Welcome to The Veillee! We are a writing collective dedicated to helping authors hone their skills and nurture their imaginations. This is our very first week of existence, which also happens to be the birth week of the immortal Edgar Allan Poe. (A coincidence? Kind of, actually! But a fortuitous one all the same.)
Edgar Allan Poe was a master of short fiction. Hailed by some as the father of the detective story, Poe paved the way for the horror and mystery genres we recognize today. He pioneered the use of Gothic elements in American literature, and aside from his famous obsession with the macabre, he also staunchly believed that beauty, inspiration, and imagination should be valued above all. His ideas about science and technology were profoundly progressive, often uncanny from a modern perspective, for his imagination produced technological wonders that would eventually become reality. He was a genius at capturing, and translating for the page, intense physical and psychological experiences. One does not finish a Poe tale without having some sort of feeling.
So, in honor of one of the world’s greatest creative imaginations, we will be showcasing Poe-inspired work for the next two weeks. We will have Poe-ish poetry, Edgary essays, and of course, frightening tales of the grotesque and arabesque! Be sure to stop by on Thursday the 19th for Poe’s big birthday celebration, featuring a horrifying short story from Blake Walker, a super rad Nashville based writer. And you won’t want to miss the first part of Jessica Pherson’s The Ninth Victim, which will make its debut on Friday.
For now, though, author Rachel Lynn Brody brings us a mysterious tale of her own.
Rachel is a New York based writer, and we are thrilled to feature her as our first contributing author. So, without further ado, please allow us to present:
The Tell Tale Tech
By Rachel Lynn Brody
You’re right! I’m nervous, are you happy? I’m nervous. Alert, let us call it. I notice things. And I hear many, many things that the rest of you ignore. It’s not a bad talent, paying attention. Especially in our line of work. Recognition of patterns leads to a more conscious awareness of reality. Perception, as the whole of the law. Through that perception, action is achieved. In other words, I realized – I perceived – the truth of what had happened before the rest of you conceived of the possibility of its taking place. But, never fear. The murderer’s method is discovered. All is well. I can prove it.
Who can pinpoint the exact moment when inspiration strikes? Who can say when these ideas first enter our minds? And once they do, who has time for sleep? There’s so much research to be done, internet contacts to talk to, bulletin boards that can shed light on a subject. There are monsters walking amongst us, you know.
I am trying to stay calm! Don’t you understand how important this is?! Of course not. No.
What is my judgment of the murderer, you ask? I call him “murderer,” don’t I? He is brilliant. He has tremendous ideas, is obsessed with success. When I met him at the station house, he was quiet, respectful. Perhaps even smug, as if delighted by the accuracy of his prediction even while devastated by his friend’s death, or in agreement that his friend’s life was an acceptable price to have paid.
Why did we let him go? Well. There was no evidence, you see. But I have changed all that.
You see, there was something in his manner that did not sit right with me. I knew, when my captain released him, that I would need to be methodical in my efforts if I were going to prove my suspicions true. My captain does not trust his feelings as much as I do. But a crime had taken place, a young man was dead. I knew there was more to this story than met the eye, and I knew I had to dig deeper to discover what had taken place.
What the dead man had done was stupid – going out and testing the invention when he’d been told it didn’t work – but even the murderer admitted that the machine had worked correctly that afternoon. That they had argued. That there were others interested in taking control of his invention, and he would lose control. And the dead young man was a daredevil. A football hero, youngest son. Born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Deranged? No. Suicidal? I thought not.
So I investigated. How? In the only way I could: getting close to the murderer. Smiling at him in the station. Paying my respects at his friend’s funeral. For they had been friends, I didn’t doubt that. I was sympathetic, pretty, non-threatening. I spoke to him about his plans for the invention. And then, one night, I broke into his workshop and planted a camera that would allow me to observe him, unseen.
For weeks, his routine was the same. He would go to the workshop, sit at his desk, write papers. Over time, I came to know where the invention was kept: in a storage cabinet, which he kept under combination lock.
Once I had this information, I know – it was only a matter of time before I had my evidence. It was time to go back.
You wouldn’t believe how careful I was. Why didn’t I come with the police? I already told you, my captain had let the murderer go. I couldn’t obtain a warrant. And I knew he had done something wrong. What dedicated officer of the law could let such an injustice persist?
And so I broke back in, and crept to the locker, twisting and turning the keys and letters and numbers until they were arranged in the requisite pattern. The lock opened in my hands with a simple twist. The locker erupted! Bangs and crashes and clatters and rattles, hiccupping jolts and in the end the din faded to silence. Scraps of metal and soldering irons tumbled out of the locker. It was unlike the murderer to leave his work in such disarray.
I kept quite still, listening for some sign that the racket had been overheard. My heart was pounding in my chest, marking an unsteady rhythm that I was sure would give me away to anyone able to hear as well as I. After a long period of silence (I call it silence, but the rushing, pounding heart contracting and relaxing in my chest was an almost overpowering sensation as it sounded in my ears), I realized: this was the feeling of terror, and of the emotion’s subsiding.
Re-equilibrating, I groped in the night-time darkness, reaching out towards the upper compartments of the storage locker once more. My hand brushed against a solid, metal-plated thing, and I felt it start to tremble as my finger pressed against some invisible, insensible on-switch. The invention whirred gently to life. It was distracting and enticing all at once, that whir. A thin sort of vibration, soft and insistent, like a tzzting phone on a hard surface.
I sighed as I examined the thing, running my hands over its surface. No jagged edges. No obvious fault lines, no cracks. Even after its crash. Had the murderer repaired it without my seeing? What had he done to restore this sound, this darkened thrumming sound? This hellish rhythm, this tattoo beating itself out against the metal sphere in my hands? And then, suddenly, only silence and stillness. The thing had stopped.
This was my evidence. It started and stopped according to a rule the murderer had not shared with his friend! It was so close to me now, so obvious! And yet, it was hardly a moment of risk, nor of exposure. I was not soaring through the skies – what was its motivation in stopping, at that moment?
Then I heard it. The sound of a door, far away, opening and closing. Footsteps, distant voices. I could not risk that they were coming my way, and so I hid it – the prototype, the murderer’s machine.
Ah! This. This is what you have wanted me to speak about from the moment you arrived; from the way your face has changed its expression I can tell that this is the thing you have wanted me to speak about. The hiding of the machine. But why would I tell you this, now? It is safe, it is protected. It can harm no-one, this strange creation with its inscrutable motivations. You see, the inventor, his investors – they think the machine offers so many possibilities. You refuse to see its drawbacks. Do you think Oppenheimer wanted to give us the tools to destroy the world? Beware your questions. You may not want them answered.
This thing, the invention, like a great ugly beast, had tasted blood. Its sudden shutdown in my hands might have been a malfunction, the same as its shutting down as the murderer’s partner soared through the skies was ruled a malfunction. But what if, as I tell you, the malevolence of its builder infuses this intelligent design? Could the thing think? Was this its inventor’s intention? When I held it, in that moment, I would have dashed it to the floor - except for the fear that it would not obey the laws of gravity, and would fly toward the heavens instead of its own accord.
But you see, I have already thought of this, and I have already prepared against it. Such evil cannot be allowed to spread. I took the machine in my hands and I brought it down with harsh, violent strokes, crushing it against the top of the work table. I struck the machine to the table again and again and again. And then I hid the machine, as I have said before.
And so when the door burst open and the security guards entered, they found me empty-handed. They asked what I was doing, I showed them my badge. How had I gained entry? There was little I could do to dissemble. So I questioned them, instead. An alarm had been tripped, they said. So what had I to fear? I am an officer of the law, after all. I said I had received a complaint – and here was a moment of such composure, such self-possession, that I think it will impress you quite distinctly. I said I had received a complaint about a noise. An intermittent sort of hum. Did they know who might be here, after hours? Could they give me a tour of the space, where they thought such an item might be hidden? Because I wanted to see if I had hidden it well, you see, in case I had to leave it and come back again another night.
It was easy to speak to these men. A smile, a favorable tone of voice, and they were all too happy to tell me about the strange young inventor who came here every day, and his strange friendship with the young man who had died in the accident so many months ago. As they showed me where they imagined the invention could be hidden, I was glad to see they did not come near to the place where in fact it was. As they finished, I found myself standing – with great audacity, delightful audacity – in front of the very place where I had hidden it away.
Business covered, and more at ease, we continued to chat. They were friendly. They flirted. And I was polite in return. But, before long, I admit I began to feel tired; I wished they would leave. I felt a slight ringing, or maybe it was a buzzing, in my ear. But still they chatted, and still we talked. The buzzing grew, until I began to realize – and it took me several minutes – that it in fact was not in my ears at all. And yet, while the sound was, to me, so loud I could hardly ignore it…these men did not seem to react to its presence.
No doubt I now grew very pale, but I kept talking, telling them about how I’d come to be here, hardly able to focus on the words I was saying for the sake of the thrumming, buzzing sound. I answered their questions – I grew impatient – I think my tone became patronizing more than once – because of that buzzing, underneath me, and yet it seemed they did not hear it! I talked more quickly and with more passion but the noise grew louder still. I stalked back and forth, I distracted them with comments about the murderer and his methods and his partner and the partner’s death – and yet it did not stop, and they did not go! Did they hear the sound too? Now, how could they not?
And soon it felt as if I were screaming to be heard over the sound of that horrible tzzting, that buzzing, which kept growing louder, and they pretended as if they did not hear anything at all! They smiled at me! They chatted, pleasantly! They must hear. They must suspect. Had they called the station already? I had been warned to leave the murderer alone. Had told them already that I had not obtained a warrant. I had tried to destroy the thing – thought I had destroyed the thing – and yet they were standing here, watching me – mocking me! Perhaps my colleagues were already on their way from the station!
Still, the buzzing grew louder!
“That’s it!” I shrieked. “I can’t take it! It’s here! I hid it! Right here! That sound is the thrumming of the murderer’s machine!”
Rachel Lynn Brody is currently based in New York City. Produced theater credits include one-act plays Post (1999 Write To Be Heard Award Winner), Playing It Cool, Stuck Up A Tree, Mousewings and Green Beer and Bagels. Short films include Vamps, Nolan and more. Her critical writing has appeared in publications including The Buffalo News, The Spectrum, Rogues & Vagabonds, and The British Theatre Guide. She holds an MFA Dramatic Writing and a BA in Media Studies (Video Production), and has both a short story anthology and web series forthcoming in 2012. More information on her work is available at www.rlbrody.com.
Learn more about Rachel by checking The Matchbox section of this blog!