By Michael Beck, (c) 1999
Megan Lathuse looked down at the baby and felt envy stab through her. He’ll know so much more, she thought. He’ll die thirty years after I will, and as he grows up he’ll read about my time in history books. He’ll live in a world I can’t imagine, see things in a way I can’t . . . A growl escaped her lips, and suddenly she was aware of the other people around her, looking at her oddly.
“He’s so cute,” she cooed as cover.
Evelyn smiled, and took her child back. “I know.” she replied, her face a picture of joy. “It took me and Bob three years, but we finally managed it.”
“Well, I’ve always heard the true pleasure is in the seeking rather than the goal,” said Bob, her husband. Evelyn elbowed him playfully.
“Though now I doubt it,” he added, looking down at his child with a look on his face identical to Evelyn’s.
“When will the moil arrive?” Megan asked.
“In about an hour,” Evelyn answered. “I’m so glad you were able to finally leave that lab of yours,” she said. “I know that this job is what you’ve wanted to do since high school, but I think that the job may be taking up too much of your time.”
“Hey, time and the Human Genome Project wait for no man, or woman,” Megan replied. “But I’m beginning to think that for my research to go any further, I may have to wait for it.”
“You know, if you don’t want to stay . . .” Evelyn began, but Megan shushed her.
“No, you’re right. I do need to get out more. After all, research can’t consume my whole life, now can it?”
“I’ve never actually been to clear on what you’re actually doing,” Bob admitted. “Yeah, I know the buzzwords you tell my wife anti-agathic, HGP, et cetera, but you’ve never really explained it in simple terms.”
Megan frowned. “Hmmm, well, you know about the Human Genome Project, right?”
Bob nodded. “Yeah, you’re mapping the entire human body, right?”
“No, we’re mapping humanity. Everything about a living thing is contained in its genes. What it looks like, what it acts like, its strengths and weaknesses, everything.”
Bob was suitably impressed. “So what exactly does this have to do with your research, whatever that is?”
“Well, one of the things that the genes should control is aging. Somewhere in the tens of millions of chromosomes in a human being, there’s one that tells is when to stop working. When our hair should turn white, when our bones should turn brittle, when our cells should start to die. What I’m doing is looking for that gene.” Her eyes were alight with a strange fire, the look of a man who is inspired . . . or desperate.
“And what will you do when you find it?” he asked, a little bit awed and frightened.
Megan smiled, and it was scary. “I intend to shut it off.”
Evelyn put a hand on Megan’s shoulder, startling her. In her obsession, she hadn’t noticed there was anyone else in the room but her and Bob. The other guest to the briss were looking at her with a touch of fear, and one mother even placed herself between Megan and her five year-old. “Um, maybe it would be best if you left now . . .” Evelyn said hesitantly. Realizing that she had once more made herself unwanted, Megan swiftly left.
Stupid Megan, stupid, stupid, STUPID, Megan cursed to herself as she drove off. It was always like that when she discussed her dream. She couldn’t control herself, and she would lose another friend.
She got home, and got to reading. Books on every science and art filled her room, relics of her desire to, if not cheat death, than at least cheat ignorance.
Tonight was geology and religious history. She devoured three books on the first in three hours- she had taught herself speed reading long ago in order to maximize how much she could learn. The first two books on the next subject was mildly interesting. Finally came the last book.
She’d worked long and hard for this one. Only a few copies existed, and those who had were strangely . . . reluctant to sell. But after some personal persuasion, her contacts had come around.
She smiled, and opened the Necromonicon to its first page.
The man known as PERCEIVAL to his “friends” in Delta Green, collapsed to his bed, exhaused after the day he’d had. Subways had always been a problem for him. The press and crowd of people, the stink, and worst of all the waiting. Waiting for the train to come to the station, standing there alone at night, wondering if some renegade ghoul hungry for a midnight snack was right behind him waiting to chomp down.
Today, however, had been a new high, or rather low. After all, his previous unpleasant memories had been confined to the inside of the train.
It took him a long time to fall asleep, as it had ever since his “recruitment” into Delta Green. And seemingly as soon as he had done so, the phone rang and woke him up.
He glanced over at the clock. Two in the morning. Who the fuck would be calling him at this time of night? Then it hit him. Not calling him. Calling PERCEIVAL.
Adrenaline was better than coffee, he’d learned over the years. He was fully awake when he picked up the phone, more so than the voice on the other end of it.
“We’re missing a playbill,” it said.
“To which opera?” Ethan asked.
“Dead Names.” Ethen felt a chill. This was bad, this was bad, this was very, very bad.
“Who’s the ticket holder?”
“Last check a fence named Adam King. Owns King’s Pawn, a pawnshop on 2496 Bleeker Street.” Ethan sighed inwardly. You’d think there’d be one fence who didn’t use a pawnshop as cover. But then again, stereotypes had to come from somewhere. He sat back to get what sleep he could. It looked like tomorrow was going to be another one of those days.
Megan looked at the book where it had fallen after she fell asleep reading it. Eagerly she picked it up again, eager for more secrets. A dead rat dropped off the cover as she did so.
She looked at the rat. It looked shriveled, drained. As if some essential element had been leached out of it. And now that she looked at it, the oddly pale leather the book was bound in looked somehow . . . redder than the night before. But that was unimportant.
If this was true . . . and it fit in too well with her other knowledge not to be true, everything she thought she knew was wrong. Humanity was not alone upon this world, and it never had been. Were all the conspiracy theorists right, the legends about Majestic-12 and the Greys and everything else?
But that didn’t matter did it? Because she now realized she was wrong.
All her life, she had wanted to know things. To know everything. To know the secrets of matter and energy, of life and of death. Of what made people tick, both in body and in mind. From middle school on, she had devoured every piece of information on everything that she could find.
But then she had read about aging, and realized the horrible truth. One day there would be a limit to what she could know. One day her mind would decay. Past the age of twenty, you lost brain cells every day. You lost intelligence, you lost knowledge. You were less than what you could possibly be.
And that was why she had gone into biology, and then into the Human Genome Project. All from the desperate need to become the most she could be.
But now, she saw how she had been wrong. Or rather, how she had been limited. Some of the beings described in these pages were eternal. No merely ageless as she had been striving for. Not even immortal, which would have been the ultimate goal. But eternal. Beyond the ravages of nature and of time, beyond entropy itself. Violating thermodynamics, ignoring quantum theory. Eternal.
Was there a way she could become as them? Make herself eternal as well?
Adam King looked very nervously at the gun, but didn’t say a word. That was probably connected with the fact that is was stuck into his mouth.
PAM withdrew it, slowly, and placed the barrel to his eye instead. “Still not in the mood to talk?” she asked sweetly. Her face belied the tone, however. She looked like she’d be willing to pull the trigger just for the joy seeing blood, the kind of person who worked in a slaughterhouse because they liked the festive atmosphere.
Part of PONCE’s job was to make sure PAM didn’t indulge herself too much, however.
“Quiet, girl, quiet,” PAM said soothingly. “Remember, its best to start with the fingers.”
“Not the genitals?” PONCE asked.
“No, they bleed out too quickly.”
“I’ll talk, I’ll talk,” Adam said hastily. “I sold the book to book dealer on the East Side.” He blurted out everything . . . name, address, everything.
The agents left the room, but PERCEIVAL stayed a moment. “Keep honest from now on.” he said with smile like a baby-or a demon. “Because you’ll get caught. And you want to know why. Because next time you do something illegal, think on this. And when you think on it, sweat will break out across your brow. And you won’t have to worry about it getting in your eyes, because we’ll be there to wipe it off.”
She had looked through every spell in the book, seeking one that would work. There was one to transfer minds from one body to another, but that would only be a short term solution. Eventually her new body were grow old and decay as well, and she needed something a bit more . . . permanent.
The spells to contact beings to reveal truths she left for a later time. But there was one spell she knew she would try out as soon as possible. A spell to contact the dead.
She found the idea of contacting the dead to be an encouraging one. Because it meant that there was something after. To her the truly terrible thing about dying was that she was going to end, that the story that was Megan Lathuse. And if this was true, this wasn’t so. It meant that people were more, that she was more. More than just a bunch of chemicals and electrical impulses that had just happened to combine in the right way to form a self-sustaining process that people called sentience.
And the possibilities of contacting the dead, oh the possibilities. Ask them about all the theories they thought were too crazy to publish, have them put their minds to work on modern problems. There was no reason in theory the mind transfer idea couldn’t be carried out with the souls of the brilliant dead, giving them bodies in the modern world, bodies they could control and use to carry out the works they had abandoned in life. No great mind would ever need die. No great mind would ever need to have had died. Of course, some people would have to have their minds destroyed, but that was the price you paid for progress.
Ah, this might do it.
The bookseller didn’t know what they wanted, but in his business he’d learned how to recognize when someone was just playing around, and when they meant business. The three black-suited individuals who had entered the room were obviously in the latter catergory. As they walked into the room one of them used some kind of lockpick to shut and lock the door behind him, then he turned the sign from OPEN to CLOSED. One of the two women shut the shades, while the third grabbed him by the throat and pushed him to the ground. Her grip was shockingly tight, and assuming he survived he was going to have some major bruises on his neck come next morning.
“We want to talk to you about some books that you’ve sold.”
“I, I, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Bullshit,” she said. “Your friend Adam King let us know you sell stolen books to collectors.”
“Are you cops or something?” he asked.
“Something,” she said with an evil smile.
Just then he noticed the man and the other woman had brought gas cans in with them, and were sprinkling it liberally on the floor . . . and the books. Oh god, surely they weren’t going to . . . but they were, and he knew it.
“You can’t destroy my books,” he gasped. “They’re my livelihood.”
“We’re crying.” the man said, in the same tone of voice that he might have had used to discuss the weather.
The seller’s eyes were desperate. “But you can’t just waltz in here and do what you want. The laws, the courts, the Constitution . . . .” He trailed off as he realized that they were all laughing.
“The laws! The courts! The Constitution.” The woman apparently in charge increased her mirth with each phrase. Then the amusement vanished. “Those things don’t tell us what to do. In fact, they specifically say that we’re allowed to do quite literally anything we want to do.”
They meant it, he realized. “The books in are in the office in back. They’ve got everything in them.”
“Thank you,” she said, but not sounding like she meant what she was saying.
Megan brought down the blade. The ritual had required a child circumcised the day before the ritual, and the chance to hurt that traitorous bitch Evelyn had been just convenient to pass up. Megan stood for a long moment waiting for something, she didn’t know what. For a long moment, nothing happened. And then the air twisted. I was like watching the air ripple over a barbecue, but in this case the world seemed to twist in a figure eight instead of horizontally. The sign of infinity grew, and grew, and grew.
And then it came forth. It looked like a triangle, growing larger and larger and larger oh God oh God it was nothing but a triangle no face no eyes no mouth no wait a minute oh God oh God it was curved just a tiny little bit wasn’t a triangle is was an oh God oh God oh God claw god god god mommy mommy please come help help the creature she had summoned was just to mommy mommy help big she was seeing the only part god god small enough to shit shit fit in her room.
**Wha ha at at do oo oo yu you oo de des desi esire ire rrr?**
Megan simply couldn’t believe what was happening. Sure, she had hoped it would work, had accepted the possibility that it might work, but she hadn’t really believed it was going to work, not really. She was dealing with something to vast to control, to vast to comprehend, to vast to exist. But it did exist, and somehow she knew that it wasn’t just real, in every way that actually counted it was much more real than she and everything that she had ever known or even known about.
“I wa ,wa ant to l-l-live forever,” she stammered.
**No y oo you oo do oo nah ot ot. Yoo oo do oo nah ttt wi wis ish to oo es esc scay scape cape ape p det et eth, own only li the fe eer er of ff it. An nd thi is I sha shal hall hal all ll gra gran rant ant yoo oo.**
The flame incinerated her where she stood, and the gate closed, taking the claw with it.
PERCEIVAL, PONCE AND PAM got out of the car. In a minute PAM had picked the lock, and they burst in, guns ready.
But the only thing in the house was the stench of burned meat. Too late. In the basement, they found the pile of ashes that had once been the cultist.
PONCE picked up the Necromonicon from the floor. “Well, here’s one more copy that won’t be causing any more trouble. I’ll get it back to ADAM.”
PERCEIVAL nodded. “Until the next job, people,” he said with false cheer. In principle, it was good that the cultist had destroyed herself. But in practice nothing about Delta Green was good. Sometimes he wanted to leave the job, but he knew he couldn’t. Not just because he wasn’t allowed to, but because it would be a betrayal of everything he knew. Sure, it was dangerous. But who wants to live forever?