The Torus Project

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 26 (v.1)

Submitted: February 15, 2011

Reads: 51

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Submitted: February 15, 2011

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Chapter 26
7 p.m., Monday
Montor Hall Auditorium was about half-full for Dr. Kevill’s lecture. Wearing a nice, cotton shirt and his best pair of jeans, Brian had showed up a bit late to ensure his professor didn’t notice him coming in; he also wanted to be certain Kevill’s accomplices, Daka and Dr. Uhland, were nowhere to be seen either. Carol had been nice enough to watch Wilson for a few hours while Brian did his business since Jackie was still working at the gym.
“You be careful,” she said with what Brian saw as true caring.
“Don’t worry. I’ll use my military training.” He had winked and given her a little smile.
Brian snuck into the low-lit room and sat in the back. He soon recognized a number of students in the chamber, which had the capacity for approximately 500 people, he supposed, and possessed a stage fit with podium, microphone, and huge screen for multi-media presentations.
Just as Brian sat down, the psychology chair was addressing the audience. 
“Welcome, ladies and gentlemen. Thanks for attending. Tonight, as part of a yearlong lecture series on topics of interest in psychology, we present an intriguing subject that all of us in the field have at one time pondered. Biology and belief. We all have discussed the problem of how much biology influences behavior and how much behavior is influenced by social factors, such as parenting. 
“Tonight, Professor Andrew Kevill, who specializes in cognitive psychology, will speak about the human brain, how it evolved and how it continues to evolve in our modern times. Doctor Kevill?”
Brian got goose bumps at the sight of his professor, who stood up from the first row and walked across the stage to the podium. Brian saw a middle-aged man, ponytail tied close behind his back, nice pants, shirt, tie, and a dress coat. Part of him wanted to yell out, “What about the people you are infecting?” or “Where are you keeping Amber Hays?” But he kept silent and soon found himself drawn into Kevill’s charismatic speaking style like he had been so many times during class lectures.“Look past your lipstick and nice, new haircut, folks,” Kevill began, making instant eye contact with those around the room. “Focus more deeply than body shape and the clothes you wear. Acknowledge that power within you. Your own mind.
“For millions of years, your mind, our minds, have evolved. From primitive reptilian creatures stirring around in the muck to the present, we have depended most strongly on one piece of apparatus to secure our futures, our destiny. Our minds.
“It weighs only about three pounds, but the information packed inside this supreme evolutionary machine is astounding! Thoughts and emotions, instinct and learned behavior, all swirl about a mass so fragile yet placed on top, where it belongs.” He paused and let the introduction to his speech set in. The lights dimmed a little, and Brian could see Kevill holding a small black device in his left hand. The scene sent a small panic through him. He couldn’t infect a whole room of people at the same time, could he?
Kevill raised his hand and pressed a button. Brian started to get up and run out the room, but a computer animation showed on the huge projector screen, and he sat back down with a sigh of relief. I’ve got to get a hold of myself, he thought.
“The brain of a chimpanzee,” said Kevill, “built for primary functions—food acquisition, sexual reproduction, the social unit.” He pressed his button again.
“The brain of a modern human. Larger, more complex. Replete with a frontal lobe and the ability for abstract thought, language, and sex for the sheer pleasure of sex.” He smiled.
That comment brought a few chuckles from his audience. A new slide popped up with chimp brain and human brain side by side.
“So what’s the difference?” Kevill continued. “Yes, we have come a long way as hominids, traipsing now along on two legs, reaching toward the stars with our thoughts. But you have to remember, folks, that our brains are still creations built those many years ago when times were so much different than they are now. Thus, the way our brains were formed still influences how we operate, how we function in the modern world.”
The computer projection now showed a series of group shots of people, each shot showing different ethnic types.
“So social we are. Just as our ancestors those many millions of years ago. Just as the chimp still is today. We depend upon the family unit for emotional needs; we form close bonds for the survival of the next generation and a healthy outlook on life.
“But modern times differ a good deal from the African lands of our ancestors. We are bombarded now with reams and reams of information. No longer can we simply eat, have sex, and die. Our lives now, and the lives of our minds, adapt to ever-growing changes in technology and how we fit in our environment.”
He brought up a picture of space and a star field.
“How we fit in our environment. Millions of years ago, when our brains first formed, our ancestors could only be concerned about their proximate social group and its immediate health. We are the same today, of course, in caring for those close to us, but research points more and more toward the prominence of belief in our lives, abstract beliefs—able to reach great complexity through abstract thought—that shape how we perceive not only ourselves but what encompasses this thing we call self.
“What is the world around us?” he asked the audience and moved in front of the podium. “To that we look to physics and chemistry . . . and biology.”
Brian thought about his recent research into the make-up of the universe, both small and large. But he also remembered a previous lecture by Kevill, one given not a few weeks ago during his last class. During that time, Kevill had also called the brain a three-pound universe and had asked his students over the summer to think about their beliefs and where those beliefs came from. That assignment seemed months ago and had taken on so much more significance in light of recent events in his life.“Nurture or nature, eh?” A shot of baby and its mother hit the big screen. “The age-old debate. Or, as many of you have deduced, not a debate really at all. ‘Both’, you say, and I’d have to agree.
“Nature contains our inborn abilities to perceive, to think, to remember. Nurture then provokes these abilities, installing modern life on ancient plumbing. The interplay is of a composite whole, each part necessary for the survival of the other.
“And, you say, what does this have to do with biology and belief, the topic of my lecture? Everything, my friends. Everything. Belief is shaped by the inherent biological system of our brains. We may learn certain perceptions of the world from our parents and our teachers, but those perceptions follow intrinsic pathways, pathways carved out over eons of evolution.
“That is why beliefs are so stubborn and often so baffling to many. It’s like you press a mold in belief, and once that mold is made, it’s broken. The brain and its pathways work the same—once a perception takes hold and forms a belief, especially early on as a child, the biology of our brains takes over and melds that belief into itself as a part of the whole. And if you go in there and try to change a long-held belief, it can be painful indeed.”
Is that what you’re doing, Doctor Kevill, trying to change people’s beliefs? Physically change beliefs?
Kevill went on to cite some studies into early childhood trauma and how it affected brain chemistry. He also cited studies regarding religion and the biology of the brain, going into some length about the loss of abstract thought when certain, worldview beliefs took over the “chemical framework of the whole brain,” as he said, compared to other worldviews that encouraged changes in beliefs by their very flexibility and basic tenants that the brain was a part of the large whole, inexorably connected to everything around itself.
Kevill stood again in front of the stage, fixating everyone’s attention. “In conclusion, my friends, I encourage all of you to be open. Be open to this mystery of life and the way your brain mixes with everything around. Good night!”
With that Kevill ended his lecture, the lights rose, and people clapped. Brian quickly exited the room, not wanting to be seen, and made his way to a spot outside the main doors where he could monitor Kevill’s movement without himself being too conspicuous.
“The whole brain,” he whispered to himself as he waited out the psychology chair’s closing comments and the tedious minutes of people assuredly wanting to shake Kevill’s hand and talk to him. “The whole universe.” For his part, Brian’s head hurt from the amount of information he had taken in this day, but he pinched himself to stay sharp. If he was right, his brainy professor would soon lead him to Amber and, hopefully, the beginning of the end to this nightmare that had taken over his life.
Kevill could soon be seen exiting the auditorium. He still talked to a small group of well-wishers, so Brian waited in his dark corner for another twenty minutes before the discussions wound to an end. 
At last, Kevill broke apart on his own, heading for the nearest parking lot. Thankfully, no Josh or Daka or Mike appeared as escort for their master. Brian could see him talking on his cell. He followed at a distance and noted Kevill’s car, a shiny black Jaguar. How does a mere professor afford that? he thought. Kevill entered and left the lot, which prompted Brian to quickly access his own car about 100 meters away and hope to catch the professor before he lost him.
Though almost dark, Brian spotted the car ahead, stuck at a light. He nosed his own car carefully behind. “I’ve got you now,” he murmured to himself. “Show me where you live.”
The chase wasn’t high speed or, really, a chase at all. Kevill, full of himself after a successful lecture, blared jazz music inside the car on his way home. Window open, he whistled and tapped his hands on the leather wheel, thinking, Brian guessed, how great it was to be alive.
But Brian followed, intently, and, eventually, Kevill led the student to his lair. He goosed the Jaguar up the drive and disappeared into the woods. Brian, headlights off, came to a stop at the mailbox. A bit out here, aren’t you? he thought and coasted the car for another 200 meters or so before parking it off the side of the deserted road. He got out, backtracked to the drive, and carefully began the trek to what he hoped to be Kevill’s house and some answers.
 
#
 
“Too bad you missed it, dear,” said Kevill, bouncing in and pouring himself a glass of wine. Madalene, now dressed in a purple, silk evening gown, reclined on the living room sofa, reading a book.
“It went well? I wish so much that I could have gone.”“Oh, quite well. Quite well indeed.” He planted himself on the soft couch with a thump that disturbed Madalene’s easy pose. “That will get them thinking.”
She tossed down her book. “What do you mean?”
“Oh, you know. I threw them the whole ‘brain is a universe’ idea.”
“Which is?” Madalene’s voice sounded strained.
“Which is everything our project is about, my dear! We plant ideas in minds, ideas about the universe, so that, in turn, people will work in unison toward the next step in our evolution!” Kevill unwound his ponytail and allowed the charcoal-gray hair to stream freely about his shoulders.
“Oh” was all Madalene said.
Kevill sighed deeply and got up from the couch. “Oh, never mind. I’m sorry I disturbed you . . . How’s our patient doing?” He motioned with his head toward the guest bedroom.
“Fine, I guess. I brought her some dinner earlier, but she was asleep.”
“Okay. I think I’ll go check on her then.”
“You do that,” said Madalene.
Kevill turned and stared at her. “Is there anything wrong I should know about?”
“No. Why?” Madalene had quickly curled her legs back up and began reading her book, ignoring her lover.
“Oh, nothing.” Kevill blinked and turned to look in on his adopted daughter. He noticed a light under the door and knocked. 
“Amber. You awake?” No answer. “Amber?” He unlocked the door with care and peeped inside. Amber’s shape lay under the covers, the bedside lamp on and, with a half-eaten plate of food and an empty glass of water, a book open beside it. Kevill knew that Madalene had provided more than dinner that night. One of her books, by the looks of it, he thought.
His captive stirred a little. “Who’s there?” she murmured.
“Just your friend, Andrew, making sure my prize was doing all right.”
Amber got up on an elbow and rubbed her eyes with a free hand, looking disoriented. “What time is it?”
“About nine-thirty.”
“Oh.”
“Need anything?”
She looked at her glass and back at Kevill. “Maybe some more water,” she said in a sleepy tone.
“Sure.” He approached the bed and took up the glass. Amber avoided his stare at such close quarters and drew back when Kevill attempted to stroke her brown hair. “Oh, Amber. You could be my own daughter. I want the best for you, really I do.”
Her eyes came across angry. “Then why do you treat me like this?” she spat at him.
“To make you fully understand, my dear. Only to help you.”
She only grunted at the response.
“Soon your brain will be up to full speed once again, and you will see . . . you will see.” He made to touch her again but thought better of it. “I’ll get your water.”
 
#
 
Amber heard the lock click but hardly cared. She felt so weak, tired. Whatever they were giving her kept her pretty much confined to bed. How long have I been here? A couple of days? Too, her head felt different, like they were indeed making changes to the machines inside. Her dreams had been flooded with strange images and feelings of herself becoming enlarged, shrinking, both big and small at the same time. The effects left her confused and searching, as she had been searching, it seemed, since the death of her father, for identity. Who am I anyway?
A soft knock at the window.
Amber drew back and blinked her eyes. A tree branch? A bug? Another knock, this one in rhythm and more persistent. She blinked again to clear her foggy sight and stared in the window’s direction. Someone was out there. Someone wanted to get in.
 
#
 
Brian had made his way up to Kevill’s house easily. Though fairly long, the rustic drive provided a clear path in the now-moonlit night for him to follow. He saw the black Jaguar parked beside another car in an open garage, this car more compact, a hybrid probably, he thought.
The house itself wasn’t huge, but its wood and brick exterior showed taste. Trees grew all around the structure, and Brian guessed that if the back yard was half as big as the front, Kevill possessed a nice chunk of land. A front porch light was on, but it didn’t shine too brightly, only enough for visitors to make their way from drive to door. He noticed a two-seater swing in the yard and a rather nice panoply of flowers dotting a garden beside the door toward the garage area.
Two windows faced the main road in which he had come from, neither showing life. Brian rounded the house’s far corner, careful to avoid the porch light and the trees in the darkness. There, one window faced a greater thicket of trees, with about ten meters between house and adjoining forest. The window had some light showing, so he made his way to it, ever wary of noises, and ventured to peek inside.
Amber! His heart leapt inside his chest. Yes, it was Amber all right. He had located his goal. She looked sleepy and wore light pajamas, a matching short-sleeved top and bottom. Brian saw her rub her eyes and sit up in bed. He lightly knocked on the glass pane.
She jumped and looked his way, again rubbing her eyes. He knocked again, this time more forcefully. Amber blinked rapidly and got up. As soon as she recognized Brian, he saw her face light up in surprise. She looked back toward her bedroom door and then at Brian through the window.
“I can’t open it,” she mouthed, shaking her head. Brian noticed how tired she looked, how woozily she moved.
“Are you okay?” he mouthed back.
Still smiling, a weak, sickly smile, Amber nodded “yes”. In his anger at seeing her like this, Brian absolutely knew he must get in there and rescue her. Seeing her also brought an onrush of practical giddiness on his part. His stomach tingled; he felt lighter and more powerful. Brian didn’t see himself just opening the garage door to the house, though, waltzing past Kevill and whoever might be inside, grabbing Amber, and leaving. He knew he had to break the glass and quick, before they knew what had hit them.
He looked around, frantically searching for something that would shatter the glass. He even thought about flinging his own body against the structure but knew the attempt might prove painful . . . and bloody.
Amber again looked back toward the door inside and quivered both outstretched hands in front of her, this time mouthing “Wait! Wait!”
Brian raised his eyebrows just in time to see the bedroom door open and Kevill walk in with what looked to be a glass of water. Brian quickly ducked to the side and out of sight.
 
#
 
“Here you go,” Kevill said, offering Amber the glass. “Doing a little window shopping, are we?”
“Just . . . ah . . . trying to see the moon. I miss the outdoors,” she said and took the drink, sinking back in bed. “Thanks.”
Kevill picked up the book Madalene had loaned her. “Seems like Madie is providing you with more than just her famous Mexican cuisine, eh? Indigenous Religions, huh? She always had a penchant for the old ways, the supernatural, the mixed up beliefs of cultures from a different time.”
Amber just covered herself and replied, “Things can be said of the ‘old ways’.”
“Deluded thinking. Outdated and misguided.” Kevill dropped the book with a thump. “For all her allure and charm, I could never wean Madie off steadfast beliefs in her people and their simple structures. Hah! Just like I spoke about tonight, my dear. You should have been there. Yes, quite a speech. Biology and belief.”
“I’m sure,” Amber mumbled then yawned. “Tired. Do you mind?”
“No, no. I’ll leave you to your archaic readings and your moon watching.” He nodded toward the large window. “In a day or so, Amber, you’ll be up to speed. On your way to making our Torus dreams a reality. Good night.”
“’Night.”
Kevill left and locked the door behind him. He walked briskly past Madalene, still perched on the couch, and went to the kitchen, where he had left his cell.
“Everything all right, dear?” she asked.
“Oh, just dandy. Just dandy,” he said, pressing a button on his cell.
“Josh?”
His assistant’s face popped up on the mini-screen. “Yes, sir?”
“Daka still there?” 
“I think so,” Josh said with a distasteful look on his face and coughed. “Made him step out to smoke.”
“Oh, good. Got his cell on him, I suppose?”
“Should. Problem?”
“Oh, just a little pest popping up. I’ll fill you in momentarily. Kevill out.”
He pressed another button to fetch Daka, who answered on the second ring. Indeed, he looked to be outside, smoke tendrils outlining his profile.
“Daka. I think you need to come over here. Our Brian Minor is making an unannounced visit as we speak.”
“Yes. Should I bring anything?”
“No, no inoculant, if that’s what you mean. Just your beautiful, strong hands should do the trick against that boy. And make it quick.”
“Right.”
“Kevill out.”


© Copyright 2019 jconkin. All rights reserved.

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