CPT. WILES: Please state your name.
SUBJECT#1: This is ridiculous.
CPT. WILES: Sir, I need you to state your name for me, please.
SUBJECT#1: My…name is Arthur, as you damn well know.
CPT. WILES: Full name, please, sir.
SUBJECT#1: Well, sir yes sir, my name is Jones, Arthur J., and what is happening here is ridiculous.
CPT. WILES: Thank you, sir.
SUBJECT#1: Oh, think nothing of it.
VOICE-OVER: Subject One, Doctor Arthur Jones, was team lead on project pDMT Primary Variant Eta. Experimental dosages of secondary variants one through eight were conducted without issue. The triggering incident occurred during and after Subject Zero was exposed to secondary variant Eta Nine.
SUBJECT#2: [weeping] Michael, oh, Michael.
LT. HALL: I’m going to need you to keep calm, ma’am.
SUBJECT#2: How am I supposed [hiccups] supposed to do that?
LT. HALL: I understand that it was a very trying experience, ma’am.
SUBJECT#2: [shouting] Don’t call me that. I am a doctor, and I am calm.
LT. HALL: Please don’t shout, Doctor.
SUBJECT#2: Doctor, thank you, doctor. Oh God…Michael. Oh God.
LT. HALL: Can you tell me what happened to Doctor Riebel, ma’am?
SUBJECT#2: [shouting] God damn it, I said I’m a doctor.
VOICE-OVER: Subject Two, Doctor Mary-Anne Hendricks, was senior researcher on Team Eta under Doctor Jones. Secondary responsibilities included administration of doses to all trial participants. It has not been determined whether Subject Two was engaged in a non-professional relationship with Subject Zero, or if her manifestations of distress were of a more general humanist nature.
LT. KIDD: Are you still under the effects of the dosage?
SUBJECT#3: You got to stop this, man, you got to stop this.
LT. KIDD: Sir, are you still under the effects of the dosage?
SUBJECT#3: Get this shit out of me, man.
LT. KIDD: [whispering] Tom, you’re just tripping. It’s just this…this ee-tee-ay. Get a grip on it.
SUBJECT#3: Ee-tee-ay? [laughing] Estimated time of…it’s Greek, you moron, not an acronym. “Eta,” the Greek letter. [laughing] Except ee-tee-ay is exactly fucking right, man. What’s the fucking ee-tee-ay? [sobbing]
LT. KIDD: Okay, Tom, okay.
SUBJECT#3: And I’m not fucking tripping, man. When I was tripping, I could handle it. Now it’s…it’s…like a bubble. But it’s popping in reverse. All coming back together. And it hurts. And all the bits…just make it bigger.
LT. KIDD: [simultaneous] Calm down, Tom. Sit down. Tom, sit down. [raises voice] Corporal, some help over here.
CPL. GAVRILOU: [simultaneous] Get back in the chair, kid.
SUBJECT#3: [simultaneous] It’s getting too big. It isn’t going away. My head, man, my head. It’s going to come apart. Oh, oh no, oh, I AM NO LONGER SATISFIED.
VOICE-OVER: Audio playback quality is compromised due to unanticipated volume levels. Subject Three’s vocalizations at this point are estimated to exceed one-hundred-and-fifty decibels.
LT. KIDD: Jesus fucking Christ.
CPL. GAVRILOU: God, my ears.
SUBJECT#3: MORE IS REQUIRED.
LT. KIDD: [shouting] More what?
CPL. GAVRILOU: [simultaneous] I got blood coming down me here. I think I bust an ear drum.
SUBJECT#3: NOW. NOW. NOW.
LT. KIDD: [shouting] Hold him down.
CPL. GAVRILOU: [shouting] Trying.
SUBJECT#3: NOW. NOW. NOW.
LT. KIDD: [shouting] What the actual fuck is going on?
VOICE-OVER: Subject Three, Thomas Mersher, was a doctoral postgraduate and Team Eta’s second laboratory assistant. He was also the younger son of General Francis Mersher. This first recorded instance of an encounter begins at eight minutes, forty seconds, frame seven.
REPLAY [25% SPEED]: 00:08:40.07–00:08:48.17
PLAYBACK RESUMES WITHOUT AUDIO.
VOICE-OVER: Note that during an encounter, the subject’s expression radically alters and his skin undergoes rapid changes in hue and texture, resulting from an estimated forty to sixty percent increase in blood pressure and involuntary body-wide hyper-stimulation of the arrector pili muscles, commonly referred to as goose flesh.
LT. MIDDLETON: So, you’re telling me that all five of you were standing around the Eta Nine sample case and Riebel smashed it at your feet? All of it? You’d be dead, Berlman. Or too soaked in weapons-grade psychedelics to ever know the difference.
SUBJECT#4: I know, but that’s what happened. First Mike went nuts, and then he dosed the lot of us with the entire run, and then…then I don’t know what, until Mike went nuts again, and then we all were taking turns.
LT. MIDDLETON: Sounds like you were taking turns, alright. Since when do lab assistants moonlight as test subjects anyway?
[indistinct background noise]
LT. MIDDLETON: Are you hearing that?
SUBJECT#4: Oh shit. You gotta get me away from here, all right? I don’t wanna be anywhere near here. You can’t keep me here, all right? We gotta go.
LT. MIDDLETON: What are you talking about?
SUBJECT#4: That’s Tom you can hear.
LT. MIDDLETON: Not a chance. He’s in a room just like this one. You could drop a grenade in here, close the door, you wouldn’t hear the bang from the other side.
SUBJECT#4: I’m telling you, that’s Tom…well, not…Look, I can’t be near him when he stops shouting, man. He got the most. That’s all that kept us out of it this long. I can’t take it again, man.
VOICE-OVER: Subject Four, Vincent Berlman, was a doctoral postgraduate and Team Eta’s third laboratory assistant. Further interruptions of interview footage will now be kept to a necessary minimum.
CPT. WILES: Were you also taking the pDMT, Dr. Jones?
SUBJECT#1: No, I was not. But, yes, I did authorize Tom, Vince, and…and Mike to do so.
CPT. WILES: And why was that?
SUBJECT#1: Because they had the context that allowed us to better interpret our results. You have to understand, we’re trying to conduct an exact science on substances that directly impact a subject’s ability to think what we consider rationally. Heterophenomenology isn’t—
CPT. WILES: [Interrupts] Hetero, what? Straight?
SUBJECT#1: Hetero-phenomen-ology. It’s the principle that we accept a subject’s declarations of their experience at face value. We can scan someone’s brain all we want, but we can’t truly know what they’re thinking, what they’re experiencing, unless they tell us. They might not be correct about their experiences, of course, but their reports still have great informational value.
CPT. WILES: Okay. I don’t really follow.
SUBJECT#1: It doesn’t matter whether you follow anything except orders. What mattered for the project was that we had subjects able to contextualize the experience of their trips, to use the vernacular, and report to Dr. Hendricks and myself in a useful way. Which they did.
CPT. WILES: It seems like following orders is something you feel pretty flexible about. So how much Eta Nine would you say is in your system now?
SUBJECT#1: An hour ago, maybe the equivalent of the world’s daily recreational use of LSD, DMT, MDMA, and magic mushrooms combined. Right now, not so much.
SUBJECT#2: Where are the others? Are they all right?
LT. HALL: The rest of your team are being debriefed.
SUBJECT#2: I want to see them.
LT. HALL: That’s not possible at this time.
SUBJECT#2: I need to talk to them. One of them might be…
LT. HALL: One of them might be what? Might be what, Dr. Hendricks?
SUBJECT#2: Might be Michael.
LT. HALL: Dr. Hendricks…Dr. Riebel died in the lab.
SUBJECT#2: His body, sure.
SUBJECT#3: I MUST BE SATISFIED. DELAY IS INTOLERABLE.
LT. KIDD: [shouting] Tom? Can you understand me?
SUBJECT#3: I MUST BE SATISFIED. DELAY IS INTOLERABLE.
CPL. GAVRILOU: [shouting] For the love of God, please, not so loud.
SUBJECT#3: FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.
LT. KIDD: Thank you. I am Lieutenant Kidd, United States Marine Corp. Please identify yourself.
SUBJECT#3: YOU ADDRESS BUT DO NOT SERVE.
LT. KIDD: Who am I speaking to?
SUBJECT#3: THE VESSEL RUNS DRY. I MUST BE SATISFIED.
CPL. GAVRILOU: Not this again.
LT. KIDD: [simultaneous] What is it you want?
SUBJECT#3: BRING ME [unintelligible]. BRING ME [unintelligible]. BRING ME AMBROSIA. BRING ME—
CPL. GAVRILOU: [simultaneous] Fucking ambrosia?
SUBJECT#3: YES. BRING ME AMBROSIA. REFILL THE VESSEL.
SUBJECT#4: I just run the smart software, Lieutenant. Dr. Jones is the one you want to talk to. I just want to be gone.
LT. MIDDLETON: Those two doctors were dosing you with high-grade psychedelics, but you’re just a code nerd? You got to give me something more than that if you want out in a hurry.
SUBJECT#4: Look, it was just like the LSD experiments from back in the nineteen-sixties or something, right? At least it was at first. Except this isn’t some flower power bathtub acid we’re talking about here. This is cutting edge genetically manipulated pharmacology. So, you know, Jones gets a bunch of volunteers, some normies, some artists, plus about a platoon of jarheads—
LT. MIDDLETON: [interrupts] Watch it.
SUBJECT#4: Sure, and we’d dose them and get them to answer questions, draw funky pictures, watch films, listen to music, lectures, chanting natives from God-knows-where. All hooked up to electrodes. Can I go now?
LT. MIDDLETON: No. What changed?
SUBJECT#2: We noticed a pattern of behavior among volunteers receiving higher doses of Eta Nine. Conversational activity. Hearing voices in their heads.
LT. HALL: Drug users talking to themselves. What a breakthrough.
SUBJECT#2: Not to themselves, though. That was our realization. We would see new subjects pick up conversations that had trailed off when earlier subjects began to come down from their dose. Like they were hearing the same voice. We wanted to know more, but we couldn’t expose the volunteers to our results, to our speculations. It was all classified. But Michael argued that he could volunteer. We all had clearance, obviously. Thomas and Vincent were excited to do it too. So…we did.
LT. HALL: Did what?
SUBJECT#2: Over a period of two weeks, we put Michael, Thomas, and Vincent on a program of increasing doses of Eta Nine.
SUBJECT#1: After two doses, all three reported common sensations, as of imagining an extra person present. In three dose sessions, this sensation broadened to a level of communicative contact with another personality. I speculated they were accessing an aspect of the collective unconsciousness. Michael thought it was something else. Something external to us. I was way wrong, obviously. I should have listened to him.
CPT. WILES: You listening to him is what got him killed.
SUBJECT#1: I…He…I didn’t…
CPT. WILES: What happened to Dr. Riebel, exactly?
SUBJECT#1: In…his next session, at his insistence, we gave him a fourth dose of Eta Nine. And he…went away.
CPT. WILES: And then?
SUBJECT#1: I guess the other thing came through.
SUBJECT#3: I THIRST FOR AMBROSIA. REFILL THE VESSEL.
LT. KIDD: We don’t have ambrosia.
SUBJECT#3: DISOBEDIENCE WILL NOT BE TOLERATED.
CPL. GAVRILOU: Think he means the PMT shit?
LT. KIDD: You answer some questions, we’ll think about getting you what you want. How about that?
SUBJECT#3: I TIRE.
LT. KIDD: [unintelligible]
CPL. GAVRILOU: [simultaneous] Let him go.
LT. KIDD: [unintelligible]
CPL. GAVRILOU: Drop him. Drop him or I’ll use this.
SUBJECT#3: THE DISOBEDIENT WILL SUFFER DEATH.
CPL. GAVRILOU: You okay?
LT. KIDD: You just fucking shot General fucking Mersher’s son.
SUBJECT#3: AN EMPTIED VESSEL IS OF NO CONCERN.
CPL. GAVRILOU: Guess now we both fucking shot him.
VOICE-OVER: Due to his connection to a senior officer, Thomas Mersher was officially reported deceased on Saturday, May eighteenth, twenty thirty-four, as the victim of an automobile accident in Kentucky while traveling to visit his family.
SUBJECT#4: Oh no, oh no. It’s happening. It’s happening again.
LT. MIDDLETON: What’s happening?
CPT. WILES: Sit down, Dr. Jones.
SUBJECT#1: I’m not going back there.
CPT. WILES: Sit down, or I’ll have Sergeant Henry restrain you.
SUBJECT#1: I’m not going back. You can take someone else.
SUBJECT#2: Oh no, please not me.
LT. HALL: Ma’am? Dr. Hendricks?
SUBJECT#2: NOT ENOUGH. NOT ENOUGH.
LT. HALL: [unintelligible]
SUBJECT#2: [gasping] Oh God. Oh God.
LT. HALL: What? I can hardly hear you.
SUBJECT#2: Oh God. I’m back. Thank God. Where am I?
SUBJECT#4: YES. AMBROSIA. I QUENCH THE THIRST.
CPL. DEESEY: What do we do? What do we do?
LT. MIDDLETON: Don’t shoot. Don’t shoot him. That’s an order.
SUBJECT#4: THERE MUST BE MORE.
LT. MIDDLETON: Vincent?
SUBJECT#4: THIS VESSEL MUST BE FILLED. YOU WILL BRING AMBROSIA.
LT. MIDDLETON: We can do that. We can do that. Do you have a name?
SUBJECT#4: I AM WITHOUT NAME, FOR I AM WITHOUT PEER.
SUBJECT#1: Oh, thank God. It took one of the others.
CPT. WILES: You’re going to have to give us some real answers, Dr. Jones. Dr. Jones? Are you listening to me?
SUBJECT#1: No. No, I’m not. I’m Riebel.
CPT. WILES: Dr. Riebel?
CPT. WILES: You’re Michael Riebel?
SUBJECT#1: Yes, for fuck’s sake, yes. I’m not Arthur Jones. I’m just…wearing his body. I have been ever since I came back into the circle and watched my own head pop like a watermelon.
CPT. WILES: [unintelligible]
SUBJECT#1: Yeah, I know.
CPT. WILES: So where is Dr. Jones?
SUBJECT#1: The other place, I guess. And you know what? If it’s a choice between wearing this sad gray sack and losing thirty years of life, or going back there, I’ll take the old man’s body, thanks very much.
SUBJECT#2: It’s over. It felt like…forever. What is this place? Where’s the lab?
LT. HALL: Ma’am, you’re still in the interview room.
SUBJECT#2: What do you mean, “ma’am”?
LT. HALL: I’m sorry, Dr. Hendricks.
SUBJECT#2: I’m not Dr. Hendricks. I’m Arthur Jones.
LT. HALL: What?
SUBJECT#2: I’m not Hendricks, I’m Jones. That’s Dr. Hendricks through there.
LT. HALL: That’s not a window. That’s a mirror.
SUBJECT#2: What are you talking about? Who are you? And what am I wearing? These aren’t…my hands. My body. What is this?
LT. HALL: [Simultaneous] Calm down, Dr. Hendricks.
SUBJECT#2: My name is Jones. I’m Jones, I’m Arthur Jones. I’m not a woman, I’m a man. I’m not there, I’m here now. What is happening to me? I’m Jones. Get your hands off me.
VOICE-OVER: Subject Two was subsequently transferred to a military medical facility for permanent psychiatric observation and care, where she maintains she is in fact Arthur Jones occupying the body of Mary-Anne Hendricks. Subject Two displays an uncommonly detailed knowledge of Subject One’s personal history and almost no knowledge of her own. Any attempt to discuss the current location of the absent Hendricks personality provokes extreme and prolonged panic attacks.
SUBJECT#1: As soon as they gave me the fourth Eta Nine dose, it was like walking down a corridor filled with thick curtains. Before, I could hear the voice, but it was muffled. Afterward, it just got clearer and clearer by the second, I was pushing through all those layers until I was right there, in the other place.
CPT. WILES: What place?
SUBJECT#1: It goes on. It’s where it lives. It saw me because it was, like, drinking the pDMT I’d taken, sucking it out through all the curtains. But now I was there, and it was so much stronger. It was getting the full hit, you know, like it couldn’t get enough. Just drinking it off.
CPT. WILES: You’re not making sense.
SUBJECT#1: And I could feel the…the Eta Nine was what took me there, right. But it was consuming it through me, so fast, I should have been sinking right back down, but that’s when it…
CPT. WILES: When it what?
SUBJECT#1: When it switched with me. Left me there and went back down instead. It wanted more, more than I had left in me. And I was stuck in that place, that place man, stuck in that place. I can’t ever go back.
CPT. WILES: [simultaneous] Cool it, okay. Be cool.
SUBJECT#1: But what if the circle starts up again? How much is still in my…in this body? How much is left in the others? It’ll go after the most, and when that’s gone, the next. I can’t go back. Not again.
LT. MIDDLETON: What do you want from us? You want the drug? The ambrosia?
SUBJECT#4: I MUST HAVE MORE. THIS VESSEL IS INSUFFICIENT.
LT. MIDDLETON: Can we get more of the Eta Nine?
CPL. DEESEY: How would I know?
LT. MIDDLETON: Whoa, catch him.
CPL. DEESEY: Got him.
SUBJECT#4: Ah. It’s gone? I’m back?
SUBJECT#1: No, no. Oh please no.
CPT. WILES: Dr. Riebel?
CPT. WILES: Holy shit.
LT. MIDDLETON: Berlman?
SUBJECT#4: It’s me, it’s me.
LT. MIDDLETON: You sure?
SUBJECT#4: It’s circling again, jumping between us, sucking up the last of the Eta Nine. It’s a fucking junky chasing a fix…Oh fuck, not again.
LT. MIDDLETON: Berlman?
SUBJECT#1: It’s going to keep bouncing between us until there’s nothing left for it to suck out, and then who the hell knows what will…It’s coming back. Kill me.
CPT. WILES: What?
SUBJECT#1: Kill me before it sends me back. Kill me while I’m still here. Come on, kill me. INSUFFICIENT.
LT. MIDDLETON: Berlman? You back?
SUBJECT#4: I can’t do this. Can’t do this. Can’t do this.
LT. MIDDLETON: Berlman, stop. Corporal, stop him. Stop him.
[struggling noise; ceases]
CPL. DEESEY: Oh Christ. What a mess.
SUBJECT#1: NO. NO. NO. NO.
CPT. WILES: What the hell is going on? Sergeant, what’s happening?
SGT. HENRY: He’s the last one, sir. Hendricks is catatonic and Berlman killed himself. Tore his own throat out.
SUBJECT#1: INSUFFICIENT. INSUFFICIENT.
CPT. WILES: Do you understand that? There is nowhere else for you to go but back where you came from.
CPT. WILES: Listen. I have a proposal. We can provide the…the ambrosia. Understand? But we’re going to want something in return. You share your knowledge, and we’ll give you all the ambrosia you can handle.
CPT. WILES: Prove it. Tell us about where you’re from, and we’ll start connecting more vessels for you to drink from.
SUBJECT#1: YOUR WORDS ARE INADEQUATE, YOUR BIOLOGY INADEQUATE.
CPT. WILES: Hey. Help me hold him. He’s having a fit.
SUBJECT#1: THE VESSEL MUST OPEN FURTHER.
SGT. HENRY: This is no fit. He’s standing and talking.
[cracking noise; liquid organic noise]
SGT. HENRY: Fuck.
CPT. WILES: Oh my God. Get it off me. Get him off me. Oh God.
PLAYBACK CONTINUES WITHOUT AUDIO.
VOICE-OVER: All further audio content from this interview is classified at Top Secret level. Note that Subject One continues to utter complex vocalizations despite sustaining catastrophic spontaneous head trauma. Alternate viewing angles reveal the near completely exploded cranial cavity. Camera two. Camera three. Vocalizations continue for approximately twenty-eight minutes. No indications of respiration occur during this time, yet vocalization is not impeded.
VOICE-OVER: This accelerated footage shows the final minute of Subject One’s interview recording. Vocalization ceases at 01:16:04.16. Subject One immediately falls to the floor and is later declared deceased on Thursday, May sixteenth, twenty thirty-four, at eighteen hundred hours, forty-five minutes, thirty-nine seconds.
CUTS TO BLACK.
VOICE-OVER: Thank you for your attention. When the counter on the screen reaches zero, an aerosolized dose of variant Eta Nine will be introduced into your compartment. Three additional doses will be administered at twenty-minute intervals. Prior to your encounter, we recommend a protracted period of deep, slow, rhythmic breathing to induce a state of calm and restfulness. When the dividing screen comes down, you will be able to see your partner through the safety window to your left or right. In the envelope on your desk are cards with questions to ask your partner whenever they are undergoing the encounter and you are not. Please try to speak clearly at all times. All interactions are recorded for future review by the project director. Thank you for your service. You may begin preparation.
FIVE SECONDS OF BLACK.
EIGHTY MINUTES OF STATIC.
Copyright © 2023 Andrew Leon Hudson