Fiction: Excerpts From the Audio Notes

An essay by Jim Dennath, P. (Eldritch) E., as provided by Jonathan Ficke
Art by Leigh Legler

Day 1

Finally, a place where my desire to dream beyond the bounds of what a rational engineer may dream, to build that which ought never be built, to be the mad engineer that breaks down barriers, and possibly ends the world–Fimbulvetr Industries. I confess that I saw their job posting and sent my résumé to them on a lark–who would have thought that the premiere apocalyptic science and engineering conglomerate would want me? But they did, so here I am walking the austere gunmetal hallways, seeing the laboratories where the cutting edge of apocalyptic science is conducted. And everything is so clean! It’s the platonic form of Nordic design. I couldn’t imagine a better place to undergo hours of trite human resources onboarding nonsense.

At least they have a slogan: Building a Better End of Days, Today.

It’s perfect.


Day 2

Fimbulvetr is not screwing around. I’ve been here a day and have access to the development lab of my dreams. Good devils below, there’s an entire team of assistants at my beck and call. The job is simple–as simple as engineering a possibly world-ending device is concerned that is–build a device to create a stable planar gateway to the nether realm to allow the creatures of the dark beyond access to the mortal plane of existence.

Should be fun!

Turns out the ancient Assyrians were super into the nether realm. The Fimbulvetr archives have hundreds of original clay tablets recovered (read: stolen or plundered) from archaeological sites across the Levant. As it so happens, however, I cannot read cuneiform.

Good news, though! Ivan, a twitchy Russian ex-pat with an eyepatch, has been the most useful in that regard. He tells me he studied and taught ancient languages at a university in Kiev, stumbled on something he’s only muttered about as “the impossible realities,” and they fired him for gibbering too much during lectures. Their loss is my gain.

There’s also a linguist to help interpret the texts, Bernice, an Alabaman with absolutely the sweetest accent and the keenest eye for the dark logic employed by the forces of darkness. Who would have imagined that demons employed passive aggressive language? When I expressed my disbelief, Bernice said “bless your heart,” and told me it makes her feel right at home. What a lovely person.

With Ivan and Bernice’s help, the task came into focus. We have a great deal of work ahead of us.

There’s also Jeffrey. He doesn’t talk much, and near as I can tell, he’s mainly here to pick up heavy things at my direction. He does so at a languid pace. He must be hourly.

Art for "Excerpts From the Audio Notes"

(Oh … right, Jeffrey was–literally–pulled limb from limb by a seven-armed reptilian beast with eleven mouths and three wings. As it happens, and this would be a subject better suited for a mad evolutionary biologist, demons have very strange anatomy.)

To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Spring 2019 collection.

Jim Denath, P. (Eldritch) E., holds the distinction of being the only youth scout to be dismissed from the national organization for designing an autonomous drone that hunted down and cooked ants with a magnifying glass. He parlayed that (minor) infamy into a scholarship to attend the Polytechnic Institute of Apocalyptic Studies, and subsequently a position at Fimbulvtr Industries, where he is now the only person with a professional engineering license currently being used as the torture plaything of twenty-three demonic fellbeasts.

Jonathan Ficke lives outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with his beautiful wife. He graduated from Marquette University with a degree in public relations, which (in a manner of speaking) is another form of speculative storytelling, His work appears in Mad Scientist Journal Spring 2018, Writers of the Future: Vol. 34, and Tales of Ruma. He muses online at and on twitter @jonficke.

Leigh’s professional title is “illustrator,” but that’s just a nice word for “monster-maker,” in this case. More information about them can be found at

“Excerpts From the Audio Notes” is © 2019 Jonathan Ficke
Art accompanying story is © 2019 Leigh Legler

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