Mortimer Field was an artist with peculiar talents. I befriended Mortimer while working at The Institute for the Mentally Deranged (this was during the 1970’s when “deranged” was considered an accurate diagnosis). Mortimer was a patient. Two years after I met him, he disappeared. Soon after, I began to collect the stories he told me (I kept meticulous notes) along with his artwork and journals. His work has often been described as disturbing. I offer this collection of notes and stories to my esteemed reader for you to judge for yourself.
This story is about the day Mortimer Field saw a woman crossing the street. Mortimer said there was something annoying about the woman as if she possessed some insidious secret. She was heavy set. Her form seemed to be pulled forward by the ponderous swell of her stomach. Her face was like puckered dough. Her lips were like the flame of an acetylene torch and she wore large, gold frame sunglasses. She appeared to be in her late fifties. Her hair was like burnt roots sticking out from the edge of a pink bathing cap. She wore a fur coat that looked like automobile upholstery. A red-and-black muumuu radiated beneath the fur coat like an electric bulb.
She plowed across the street in a trance. Her brown hose slipped down over her heavy thighs. Mortimer became more and more agitated as he related his story. His voice squeaked with perturbation, “she looked at me,” he said, “suddenly she looked without pausing and without losing her heavy stride.” Mortimer wanted to scream. The woman was too familiar. He could see her eyes swimming behind the dark lenses in her glasses. They looked like eggs broken on a plate.
As he related the story he began to sweat profusely. He said seeing the woman made his skin tighten and his head ache as if his bony skull was about to break through the thin layer of flesh. He recognized the woman. He knew her. She was in the painting he’d just completed before leaving his studio for the street. She was the woman he imagined — she was solely his creation!
“I met Michael Robinet one year before the onset of the global Crisis. It was the best year of my life. It was the only year worth remembering. The Crisis destroyed everything else. I thought love dried up years ago like a desiccated corpse. At my age something as precious as love seemed impossible. I’m seventy-five, active and healthy; but still seventy-five. Mike is sixty, a relative juvenile compared to me. He is athletic and very beautiful. I am not! He is also good natured and protective; but no one could protect any of us from the Crisis. I am Doctor Lydia Thornwall and I am responsible… responsible for everything!”
Lydia Thornwall was a neuroscientist. She was studying the effects of aging on the brain, especially as it related to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The work was very intense and she needed a break so she took a Virtual Trip to the Retro Club where she could get a jolt of brain-boost.
The Club was a neon amusement park. It brought back memories of a wild period when she explored the parameters of sex and drugs. At the time she told herself it was an analytical investigation, but with age she knew she was just having fun. Now, she was the oldest person in the Club. She still reveled in the culture of youth. She could flip back in time and experience the thrills of abandonment to prurient desires. Her recent discovery of a new brain-gene could wait awhile longer. She needed to experience a wave of ecstasy. She met Michael at the roundabout on the second floor.
The night poured into Lydia like a flood of Lysergic Acid. The walls melted and she awoke cradled in the arms of Michael Robinet. Love burrowed into her psyche like a velvet hummingbird probing a Venus Flytrap. That night, Lydia felt a fortress of solitude crumbling from within. The Venus Flytrap was deflowered and Lydia broke free from the prison of time. From that moment, Lydia was bound to Michael.
She returned to her laboratory on clouds of scented bouquets. She also had an added gift: the solution to the diseases of old-age, a way to activate the new brain-gene.
The political debate proceeded in the pavilion at Onstate University not far from the hospital lab where Lydia Thornwall worked on her new formula. Politics went viral on the internet like thousands of newly engineered viruses. Video Screens exploded with profanity. No one was certain if the back-alley talk was due to a viral infection or due to political maneuvering. Lydia lost interest, but she couldn’t avoid the talk. Computers were always on. There were whispered innuendos about spies — no one felt safe. There were accidents set off by exploding phones adding to the paranoia. Discord was everywhere.
Lydia hid beneath her desk trying to work on the new formula. She longed for Michael to help her through the current crisis. The man on TV yelled at Lydia and called her an ugly, old whore. She bit her lip determined to complete the formula. The TV man was somehow connected to the numbers. She wondered if he had access to her information. A loud speaker shook the room with a reminder for Dr. Lydia Thornwall. Her next client arrived and was waiting in the Green Room.
He said his name was Satan and he wanted to make a deal. Lydia didn’t believe in the supernatural or in religious dogma, besides deals with Satan always ended badly. The man was likely suffering from late onset Schizophrenia. He babbled like a politician.
Heads were spinning. The election was a battleground fought over oil rights, military might, and locker room etiquette. Surrogates gushed with praise for their powerful bosses, condoning everything that dripped like grease from the mouths of their leaders. Clandestine contracts were signed in corporate backrooms, souls were bartered and sold. Money greased the wheels of political power.
It meant nothing to Lydia. She was a devoted scientist trying to make the world a better place. “Help the children,” she whispered, “help the old and frail.”
She signed a contract with Michael on the night of her deflowering. The rain fell like quicksilver from a cobalt sky. It was magical; but, unfortunately, it was caused by global warming. Lydia sighed and pursued her work. She dismissed Satan who seemed to devolve into a curious Bonobo Chimpanzee sitting in the corner of her lab.
“Curious,” she thought, “the way things change.” It was, indeed, very odd. Reality appeared to shift and warp. Layers of perception were superimposed over one another like virtual dreams, worlds within worlds.
As she worked, she pondered recent discoveries in Quantum Physics. They found the “God Particle” as hypothesized over fifty years ago. They smashed atoms to find the particle. It was a major discovery.
Dr. Thornwall was also looking for a particle, part of the human genome. She knew the brain-gene existed and now she needed to expose it. If her calculations were correct the gene she sought would cure the disease of old age and unlock the potential for immortality.
The politician was having a bad day. He never should have signed the contract. His wishes were all granted: money, power, women and sex; everything – he was a major celebrity… but, he realized too late, there is always a price to pay.
Hatecore music was yelling over the loud speakers and there were riots in the streets. Storm troopers marched through the city wearing orange berets and yelling obscenities against women. A new day was dawning. Politics were blamed for the ensuing violence; but political enmity was only one factor. Dr. Lydia Thornwall was successful. She exposed the brain-gene and there were unexpected consequences: once exposed, the gene became dominant. It was more than Dr. Thornwall anticipated; not a cure, but a disease: a link to psychosis that came to be known as Satan’s Spark. The Spark went viral.
Lydia had a room in the psychiatric ward at Resurrection Hospital. She suffered a nervous breakdown brought on by exhaustion. No information was known about Lydia — one night she just turned up at the emergency room. No one knew where she came from or what she did. Michael Robinet worked as an orderly and he was very kind to Lydia. Michael was a guardian angel.
They put Jack McRoy on ice because he had a brain tumor, but that was a lie; they just needed someone to experiment on. Actually, they put Jack in a tank. They weren’t performing an experiment — it was a transformation.
They picked Jack because he was a fifty year old delinquent. He wrote papers and pointed fingers. He uncovered and exposed unpleasant truths that should always be kept secret.
They saw themselves as good guys, concerned citizens: the Guardians of Order. They ran a small diagnostic firm that was really an elaborate laboratory where experiments were conducted on hapless miscreants. They had several government contracts. No one asked questions. The work continued twenty-four hours a day.
Jack McRoy was not his given name. He was eight-years-old when he crossed the border from Mexico. His family sent him to live with his successful uncle in the U.S.. Jack was an illegal alien, something he forgot. His uncle imprinted a new identity on the alien boy’s brain and named him Jack. His uncle was a scientist working for the government.
Jack McRoy loved to surf naked in the early hours just before dawn. There was no reason not to — he was young and athletic. People loved him. He often saw colored lights blinking in the sky like signals from a far off future. The water would always protect him. Suddenly he was sweating profusely. He body was drenched, smothered in an offshore oil spill. He recalled the spill that destroyed the beaches in Santa Barbara in 1959 and again in 2015. He was no longer a young surfer. He was something that lived in the water, dying from poison that stuck to his skin. Too many animals perished and many more would become extinct.
A tiny machine always followed Jack around. It clacked. The clacking never stopped. The machine was collecting information. Jack began to think the machine was an overseer who watched his every move.
Jack was always aware of duplicity: the state of being two fold or double. There was the “clean” side and the “dirty” side. He wanted to be clean, but he always felt dirty. Jack couldn’t avoid the noxious fumes or the oily residue.
The Overseers watched intently as Jack McRoy banged his head against the side of the tank. It wasn’t an unexpected reaction. The man believed he was drowning in oil. The Overseers had large, black eyes and gray skin. They smiled because the transformation was succeeding. Jack would never bother anyone again. He would be tame. The contract with the government gave the Overseers freedom to experiment on persons who were considered dangerous. Jack was getting too close to the truth about government infiltration and a program to implant every newborn with a chip. The chip collected information that could be used to control behavior.
Jack was baptized when he was thirty-two years old. It was his wife’s idea. He loved her. Estelle was religious and Jack just wanted to make her happy. The Priest poured oil over Jack’s naked body. The oil was black and shiny, it stuck to his skin and it smelled like death.
When Jack emerged from the tank he smiled. The Overseers were his friends. He could see that with his new eyes, large and black. The Aliens were never from outer space. They were all created in a tank — part of the government program to make a better human race.