Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Contributing Editor


Mortality, Eternity
by Joseph Green

Absolute Pony
by Alisa Alering

Quisic Smith and the Russian Puzzle Doll
by Sean Monaghan

Clever Bubble
by Antha Ann Adkins

by Matthew Wuertz

To Walk the Earth
by Rebecca Birch

Five Stages of Future Grief
by Gary Cuba

Lost Planes, Lost River
by Michael Hodges

Funny Money
by Chet Gottfried

Insanity Machine
by Lawrence Buentello

Ten Minutes
by Eamonn Murphy


A Quantum Mind
by Eric M. Jones

What is Science?
by John McCormick




Shorter Stories

Comic Strips




Insanity Machine

By Lawrence Buentello

I HAD NO IDEA WHY ROGERS enlisted my services; his reasons were vague and my itinerary full, but I eventually agreed, if only to get him to stop asking me.

Whatever the reason, I drove with him from our offices at Cambridge to that terribly dilapidated apartment complex in an impoverished section of the city in order to speak to the man my colleague referred to—in a troubled voice—as the inventor of an insanity machine.

I laughed at this when he said it in his office earlier, nearly spilling my coffee while he refreshed his tea, but he didn’t find the concept amusing in the least. Dr. James Salvio, he assured me, was the American inventor of a device designed to destroy the human mind. How he’d learned of this invention, and Dr. Salvio’s location in England, remained privileged information, despite my inquiries. Why he wanted to interview the man remained a mystery.

When we arrived at the flats the mystery became less apparent; evidently Dr. Salvio’s location and disposition had been disclosed by social workers assigned to his care. A young woman met us in the lobby of the hotel, ostensibly a subsidized home for elderly tenants, and Rogers spoke to her with great familiarity. From their conversation I intuited that the man in whom Rogers was so interested was a dementia patient whose health was rapidly deteriorating. His circumstances had to have been reported by his assistants, who, for some reason, decided it was imperative that a high level faculty member of Cambridge should be advised. I gathered from their exchange that Dr. Salvio, whoever he was, wasn’t fond of visitors, despite the young woman’s diplomacy. When Rogers pressed her—and I wondered if they shared some deeper relationship of which he was taking advantage—she told us to wait while she spoke to the man again, and then she left the lobby and ascended in the antiquated lift.

I seized this opportunity to let Rogers know that I was entirely uncomfortable with the proceedings, and told him to explain his motives to me at once or I intended to call for a taxi back to the university

“I apologize for the secrecy,” he said, reaching into his coat pocket for his pipe, but then returning it as he thought better of indulging a nervous habit. His curly gray hair and bright blue eyes tended to make him appear younger than his years; but the concern on his face negated the effect. “The young woman I just spoke to is my niece, Sharon. I managed to find her a position in the social services office where I’m a board member. Do you know the one?”

“Social services isn’t my area, I’m afraid,” I said. “Well, now I know the source of your information, but I still don’t know why you insisted on bringing me to this place. Who is this Salvio to you?”

“I don’t know the man personally, but I’ve heard of his work.”

“I’ve been in the field for twenty years and I’ve never heard his name.”

Rogers smiled, nodding. “I wouldn’t expect you would. I only know it because of my years with British Intelligence, and only then through vague reports from the department.”

I knew that Rogers had joined British Intelligence after receiving his doctorate, but he’d always kept his duties confidential. He’d spent ten years working for his country’s government before accepting a post at Cambridge. I could only imagine the projects to which he applied his knowledge of mind sciences.

“What exactly is so interesting about this man?”

“It really is a confidential matter. I’ll have to ask you not to repeat anything I disclose.”

I reluctantly agreed, if only to satisfy my curiosity.

“Apparently our American counterparts instituted a program in the late nineteen-seventies whose focus was mind control,” he said. “That’s not news to you, I imagine. Such programs have been around for a very long time. But one of the artifacts of this particular venture was the rumored production of a device specifically designed to induce insanity. By stages or completely, at least that was the gist of the intelligence we received. And the name of the man purported to have designed this device is James Salvio.”

I mulled over this information, wondering if my colleague had jumped the proverbial gun.

“What makes you think this man is the same James Salvio?” I asked.

“Sharon just happened to mention to me that she was tending a nice old man who claimed to have been a psychologist in America. This meant nothing to me until she told me his name. When I heard it, I asked her to ask him a few more questions about himself, which he answered, and after she reported this information to me I knew I had to interview the man myself.”

“Then why bring me along?”

“Aside from your being a fellow countryman, I need you to function as an objective party. Salvio and I have both worked in Intelligence for our governments, and may both be too jaded when it comes to ethical matters. I need your assessment as an academic.”

I gave my conditional assent, since he seemed inordinately sincere, though the reason why ethical matters should be an issue eluded me.

Shortly after this conversation, Rogers’ niece returned to the lobby and told us that Dr. Salvio had agreed to an interview; in fact, he seemed fairly enthusiastic to comply. Rogers just winked at me as we entered the lift.

Old buildings have a scent that leaves no doubt of their age; combine this odor with the poorly attended elderly tenants and the complex had all the charm of a mausoleum. Along a palely lit corridor we found Salvio’s doorway already partially opened. Rogers’ niece escorted us into a small living room occupied by an aged man sitting in a worn paisley patterned chair. The man turned his head and gazed at us through the thick lenses of his eyeglasses, then offered a feeble smile.

I judged the man to be in his seventies. He touched the top of his bald, mottled head with his fingertips a moment, then gazed at Rogers’ niece for reassurance.

“These are the men who wanted to see you,” she said, patting the old man on the arm. He smiled at this, then nodded to us. I felt entirely uncomfortable interviewing a dementia patient, but Rogers offered a blustery hello, evidently unencumbered by the unsavoriness of the enterprise, and made an exaggerated gesture of shaking the man’s hand.

“This is my colleague, Dr. Henry Ketterman,” Rogers said as he gestured toward me. “We’re from the university.”

“Yes, yes,” Salvio said in a thin voice, “I would have expected to be interviewed sooner than this. I’ve done important work, you know.”

Rogers glanced at me briefly before sitting in the chair his niece provided. I sat as well, puzzled by the man’s response.

“We’ve heard of your work, of course,” Rogers said, crossing his legs. “Still, because of the nature of your studies not much has been documented.”

The old man’s demeanor soured momentarily, and he gesticulated oddly at an unseen adversary.

“Damn them, anyway,” he said. “Damn their confidentiality clauses, all of them. It’s taken so long for news of my work to become known. Well, so be it. But I’m old now, and dying. What do I care for the consequences of violating my agreements?”

“You’re not dying, Mr. Salvio,” Sharon said, patting the old man on the shoulder. “You shouldn’t speak that way.”

“I am dying,” he said, gazing up at her. “They retired me and forgot about me. But my work shouldn’t be forgotten, it’s too important.”

“That’s why we came,” Rogers said pleasantly, “to speak to you about your work. Isn’t that right, Henry?”

I nodded, still uncomfortable with the charade.

Rogers asked his niece if we could speak to Dr. Salvio in private for a few minutes.

“Yes, let us to our business,” Salvio said, gesturing her away.

Her eyes met her uncle’s a moment, but then she complied, moving from her charge and closing the door behind her.

Rogers seized upon Salvio’s enthusiasm by recounting his admittedly sketchy knowledge of the man’s endeavors, offering what I thought to be thinly disguised interest in the precepts of the old man’s machine. As he continued speaking, I grew less convinced that Rogers’ motives were purely academic, but perhaps he was simply a good actor; working for British Intelligence may have required that particular talent.

“I know how difficult it is to validate research done under the auspices of Intelligence,” Rogers said. “If I hadn’t been in the same business years ago for Her Majesty I may not have been privileged to hear of your work.”

“A damnable thing,” the old man said, “damnable.”

“Pure research doesn’t exist on the governmental level, I’m afraid. Dr. Salvio, is it true that you actually charted specific pathways of cognitive influence?”

“Very true.” A small smile came to Salvio’s lips. “In fact, the charting of neuronal pathways was central to my thesis. The machine did all this, you see. In those days computer programming was still in its infancy, but the effects were spectacular. But that was the whole problem, according to my superiors. Its effectiveness was uncompromising.”

Rogers continued to question the old man, who replied in perfectly coherent sentences one moment, but then disjointed and repetitive sentences the next. I assumed this was a symptom of his dementia, and it seemed bad form for Rogers to be interrogating the man this way. Nor did I completely understand my colleague’s motivation for doing so. Simply verifying this piece of psychological arcanum seemed unnecessary, as Rogers already knew it to be historical fact.

Salvio spoke on, describing how his studies translated into practical applications under his government grant. He swore that a specific sequence of neural pathway training allowed him to first control a person’s thoughts and then retrieve any wanted information therefrom. His first experiments, and any subsequent experiments done to refine the process, were conducted covertly under the supervision of Central Intelligence on prisoners overseas; or, more correctly, detainees. Though the device, and the theories behind its use, proved phenomenally successful, the agency decided to discontinue its use once more effective drugs were developed.

The machine’s side effects were the chief reason for this decision.

“What were the side effects?” Rogers asked.

“Brain damage, I’m afraid,” Salvio said, shifting in his chair. “A consequence of pathway reconditioning.”

As I listened to the old man’s explanation, my jaw tensed inadvertently, and I rubbed it to alleviate the tension. I understood exactly what he was describing, and my general uneasiness slowly evolved into silent disgust. Such practices have always been condemned in immoral moments of history, such as the medical experiments by the Nazis during the Second World War. Salvio’s breezy descriptions struck me as disturbingly amoral.

Within the human brain, neural pathways are created that provide specific emotional and perceptual responses to recurring stimuli. This is the normal course of events, and such pathways act as a sort of automatic response to common events in a person’s life. Driving a car, for instance, creates this type of stimulus-response pathway in the brain, so well-trained that a common experience while driving will produce a nearly unconscious response to road conditions. Unfortunately, stressful events also create neural pathways, negatively, of course, so when an event occurs that a person perceives as being similar to a past traumatic event or series of events the response is visceral and automatic. It takes long years of therapy and reconditioning to disrupt this pathway, and sometimes it is never disrupted.

Apparently, Salvio’s machine could artificially create this same sort of traumatic neural pathway mechanism in a subject’s brain, training him in very little time to respond as needed. Salvio had developed an algorithm for his machine that could be programmed by interrogators. The use of such a device, I assumed, must have been some form of mind control. The only problem was that the machine worked too well—once these pathways were created through a person’s neurons no reversal of the effect could be administered. His machine’s victims became permanently mentally impaired, some to the point of incapacitation. The machine rendered them insane.

As a clinical therapist I found all this fantastically vile, though Rogers listened as though the information were wonderfully enlightening.

Salvio spoke as if he were describing Pasteur’s germ theory of disease, a revelation representing a boon to humanity instead of a technological monstrosity. Why Rogers thought it important to subject me to this ...

But when Rogers inquired as to the location of his studies, if the United States government still possessed the technology, the old man ceased speaking and eyed him warily. “Does this technology still exist?” Rogers asked, but the old man glanced at me, then to him, and didn’t speak; his lips moved together rapidly, as if he were assessing us, or more precisely, Rogers’ motives, but he seemed disinclined to respond.

Rogers, perhaps sensing Salvio’s hesitancy, turned to me and said, “It is only for the sake of scientific research that I ask, isn’t that right, Dr. Ketterman? I mean, it would be a terrible shame for your work to be disregarded in the annals of scientific research simply because of some bureaucratic labyrinth.”

Salvio stared at me, and because I hadn’t said anything since we arrived in his room, he may have been wondering why I was present. A vague thought came to me that perhaps Rogers believed there might be some therapeutic use for Salvio’s device, though I hadn’t heard anything from the old man to think this was actually the case.

“Your research does sound fascinating,” I said, though I excluded my opinions on the efficacy of his participation in its use. “It could very well prove useful for contemporary academic study.”

He replied to this politic statement by saying, “You’re not British, are you?”

“No,” I said, “I’m actually an American psychologist teaching at the university. Though I do have a small clinical practice, I’m purely an academic researcher.”

“You never worked for the government? Anyone’s government?”

“No, Dr. Salvio, I’m afraid not. I’m only an academic.”

“Did they force you to come here, too?”

I exchanged glances with Rogers, then said, “I’m afraid I don’t understand. My tenure is voluntary.”

Salvio nodded his mottled head sagely.

“I’m sure Dr. Rogers can tell you how government employers operate,” he said, rubbing his hands agitatedly. “First they take your best years and use your work to their own advantage, then they hide you away because they don’t want anyone knowing you ever worked for them. They go out of their way to move you from place to place, until you find yourself an old man in a foreign country, unwanted and obsolete.”

Salvio’s jaw moved, but he didn’t speak; he seemed to be nursing a long standing anger.

“Do you really think my work could be of importance to contemporary science?” he finally said to me.

“Quite possibly,” I said, uncertain if I was offering the correct response.

Rogers watched us closely, and I didn’t appreciate being observed that way—calculatedly, expectantly.

“Of course it would be useful,” Rogers said. “It sounds like brilliant work if only we had access to it.”

“I have no interest in giving my research over to another country,” the old man said, shaking his head.

Salvio appraised me through thick lenses.

“But you’re an American,” he said to me, emphasizing this statement by waving an arthritic hand. “You could make certain my work wasn’t hoarded by any one institution, couldn’t you?”

I didn’t know what to say. Any academic would offer the same response—scientific information was meant to be shared between scientists of all nations.

“I suppose so,” I said, struggling for clarity. “If such information existed I would try to make certain it was academically disseminated.”

The old man stared at Rogers dubiously. “I’ve had my life’s work suppressed too many times,” he said, “and my life. What’s the use in sharing my work now? I’m old and I’m tired. Where is Sharon?”

“Would you be amenable to describing your work for us formally?” Rogers asked, pressing his advantage, if one even existed.

But the old man said nothing; his lips trembled, and he seemed lost in thought. I determined this a symptom of his dementia; exertion could easily bring on a dissociative state.

“Can we come back again tomorrow?” Rogers asked, having perceived the old man’s fatigue. “Myself and Dr. Ketterman?”

I beetled my brow at this suggestion, uncertain if I even believed our presence in Salvio’s room was appropriate.

The old man gazed up at me, then to Rogers.

“Perhaps another day,” he said absently. “Ask me again another day.”


As we exited the building and found our car, I asked Rogers why he was so insistent on studying the old man’s research. Certainly such information could prove useful to researchers, but the salacious manner in which it was produced spoke loudly of its immoral nature. Rogers countered that despite the manner in which Salvio’s research was produced, it might still be of constructive use and therefore documenting it was essential. The old man had only a short time left in the world, and after he was gone so, too, would his research vanish.

“I’m sure it exists somewhere in CIA files,” I said, gazing out at the dreary landscape as we drove back toward the university.

“And there it will stay forever,” Rogers said. “I know how Intelligence works, I’m afraid. Academia will never come close to learning of Salvio’s studies if we have to rely on government agencies to disclose it. I know of what I speak.”

“Fair enough, but why drag me into this affair? I see no reason for my continued participation.”

“You’re a fellow countryman. I saw the recognition in his eyes. You represent redemption for him.”

“Nonsense. Why can’t you find another American? Or ask someone to affect an American accent?”

“He’d know the difference immediately. No, he sees you differently. Please consider this as an academic exercise. Who knows? He may have knowledge that will assist clinical therapy in years to come. Isn’t that worth the discomfort of dealing with moral ambiguity?”

This certainly sounded like a logical point, though I wondered just how such technology could assist therapeutically. It seemed to be research conducted for the sole purpose of destroying the human mind, not repairing it. I told this to Rogers, but he dismissed my objection.

“How could we possibly know its benefits if we don’t examine the data?” he said.

“Tell me,” I said, still uncertain of my own beliefs, “why is Salvio living in Great Britain? Wouldn’t that be a breach of protocol to leave him in another country?”

“Salvio applied for legal residency long ago,” Rogers replied. “That’s a matter of record. His work was supplanted by infinitely more effective techniques, I assure you. No, his past association with Intelligence is more artifact than revelation. I suspect he left the States voluntarily, perhaps specifically because of his research.”

“As a pariah?”

He glanced at me and smiled.

“The price of practicing in secrets, I’m afraid,” Rogers said.

After our return I retired to my office, determined to put Salvio and his bizarre research permanently from my mind. After all, what did it really have to do with me? My own work had never broached such invasive methodologies, neither had I a personal interest in the area. I put Salvio from my mind and returned to my appointments.

Over the next few days, however, Rogers kept conveniently intercepting me; on my way to the classroom, in the lounge, walking to my car. He’d been coordinating with his niece during this time, trying to convince Salvio to agree to another meeting. I dismissed him every time.

“Dr Salvio is very impressed by your credentials,” he told me, taking a seat across from me in the dining hall.

“And who provided my credentials to Dr. Salvio for examination?” I said, not a little crossly, for I was growing tired of Rogers’ intrusions.

“Salvio needs to know his work will be taken seriously, and not merely by us Brits. He’s agreed to see me again, but only if I bring you along. Will you go?”

I held my temper, though I could feel my jaw flexing.

I said, rather curtly, “I find Dr. Salvio’s research appalling. Let it die with him.”

“I would agree, if not for the potential it represents.”

“Potential? For what? Torture?”

“Therapy. Nothing more. Sure, it’s ill-gotten knowledge, and men probably died during its creation, I’ll admit that. But that was a long time ago, and there’s no reason now to let it lie fallow when it might do some good for humanity today.”

“That’s true,” I said, then took a sip of coffee to think the matter over. When I set down my cup I said, “But it’s that potentiality I’m worried about.”

“You don’t trust me?”

“Once this research is made public, everyone becomes suspect in their motives. You know that’s true.”

“You’re being paranoid.” He ran a hand through his curly hair, ostensibly exasperated by my reticence. “Please, Henry. This is important.”

That night I lay sleeplessly pondering the implications of Salvio’s work, wondering if my hesitation to help Rogers was a cowardly stance on my part. After all, the Cold War was over, and we lived in an entirely different age. And if there was a therapeutic use to be found for Salvio’s work then I could very well be standing in the way of its dissemination. Any fear I had of sullying my name by participating in the matter was therefore self-serving.

I lay thinking of the possibilities, and the liabilities, until my curiosity of the old man’s work simply conquered my reservations. My mind was changed by something as simple as that; by morbid curiosity.

The next morning I phoned Rogers and told him I would assist after all. Delighted, he called back only a few minutes later with the details of our next visit.


When we once again arrived at the old man’s door he stared at us quizzically for a moment, raising a hand to Rogers’ niece as if to ask her opinion. I’d thought he was fairly highly functional for a dementia patient, but apparently his short-term memory was impaired and that explained the social services. But he did remember us after a moment, remembered me specifically, though Rogers had done the majority of talking previously.

“Do you remember us asking you about your work?” Rogers said as we sat before the old man’s chair again. “You said you would consider explicating your research for us.”

Salvio glanced at Rogers, but then stared at me closely. I had difficulty maintaining my repose; his eyes, though aged, bore the appraisal of a man with significant secrets.

“You’re the American,” he said.

I nodded.

“I loved America. That’s why I worked for the government. Do you think I was wrong?”

I exchanged glances with Rogers, because I had no idea what I should say. Of course I thought he was wrong. Who wouldn’t? The moral question was easily answered, even though he may have believed he was assisting his country. Historically, his motives didn’t matter. The number of people he’d maimed or killed was a matter for his own conscience.

“That was a long time ago,” I said diplomatically enough. “Did you believe you were wrong at the time?”

“After all,” Rogers said quickly, “hindsight is often influenced by erroneous perceptions.”

“Not erroneous,” Salvio said. “I was perfectly certain of my reasons. The government was all too willing to fund my research. How else could I have procured the means? Academia was not prepared for my studies.”

“Then why ask?” I said.

“I’m asking you what you believe, as a fellow American. These Brits, I’m never sure of their concept of the world. But Americans are pragmatists.”

“Well, what was pragmatic about your work?”

The old man laughed then, softly, wheezingly; I failed to appreciate the humor, but he ignored my dour expression.

“It’s perfectly simple,” he said. “In knowing what drives a man insane, you will discover what keeps him sane. I knew that if I fulfilled my duties for the government I could then use my data for more constructive studies. But they wouldn’t let me. They couldn’t acknowledge my work, let alone my existence. Now I’m old, and my work nearly buried with me. So does it matter now?”

“It does matter,” Rogers said brightly. “We’ll make certain your research is used constructively. Won’t we, Dr. Ketterman?”

I wondered about this; Rogers seemed entirely too enthusiastic for my tastes, though perhaps being American actually did make me too much of a pragmatist. In a terrible moment of clarity, I wanted nothing more than for Salvio to die quickly and suddenly, and for his damnable research to die with him. There seemed no point in resurrecting something so horribly delivered.

Before I could respond, perhaps even to dispute my colleague’s claim, the old man moved in his chair, then rose on spindly legs to his feet.

As we watched, Salvio walked to a small curio by the window and opened a door. I could see a fair-sized bundle of papers within, which he gathered into his arms and carried back to the chair. He sat with an effort, the papers resting in his lap.

I glanced at Rogers, but his gaze was intent on the papers, and I had a painful premonition of Salvio’s words before he spoke.

“These are my surviving notes,” he said with an air of pride in his voice. He patted the stack gently. “They thought I gave them all of my papers, but I had made copies, you see. I couldn’t part with my work completely.”

“These are your notes for the process?” Rogers said, gesturing. “You’ve had them in your possession all along?”

“Yes,” Salvio said. “I couldn’t let them take everything from me. My work is much too important. I kept all the charts for my algorithms. And the plans for the machine itself, of course.”

Stunned, I gazed at Rogers, but his attention was far beyond anyone else in the room. The revelation of the papers’ existence had obviously surprised him, but scientific research is full of surprises, especially research done for covert purposes. I wished then I could have whisked them off the old man’s lap and burned them once and for all, but it wasn’t my place. I wish Roger’s niece had never discovered Salvio’s identity, and so fortuitously advanced the information to her uncle.

“Take it,” Salvio told us, almost graciously. “Use it to help humanity. It will be my gift to the world. I trust you, I do.”


We left that day with Dr. James Salvio’s surviving papers held firmly under Rogers’ arm. I was certain I would never see the old man again. Rogers had gotten what he came for, and had used me as a lever with which to pry it from the old man’s grasp. It wasn’t this that so upset me, though. It was the thought that both Salvio and Rogers both considered the research valuable, and each had justified to himself that the existence of it was essential for science.

In the car on the drive back to the university, I asked Rogers a question that was burning my conscience.

“What are you planning to do with Salvio’s papers?”

Rogers never shifted his gaze from the road.

“What do you expect I’ll do with them?” he said evenly.

“I would think you’d do exactly what I would do.”

“Which is?”

“Destroy them.”

Rogers laughed then, a soft, amused laughed that I didn’t know how to interpret. Then he glanced at me, his eyes gleaming.

“These messes have to be cleaned up,” he said, studying the road again. “God knows how many of them are still out in the world. What might have happened to these papers if Salvio hadn’t disclosed their existence to my niece?”

“I don’t know. Possibly nothing, if they weren’t recognized for what they are.”

“Possibly. But they’re in the right hands now, and, I assure you, despite Salvio’s desire to achieve immortality, the details of his work will never surface again.”

And that’s where Rogers left the conversation, with my assumption that Salvio’s papers would either be summarily burned or locked away in a vault never to be studied again. The affair was over; Salvio’s repulsive work was finally concluded.

The next year I had nearly forgotten the incident, except to be reminded of it by reading Salvio’s obituary in the morning news on my computer. The news of his death brought very little in the way of emotional reaction, as I was convinced his papers were gone from the public forever. And I hadn’t spoken to Rogers in months, let alone seen him socially. I was prepared to leave it all behind—

Until I received a call from a colleague who was treating an interesting case.

The young man had been a university student before abruptly presenting symptoms. Normally, I would have expected to see some previous history of mental disorder, anxiety, possibly the precursors of schizophrenia, which wasn’t unusual for the man’s age. But nothing in his history seemed typical. He had been, by all accounts, perfectly rational, a high achiever, having no previous history of mental illness.

I interviewed him—or tried to, but his responses to my questions were nonsensical. His thoughts seemed to present themselves in a loop, as if he could think of nothing else but one programmed pattern. His entire presentation was atypical, and neither I nor any of the other therapists involved could come to a conclusive diagnosis. Still, I didn’t connect the boy’s condition to anything but late adolescent dementia.

Two months later, when a young woman turned up manifesting the same symptoms, I went searching for Rogers, but it was then that I was told he’d resigned his position the previous month and was unavailable.

It might have been a coincidence. Too often people see what they expect to see when confronted by difficult circumstances. But that young man and young woman were the only two patients to present identical symptoms, atypical and highly untreatable, and no others emerged in the following months. I kept hoping for some revelation, but a thorough investigation revealed that the two had nothing in common, they were from different parts of the country, and had probably never even met each other.

They had nothing in common, of course, except that they were both hopelessly insane.

I probably should have told someone—but who would I tell? And how could I even be sure, except for a terrible suspicion?

Or perhaps my conscience wouldn’t let me accept my share of responsibility.

I never heard from Rogers again. END

Lawrence Buentello resides in San Antonio, Texas. He has published over 80 short
stories in a variety of genres. His science fiction has appeared in “Andromeda Spaceways,” “Escape Velocity,” “Afterburn SF,” “Kasma SF,” and many other places.