When Frederick Pasco regained consciousness, he found himself dangling in mid air and suffocating in sweat, with a burlap sack covering his entire head. He felt a wad of cloth in his mouth, held in place with a gag. His wrists were clutched by two cold iron bands fastened to one chain hanging from above. Another set of metal restraints bound his feet together. “This has to be some kind of sick joke”, he thought. Even through the sack, he could hear two people, his guide and another member, arguing with echoed voices; no doubt the type of reverb typical of a temple’s cathedral ceiling.
“You said he was someone who could trade us valuable resources!”, the other member snapped.
“How could I have failed?” the guide shouted. “I was sure that a corporate entity that sells every product in the world might trade better quality resources than that!”
“I suggest you check your sources more competently next time! Those mongrelized fish-people in Cape Ann traded us better resources than he’s got!”
Mr. Pasco heard forceful menacing footsteps circling around him like a predator about to strike. After a few moments that seemed to stretch out into eternity, the other member continued. “Well, seeing as this one only has garbage to trade, there’s only one use for him!”
“Yes, Your Excellency! Shall I call the brethren to service?”
“Do it! And see if you can get this one right!”
Mr. Pasco heard the guide’s footsteps gradually fade off, then ascend a flight of stairs. Seconds later, a shattering alarm pierced the stagnant air. Then he heard a pair of massive doors open and a faint steady murmur began to fill the chamber.
Mr. Pasco couldn’t understand how he got there. As a successful manager of a mega-sized department store, he always took pride in running a perfect operation. Unfortunately, it was difficult to keep decent help with the meager survival wages the company paid. And he, himself, had to admit that he didn’t help matters either. Last week he yelled at and berated four young employees for clocking back in a minute late from their lunch breaks. The week before he bawled out three more for their forgetfulness, and one unfortunate walked the plank right off a Charles River bridge days after he got pink-slipped for being slow. Predictably, several people already quit. “If this exodus keeps up much longer”, Mr. Pasco feared, “it’s anybody’s guess how much longer the remaining workers will endure picking up the slack before we have a mutiny on our hands.”
Just the day before he found himself snared in this iron web, Mr. Pasco was pouring over a stack of applications for possible new hires, when a tall blond blue eyed man walked in. He introduced himself as Alan and handed Mr. Pasco a folder explaining “You left these in the lunchroom.” Mr. Pasco was impressed. Normally he would count himself lucky if his employees so much as mastered four words of some coherent language; preferably English. This one not only pulled his own weight, but went out of his way for others, as well!
“Anything else I can do for you?” Alan asked.
“Nothing else at the moment. But before you get back to your stocking, let me say that I’m proud of you. I wish I had a dozen more like you!”
“I can get them for you,” Alan responded.
“Perfect! Tell them to register on our website!”
“I’ll have to take you to them.”
Mr. Pasco was taken aback. “Whoa! Wait a minute! That’s not how we do business!” Scanning Alan’s cold blank face, the manager thought that was the weirdest business proposition he ever heard. But then, he wasn’t too thrilled with any of the alternatives either. He had enough of hiring dumb broads whose sole concern was what color they were going to paint their nails that hour. Alan’s way was a bit unorthodox, but Mr. Pasco was willing to do anything to get more perfect workers.
The following day, Alan picked Mr. Pasco up at his house and they rode for two hours through rural back roads cutting through forest of pine trees and maples. Every so often Mr. Pasco would try to interject some conversation, asking “I wonder who’s going to win the basketball championships this year? Do you think the Celtics have a chance?” Alan never responded. He just kept driving ahead in his cool collected manner.
Turning off onto a dirt road and driving through more forest for ten minutes, they finally arrived at a clearing where there stood a hundred-foot concrete circular wall that had to go on for at least five miles. There was a massive door allowing passage of vehicles and several smaller doors for human passage. Following Alan’s instructions, Mr. Pasco got out of the car and Alan guided him to one of the smaller doors. “We have to let them examine us before they allow us in,” Alan explained.
It began to dawn on Mr. Pasco that something wasn’t right. But he was scarcely able to open his mouth in protest when a smaller door opened and six blond blue eyed young men walked out and circled him menacingly. He was immediately stunned to see that each of the six men looked exactly like Alan! Trembling, Mr. Pasco asked Alan, “I get it! This must be a secret mad scientist’s laboratory! Is this some kind of human cloning experiment?” Alan responded “Not quite.” At that moment, one of the others came up behind the bewildered manager and hit him on the head with some sort of blunt object, causing him to black out. * * *
Now Mr. Pasco was trapped in a dark iron web. He gradually realized he had been deceived by someone who embodied the one thing he idolized above all else, namely the ideal of absolute perfection. The massive doors slammed shut and the murmuring quieted down. A loud authoritarian voice addressed the chamber in a frightening sermon.
“WE GATHER TODAY TO MAKE OFFERING UPON OUR GODS AS GRATITUDE FOR OUR PERFECT, AND AS YET UNSULLIED, ORDER! LET US RELIVE THE GLORIOUS STORY OF HOW WE CAME TO BE!
A HUNDRED YEARS AGO, OUR PRIME MOTHER AND PRIME FATHER LEFT THEIR HOME IN THE FROZEN LANDS NORTH OF EUROPE AND ARRIVED HERE ON THE HOSPITABLE SHORES OF AMERICA. THEIR GOAL WAS TO CREATE AN ORDER OF PERFECT HUMAN BEINGS! JUST AS THEY BOTH HAD EMERGED FROM THE SAME PURE WOMB, SO IT SHOULD PASS WITH THE ENTIRE COMMUNITY THAT THEY WOULD EVENTUALLY CREATE!”
“What??!!” The bound manager thought in shock, “I couldn’t have possibly heard that right!”
The ghastly preacher continued. “OUR PRIME MOTHER AND FATHER KNEW THAT TO CREATE THE PERFECT BLOODLINE, THEY NEEDED TO PURGE ALL OUTSIDE ELEMENTS; THAT IS, TO NEVER ALLOW THEM TO SEEP IN AT ALL. AND SO OUR PRIME CREATORS, BOTH FROM THE SAME WOMB, MATED. AND WHEN THEY BROUGHT FORTH OFFSPRING, THEY, TOO, MATED AMONGST THEMSELVES; PROCREATING SOLELY WITH EACH OTHER AND THE CREATORS, AS DID THEIR OFFSPRING. AND SO ON DOWN THE AGES EVEN UNTO THIS DAY.”
The captured manager could only think to himself. “What the hell?!” This horror show was getting worse by the minute! He had a disturbing feeling the worst was yet to come.
“BECAUSE OF THE BRAVE PLANS OF OUR PRIME CREATORS, OUR COMMUNITY TODAY IS A BLOODLINE OF ABSOLUTE PURITY. A BLOODLINE OF CLARITY, NOT A BLOODLINE OF PAIN AND CONFUSION AS ALL THE OTHERS ARE. A BLOODLINE OF SIMILARITY, IN LOOKS AND THOUGHTS, SO THERE WILL BE NO DIVISIONS TO TEAR US APART. OUR SAMENESS AND CLARITY MAKE OUR PERFECTION POSSIBLE. AND IT IS OUR DUTY THAT WE RESERVE,… AH, I MEAN, PRESERVE… AH, SON OF A BITCH!”
An eerie moment of silence followed. Then a gunshot and the sound of a body falling to the floor. Apparently the preacher was shot by another congregation member, or maybe the preacher killed himself. Blinded, and bound in darkness, Mr. Pasco could not tell. But it terrified him that he fell into a bloodthirsty trap where even the smallest unimportant slip was despised enough to be punished with death.
After another scary silent moment, someone else, most likely Alan, stepped up and spoke “I WILL NOW CONTINUE THE SERVICE.” Mr. Pasco couldn’t tell which was more frightening; someone getting killed for flubbing a word or the way the terrible congregation just carried on as if nothing happened. “WE HAVE THE GREATEST ORDER IN THE WORLD,” Alan’s booming speech continued. “THEREFORE IT IS OUR DUTY TO PRESERVE IT, AT WHATEVER COST.
“FROM TIME TO TIME, PALE IMITATORS FROM THE OUTSIDE ABYSS WILL TRY TO EMULATE OUR WAY OF LIFE, AND IN DOING SO, WILL ONLY MAKE A MOCKERY OF ALL FOR WHICH WE STAND. I NOW FIND MY EMPLOYER IN THE OUTSIDE WORLD TO BE SUCH A FRAUD. I JOINED HIS COMPANY HOPING TO BRING MONEY INTO OUR ORDER AND TO TRADE OUR INGENUITY FOR HIS SUPPLIES. ONLY AFTER BRINGING HIM HERE DID I LEARN THE TRUTH. HE ASPIRES TO OUR CREED OF PERFECTION, BUT HAS NOTHING TO BACK IT UP, EXCEPT A STOREHOUSE OF SUBSTANDARD “GOODS” THAT OTHER COMPANIES MANUFACTURE.”
Suddenly a pile of splintering wood, probably table or chair, crashed on the podium floor. “THIS IS THE GARBAGE MY EMPLOYER HAS TO OFFER,” Alan boomed angrily. “I WILL NOW REVEAL TO YOU THE FACE OF OUR BLASPHEMER!
Alan ripped the black hood off Mr. Pasco’s head. Mr. Pasco looked around the temple, which resembled a dark Roman coliseum, and saw hundreds of cold and hostile faces barely illuminated by the torches lining the center stage. Each of the several hundred faces in the temple was identical to Alan’s. Not even the horrifying preacher’s background story could have prepared Mr. Pasco for the sickening shock that this bizarre sight caused him.
“BUT EVEN THOUGH THIS OUTSIDER DISAPPOINTED US,” Alan shouted, “THERE IS ONE PURPOSE LEFT HE MAY STILL SERVE FOR US! OUR GODS WELCOME BLOOD OFFERINGS OF THOSE WHO INSULT OUR PERFECT ORDER WITH THEIR INSUFFICIENT ATTEMPTS.”
The terrified manager frantically struggled in his shackles as Alan’s menacing footsteps thundered toward him. “WE SACRIFICE THIS HERALD OF FALSE PROSPERITY TO OUR GODS, THAT WE MAY ENJOY TRUE PROSPERITY,” Alan shouted, while pointing a gleaming butcher knife at Mr. Pasco. “SO MAY IT BE!”
The congregation responded in grotesque unison, “SO MAY IT BE!”
The blade plunged into Mr. Pasco’s heart. His final scream, although it got through the gag in his mouth, never made it past the soundproofed walls of the Temple. Only in that last moment did he see that his quest for human perfection was a dark path that led him to a terrifying death. All he would ever be for his coveted ideal was a sacrificial offering to a cruel incestuous cult.
Christopher Wood-Robbins who prefers to be called “Aspie Chris” in his writings and drawings, has been writing poems of gender and racial equality, as well as odes to individuality, for the past thirty years. In 2007, he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, and has dedicated his craft to promoting autistic awareness (and acceptance) ever since. He lives in Central Massachusetts with his wife, Julie, and occasionally indulges in a bohemian lifestyle (painting pictures in an open mic gallery in Cambridge, MA. (when his financial situation allows).
Art can illuminate even the most elusive and difficult to comprehend ideas. Visual rules and tightly codified visual metaphors help scientists communicate complex ideas mostly amongst themselves, but they can also become barriers to new ideas and insights. Dr. Regina Valluzzi’s images are abstracted and diverged from the typical rules and symbols of scientific illustration and visualization; they provide an accessible window into the world of science for both scientists and non-scientists.