A letter by Dr. Elizabeth Chu, as provided by Alanna McFall
Art by Luke Spooner
To Dr. Von Lupe, the Dark Star that Will Soon Eclipse the Sun,
Thank you, from your loyal servants and subjects. Praises be upon you, my master and liege. A million prostrations of gratitude towards you, the center of all my focus and attention. You, my revered Dr. Von Lupe, are an extraordinary man.
As you may be able to tell, we here in the underground bunker have received your latest delivery of supplies. And in your infinite wisdom and generosity, you have decided to include food this time. Food intended for humans, even! While Dr. Quinn and I were rather developing a fondness for the reconstituted chum slurry, our test subjects were not thrilled about having to split their rations. Squid can be finicky when it comes to food, and when you make them hyper-intelligent, they become craftier about expressing their frustrations. So the arrival of the canned goods has eased a lot of tensions in the cave.
I also cannot help but notice that we have some new fellow captives. Dr. Singh and Dr. Velasco are settling into their lives of enslavement nicely, and may I just say thank you for finding actual geologists this time to build your volcano machine. As marine biologists, Dr. Quinn and I are getting to learn so much we never knew about the mineral composition of our wretched subterranean home. And after almost a year and a half with only Dr. Quinn to talk to, it is nice to have some fresh faces. (I am recovering quite rapidly from where she stabbed me, by the way, and her psychosis is under much better control, I hope it will please you to know.) Overall, things are feeling quite cheery in this hole in the ground that we are destined to spend the rest of our short lives in. We truly thank you for this, oh Terrifying One.
There are, however, two small issues that are putting a strain on morale, and I hope I may have the liberty to bring them to your attention. I know your opinions on liberty in general, but I feel these are important concerns.
Firstly, there is a rapidly worsening shortage of feminine hygiene products within the bunker. I am thankfully past the age where this is a concern, but Dr. Quinn and Dr. Velasco have come into rather dire straits regarding these vital supplies. If the next supply drop could include a large number of tampons or pads, we would all be incredibly grateful.
Secondly, you appear to have given us large amounts of what seems to be unsecured radium along with the supplies. The four of us have conferred on this matter, and we feel that this situation is somewhat less than ideal for the successful running of our lab. And we hope that you will come to agree with our reasoning once I have explained it.
You see, Elegant and Imposing Emperor-to-Be, Drs. Quinn, Velasco, Singh, and I are all lowly humans, mere worms in your sight. And as such, we are prone to developing medical problems when exposed to large amounts of radiation, as is currently happening inside our cave. We have constructed rudimentary defenses against the onslaught, cannibalized from our research equipment, but we fear that it will not be nearly enough to protect us. Under the current conditions, our grisly and incredibly painful deaths seem very imminent, which would delay both Project Kraken and Project Magma-tron for the foreseeable future.
The note included with the radium has illuminated your reasoning in this matter, my overlord, and we fully understand and appreciate your intentions. Dr. Quinn and I know that you have been dissatisfied with the progress of our squid subjects, insisting that they be made enormous as well as sentient (if I recall correctly, the rough goals for growth were “must be large enough to sink an air craft carrier”). And the exposure of test subjects to nuclear radiation in order to increase their size is a technique with a long and … storied history. I am not saying that it has never worked, exactly, but I must say that in this context, it may not be the most practical course of action.
The progress of our test subjects is, quite frankly, astounding. The fact that our prime specimen, the squid named Suzie Q, is now able to crochet specific patterns in different colors in her scarves is a breakthrough of epic proportions and indicates that we may be very close to breaking the interspecies language barrier with her. I do not think it would be a wise use of our resources to take such a fascinating specimen and give her cancer. And get cancer ourselves in the progress. Neither of these things feels like productive uses of our time, if you will grant me clemency for saying.
Breeding our squid specimens for increased size is a priority for us, my Vicious Leader Who Lurks in the Moonless Night. But these things must be done with careful planning and delicacy, not several pounds of extremely toxic material delivered along with our canned peaches. (Thank you again for the peaches, as they are one of my favorite foods. I have already had to defend them from Dr. Quinn, but the loss of those teeth was worth it.) Perhaps there may be circumstances in the future where we will require small, controlled amounts of radioactive material for our work. But until that time, and until we have the proper experimental conditions prepared, I respectfully plea and grovel that you stop delivering radium. And take back the radium you have already given us. The chronic nosebleeds are both uncomfortable and inconvenient, as well as putting an even stronger highlight on the tampon shortage.
I just … I have to wonder, my infinitely wise and esteemed master, if you know what radiation is or what it does. As well as the note about the squid growth, the guards who made the delivery seemed to be under the impression that the radium would also be used for the volcano machine. While your peerless intelligence may be used to combat any and all challenges, I must tell you that radiation may not. There are very few, very specific situations that radium will improve, and infinitely more that it will make worse.
So, in summary, spirits are high and life is good in the pit, separated from the world and all memory of what the sun looked like. Thank you again for the peaches, and I hope that we can get the tampon and radium issues taken care of shortly. (We sincerely hope that the problem concerning feminine hygiene is not a reflection of the overall status of women in the STEM fields within your ruthless Shadow Army. We also sincerely hope that we do not all die of radiation poisoning before you receive this letter.)
Please convey my and my colleagues’ congratulations to Mrs. Von Lupe on the birth of your newest dark heir. Monica Katherine Von Lupe will burn her brand into the very flesh of humanity, and I’m sure Julia is thrilled to be a big sister. We all look forward to another round of mandatory, enforced cooing over baby pictures, as it reminds us of the loved ones we have been cruelly torn away from, mourning our loss out in the rest of the world. And I just want to pinch those adorable chubby cheeks.
Your Devoted, Powerless, and Irradiated Peon,
Dr. Elizabeth Chu
The scientific community came together today to celebrate the unveiling of the Elizabeth Chu Research Grant, a grant offered for upcoming scientists looking to make strides in the field of marine biology. The dedication of this grant comes soon after the one year anniversary of the disappearance of Dr. Elizabeth Chu, a leading expert in the field of cephalopod biology. The grant is presented as a memorial, but authorities still say they are looking for any new information on the case. Any leads pertaining to the location of Dr. Chu should be brought to the appropriate authorities immediately.
Alanna McFall is a 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.
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.
“To Dr. Von Lupe, Concerning the Radium” is © 2017 Alanna McFall
Art accompanying story is © 2017 Luke Spooner