The broken street lay shattered by the bombardment, empty craters and scattered cobblestones inhabiting the once lively thoroughfare. A guard, two men, marched out from around a corner, the invaders’ laughter, unheard yet felt, burning inside the patriot. He frowned, thinking of the whores who sold themselves, sold the fruit of this land, to the enemy. Gritting his teeth, he stepped away from the window. As long as the girls are around that corner, he reminded himself, no official looks too closely into the goings on in the area, and the black market lines all pockets alike.
In his hand he still held the letter. He repeated that final phrase to himself, quietly mulling over the warning, “you might succeed.”
Don’t go down this road, the professor wrote, because you, of all God’s children, have the mind which can do it.
The machine, if that was the right word, was complete; all that was left was the choice. Climbing up to the control panel, he turned the key. His thumb rested over the switch. The metallic monstrosity hummed, ready. The vat, full of its dark sludge, rippled, tittering at the boiling point. Chunks would rise, bones mostly, to the surface, again to sink. Sometimes it wasn’t bone, but flesh animate in that chaotic soup. A face stared up at him now, the mouth opening and closing like a gapping fish. The eyes were gone, and the black liquid oozed out of the empty sockets over the pale cheeks. It challenged him, that face; he’d gone this far.
He heard the sound before he knew his own decision, heard the switch click as he flipped it over. It seemed to drown out the soldiers breaking down the door. Little matter. He descended the platform the panel was on, walking down each step in a fog. Some voice, distant it seemed, shouted some incomprehensible commands in some foreign tongue. Little matter. Perforating his body, screaming shots of lead raced through him. Little matter, he thought, as he collapsed onto the floor. The spark had caught.
As the soldiers approached the body, their boots splashing in his spilling blood, none minded the strange machine, or the swirling blackness, or what was forming therein.