anna grinned and continued, “Going back to your father, after my life was essentially taken away from me, I escaped to a more rural, secluded area outside of the city. I took whatever little amount I had and hitchhiked my way over to the country. What I was going to do, I haven’t a clue, but I wanted to be as far away and secluded from civilization as possible. I wanted to be a hermit in the woods, and strangely enough, I found I was with company.”
“A man sporting a hunting rifle came charging towards me a mere day after I set up camp in the woods outside the farm house. I was frightened at first, I thought I would be dead. Followed up behind the man with the rifle was your father, who took a liking to me quite quickly I might add.”
“He greeted me, said that he was the leader of a group of men who escaped to avoid the draft and they were on their way northward. The man with the silenced hunting rifle was out doing a lookout. In fact they found my camp the previous night and decided to check it out as soon as they could in the morning after they determined I wasn’t a threat.”
“I spent a good six months with your father in the woods, living off vegetation and elk meat. It was decided that the trek northward would be too risky and that we would be better off just living in the abandoned woods. It was here that I heard the legend of Tarnelous, which would in turn make me believe in that aforementioned soul I talked about. One of these men, Richard, would claim that they had direct contact with Tarnelous, which I found to be a bit silly.”
“Your father was an orphan left on the porch of the orphanage without a name. His parents couldn’t be tracked down, so he was given the name William as a sort of placeholder name.”
“To make a long story short, we were eventually caught after an arson group decided to torch the woods. Your father scared them away, but an investigation into the incident occurred and sure enough, we were caught and thrown in jail.”
“That’s when I learned of your father’s more…aggressive side…when we escaped 2 years later.”
Jonathan tilted his head and Anna continued…