01 Feb The part of the DEEP WEB that we aren’t supposed to see Part 4
I’m not so sure what to think anymore.
I mean, it’s not like anything was clear-cut before but… the world just continues to make less and less sense. I opened up the contingency file. This is what it contained:
“FAIL-SAFE –– AGENT INCAPACITATED. ALIAS: ‘JACK RUST’. IDENTITY: [REDACTED]. CUSTOM MESSAGE:
Hello there. If you’re reading this, I suppose I’m out of commission. Shame, I guess. I’m going to assume that we’ve at least made it to the terminal. Here’s what you need to do:
Get on the train. Do so as soon as it comes. There’s only a ten-second window where it’ll open for anybody. Now, it’s going to be the fifth – count them, the fifth stop you’ll need to get off at. There won’t be any announcements. No indications. Nothing. Do not fall asleep, just pay attention. This train goes fast, but it’ll still take a while. Be patient.
While you’re in there, do not look out the windows. There’s nothing to look at anyways, you’ll be in a tunnel. Nevertheless… it’s better that you refrain from doing so. You see, we’ve been having problems recently. Sometimes, something stares back at you. And you can’t really look away.
Now, what I’m going to mention next isn’t likely. I’d say it’s a 1 in a 1000 chance. But you don’t have the means to deal with it, so you’ll need a heads-up. If at any one of the stops, you see or hear the door opening, hide under the seats. There shouldn’t be anybody getting on right now. Just close your eyes and wait for them to leave. Now, if they’re still there after the fourth stop… I’m sorry.
Once you’ve arrived at the fifth, get out. It’ll be another terminal. Very small one. There should be stairs to the right and a ladder to the left. Do not even think about going down the stairs. As you go up the ladder, it should start getting darker. Don’t worry, this is what’s supposed to happen. Keep feeling upwards. Eventually, you should touch something solid. It’s a fake rock. Push it up and climb out. Put it back when you’re done.
You should now be in a dead wheat field. This is Texas. Between Crocket and Sutton county, to be specific. Start looking around. There should be a small, abandoned farmhouse visible a few miles in the distance. Go towards it.
Once you’ve gone in, look for a basement. The place isn’t big, you should find it easy enough. Once you have, go down there. Now, the lights don’t work so it’ll be dark. Turn the brightness up on the phone if you have to. You should be looking for a big, red door. There’s only one, so if you think that you’ve found it, you have. There’s going to be a numerical set of buttons right by the handle. The password is 5-3-2-5-6-7-8.
Now, this next part’s a doozy. Not that you have to do anything crazy… it’s just what I’m about to tell you.
You see, the reason these people knew where to find you was because they went through us first. We’d been monitoring you ever since you started getting close to finding that page. I didn’t tell you, because… well why would I?
Apparently there was a mole informant in our midst. We believe that he was a member of a cult that we thought went defunct a while ago. ‘The faction of the lost gods.’ That’s what they call themselves. I won’t go into detail on them here. All I’ll tell you is that they would go to the ends of the earth to find what you saw that day. That’s their one and only objective. They aren’t the only group seeking this. However… they’re the only one that we’re worried about.
I guess once they started hearing about those riddles, they thought that this thing was trying to communicate with somebody. With them. Trying to lead them there.
But this is the part that didn’t make any sense. The thing that had stumped all of us. You were never supposed to see what you did. It wasn’t supposed to be there. We have no clue why it was. One of the strangest things was that nobody had even created the page that it popped up on. We don’t know how you found it. You were the first person that saw it since we took it off the site.
This is where things got hairy for us. As soon as the informant noticed this, he called in a raid on our Texas headquarters. That’s the one you’re going to. It was a massacre. They stole our equipment, and started tracking you down themselves. Luckily for me, I wasn’t there for that. I was already on my way to you.
Now, we don’t work for the Government. We just work with them. But these politicians… they have a real antiquated code of ethics. A real antiquated idea of how to fix things. You see, these cult members aren’t so easy to find. If they were, they would have been neutralized a long time ago. Because of that, there exists a contingency protocol for this exact purpose. “Blackout” is what they call it. If they ever found out that this group had any chance of finding whatever it was that you saw, they’d put it into motion. Trust me, that’s not going to be fun for anybody. They aren’t willing to take any more risks.
That’s why we didn’t tell them… why we didn’t tell most people in our own organization. They might spill the beans.
However, if you’re still reading this… that means desperate measures can wait.
Once you’ve gone in, go directly straight until you’ve reached what looks like a control room. In the far-right corner, there should be on older desktop mounted to the wall. Luckily, that’s one of the few things they didn’t take.
Boot it up. It’s going to prompt you for a password. Type in ‘Primordial’. A trap door should open up in the middle of the room. Walk down those steps and you should find yourself facing a bunch of file cabinets. Start searching through them. You’re looking for a folder under the name ‘Caine Hunter’. He’s… an old friend. It’s ordered alphabetically so it shouldn’t be that hard.
That folder should contain his address. I understand that this is a lot of work for just one piece of information. However, this guy moves around so much, I just didn’t bother keeping up. You need to go and find him. He’ll have the answers that I don’t. At this point, he’s our best shot. Tell him Ben sent you.
I’ll leave you with this message:
Mankind must not go back to hiding in fear. No one else will protect us, and we must stand up for ourselves.
This government protocol is not the way we go. Good luck.
That was the end of the message. This was… a lot to take in, to say the least. But it sounded like I had a job to do. Luckily, nothing else got on the train with me.
It took a while, but I finally got to the basement door in the farmhouse. As soon as I walked in, a wall of stench hit me. I reflexively gagged. A massacre. Those words rang through my head.
I found a light-switch on the wall and flicked it. As the stale incandescent light washed over the place, I understood what he meant. It was a massacre indeed. And nobody was there to clean it up. Holding my breath, I stepped over the decaying, uniformed corpses. As much as I would try to avoid looking at them, I couldn’t stop myself from glancing down every so often.
I was about to pass out once I reached the control room. I followed the instructions and found the folder. As soon as I did, I got the hell out of there. Once I was back outside, I read through it. Caine Hunter was 45 years old. And he lived in Hong Kong.
Shit, I thought. I was starting to hate travelling.
It took me a while to find a road. I eventually managed to hitchhike into a town. From there, I got another ride to Dallas Fort Worth international. That’s where I am right now. I’m tired beyond belief at this point, and it doesn’t help that the back of my damn neck’s itching like hell.
The flight was long, so I got to contemplate the past week. There were a lot of unanswered questions still lingering, and I really didn’t know what to expect from Caine Hunter. I remembered that train terminal. The card I found in the washroom. “FOTLG”. Faction of the lost gods. Shit.
I finally arrived and cabbed to this guy’s address. I was running low on funds at this point. During the drive, I watched as the glimmering lights of the city moved past me. On the surface, the world just seemed so straight-forward. Guess it really starts unraveling when you look into it.
I got dropped off at an unassuming apartment complex. I guess you could call it middle class. I buzzed his room number. It took a while but somebody finally answered:
He sounded surprised. As if he wasn’t used to visitors. I took a second to think about what I was going to say.
“Ben sent me. I need help.” Was my ultimate response.
Almost instantly, I heard the front entrance unlock. Well, here we go, I thought. I started making my way up to the seventh floor.
As I was about to knock on his door, it opened up. A rather unkempt middle-aged man pulled me into his room.
Looking extremely anxious, he paced around as I took a seat. He finally stopped, turning to me:
“What do you mean you need help?” His otherwise deep voice croaked as he said this. I knew that I was about to tell him something he didn’t want to hear.
“I saw… that thing. And now there’s people after me.”
His facial expression contorted as he heard this.
“Who’s after you? Do you know?” His speech was quick and discombobulated.
“The faction of the lost gods, is what I think they’re called.” Was my response.
Now his face went completely pale.
“They’re back?” I flinched as he cursed loudly right after.
He sat down, burying his face into his hands. He looked back up at me:
“What happened to Ben?”
My silence was enough of an answer. He just nodded.
“He was… a good guy.” I just nodded back in response. I heard him mumble something under his breath, but I couldn’t make it out.
Now it was time for me to ask the big question. The question that nobody seemed to have the answer to.
“What was it that I saw?” He just stared at me for a few seconds. And then he finally spoke up:
“I used to work on a space station named Chronos-1. You heard of it?”
No, I hadn’t. And that’s what I told him.
“Well that’s because you’re not supposed to.”
Now, I really had no idea where this was going.
He went on to tell me about how the Chronos-1 used to orbit space 1500 km away from the ISS.
“It was meant to be used for navigation and communication.” He stated. “That’s what they told us, anyways. They were doing other stuff up for sure. Why else would the not tell the public it existed? Anyways, it didn’t last long.”
“One day, we get a message from NASA. There was a signal of sorts, coming from somewhere deep in space. Well, more like some kind of anomaly. Something that didn’t make sense. They didn’t elaborate on what that was supposed to mean. Anyways, they estimated that it came from beyond the Kuiper belt. All of this was strange, of course. They decided to check it out.”
He paused, letting off a quick sigh as he did so.
“They sent an interstellar probe towards this signal. It was estimated to reach there in about nine years. And it just so happens that about nine years later, I’m back up in space after taking a hiatus on earth. While there, we get another message. The probe had reached where the signal had approximately been emanating from. They were going to transmit a feed for us to watch.”
I raised my eyebrow. He just chuckled at my confusion.
“Yeah… we’ve come a lot farther in terms of space technology than the public is led to believe. At this point, I don’t think you should be surprised. Anyways, everybody’s crowded around the monitors, waiting to see what the hell the probe picked up. Keep in mind that there were only 10 people in the room at the time. It was too tight to fit more, so we were going to be the first ones aboard who would see it. The transmission eventually blinked onto the screen.”
He stopped, rubbing his temple as he did so. It almost seemed like it hurt him to think about.
“Everything went by quick. It only took a few seconds for the screaming to start. People were banging their damn heads on the floors and walls. It was chaos. Everybody lost their minds after seeing what was on that monitor. The only reason I survived was because I didn’t actually get a glimpse of it. I was still in the bathroom when the transmission came through. I got out as soon as I heard the commotion. I still passed out, though. Guess I’m not so good with blood. All I remember before hitting the floor was seeing a lone person still glued to the screen. He was the only one watching at this point. When I woke up, they started asking me questions, but I had no answers for them. I didn’t see it.”
“Wait, so what was the cause of death for them?” I asked.
“Suicide. Mostly blunt force.” He responded. “Everybody in that room found a way to kill themselves.”
What the hell? I thought. Was this really what I had seen as well?
“So what happened to the other guy? The guy that you said was still watching?”
“He passed out as well. But only for a minute. Other than that, he said that he was fine. Never even really brought it up. When they’d ask him what he’d seen, he’d just shrug and say that he didn’t know what they were talking about. I knew him, actually. His name was Blake. He’d always been a strange guy.”
There was another pause. I kept trying to work this out in my head. Caine kept going:
“But that wasn’t the end of his story.”
I perked up.
“He got fired soon after. He seemed to just stop caring about anything that was going on around him. He’d make these… strange, dark outbursts every so often, and it would scare the hell out of everybody he worked with. He was going insane.”
“After his last day, he went off the grid. His family, the few friends he had, none of them knew where he went or where he was going. There were no traces of him anywhere. But unbeknownst to everybody, he was going around the country, recruiting people into some cult that he’d created. You can guess what it was called.”
It didn’t take long for me to put it together.
“The faction of the lost gods.”
“That’s right.” He continued. “He’d even written and released a manifesto explaining why this was necessary. He’d go on about how there was something inherently wrong with the inner-workings of our external world, and that we weren’t even supposed to exist. Apparently our system was ‘corrupted’, whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean. He was bat-shit. Or… maybe it was what he’d seen that made him that way.”
He went on to explain how Blake had been looking for something the whole time he’d been recruiting members. He’d been looking for the probe footage.
“You see, that probe is still there, transmitting whatever the hell that thing is to a feed that only the government had access to. I’ll assume you’ve seen the site where all the ‘sensitive knowledge’ goes.”
I nodded. Wouldn’t be here if I didn’t.
“At first, that’s where they stuffed it. According to them, a few hackers banging their heads on keyboards every now and then wasn’t that big of a deal. But after what had happened on Chronos, almost nobody dared to look at it. The few who tried… well you know the story. But here’s where things got incomprehensibly fucked. What I’m about to tell you… almost nobody knows about. This includes 99% of government agents.”
He took out a cigarette carton and lit one up. He took a long, heavy drag before continuing:
“After about six months, I went back to the Chronos. They offered me a severance package to just retire and keep my mouth shut, but I decided against it. I was too cocky. I tried to pretend like what I saw didn’t affect me. That shit was a mistake.”
He ashed his cigarette and lit another one.
“It was a routine workday. We were finishing up some maintenance when we heard a deep humming sound coming from somewhere outside the station. It wasn’t like anything we’d ever heard before. Even now, I can’t replicate what it sounded like in my head, it was just… strange. A bunch of people started staring out the windows just to see what was happening. I didn’t join in. After that probe footage, my curious side pretty much disappeared. However, what happened next made me question what kind of universe we really live in.”
“I was eating lunch in the mess hall when I heard commotion coming from the hallways. I would’ve checked it out, but that’s when the screaming started. It wasn’t normal. Honestly, it didn’t sound like anything that a human being should have been able to produce. I remember looking at everybody else in the room. They weren’t moving. We were all on the same page. A couple of guys actually barricaded the entrance with chairs. However… we couldn’t keep our eyes off of it. There was some of kind light bleeding in from the cracks under and above the door. But something was wrong about it. The light wasn’t any color we’d ever seen before.”
The familiarity of these descriptions got my mind racing. This was it, wasn’t it? This is what I had saw. He continued:
“I remember getting light-headed just from looking at it for a few seconds. The next hours were excruciating. The screams didn’t stop. Our collective sanity was being pushed to the brink. We all just sat, fingers in our ears and our eyes closed, waiting for the end of this shit. Eventually, the door opened up and we were escorted out. I remember looking around to see the white walls of the station now stained with red. 90% of the crew died that day. We had questions, of course. About what had happened. However, everybody that would have known was now dead.”
He leaned back in his chair. Fished another cigarette out of the carton. This time, it was accompanied by a swig of whiskey. He went on:
“I arrived back on earth shortly after. This time, they didn’t offer me my job back. Just a severance check and a non-disclosure. Though, it’s not like I cared at this point. Would’ve quit regardless. Now, here’s the connection to what you saw.”
“That day, I was at my house, mulling over my life. Then I heard a knock at my door. It was Ben. He asked me what the hell had happened on Chronos. I told him. But the thing I didn’t understand is how the hell he knew that something had even happened. He had never even worked with NASA. So I asked him about it.”
“He said that a wave of distress calls from the station all came through at once. They all described exactly what I had gone through. The problem was, they had no means of dealing with this. It would have taken too long to organize a rescue mission. Everybody was at a loss for what to do. That’s when the higher-ups came up with something off-the-cuff. They had a hunch. It was actually more of an experiment. They checked up on the website. Sure enough, it’d been breached once again. Somebody was viewing the probe footage.”
“They tracked it down to an abandoned warehouse in San Antonio, which is where Ben was at the time. At that point, he was just a field agent so they contacted and told him to go check it out. He drove there along with a SWAT team. When they arrived, it was a bloodbath. They started getting shot at as soon they walked in. Whoever was doing it… was trying to protect something. Half the team was killed before they managed to secure the place. They detained the shooters and started sweeping the rest of the building. There was nothing on the upper floors. But then they got to the basement.”
“There was just one person down there, sitting in front of a computer monitor. They approached him slowly, barking at him to put his hands up. He ignored everything. A SWAT member eventually got close to him. That’s when he started screaming out of nowhere and shot himself in the head. There’s no doubt that he got a glimpse of the screen. Nobody approached him after that. They all just kept pointing their weapons at him and telling him to turn around. The guy eventually did. He said that it was Blake. Ben recognized him, because he’d become infamous around governmental circles. He said that there was blood seeping from his eyes and nose. Skin pale as the moon. He only said one thing.”
Caine stopped and sighed. He took a big swig of the whiskey and looked at me dead-center.
“You can’t stop it. If this doesn’t happen today, it’ll happen eventually. Our reckoning has yet to come.”
“Ben said that this chilled him to the bone. He told me that Blake had said it in such a tone and conviction that just made him feel despair and emptiness inside. He shot him right after that. As well as the monitor.”
“They rounded up the rest of the cult members and took them into questioning. They wouldn’t cooperate, obviously. They all just repeated the same words over and over. Some weird fucking motto or something. Anyways, the higher-ups got there a couple hours later. They congratulated Ben and told him to go home. The distress reports had finally stopped coming in from Chronos.”
“Wait.” I interjected. “The reports… did they stop as soon as Blake got shot?”
Caine chuckled. It was a dry one. No Humor in it.
“Yeah.” He continued. “You’re figuring it out, aren’t you? Here’s the conclusion they came to: whatever that probe was picking up… whatever Blake was watching… it was watching him back. Somehow, they were communicating with each other.”
This was horrifying to think about. Caine continued:
“He was sending something towards Earth. Something beyond our comprehension that we were never meant to see. Who the hell knows what it wants from us. Probably nothing good. Anyways… they decided to make sure that nobody else ever saw it again. They disconnected from the probe. Stopped the stream altogether. I’m sure the thought process was that if we don’t seek it out, then it won’t notice us.”
“Wait, what?” I nearly shouted at him. “How the hell did I see it, then?”
“That’s what I was wondering.” He said. “You got an answer?”
I tried telling him about the AI, but the words just stumbled out of my mouth into an incoherent mess. He just looked at me in confusion.
“An AI? What the hell are you talking about?” He asked.
“On that website… there was another prompt. It brought me there, that’s how I found it.”
“Prompts? What are you talking about?”
Screw it, I thought. He clearly didn’t know about it. There were still too many questions pressing against my brain anyways, so I didn’t linger on this.
“How many other people do you know that have seen it?” I asked.
He scoffed. “The ones that are alive? You.”
This sent chills down my spine. He went on:
“Which begs the question: How long did you look at it for? Just a couple of seconds, right?”
“No.” I responded. “Nearly half a minute.”
After I said this, his face went blank.
I just shrugged. “Look, I don’t… I don’t know what to make of any of this.” was all I managed to stammer out.
With a shocked, contemplative expression on his face, Caine just looked up at the ceiling. As he did this, the words from the contingency message rang through my head. You were the first one that had seen it since we took it down. But why me? Why was I so special? Why did I have to see it?
Caine started speaking again:
“Computers may know more about humanity than we ever will.”
I just stared at him in confusion. What an odd statement to make. He went on:
“If it actually was an AI that sent to you that page… maybe it means something.”
“Means something? Like what?” I retorted.
“Nobody else seems to be able to handle seeing that thing. But like Blake, you appear to be an exception.”
I really thought about this. He was right, wasn’t he? Whatever the hell this thing is… it seemed to push people to the brink of insanity after just a few of seconds of exposure. I mean, I sure as hell didn’t know what I saw. And I certainly didn’t like seeing it… but I was more or less in a normal state of mind.
However, there was one more question I couldn’t ignore.
“Those members of the cult that were detained… they weren’t the only ones, where they? There were other members.”
Caine nodded. “They tried to tell themselves that they were it. That this was done. That’s what everybody wanted to believe. Underestimating Blake’s influence was the biggest mistakes they could have made.”
At this point, I didn’t want to think about it anymore. I needed a break from this discussion. I asked him if there was somewhere I could rest. He told me there was a spare mattress in the closet.
I need to sleep. But not before I finish getting this out. A million thoughts are still running through my head as I write this. Ben said that this guy was our best shot, but nothing’s been resolved. Hell, what was he supposed to do? Maybe this “Blackout” contingency was necessary. If everything I’ve heard is true… it might be the only option.
God, this itch on the back of my neck is killing me. Anyways, it looks I’m going to have to make a decision soon.
EDIT: Caine and I just heard somebody trying to open the door. He took a look through the peephole and told me there were people with weird masks on standing outside. This is not good.