Strawman ch4: Basic Instinct

previous: Strawman ch3: Strong Souls

478945600000remote access: log addendum.

If you’re reading this, I still have my network access. The following was recovered from my phone in the form of a video file. The image quality is sparse but the audio is perfectly preserved. For the sake of brevity, we will begin with my witty reply to the small squeaky dog toy-like creature’s request.

“What if I refuse to help you?” I spoke with a certain level of confidence and professionalism, unsure of what that would get me.

“Why would you refuse?” It asked innocently, from its hiding place within the wall. The voice had a genuine hint of sadness, like a child asking for ice cream before bedtime.  

“Because I don’t want to.” The reply was more of a question than anything else. “No one has the right to hand over someone else’s eternal soul.”

The creature grunted, I could practically hear her rolling her eyes. “But you don’t even know him.”

“So what?” The squeaky toy was actually trying to debate me. I needed to choose my next words wisely. I did not want to underestimate the creature, so the best course of action was to play up my humanity and preserve my skills for a later time. “Razor is a man of God.”

The entity started to giggle. “Razor? Do you honestly wish to defend the character of a man who called himself ‘Razor’?”

“It’s just a name.” Although the creature had a point. ‘Razor’ did not bring to mind images of a good, God-fearing man.

“You can say that with a straight face?”

“Fine, we can call him Rey; the name which was given to him by his family, the name he will use in the presence of God.” I, of course, didn’t know that for a fact. My mind started to spew out other things that I did not know (from my one day of interaction) but only assumed. “He’s a kind husband; a loving, hardworking father. That’s all I need to know.”

The creature did not stop laughing. I started to have flashbacks of my days as a teenage babysitter. Yes, that was exactly what this creature was; a small child, and I needed to speak to it as such.

“If you won’t help us, then please go away.” I knew that wasn’t happening anytime soon. This was the creature’s home (or perhaps its birthplace.) I was the one intruding on its space.

“If he’s so wonderful, don’t you want to preserve his soul?” The creature asked with noticeable sarcasm. ” You’d rather watch him disappear?”

“True believers don’t disappear. We will reunite with our loved ones in a promised land.” That was the message I held close to my heart.

Oh.” The voice giggled with child-like glee. “You’re one of those. And he is too? You people are so funny. So devoted to the idea of H-I-M.”

“Yes, I believe in God.”

“You choose to put your faith in a mystery man; an overwritten superhero designed to further the patriarchy.”

It was at this point I moved the camera into the opening. “Why are you obsessed with ‘strong’ souls? What does that even mean?”

I hoped the question would distract the creature allowing me to get a better view. I could hear her little hooves as she moved in closer, her little nose squeaked as she bumped up against my phone. “Abusers taste the best,” the creature spoke slower, clearer. It wanted to make sure I heard its words correctly, and in their entirety.  “Men destined for the fires of Hell; they taste like hotdogs, chargrilled hamburgers, even roast pork.”

I could see the pink silicon of her snout and part of her cheek. This thing was only a toy. I just needed to keep telling myself that.  “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Oh, really?” It said happily. “Then why does his family live in New York?”

“I don’t know.” I’d heard about people moving to states like Wyoming for high-paying jobs in prisons or law enforcement. It wasn’t a rare occurrence.

“Did you know he nearly beat his wife to death in front of their newborn? He tore out her eye and part of her mouth. When the police arrived he was standing over her, stomping her face in.” It ended its statement with a sadistic giggle.

“Bullshit!” The words sent me into a rage. I jolted away from the phone, scooting on my hands as fast as I could until I hit a wall. A sudden realization hit me like a punch to the stomach; this was a distraction, a trap. If this thing collected souls, it sure as heck didn’t require my permission to do so. (And if it needed to possess a human body, well it could just fuck right off.)

“Meth and PTSD are not a good mix,” the voice paused, taking a moment to gloat. “The handsome soldier with the smile of a jaguar and the eyes of a wolf: he actually got out of prison less than a year ago.”

“I don’t care!” Plus, if her story was correct, that explained why he would be free, working with local police; Razor was a recovered drug addict, with the skills of a decorated Marine.

“You’re not the first and you won’t be the last, ” the voice started to move. There were a series of squeaks, small rubber footsteps, as it came closer. It was pushing the phone into the light of the main room and I was about to see its face.

My heart raced. It was a toy; nothing more, nothing less. Or at least that’s what my mind told me. The blob of bulbous pink flesh was the length of a mouse, with the swollen look of a walking tumor (or a mochi squishy.) The creature struggled to push my phone into the main room. Once it had reached a place just below a small crack of light, the pink toy repositioned itself. It looked at me, the light-catching its eyes like two big shiny pearls. “All I want is to help you, to save you.” The creature lifted its head, revealing a snout; two little holes like a pink button sewed to its face. Its head tilted to the side as it looked in my direction. “If you make the decision to deny me. I will have no choice but to take what is mine.”

I assumed it was talking about Razor. His body was a good ten feet away. I closed my eyes, forcing my lids shut with all of my strength. It was going to kill Razor, devour him, hurt him. If the creature’s words were even slightly true, she would want to make him suffer. Was it a she? Yeah, it had to be.

There was no sound. Why? I blinked once then twice. I could see my phone, but not the creature. I moved my neck, looking in the direction of Razor. My eyes closed, in desperate need of moisture. When I opened them again, I was face to face with the toy.


This was not a pig. This was a fetus. She had two holes for eyes with two shimmery magots catching the light as they moved in graceful circular motions. And then there was her small fish-like mouth. The fact that it stayed so small gave the impression that this was not a demon or a figment of my imagination. She was real and she was coming in for a kiss.  

That’s all I can remember.

The next moment felt like just another blink. When my eyes opened, I was in a hospital bed. The first thing I saw was the intravenous line in my wrist. The next was my phone on the lunch tray.

Once my vision cleared enough to see the whiteboard, I made a note to begin this supplement post. According to the date, it had been six days since the journey to ground zero. I’m not sure how long it took them to find me, or how I was rescued and taken to the on-base military hospital. And no one will tell me if Razor is dead or alive. The consensus seems to be that I just made him up.

A military doctor, Major Glen Collins, said (according to the official police report) I had wandered onto the forbidden section of ground zero. (Which was, to say, all of it.) According to him, I likely imagined Razor as a guide of some kind; a father figure, or perhaps he was the embodiment of everything I wanted to be. “He’s strong, brave, respected, male. You likely hallucinated him as a partner, a reason to justify your intended goal.”

“My goal?”

“We’re still trying to figure out what exactly that was.”

“My intentions were put into writing with Lt Col. Tomas.”

He nodded, consoling me like a child. “I’ll add that to the report,” he said in a condescending tone. “But no one by that name or rank has been a part of the Mt Rushmore investigation.”

I nodded, giving my sweetest little-girl smile. With any luck, he would take my words as the ramblings of a mentally ill woman in need of treatment. That was the last time I saw Major Collins that day. For the record, I have no desire to change my sex. It was also a little strange that the good doctor had been making these assumptions off the information: 1. Razor was a member of law enforcement, and 2. he was male. That was it. Did I also secretly want to be Puerto Rican or Italian?

I mentally made a point not to reveal new information to anyone: no one knew he had been in prison, or that he had a family in New York. I needed to keep that to myself. I’m not crazy. He was real. I know it.    

Reynaldo Ramone was real; I could picture his face; His eyes, his smile. I could remember his hand on my shoulder. His strength, his comfort.

The sound of his breath, his tone. It all seemed so familiar.

Just not his voice. Did he sound Hispanic? Italian? Was he Puerto Rican? He looked like Johnny Depp; I could remember that much. Or maybe the doctor was right. Maybe this was all a fantasy, a daydream.

And maybe I was insane, a depraved criminal mastermind who needed help. I closed my eyes, and then I pictured that thing. That gross, disgusting, lump of living flesh. Why did that feel so real?

Dr. Collins is convinced I am suffering from psychosis. I’m likely going to face prosecution for trespassing. (And I’m most certainly off the case.) Maybe I can go to a nice mental hospital, someplace with access to lots of meds. I really do need pain meds.

My stomach hurts. I can feel something moving inside of me. There was a tray of crackers and water, but I can’t hold down food. Only the fluid of the IV line sustains me. The crackers came with a fork and spoon for some reason. I pocketed the salt and pepper and forced myself to swallow a sugar packet for energy (otherwise I feel like my brain is about to die.)

And yet, somehow, I can still hear the voice of that thing. That little pink toy filled with innocence and glee. She’s laughing; the purest most joyful noise. She wants me to feel love, to give her love.

I need it to stop.

I will attempt to post to this secure channel for as long as I can. (Even if that is likely a decision that will get me killed.)

I knew this was not going to be easy. All I had to my name was my phone, not even my charger. Or so I thought. I gave my phone a yank only to find it was attached to the wall. Someone had plugged it in using a universal USB charger attached to a separate cord.

The device was dark blue, with a single pink sticker over a USMC logo. The matte pink surface was the shape of the Micky Mouse logo. There was something written in black ink, like that of a sharpie. The lines seemed to flow over each other, ‘M,’ something short, ending with an ‘a.’ Followed by an elaborately drawn ‘R.’  ‘Maria R?’

I gave the charger a squeeze, causing the sticker to crackle. It wasn’t securely stuck; the paper had been placed over a series of scratches, creating a row of air pockets. I scratched the sticker off. Little by little, piece by piece, unsure of what I was about to find.

‘Property of Maria Grace Raymone.’ The lines had been made with a penknife or maybe a small woodburning tool. ‘Love, Dad.’ My heart was racing. Part of me wanted to drop the now unplugged charger, maybe even hurl it across the room. Perhaps it would disappear or transform into a rock.

There was a real possibility this was all my imagination; I was truly sick, insane.

I rolled the cord around my hand, hiding it under my sleeve. I wasn’t restrained and there did not appear to be any lines connected to me (no heart rate or oxygen monitors,) maybe they truly assumed I would be too afraid to try and run. I looked at my IV; if I was to attempt an escape that would require me to pull out the needle. Not only did I find the very thought of that horrifying, but the IV line was also my only means of food. This was a dumb idea.

 I had nowhere else to go, no one else to see. I had no family, no lover; no one but myself to live for. Should I stay? That would be the morally correct option, right? ‘Oh, Fuck.’

This means I’m crazy. That has to be it. I’ve always dealt with depression and anxiety. (Undiagnosed, of course. To get an official mental health evaluation would have been detrimental to my career aspirations.)

I got out of bed to evaluate my surroundings. I was on the second or perhaps the third floor; high enough to see the tops of the trees, but not too high as to eliminate the possibility of a window escape.

I decided then, I was going to punch the glass. It would hurt but it wasn’t impossible. The window was made from textured glass, often seen in schools. It was impregnated with chicken wire, creating a pattern of diamonds. As a child, I thought they were kind of pretty (or at least prettier than the plain windows that failed to break up the blinding early morning light.)

I made sure to lock my door, taking one last peek at the outside world. This was the world I worked so hard to creep into; a world I would never truly belong to. No one cared. But I had a feeling they would care once the sound of glass breaking echoed through the halls.  

I tapped on the window. Punching would likely result in the tempered glass getting all over the floor, and my hand. I went to the cabinet; towels, toothbrush, single-bladed razor, and a bar of hotel soap. Thankfully this was also the location of my street clothes.

I looked down at my black t-shirt and white bra; both items showed signs of damage from my attempt at caving. My jacket and jeans covered the remains of my backpack. I had been stripped of all my personal belongings (including identification,) but the bag itself was in decent condition.  

I got dressed, wrapped my hands in towels. I prepared to punch, using the charger as a set of brass knuckles. Except a phone charger is NOT a set of brass knuckles. I needed a better plan. But first I needed to close my eyes, hold my breath and rip out my IV line.

With that done, (now holding a paper towel to my bleeding arm.) My eyes scanned the room for an item that could break the window. There was a computer; a chunky retro-style PC, the kind that lived on a wheeled case. I gave the screen a lift. It was not secured to the base with anything like a screw or metal panels. I just needed to disconnect a dozen or so wires.

I started to yank, fast and with determination. After only a few seconds I managed to have both the PC tower and the screen freed from their wheels and power source.

The tower was heavier. I had only one shot at this. I lifted the item with both hands, walking to the window, just in time to hear screams.

No one knocked or even shouted my name, they just started screaming, roaring. Someone was even throwing themself at the door. With all my strength I hurled the tower, the glass shattered, but not completely. I would need to climb, making an effort to avoid the teeth-like protrusions surrounding the newly formed exit. I moved my backpack to my front. My goal was to jump without fear.

I aimed for a tree, ran, and jumped.  My body skidded over the top of a tree, rolling onto the roof of a car. I took a moment to breathe.  There was nothing broken, no reason why I couldn’t continue.

‘Other than the fact that you’re going to die in the middle of the South Dakota desert.’ I ran towards the empty wilderness with no goal in mind other than to get away from the base.

“You’re going the wrong way,” said a female voice. “You’re going to stick out like a sore thumb if you just keep running like a crazy person.” The voice was in my head but she wasn’t wrong. I needed to figure out where I was in relation to the exit.  

“Down,” the voice was a whisper, a hot breath on my neck.


“Sick and Tired of this world,
There’s no more air.
Trippin’ over myself,
Goin’ nowhere.
No direction.
And I took a dive.” The female voice sang a slow, lo-fi version of the 2004 pop song. It almost sounded soothing, like ASMR.  

I had still been walking, moving further away from the main roads. So, I had not even noticed the ledge. I felt two hands on my back, shoving me down a sand-covered embankment.

I landed on my arm, gripping my pack close to my body. In the distance, I could see a shadow. It was a tunnel. With my back pressed to the wall, I scooted down the path, careful to stay in the shade of the dying trees. When I found the drainage pipe I took a moment to revel in the coolness of the filthy water.

“On the way down, I saw you and you saved me from myself,” I said out loud. The song was one of my favorites. I always assumed it was about a former drug addict or alcoholic getting saved by love. But after seeing the 2006 Silent Hill movie I felt more of a melancholy vibe. “And I won’t forget the way you loved me.” I scooted deeper into the tunnel, making sure to envelope myself in darkness before removing my pack. “On the way down, I almost fell right through. But I held onto you.”

An ice-cold breeze blew from the opposite end of the tunnel. For a moment I stood frozen in terror. Was something about to come down the pipe? The last thing I wanted was to be caught in a flood of toilet water (or something worse.) I was far enough from the entrance to allow myself to get lost in the darkness. Would I drown? Or maybe just get pushed out into the waiting arms of local police. That seemed more likely.

At least I no longer heard the squeaky toy pig-fetus thing. That was a short-lived comfort. I leaned back, feeling comfortable, even relaxed when a cold hand gripped my wrist.

I’m embarrassed to admit I begged for mercy. “Please don’t hurt me.”

There was no reply.

I waited for a moment in the silence, letting my senses fade away. Suddenly there was a distinct sound of movement further down the tunnel. I needed to go that way. I crawled, dragging my pack behind me, and soon enough I reached a fork in the road. Down one side I could hear flowing water. The other side was eerily quiet. The silence was almost tangible. That was where I needed to go.

I reached my hand out in Infront of me, doing my best Darth Vader impression. There was an empty space. That confidence only bought me a few inches of motion.

What if there was a drop? The chances of that were slim. Not that I knew anything about city planning or sewers. I just had a sudden rush of fear. I crossed my arms over my chest, sucking in my stomach. I had no reason to be so afraid.

“Keep going.” This was a different voice. It was softer, with a note of panic, like someone struggling to keep their head above water. And it was male. “One step, you can do this.”

He spoke like a coach, a father.

Certainly not my father.

I continued to scoot forward, little by little until I hit my knee. There was a soft clicking sound, followed by a flash. It was my phone.

Strange, since I had turned off my phone to save power. Still, I needed to go get it. The fact that it was not at the bottom of a pit was enough to prove this route was safe.

When I reached my phone, I was surprised to see it was in fact powered off. I held it in my hand, maneuvering it around to recreate the small burst of light. What I had seen was not a flash, but a reflection.

There was a ladder. at the very top was a sliver of light. From where I was, it was barely visible, just enough to cause water droplets to shimmer.

It wasn’t a drain, it was a manhole cover (or something similar in purpose, with a very odd shape.) Now free of the tunnel (and assumably the base as well.) I start walking until I found a laundry line. Some family was attempting to save energy by using the South Dakota heat to dry their linens. Maybe if I was lucky, I could find some extra clothing.  

I need to find her; Ella, Eli, maybe even Razor. Anything to prove I’m not insane. But if I’m not insane, then what am I?

If I can reconnect to the network I will attempt to add to this log. If not then, I guess this is goodbye.

-Hello, GoOdbye. NeaTo.-

I awoke to my phone hitting me in the face. I was lying fully clothed on what appeared to be a hotel bed.

“My pa is still alive, you know.” The voice was soft, female, with a distinct southern accent. I barely registered the sound as real. This had to be a dream; I assumed I hit my head in the sewer and now I was in a very specific vision of purgatory.

“His body maybe gone, but I can still hear his voice.”

My eyes flickered, to see a tall blonde girl sitting in a spinning office chair while looking out an open window. We appeared to be in a hotel room, on the second floor overlooking a gas station.

“He wants me to keep her safe. That’s how I knew where to find you.”

“El-” I stupidly almost said her dead name.

“Eli,” she turned to me with her cat-like eyes. “You can record that on your little phone journal, if you like.”

There was so much I needed to ask her, but something told me she was on her way out. “Do you have time for a few questions?”

“I have time for one.” She lifted her long elegant finger like an old-time movie actress. “Right now, anyway. You never know what the future holds.”

next: Strawman ch5: Maybe

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