I’m not the first one to say it and I won’t be the last: I don’t think Brighter Futures Suicide Hotline is what they say it is. The past few weeks, I’ve been gathering as much information as I can find and I’m good at finding things. Damn good. It’s literally my job. I’m a Digital Forensics Examiner. I can’t tell you my name and I can’t tell you the name of the company I work for — I’m afraid of retaliation and not just from my company but others. For the purpose of this post, I’m going by Maddox. I’m beginning to see that this goes a lot deeper than a call center and a bunch of strange coincidences. This is massive. Global. From what I can tell, something is attempting to shift the path of humanity itself. They’re doing it unseen. They’re doing it successfully.
I didn’t acquire the machine by traditional channels. I never did figure out what channels I acquired it by, actually. So I have to protect myself with anonymity.
I found myself falling down the rabbit hole the day after the plane crash.
I spend every workday in a sterile environment. To an outsider, without knowing the context of what we are doing, if you saw us working in the labs, you’d probably think we were dealing with dangerous chemicals or biological agents…things that can spread unhindered and kill entire populations. In a way, that isn’t too far from the truth. We deal with information. Information can penetrate society the same as a virus. Depending on what it is, and the hands that control it, it is more efficient at killing an entire population than AIDS or Ebola. If left to spread unhindered, access to certain knowledge could kill us all. I realize that is dramatic…but you don’t know what I’ve found.
Normally, my workday consists of determining if a drive is salvageable and then attempting to recover it. We work to recover data for private businesses. We work to recover evidence for the police. I sit at my station, covered head to foot in a white static-free jumpsuit. The hood covers my head. The goggles cover my eyes. My hands are sheathed in elbow length white gloves and attached to the rest, fastened air-tight with rubber gaskets so I don’t discharge any latent static electricity that might be crawling up and down the hairs on my body invisibly.
The day this all began, I’d had a lot of things on my mind. Between the latest recovery project at work and deciding what to order-in for dinner, it’s safe to say I’d spent a good chunk of my day distracted by my thoughts. My mind was wandering absently as I turned in my jumpsuit for cleaning. I thought about a hundred simultaneous things as I weaved in and out of the rush hour traffic on my way home. I didn’t pay attention as the Tesla parked itself in my driveway. I was distracted and daydreaming absently as I scrolled through notifications on my watch while I walked up the steps to my door. I unlocked the door and stepped inside robotically. The motions all carried out automatically by way of repetition. I wouldn’t say this is abnormal for me.
My job involves a lot of problem solving. I am good at problem solving because I tend to think about a lot of things at once.
I didn’t notice it right away, but when I did the swirl of thoughts stopped. Wrapped in heavy polyethylene plastic, a package sat on my counter. It was the clear kind that you’d use if you wanted to keep something inside safe from the elements, thick and overlapped so many times that what lay inside was obscured.
Forensic data recovery can be a rewarding job if you like a challenge or puzzle…
Attached to the package was a note and beneath the heavy plastic was a computer — the tower portion of a desktop. Burned and permanently warped by an intense heat at some point, it seemed to have melted, the metal flowing into rivers across its surface before it was cool enough to harden again and take on this new mutilated form. This was a challenge indeed. The note read:
The computer enclosed was recovered from the accident. It was one of three found within the building and contains important data. Speak to no one regarding this delivery.
I didn’t know what was meant by ‘the accident’ at the time and I didn’t know what data, if any, that I would recover upon opening the machine…the motherboard was similarly melted, and fused onto the interior of the casing. The drive itself was yellowed, probably from smoke, but its seal was still intact. A good sign. A challenge that I was pretty sure I could beat. Beneath the yellow patina of tarnish, were a number of strange runes, most I couldn’t identify, but I recognized one of them as a Star of David.
The puzzle was that I lived alone. Nobody else had a key. Someone knew my name and what I did for a living and they’d let themselves into my house to deliver this…
I never did figure out where the thing came from or more importantly how it was delivered to my counter behind my locked door… but I think I’m beginning to understand why it was given to me. I am very good at what I do…
I wasn’t sure if I was going to share this, but the day after I recovered the drive, I woke to find the entire machine and the work was gone.
I started looking into the things in the articles I found. I think the world needs to know about that data.
I kept a backup. A jump drive with what I’d recovered.
You should always backup everything.
// Begin Ť̶͜r̷̯͆̑̎ą̵̲͜͝ṉ̷̯̏̓s̷̥̈́͐͋c̶͖̯̩̿r̵̹͖̺̂̓i̷̼͌͌͝b̸̻̍ê̴̪̿ of D̶a̵t̸a̴ //
Subject: Diary of Alfred Faulkland
Record Created: 23 March, 2001
Purpose: BFSH Historical Document Archive Project
Type: Scanned JPG images compiled as PDF, Primary Document
Date of Origin/Confiscation: 5 July, 1932
Location: H̶̙̰̑̍o̸̘͉̽o̵͕̾v̵͕̀ė̸͎r̸̤̥̈́v̶̩̎̐ille, Outskirts, Salem, Oregon, United States`
June 8th, 1932
They closed down the breadline right after me again today. I got the last loaf. Happened three times now. Probably a sign. Maybe my luck is finally about to turn around.
Ha! Fat chance!
With Lorraine gone, it’s just me. If I’m careful, I can make this loaf last a few days. I just have to make better at a̴͚̮̠̠̾̄͌̏͌v̶̥̍͌͝ỏ̸̟͋̎̑͒ĭ̵̠̞̗̱̇̈́ď̶̯̘̘͇͚̄͊i̴̗̲͠n̷̡͎̹͋̐̌̄́ͅg̸̜͐ Orvy and his hooch, see? I always wind up not keeping to the plan if I fall into that rut and gee whiz is it hard to stay out of. Can’t stay hardboiled if you’re pickled. Think I’ll try for more bread again tomorrow anyway, just in case.
I don’t miss her much. She was a rotten broad when everything came down to it. Expected to live like the Rockafellers on my salary. I think she blamed me for all this. How was I supposed to know what would happen? Good riddance. Life might be shit in every shack on Herbert Street, but compared to the booshwash I’d hear from her were she still hanging round, it’s aces. Far as I’m concerned, a dame’s just another mouth I can’t feed and with a mouth that big to fill, wouldn’t matter if there was work, no how.
Raining again, so forgive the run of the ink. Probably look for no work tomorrow till I find the leak. Maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll skip panning and skip fixing this dump and just off myself, like I been saying. Everything’s held together with twine and b̵̻̰̼̑̋́͒̚r̷̭͇̩̹̓̂̐̅͘ō̵͓̼k̷͕̤̃͝ẽ̴̤͔̝n̵̥͈̠̆̈́ ̴̡͙̋̏̏ḑ̴̙̦̠͉͗͝r̷͖̙͈̞͙̈́e̶̘̱̟̭͛͋ā̴̡͖͍͋̉́͝ͅm̸̡̤̼̳̞͛s̵̠͓͔̋̅̇̂, anyhow. The house and me, both.
* The pages are waterruined and hard to read but the words can still be made out. *
June 9th, 1932
A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage!
What a load of horse shit. This country hasn’t never fought for people like us and it ain’t gonna start, see? Jimmy don’t get it. He’s too young. Tried to play that good American card with me again after I went out too Orvy’s last night, so I socked him good. Yeah I went over there after all. Told Jimmy he’d best off not telling me about being American too. That lousy kid and his wise mouth. We did our ḋ̷̟̜ú̵͎̘t̷̛̹̲͐y̸̢̓. Weren’t our war in the first place, but I served my country like the rest of the boys out here and he has the audacious notion to tell me what from what. I nearly died over there. After they finished patching me up, they threw me away just like everybody else. We’re supposed to get a bonus that still ain’t come. Hoover and the rest of them are fuckin crooks.
I’ll admit that things got heated while the boys and I were up in the booze and that’s why I done it, but me and the rest of them are holding a bill of sale that ain’t never gonna be paid for. We deserve to get paid for what we done. It’s a junk bond, just like everything else after the crash, so I don’t wanna hear none of his self-righteous bullarky. Yea I might have gotten punch happy cause I was boozed up, but Orvy’s the goddamn mayor of this shithole. There ain’t no cause to d̴̗̔i̷̪̕s̸͔̚r̷͉̓e̸̲̮͑̓s̸̠̉̔p̵̗̀ě̷̳͝c̵̟̳̏t̴̞̒ the man in his home. He’s doing his best to try to take care of things and Jimmy comes in going on about bootstraps and pulling yourself up. That little prick don’t know nothing from nothing. I was charging through fields of death with a bayonet in my goddamn hands at his age. Christ.
So mad when I got home last night I went and et that whole loaf I was gonna save up. Then the lines didn’t open today. It don’t take many lost meals before people start getting drastic. Don’t know if you’d call a loaf a meal, but it certainly wasn’t a filling one. I ain’t had a filling meal in months and I’d kill for some red meat and potatoes like Lorraine used to do before the world went to shit.
June 11th, 1932
That crumb-bum Jimmy got a job with the city. One of the perks is housing on account of it doesn’t pay much. Came out this morning to pack his place on up. Bragged about the work to everyone who’d listen, like he was rubbing our noses in it. He says they got him on staff to help with the problem of the homelessness. Everyone’s running on and on out here like he’s the fuckin’ Messiah. Answer to our prayers. Kept on about his fuckin bootstraps for the whole damn time like none of us of been trying round here. I don’t trust him. He don’t care to help us, not really. He’s only ever worried about his own self.
If a snotnosed punk like Jimmy can land work while the rest of us is out here starving in Hooverville there ain’t no hope for a lame mule like me.
I know what I said about Lorraine but I think I miss her. There was a time she really knocked my socks off. That’s all I can seem to r̴̤̥̔̚e̸̬̗̔̀m̴̖̈́e̵̡͠m̷̥͔̾b̸̫̖͑e̸̤̚͜ȑ̸̥͠ about her today. Whiz in the kitchen, that doll. Even when there weren’t much around here to make, she always did something up. It’s been two days since the lines opened up. Words going round the shantys that there’s a shortage of flour. They’re calling the whole midwest a “dust bowl” or something or other. So dry out there nothing will grow. Huge dust storms. There’s no wheat. Everything dead. Whole country. If you ain’t actually dead by now, you’re dead inside. Been thinking I might be doing a favor to myself and everyone else if I opt out. People are worrying that the breadline won’t open again. Worse than that, part of Orvy’s makeshift distillery exploded. He’s fine, but that means no more hooch. He wasn’t home when it happened. Burned down his place. I saw it going up in flames on the hill but I didn’t run up there to help. Ain’t got the energy. He’s not eaten in more days than me … getting his s̷͕͆͝u̵̻̾͠s̵̗̋̑t̶͓̬̏ỉ̴̮̪̿ǹ̶͕a̶̤̣̍n̴̠̎ç̶͖̈́̒ḙ̴̐ only drinking that hooch for near on a week I think. Now it’s all gone. He’s moved into Jimmy’s place this afternoon since Jimmy don’t need it now. Not even a day and the place is occupied again. When I passed by earlier he looked haggard. Cooking something on a fire in the yard. Boiling it in a big old dented pot. I think it might have been his boot in there. He was only wearing one of them. Might be he’s losing it. Might be we need to pick a new spokesperson to be our mayor.
On my way back to my place, saw the most wonderous sight. Must have been hundreds of shooting stars, falling at once just above us. It was incredible to see until the clouds closed on in. I’ll take it for a good sign with everything else going on. I haven’t seen a light show like that in the sky since I was young. Must be going on 19 or 20 years now … But it was spoiled tonight by the storm.
Found that leak I mentioned and mended it, but it weren’t no use against the storm tonight. Rains coming sideways. Seems like it might not be raining anyplace else but here, elsewise there would be wheat, I think. Here it rains every night. Out in the places we need it, there’s a drought. I can hear it pelting the tin walls of this place hard and the wind is picking up. Might blow d̵̢̡̜͈͙̞́̏̐͑͆͜o̸͊̄w̴̓̆͠n around me. Floor is just mud now.
June 13th, 1932
Turned out there was no need to oust Orville from his mayorship of this godforsaken Hooverville. He was found hung from a tree on the outskirts this morning. People saying it’s murder because it’s the most grotesque thing they ever seen in their life … I remember the trenches though. I looked into his eyes ẏ̶̙̎e̶̠͊s̸̳̽́t̷͈͍̉é̴̲r̸̜͙̆͑d̶̞͘á̶͍̗y̸͍̔ afternoon. Empty but wild … like a scared rabbit, spinning around in the sockets … pretending he don’t see you. Like if he don’t move you can’t see him … whole time not moving but eyes swirling and looking for a way out.
I knew he done it to himself the moment I walked out to that tree. The dead wood coiling around and up into the blue of the sky like a massive tangle of ropes and he was just hanging from one of the branches, spinning to and fro in the wind with one boot on and the other foot a̴̫̓l̴̖͈̐̚l̴̳̓͋ caked in mud. Everyone says he was murdered, but what for? He didn’t have a pot to piss in and he knew we were getting ready to pick someone else. Nobody’s eaten in days. Who had the energy to carry out something so sinister but the man himself. I know what wild determination does to a man. M̸̡̊y̶̛͕̱ guess from what I seen was that he climbed out on one of the gnarled limbs and gutted himself. As he did, he pulled a long tangle of his insides out and wrapped one end of them round the branch, then looped the other round his own neck. People was keeping their distance, but I got up close to look. The blade went all the way into his stomach. I was right about him eating that boot the other night. There were pieces of the leather still undigested inside. Least I think that’s what I seen in there. Ain’t a funny joke, but I couldn’t help but think of Jimmy and his ‘bootstraps’ speeches and how Orvy misunderstood something long the way. I covered my mouth like I was gasping, but I just didn’t want anyone to see the laugh that come from the thought.
His hand was clutched around the blade like he died squeezing it.
Everyone was just standing there gawking. Someone puked and one of the broads started screaming and carrying on till she got slapped by one of the men who told her to cut it.
Someone I ain’t seen before showed up then. A lank, lean fella, but not for the same reason as the rest of us. He didn’t seem hungry. He pulled a cart behind him. One meant to be drawn by a mule and he had no t̶̥͑͆̋r̵̨̬̓̋o̴̳̱̯̾̿̕ủ̷͈͈̓b̵̢͐̒̀ͅl̵̜͕̋e̴͍̖̐̏s̷͈̓̋ doing it. The contents were lumpy and covered by a sheet of being colored canvas. The man himself was lithe and though he was thin I could see that beneath his shirt, he was gnarled with muscle like the limb Orville hanged from. Without saying a word, he moved right past me and pried the knife from between the rigamortisized fingers and used the blade to cut Orvy down.
I had a notion in my mind that he meant to put the body on his cart beneath the tarp, and disappear just as mysteriously as he’d come, but he slung it over his shoulder, then turned to some of the men and began barking orders. He didn’t make no effort to prevent the man’s insides from staining him.
“Get the women out of here.” He said.
“Quit gawking there slackjawed, and fetch me a shovel.”
Everyone did exactly what he said for them to do. When he was done digging and burying our friend for us, he lifted the arms of his heavy cart, but he didn’t leave. He whistled cheerfully as he dragged it through the muddy paths of the shantytown. Down Luckless Avenue and Herbert Street, all the way up to the door of Jimmy-Then-Orvy’s ramshackle lean-to and made it his.
When he uncovered his cart, he made this Hooverville his, too.
Loaves of bread, still warm and fresh. Peaches. Where the hell did this man find fresh peaches in Oregon? Bananas. Fruits and vegetables I’d seldom or never seen before in my life.
In the middle of it all, as the cart was emptying he stepped out onto the cart and began to speak to the crowd.
“You’ve been forgotten. Given up on by your families, by Washington, by God. Follow me and I’ll lead you to a brighter future. We can make it there together! I will fight for you. I will never give up on you! I have come here to answer your calls for hope in the darkness. I hear you. I’m here for you. I’m here to help you today and together we’ll make it to tomorrow. Each and every one of us.”
The man introduced himself as Isaac and by the end of the afternoon, and s̴̺̈́e̴̘͌͗͝e̶̥̙͊̒m̵̤͓̮͗͘͠e̷͔̲͓̅͐̕d̵͔̙̿ to most of us, he’d done more good in our community in less than an hour than anyone ever had, we chose him to be the new mayor.
June 15th, 1932
Spent a lot of time over at Isaac’s place today. He’s really gonna turn this thing around for us, I think. Turns out we’re both from Clearriver in Washington. I know it’s just a few hundred miles away, but learning that made me really think about what a small world this country can be.
I like him. He seems to like me too. He told me about a lot of his plans while I sat with him. He really is a great guy. He says there’s a plan for all of us. Even me.
We just have to put our trust in him.
I didn’t need him to ask me twice. I’ve got a good feeling about him.
I trust him.
June 24th, 1932
Jimmy came back today. Out from his cave like a little townhall troll. He delivered an eviction notice to Isaac. It’s for the whole goddamn town. They’re claiming we ain’t got the right to be out here. Where else are we supposed to go? Helping the homeless indeed! I knew he was a good for nothing fink! I just knew it! They were all swooning over him and the good he was going to do for us like a pack of ducklings honking excitedly after their mother.
S̴̛͔̭̥͂̎ŏ̸̤̍ I sat at the table in Isaac’s yard. The finish was flaking away and the middle was sagging. A beautiful table, once built from ingenuity and raw materials…people made this table from nothing, and it’s growing all the more lovely as it decays back into nothing. Jimmy looked plump. Pink as a pig. He sat there explaining everything smug as you please, but Isaac just looked at him and returned the smile. Jimmy explained they’ll be here in three days. Men from the city. The 27th. Monday. They’re coming to knock the whole place down. Each shanty, one by one. They’ll have the coppers with them in case we try any funny stuff and Isaac just smiled and thanked him for the warning.
After Jimmy left, he told me we weren’t leaving. We’d be f̸̙̘͊̌ä̴̪͔̹̐r̴̤͂̆̉ from it. We’ll always be here.
9 suicides this week. Each one more glorious than the last. Patty Harbook put the claw of a hammer into her own eye in front of everyone as the crowds cheered her on. David Klien ate handfuls and handfuls of broken glass. They were doing it right in the middle of The Hooverville square. As the blood seeped like sap from his gums, he just ate more and more until his eyes went wide. He yacked it all back up in front of him. Little prisms of glass in the dirt, covered in a soup of blood from his stomach. Isaac gave him a rusty spoon and he et it all again and yacked it up again and et it all again and again. The crowd cheered more and more each time he swallowed. Finally his eyes closed and he slumped down to his knees and toppled over. It was glorious to see all of the weaker ones slump into the dirt for the greater good. From nothing, one day we shall all sag and collapse back into nothing. Melt ą̶̲̇̽͌w̴̲̌͌͠a̷͎͖̣̎͝y̷̹̩̎̒.
We are stronger each day that passes with less mouths to leach from our stores.
Isaac is doing a wonderful job of separating the chaff from the wheat.
He’s given most of us jobs, with pay. Can you believe that? Mine is very important indeed. In charge of doing something for him later tonight. Getting ready n̶̨̲̽o̸͎̱͗̽w̶̛̫̬̍̆. Will tell how i̴̝͐̈́t̶͚̊͘ turns out tomorrow.
June 25th, 1932
Little piggy went to sleep,
nestled in his satin sheets,
dreaming all his lovely dreams
while nightmares crept inside.
One little nightmare held a rope
and one hid razors in his overcoat.
The third little nightmare brought nothing
except for hungry l̵̢̖͑ő̴̙̥ǫ̸̼̉k̴͉̹̈́s̷̬̎̄ through bloodthirsty eyes.
Jimmy, Piggy a̷̦͛s̵̗͐ you scream,
T̸̩̆h̵̤͑o̴̖̊u̷̮̓g̷̻̉ĥ̷͎ this is just an awful dream
Soon as you will go back to sleep
The nightmare with the glare just wants to watch you die
and the nightmare with the rope just wants to choke away the life
and the nightmare with the razor wants to cut the lids all open wide.
The flies, ț̸͛ḩ̸͆e̷̢̓y̸̡̿’̶͎̌r̴̻̚é̶͔ waiting patiently.
For the moment that you slip away.
We’ve made a little place inside.
The first thing they’ll come ̸̛̬h̸͔͗ę̵̈ŕ̷̩e̷͙͐ ̷̥̽t̴̜̓ö̶͜ eat is your good-for-nothing eyes.
* This page was written in a shaky hand and is covered in the aged brown stains of what could only be blood. *
// Begin Transcribe of Data //
Subject: News Paper Clipping
Record Created: 23 March, 2001
Purpose: BFSH Historical Document Archive Project
Type: Scanned JPG image compiled as PDF, Primary Document
Date of Origin/Publication: 26 June, 1932
Location: Printed in The Salem Sun, Sunday Edition
As though these troubling times could get no worse, a rash of murders has swept through the heart of Salem and authorities are baffled and urging all to s̸̫̚t̷̩̊a̶͕͗y̸͈̐ sharp and vigilant.
“There’s no lead yet. He’s still out there. This won’t happen under my watch. We’ll find him.” Chief Anderson declared from the steps of the police house this morning, when asked for more details, he declined to comment except to note that it was the ‘most disgusting inhuman thing he ever…’
* The article is torn here and doesn’t continue. *
I don’t know who left the machine for me to recover. I think it might have been Brighter Futures themselves, though I can’t prove it. I’m just glad I remembered to make a backup. Some might forget, but I remember.
The day the computer disappeared, I started looking into the other stories that have been posted here about them and I’m beginning to wonder how deep this really goes? How long has it been going on? Forever?
There was more data in the archive but I can’t share that now. I’ve got to get out of here. I found something else in my search for information this morning that really spooked me, so I have to go. I’m packing to move out of here. By the time I post this, I’ll already be in hiding. Hopefully they never find me.