The Unknown Object
Completely, unbelievably ridiculous.
It made perfect sense.
He had a mind control gun. Eddie was clearly…zombified? Hypnotized? Controlled?
Tim surveyed his surroundings for the umpteenth time, still not completely convinced he wasn’t being pranked. The only things visible were trees, shrubs, and underbrush. The sun had begun to go down, he wasn’t sure when. How long had he been out here? Even if Mr. Hudson hadn’t missed him during the game, if he was doing a head count now, he was sure to notice two people missing.
“Eddie, can you hear me?”
Eddie nodded and drooled a barely audible, “…yes.”
“Are you hypnotized right now?”
No answer. Hmm, that happened before, Tim thought. What was the difference…ah, maybe he needs to be directly addressed.
“Eddie, are you hypnotized right now?”
“…no,” Eddie replied.
Hmm, not hypnotized…maybe that was the wrong word for it. He thought back to the dial on the gun.
“Eddie, are you…uhm…controlled, right now?”
“What does that mean exactly…uh, Eddie?”
“…I will follow your commands.”
“All my commands?”
“Ah…will you follow all my commands, Eddie?”
“Why will you follow my commands, Eddie?” This seemed like an obvious question, but he was curious nevertheless.
“…because you’re holding the gun.”
Interesting. But he needed to know how to switch Eddie back. But still…
“Can I switch you back to normal, Eddie?”
“How can I switch you back to normal?”
Ah, the release selection of the dial! Hey, wait a second…
“How do you know that there’s a release setting on the dial of the gun, Eddie? You barely saw it before it…uh, shot you.”
“…when under control…a basic operating system is uploaded…into the brain…with instructions for the user…”
“What does that mean, Eddie?”
“…new users…can ask the controlled…for operating instructions…”
“That’s handy.” If this isn’t all bullshit.
“OK…if you’re really under control…uhm…do ten jumping jacks, Eddie.”
Eddie began doing some fairly uncoordinated jumping jacks.
I mean, that doesn’t prove anything. If he’s pranking me, I should ask him to do something he wouldn’t normally do.
Tim thought for a second and then decided on a question.
“Hey, Eddie, your mom is really hot. She’s so hot I want to bang her. Do you think I could fuck your mom if I used this gun, Eddie?” There, that should piss him off.
Holy shit. He had fully expected Eddie to beat the shit out of him for that one. He hadn’t even seen him twitch. He’d just calmly answered the question as though Tim had just asked him about the weather forecast.
Then again, he still might.
“Uhm, will you remember this conversation once I’ve, uh, released you, Eddie?”
OK, if this is for real…and I’m still not 100% convinced it is…where the hell did this gun come from? Who built it? How long has it been here? What kind of things can it be used for? Can I—
He had just begun formulating over a dozen questions he intended to ask Eddie when he heard a loud sound coming from behind him…and then, all Hell broke loose.
“What the HELL are you two boys doing out here?!”
Tim didn’t even have to look behind him to know who it was. He could hear the loud footsteps crunching through the underbrush, and he knew Mr. Hudson had caught him.
Tim tried to think of excuses, but couldn’t come up with anything good. He’d been caught, and he knew next steps were probably detention, getting called to the vice-principal’s office, probably a phone call home (Mr. Hudson had a zero-tolerance policy for cutting class).
Tim turned around to see Mr. Hudson in his dark blue P.E. sweats, looking furious. Mr. Hudson was tall, skinny, and balding, with wispy blonde hair—and right now, the top of his head was so red that Tim could swear he could see steam coming off of it. He tried to rationalize that the redness was probably due to being out all afternoon in the softball field, but he knew that was only partially true. The ruddy complexion around his cheeks was all rage—Tim suspected that Mr. Hudson actually enjoyed being able to discipline students, that he got a kick out of it when he was able to deliver a good, old-fashioned verbal reprimand.
As if on cue, Mr. Hudson stood in front of the two of them and, crossing his arms in front of him, began to deliver one of his famous, enraged sermons.
“You two! West and Berger! Do you know how disrespectful it is to your teacher and your peers to cut class? While your peers are out there, working hard and improving their skills, you two are here doing God knows what, maybe smoking, or, or…”
Mr. Hudson paused and seemed to finally notice something.
“West, what’s wrong with Berger?” He said, glancing at Eddie. “And what the hell are you holding in your hands?” He said, pointing at the gun. He moved to grab it, probably to confiscate it. Tim knew if Mr. Hudson got his hands on it, he’d never be able to turn Eddie back to normal—or see the gun again, for that matter.
On impulse, he pressed the button, still turned to the ‘CONTROL’ setting, with the gun aimed directly at Mr. Hudson.
He heard the electric crackle and felt the warm vibration, and Mr. Hudson’s arms dropped instantly, comically, and he adopted the same dopey, dazed expression that Eddie had.
Man, this is handy. Still, that didn’t really solve anything. As soon as he un-controlled Mr. Hudson, he’d confiscate the gun again and he’d still be in just as much trouble as before. If anything, he’d just delayed the inevitable.
Part of him, a very small part, was tempted to just leave Mr. Hudson like this. But of course, there was no way he could do that. Even if he was a jerk, he knew Mr. Hudson had a wife and kid, people who loved him. Tim shook his head—how had he even contemplated doing something so awful?
Still, he was in a shitload of trouble.
“Eddie, I have a question.”
He tried to think of how to phrase it. This was something he’d seen on TV shows about hypnotism…about how you could make suggestions about stuff and how once people were no longer hypnotized the suggestions could remain in the unconscious and affect their behavior.
“If I were to order someone to do something while they were…under control…like, for example, change their thinking or affect a change in common sense—would these things still take effect once I, like, released them?”
“…Common sense can be rewritten.”
It took a few seconds for Tim to understand the implications.
If what Eddie (or the operating manual he was working off of in his brain) was accurate, this wasn’t just a mind control device.
It was a brainwashing machine.
He had to confirm it.
“Could you expand on that, please, Eddie?”
“…the user can give suggestions to the subject while under control. He can set these suggestions to still take effect once the subject has been released from direct control.”
“So..uhm…,” Tim tried to think of a classic example. “Let’s say I told Mr. Hudson that he was a chicken, and that once I released him he’d be a chicken for the rest of his life, would he behave like a chicken once I released him from control, Eddie?”
Holy fucking shit. This wasn’t just a mind-control gun. This could be one of the most dangerous weapons in the world in the wrong hands.
But back to the situation at hand.
“What if I suggested to Mr. Hudson that you and I had been at softball practice, that we hadn’t cut class, and that he never searched in the woods for us…uh, Eddie?”
For the first time, Eddie took a second, seemingly to think on how to formulate his answer.
“…depending on the wording, Mr. Hudson would be confused.”
“Why would he be confused, Eddie?”
“…because when you release him, he will be in the woods not understanding how he got here.”
Ah, of course. He’d have to be careful about how he phrased his suggestions.
Eddie frowned and continued, surprising Tim.
“…however, the brain would try to adjust and make sense about his circumstances.”
“W-what do you mean, Eddie?”
“…he would try to unconsciously justify to himself as to why he was in the woods.”
Tim wasn’t 100% sure what that meant, but at the very least, this confirmed two things. He could make Mr. Hudson and Eddie forget that they’d ever seen the gun. Tim could take it home, keep it safe, as he figured out his next steps.
Before that, though…
“Who made the gun, Eddie?”
“…I do not know.”
Maybe Eddie was interpreting the question literally. Tim tried a different tack.
“What information can you make me regarding the gun’s manufacture and origin, Eddie?” That was better. Eddie would just give him anything he’d learned from the ‘operating system’ regarding the gun’s background.
“…I do not have any information on the gun’s manufacture and origin.”
Tim turned to Mr. Hudson.
“Mr. Hudson, has P.E. class finished?”
“Mr. Hudson, guide Eddie and me out of the woods.”
“…yes.” Mr. Hudson began slowly walking in the direction he had come from.
“Eddie, follow Mr. Hudson and me.”
This was weird. It was like he had two life-sized human dolls. Tim tried not to think too hard about the ethical and moral implications of what he was doing to his friend and his teacher.
After about fifteen minutes of walking, they reached the field. Tim guessed that he must have walked around a bit in circles and thought he was more lost than he actually was. He could see the field was empty. There were a handful of students in the distance, but none of them were close enough to see the gun. Good.
“Mr. Hudson, once I release you…” Tim thought about how to phrase it.
“Mr. Hudson, Eddie and I were both in the softball field for the entire class. Neither of us cut class. You did not search for either of us in the woods. You did not see this…uhm…thing I’m holding. Do you understand, Mr. Hudson?”
“…yes.” Of course, when Mr. Hudson woke up, he’d notice the missing time.
“Mr. Hudson, for the past thirty minutes or so, you’ve been out in the field, just…thinking about what you’re going to be doing for next week’s lessons,” Tim said. That seemed harmless enough.
One last thing.
“When I release you, you’ll walk straight back to the school building. You won’t look back, and you certainly won’t look at the woods, Mr. Hudson.” That should give Tim the opportunity to sneak away.
“Eddie, stand behind this tree.”
Eddie moved behind the tree, as did Tim. Once they were both safely ensconced, Tim turned to Mr. Hudson again.
“Mr. Hudson, start walking in the direction of the field.”
Tim took a deep breath. I hope this works, he thought. I’ve got no idea how much range this gun has. He moved the dial from ‘CONTROL’ to ‘RELEASE.’ As soon as Mr. Hudson was a few feet away from them, he aimed the gun in his direction and pressed the button.
The buzzing crackle was slightly different this time—a lower frequency, maybe? That’s how he could best describe it. He felt the same warm vibration, though.
He looked at Mr. Hudson. The change was instantaneous. He went from a plodding, zombie-like walk to a brisk pace.
Tim held his breath, but Mr. Hudson never looked back. He jogged straight back to the school building.
Once he was safely out of sight, Tim let out a breath he hadn’t even realized he’d been holding in. Then he started to laugh. It was amazing! Amazing! This thing was…he couldn’t even begin to fathom what he’d just found. What it meant.
“Sorry, Eddie, I can’t share this. You understand.”
Eddie just looked off into the distance, drooling again. Tim felt a bit uncomfortable—Eddie was his friend, after all, and he didn’t like him looking and acting like a brainless zombie.
“OK, Eddie, now it’s your turn. Remember, once I release you, you’ll forget all of this happened. You were just cutting class in the woods. You won’t say anything about this to anyone. If anyone asks, you were watching softball the entire afternoon. Understood, Eddie?”
“Then start walking towards the school building.”
Eddie took off at a plodding pace similar to Mr. Hudson’s. Once he was far enough away, Tim pressed the button again.
Oh, shit…is this not going to work? Did I say something wrong? Was he under control for too long?
Eddie took out his phone, turned on the screen.
“Fuck, why’d I waste all that time? My bus!” Eddie started running like the former track star he was.
Tim exhaled again. He looked at the gun, carefully turned the dial to the ‘OFF’ position, and tucked it in his waistband.
Then, nonchalantly, he started walking home.