They Never Blink

An essay by Dr. H. Arthur, as provided by Sean Stempler
Art by Dawn Vogel


I should have known that Reiner would be the one to hand me in. Always hated that old bastard. Reiner, and Greyman, too. The two of them, sitting in their Halloween-costume robes in that farce of a court. “The defense doesn’t need counsel,” they said. Corruption at its finest. I’m not saying I’m totally innocent–Colter deserved what he had coming, I’m not ashamed of what I did–but I would have at least fought them, tried to charm them. Now I’m here along with the scum of the earth, a bunch of unlucky souls at the wrong place and time, and a handful of people like me who pissed off someone who happened to have the keys. All for an (admittedly satisfying) bonfire and a couple holo disks.

There’s a more important question to ask: how did they get all of this funded? Who did Reiner get drunk enough to fund this little project of his? The thing is disgusting. Can’t even look at it–I’m having trouble sleeping. All those eyes, and none of them blink. Has to be a holo or something, all the scientists on their payroll put together couldn’t actually make it happen.

That thing they were planning wasn’t meant for this world, and they all knew it. I told them as much. Not worth the money and not worth our humanity. If they actually found someone willing to bring it into existence, there’s no saving me. Caged up, just waiting my turn. In the maw of a demon.

They’re taking me in for final processing in a couple hours. No one to send this to after Greyman did his usual cleaning up, so I’ll just take it into the cell for now. Something to hang on to once I get released, let some of the lovely people on the Council know what’s growing under their noses.



The worst part of this prison is the eyes. I can always feel them, unblinking, even when–especially when–I’m looking away. In the mirror when I’m washing my face, at my back over a tray of food, in my head when I’m trying to fall asleep. Always watching, always staring. Never blinking. It’s awful, really awful. I only get to sleep for a couple minutes here and there. It’s the eyes, always the eyes. You’re lying there, and closing your eyes–but you know they’re looking at you, you know they are–and you can’t sleep because they’re watching and who knows what they might be up to behind your back, who they’re telling about what you’re doing.

The eyes will always see you, here. Eric Daener, two doors down, he got desperate. He was making a move on this guard, going for the keys, you know? Like in those movies. The janitors are still cleaning up the blood. There was so much of it, it stained the concrete. Messing with the guards always ends so badly. Almost a month, and not even a riot, let alone anything more serious.

This goes way higher than Reiner and Grayman. Guards all have these incredible–incredibly painful, mind you–batons and exosuits and those visors I cleared last year with the Council. That’s some serious funding, deeper pockets than both of them put together. And whatever it is that keeps the monstrosity going 24/7, that has to be expensive. They must have entire farms set aside just to feed it.

They’ve got wardens massacring prisoners and that abomination in the middle of the cell tiers–they can’t hide this forever. I liked Eric, he always had the coolest stuff to talk about at lunch, always thinking about life in here and politics and stuff like that. He used to work for the Barrows & Fargo branch downtown, always tipping us off about penny stocks. I really liked having lunch with Eric.

I’m so happy the wardens closed his cell when they Revoked him. I would have been sick if they made me watch.

I’m not surprised that they ended up giving me more paper, though. I thought, for a second, that they would think I was up to something. The eyes are always watching, though. They never blink. They can see me writing this, now, which means I haven’t written anything bad yet, not bad enough. I don’t think I even could at this point. Can’t even think anything bad anymore–feels like my head is going to explode if I start. Never blinking. They’re in my head.

They Never Blink

The worst part of this prison is the eyes.

To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Spring 2016 collection.

Dr. H. Arthur is a renowned institutional scientist researching the most effective implementation of systems to be used for imprisonment and rehabilitation of criminal subjects. Dr. Arthur’s work has been acclaimed both by peers in the scientific community and by government agencies who have put these theoretical principles and aloof experimentation into hard practice.

Sean Stempler is a senior at Georgetown University, studying English and Film & Media Studies. Winner of the DC Student Arts Journalism Challenge, Sean writes about AI, robots, the internet, and all the other surreal machinery that keeps our world rolling. “They Never Blink” is his first piece of published short fiction.

Dawn Vogel has been published as a short fiction author and an editor of both fiction and non-fiction. Although art is not her strongest suit, she’s happy to contribute occasional art to Mad Scientist Journal. By day, she edits reports for and manages an office of historians and archaeologists. In her alleged spare time, she runs a craft business and tries to find time for writing. She lives in Seattle with her awesome husband (and fellow author), Jeremy Zimmerman, and their herd of cats. For more of Dawn’s work visit

“They Never Blink” is © 2016 Sean Stempler.
Art accompanying story is © 2016 Dawn Vogel.

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