Set in a future in which the world no longer has the resources to produce power, an era known as the "Dark Times." One young journalist has been sent to investigate a mysterious light coming from the house on the hill, and discovers a sinister secret.
The house sat atop a rather steep-looking hill, surrounded by an ivy-covered fence. It wasn’t a bad looking house either. Big, but not colossal, and made entirely of a grey stone. By far the nicest home in town, and, like everywhere else in the world, the lights were out. I knew the story well, we’d had it ingrained into our heads from school.
Due to excessive harvesting, the world ran out of the resources necessary to produce energy. And the drastic changes in climate made other, more environmental friendly means too expensive to keep going. Thus we were cast into the “Dark Times.” Using ancient means such as candlelight and fire, horse-pulled wagons, and other such devices instead. After the chaos that had erupted during the early days of the Dark Times settled down, governments began to place finding a new source of power at the top of their agendas. Of course, progress was moving slowly…too slowly.
Suddenly, I saw a flicker of light in the house, far too bright to be that of a fire. Had my editor been right? He’d told me earlier this evening that someone reported seeing a strange light coming from inside the house, and asked me to try and get a story out of it. Taking a deep breath of cold air, I began to make my way up the small path up the hill, my eyes straining to catch another glimpse of that strange light. Again, I saw another flicker, this one brighter than the last. Excitement spurred me on, and, panting heavily, I reached the door of the house.
I knocked on the heavy wooden door, and waited. From within I could hear a door open and close, and heavy footsteps ascending a staircase. The door opened a crack, and a hoarse voice sounded.
“Hullo? What is it?” It was definitely a man speaking.
“Hello, I er…are you doctor Saeva?” I asked hopefully.
“I am.” The man croaked. “And who’re you?”
“Tom Finely, sir.” I said. “From the Coaltown Gazette.”
There was a small pause before Dr. Saeva spoke. “What do you want?” he asked, sounding impatient.
I explained to him what I had seen, and that I was interested in hearing more about his research.
“Why? So you can let everyone in on it? Sell it to the government?” He chucked maliciously. “No thanks!” I winced as he attempted to slam the door, but found my foot in the way.
“You know full well that I can’t ‘sell it to the government’, doctor.” I placed a hand on the door as I continued. “Furthermore, we both know hardly anyone reads the news these days, what with no way of mass production. So I wouldn’t exactly be letting everyone in on it.”
The doctor grumbled for a moment, before kicking my foot out of the way and closing the door. The sound of dozens of locks clicking filled the silence, and the door opened fully, revealing a tired looking old man. Dr. Saeva was slightly shorter than me, and balding. Dark, beady eyes looked up at me from a gaunt face, something about them made the hairs on my neck stand on end. He stood aside and motioned for me to enter.
The house was almost entirely in darkness; only the candle held by Dr. Saeva lit the way as he led me into his house. When I looked down the stairs, he cleared his throat impatiently and ushered me along. The house was horrid.
The walls were built at odd angles, and the floor was uneven, giving one the impression that they were walking on a tilt. And the paintings that adorned the walls were macabre and even evil looking. The sitting room that we now stood in was no better. I took a seat in a diseased looking armchair blanketed in a thick layer of grime. Dr. Saeva lit a fire in the hearth, and sat across from me, the light casting wicked shadows on his bony face.
“So.” He said, placing his hands together while I took my notebook and pencil from my pocket. “Where do we begin?”
“Well, were you born before the Dark Times?” He nodded his head, staring at me intensely. “What sort of research were you doing before?” Something flashed in his dark eyes, was it anger?
“I was a neurologist.” I scribbled this down, and nodded for him to continue. “I was particularly interested in the brain’s response to pain.” Once again, a wave of uneasiness came over me.
“And…did you enjoy your research?” The doctor smiled briefly for the first time this evening, his teeth were yellowing and sick.
“Of course.” He turned his gaze to the fire, his hoarse voice growing to a growl. “But some of my colleagues found my methods…” he rubbed his chin, and returned his eyes to mine. “Extreme.”
There was an eerie silence for the space of many minutes before I started my questions again.
“And when The Times came…I assume you lost your job?” He chuckled again, but there was no amusement in it.
“Lost it?” he said quietly. “I retired, I couldn’t work with such narrow minds.” I forced myself to grin. “So, I moved here where I could begin to research something else. Something…revolutionary.”
“You mean, how to turn the lights back on?” Dr. Saeva nodded, showing his awful teeth again.
“Lights, telephones, cars…printing presses…” he added.
Dr. Saeva’s whole face seemed to change as he whispered.
“The brain is a fascinating thing, Mr. Finely.” Just then, a muffled cry arose from somewhere beneath our feet, and the doctor’s eyes flashed with another sinister light. “Please, follow me.”
There was no denying the convulsions of anxiety that flooded my body now. What was this man about to show me? He led me back into the foyer, and, this time, down the stairs. The muffled cries grew louder the further down we ventured, and we stopped before a heavy door. Dr. Saeva turned to me, his hand on the doorknob.
“I hope you’ve got a strong stomach, Mr. Finely.” And he slowly opened the door.
Immediately a blinding light assaulted my eyes, and a great and horrible scream filled my ears. Clapping my hands around my ears, and screwing my eyes shut, I fell to my knees. And, just as quickly as it began, it was over. I didn’t realize that I too, had been shouting. Dr. Saeva placed an unsettlingly strong hand on my shoulder, and helped me to my feet.
“You can open your eyes now, Tom.” As soon as I had opened them, I wished I hadn’t. A spasm of horror shook me to my foundation, and I feared my knees would buckle once more.
In the centre of the room was the most monstrous machine I had ever seen. Chains suspended groups of maybe seven people; dozens of large tubes protruding from their mouths and ears, and feeding into a giant generator of sorts. Where their scalps should have been, was transparent glass, revealing their brains, which pulsated furiously. Needles had been stuck nearly everywhere, and were pushed further in the more they writhed and contorted.
“Pain.” The doctor whispered. “Causes an electrical response in the brain.” There was another collective scream and another flash of light. “I’ve created a way to harvest this energy.”
I looked away from the terrifying contraption, and stared at the old man before me.
“What...are you insane?” I had a sudden desire to attack him, but I kept still. Dr. Saeva cocked his head to one side and examined me.
“Is it insanity that I dared to do what no one else would?” he looked at his creation with pride. “For the greater good?” More screams filled the air, followed by flashes of light. “I could power this entire town! And you should all be thanking me!”
“Thank you?” I bellowed. “This is a crime! It’s torture!” The doctor snarled at me, a wild fury filling his eyes.
“Crime!” he screamed. “There’s no government here, Tom. No one to tell me what is and isn’t ethical anymore!” I had had enough. I lunged for the doctor, and knocked him to the ground. His head snapped back and hit the concrete, and he lay still. I turned to the machine and searched in vain for a way to shut it off. It seemed I couldn’t do so without killing them. I stumbled backwards over the body of the doctor, and promised to return with help.
As I began sprinting up the stairs, something threw me off my feet, and my face into the staircase. Dazed and covered in blood, I kicked furiously, and felt my foot connect with something. I scrambled up the stairs, and crawled towards the door. I had finally crossed the threshold, and the cold air entered my lungs. I gave a pathetic cry for help, praying that someone, any sane person would hear me. I struggled to pull myself to my feet and limped down the hill. Miraculously, some one had heard my screams and was waiting beside my wagon.
“You’ve got to get help…madman…torture!” I could barely speak as the man helped me into my wagon.
“Hold on a minute, should take you home first…my daughter’s a nurse.” I slipped in and out of consciousness the entire journey through town, blurry images of the horror within the house haunting my thoughts. My rescuer and his daughter helped me up the stairs, and into a small bedroom. As soon as I was in bed, darkness washed over me.
In my dreams, I could hear a man and a woman screaming, and saw more flashes of light, the screams grew louder and louder, until I couldn’t help but join them, and the pain which wracked my body seemed endless, growing more and more painful with each movement. And then, I opened my eyes.