The Voyager, by Douglas Wynne

The Voyager - Giuseppe Balestra

Art by Giuseppe Balestra – http://dieGBdie.blogspot.com/ – click to enlarge

Brooks scanned the radio for some rock ‘n’ roll and got an earful of commercials, auto-tuned voices, and static instead. He had read somewhere that radio static was the sound of residual radiation from the Big Bang, the sound of creation breaking through all day and all night between the car salesmen, drum machines, and weather reports. He turned it off and cleared his throat.

He wanted answers, but as he was the low man on the totem pole at SPECTRA, no one was offering him any. He wanted to know what was in the aluminum attaché case in the trunk, and he wanted to know what was in the head of the diver sitting beside him in the passenger’s seat. What made him tick? Three days of silence was getting on Brooks’ nerves. Were all divers this cagey, or had he just been dealt Mr. Personality from the deck by the dumb luck of the shuffle?

They were headed to New Hampshire, having tracked down the ride operator via a drunk and disorderly citation in Florida and a vehicle registration in Massachusetts. Like most carnies, the guy’s tax filings were scant. It had taken a while to find him, but it made sense that he would end up not far from where he’d worked years ago—most people did sooner or later, even carnies. With their quarry more or less pinned down, Brooks had the feeling events would accelerate following the interview, the opportunity for small talk receding like a hitchhiker in the mirror.

“I’ve been thinking about what you do, Durham. At first I couldn’t get my head around it, but seeing as you don’t talk sports, I’ve had plenty of time to mull it over and I finally came up with an analogy: you’re kinda like the bomb squad. Am I right?”

The diver might have raised an eyebrow a millimeter or so. It was hard to tell.

“Except that you can’t send in a robot first,” Brooks said. “You’ve got nothing to prod stuff with but your own mind.”

Brooks kept his eyes on the road, but this time the diver turned to look at him.

“It’s gotta take a special kind of person right? To do that. I mean I don’t know exactly what you do…but I know I couldn’t defuse bombs. Too much tension. Give me a chase or a firefight over that any day.”

The silence welled up around them again, nothing but the sound of tar patches in the road drumming an endless rhythm. thumpthump…thumpthump…thumpthump

“Are you always this Zen, or do you blow off steam when you clock out?”

The diver’s voice came out phlegmy when he finally spoke. “If you’ve ever talked down a guy with a gun, you’ve defused a bomb.”

Brooks tapped his fingers against the wheel, keeping rhythm to absent music. He knew it wasn’t the same but it took him a minute to articulate how. “When I’m facing off against a madman with a gun, it ain’t like I’m worried I’m gonna catch his madness.”

The diver stared at the island of hilly grass that divided the highway; Brooks had the feeling that he was studying the trees, searching for a glimpse of something in the shadows of the foliage. He took up the burden of conversation himself again. “I mean I kind of get what you’re saying—cops, military, agents…we all take risks. But risking your life is different from risking your sanity.”

Still looking at the trees, the diver said, “Have you served? In the military.”

“No.”

“Well, war is not sane. Most soldiers think they’re risking life and limb when they’re really risking their sanity.”

“So you’ve served? You’ve been to war?”

thumpthump…thumpthump…thumpthump

“We’re driving to war right now.”

When Durham did not elaborate, Brooks turned the radio back up: Blue Oyster Cult.

Dimension divers were a queer breed.

Once off the highway, they took Route 1 north through Salisbury into Seabrook, past boarded up gas stations, failed shops with sun-bleached realtor signs, and newly minted big-box stores until, winding east, they came to the shore. The cheap motels and fried clam stands stood desolate. As the low structures gave way to mud flats, an early March wind buffeted the car, sending eddies of sand twisting across the road, and battering the phragmite reeds. But the wind failed to stir the upper regions of the atmosphere where ribbed clouds in hues of dirty ice loomed over the iron sea.

The royal blue beach house was incongruous with the colorless landscape. They parked on the side of the road and Brooks had to force the driver’s side door against the wind to get out. He squinted into the dust and climbed the peeling porch, aware of Durham coming up behind him. Hardware on a flagpole chimed a staccato distress signal. Brooks rapped his knuckles against the frame of the screen door.

The inner door opened and the operator appeared, matching his Florida mugshot: a diminutive olive-skinned man with thinning hair and several days’ growth of salt-and-pepper stubble.

“Mr. Grossman?”

The man nodded.

“I’m Agent Jason Brooks. We spoke on the phone. This is my…associate, Alan Durham.”

Grossman grunted and ambled away from the door. Brooks shot a glance at Durham, then followed. The place was dark and cluttered. They found Grossman settled into a scuffed leather easy chair behind a coffee table upon which a puzzle of Van Gogh’s Starry Night was creeping into existence from the corners. He gestured at a stained sofa littered with newspapers but made no move to clear it off. Instead he slid a puzzle piece from the pile with a gnarled finger and moved it around the empty space in the center of the table like the planchette of a Ouija board. Brooks transferred the papers to the floor and sat down, while Durham lingered in the hall, shoulder to the wall, as if he were uncommitted to staying.

The place smelled of sour milk and stale cigarettes. Grossman lit one and waved the pack at Brooks, who declined. “I’d offer you boys coffee, but the machine’s broke.” He took a drag and blew it at the ceiling. “So you want to know about the ride, huh? This about the Nolan kid again? Did something turn up?”

Brooks leaned forward, swatted at the crease of his trouser leg, and idly poked through the scattered puzzle pieces. “You operated the Voyager from 2011 to 2013, is that right?”

“Yeah.”

“And you were the operator on November 19, 2013. The night of Jack Nolan’s disappearance?”

“I think you know that already, or you wouldn’t be here.”

“In the time that you worked for Destination Amusements—and thinking back to your job interview and training—did you ever meet Gustav Zann?”

“No, sir, I did not. He was gone before I was hired.”

“Gone where? Did anyone ever tell you?”

“People said he fell off the map. Most popular theory on the midway was he went back to Switzerland. But you should talk to Fat Barry, who managed the park. That was before my time.”

“Listen, you’re not in any kind of trouble. I needed to verify that we’re talking to the right man, but I’m not going to retread the same ground the cops did back in ‘13. You told them you don’t remember seeing Nolan strapped in to the ride and I’m guessing you haven’t recovered any new memories in the time since?”

Grossman shook his head.

“We’re not police, Mr. Grossman. We’re not FBI either. And we could give a shit what drugs you may have bought, sold, or used while working at Cosmic Park. Even while operating the ride…”

Durham shifted slightly in the hall, but Brooks ignored him and continued, “What we’d like to know is if you ever saw anything…strange while operating the Voyager.

“Strange.”

“I don’t mean suspicious or out of the ordinary. I’m talking out of this world strange.”

Grossman uttered a dry laugh. He stamped his butt out in a cardboard foil ashtray. “The Voyager was strange, all right. Yeah, you could say that.”

Brooks waited for him to continue. He counted the clangs of the flagpole.

Finally, Grossman said, “I only tried Cat 9 once, and never while running a ride. That’s what you want to know, right?”

“That’s not what I asked, but why only once?”

“Once was enough. Besides, any employee caught with the stuff would have been fired.”

“That seems a little draconian for a carnival.”

“Fat Barry didn’t care if you did other stuff when you weren’t operating. Cat 9, though…that shit was a problem for the park.”

“Why is that?”

Grossman shrugged. “Kids who took it always won big at the games. It took a while to see the connection, but the cats always cleaned house. People on TV say the name comes from some kinda cable, that it was about being wired, but back when it first caught on, everybody knew it was a reference to nine lives. Nothing could hurt you on Cat 9.” He snorted. “‘Cept maybe Cat 9. I know some drugs that make you feel like nothing can hurt you, but on Cat you see the world around you at weird angles. You see the spaces between spaces. Like the opposite of impaired. Shit, you could slip through the eye of a needle on it.”

“You saw something strange when you took it?” Durham asked.

Grossman shifted in his chair and looked out the grimy window where the curtains were parted. Brooks followed his gaze. The concrete dome of the nuclear power plant cut a lonely figure against the flat landscape. “I thought you were here to talk about the Voyager, not what I did with my free time.”

“You’re the one who brought it up,” Brooks said.

“Why you want me to tell you what you already know? All the Cat users who rode the Voyager ended up in rubber rooms. All except for Jack Nolan. You’ve probably visited some of them already.”

It was true, they had. Brooks snapped a puzzle piece into place and pressed down on the flaking cardboard. “You just said you didn’t see Jack Nolan on the ride.”

Grossman’s eyes narrowed with a new thought. “He didn’t turn up alive, did he? After all these years?”

“No. Still missing. Maybe he’s in Switzerland, too, eh? He’d be twenty-two now.”

Beyond the curtains, stray shafts of sunlight broke through the cloud cover and glanced over the concrete dome and the marshes. Silver flashes twinkled in cavities of mud and tall grass. The tide was going out.

Durham had wandered over to the window. Now he peered through the glass and said, “Is that what brought you back to New Hampshire? The plant? I bet you sleep better near it after all that time operating the Voyager. Bet you’d sleep best of all in a trailer at Cosmic Park, if we didn’t have it barricaded. Did you ever try to go back?”

Grossman stared at the fragments of fractured night on the coffee table.

“Maybe you were afraid,” Durham said. “And who could blame you?”

Grossman tried a puzzle piece, turned it, tried it elsewhere, tossed it back on the heap.

“Maybe you’re afraid now,” Durham said in a tone that conjured a ripple of gooseflesh on Brooks’ arms. There was real empathy in that tone, not counterfeit cop compassion. “Afraid a couple of strangers will think you’re crazy, or worse—that you’ll think you’re crazy if you say it out loud. But I think I know what you saw in the Voyager on that night in November. You told the police you didn’t see Jack Nolan, that he wasn’t on your ride. And every day since then you’ve told yourself he wasn’t there. But he was there, and then he wasn’t. You saw him, and then you didn’t. Jack’s friends say he was bug-eyed on Cat 9. Highest dose ever. So I’ll tell you what happened: after winning more stuffed dragons and pandas than he could carry, after absolutely killing it at Star Darts and the shooting gallery and the ring toss, and passing the trophies off to little kids and pretty girls, he got on the Voyager.

“His friends didn’t; they knew better, they’d heard the stories. One of them tried to hold him back and ripped his flannel shirtsleeve—I think maybe you saw that part. But that night Jack Nolan could see around corners, he could see the moon and stars at oblique angles, and he wanted to go. He wanted to visit those spaces. He walked up the ramp, and you tore his ticket, and he pulled the restraining harness down. You turned the key and pressed the button, and the Voyager began its rotations: arcing out and up, climbing the night, sweeping over the fairgrounds, tracing parabolic pentagrams in streaks of light. Motors thrumming, magnets humming, screams twisted by G-force. And then he was gone. His shoulder harness still locked down, like the seat was never occupied. And that’s what you decided: that he was never there. You thought Jack the Cat would be the next teen up-and-off to the state mental hospital, but he slipped off to somewhere…else.”

Brooks tried to read the expression on Grossman’s face. The operator’s jaw had gone slack, his eyes wide. “How do you know all that? You say you’re not FBI. So what’s SPECTRA, anyway?”

Brooks rattled off the answer: “Special Physics Emergent Counter Terror Recon Agency.”

“The hell does that mean?”

Brooks shrugged.

“I know all that,” Durham said, “because I’ve seen the equations—the chalkboards and notebooks that Zann left behind.”

“What do you need me for? Wait, you think Zann was a terrorist?” Grossman’s eyes shunted back-and-forth between the two agents.

“No,” Brooks said. “He was well respected at CERN for almost a decade. He never would have been cleared to work on the LHC if he had terror ties. But he was banished from the scientific community for fringe ideas. How else does a Nobel laureate end up working for a carnival, disguising a dimension diving accelerator as a thrill ride just to see if it works?”

Grossman held his trembling, oil-stained thumb and forefinger an inch apart. “I understand about this much of what you’re saying. So let’s have it: what do you want from me? What do I need to do to never have to talk about that night again?”

Brooks looked at Durham. The diver squatted beside the easy chair. “Gustav Zann designed a very peculiar key for the Voyager,” Durham said, and presented his hand, palm up. He had a musician’s fingers, Brooks thought as they uncurled, or maybe a magician’s.

The stale air seemed to congeal for a few heartbeats. Then Grossman tugged at the neck of his T-shirt, reached in, and produced what looked like an obsidian shaft notched with Braille and hieroglyphics, suspended from a beaded chain. He slipped the chain over his head, hesitated, and then dropped it into Durham’s palm.

“Why did you keep it?” Durham asked.

Grossman took another cigarette from the pack and set it on his lip. It stuck there and bobbed when he spoke. “I saw Mrs. Nolan on TV back then. I thought maybe the day would come when I’d get up the nerve to run the ride on Cat. Try to find her boy.”

Durham pocketed the key.

“Is that what you’re gonna do?” Grossman asked, “Bring him back?”

Durham didn’t answer. He nodded at Brooks and headed down the hall toward the door.

“Thank you for your time, Mr. Grossman,” Brooks said and tossed a piece he hadn’t found a home for into the void at the center of the puzzle.

Behind the wheel again, sand streaming over the road in white wisps, Brooks asked, “Where to now? Back to Boston?”

Durham turned the black shaft over in his fingers, mesmerized by its intricacies. Finally, he said, “Too much paperwork.”

The ruins of Cosmic Park covered just under two miles of lakeshore property in Ashbrook, New Hampshire, all of it fenced off with chain link, electricity, and razor wire in 2014 when the investigation of Gustav Zann confirmed that the pine-shrouded grounds were home to a crown jewel of weird physics. For eighteen months SPECTRA had offered lucrative salaries through back channels in an effort to skim the shallow end of the talent pool surrounding the Large Hadron Collider. But the Voyager refused to give up its secrets intact. And so the project languished, the theoreticians were let go, and the bureaucrats backed up their computers and left the Quonset huts behind. On to other case files, even though Voyager’s was never officially closed.

The only points the physicists and occultists had agreed upon were that the passenger pods somehow crossed a dimensional barrier when they reached full acceleration, that the crossing was accomplished by the angles the pods traversed, and that these angles were derived from a geometric figure: an oblique pentacle that the occultists recognized from their grimoires. But without the black key, the Voyager project eventually fell to lesser minds—a handful of field agents hunting down leads on the whereabouts of Gustav Zann and Sam Grossman. So Brooks had been surprised when Durham, a diver with higher clearance, had approached him with the tip that ultimately led to the operator.

Brooks showed his ID at the checkpoint, brought the car through the gate, and turned onto the gravel road that snaked to the park. The lake flashed through the trees. He stole glances at Durham; Brooks wondered if the information leading to Grossman had really come from web searches and inter-agency connect-the-dots, or if the diver had found Grossman and the strange black key in some subliminal realm that he dipped into off the books, piecing together the digital breadcrumb trail later to satisfy Brooks and anyone who needed answers after the fact.

As they approached the lake, gravel crunching under the tires, chassis rocking over roots and potholes, Durham stared at his phone. He had been thumbing through it and had frozen on a photo of a woman and pair of boys.

“You might want to slow down and think this through,” Brooks said. “Maybe we should bring that key to HQ.”

Durham blacked the phone out and slipped it into his pocket. When he looked up, Brooks saw a desperate desire in his eyes to agree to this more cautious plan, to turn the car around and take the winding path through bureaucracy, through days, weeks, maybe months of testing with crash dummies wired to the gills with cameras and radiation sensors.

“They’ll end up sending me in anyway, sooner or later. I prefer not to wait.”

“Do you really think he’s still in there? Alive? You think Jack Nolan went through a door that closed behind him, and he’s still sitting there on the other side waiting for someone to open it?” Brooks scoffed. “All these years…without food, water….”

“The laws of Earth don’t apply,” Durham said. “To us it’s been years. To him…maybe minutes.”

“You have a wife and kids,” Brooks said. “You should be taking every precaution.”

“Brooks,” Durham snapped. “If one of my boys disappeared into the Voyager, do you think I’d be taking every precaution then? Do you think I’d let a day go by once I had the key? Would you if he was yours? When people are trapped in a burning building, do you think the fire truck goes back to the station first?”

Brooks nodded. He had brought the car to a crawl while they talked. Now he put his foot down on the accelerator and climbed the road with purpose.

It seemed strange to Brooks, surreal even, that a globe-spanning investigation spearheaded by an agency operating beyond the oversight of taxpayers and powered by deep pockets of laundered money should reach its climax with two men parking in a muddy field, firing up a gas generator, and climbing the entrance ramp of an amusement park ride in the dusk of a Thursday evening in March. Astronauts with no mission control and no fanfare.

The platform was overgrown with crabgrass, the nearby structures stricken with occult graffiti from the era between the closing of the park and its occupation by SPECTRA. Hardened puddles of red and black candle wax still littered the platform in places, reminders of the rumored ritual activity by members of the Starry Wisdom Church that had led the agency to the site in the first place. A warm breeze fluttered Brooks’ tie, an early hint of spring despite the last remaining mounds of snow scattered about the grounds.

The Voyager was a sprawling construction of purple painted steel, studded with light bulbs and threaded with hydraulic pistons and flexible cable enclosures. It looked like a slumbering monster against the pink wash of sunset and the black spires of the pines—its many-jointed limbs resembled the tentacles of a robotic squid, each ending in a great three-pronged claw of passenger pods.

Brooks’ gaze settled on the one black vinyl seat marked with an X in yellow spray-paint—the seat from which Jack Nolan had vanished, according to his friends.

Durham knelt on the platform beside the marked pod and unsnapped the clasps of his aluminum attaché case. Over his shoulder Brooks could see a jet-injector gun and a set of glass vials tucked snugly in compartments cut out of a brick of black foam rubber. It brought the reality of the situation home to him. He looked at the control stand—little more than a wooden podium with a button and a ball-shaft shifter beneath an awning airbrushed with galaxies and nebula clouds at the nexus of the mechanical arms.

“We should have brought the operator along,” Brooks said.

“Why?”

“Because who’s going to inject you with the abort drug if you need to pull out? I can’t ride the pod with you if I’m on the controls.”

Durham focused his eyes on the vial he was screwing in. “This is in-house Cat 9, designed for a shorter duration and intensity, a threshold dose. I’ll be surfacing before you know it.”

“How long?”

“Minutes, not hours.”

“How many minutes?”

Durham set the injector down on the case lid and concentrated on unbuttoning his shirtsleeve with what Brooks surmised was more than the requisite level of attention. Avoiding eye contact. “Relax. It’s recon. I’m just poking my head under the surface for a look around this time. Then we’ll know if we can devise an extraction.”

“We should have brought the operator.”

Durham picked up the injector and checked his watch. Brooks drew a sharp breath to tell him to stop, wait, think it through, but the sound of his inhalation rushing between his teeth spliced into the hiss of the device’s exhalation into the diver’s arm.

Brooks sighed and kicked a candle stub off of the platform.

Durham set the injector back in the case and strode toward the passenger pod with Brooks at his heels.

“Wait.” Brooks put a hand on Durham’s shoulder. “I don’t even know how to operate the thing.”

“Nothing to it. Hit the button. Once it’s moving, click the shifter up through the three speeds. The flashing lights on the arms will change color when it’s time to kick it up to the next stage.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s it,” Durham said, pulling the safety harness down over his torso until he felt it lock. “Built to be run by a carny. You aren’t color blind, are you?”

“No.”

“Then just follow the changing lights through the cycle: up to speed and back down.”

Durham pressed the cold black shaft of the key into Brooks’ hand.

Brooks held the diver’s gaze. “Is there anything you want me to tell—”

“She knows.”

Brooks went to the control podium where the arms of the machine converged. He could see Durham’s face in profile, staring up at the sky. Brooks found a steel bezel with a slot in its eye and pushed the key into it slowly, wondering if the orientation of the hieroglyphic impressions mattered. But it didn’t resist or jam. Quite the contrary: the channel seemed to suck the key in with magnetic force.

The red START button illuminated. He wished there was a STOP button beside it and wondered if hitting it a second time after a premature downshifting would abort the ride. You couldn’t make a carnival ride with no kill switch, could you? Would cycling down too fast damage it? His hand felt clammy on the shifter. Durham was more concerned with getting in than out, and Brooks didn’t like it.

His index finger hovered above the button. He punched it. The machine engaged gracefully, arms rising slowly and gliding away from the ground without the slightest hint of a mechanical lurch. It was as if the thing were alive and waking from a long sleep. The many-jointed steel arms uncoiled soundlessly, and yet a subsonic vibration thrummed in his feet, testicles, and eyeballs, shaking the desiccated leaves that still clung to the trees like dusty bells, shaking the fine white filaments on nearby reeds to set the Earth’s ears ringing, the stars trembling.

And then the world was moving around him. No, he was moving against the orbit of the passenger pods, and looking down he saw that the control tier he stood at was rising and rotating, bringing him up with it atop a circular platform. His altitude kept pace with Durham’s pod and it soon came into view again, crossing his line of sight. Durham’s face looked bloodless. Then the lights came on, bathing it in a cold blue sheen.

Brooks took a deep breath and pushed the throttle out of the neutral rut into the first speed position. The limb of the machine from which Durham’s pod hung swung out in an arc away from the nexus where Brooks remained perched, feeling his stomach follow in the smear of blue light.

He dragged his palms across his chest to dry them on his shirt, and gripped the sides of the control box. Another improbably sinuous steel arm drifted into view bearing another trio of Pods. These spun off along a different trajectory, passing over his head in a rush of air.

Full dark had descended on the park, the only light cast by the myriad rows of blue bulbs now shifting to orange. Brooks nudged the shifter into second position.

No music played, but the Voyager was a symphony of limbs, spirals within spirals expanding and retracting, tracing trails of light through the darkness in a pattern so fluid that it seemed impossible it could be motivated by a mechanical heart, transmitted through gears and pistons. Rather, the motion of the machine was like the billowing of tendrils in an ocean current, the undulations of flames in a wind. He was mesmerized in the eye of the vortex.

He tried to track Durham’s pod but lost it—one ball among many at the whim of a master juggler. Only the juggler, Zann, had left the carnival long ago. Had he preceded Jack Nolan through the veil? Had he designed the drug as well as the ride?

A face sped out of the darkness at him and his heartbeat tripped at the sudden sight: Durham, his mouth a black tunnel, his eyes all whites as he gazed up into the recesses of his own skull. And gone again—a streak of orange light morphing to violet.

Brooks followed the pod with his gaze, tracking it like the prize cup in a shell game. He threw the shifter into third speed, rocketing the pod into a zone where it became almost impossible to follow and making him wish that he, too, had partaken of the drug for the speed it would bestow upon the flitting of his eyes and the sparking of his synapses.

The platform on which he stood had reached its full height, its corkscrewing had ceased, but he continued to turn on his heels, following, he realized, a human vocal drone; a dreadful whine that seemed to require no replenishing breath to carry for all eternity.

There: the manned pod screamed into view a mere yard from his face and the body beneath the safety harness was no longer a body but a cutout in the shape of a man through which the cancerous rays of distant stars pulsed through a range of unearthly colors. It sped past and the purple bulbs turned back to orange; Brooks shifted the Voyager down and remembered to breathe, feeling the platform rotating beneath him, winding him back down to the ground. Blue lights. And down to first position. The sprawling robotic limbs retracted, slowed, descended. The charged air relaxed, and it was over even as the universe continued to spin around his dizzy head.

He knelt at the podium, rested his forehead against the cold metal of the control box, opened his eyes and caught sight of the black nub of the key.

He pulled it out.

Climbing to his feet, he scanned the machine’s now dormant anatomy and found Durham, once again a man, slumped in his harness, chin to chest.

Brooks ran to the pod. He slapped a nervous tattoo against Durham’s cheek, got no response, laid his palm on the man’s forehead and tugged an eyelid up with his thumb: all pupil, shot through with sharp spokes of violet light stretching from some vast depth. Brooks recoiled at the sight. He undid the harness and pushed it up. Durham slumped forward into his arms. Brooks lifted the diver out of the pod and laid him down on the coarse grass.

He checked for a pulse and found it, put his ear to Durham’s nose and detected shallow breath. He slapped the man’s cheek again and again, whispering to himself, “Come on, come on come on COME ON! WAKE UP, YOU SON OF A BITCH! DURHAM!”

The diver’s eyelashes fluttered. He drew a shuddering breath, hitched and gasped. His eyes shot open, riveted to the sky. “Saw him,” he said.

“Who? Nolan?”

“…eeeeeeEEEEE…aliiive…”

“He’s alive?”

Eeeeeeaten…alive. It’s still…eating him alive.”

“What is, Durham? What’s eating him alive?”

Durham laughed, wheezed, hyperventilated.

“Calm down,” Brooks said. “Try to calm down.”

Durham’s crazy eyes focused on Brooks now, the spokes of violet light converging to a pinpoint. He could hardly bear it. “Ripping his atoms apart with teeth like shards of broken stars…but he’s alive. He’ll always be alive.”

A peal of hysterical laughter fell out of the diver’s mouth and set Brooks’ skin crawling. The sound mocked everything good and sane in the world, and all Brooks could think of doing in response was to draw his piece and mute that godforsaken sound, to snuff out Durham’s ninth life because there was something irrefutable in that laugh, something that bore witness to chaos and embraced it.

Brooks put the gun out of his mind and focused on the memory of Durham gazing at his phone. The photo of the man’s family. He clutched the memory like an amulet against the laughter. Because if he let that laughter spill under his defenses and take hold of him, he might start laughing, too. And he might never stop.

Douglas Wynne is the author of the novels The Devil of Echo Lake, Steel Breeze, Red Equinox, and Black January. He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, son, and a houseful of animals, just a stone’s throw from H.P. Lovecraft’s fictional town of Arkham. You can find him on the web at www.dougwynne.com

If you enjoyed this story, let Douglas know by commenting — and please use the Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus buttons below to spread the word.

Story illustration by Giuseppe Balestra.

Return to the table of contents

2 responses to “The Voyager, by Douglas Wynne

  1. Great, I really liked it. Kind of reminded me of “Everybody Scream!” by Jeffrey Thomas, also your story had a unique vibe to it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s