Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Two Gatekeepers

Posted by at 1:26 AM
The stench of the severed arm and fingers somehow got masked by the lingering fragrance of perfume in the lift. That trailing, fruity scent that might command an inner lust, doesn't please the lookers who saw a severed arm and fingers when the lift was called for, first thing in the morning. The gatekeeper, an old man, had tried his best not to puke.

"Good thing that he didn't mess the scene up much."

"Poor old fella."

"Barely managed to finish his shift after that. The caretakers say that his handoff guy had called in sick, and he was supposed to make two shifts."

"They have two for this society?"

"Is that unusual?"

"Not if you go by the govt's planning recommendations."

"Right. Smoke break?"

"Sure, come let's walk to that smoke pod. I saw some interesting brands on display, earlier."

The two detectives had sealed the society off the limits and called for a team from the forensics dept. As they began walking towards the nearest of the smoke pods in the area, detective Myrin observed a slight line of redness at the wall near the lift, the one that was the closest to the entrance of the lift area. "Strange." he murmured.

"The rings of smoke fly for a short time but the circle always stays intact till the end."
"I like this pod, though. Do you think we should interrogate the guard now or after the forensics folks finish their analysis?"
"That'd look very crude. Man, that dude is all curled up, as if he had the weirdest nightmare of his life.  I don't feel if he would know anything."

"We can avoid cracks later if we suspect everyone from the start. Saves a lot of work later when we close it."

"Well, sure, I don't want to ruin our streak, Myrin, but c'mon, he is too old, and we don't have a body to match the arm."

"I am not ruling out anyone. I hear the home-owners' committee have called for an emergency meeting - the owners are checking about the whereabouts of all their tenants in the society. They might plan to have a meeting there, in an hour."

"Crowd scenes, eh. Hate it. Well, let's hope the forensics team gives us some data to work on, by then."

"And let's also hope that no one is dead."

"Yes, let's hope the same. Why are we not discussing the other guard though?"
"Two gatekeepers is absolutely not unusual, Harvey."
"Not that. I am wondering about his whereabouts. When did his leave begin, again?"
"Melvin's team is interrogating the caretakers. We should have some table entry somewhere. Let's find out while Melvin is done talking to them."

The caretakers informed that the second guard Amorean is usually a regular guy, but he took a sudden break that started two days before.  He was on leave on three such occasions the entire month. The gaps between the leaves caught Myrin's eye.

"No computerized work here."
"Yeah, the caretaker says the workstation crashed recently, all we have now are these e-display sheets. Melvin is not sure about their statements, though."
"Melvin unconvinced? I see. I guess, that explains the time sheet entries."
"What do you mean?"
"I was hoping that these people would be filling out their respective entries."
"They would be, obviously, but then--"
"Exactly. All the entries seem like they were written by a single person. Here, look at the zeroes."

Myrin showed Harvey how all the electronic zeroes were elongated towards the tip. He enjoyed zooming then in and out. They shared a brief, muffled laugh, before coming back to the discussion at hand.

"Let's talk to the older guard."
"The forensics will be sending analysis report in an hour from now."
"Harvey, I don't think the old man is involved anywhere here."
"He didn't have any information to give us really."
"In fact, I felt he is shocked beyond his senses. Couldn't make out anything from what he said."

"An interesting style of old English he had. Never heard it in person much, but I read similar stuff in one of those paper-only works."
"Yeah he is probably the author of the book."
"Funny. But what I am trying to say is, he is not involved anywhere here. He is not from here."
"I am confused. If he speaks in an obsolete form of our language, he doesn't fit here?"

"I mean, he seems extra traumatized."
"Myrin, there's no such thing as 'extra traumatized'."

"There is, Harvey. Let me explain. Imagine seeing a spider. And then imagine seeing an extremely, unusually large form of that same spider. Which scene will build more fear within you?"
"Obviously when I see the second spider."
"Now what if I say that, you experience that same, higher degree of fear inside you, when you see the first spider."
"Nah I don't think that makes sense. Because a spider of usual size wouldn't incite that much fear in me."

Myrin smiled.
"Similarly, the severed arm doesn't command that much trauma, which I am seeing in his eyes. He is extra traumatized."

It was getting dark and the street lights had just begun to lit up in the set sequence of patterns. Usually the lights would light up less because movement would be low in this area after 7pm. Today they were lit in full brightness as the  area was jampacked with people and their vehicles clogging the roads. The two detectives took the old gatekeeper and, amidst the commotion, they quickly moved towards the makeshift interrogation room, i.e., the nearby smoke pod. Harvey bribed the pod in-charge, sneaked in to the control station of the pod, turned off the display of brands, and instead, put up a 'Refill Expected in 5 hours!' notice on the screens that covered the pod.

"Listen, Mr Kim. If you don't cooperate, we have to take the tougher route."
Mr Kim trembled in a continued frenzy and found it extremely taxing to form words in his mouth.
"Fh-- Oaa-- aa- I -- uh, the atrocity-- you are bringing upon my being is hurtf-- hurtful--"

"Atrocity. Haha, sure." Harvey began. "We have all the evidences built up against you."
"There-- There's no viable proof to sss-, subst--, substantiate your claims!" Kim used his full force to finish his sentence while continuously shaking on his seat in terror.
"Proof I will give you, Mr Kim. We have blood samples."
"Wh-- what obscene claims! That's not my blood!"
"We never "claimed" it to be so. Or maybe you are telling us that it could be your blood indeed, as a matter of fact."
"You can--, you cannot-- twist and turn through my words! I-- I don't want to stay. I want to go-- to go--"
"We will see to that. Actually, we found something else in the blood sample."
The pod door flung open noiselessly, and amidst a thin trail of smoke, Myrin entered. Myrin and Harvey exchanged glances and shared a quick nod. Smoking in the open was illegal, but Myrin didn't care as much, at the moment. He removed his coat, placed it carefully on the chair opposite to the guard, and leaned in an over-powering fashion at the already-terrorized old man.

"Mr Kim you use an ointment?"
"I-- I--"
"Do you use an ointment?"
"I-- it's personal. I-- skin lesions--"
"Can we see your hands?"
"No you can't -- this atrocity-- I cannot--"
"What's with the interesting language you speak! Sometimes it feels like a movie, and I hate to see your talent going waste, Mr Kim. Show me your hands, please."

Kim kept shivering and reluctantly he folded his left arm's sleeve up.
"I use ointment on my lesions--  it is very painful otherwise-- painful-- please believe-- I want to go-- want to go--"
"uv plague is wiped off the planet, Mr Kim. The UMC report for the year 2250 declared it globally, as part of the successful vaccination drive that had begun 8 years ago. Everyone knows about it. It's simply impossible to see untreated lesions these days."

Mr Kim shook his head down, hid his face in his hands and began to cry, rocking himself back and forth in a steady motion.
"....I want to go back I want to go...please-- please allow me to take your leave--"

Before he could finish, he began slurring and started trembling vigorously on his chair. He shook his head hard, and kept shivering and murmuring incomprehensible words. His eyes seemed to stay stuck at a particular direction. Harvey watched in tremendous horror. Myrin lit up a cigarette as he looked on, an eerily quiet a stare. Harvey got up and hurried outside the smoke pod. Myrin followed and almost made it out before Harvey could slam the door behind him.

"I don't get this at all. Should we call for an ambulance! What's happening?"
"Bigger spider. That's what is happening."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, Kim's mind is unable to process something that he is not supposed to see. An arm is not something that his mind is unable to process."
"There's something bigger. Kim wants to go back. But where?"
"I have no idea, man, but I think we should call for an ambulance."
"Don't get worked up so much and don't grow so protective of him. You might touch his lesions by accident. Remember the United Medical Council reports on the uv plague lesions? It's not around, but I remember the pictures and the consequences."
"Everybody does. But what's the connection?"
"The disease is the connection, Harvey. Kim is not a usual person for the contemporary times. He speaks in a style that existed in the past and now exists in some of the paper-only books. What if I told you that Kim himself is from the past?"
"You mean he is a labeled ancestor from that conspiracy theory column?"

"Quite possible. He is also the killer. But we will never find the body. The body is mostly around us. Have you ever considered the possibility of a Timemac set up somewhere, nearby?"
"But the Timemac is not accessible to someone like Kim!"
"You are right. It is not accessible to someone like Kim, or for that matter, to anyone who lived in his era."

Harvey James' private journal entry- The Severed Arm case- Log #5

[Sep 1st, 2252]
The year was 2240. The UMC council, in a bid to eliminate a growing epidemic, commonly known as the 'uv plague', began looking for ways to iron out the numbers quickly, amidst the growing pressure from the government and the common people. The vaccine was effective but some of the council members sneaked the vaccine into the major Urban Community settlements in an attempt to make an unprecedented amount of money. The rich could pay for it, and eventually, the poor missed out on the treatment.

Public unrests began springing  out at various locations of the Rural Community settlements across the world. But the media chose to focus on results the miraculous drug more, and ultimately ended up covering the Urban Community. I feel they also chose to keep it that way, but who knows for sure.

Amidst various stories and incidents that would float around, over the next two years, two articles had my attention. The first one was the first of the many that would go on to expose the controversial conduct of the usage of a new porting technology called the Timemac,which seemed to possess the capability to 'accidentally' disturb the space-time continuum. Eminent experts debated that it could help you travel back by a few hours. In other words, the Timemac had a fault in its sequencing, which people could use to travel at least two to four hours back in time. Some claimed that the team behind Timemac even successfully tested sending bots back in time. Nobody, however, knew how to use it for real people. Nobody knew, at least back then.

The pace of technological advancement was upon us in full swing. In two years, theorists figured out how they could use the Timemac to send a human in blood-and-flesh, back in time, amidst a rising uproar against the 'controlled' accessibility of the Timemac that the government was trying to push, for the common people. A large group of thought leaders believed that such an unprecedented intrusion into the space-time  continuum, no matter how controlled, but at a massive scale, could damage the fabrics of our universe. Proponents and opponents surfaced. 'A new battle is brewing!' as my friend and colleague detective Myrin would say.

The second article was the first of a series of four articles. It occupied a small column space, but it talked about the missing people from various Rural Communities settlements around the world.

Interestingly, that article came out at about the same time when the Timemac was ultimately voted to be banned in 2245. This particular article talked about conspiracy theories- about how the count of missing people was excruciatingly high in number, high enough that one cannot not ignore at the first read. The theorists behind the piece claimed that almost all of these missing people had shown usual symptoms of the uv plague, patchy skin lesions being the primary ones. They tried to link this rate of disappearance with the rate with which the UMC data showed a dip of the uv plague patients count. They ultimately went on to claim that the UMC shipped the patients back in time and usually killed them off, thus clearing the numbers out.

This is a bogus conspiracy theory, and if anybody reads this log, they'd think the same at this point.

We had the same conclusion as well, until we cracked the case of the Severed Arm, which made news everywhere - albeit with the stories and facts that the two of us chose to not hide from the people. The government is cooperating with us in keeping the dirt we have against the UMC, concealed, while we try to chase the council members down.

Honestly, I don't know if we will ever be able to chase the culprits down but until then, the details of the case will continue to make us believe in the conspiracy theories.

Mr Kim was a daily-wage gatekeeper from the 2010s - almost 240+ years older than us. The other gatekeeper, Amorean, was unknowingly, guarding a Timemac energy barrier when the UMC men were setting the Timemac up, in order to 'ship' the people from Rural Community settlements with the plague, into the past. Interestingly, the barrier triangulated a mile away from the society where we found the arm. The lift was actually one of the multiple power sources in the area which were being used for the energy barrier, and these sources would ultimately be connecting to the Timemac directly. Amorean once ended up witnessing one of the shipping process where they ported close to 50 people using the Timemac. He took unplanned short leaves and ultimately figured out how to sneak in. The caretakers say that he had also figured out how to come back to the present, and perhaps that's why he was not afraid of the consequences as much.

The passcode in the Timemac was actually set to the year 2010. There was a similar society at that region in the 2010s, and Mr Kim was a gatekeeper for that society. The night we interrogated Mr Kim, amidst his fits and his screams, we found evidences like the ointment that he often used for his skin lesions. These patchy lesions were common those days, but the UMC council back then had supplied a free medication, the ointment, because while a cure was nowhere to be found, the ointment could suppress the spread of the disease. The uv plague would ultimately evolve to its advanced form, as the Earth's atmosphere thinned drastically over the next 200 years. Traces of the same ointment, which ceased to exist in production by the time 2200 was upon the civilisation, was found in the smudged blood that Myrin had found on the wall near the lift when we were investigating the scene. This led him firmly suspect that Mr Kim had the lesions, and was not from the current era.

The blood on the wall was Amorean's. The severed arm was his, as well.

Our conclusion, which took us two more years to substantiate in a secret sessions court, was this:

Amorean had seen what they were doing to the people who were being shipped off. He took it upon himself and decided to stop the trafficking. One night he tried to cut the power source orignating from the lift. His failed attempt, however, resulted in a burst of energy that created an energy spiral, which unfortunately pulled Amorean in, and threw him into the Timemac. He went back in time, again in 2010, and ended up at the society which was situated in the same place where the current society is, today.
In desperation, his confused mind and alerted eyes saw the skin lesions on Mr Kim's arm, who was guarding the place in one of his regular shifts. He thought that Kim was one of the labeled ancestors, a term which the conspiracy theorists believe that the UMC had used for the people they were sending back in time, and he decided to take Mr Kim back to 2250.

They landed in the lift, but Mr Kim had an absolute time-shift shock when the time for him fast forwarded by 250 years in a few seconds. The shock coupled with absolute frenzy that taking the Timemac caused, he somehow, by accident, pushed Amorean into the still-connected energy spiral. Amorean struggled in order to fight off the pull this time, losing an arm in the process, and disappearing into the past.

The case got closed yesterday when we finally managed to retrieve Amorean from the past after trying to trace him through multiple timelines and eras. Amorean died trying to save the labeled ancestors, and Mr Kim ended up losing his mind completely in the days that followed. The time-shift shock hit him hard because he was unable to comprehend the sudden development around him, that mankind was supposed to see over a slow period of 250 years. The caretakers were arrested when we found out that they were a part of the power sourcing process and were just trying to cover things up, with the fake time sheet entries, etc. The society did indeed have one guard, as I had initially thought.

Time is running out. We think the ban on the Timemac has not been completely effective, even if it has managed to keep the Timemac away from the common man.

The UMC is now thriving as an organization. In a short span of two years, the council has declared that another array of age-old diseases was wiped off the face of the planet, once again, at a miraculous pace.
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image credits: http://www.ihdimages.com/
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