A letter by Dr. Elizabeth Chu, as provided by Alanna McFall
Art by Amanda Jones
To Dr. Von Lupe, My Most Glorious God-on-Earth and Leader Among All the Ranks of Humans,
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Greetings to you, my dark master who claims dominion over the land and the skies (and in whose name we are all working hard on claiming the seas). I hope that you are doing well when you receive this letter, and that the tax season was a smooth and painless one for you. You know what they say: the only entity that comes close to being as evil and powerful as the esteemed Dr. Von Lupe is the IRS. I say that all the time. As a captive in your underground lair, I have greatly appreciated not having to file my returns this year. Truly, I thank you for this gift.
However, I am writing to you today because of an issue I am currently facing that may have arisen out of your wise and omnipotent orders. To be direct and to the point and not to waste your precious time or attention, let me be brief: the lab where we are growing and teaching our hyper-intelligent squid has become a hostile work environment. And for the sake of the advancement of the dark sciences, the conditions must improve.
(I apologize, I see that my blood has begun to drip onto this page. I hope you will forgive the mess, as we are short on writing materials.)
Before anything else, let me be clear about two points: firstly, my colleague Dr. Kimberly Quinn is a gifted scientist and a talented woman in many regards. Secondly, if there is ever a question of which one of us your esteemed gaze should find disposable, you should exterminate her immediately and retain me as your loyal servant. These opinions may seem contradictory, but I believe that my balance of admiration and pragmatism has allowed me to form a rounded and honest opinion of my fellow captive. Though we come from very different walks of life out in the free world that I can scarcely remember anymore, and although I have over twenty years of seniority on her, I have come to consider us friends. And when kept in extreme isolation with only cephalopods and the occasional soldiers in your Shadow Army to talk to, a good friend can be essential.
So with all this in mind, you can see how I would be quick to notice changes in her behavior, as has come to pass over the past two months. Dr. Quinn has become noticeably tense and jumpy in her daily work, far more than her usual level of anxiety, and she does not appear to sleep anymore. Ever. Unless she has taken to falling asleep moments after I do and awakening seconds before I arise, I have seen no evidence of her sleeping in the last two weeks. I am well aware, my king of the shadows and the void, that you consider sleep a sign of weakness and claim to have never indulged in it. But for fragile peons such as Dr. Quinn and me, it is an important consideration and a prerequisite for effective research and clinical work.
You may now be asking your terrifying self why I am bothering you with the personal matters of a lowly scientist. But I must confess that I do not believe Dr. Quinn’s issues have sprung entirely from the depths of her own mind. Indeed, when I investigated her side of our designated sleeping hovel, I discovered something of great interest. Tucked into a crack in the sheer stone walls, obscured by a patch of moss and general cave slime (which I have come to enjoy the aesthetics of and do not complain about at all), was a miniscule transmitting device. When I listened to it carefully, I found that it produced a small, high-pitched tone that seemed to waver and warble as I listened. Holding it to my ear for even a few moments seemed to produce a feeling of vague anxiety within me. I can hardly imagine what it must have been like for Dr. Quinn to sleep near such a device.
Again, you may ask, why do I bring this to your attention? Psychological attacks cannot be a rare tactic amongst the foolish throngs who seek to un-throne you. However, given that under closer investigation, the device carried a microscopic etching, an attractive and decorative label reading “Property of Dr. Von Lupe, Forever May His Dark Reign Preside,” I began to feel the sneaking suspicion that Dr. Quinn’s afflictions may be somehow connected to you.
I am not saying that you cannot perform psychological experiments on your captives; I am well aware that that would be overstepping my bounds, my liege, as well as just being rude in general. But I do question the utility of using one of your brilliant scientists as a test subject. It must be said that, in general, researchers subjected to torture and extreme sleep deprivation do not tend to successfully breed enormous and sentient squid.
Dr. Quinn’s increasingly erratic behavior has created an atmosphere of tension, not a fertile soil for science to spring forth from. Our prize subject, the squid named Suzie Q, has been very disturbed by the changes in one of her maternal figures. I am also dismayed at the occasional violence that Dr. Quinn has directed towards me. If my handwriting appears different in this letter, it is because I have had to write it with my left hand; there is currently an ice pick buried in my right shoulder, and it is severely impeding my ability to work. This inconvenience, and the fact that I had to restrain Dr. Quinn using several of the scarves that the squid have crocheted, should make it clear that the current status quo cannot stand within this cave.
Also, I would appreciate a visit from a doctor, if it is at all feasible.
My overlord and god of the starless nights, I understand that a large part of your overall plan’s mission statement is a dedication to evil above all else. But there must be a point where evil gives way to pragmatism. And when you are conducting seemingly random tests upon otherwise useful minions for no readily apparent reason, depriving an ongoing research project of one and a half scientists, I fear you might have to take a step back and question how close you are to that line. Though it now occurs to me that your intentions might simply be too obscure for my lowly mind, and that I might in fact be a control subject in a more methodical test than I can see. If that is indeed the case, I will confess both my displeasure and my understanding.
In any case, I hope that you will take my words into consideration. For the time being, I have destroyed the transmitting device. If one is to reappear in our sleeping crag, I will take it as a sign that you disagree with my feelings on this matter, and I thank you for your consideration regardless.
I see now that my blood has begun to stain this paper more than is acceptable, so I will draw my letter to a hasty close before I lose consciousness. Send my best regards to Mrs. Von Lupe and little Julia, and congratulations on the news that you and your wife are expecting another girl. Julia must be so excited to be a big sister to another foul princess presiding over the plains of the wretched. Dr. Quinn would send her own regards, but she is otherwise occupied trying to chew through one of the scarves. I am sure she sends her best, flawed as that may be at the moment.
Your Wounded but Eternally Loyal Vassal,
Dr. Elizabeth Chu
Breaking news on the disappearance of marine biologist Dr. Elizabeth Chu, who vanished nearly one year ago during a vacation near the Ural Mountains: authorities say that there is a possible link between the disappearance of Dr. Chu and the activities of a new terrorist cell working out of the mountain region. What use this shadowy group would have with one of the world’s leading experts in cephalopod biology has yet to be discovered, but police are hot on the trail of the kidnappers. Any leads pertaining to the location of Dr. Chu should be brought to the appropriate authorities immediately.
Alanna McFall is an upcoming science fiction and fantasy writer. She has worked in a variety of mediums, from short stories to novels to audio scripts, and across a range of locations, stretching the span of the country from New York to Minnesota to California. She is always looking for ways to expand her repertoire and get involved in her next project. Follow her work on Twitter at @AlannaMcFall, or on her website, alannamcfall.wordpress.com.
Amanda Jones is an illustrator based in Seattle. She likes reading horror stories, binge watching seasons of her favourite sci-fi/fantasy shows, and everything Legend of Zelda. She focuses on digital portrait painting and co-creates the webcomic The Kinsey House. You can find more of her work on Tumblr under ‘thehauntedboy‘.
“To Dr. Von Lupe, Concerning the Ice Pick” is © 2016 Alanna McFall
Art accompanying story is © 2016 Amanda Jones