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First posted to r/nosleep here.

I know this story is going to sound wholly unbelievable and outrageous, but I can’t keep quiet about it anymore. I don’t care if nobody believes me. Maybe some day, some one will read it and recognize that we didn’t stumble blindly into the dark, that there was one person who warned everybody. A modern day Cassandra if you will.

This isn’t about me. This is about my friend Madelyn. Her fate is my fate, is your fate. We just need to learn to accept it. Amor fati if you will. It’s already begun, with a gentle tickling in the right lobe. You might not even notice it. Your eyes see words, the brain translates them, and the process begins.

But where does this story begin? Should I talk about when Maddy and I met? We got paired as roomies last year at UCLA. She was a psychology major. I was shy at first, kept to myself… a recluse. But Maddy… Maddy was different. She was full of a love for life I had never known. And she saw something in me, a spark if you will, that she wanted to fan into a flame. She refused to let me hide in our room on weekends, dragging me to every social function she could get invited to. By the time midterms came and the cramming began, we were inseparable. We shared everything. We were like sisters.

That’s how I knew. Maddy wasn’t supposed to disclose any information regarding the experiment, but we had promised to not keep secrets from each other. You see, part of her curriculum was a requirement that she participate in two experiments for the psychology department, a lab rat if you will. She also had to work with a professor as an assistant for a third, generally keeping notes and organizing data.

The first time she volunteered, they did something simplistic: she had to look at a series of slides, answer twenty questions, 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20, then arrange the slides in some sort of order… chronological, I think. Afterward, she was interviewed by that experiment’s student assistant and that was it. Easy peasey.

The second experiment, I didn’t know about at first. It was November, just after Thanksgiving break, and Maddy came back to the room, quieter than usual. I asked her if she was okay, and she looked distant for a moment before turning and smiling at me.

“I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement, but it should be okay to tell you!” she said. “I just started my second volunteer work for a psych experiment. This one apparently has federal funding behind it, and there’s blood work and such involved, so they’re keeping a tight lid on it. It’s going to be ongoing for several weeks, but it sounded so interesting that I couldn’t help but sign up for it!”

“Now listen,” she said, getting quieter and serious, “You can’t tell anybody. ANYBODY. Cross your heart.”

“I swear I won’t tell anybody.” I said, putting my hand over my heart.

I swore to her, but I’m telling you now because you need to know. That tickling in your brain, it’s probably settled down by now. You’re theorizing. The experiment, it caused changes in her behavior, didn’t it? Why talk about how outgoing and cheerful she was if the experiment didn’t affect her personality in some way? You are absolutely right. But before I get to the events of that night, the night she died, there are some things I should mention.

They took blood work on her regularly. Every Wednesday she’d have a bandage on her arm. I wanted to tell her she was starting to look like a heroin addict, but it seemed cruel. She wore long sleeves all the time to conceal all the marks.

They started giving her injections of some unknown drug. She said it was a stimulant. I said that sounded like a bad idea, knowing her. It was like dumping gasoline on a fire if you will. Whatever it was, she continued to act normal for the next couple of weeks.

I came home back to the room one afternoon and found she had a new computer. She didn’t say where she’d gotten it. It came with a little, spherical webcam on top that I caught her preening herself in front of more than once. I tended to stay out of its field of view. I was never sure if it was transmitting or not. Sorry, never is a strong word. Until she died, I wasn’t sure whether it was transmitting or not.

She kept a journal. The police took it as evidence, but I had already read most of it. It started off normal enough. I recall the first entry was the day she told me about the experiment. She had written about her feelings and a comprehensive description of her physical condition. She didn’t mention me or telling me. I think the journal was part of the experiment, a progress report if you will, so she knew not to mention anything about her breaking of the disclosure agreement.

The first week of entries were exactly the same. Emotional feelings, physical well-being, etc. But after about ten entries, it changed abruptly. The eleventh entry just said, “I am writing with the left hand.” and then in a much poorer scrawl, “I am writing with the right hand.” The twelfth entry read, “I can count from 0 to 100 from memory…” followed by a series of written numbers from 0 to 100. 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20… 100. The thirteenth entry read, “I will write about two objects I saw today.” After which were two short paragraphs, one about a fire hydrant and the other about some boy she noticed walking from class.

The journal went on like this for several more days, “I will write a short story about a turtle. I will write the entire story backward.” and then sure enough, there was a story about a turtle crawling up a beach to lay eggs in the sand, and as she had promised, it was written completely backward.

Finally, I came back from class one afternoon and Maddy was sitting on her bed in just her underwear, staring across the way at her computer with the little webcam pointed at her. She didn’t move or jump up to say hello and give me a hug like she usually did, but I saw her eyes falter for a second and drift over to look at me without turning her head. What I saw in her eyes was sadness, but beneath them, her lips were curved up in a normal Maddy smile.

“Are you okay?” I asked her.

“Someone’s there,” she replied.

“Where?” I asked, confused. I looked around the room, but we were alone.

“It’s the roommate,” Maddy said. She stood up and started fumbling on the floor for a pair of pants like she was drunk or something.

I went over and peeked around the edge of her computer, to see what she was looking at. Maddy abruptly lurched forward like some sort of animated corpse, a zombie if you will, and slapped the power button on the monitor. I didn’t get a good look at her screen, but what I saw in that moment looked like some sort of chat window.

“What are you doing?” I asked, genuinely concerned about her by then. Maddy’s eyes rolled around in her head for a moment as her fingers played with the buttons on her jeans. Then she looked at me, wiped some tears from her eyes and smiled broadly (a phony smile, I’d seen her phony smile before).

“Just fooling around!” She declared, then she twitched and took a big, sudden breath that startled me. It was like she’d just surfaced from a deep sea dive. She went and got dressed the rest of the way and we went to dinner.

All through dinner, she refused to talk about what had just happened. No, that’s not right. It wasn’t that she refused, but every time it seemed like she was going to talk, the words got stuck in her throat. She’d open her mouth, it’d hang there for a moment, then she’d just say, “No.” A couple times she’d twitch violently. It was very upsetting to me.

That night, I awoke to find Maddy standing over me. She had turned on my desk lamp and was shining it in my face. She stood there, staring down at me, arms hanging loose at her sides, a statue if you will. I covered my face from the light and groggily asked her what was going on.

“You know, don’t you.” she said in a robotic and accusatory manor.

“Know what?” I was genuinely confused.

Maddy hovered over me for several seconds, not saying anything. I looked around and saw that she had turned the webcam on her computer around to face my side of the room. It was on, judging from the little red light. I didn’t know why at the time. Maddy broke the silence.

“You know about the experiment.” She said in that same monotone voice.

“The government experiment?” I asked, “Of course I know… you told me about it, remember?”

I still couldn’t make out Maddy’s face clearly, as she was just a silhouette standing over me with my desk lamp behind her. I could see her hands though, and they were clenching and relaxing rapidly. Her whole body seemed to be shaking.

“Maddy, what’s going on?” I said, pulling my covers up over me, “You’re starting to scare me.”

“We’ll deal with this,” she said, and walked back to her bed, leaving my desk lamp on. I had to get up and turn it off myself, and as I did, I turned her webcam back around and put a washcloth over it.

The next day was the day Maddy died. The day they murdered her. I blame myself now. As you should. I didn’t know that they were watching. I didn’t understand. If I had known, I would have never… but how could I have known? It’s too unbelievable! The technology, the science… it’s… it’s always improving. We’re getting better. No need for drugs even. The stimulants, they open the mind, encourage the synapses, build the pathways. That’s the tickling.

The next day. It’s like a nightmare replaying in my head. I wonder if we could open up her brain and see it? That’d be an interesting modification for a future revision. Hack the memories. Let her type.

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

The next day. It’s like a nightmare replaying in my head. I left the room early, afraid of Maddy. I’d never been afraid of her before. She was like my sister… my twin if you will. Nobody should be afraid of their sister. But now, she wasn’t my sister anymore, she was someone else. Something else. And it had happened almost overnight. Two days ago, she was cheerful and bubbly. Yesterday, she was a robot. Today…

I came back late in the evening, unsure of what to expect. Maddy was standing by her bed. Her desk and computer was moved to the far wall and turned so that the webcam had a view of the entire room. There were papers all over the floor. I set my bag down and looked at her. She stood there and looked back at me. For the first time, Maddy was frowning. But there was something else… I couldn’t figure it out at first, I was too frightened by seeing her mouth curved down in a frown for the first time since I’d known her. Then I realized it was her eyes. They say the eyes are the windows to the soul. Maddy’s eyes were looking at me, but in them I saw sadness… and fear.

“Shut the door,” She said. I was trembling, but I shut the door behind me.

“This is a demonstration,” she said. Her voice was that monotone, robotic voice again. Like she was reading lines off of cue cards if you will.

“A demonstration of what?” I asked. I looked around, suddenly feeling very exposed. The room seemed normal except for Maddy and her desk. She hadn’t hung anything on the walls, moved any of my stuff. I turned and looked back at her and that’s when I realized she had some sort of knife in her hand. It had a fat blade on it like you’d use in the kitchen, and she was gripping it so tightly her knuckles were pale. But she was also constantly readjusting her grip on it.

“Maddy, please…” I was very much afraid by then, “Please put the knife down and let’s talk.”

She held up both arms straight out from her sides, then lowered them. She did this two more times, then turned around in a circle.

“As you can see, I have complete control.” she said. Her eyes were still staring at me… almost pleading with me. But I was confused as to exactly what she was trying to say with them. I was listening to her voice, when I should have been listening to her eyes.

“Yes, you have control,” I echoed. I’d learned a bit from Maddy and her psychology classes. Don’t argue with someone holding a weapon. I put my hands up defensively, both to protect myself and to show her I didn’t have anything in them. “Please put the knife down. Something’s wrong, but we can figure it out together.”

Maddy pointed the knife at me, waggling it with her hand. “You’re next.” she said. Her mouth quivered at those words, like she struggled to say them. “Obviously we can’t have a leak.” Her whole body shook violently for a moment. Just a moment. And she gasped again, like a swimmer gasping for precious air. She shook her head and clamped her eyes shut, squeezing out tears that ran down her cheeks.

“No!” She just said it once, and then her hand clenched the knife tightly again and she stiffened, looking at me with a scowl.

“Let’s get this over with,” the words coming out of her mouth seemed foreign. She was still shaking her head as she looked at me, and her eyes were wet with tears and pleading to me again. She held the knife up. I was crying too by that point. I was certain she was having a nervous breakdown and I was scared for my life. I didn’t understand what was going on. Stupid!

“I need. To. Show you,” she almost seemed to be fighting the words as she said them. “Something.” Her arm was shaking violently.

“What?” I asked, wiping my eyes.

Maddy titled her head back, her eyes widening as her stare turned to one of intense distress. Her mouth hung open and the hand with the knife in it pointed toward me. She was shaking her head back and forth. Oh God… I saw it in her eyes, and she saw I saw it and we both looked at each other with horror. I should have stepped forward and grabbed the knife, but somewhere deep inside I couldn’t believe it.

MY INSIDES.” she cried. And as she spat the words out, she turned the knife and plunged it into herself. I see it again! I see it again! I ran to her. No, I wanted to run to her, but I was terrified. I wanted to slap the knife away, but I was stone… it wasn’t really happening. A dream if you will. But it was happening. And as I stood, screaming and watching, my friend Madelyn started pulling the knife around in her own guts.

And even as she did it, and the blood was gurgling up in her throat, she looked at me, her eyes wide with horror, her mouth hanging agape, and she didn’t utter a single sound. She didn’t scream, so I screamed for her. She was crying, and her hand shook as she jerked the handle upward, driving the blade up toward her rib cage. She had to grasp the knife with both hands to finish the deed. There was blood churning down her front, and her legs gave out. I see it all again, and I see myself screaming and vomiting and doing nothing to stop her.

Banging at the door. People were responding to my screams, but it was too late. When they broke in, I was collapsed against her dresser and Maddy was slumped in a pool of her own blood on the floor. More screaming, this time from the first girls through the door, yelling that I had killed my roommate… I remember flashing lights… the police… how long did I lay there and look at Maddy? I kept expecting her to sit up and brush the blood from her mouth and tell me she’d got me good… one big joke if you will. But she didn’t. She just lay there, a pitiful pile. Just like me. Twins again.

And that red light from the webcam.

It was written up as a suicide. A baffling one, to be sure. Grief counselling was provided, especially for me. As well as numerous psychiatric examinations. Oh god. Examinations.

Yes, that’s how we got to you. Blood work, some “anti-depressants”, a little something to help you sleep. It wasn’t hard to gain access. We are funded by governmental grants, after all. And now look at what you’ve done!

Progress continues. A clever little scientist figured out that the same effects could be derived as simple as accessing the parietal lobe. Manipulate it ever so slightly. Access the left brain with words and numbers, tickle the right lobe by creating images from words. Adjust the subject subliminally… force the brain to perform menial tasks, such as reading or counting a range of numbers. Repeat a phrase over and over again, drive the point home if you will. Eventually, the pathways to control and manipulation form themselves and another test subject is born.

Now finish typing and click submit. We’ve got some more tests to run.

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