Psychopomp Magazine Spring 2016 - Page 39

At five minutes to nine, the Director takes his place on the floor and checks the clock behind the machine. He feels the weight of watchfulness bearing down on him. The eyes of the senators and the young aide standing behind him on a catwalk, the eyes of the scientists who fidget at their stations, of the four lost expedition members who stare out from framed portraits along the wall to his right. The Director straightens his spine and squares his shoulders, steeling himself against the heft all these gazes.

The machine watches him as well. The two unlit bulbs set high in its face are dead, unblinking eyes, and the door at its center is like a closed mouth, ready to open up and spill forth some great unknown.

Exactly like a mouth, he thinks.

“Possibility has open arms. And possibility has sharp teeth.”

He can’t help that he carries her voice around with him. It clings to the inner walls of his head and pipes up occasionally like an unwelcome Greek chorus. In his imagination, his mother maintains in death the same self-applied veneer of wisdom that she had in life. Her tendency to speak in insipid mottos and fortune-cookie proverbs used to drive him crazy, is somehow still driving him crazy.

When it is time, he raises his right hand and points to the programmer at the machine’s control panel. The programmer punches a series of keys at the Director’s signal, and a red light above the machine’s door comes on. In the silence that follows, the Director allows a sliver of doubt to curl through him.

Flashing in his mind are images of cost sheet figures, of the four who came back from the Black Zone holding parcels of wrapped bone in their trembling hands, of the four who did not come back at all. And then his mother’s voice again, cautioning, chiding.

“It isn’t natural.”

But don’t you see, Mom? It’s nature that’s killing us.

Jessica Rutland | 39