by Dr. Jeffrey Lant.
Author’s program note. It seems to me it started the day an enquiring officer in the Dutchess County Police Department called me to ask if I still had "the box". I knew, of course, which box he was interested in. It was the one arch murderer James Nichols had sent me, arriving just after his death; the box containing the key and directions to over $5 million in rare jewels, a magnificent trove with which this precise, punctilious executioner wanted to control me from beyond the grave.
If that was his goal… it worked, for once this story was published (jeffreylantarticles.com), instantly going viral, my life has not been my own; interrupted as it is by amateur sleuths everywhere and would-be heirs worldwide, who never thought much of Aunt Millie, never bothered to talk to her until she muttered something about a huge fortune hitherto unknown, handing them an unmarked key at the moment of her celestial elevation. Thus did her last joke lift her with posthumous glee, the time we most need it, for she had not left them a penny. She knew it, and so did I. Why didn’t her deluded kin? The secret to every confidence person’s success is that "they" never do.
More importantly my story also stimulated the police to contact me and see what I knew about Joanne Nichols’ nondescript life, gruesome death, and the confession her husband, the man who snuffed her, had written for and sent to me.
"You’re a great crime writer, Dr. Lant," the officer said. I told him I was thrilled to hear it, ecstatic to learn he and his colleagues benefited from my reconstruction of the biggest murder case ever to hit sleepy Poughkeepsie, startling its law-abiding citizens, the people who suppose nothing like murdering your wife and burying her in the basement (for over 20 years no less!) could happen in their well-ordered community where people tend their lawns in glacial silence and lead their lives of quiet desperation, without annoying odors, religious ardors, or exotic, spitting reptiles (which might so easily escape) in the sitting room.
But the things I know, have seen, and which give me the most lurid dreams at midnight can, in fact, take place on streets just as serene as mine… and yours. This story, every word God’s honest truth, proves that. I’m sharing it with you because in my (now) glass house I can’t get to sleep anymore without all the lights lit. It seems to help a little…
Another ordinary looking package.
I am by now not only the longest dwelling resident in this condominium complex of some 90 units just outside Harvard Square; I am also the most well known, even notorious, though many other authors have lived here. The environment, in fact, is thick with words, resonant conclusions, declarations ardently made, more ardently defended, and compelling language that can, from time to time, mimic my unique style, but never reaches, much less exceeds the lyric voice which is mine alone. I say this as a matter of fact, hubris having no part of this conclusion.
However, for whatever the reason, my neighbors are inquisitive to a degree. Because I never knowingly provide them with any actual facts beyond a carefully calibrated, restrained hello, their interest waxes, never wanes. And so I catch them in acts raising suspicion, acts of dubious propriety; like the one which delivered the first important evidence in this case.
The ornate, grandiose knocker rang out sharply against the thick vermillion door. Then rang out sharply again. I opened to find the building’s most incessant gossip, Minnie Stevens, who would later tell every eager ear, "It seemed like an ordinary package. Dr. Lant gets a lot of them, I can tell you." "Did you shake it, Minnie, or hold it up to the skylight in the corridor?" "Certainly not, I wouldn’t do that!" But of course she did. I saw her do it through the peep hole. One can only be a successful gossip, if one is an accomplished liar.She didn’t even look sheepish when I opened the door, no surprise at all. Superbe. "I saw this package for you, Dr. Lant." Even incorrigible Minnie wouldn’t have touched it if she’d known what was inside… neither would I…if only I had known…. My thanks were frigid, but correct. It is the only way to handle the canaille.
These days I have a system for the (too) many packages delivered to me. Upon arrival they are scrutinized for all details, all such being entered in a computer log. Anything suspicious is turned over to police who are always very interested in what is happening chez moi. Like I said, I am the man who lives in the glass house, or in my case, castle.
In this matter, there were three important pieces of evidence: the (inevitable) letter to me from the sender, a pair of spectacles, and what proved to be the music from a tune written and produced in 2013 by a group named Linkin Park. Its name, "Castle of Glass". If you are over 45, say, you have heard of neither which is the truest of signs that you are getting older, older. But I was now intrigued…
I like to see all the evidence at one glance. Thus, I make frequent use of my 1900 pounds of aurora quartzite counter tops. They cost the Earth for this stone is breathtaking and rare, the result of an unknown (to me) number of things that Nature must do absolutely right to produce it. It is here that I stand to examine just what people think important enough to share with me, most times to be told that what they have presented is of the most narrow and picayune interest, not worth my time. But this was most assuredly not the case here.
Dear Dr. Lant, Prince of Tornavan.
I feel sure, knowing you as I do, that this letter will elicit the greatest possible attention from you, for yes I know you, though you would never identify me even if we sat next to each other at the cinema, although I know you have not been to one in years. You may well wonder, then, where my detailed and accurate information about you comes from. In a word, from you yourself.
Many years ago now, I was assigned by my Master to analyze your every word, every sentence, every page you ever wrote, from articles, from books. You will wonder why this scrupulous attention was given to your every utterance, work, thought, but first I wish to tell you, as one keen and diligent researcher to another, how thorough my work has been. I am just the kind of student you have always wanted and never (by your own admission) had, one of the greatest disappointments of your illustrious life.
The Master’s interest in you began when He (for all things originate with The Master) read one of the many articles you have written which takes a familiar saying or long-time belief and rips it to shreds, replacing it with a higher verity and greater insight into the human condition. I don’t mind telling you that these articles and their bold, audacious and witty conclusions are highly prized in our land where you are regarded as a true savant. But enough flattery…
In one particular article you savaged the idea, "You can’t take it with you." You asserted (and rightly so) that what makes homo sapiens sapient is not the possessions they must leave behind at their passing, but the little gray cells in their billions which each of the newly deceased takes with them to the grave or crematorium, in each case assuredly taking with them that which made them human… and could still be used by the living, if and only if, they could discover a way to preserve this, the true wealth and touchstone of your species.
Stimulated by your essential insight, so characteristic of your work, The Master, whom all venerate and obey, appointed a team of our most rigorous scientists to ascertain how we might profit from your brilliant deduction and so recover for our high labors a veritably unlimited source of unused brain cells. I feel sure, Prince, (for we honor your ancient nobility) you are now entirely caught up in my tale.
I shall not bore you with the elegant work of this commission of renowned scientists. I know you call the hard sciences hard indeed, and I believe I am correct in saying you have neither the aptitude for or the interest in the recondite details of such disciplines. Thus, I shall focus instead on the conclusions and recommendations from the commission. These after all will have the greatest impact on you and your species.
It was unanimously concluded that the cells carried by the dead have a limited shelf life and that a better way must be found for gathering living cells than doing so from the moment of death, though until this superior way be found and fully implemented it might be used.
After much discussion and research on cells taken from humans dead at various intervals and those still very much alive (including yours truly) it was decided harvesting cells must be done exclusively from living humans, but how? The clever work of The Master’s scientific servants give ample proof as to why in the end The Master must prevail, Holy Be His Name.
Now take the spectacles in the box and follow along as I reveal to you the most profound development in the entire history of "your" planet and species, for it is not too much to say the new regime is nigh and that all life is on the threshold of a glorious future.
With consummate skill and astonishing precision, we created within the design of a pair of spectacles the means to rule Earth without a gun fired, a chemical weapon launched or any bomb at all. These are the clumsy manifestations of your species, dear Doctor Lant. We want the Earth intact, not a miserable shambles. Thus, as you must surely see, what we are about is for your benefit as well as The Master’s, whom all celebrate. It is now my distinct and historic privilege to give you the tour, sparring you the brilliant science which produced it and focusing solely on results; just the way you like.
As you see from the sample spectacles in the box, the temple on your eye glasses is linked to the hinge via a screw. This screw, once twisted, gives entry to the most advanced mining activity, advanced even beyond imagination. What is being mined, of course, are the hitherto wasted human brain sells in their trillions, the most valuable thing on Earth, a thing beyond riches, but which your species has been unable to harvest, a triumph left for the All-Highest Master, in whose greatness the future resides.
But now the piece de resistance, for the acme of this achievement is demonstrated not so much by how the cells are accessed, harvested, and transported to our astonishing storage, research and development facilities, but how we have used your species itself to assist our advance without, until now, any one being the wiser…. How was this done? How was this great organizing deed so expertly accomplished? You, honored sir, will be glad to learn… for this magnificent development owes everything to one of your great articles at jeffreylantarticles.com, specifically to your splendid article on the power of free offers. Even The Master, humble despite his omniscience, insisted upon your recognition.
Using the power of the Internet, we offered FREE spectacles to the world, and the greedy, bargain-hunting, "something for nothing" everyday folks of Planet Earth responded. And so something as simple and motivating became the proven method of The Master’s conquest, for once the customer put on the spectacles, the harvesting process began and continued. Needless to say a certificate was included in case replacement was needed. There was also a special free gift if you turned a friend on to this amazing free offer. Again, dear Dr. Lant, we thank you for the necessary insight which has thus changed the world.
Now, at The Master’s express command and as a token of His grateful appreciation, He wishes you to glimpse the profound and certain consequences of this awe-inspiring development. We are at work now on cures for every disease, at the solution to every medical conundrum which your kind has failed to solve, the total eradication of every pain, every infirmity, every imperfection in the species. Pure, perfect and eternal health will be the first boon to your species and its newly perfect and everlasting salubrious environment.
But there is more, much more; (you see your marketing expertise here, sir) for from what homo sapiens, your quarreling, bellicose, unwilling to work together and stop killing each other species, throw away we will build nothing less than perfection.
Of course, there will be opposition from some. People being people are short-sighted, lazy, preferring the filth and pronounced limitations of their own kind to any advance. These will be eradicated, as quickly, completely, efficiently, and humanely as possible. Their "rights" are as nothing to the greater good their insulting presence obstructs. The Master’s Proposal
Now, honored sir, the reason I am writing you, for you have been selected by The Master not merely to write History, but to make it. You are herewith invited to write the declaration to the human race to lay down their futile, continuous, destructive, and altogether self-defeating, pointless, and ineffectual battles and to adhere to The Master and His unalloyed benevolence.
You, master yourself of the lyric words, the power of words in every fiber of your being, have but to undertake this transformational assignment for the world to take notice. And so, on behalf of struggling humanity which has only to abjure its negligent and futile ways, only give up its long outmoded and impossible "freedom", "liberty", "self-government, thus to grasp its greater future as subjects of The Master, I deliver this missive. Do you accept your glorious task and future, whilst always remembering that he who does not acknowledge The Master stands against Him and will find punishment swift, total, complete, unavailing, exquisite, excruciating. We anticipate your immediate acquiescence and acceptance.
The last thing in the box.
I was now on the horns of the greatest dilemma of my life, either to accept The Master’s invitation, thereafter to live a privileged life in the new order, or to fight to retain humanity in its imperfections. It was Hobson’s Choice indeed and much more than my own precious life depended on what I did. While I struggled, I heard Minnie Steven’s voice outside my door, "Look," she was saying. "My free glasses just arrived. Yes, free! How do I look? Would you like me to get you a free pair? They’ve given me lots of free coupons and entered me in a contest with over 100 million dollars in prizes." And so it began…
"Castle of glass."
I sank under the burden of the decision I must reach, and as I deliberated the deadline came nearer and nearer still. The options were clear; my mind was not. Then I remembered the third thing in the box and snatched it up avidly hoping it would help. There it was… a DVD recording of "Castle of Glass" by Linkin Park with the lyrics printed. It was marked "For immediate action". (Author’s note: if you don’t happen to have this historic recording, go to any search engine now and listen to it carefully.)
Its music was soaring, bombastic, apocalyptic, challenging; the words at once lyric, haunting, cryptic as poems so often are.
"Take me down to the river bend/Take me down to the fighting end/ Wash the poison from off my skin/ Show me how to be whole again…/ Cause I’m only a crack in this castle of glass/ Hardly anything there for you to see…."
Then these words marked in red,
Bring me home in a blinding dream/ Through the secrets that I have seen"
and in the smallest possible handwriting just one word, "Nemo". Perplexing. Confusing. Deeply frustrating as even the clearest of puzzles can be. Then… eurika, I began to unravel this high secret.
Nemo was the name taken by Odysseus after he blinded Polyphemus, Poseidon’s son. It means "no one"… and the entire future of the human race now depended on how I interpreted this single word which came out of nowhere like a message in a bottle. And it must be done at once, to meet The Master’s adamant deadline, for he is quite obviously a stickler for no-nonsense obedience.
Thus I worked through the night, one clue after another laboriously identified until I knew. The words in red were a warning from a friend, perhaps a friend already exquisitely exterminated. What he was saying was that The Master, spectacles his preeminent symbol, was blind, a man who did not see, either figuratively or actually blind, either way unseeing.
And so as the sun rose on the day of destiny, I faced my two choices — comfort and honor from The Master and his growing number of followers or total convulsion, possible, even likely capture, torment and horrid death, no honor at all… and I knew what I must do, what I must say…
"Fellow Earth travelers, I write to you at a moment of infinite peril for our species… your immediate action is required…."
The words flowed hard and fast until I at last finished. The knock on the door was insistent. It was Minnie Stevens and she virtually shouted her message, "The Master has come for your answer, Dr. Lant. The Master has come."
About the Author
Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is the author of over a dozen print books, several ebooks and over one thousand online articles. Republished with author’s permission by Centra Lambert http://EarnAtHomeExperts.com.