Gwen sat quietly in her government issued lodging and stared at the rounded ceiling. The stainless steel panels that composed the little compartment were smooth in nature and very reflective. To Gwen, it felt like she was living in a house of mirrors. No matter where she looked there was always a distorted image of herself staring right back. Gwen reached out and placed her barefoot on the cold steel and pushed against it. The hard aluminum chair she was sitting in pivoted backwards and creaked at the joints. She balanced herself on two legs and folded her arms over her chest to help fight off the cold. She was still exhausted from the day’s events.
Gwen had tried to get some sleep right after her meeting with General Dilk but found that she couldn’t shut off her thoughts. Every time she closed her eyes her mind would wander. She would go to work deconstructing everything that had happened with Greg and Asset 626. It felt like she was missing something important in the whole extraction routine. Normally she wouldn’t have given their extraction of Greg Cardoon a second thought… but after her meeting with The General things changed. There was so much stuff she hadn’t questioned before… So much stuff that she just accepted at face value.
In the reflective paneling, Gwen could see the flashing green light of the data disc on her neck. Each pulse delivered information to an unknown source. The General didn’t trust the systems that Prewitt Labs had established to confirm who was a nightshade. What if every person they brought in to Camp Snowflake wasn’t a nightshade… Gwen stopped herself from thinking this. Everyone they had brought into this place had changed into one of these human eating monsters. Even Asset 626 had changed. There were still a lot of questions that needed to be answered.
Gwen held up the small Citrine stone and studied its smooth yellow surface. Her callused thumb could feel the small vibrations coming from its golden center. It was like the thing was alive. Gwen dropped it into her palm and tried to count the intervals between pulses. She would have to somehow integrate this stone into her daily routine. The blood thermistors really couldn’t be trusted anymore…Nothing really could be trusted anymore.
But how can I use the citrine stone without looking like a crazy person? Thought Gwen as she turned the thing over in her hand. I can’t just walk up to the other officers on the base and get them to hold the stupid thing. That action alone would mark her as a crazy person to the humans on the base…not to mention it would alert all the nightshades observing the interaction. She would be inviting them to come and eat her when it was most convenient.
“I have to do this test secretly,” said Gwen to her distorted reflection. It felt like she was already talking to a monster, “I have to do it without ring a dinner bell and drawing attention to myself… but how?”
Gwen shifter her gaze to her work desk a few feet away. Her dark brown eyes landed on the tactical gloves resting on its surface. She used the things for nightshade field extractions. She also used them at the firing range. Would it be possible to somehow hide the stone in the fabric of a glove? If it were in a glove it would be harder to detect.
Gwen reached out and snatched the black gloves off the desk and turned them around in her hands. The fabric was a synthetic leather that could definitely be modified easily. She placed the citrine stone in the palm of the right grove and smiled as her thoughts began to come together. It could definitely work…but the real question was, would it look out of character for her to walk around with tactical glove on? Not a whole lot of people on the base would have the nerve to say something to her if it did look out of place.
Gwen pulled herself over to the small desk and pulled out her tactical knife. She rested the blade on the table as she searched through the desk drawers for items she would need. Her mother had sent her with a sewing kit the day of basic training. Gwen had tried to tell her mother that if something broke she would just buy it new. The sewing kit had been completely useless until this moment. Gwen found the little plastic box under some folders. She retrieved it and set to work cutting a hole in the palm of the gloves. It had to be small enough to keep the stone in place but big enough for the surface of the rock to touch the skin of the individual.
Gwen turned the thing inside out and sowed a pocket around the hole she had cut. When everything was done she slipped the yellow stone into the pocket. Gwen positioned the stone carefully in the center of the glove and sewed the rest of the pocket closed. The last thing she needed was to lose the citrine stone by accident. The yellow rock seemed to hug the opening in the center of the glove tightly. It was perfect!
“I am amazing!” said Gwen as she slipped the glove onto her right hand. She wiggled her fingers to get a feel for the modifications. The black cross stitching was hardly noticeable on the synthetic leather. The citrine stone in her palm felt out of place…but it was something that Gwen could get used to. She clasped her hands together to see if she could feel the stone in her left hand. She smiled as the vibrations pulsed into her palm softly. She could definitely use this for testing all the humans around her. All it would take was a good handshake and the stone would do all the rest. If it lit up like the Fourth of July the human was a bleacher in disguises.
Gwen wondered if the nightshades could detect the stone before contact could be made. She stood up and extended her hand outward toward the shuttle door. She cleared her throat and tried to sound as official as possible, “Hello, I am Agent Gwen Garcia with the nightshade extraction deviations. I have a few questions I would like to ask you.”
Gwen pretended to shake the person’s hand firmly. It was perfect. She grabbed the other glove off the table and placed it over her other hand. The set seemed to clash with her dark green army shirt and grey sweatpants. This didn’t matter at all. Gwen wasn’t expecting to go out and find nightshades in her nighties. She would just wear the gloves when on duty.
Gwen paused and considered the possibilities of a nightshade coming into her shuttle. She would have to keep the gloves on at all times. It would be better to be safe than sorry. She looked at her reflection in the steel paneling and nodded her head. She laughed at how crazy she looked.
“Nothing weird about a girl wearing tactical gloves all the time,” said Gwen as she sat back down at her desk and tapped on its smooth surface. She had other questions that needed to be answered before the night was over. She wanted to know who this Bob Orton person was and why he knew some much about the nightshade race.
Gwen waited while The Buhler Browser loaded on her desktop surface. It seemed that Prewitt Labs had monopolized every aspect of the technological spectrum. Most of the information in the world was passing through parent companies that had been started by Prewitt Labs. Gwen questioned whether she could even trust the computer she was on at the present moment. She envisioned some sinister nightshade in a remote location monitoring her web browsing. They would know everything about her.
Gwen shivered and pushed the thought away. She needed less paranoia in her life right now, not more. She navigated to the search bar and typed in the name “Bob Orton”. She pressed enter and watched as a few results sprang up across the top of the desk. Every article and headline seemed slanted in only one direction; nothing good. The academic world at large didn’t hold this guy in high regard. Gwen was already skeptical of the unilateral direction being pitched at her on all sides. After Gwen’s experience in the General’s Office with the citrine stone she was less inclined to accept popular opinion.
“What are you hiding?” said Gwen.
She clicked on the first article and read through it slowly. It started out as a reductionist argument; letting the naïve reader know right out the gate that Old Orton was a “Crazy Christian”. The author made it clear that most of his erroneous ideas sprang from the deeply flawed lens of an outdated religion. Next, it talk about all his drinking problems and the abuse he had given to his first wife. His wife’s testimony ran for three paragraphs on the subject. Once Bob’s character was completely run through the mud, it was easier for the reader to push over the straw-man.
The author of the article concluded by telling the reader that it was impossible to be both a Christian and a practicing scientist. She called it a contradiction of terms…and anyone who accepted old Orton’s findings about the nightshade race were nothing more than racist rednecks. She showed that most of the people who purchased his outlandish books were undereducated white Americans in the Midwest. There was no in-between for this lady… American Society needed to accept the nightshades and get over their modernist roots.
If Gwen had read this article yesterday she would have agreed with the author’s harsh assessment of the evangelical preacher. She had experienced “Christianity” in her own home and could feel the appeal the article had on her own emotions. The call, however, to accept the nightshade race was pushing it too far for her; it was obvious the lady hadn’t lost a loved one yet. Once people began to lose loved ones they tended to change their minds.
Gwen exited the article and opened the next link in the browser queue. This one was a review of Mr. Orton’s books. The crazy preacher had apparently written on several topics over the past 10 years of the nightshade invasion. Gwen read over the titles slowly…each one had to do with Prewitt Labs and how their subsequent technologies effected everyday life. Prewitt Labs was made to mold the global mind into accepting the nightshade race on every stage. The Dead Man Act of 2025 being the beginning of the process of mass takeover. If Gwen had not experienced what she had experienced, she would have thought all this crazy.
The reviewer of Mr. Orton’s book placed a colorful set of brackets at the end of each book title. It was made to draw the eyes away from the actual book. The brackets read:
(We read through the rubbish so you don’t have to)
At the top of the list was Mr. Orton’s first book he had published.
1.“A Guide to Knowing If Your Friends and Family Are a Bunch of Nightshades in Disguise.” (We read through the rubbish so you don’t have to)
Gwen rolled her eyes at editorial license the reviewer was taking. The book title itself was an emboldened hyperlink that had been “Fact-Checked”. Gwen clicked on the title and read though the long review. It was all about Bob Orton’s theories on nightshade origins. Small clips from the book were shown with ellipses everywhere in the proceeding paragraphs. The reviewer had truncated the crap out of the whole book.
Bob Orton’s view was that the portals at Prewitt Labs were still opened and operated by the nightshade race. That all the technology that the humans were using were created by these creatures. The book reviewer stepped in and corrected Mr. Orton by saying that Prewitt Labs had closed off and contained the portals to the 5th dimension years ago.
He then stated that Mr. Orton was wrong in suggesting that the nightshade race were highly organized and strategic. Gwen had to control the anger welling up inside her chest as she read the analogy he gave. “The nightshades had wandered into our world much like a stray animal wanders into an urban suburb. There was no mentality of western colonial conquest berried in their tender hearts… this was all a fearful projection created by the colonizers themselves. They wanted the public to hate them for profit. The Nightshades that entered our dimension were bewildered by the way we do things. They were innocent pilgrims forced into a new reality by greedy capitalist looking to transverse the stars...”
“Bull Crap!” said Gwen at the Screen. Spit landed on the hard surface. She was sure this guy was another college educated idiot like Dennis. His stupid writing even read like every report the social worker had written on her interactions with the assets. It was maddening how blind people could be to their own destruction.
Gwen brushed away the saliva with her glove and kept reading the book review. The next part was about the day of ascension and the number of the nightshades that are among the world’s population today. Bob Orton estimated the growth rate using one of Leonhard Euler’s regressive formulas for populations. He simplified it to the reader in a mathematical expression:
(5,000 x (1.66)^n)
Mr. Orton said that roughly 5,000 nightshades got through the portals on the night of ascension. He predicted a 66% growth rate each year the portals at Prewitt Labs stayed open. Gwen felt uneasy by this drastic estimate; it couldn’t be right. She opened up the calculator on the desktop and typed in “10 years” for “n” in the formula given in the text. If Mr. Orton were right in his calculations on nightshade population growth… this would mean that there was currently 800,000 nightshades in the world right now. In the next five years it would be close to 10 million. They would be overrun by these bloody bleachers within 20 years.
“And we haven’t captured a single female in the United States population since The Dead Man act of 2025 was formed?” said Gwen incredulously. “There is something deeper going on here. Something crazy deep!”
Gwen removed the calculator from the desk top and continued to read the article. She scrolled passed all the rest of the statistical data on the screen. There was no way in hell she was going to understand the dispersion rate under the bell curves… or the confidence coefficients for the nightshade race. It was all just fancy talk to say the end of the world was coming.
Mr. Orton was suggesting that thousands of these things are entering our world every day; eating people and taking their identities. He was now implying that they could easily be your brother or sister. That they could easily be your next door neighbor or coworker. Gwen forced out the terrible thoughts of her own sister being eaten alive by one of them. Where had she been when the horrible event had taken place.
To combat this statistical claim made by Bob Orton, the review of his book simply quoted a 10 year old government audit of Prewitt Labs and its subsidiaries. The official government document stated that all portals to the 5th dimension had been closed and sealed off. The audit also stated that only (205) nightshades wondered helplessly through the portals during the night of ascension. “These creatures were more afraid of us then we were of them at the time. Mr. Orton is clearly having delusions of grandeur. His statistics are meant only to intimidate and scare the more ignorant part of the Midwestern population. They are not founded in reality. He wasn’t even using Euler Formula like he claimed…”
Without even knowing she was doing it; Gwen was already shaking her head “No” at the stupid book reviewer. If only (205) nightshades had gotten through during the day of ascension, then why did the government build all these holding facilities for the nightshades? Camp Snowflake could house thousands of these creatures. If he were telling the truth then the government had grossly overreacted to the problem.
“This guy is clueless.” Said Gwen.
Out of frustrations she scrolled further down the page. Her legs were jogging up and down with anxiety. Gwen stopped when she read the words “Nightshades Breeding Patterns”. This was a subject that interested her most of all. She remembered The General talking about how Asset 626 was trying to escape to see a female nightshade name Hera. It was apparently all he had fixated on sense his transformation back into a nightshade.
Bob Orton seemed to suggest that the nightshade race were promised breeding partners while in the 5th dimension by a Giver of Knowledge. That the females had come from a dimension where the males had died out long ago and left them kingless and weak. Their female dominate society was structured around who had the best trophy (a.k.a. the biggest and best mate). These females ruled over those who had not acquired a mate due to insufficient skin patterns (or biological weaknesses). The bigger and stronger the trophy that was won in battle, the more Sisters of The Erlking that gave obedience to the rising queen. All this fighting for hierarchy stopped with the death of all the trophies. Their society stalled over night and became homogeneous... peace and unity only existed because of survival.
The book reviewer seemed very cynical of this breeding information about the nightshades. He called it high conjecture and bizarre beyond all measure. The claims that Mr. Orton were making were unproven by any anthropologist or sociologist. The males have not become extinct at all and were not consider trophies by the females. The reviewer then directs the reader of the review to some government footage of males resting in an Eden Terrarium; waiting their American Citizenship under the Dead Man Act of 2025. “If anything, they would be egalitarian in natures because of their willingness to be both male and females. They would have what C. Wright Mills called a Sociological Imagination. They would know what it means to be female because they have fully adopted the female form during transition from nightshade to human. They could know what it means to be male because they have adopted the male form during transition. They would know what it means to be human because they have adopted the human mind….”
“You got to be kidding me!” said Gwen, “They eat people you lunatic! They literally eat people and steal their lives away… and thousands of them are out roaming the streets looking for more people to eat.”
Gwen was going to close the book review all together when her eyes caught the next subject in the review. It was about Citrine Stones. She scrolled down and read the text slowly. Bob Orton was claiming that the Citrine Stone were organs inside the nightshades that aided them in bending reality. They resonated at a frequency that helped to let other nightshades know that they were sisters of The Black Forest. It was part of the check and balance system of their species. The resonance was there as a biological signature to let the other nightshades know it was not edible. Bob Orton said it was almost impossible for one nightshade to consume another nightshade without knowing they were kin first. He then listed a bizarre caste system based solely on resonance:
1.25MHz to 70MHz (These were the low class; low light)
2.71MHz to 115MHz (These were the middle class; mid light)
3.116MHz to 169Mhz (High Class; high light)
“How does he know all this crap!” asked Gwen as she scrawled past the book reviewers comments. The educated idiot had nothing productive that she wanted to read, “Where is Bob getting all this information from… there has to be a source…”
Gwen stopped scrolling as a picture of the middle aged man came into view. She studied Bob Orton’s cheerful face. The guy looked like a balding Rey Bradbury. In the picture he was holding a black cat and sitting in a black leather arm chair. There was a bookshelf behind him filled with the collective works of C.S. Lewis. One of the books had been pulled from the shelf and was strategically facing the camera. Gwen couldn’t believe what she was seeing. She mouthed the title to herself, “The Lion, the witch, and the wardrobe.”
Gwen jumped in her seat as her watch rang out. She had set the alarm to go off 30 minutes before her appointment with Dr. Howard. She had not managed to get a wink of restful sleep because of all this nonsense. Gwen was sure this was going to affect her for the whole rest of the day. She turned the dial and watched as the time came into view. It was almost 0600 hours.
“Crap!” Said Gwen. She need to shower and get ready. All this researching would have to wait for another time. There was no way she was going to be late for her appointment.