Dear Diary… you, who so well know the nature of my soul, may be shocked at the events I am about to relate…
Emerson Lighthouse paused, unwilling to continue writing. He absently regarded the white paint staining his hands, recalling pieces of the conversation in which he had found himself earlier today…
“So what is this supposed to be anyway… a clock?”
“Of course it is going to be a clock.” Emerson Lighthouse replied, his tone belaying the underlying annoyance the question elicited.
“Well, I thought it was… but it is missing… you know – the clock part.”
“I’m focussing on the underlying structure first.” Emerson spoke slowly as he turned the brick over in his hands to paint the underside before placing it down on the rack to dry.
“I think I am beginning to regain the sensation in my fingers,” Petharic remarked. “How long do the effects of this Splice 9 last?”
“It depends… I only gave you 1 kernel, you should be able to move again in about three or four hours, but of course by then it will be too late.”
“Yes, so it would seem.” Petharic paused before continuing. “So, Dr. Lighthouse, the effects of this drug of yours appear to numb the body, but leave the cognition unimpaired?”
“Just the yellow kernels sir, the black ones – my personal favourites – have precisely the opposite effect… although I prefer to think of them as amazing the mind rather than numbing the mind.” Emerson picked up a brick from the dry side of the rack, liberally adding the mortar before carefully and precisely tapping it into place with the trowel.
“The plant you grew yielded kernels of different colours?”
“Yes, 96 out of 100 are of the black variety that I just described. The next 4 colours each occur at a rate of about 1 in a 100. They are yellow, brown, red and blue.”
Petharic would have nodded if he could have. “What do the others colours do?”
I don’t know what the red kernals or the blue kernels do… I have never tried them… but the brown kernels are not too good… you don’t want to take the brown kernels.”
“I presume it would be a safe bet to wager that the other Petharics met with similar fates?”
“They did.” Emerson confirmed.
“The first Petharic… if you would concede this one small confession.”
“Under the lighthouse.” Emerson’s head gave a small unconscious nod indicating the tower just behind him.
“And the second Petharic?”
“Under the garage.” He shrugged.
“I see you lack somewhat for originality.” Petharic felt another wave of anxiety. Is this moment really what it all comes down too? “When did you become so insane… at what point did you cross-over that line where one reality becomes another?”
Emerson Lighthouse ignores the taunt, focused, on painting the brick in hand.
Petharic lays in silence, coolly watching the diminishing view of the world beyond. “You know there will be others after me. I am not the last of the Petharic series.”
“Yes, if there is one thing I have come to realize over the past few months, it is that there will always be other Petharics… coming to threaten me and the well-being of my friends and family… I cannot allow that to continue.”
“And your answer to this never-ending threat from which there is no escape?”
Emerson lighthouse smiles wryly noting (but not stooping to point out) the structural redundancy in that last rhetorical question… “Keep building I guess.”
“Lighthouse, you are a scientist and a writer, not a builder.”
“But I can learn.” It almost sounded like a plea rather than a statement.
“You can learn?” Petharic’s mocking laughter was actually a spontaneous response to Emerson’s delusions. “What a joke. Answer me this: why are you painting each brick individually?”
“What?” Emerson, a bit flustered looks over at the little wooden rack upon which a half dozen painted white bricks sat drying. “I want to have a white wall… so I am painting the bricks white…”
“And why, pray-tell, would you not build the wall first and then paint the wall white?”
To this Emerson responded by sullenly re-doubling his efforts to complete his project at all costs.
It was in that instant Petharic knew, with a surprising calm, that his time in this world had run its course. With only a half-effort he threw out this one final plea: “You don’t have to do this… you could give me the Splice 9. Let me go and I pretend I never found you. You could spend the rest of your life quiet and secure in this… place you call home.”
Emerson Lighthouse pauses as if he might actually be considering Petharic’s final desperate offer. “I’m afraid I can’t do that. ‘Quiet’ and ‘Secure’ are not adjectives one typically associates with New Babbage.”
“Lighthouse… I always thought you were one of the good guys.”
“Sir, in this town I am one of the good guys.”
The silence hung in the late afternoon like an eternity over their solitary reflections… each imagining the remarkable series of chance events responsible for finding them together now.
“Any final comments before I place this last brick?” offered Emerson, as he peered into the now almost total darkness.
“Only to express just how astonishing this whole story is to me really. You, Dr. Lighthouse, are in possession of perhaps the greatest weapon of mass destruction ever created and what do you do with it?… You eat it!”
“Goodbye Emerson… until we meet again.”