The 616 Diaries: Entry 33 by Kevin Kauffmann
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November 26th, 2019


Back to normal, or closer to it. Had the urge to go back and rewrite the last entry but… it’s clear enough. And it shows… it just shows how far they kicked me down. Makes me want to fight back more, show that I’m stronger. I think I can, I just need… I just need to make sure they don’t do it again. I need to make sure they don’t keep me a vegetable who can barely scribble down his thoughts, can barely describe the ongoing prophecies that are crystal clear when I see them.


In order to make sure that it doesn’t happen again, I’ve been giving them more.


It’s kinda like Davies, giving clues that are almost right. I couldn’t give them nothing; couldn’t keep rehashing the old entries that were made before Räum’s second batch of prophecies. Had to continue, so I’ve been giving them scraps along the first five passages of the second set of prophecies. I flubbed a couple things, but mostly I just gave them something that might distract them.


At first I thought that I may have made a mistake—especially when they came at me with four doses this morning—but it turns out that my vision from the other day was… well, shit, timely. Turns out that Teresa came in yesterday and saw me.


I don’t remember it, but she does.


From what I’ve gathered after the fact, Baum was about to throw four doses into my hand when she came by. She smiled at me, but it was… well, honestly, it felt like she was a daughter visiting her father whose brain has been melted by Alzheimer’s. The nice, gentle façade was there to hide the pain and… truth of it all. What she had seen of me yesterday had apparently affected her, just like I had seen in that vision. Shouldn’t have doubted that, but my mind these days… it’s not all mine and, well, my brain chemistry has likely been irrevocably altered by hallucinogen abuse.


But the upside to all that? The Lucidity has stopped, at least for now. That, and I got to see and touch the real book of prophecies today.


I can’t even begin to describe how it felt to have it in my hands. For so long I’ve been handling scans of the book, seeing the words but not feeling the imprint of each symbol on the pages. The smell of it was jarring, but familiar. It was mine, that book; it was my property, my memories, the culmination of my entire life.


When I felt that book in my hands, I felt like I had been reunited with my sole purpose.


“You don’t need Lucidity anymore,” Baum’s voice came, unwanted, unbidden. I realized what I looked like, a grown man—sanity departing from him more and more each second—in a white, wooly sweater that no longer fit. And cradled between my arms and pressed against my chest was an ancient book, a priceless treasure, filled with nonsense only I could read and understand.


And I was weeping.


“Yeah, seems to know exactly what he’s got there,” Fennsler added, and I looked up from the book, saw how they looked at me. Satisfaction, that’s what I got from them. That pure, smug feeling that they were right; that triumph you feel when you’ve caught someone in a lie. Forced them to betray their secrets.


“We expect better behavior from you, Ray,” Baum said as he walked back over to his desk. “This is a gift; one I do not personally think you deserve. You haven’t been honest with us.”


“I—”


“Don’t bother, Ray,” Baum interrupted, snapping his gaze to me even as he sat down in his chair. “I’ve watched enough to know when I’m being lied to. I know when someone is stalling.”


“I’m not stall—”


“Do you want to end up like Amin, Ray?” he asked, abruptly, and I didn’t know how to respond. I knew, they knew, that Samir had killed Amin, but I had been discrete. They should not have known that I was… aware. I tried to think up a suitable way to about it, but, well.


“Washington might be better than this…” I mused, lifting my hand so I could awkwardly rub the side of my face, but I stopped halfway there. Fennsler was looking at me like he had caught me with my dick out on a public street.


“You know how TV parents always talk about taking the old family dog to a nice farm upstate? You wanna go that farm, Ray? It’s about the same thing; just as real,” Fennsler implied as he sat down on the edge of my desk, going so far as to crack his knuckles. When he looked back at me, I could see… it just felt like darkness surrounded him.


“We’ve gotten this far with you without threats, Ray,” Baum interjected, his tone enough for me to face him. “We would have preferred to have continued in that fashion, but you have made this difficult. That you have been given the original source material is a… leap of faith, one of considerably poor judgment. Frankly, this document is more important than you.”


“Which is why we must continue with threats,” Fennsler added, and I could feel my desk creaking under his weight. “We won’t kill you. Won’t even kill your family, but that’s only because we both know they don’t matter to you anymore.”


“You don’t… you can’t…” I tried to stammer, tried to find some escape route, but Baum cleared his throat and stopped my attempts.


“We wouldn’t want to. Killing them would bring an unfortunate amount of attention. Just… messy. For a creature like you, it’s not worth the effort,” Baum stated, giving every impression that this was beneath him. “You care only about yourself; that much is clear.”


“Your survival, that’s really the only thing we have to go on,” Fennsler muttered, sniffing abruptly and sitting up straighter as he crossed his arms. “We would… have to make that as painful as possible.”


“You can’t seriously…”


“We can, and we will, Ray,” Baum said, tapping his fingers against his armrest. “I don’t think we have to explain that we more resources than traditional torture. You’ve felt what it was like to be under the effects of too much Lucidity. How a mere overdose turned you from an upstanding seer into… mush, for lack of a better word.”


“And that’s just Lucidity. Imagine what we could do with Escape, even Clarity,” Fennsler said, looking back to me and leaning in with a grim smile. “We could even mix em all up for you.”


“You know what they do, Ray. You’ve felt them all, except maybe Escape. They say it’s a nice distraction,” Baum added, turning his screen so I could see the video he had apparently queued up for me. There was a man in a straight-jacket, four glass walls containing him and dozens of lights keeping his cell far too bright.


“He certainly seems distracted, Ray,” Fennsler added, but I was busy watching the man writhe on the ground.


“Turns out that after a few doses, the brain starts to adapt to the drug,” Baum said, leaning forward so he could point at the man in the video. “The subconscious starts to take over, which is not a pleasant series of events for even the most seasoned traveler.”


“Man, just look at him, the way his mouth opens and closes like that. Like he’s chewing razors,” Fennsler said, and I could feel the… the fucking pleasure he got from it. I knew then that my handler was the kind of person who kept snuff films in business.


Probably filmed his own.


“This man is in his sixty-fourth hour of sleep deprivation,” Baum explained, pointing at the lamps surrounding the victim’s cage. “His tongue has been stapled to the bottom of his mouth, as a way to keep him from removing the doses we give him. We would have gone the liquid route, but that tends to be a little too… potent.”


“Drives em nuts pretty fast,” Fennsler commented, shaking his head with a smile.


“Yes, and we had plenty of information to take from him,” Baum said before turning back to me. “Now you’re a different story, Ray. We wouldn’t staple your tongue to the bottom of your mouth; we would use the liquid compound. You can take it, I think.”


“And you think…” I said, forced to gulp down my fear. My mouth was filled with cotton; my eyes were the surface of a salt flat. I had not expected all this, but they waited patiently. I guess they knew that even I would be affected by this kind of threat, but then I remembered the book I was holding. With that, I might actually have a chance; if I could read their futures, my future, I could maybe get past them, find a way out of here.


But I couldn’t let them know how I felt or what I was thinking.


“And you think that would impress me?” I asked, hoping they would buy the act. “Threatening me with a nightmare doesn’t seem all that bad.”


“Ray…” Baum said as he shook his head, turned his screen around. I saw him look down at the floor, at his hands underneath the desk, and I was confused by the frustrated smile on his face. When he looked back at me, slits for pupils, I knew it was intentional. He had let the mask fall away.


“We’re not threatening you with a nightmare. We would drug you so thoroughly that you would never see daylight again. Visions of the future would blend with your present moments; the past you’ve seen would melt and warp into your every breath. You would feel everything, at all times, and you would never know when you are alive, if you’re dead, if you’re anything at all,” he explained, laboring on each point.


“You would—” Fennsler started, but Baum was not finished.


“Shut up,” he declared, and the brute on my desk backed away, letting Baum continue. He turned back to me, and I could tell that this was not a threat; it was just easiest to call it that. What Baum was describing was a promise.


“It’s already difficult for you, Ray. I’ve seen this. No matter what lies you have spewed in my direction, it’s impossible to ignore. I’ve gone along with it, waited for you to break, but you have been stubborn,” Baum said, turning to shake his head at the far corner. “We have been patient, but you have squandered our good will.”


“We would obliterate you, Ray,” Baum said as if it was nothing. “Demolish your existence. Letting you dissolve into the ether like a daydream is preferable to your betrayal. One inkling that you are lying to me, one notion that you plan to escape with that book under your arm, and I will make sure that you no longer have the luxury of thought. I will bring you out of your forced coma only to provide us with the information we need. I have no need for slaves, no desire for them, but I would take your free will without a moment’s hesitation,” he concluded by letting his pupils revert, but he had made his point.


But even then with his threats still hanging in the air, I knew that I had no option but to fight against him.


“I…” I said, pausing long enough to look down and breathe shakily. I even let my jaw tremble, let my teeth clatter and fight amongst themselves. Even if I would not succumb to his tactics, I would have to convince Baum that I had surrendered. When I looked up at him, I tried to seem defeated.


“Do you want to know what I found out?” I asked, and both of my handlers looked at me with hunger. As I started speaking, started telling more and more of what happened in the scenes I had read, I could tell that they were losing it. They were losing the conviction that I was lying to them.


Though, I mean, they should have. For a while there I was telling the truth. I didn’t explain any of the scenes that pertained to them; I didn’t let them know that I had seen what Baum had done to Davies. I didn’t tell them that I could craft fire from nothing; that I had been… practicing out of sight. What I can do now… it’s almost impressive. I don’t know if it will be enough, but… well, I’ll keep working on it.


By the time the shift ended, I had been spilling my guts for about four hours. Baum and Fennsler were tenacious and ate up everything I gave to them. They were skeptical, of course—Baum wouldn’t stop glaring at me—but I… I bought some time.


I know that I have to get out of here before they think I’m lying again, or even leaving out information. If they ever found Amin’s flash drive I’d be über-triple-fucked, but if they find anything these days, I’m already screwed four ways to Sunday.


That’s why I need to make a move, soon. I don’t know how, I really don’t, but… but it has to happen soon. It’s really just a matter of time before they figure out what I’m doing here, that my overall goal is to find out what 616 means for myself. I don’t know what I’ll do once I do figure it out, maybe I’ll give it to the House of Orphans; they seem like the best bet. Already hoping that they are reading this somehow.


But Hell, they might just be another cadre of demons waiting for me to show my belly just so they can gut me like a fish. Or they could be angels. Can’t rule out anything anymore.


I just… I need to get that book. Now that I have access to it, I might actually be able to grab it and… I might need to kill one of them. Maybe both. From what I saw with Davies, I’m not sure I can even handle one of them, but… I have to try. At some point, I have to try. The world might depend on me getting out of here and… warning the rest of humanity.


Shit. I can barely even remember being an accountant. Seems like a whole other life, now.


It was a whole other life.


I’m… not sure it was ever mine.


END OF ENTRY

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