A reminiscence of Dr. Peter West, as told to Gary Cuba
Art by Luke Spooner
My doctoral advisor, Professor Eiser, slapped the palms of his hands against his forehead, leaned back in his chair, and groaned at the ceiling. “Not the Medford Object! Saints preserve us. Where on Earth did you hear about that damned thing, Mr. West?”
“From a footnote in an obscure textbook. The object was described as being ‘immune to sensible scientific inquiry.’ What better subject to research for my Philosophy of Science dissertation?”
Eiser jotted down a note when I cited the book’s title. I had run across it in the Miskatonic University Library while looking for thesis ideas.
“Hmm, must have been one that didn’t get expunged,” he said. “The Head Librarian, Dr. Armitage, is slipping, poor fellow. Old age catches up with everyone.” He cleared his throat. “Well, most everyone, that is.”
“Professor Eiser, I really want to pursue this. I owe it to my great-uncle Herbert, who sponsored me here at Miskatonic. He was never one to let opposition get in the way of his dreams.”
Eiser leaned his head to one side, then the other. “Peter, it’s true that your uncle got you into this university. But that was less a matter of being a ‘legacy,’ and more of placating him. We thought it a wise decision, in order to deflect any agents of Herbert’s wrath away from our institution. Eldritch agents, to be precise. By the way, I hear he doesn’t get out much anymore.”
“He never leaves his house, true enough. But he still putters around in his basement lab. Anyway, we’re drifting off the subject. Will you support my dissertation choice, or not?”
The professor sighed. “Far be it from me to keep a good man from pursuing his destiny, however cockamamie and ill-advised it may be. You’ve excelled in your work to this point, and proven yourself to be a dedicated, hard-working, focused and … extremely stubborn individual. Which is something we appreciate and nurture at Miskatonic U. Now, I do have some chips to call in from the other members of the dissertation committee, so … I’ll reluctantly give it a thumb’s up. And may God have mercy on your soul, boy.”
I rose from my chair and pumped my fist in the air. Yes! When I reached the door, Eiser said, “It’s not going to be easy finding the reference material you’ll need, Peter. And I’m not going to be of much help in that regard. Go for it with gusto, is all I can advise. But be prepared for a hard, slippery ride.”
To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Spring 2016 collection.
Dr. Peter West received his hard-fought doctorate from Miskatonic University in 2007, but was fired from that institution three years later for “ethical misconduct”–to wit, for using his students in unsanctioned experiments that in some cases led to severe neurological breakdowns. His whereabouts at this time are unknown.
Gary Cuba, a frequent contributor to Mad Science Journal, has seen his fiction published in more than ninety magazines and anthologies, including Baen’s Universe, Nature Futures, Daily Science Fiction, and Flash Fiction Online. His lives with his wife in South Carolina, dangerously close to the Congaree National Swamp. He sometimes sees things that cannot possibly exist.
Luke Spooner a.k.a. ‘Carrion House’ currently lives and works in the South of England. Having recently graduated from the University of Portsmouth with a first class degree he is now a full time illustrator for just about any project that piques his interest. Despite regular forays into children’s books and fairy tales his true love lies in anything macabre, melancholy or dark in nature and essence. He believes that the job of putting someone else’s words into a visual form, to accompany and support their text, is a massive responsibility as well as being something he truly treasures. You can visit his web site at www.carrionhouse.com.
“Pursuing a Doctorate at Miskatonic U” is © 2016 Gary Cuba.
Art accompanying story is © 2016 Luke Spooner.