To The Flickering of Our Flat World
rating: +8+x

Cody Lindstrom hurried his step in the well-decorated main halls of Base Six. He was a new Gamma-class officer, promoted after his tenure with the Hallway Enigmaton. He was carrying a large stack of important looking papers in his shaking hands, papers that needed to be filed and processed by the Beta Administrator he was assigned to, Doctor Alexander Millot.

Cody finally stopped and stood facing the entrance to Millot's office. The sign on the steel door said 'Dr. Alexander Millot, Esoteric Storage and Containment Department Supervisor, Base Six.' He inserted his new keycard on the slit and waited until the lights blinked, turning from a soft red to a soft blue. The door slid open smoothly.

The new Gamma officer entered the office without a second thought. After his mind regained enough reason, he noticed that his eyes saw nothing but darkness. The office was dark. Millot wasn't known for leaving his office during his work hours except during his rare excursions to the cafeteria or the conference room. He certainly didn't need to do such a thing on a day like today.

What was more frustrating was that Millot himself only knew the lighting schematics for his office, and snooping about his desk could only earn Cody a probation sentence in which a "Mandatory Psychological Evaluation" from the CDC Man is almost certainly guaranteed. Cody didn't even bring a smartphone with him.

Agent Lindstrom sighed, and idled himself by the door, waiting for Millot to come. After waiting a while, he decided that he had enough. He made his way to Dr. Millot's desk, feeling around the smooth, marble finish for a button. His fingertips slid from side to side until he felt something. Something smooth. Something paper. It was a note.

Peering about, he decided to read it against his conscience warning him not to. He hid the note on his coat's breast pocket and made his way towards the egress. He slid the keycard to the slit.


He tried again, but the lights failed him. The slit failed him. He couldn't get out. Cursing his luck, and realizing that he may have fucked up big time, he ran back to the desk and put the note back.

The hum of machinery became audible. The lights went on.

"Beginning Creation of Darwin testing phase one-three-six-b. Dr. Tealstey, Alpha-class, overseeing. Dr. Caduceus, Beta-class, proceeding." Tealstey said, his droning voice audible throughout the lab chamber on the other side of the observation panel.

"We are presenting the following stimuli to the Item: two Vertigo-class mind-affecting objects, two temporal anomalies, and a 12-minute exposure to the Undo. As all five Items are mind-affecting, I have been selected to carry out the test due to my properties." Martin said into the mic in his protective suit. The CDC Man was standing, staring at a breathing mass of flesh. The Darwin Creation had grown a hard carapace overnight without cause. Regardless, schedule required that this particular day of testing be done today.

"Excellent." Tealstey replied to the Beta-class. "Begin testing phase one."

Martin set up the white briefcase on the testing table, revealing an array of syringes and medical instruments with a variety of colorful liquids. The tools found in the briefcase served no particular use in this type of test, but Dr. Caduceus carried it about on every test he does. A personal aesthetic. No harm in that.

The real set of tools was laid up on the other side of the Darwin Creation's small housing dome. Situated on top of a counter was, in the following order, a jade necklace with bright garnet beads, a pocket watch that had a hazy, green halo above it, a #3 The Script album and a small music player, a long, round-bottomed open jar of gravel and assorted sediments, and on a Mickey Mouse coaster, a Stabilo eraser.

Cad touched every one of them with his hands. He wore clean, protective gloves, like that was helpful in any way here. "By order of appearance", he declared, sarcasm in his tone, "the Necklace of Disgust, the Alpha Pocketwatch, the O'Donoghue Duplicator, the Jar of Dirt, and one Undo." He poked at the Undo.

He took the first object to his liking, the Necklace of Disgust. What a Valentines' that was. He decided to taunt whatsoever created the item and wore the necklace, demonstrating to no one in particular his resistance to the compulsion to be disgusted at Tealstey and the two armed Security personnel by the door.

He went up to the fleshy mass, opened the roof, and placed the necklace squarely, fitting the diameter of the Creation snugly. At an instant, the mass quivered. Shook. If they brought a dog to the chamber at this moment, the dog would have heard blurbles and bloobs from the flesh. Small, really jagged horns started forming.

Cad took the necklace away. He made notes on his clipboard. Tealstey pressed the mic, "Subject has shown susceptibility to the necklace's effects. Carry on with the next Item, doctor."

Dr. Martin nodded in loosely the same direction Tealstey was in. He took a mint tin out of his briefcase, opened the plexiglass visor on his suit, and took two berry mints. The soft, delightful smell of strawberries wafted from the tin, carrying it throughout the chamber. In the storage box, the Creation seemed to purr and retract its horned appendages, if only for one second, before it decided its aversion to strawberries and grew bigger horns and maybe a carnivore's digestive system.

Tealstey looked on as The CDC Man put the mint tin away and took the Alpha Pocketwatch. The lights in the observation panel as well as the testing chamber started to flicker. Wait. The Pocketwatch wasn't supposed to have its cycle end now. Martin dropped the watch out of short-term shock, the watch landing to the dim, white tiles. The Mass recoiled, moving away from the watch.
Tealstey continued to watch in horrified curiosity.

The Pocketwatch began shifting in and out of its cycle. Martin dived in. The watch cannot be let open during this time. He held it in his hand and pressed firmly on the lid with his thumb, then with the rest of his fingers, and then his other hand, as the watch fought to open itself. The guards trained their rifles at the Mass.

The watch's cover finally won against Martin. A shaft of harsh, green light finally exited, hitting the Mass directly. The Mass convulsed into agony, letting out a new, gurgling shriek before its flesh morphed into a strange, beaked creature that flew off the container, breaking the observation glass, and lunged at Tealstey, killing him with four arm-like appendages that ended in pointed needles. The creature leaped outside, escaping containment.


The guards helped Martin up, checking him for any exposure to the green light. The watch was nowhere to be found, and Tealstey's mangled body laid in the observation deck, his upper ribcage visible. The creature tore off a chunk of his chest. Martin took out a small, paper-thin smartphone and dialed the secure line.

When the go signal was given, Martin pressed the phone to his ear. "Cray? We got a problem.."

Alice Jasper sat on her office desk, groggily typing away at a keyboard, filing reports for Base Six's personnel's statuses, checking every officer in the facility from the lowliest of Delta-class and Sigma radicals, to the Alpha-levels who managed not to disappear upon promotion. The young brunette woman, though normally very attractive, worked her morning shift with frizzled hair and visible eyebags. A stressful day. Her only solace lay in the steaming cup of Cebuano coffee on her desk.

Cupping her coffee mug with both hands, she takes a sip, long enough to forget her workload for one good second, and short enough not to dull her senses. The coffee singed as it reached her lips, and the steam was suffocating, but it was a welcome release nonetheless.

She puts the mug down and files another report. She needs the extra pay, and break time was still in two hours.

Her apricot-colored fingertips clicked at the computer screen, filing Dr. Millot's status report. It seemed the doctor disappeared last night. It was none of her problem, however. Still, Millot was a stickler for attendance. His absence without leave would be a headache for Director Alan, which would mean more security, which would mean more surveillance filing, which would mean more reports to be made, which…

…On second thought, maybe it was her problem. At that point, Alice decided to simply not give a shit. She grabbed the coffee hastily and gulped it down. Her throat felt unpleasantly fired up, and the bitter, roasted finish lingered in her mouth. Her eyes lit up and her fingers flew typing.

The gentle humming of the air conditioning did nothing to calm Cody's nerves. Did Millot set him up, he guessed. The flatscreen by the far wall flickered on.

Knowing full well that he was being watched, he decided that the only thing to do now was read the note.

Agent Lindstrom,

I hope this letter finds you alive and healthy. Well, alive is the important part. Your life is, as of now, very important.

You have displayed all of the desirable characteristics needed as an operative to fulfill this mission. For the two years that you have been working here, you have made a good impression to the administration that they have selected you to carry out the proceedings of this plan. Execution is critical. Survival, minimal. What is important is that this plan is successful.

You will find the briefing and the necessary documents delivered to your office. Read them carefully and understand that your position is integral to our survival. If you wish to terminate your employment now, stop reading. There is a handgun on top of the desk behind you.

The cartridge is empty. Understand that there is no other choice. An armed task force has been mobilized to my office. You have two minutes. Do not resist collection.

This may be the last letter you will read before I am formally announced as absent without leave. I will not return for a while. I will leave a parting message.

My employment to the Insurgency has focused solely on the containment of the esoteric with the esoteric. Using an anomaly to keep another anomaly in our control. The cowards at the Foundation never understood that until now. Cross-contamination, they called it. While they ran around in circles trying to contain God, we did them a favor and let the Devil himself into their employ. It was a success. We did more than that, obviously. While we maintained the strings for the Foundation, we were, for the most part, busy with ourselves, the ventriloquists.

Esoteric containment is an unpredictable agenda. You must be prepared to go through lengths to achieve the perfect prison. One such length is to accomplish this mission. There are some like you that my colleagues have chosen, too. You will meet them in time. But that time will be during your funeral, if the fates decided that you must die. But still, there are many. Many working to finish the mission. Many in every Group of Interest we have ever been interested in. And all of them are part of the esoteric containment procedures. But I have been digressing about my true agenda until this paragraph.

The Insurgency has been compromised, Cody. We have finally fucked up big time. We are fighting for survival every day. No one below Alpha knows, but we are nearing a point OCOMM calls the Commencement of the Eschatological Era. No one knows what happened on that fateful September night, but we have done it. We have finally birthed a god. A new one. The priest of the team, Father Agustin, hated us because of it. We had interrupted God, and tried replacing him.

I should divulge this to you, Cody: Heaven's soldiers have been fighting a war with the Devil's minions for a long time. Fifty years ago, that war reached a ceasefire, with both sides reeling from the losses. You may have read something a strange wanderer might have left us a while back. What he said was not entirely wrong. Heaven is not empty. It is that Heaven is mostly empty. The war has whittled its legions until God's soldiers numbered few. Do you get it? Only a few of its soldiers are ready to fight the looming onslaught. That's right, Hell is ready to continue the fight.

And when the Alpha-Omega-Theta Prime came to us, asking for help, who were we to disagree? We had to, we should. He gave us enough to know what to do. And we did what he asked. We created an angel. Another shield to help stand against the storm of daggers.

I will be frank to you, Cody. The Insurgency stands against many foes, many more now than there ever was. There are the foes we don't know, but there are the ones we do. Food for thought. The threat in the darkness does not always outweigh the threat in the light. Every dagger must be unsheathed someday. That day approaches. When you see the woman with the velella of ivory and the man with the stethoscope eyes, do them a favor. Take the door to the left. Open our egress to finality.

If you are reading this paragraph, congratulations on your new promotion. You are now designated as an Alpha personnel. A keycard will be found on the safe beside my desk. It is open and unlocked. This designation is esoteric; it will not formally recognize you as one of us, but rather as a provisional recognition specific to one project: the mission. Everything else that you will need, well, look up to the stars at night sometimes, and pray that they come to you.

You will make a good replacement for me. Do not let them stop us. Thank you for the brief time we had, son. It's been so long.

Cody's pupils trailed off the final sentence, staring blankly, confused. His quivering hands let go of the paper. The monitor behind him shifted from static.

The entire Administration was watching him. One man in particular was chosen to reveal to the cowering Agent his purpose. When the first word was uttered by the man at the other end, Cody fell to his knees, and begged for His forgiveness. Forgiveness was what he needed.

Alice sat, exhausted. Her arms were slumped back, and she stared lazily at the ceiling. If one looked closely, steam was gently coming out of her mouth. She still needed to work. Mustering up whatever non-existent flicker of productivity still lingered in her powered-down body, she forced herself upward, facing the harsh light of the computer screen. Her eyes went blurry for a second, before the familiar, unappealing form that was a personnel report registered in her fried brain cells.

Reading it so carefully to allow the words to get to her head, she unconsciously begins to skim, getting only the bits that land on her eyes.

"Gamma-class officer Cody Lindstrom"

"Report: Missing; absent without leave"

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