Windows to the Soul

For a long time, debate raged over whether or not there existed such a thing as a soul. Science nearly discredited the entire idea, but then came the breakthrough. The soul became an accepted fact of human existence, as widely believed in as the existence of the stomach.

Of course, there’s a big difference between knowing and understanding. In the case of souls, current technology is incapable of studying them without killing the subject. After death, the soul vanishes. So we know they exist, but we know nothing about them.

Until now.

I’ve developed a containment device that I am certain can hold the soul in place long enough for me to make a few observations. As for the subject, I’ve procured a death row inmate. His involvement in my experiment postponed the end of his life by several weeks, so he was happy to participate.

The test begins in an hour. I expect it to last another hour at most. I shall report my findings when it’s complete.

I can’t believe what I’ve accomplished.

I can’t believe the experiment is still ongoing.

My containment device worked better than I ever thought possible. Souls have always vanished at the moment of, or moments after, death. My device is based on readings taken during those times, and it attempts to block whatever forces cause the disappearance. It was only supposed to maintain the status quo of the immediate moment of death for a short time. Long enough, I hoped, for some new discoveries, but never this long.

It has been five hours since the experiment started, and the soul of Bruce Merrick is still contained. I only left the testing chamber because I can’t stay awake any longer, and I needed to make this record while it was all still fresh in my mind.

Here’s what happened:

First I rendered the subject unconscious, to ensure a painless death. The actual method of execution I chose was decapitation for its swiftness and certainty. Bruce was restrained within the containment device, and decapitated via a remote controlled guillotine. The containment device was activated just prior to the guillotine.

Souls are, of course, invisible, but my instruments were able to detect its presence immediately.

It occurred to me as I wrote this that my instruments could be faulty. Before I go any further, I should run a diagnostic.

The diagnostic is complete; my instruments are operating flawlessly. Bruce Merrick, or at least his soul, is still contained within the chamber. Furthermore, I have observed a strange phenomenon. The containment area is filled with a very thin mist. I almost overlooked it as I ran the diagnostic, but it’s there. I wonder if it’s an effect of the containment field on the soul, or if this is how a soul behaves when trapped in one place for an extended amount of time. It’s late, so I’ll sleep on it. In the meantime, I’ve set up every recording device I have to monitor the testing chamber.

I rushed to the testing chamber first thing this morning, and my findings are fascinating.

The mist is still present, thicker than last night, but also clinging more to the floor rather than filling the entire space. The floor also appears damp.

Bruce’s body still lies in its restraints, his head staring at me from the tub it landed in. I really want to remove his corpse, but there’s no way to do that without disturbing the experiment.

Reviewing the video footage from last night (sped up, of course), the thickening and sinking of the mist is apparent. There was nothing in the audio aside from the expected background of my machinery.

I’ve spent the morning in observation, and it is now 12:30. I still can’t believe how effective my containment device is. The subject has endured for sixteen hours now—far beyond my initial estimate.

Interestingly, the signals coming from the soul have gotten stronger. This is why I believe the mist and moisture is in fact the soul manifesting itself. I still don’t know why it’s becoming visible, and I probably won’t have an answer until the experiment is concluded.

When I left for lunch, the mist had become so thick that the floor was entirely obscured. It is pure white and about four inches deep.

After lunch I noticed that the mist no longer filled the entire floor. The edges of the containment field are bare once more. My instruments are no longer useful, because the signals coming off the soul are now too strong for them to register; they simply were never designed for something this clear and powerful.

I noticed that the bare floor, which earlier I described as damp, seems perfectly dry.

I think I will try to recalibrate some spare equipment to handle the stronger signals coming out of the chamber.

It has now been nearly twenty-four hours since the start of the experiment, and there is a new development. The mist has continued to coalesce and shrink. At the center, there is what appears to be a solid mass. It’s just a shallow dome of white poking above the rest of the mist. My recalibrated instruments have kept up with the ever-increasing levels, but I may have to make more adjustments tomorrow.

The mist was gone this morning. I was alarmed at first; although the containment field still seemed to be working, all I saw in the chamber was Bruce’s corpse. The floor was completely bare, save for a few dark brown flecks of blood that the tub failed to catch.

Then I saw, in one corner of the chamber, a small puddle of white liquid. Rising out of it was a lump of white, larger than the one I observed last night, but otherwise the same. Now and then it seemed to throb or shift. At the moment I’m unsure if the amorphous mass is in fact solid. The only sure way to find out would be to enter the chamber, and I cannot do that for reasons stated earlier.

My containment device was never meant to run for this long, and I wonder if such an extended test is taking its toll on the equipment. There seems to be a…well, I can only describe it as a charge in the air. I feel it every time I enter the lab. I should check on the machinery again and make sure the containment field isn’t about to explode.

The machinery is working fine. Perhaps the energized feeling is just my own excitement.

I haven’t gone into the lab all evening. I just…didn’t feel like it, I guess. Instead I reviewed the video footage from the past twenty-four hours.

It’s fascinating to watch the mist develop. It first appeared a couple hours after the subject’s death. There was no concrete source; it simply faded into existence, filling the entire chamber right from the beginning. Seeing this time-lapse version of events, it is clear that the mist is condensing. It’s like watching steam turn to water, then ice.

Every time I reach the end of the recording, I pause and stare at the blob. Something about it…

As I was writing this, I glanced at the video one more time. I thought I saw an anomaly just before the recording stopped. I…I hesitate to write it down. I only caught it out of the corner of my eye, and it is late. I’ll review the footage again in the morning when I’m not so sleep-deprived.

The anomaly was nothing.

I made myself go to the lab this morning. The blob has grown. It sits in the center of the chamber, about half a meter tall during the apex of one of its throbs. I can’t be certain of this, but there may be a translucent film acting as a skin.

I’m afraid that’s all I noted before lunch. I was…eager to get out of there. I think it’s the sight of Bruce’s head lying in the tub. And the memory of that anomaly last night.

Which turned out to be nothing.

I didn’t go into the lab at all today. I’m not feeling well.

I was able to monitor the live video footage from today. The blob has begun moving around the chamber. I think it accomplishes this in a manner similar to a slug. Its progress is very slow. It seems to be moving in the direction of Bruce’s body.

A thought just occurred to me. If this blob is the soul, is it, in fact—

I must test this theory immediately.

I don’t feel well enough to write anything down. Check the audio recording for the results of my experiment.

I haven’t been back to the lab for two days. Irresponsible of me. Fortunately, I finally returned today to find everything still in working order. I deleted the audio recording from my last experiment. I was out of sorts, not in my right mind. No doubt I corrupted the results. The evidence was worthless, so I got rid of it.

I arrived at the testing chamber to find the blob sitting on top of the subject’s head. It hadn’t grown much since I last saw it, but its shape was altered slightly. Where before it was a mostly round lump, it now has a contour vaguely suggesting pseudopods. It appeared to use these to prod the subject, especially in the region of the eyes.

I received a very disturbing phone call this morning. Thank goodness for computers; I doubt my handwriting would be legible right now.

The short version is this: Bruce Merrick was innocent. Some new evidence turned up, and while Bruce certainly wasn’t a clean, law-abiding citizen, he was not the murderer we thought he was. He definitely didn’t belong on death row.

I keep telling myself it’s too late. No amount of regret will change that. Had I not pulled Bruce into this experiment, he would’ve been executed by the state even sooner. The best I can do is carry on with my work so his death won’t have been for nothing.

I went into the lab tonight. I wish I hadn’t. I’m not sure which is more disturbing: the phone call this morning or the image that met me in the containment chamber.

Bruce’s body was gone. His head was still there, but not in the tub. It was placed on the floor close to the glass. The eyes were missing.

As for the blob, it was on the far side of the containment field, much larger than it had been before.

The thing seemed to sense my approach. It turned, or rather, twisted to look at me. As it did, its shapeless form took on shape. No. The suggestion of a shape. Never before had it looked so human. I could make out a distorted, underdeveloped head, neck, torso. The limbs were as yet amorphous stubs, but it was close enough that I shudder just recalling it.

The energized feeling I mentioned earlier, it came back with a vengeance when that thing looked at me. I’m convinced now that it isn’t radiation off the machines, but something more primal from within: I was afraid. Perhaps before I was overcome with excitement, but today’s revelations have quenched my eagerness. Tonight I was inexplicably afraid.

I can’t sleep, so I’m recording my thoughts.

The one thing that has always held back mankind’s study of the soul is that it requires killing the test subject. This didn’t bother me because I was experimenting on a man already sentanced to death. But now it turns out I wasn’t.

If that thing is truly Bruce’s soul…

Why did I delete that audio recording from the other night?

On a whim I decided to check the video stream coming from the containment chamber in the lab. Probably won’t do anything to help me sleep, but—

What is it doing?

What is it doing?

The blob/soul/whatever. It’s staring right at the camera. I know it’s looking, because it has eyes now. Not eyes like iris and pupil, eyes like indentations in its face. Like someone used a golf ball to poke holes in it.

I just put in my headphones to see if there was any audio coming through. There is something, but I can’t make it out. It’s a deep sound, throbbing.

I have to stop doing this to myself. If I don’t get sleep, all my observations will be unreliable.

I’ve tried to remember the contents of that deleted audio recording. Keep in mind this is a highly unreliable record, and shouldn’t be seriously considered:

Me: “Are you Bruce Merrick?”

Me: “Are you Bruce Merrick?”

Me: “Note, my instruments recorded a spike in energy coming from the containment field.”

Me: “Are you Bruce Merrick?”

???: “Mmbroow mwaa eh teaaah.”

Me: “If you are not Bruce Merrick, say so now.”

Me: “I take your silence to mean that you are indeed Bruce Merrick. Do you know where you are?”

???: “Hheaaah.”

Me: “Do you know what you are?”

???: “Teaaah teaah mmbehaa woo.”

Me: “If that is you attempting to speak, I cannot understand you. Bruce, do you know that you are dead?”

???: “Mmbroow mwaa eh teaaah.”

Me: “Please repeat that.”

???: “Mmbrews mwaak eh t-t-teaaht.”

The sounds that seemed to respond to my questions were deep and muted. I believed at the time that I was creating voices out of the ambient hum of machinery. That’s why I wrote it off and deleted the recording. After hearing what I did last night, however, I’m not so sure. I feel I should try another questioning session.

My visits to the lab have grown so infrequent, it seems like a foreign place to me now.

The thing was sitting in the center of the chamber when I arrived. It seems to have stopped growing, instead only refining its shape. Refining, but toward what I can’t tell. It’s like its goal is human, but its aim is terrible.

The audio record has the full session, but I’ll mention a few details here. I began by asking if the thing was Bruce Merrick. What it did in response made my skin crawl.

It performed that same twisting motion I’ve described before, then its face began pulling apart. Little holes grew into big holes that merged together until there was a lipless mouth speaking to me. The words were completely unintelligable, but there was meaning in those formless syllables. Meaning I can only guess at, but meaning all the same.

I ended the session abruptly when I noticed that the thing was inching closer to the glass that seperated us. I don’t know what I’m afraid of. The glass is bulletproof, and the thing has exhibited no signs of strength.

Except…

But that’s just conjecture. There is no video record of what happened back then, due to an equipment failure. Just conjecture.

But what else could have happened to Bruce’s body?

Another sleepless night, so I’m again watching the live video stream from the lab. As before, the thing is staring at the camera. Its mouth is moving, but I can’t pick up any audio. There’s something new, as well. Inside the mouth, I think I can make out teeth. Not human teeth. These make me think of a deep-sea fish more than anything else. Needles.

Bruce’s fate troubles me. He was innocent of murder, according to the court, but he wasn’t a good man, either. Strange as it sounds, I think I’d feel better if he’d been a model citizen falsely condemned. I feel like he’d be more likely to forgive.

There I go, imparting meaning to things that may be nothing.

Strange anomaly in the lab today. As I was checking readings, I noticed that the thing in the chamber was always facing me. What makes this so strange is that it wasn’t turning to face me, it just always was. Like…like my brain had invented this image of it looking at me and was projecting it in front of me, so that no matter where I was it always appeared from the same perspective. Even if it’s just barely visible on the edge of my peripheral vision, it’s clear as day, staring at me with its distorted face.

I checked the audio recording a second time, just to make sure there hadn’t been any sound last night. I guess there must have been something wrong with the stream, because I was able to find something. The clearest audio recording I’ve gotten so far: “Liar.”

I think I’m ready to end this experiment. It has played on my nerves too much, and I’ve already gathered more data than anyone before me. I will shut down the containment field, releasing the soul to wherever it goes after death. I expect it will simply dissipate in a manner similar to its coalesence, and that will be the end of it.

I shut down the containment field at 1:00 this afternoon. At 8:00 I returned to collect some things and shut down the lab entirely.

It was still there.

The first thing I did was check to make sure the containment device was indeed deactivated; it was. Next I ran to the door of the chamber to make sure it was locked. Again, it was.

I don’t understand. It required so much power to trap a soul after death, to prevent it from vanishing into the unknown. Why now does it remain with nothing to hold it in place?

Could it be such prolonged exposire to the containment field altered it somehow? Or perhaps the field only gave it enough time to grow and strengthen so that it could remain under its own power?

It’s pacing the chamber now, but its face is always looking at me, the same anomaly mentioned before. What’s it doing now—it’s trying the door!

What should I do? Can I keep it locked in there indefinitely? I certainly can’t let it out.

It’s banging on the glass now. Banging, but not making any sound. I’m glad ghost stories are just that—stories. Otherwise I could expect it to just walk through the wall at any mome

he told me i’d live if i helped him he said i’d be pardoned i didn’t want to die he lied now i’m dead he lied he lied

James Colton

Comments

Galman Ferguson

September 10, 2016

I am glad I found your site. Your stories are amazingly captivating. You are such a talented story teller. The way you play with words really fascinates the reader. My favorite story of yours so far is The Abyss. Send chills down my spine. You are definitely my new favorite horror writer.

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