Posted on: April 10th, 2010 What Makes You Tick

by David Steffen

My holding cell fills with the gas, the sedative they use when they wish to experiment. I play my part, allowing my tentacles to go gradually flaccid, dangling off the table. After months of examination they understand nothing about me. Obsessed by the physical world, these self-proclaimed scientists have placed blinders over their own eyes. I don’t eat. I don’t excrete. I don’t breathe or bleed. Their MRIs and other sensing technologies detect no signs of life, yet I move as though I live. I am a paradox they cannot fathom, so they bring their straps and their knives and explore the frontiers of my body. They will find nothing.

I could heal the wounds in seconds. I could reduce their scalpels to molten puddles, but I choose not to. Every operation is video taped, and my reactions must be consistent. I am curious how long they will maintain interest in the absence of new discoveries. If they start to lose interest I will vary my reaction to draw them back in.

Dr. Talbot’s attention is focused on his incision, the eyes above the gas mask narrowed with his concentration. He cuts deeper than ever into my spherical body, and again to make an “X”. When he’s finished he pulls the flaps wide, revealing deep into my insides, but he sees nothing of interest, only more of the same gelatinous flesh, a uniform gray. Already the first of these autopsy tapes have circulated the internet, but have been dismissed by even the most fanatic believers as a pathetic hoax.

While the doctor focuses on the task at hand, I feel my way delicately across his mind. He pauses for a moment, but dismisses the tickle as nervousness.

This one is a fresh recruit, younger than the others, hired to replace Dr. Carlson who drowned herself in her toilet. Of course, Dr. Talbot doesn’t know about that. Fresh in his mind, just beneath the veil of concentration, Dr. Talbot has been thinking about his girlfriend and the sex they had last night. Her name is Amber. He couldn’t tell her where he was going or why, only that he had to go and that he would be back in two weeks.

They always work in shifts, two weeks on, two weeks off. She’d told him she was afraid he would never come back. Their fear drove them to fornication, a sweaty and messy affair. I grasp a thread of the memory, entwining it around an extension of my mind.

In the present, Dr. Talbot has one gloved hand shoved elbow-deep in my newly opened orifice. I draw the memory of his girlfriend up from his subconscious, piercing through the shield of his focus like a needle through cloth.

His hand pauses inside me as lust arises in his mind. His genitals respond to the stimulus. He shakes his head, trying to clear his mind again, but I hold the memory there. Already I can feel the associative threads solidifying between this operating table and his bed, her genitals and the gaping maw of my rent flesh. He continues his work as though nothing were wrong, the only visible signs the bulge in his trousers and the sweat on his brow. His brainstem battles with his conscious mind, and he is both aroused by the operation and frightened by his own arousal.

When he’s finished I release the memory. I have learned in my short time here that such associations take minutes to create, but are permanent once formed. Operating tables will make him think of Amber, and naked women will make him think of me.

He washes his hands, shuts off the video camera, and returns to his quarters where he immediately satisfies his urges in a complex wash of pleasure, disgust, worry, and fear. He is already my favorite test subject, his mind so easy to inflame. I hope he lasts longer than the last one.

Filed under: bad-ass, stories

20 Responses to “What Makes You Tick”

  1. David Steffen Says:
    April 11th, 2010 at 6:27 am

    For those who might be interested, this story will also appear in Northern Frights Publishing’s upcoming themed anthology “War of the Worlds: Frontlines” along with about 20 other stories about human-alien conflict.

  2. David Steffen Says:
    April 11th, 2010 at 6:27 am

    For those who might be interested, this story will also appear in Northern Frights Publishing’s upcoming themed anthology “War of the Worlds: Frontlines” along with about 20 other stories about human-alien conflict.

  3. Spencer Ellsworth Says:
    April 11th, 2010 at 8:56 am

    That was nicely twisted.

  4. Spencer Ellsworth Says:
    April 11th, 2010 at 8:56 am

    That was nicely twisted.

  5. Cate Gardner Says:
    April 11th, 2010 at 9:17 am

    Ha! Loved this.

  6. Cate Gardner Says:
    April 11th, 2010 at 9:17 am

    Ha! Loved this.

  7. onipar Says:
    April 11th, 2010 at 9:39 am

    Great story. I love the direction you took it. Very cool.

  8. onipar Says:
    April 11th, 2010 at 9:39 am

    Great story. I love the direction you took it. Very cool.

  9. Katherine Sparrow Says:
    April 11th, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    Nicely told. Ugh.

  10. Katherine Sparrow Says:
    April 11th, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    Nicely told. Ugh.

  11. Suzanne Vincent Says:
    April 12th, 2010 at 10:05 am

    Hey, David! Well done! What Gary said. ;-)

  12. Suzanne Vincent Says:
    April 12th, 2010 at 10:05 am

    Hey, David! Well done! What Gary said. ;-)

  13. letitia Says:
    April 12th, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    awesome story–I’m really impressed with the stories you guys publish in general. This one does a get job of quickly setting the scene and leaving a creepy, ambiguous feeling.

  14. letitia Says:
    April 12th, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    awesome story–I’m really impressed with the stories you guys publish in general. This one does a get job of quickly setting the scene and leaving a creepy, ambiguous feeling.

  15. Rebecca Says:
    April 16th, 2010 at 8:18 am

    Creepy, thought provoking. Mind control, I love it

  16. Rebecca Says:
    April 16th, 2010 at 8:18 am

    Creepy, thought provoking. Mind control, I love it

  17. Nora Says:
    April 21st, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    Wonderful! Just when I thought the alien was going to be kindhearted…”it” ends up in control of everything. Great job.

  18. Nora Says:
    April 21st, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    Wonderful! Just when I thought the alien was going to be kindhearted…”it” ends up in control of everything. Great job.

  19. Free Fiction for 4/17/10 - SF Signal – A Speculative Fiction Blog Says:
    January 7th, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    [...] Harvest: “What Makes You Tick” by David [...]

  20. Pseudopod » Blog Archive » Pseudopod 228: Flash On The Borderlands VII - Tableaux & Displays Says:
    March 1st, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    [...] founded and co-edits DIABOLICAL PLOTS. The text version of this story can be found at Brain Harvest. Narrated by W. Ralph Walters of FREQUENCY OF [...]