Something was wrong inside Jason’s head it was like a poisonous earwig had crawled in through his ear and its acid bite had burned a hole deep into his brain. He couldn’t think straight… Visions of the senseless suicides he had witnessed wove their way through his memories on a loop. The voice on the television speakers was still speaking, but the man with the white face must have turned down the sound because Jay barely even noticed it anymore. Across the room the two new kidnapped kids sat on the dirt floor whimpering. One was a boy who looked about the same age as Jay, the other was a girl who looked a little older. The boy was begging for his mother and kept clinging onto the girl’s shoulder. They were bound to the wall by the same string of connected zip ties.
The man with the white face sat down at his workbench and started fiddling with the components soldering a circuit board or some other silver piece with small wiring. Jay could smell the solder melting, the metallic scent actually improved the smell in the concrete prison. Jason began to mumble to himself, the combination of the beep and the foreigner’s voice coupled with the whining kids coalesced together to make a symphony of sickness. It was like listening to a series of dark and terrifying nine-one-one calls where the kid calls up and say that their parent is choking or dead. Jay was starting to lose some crucial connection to reality, the thin wafting smoke coming from the hot iron and the sounds and smells played together inducing a psychotic dream state.
The man got up from his seat at the workbench and picked up two long black swatches of cloth. He walked over to the two kids and tied blindfolds over their eyes. The girl tried to roll away and when the Man grabbed her roughly she attempted to bite him, but he was too strong for her and held her against the ground while he put the blindfold on her. The man walked back over toward Jay, stared at him and then flipped a switch on a steel pole next to the workbench. The television screens lit up all together.
Jason dreaded what he was going to see next. On the screen the picture began to come into focus from the static, there was a man lying on a table, the man’s hands and feet were bound. The table was silver and shiny, with wheels on the bottom. The room he was in was grimy, with off white tile, a large circular drain was on the floor below the table. The prisoner on the table was looking around with wide eyes searching for something. A second man walked into the room, he was wearing an all yellow rainsuit like the Gorton’s fisherman. The man in the yellow walked over to the table and placed his hand on the prisoner’s forehead empathetically. The prisoner looked up at the man with the rainsuit and smiled softly, thankfully.
Jay didn’t want to see what would happen next, his heart was racing and his thoughts weren’t his own, for the first time Jay felt like someone else was inside his head. It was like his thoughts were being invaded and Jay knew who the intruder was, it was the foreigner on the radio. The voice inside his head had a hard accent and said “kill for me, kill for us, kill for the battery.” Jay didn’t know who the battery was and he didn’t want to, but the stranger had left his impression, Jay suddenly had the urge to kill. The thought had been implanted like a lit firecracker waiting to explode.
He looked back at the television screens, the man with the rainsuit walked out of the shot and then returned a few seconds later with a gas can. it was red like the ones Jay’s dad had used for their lawnmower at home. The man in the yellow plastic suit raised the can and started dumping its contents all over the prisoner. The prisoner appeared to be enjoying it which surprised Jay, he looked like he was receiving a holy baptism of gasoline and he was accepting his savior. The man in the rainsuit dumped the whole can of the bronze liquid on the man and then set the jug out of the scene. He returned and tilted his head slightly at the man on the table and then nodded. The prisoner looked into the camera and tilted his head the same way and then smiled. It was the same smile that Jay had remembered from the senior citizen in the first video.
The guy in the yellow rainsuit walked out of the shot and a couple of seconds later what looked like a rag on fire flew through the air and hit the prisoner on the stomach. In a blinding flash that whited out the camera a burst of flame encompassed the man. The fire burned high, with orange and white flame that had blue outlines. The bound prisoner’s silhouette could be seen at the base of the flame, he was turning brown and charring slowly. Just when Jay thought it was all over for the prisoner he lifted his head. The fire slowly burned down and the man ceased all movement. About a minute passed of the charred human shape smoldering. The camera watched unflinching as the smoking corpse remained on the table. Then the one in the rainsuit came back into the picture and started spraying the body with a white mist from a fire extinguisher. The fire was completely out leaving the steaming prisoner on the table. His blackened skin had started to peel away revealing the organs and muscle underneath. The camera zoomed in to the man’s face which had really just become a black skull out line.
The television screen changed back to static and then to the blue screen, but the foreigner never stopped talking through the speakers. It seemed to be the same thing again and again, but when the voice spoke in Jay’s head it was different. It was in english and it was convincing him to do awful things, evil things. the voice was telling him how to believe and more importantly who to believe. It was speaking about illusion and reality, that nothing was what it appeared and that words are power.
The man with the White Face slid his stool over to Jay and sat in front of him looking into his eyes. jay could see the deep scars running along the side of the man’s face, they were covered in thick white paint, but the risen skin was clearly visible up close. Finally the man spoke. “Jason are you ready.” He said in that same gruff, familiar voice. Jay hadn’t remembered giving the man his name, but at that point it didn’t matter Jay was struggling to hold onto his voice to stay in reality.
“Ready for what?” Jay answered slowly his own voice sounded slow and garbled like a record player set on low RPM’s.
“You know who I am don’t you Jason.” The man with the white face said never unlocking his gaze from Jay’s eyes.
“Yes, I know who you are.” Jay responded “You’re the man with the white face.”
“No Jason, I mean you know who I really am.” Jay knew the voice, it sounded like… like his father’s except lower, rougher.
“You sound like my father.” Jay said in that slow warped voice. The man with the White Face laughed.
“I guess it does run in the family… No Jason, I’m not your father. I’m your uncle Bob.” The man with the white face smiled warmly. “Your grandfather was one of the first of our kind, he’s transcended now. He started this all in Russia many many years ago. He turned me when I was your age and now I’m going to turn you. You’re going to take over our work, you’re going to inherit the family business.”
“What’s it all for.” Jay said dazed and groggily.
“You know it will take a year of hard work the way we’ve done today to turn you fully. You need to believe, believe in the power of the words, believe that this life is an illusion, all we are is radio waves. We’re the signal Jay, we need to keep the signal fresh with the blood of children, sacrifices to the signal. Sacrifices on the shrine of communication, it’s our lifeblood Jay. it’s all about the power of suggestion, we’re proving it’s true, we’re proving how far the human animal will go based on suggestion. There’s hundreds of us Jay. You’re the lucky one nephew, because you were born to carry out the tradition. It all started when the great lord Tesla recorded the words. The Words are the power, the power delivered on the signal. We’re living on in digital Jay.”
Jason heard and for a moment he thought he understood, but it was like trash spaghetti, stringy and smelled sour. Nothing was making sense anymore.
“I understand” Jay said, but he didn’t really. He just wanted the sound to stop; he wanted the voice out of his head, he felt violated. He wanted to go home, this place was wrong, all wrong. The man slid his stool back over to the workbench and picked up a white metallic box. The box was about the size of a lunch pail and the man carried it on his lap as he scooted his stool back over to Jay.
“The first thing we need to start with is your face… It’s all wrong for the job.” The Man With The White face opened the box. Jay could see inside, the box was full of knives, scalpels and exacto blades. On a shelf inside Jay could see a roll of brown thread and a curved needle, the kind doctors used for suturing. The man pulled out a scalpel at least it looked like a scalpel except the blade was serrated like a steak knife. “We’ll cut a little today, then a little tomorrow, before you know it you’ll be ready. This part is just tradition, but tradition is just as important as family.”
The man grabbed Jay by the hair and brought the knife up next to his cheekbone. Jay hated the look of that knife it was like a crocodile with too many teeth. Instinctively he threw up his arms and spun around. The man was caught off guard and the plastic chain wrapped around his wrist. Jay saw this and with all his might he ran in the opposite direct toward the man’s workbench. The chain synched tight and hard driving the jagged blade into the man’s neck. Jay pulled it as tight as he could falling against the chain, digging the knife deeper into his uncles neck. Blood shot from the wound like an uncapped fire-hydrant. The entire blade was inside the man’s throat. he coughed and spit as the knife dug deeper into his larynx. More blood, gobs of blood flowed from his mouth and nose. The Man with The White face collapsed to the floor kicking out, bucking as the last throes of life escaped.
Jay took a deep breath and kicked the man to be certain that he was dead, but the man’s black eyes and the lake of blood on the floor told him he was. The teenager uncoiled the plastic chain and grabbed a fresh knife from the white case. There was also a small round plastic can in the box, Jay hastily took the can and shoved it into his pocket. He quickly cut through the plastic bands holding his wrists. He was free, he couldn’t believe it, he was free. Jay ran over to the two kids and cut their plastic binds as well, the girl hugged him and the three of them walked outside of the radar station. It was a beautiful day, the birds were singing somewhere in the trees. The blue sky was like an ocean, gorgeous and wide. Jay felt like the whole world was ahead of them, he was so glad to be alive. Still he felt like there was something he needed to do. He stopped, the other two kids were running toward the gate, when the girl saw that Jay had stopped she turned to him.
“Aren’t you coming? We’ve got to get out of here and call the cops!” She yelled back.
Jay pulled the small can from his pocket and opened the top. Inside the can was the white face paint. Jay reached into the can with two fingers and started to smear the paint on his face.
“I can’t abandon the family business!” Jay shouted back “We’re the signal, it’s tradition.”
The girl began to scream. Jay simply smiled, a smile that he’d seen before, after all it was on TV.