“Excerpts of Classified Data Recovered in the Aftermath of Project Lethe” by Albert Berg

Excerpt by Albert Berg



From: Director █████

To: Project Lethe Team Members



Good news everyone! Agent 614 has finally been approved for human trials. This is a huge milestone for us, and we’d never have gotten so far so fast without each and every one of you giving it your all.

This next phase is a new and exciting chapter in our research, and I’m excited to see the great things I know we can accomplish.

A word of caution: for obvious reasons the men who have volunteered for this trial are all exceptionally dangerous criminals, but I do not want to hear any word of them being treated with anything less than respect and professionalism. These are still human beings we’re dealing with here. I believe that one day history will examine our actions closely, and while many might disagree with the morality of what we do here, let them never have reason to question our humanity.



Trial Report

Subject 196307



Agent 614 was administered to Subject during the period that stretched from 9:13 to 14:57. At 12:37 Subject began to show signs of agitation and discomfort. At 13:20 Subject made reference to a third person in the room, standing in the corner. Sedatives were administered, but the subject continued to insist there was someone else in the room. At 14:58 Subject broke free of his restraints and repeatedly smashed his head against the floor, resulting in a severe concussion before he could be restrained.

Subject was removed to critical care and heavily sedated to stop him from harming himself further.


Partial Transcript of Trial

Subject: You can’t see him?

███ ██████: See Who?

Subject: Don’t play games with me!

███ ██████: Who do you see?

Subject: He’s just standing there looking at me. He knows! He ███████ knows!

███ ██████: It’s just-

Subject: He’s just standing there, looking at me, and his eyes are all wrong, his face is all wrong. He-

███ ██████: He what?

Subject: He doesn’t like us talking about him Doc.



From: Alton █████, Director of Biochemical Research for Project Lethe

To: The Members of Project Lethe



My inbox is filling up with half a dozen people asking the same question, and the answer to all of them is, I don’t know.

I don’t know how we missed the hallucinogenic properties of the Agent.

I don’t know how those properties work exactly. It’s not any biochemical process that I’m aware of, but we’re in some uncharted waters here. I’m working with the guys down in memetic imaging to figure out if this is maybe a problem on their end, but all the tests are coming back negative.

I don’t know why none of this showed up in our animal testing before the start of human testing.

I don’t know if it’ll happen again.

All we can do is tweak the process and see if it makes a difference.


Trial Report

Subject 615428



Subject was administered Agent 614b during a period which stretched from 8:12 to 13:42. Subject began to giggle at 11:11. The laughter intensified over the course of the following hours, until the subject had to be restrained in order to finish administering the treatment. Upon completion of the test, subject’s laughter gradually ceased.


Post-op Interview with Subject 615428


████ ███████: How do you feel?

Subject: Like a million bucks! I thought you guys were kind of kooky, but if that’s what we’re going to be doing every time, sign me up!

████ ███████: Would you mind telling me why you were laughing?

Subject: Oh, don’t be silly. You know.

████ ███████: I’m sorry, I’m afraid I don’t.

Subject: Don’t act like you couldn’t see them.

████ ███████: I’m sorry, see who?

Subject: I mean what they were doing to that kid! And he couldn’t die! He just couldn’t die!




From: Georgia █████ Director of Memetic Sciences

To: Project Lethe Team Members



It’s not us, okay? I just want to be perfectly clear about this. All of these weird results we’re getting have got to be from Alton’s end. The informational aspect of the Agent is perfectly safe on its own, and we’ve had good results with memory modification on animal AND human subjects.

So don’t go bothering the members of my team with your hack theories. We created a whole new field of science and you textbook engineer types think you know best? Stop patronizing us.

And whoever it is that keeps trying to scare us in that stupid mask, cut it out. This is a professional work place and it isn’t funny.




From: Alton █████

To: Georgia █████



Hey, simmer down, okay. Nobody in my department is trying to place any blame on any particular group. We’re just in the dark about how the Agent is causing these anamoulous effects. Suppressing memory and harmful personality traits? Nobody else in the field is within a mile of what we’re doing here. And the more I look into it, the more I believe that we’re closer than we think. I know you’re doing incredible work down there and I respect that completely.

Also, not sure about the guy in the mask. We got the same thing up here and thought he was one of your people. I asked all the guys and gals on my team, and none of them fessed up to it, but given the current climate I’m not sure they would anyway. Also possible it’s one of the drones from admin just trying to blow off steam.



Trial Report

Subject 481097



Subject was administered Agent 614c during the period from 12:43 to 16:05. At 13:06 subject began to weep uncontrollably, repeatedly saying he was sorry. As per Protocol 478 the Agent was administered with no personnel present in the room, but at 16:09 subject’s eyes began tracking back and forth as if something were moving in front of him. Subject’s signs of distress continued throughout the test and into the post-op phase.

Despite this, subject showed increased responsiveness to the Agent over previous tests stating that he had no recollection of [DATA EXPUNGED] or the subsequent period. However subject’s distress continued well beyond the time during which the Agent was administered.


Post-op interview: Subject 481097


███████ ██████: What can you tell me about your sister?

Subject: I’m sorry? I think you must have me mixed up with someone else.

███████ ██████: You’re name is ████ █████, yes?

Subject: Yes, but I never had a sister.

███████ ██████: Okay, I must have had that wrong.

Subject: I’m not going to have to do that again, am I? I mean, I know I signed the papers and all, but I’d just like to know.

███████ ██████: Did the experience make you uncomfortable?

Subject: [looks nervous, but doesn’t answer]

███████ ██████: Was it unpleasant for you? You seemed to be distressed for much of the time.

Subject: This is a trick isn’t it?

███████ ██████: I’m sorry? What trick?

Subject: No, I’m not going to fall for it. They said not to talk about it. They said- [subject goes rigid and stops speaking. Despite several more questions and being administered a sedative subject refuses to speak. Though after the interview was concluded and recording equipment turned off subject reportedly turned to ███████ ██████ and said, “This is on you. All of it.”]


Incident Report 12/11/2008


At approximately 2:17 Subject 481097 escaped from holding via unknown means. During this time video surveillance had been knocked offline due to an unspecified technical glitch. An immediate search of the area turned up nothing. None of the guards questioned had left their posts, and the door to subject’s cell did not appear to be tampered with in any way. The investigation into this incident is ongoing.


Incident Report 12/14/2008


The body of Subject 481097 was found at 6:54, tied to the bars of his cell. All of subject’s skin had been removed and all the fingers of his left hand had [REDACTED]. Written on the wall of the cell in subject’s own blood were the words, “DON’T LOOK.” Investigation into this incident is ongoing.



From: Director █████

To: Members of Project Lethe



I’m shaken. I think all of us are. After what we’ve seen, I’d like to be able to tell all of you that you’ve been granted a few weeks of well-deserved leave. Unfortunately I’m forced to say exactly the opposite. After the incident involving Subject 481097 [REDACTED] has placed our facility on lock-down.

There’s nothing I can do. There is an armed man outside my office door even now, and several dozen more scattered throughout the facility, and I have been assured that anyone attempting to escape or contact the outside world will be executed.

Our only hope of escape is to finish Project Lethe. I want to get out of here as much as any of you. I want to kiss my wife again. I want to tuck my children into bed and read them Frog and Toad before they go to sleep. So let’s pull together and make this work.

With any luck we can use the Agent to wipe our memories that any of this ever happened.



From: Georgia █████

To: Alton █████


I think I have the answer. I think I know where we went wrong.

There’s nothing wrong with the Agent. It works. It works too well.

The masked man has his hand on my shoulder. Why doesn’t the guard see him?

What is under the mask?


Incident Report



Georgia █████ was found dead in the memetic manipulation lab of self-inflicted wounds. From surveillance footage it appears that she attempted to administer the Agent to herself, however only a few minutes into the process she disengaged herself from the apparatus and became distraught.

She wrote something on a pad before breaking a compact disc into pieces and using one of the shards to open the veins in her wrists.

The retrieved message read, “They’re not going to let us leave. Not after we’ve seen [REDACTED].”




From: Alton █████

To: [unspecified]



I figured it out, Georgia. Not as fast as you did though. In the end, I guess you were smarter than me.

The Agent works. It suppresses memories. But it also suppresses something else.

Like an antibiotic. Or chemotherapy. It takes out the good with the bad.

Our body has an immune system to protect us from disease. You wipe that out and things that you never even knew existed will kill you.

What I figured out, what you figured out first, maybe because you were closer to it, is that our mind has an immune system of sorts too. It’s what’s helped us rise to the top of the food chain. Because it wouldn’t let us see them. They’re here. They’ve always been here. But we couldn’t see them. Maybe we did on some level. Maybe when we sat alone in a room and still felt like something was watching us, maybe we were catching a whiff of their existence.

Maybe when people disappear without warning it’s them that take them.

Maybe I’m just crazy.

The masked man has his hand on my shoulder.

It isn’t a mask.

They don’t like it when you look at






Be sure to vote for your favorite story here!

Albert Berg was born in the swamps of Florida and quickly developed a gripping writing style by wrestling with crocodiles. It is said that he hypnotized five gators in a row by the age of nine with his melodic prose and infinite imagination. Albert is a true menace in the arena because of a steadfast ability to remain true to his roots of thoughtful contemplation despite the hurricanes that pass all through his state. You never know what you will get from Albert, be it sentient paper products or religious squirrels, but you do know that behind the flash there will be a well thought out story that will make you reflect on your own life.  Albert is the author of The Mulch Pile and A Prairie Home Apocalypse or: What the Dog Saw.

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    • Now for an actual response/critique of this story. I like it. A lot. Even if the idea of things that are always around that don’t want to be seen is straight out of a Doctor Who episode (which wouldn’t seem so serious if the episode hadn’t aired only a few weeks ago), this story took the concept even further by introducing the idea of an “immune system” affecting our perception. I’m fascinated by the idea of drugs actually changing our experience of reality, rather than just distorting it. The format of writing was also a very effective method of delivery, only showing some of the things that you would see if you were investigating the events of the story after the fact, rather than actually having us present with the characters. The only downside to this is that it leaves us so far removed from the personalities in the story that we don’t have any reason to sympathize with them beyond their basic humanity.

      Regardless, this is another fantastic story from Mr. Berg.

  2. I am a sucker for this format of story. The many hours spent trawling the SCP Foundation and my own attempts to use this sort of form are evidence enough. Bram Stoker liked it too, since a lot of Dracula is presented as a series of documents passed between the various characters.

    It works here because of the central idea: anyone writing these documents has, in all likelyhood, been exposed to the substance and is either experiencing a less distorted reality or experiencing a much more distorted one. We have no way to tell.

    This is at once perfect and maddening. Albert throws us no bones, gives us no clues, and you have to applaud him for that. This doesn’t just nail the brief, it walks the brief down the aisle and makes an honest writing prompt of it there and then.

  3. My, what a horrifying little tale. I, too, am a sucker for a good “found document” format; I love the notion that I’m reading the transcript of something that actually happened, especially something this terrifying. I can see how some might find the very nature of the formatting somewhat impartial, and how it might not appeal to them. For me, however, that makes it feel all the more realistic. The plot itself was gripping, and the exposition was delivered in a smooth way. We learned just enough. And, of course, I’ve always been a sucker for a mid-sentence ending.

  4. Al, I know you aren’t terribly confident in this story but I thought it was fantastic. I love how experimental you get with your work in the Arena. You are really using it to grow your skills. Can’t wait for next month.

  5. Pingback: TWA #19 – JUDGEMENT! - The Writer's Arena

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