I actually was in the middle of recording an episode from one of the files in the storage papers when there was a knock at my door on Sunday. When I opened the door there was nobody there. Instead I found a plain, unmarked white envelope sitting on my welcome mat. Perhaps more foolishly than I should have acted, I opened it almost immediately. Inside I found a handwritten letter spanning multiple pages which were neatly folded into thirds. I read through it several times, trying to determine if it were a practical joke, but based on the little I’ve learned from these papers, I think it might be the real deal. I’ll let you decide.
You don’t know me and I don’t know you and that will never change. Before I tell you what you need to know, I’ll tell you a bit about myself and I apologize for the length, but the devil, I’m afraid, is in the details, so I hope you’ll indulge me as these may be my final words to anyone. Not so long ago for you I was a student at Stanford – a psych major. In fact, I might still be depending on how long that courier company took to deliver this. And, of course, depending on if it even makes it to you or if it’s intercepted.
Now, I’m not a party animal or anything. I took my time at Stanford very seriously. Other students may have a rich family so this place doesn’t make a dent in their pocketbooks, but not me. My time here was the result of a lot of hard work and I had no intention of throwing it all away. That said, I was feeling pretty good Friday night, so I decided to indulge a little. And by indulge, I mean I burned through as many brain cells as I could in celebration.
You see, Thursday I had taken a pretty intense test. Friday morning I found out that I had passed. That by itself was amazing, but then Friday afternoon I left my Intro to Cognitive Neuroscience class and there was a man waiting for me in a grey suit and green tie. I was surprised when he said my name – a name which I won’t share with you for your own safety. I was even more surprised when he told me why he knew my name.
Apparently my professor routinely passes names along to some of his contacts who are looking for promising students to eventually recruit them. What type of companies are looking to recruit psych majors, you ask? Good, then we’re on the same page. It didn’t make any sense to me either, yet he somehow had the perfect answer. We got some coffee and he explained that he represented an organization that was looking to take a step beyond the cutting edge of the criminal justice field. They were developing an algorithm to help stop crime. Apparently many law enforcement agencies have been working on this, but they wanted to introduce a more interesting element.
They had all the data about different crimes that had occurred and all the environmental, social, and political factors that went into it, but they wanted to go deeper. They wanted employees who would work with their artificial intelligence so that it could understand why those specific criminals broke the law and add the psychological element into their algorithm. To sort of turn the clock back and truly prevent crime from happening in the first place.
I gave a nervous smile as I sipped my coffee and told him I’d seen that movie already. He politely chuckled, then told me that they were recruiting people from universities all over the world for this to get the next generation of people who understood the mind to break it down for them and that they were going to be doing a study on Sunday if I was interested in at least putting that down on my resume once I graduated.
If you’ve ever been a student, I’m sure you know how valuable a resume that doesn’t consist of waiting tables is when it comes time to start applying. I wasn’t sure that I was as qualified as he thought I was to be contributing to something as science fiction as he described, but I definitely wanted a little polish as I entered the workforce. I accepted. As I did, it hit me just how big this would be. A previous professor had spoken to the value of internships and published papers, but I thought I’d be further along in my studies before I got noticed enough to do something like that. So when I arrived home, I got into my stash and smoked a bowl and passed out about a half hour later.
When I woke up Saturday I was ready to conquer the world, despite me still wearing the same clothes I had on the day before, having fallen asleep on my recliner. I dug into my jeans pocket and pulled out the business card he had given me with every intention of learning more about the company so I could be more fully prepared when I showed up on Sunday. Instead I found that it contained what I assumed to be his last name – Hyde or something like that – and a phone number. On the back I found a handwritten address which, according to a quick search, was near the shipyards.
I wasn’t exactly what one might call particularly social and spent most of the day completing homework, studying, and watching Netflix. Eventually dinner time rolled around and being tired of frozen burritos I thought I would treat myself to an actual meal and decided to splurge on McDonald’s. That’s when I first noticed things were a bit unusual. I always keep my keys on a stand by the door, but they weren’t there. I searched everywhere from the recliner cushion to every surface between the chair and the door.
It wasn’t until I realized I was sweating and went to get some ice for a glass of water that I found them in the freezer. Which made some weird sense when I found my wallet in the refrigerator. I then figured out I was sweating because the heat was turned on, despite it being almost 90 degrees outside. I tried to shrug it off as getting too high but I knew I hadn’t so much as moved from the recliner since I started smoking last night.
I knew someone had to be messing with me when I got to my car. I’m not mechanically inclined at all but upon no response from the engine I still popped the hood to see if there was anything obviously wrong before completely giving up. As it turns out, even I could spot a disconnected battery. I reconnected it and felt pride swell my chest as the engine turned over, then caught. That pride was quickly tempered with frustration and paranoia at who could be messing with me.
I got my McDonald’s and quickly returned home. When I arrived I began a survey, takeout bag in hand, to determine what else could be wrong. In the end I found a handful of things. My toothpaste, shampoo, and body wash were all completely empty. There was no hot water available. Three of my course books were missing, along with the single beer I had in the fridge. I ended my perusal of the perimeter with a locked door and decided to push it out of my mind for now with more Netflix. That is until I discovered that my Netflix account had been discontinued. When I tried to login and reactivate it, I found that my password had been changed. I started the recovery process only to further discover I was locked out of my email account.
It was now nine in the evening and I had an important meeting first thing in the morning, but I was beginning to legitimately freak out about this. Not only had someone invaded my physical space, but also my digital life. To update my password Google stated they would have to physically mail me a code to enter in and I nearly threw my phone in frustration, but I still needed it. I checked my bank account and that’s when my frustration turned into fear as I was told my username or password was incorrect.
I was no longer in the mood for Netflix and I ended up not finishing the burger. I just wanted my life which a mere 24 hours ago had nowhere to go but up to come back. I would have slept fitfully just from that but then every hour or so I was woken up and each time it was more difficult to go back to sleep as my bed seemed unusually uncomfortable. The first time I was startled by my phone blasting Haddaway at full volume from my nightstand. Next there was a crash that jolted me out of bed and I found that everything that had been in my refrigerator was now on the floor. Once I could have sworn there was someone in the room with me but when I put on my glasses I found myself alone. I didn’t sleep the rest of the night after that.
When morning rolled around and the sun began to naturally light up the room I finally got up and threw my sheets on the floor in frustration. It was then that I solved two mysteries at once: why my bed was so uncomfortable and where my missing books and beer went. If I hadn’t been so preoccupied last night I probably would have noticed the visible lumps in the mattress.
I took a shower – still cold – to help gather my wits. Even though my life seemed to be falling apart in a timespan of just one day, it was still important to me to think about my future and attend this study. My one button down shirt and pair of slacks were almost unsurprisingly absent from my dresser. Instead I wore khakis and a polo. My car would not start and this time my battery was still connected so I flagged down someone else in the parking lot who was able to give me a jump. “Rough morning?” he asked. If he only knew.
I looked for the business card to get directions and found that it must not have transferred from my jeans to my khakis. With a touch of relief I remembered that I had looked it up on my phone and it was still in my history. I had some other searches in my history I didn’t recall ever making but in the end I found the address I was looking for and I was able to make it there at 10am sharp. I parked in front of what I assumed was the correct building although I felt unsure given that it seemed to be an abandoned warehouse.
When I entered, I was instead given the impression of a rather advanced laboratory for some sort of practical science which was pretty far out of my league. The man who had recruited me saw me before I saw him and came over to greet me.
“Are you ready to change the world?” he asked.
I told him no world changing events happened on a Sunday and he laughed. “Why does this place look so run down outside?” I asked him.
“You know how Apple started in a garage?” he asked in return. “Well, this is our garage.”
I asked him what the abstract of the study was and he told me we’d be getting to that but first they needed to make sure I could interface properly with the computer. I nodded, having no clue what that meant.
As it turns out, it involved several sensors being placed on my body, then my head, wrists and ankles being strapped down. He told me these were required sensors. Then they brought out the IVs. I could deal with sensors, I could deal with not understanding everything, but I’m majoring in a soft science. I don’t deal with hard needles. I told them I don’t consent to it and they acted like they couldn’t hear me.
Within a few minutes of the needle being inserted into the crook of my right arm then connected to the tube, I began to feel an intense burning course through my arm then spread to my chest. I was so distracted by the pain that I didn’t notice they were performing a similar procedure on my left arm until I realized I was having a different sensation coming from that side of my body. This time it was just pure, unadulterated pain. I screamed. I cried. I begged for them to stop. They ignored me, instead adding additional needles and pumping different fluids into me.
At one point I looked down to discover my entire right arm was rapidly developing blisters that spread from the needle’s entry point. My left hand had turned almost completely black. I couldn’t see further down my body due to my head restraint but I could feel my skin on my legs cracking open and something thick oozing out. I knew I was going to die.
Then the strangest thing happened. At first I thought it was an illusion caused by what I’m sure was a furiously drug addled mind, then I decided this was actually what death felt like. Everything was slowing down. The drip into the IV fell through the air at an impossibly slow pace. Everyone moved as if they were stuck walking underwater. Then it all stopped. I blacked out.
When I came to, I was at home. An assessment of my body found that I was disfigured beyond recognition. My khakis were soiled with urine, feces, and some kind of dark green sludge which still oozed slightly from the cracks in my skin. My entire right arm was covered in blisters that leaked puss and blood. But most importantly, I felt no pain. For a few moments at least. Then I caught a glimpse of myself passed out on the recliner, skin unmarked by the torture I had endured, and once again blacked out as pain overtook me.
The next time I opened my eyes, I saw a grinning face before me. The face of the man from the coffee shop. “How was your expedition there?” he asked me.
I tried to spit in his face but found I could barely move my swollen lips. “Don’t strain yourself. I don’t actually need you to talk. You’ve interfaced perfectly with the computer so we’re learning all sorts of stuff from your little trip to the past.”
I guess some sort of facial muscles were still able to display shock and confusion because he said, “That’s right, you just paid a visit to the past. Maybe eventually it won’t have as many…unpleasant side effects, but for now you’re helping us with one of the early stages of changing the world. Think of all the implications!”
I finally was able to work up enough spit in my mouth to try to throw it in his face but it ended up just dribbling out like drool.
“Now, I’d like you to relax,” he continued, ignoring the saliva sliding down my chin. “It’s going to be a long day, I’m afraid.”
He turned and nodded to a technician by some equipment who then pressed a few buttons and I felt my pain increase beyond what I thought was already the maximum level possible. My vision in my left eye turned red, then I once again blacked out.
There I was. This was me. In the past. Asleep. No idea what was going to happen to me. That’s when I made the decision. I had to stop myself from going. I had to do whatever it took to make sure this torture never happened to me. I got to work. I only had about ten minutes before I blacked out again.
When I came to I was terrified to find that I was still in place. It must not have worked. Or maybe it’s a different timeline? I’m still not sure. But I had to keep trying. Each time I went back, I did more to ruin my life so that I could actually save myself. Each time I found that it wasn’t enough. I did, however, discover some sort of rules…I wasn’t able to actually directly interact with my past self. I tried a couple of times and each time I found myself in intense pain and ended up blacking out again.
That’s when I gave up. I’ve taken two trips since then, including this one. One was to find out more about what was happening to me. I visited the facility in which I was being held captive and found them setting everything up. In a conference call I overheard them referring to Project Infinitum, which I’m guessing is what I’ve been an unwilling subject of. But they also talked about a podcast and discussed what fate it should meet. I couldn’t tell what they said after, but I do know they said it was called The Storage Papers.
So I’m on this trip now. I looked up the podcast and found enough information between that call I overheard and searches I made on my phone to track down your address. I ordered a courier service to deliver this to you and I’m writing this note in the past. I’ve left explicit instructions to ensure you have no contact with them so you can’t trace anything back to me. If you find me, it could bring them all down on you that much faster. If all goes well I only have one more trip to make after this and either way it’s too late for me, but I wanted to tell you to be careful. These people know about you. They know what you’re doing. And, based on the experiments they’ve been conducting on me, they have the ability to learn far more about you than you ever thought possible. Please believe me, Jeremy. Be careful.
As promised, there’s no name anywhere within the letter or any indication where it came from. I looked for any missing students at Stanford but there were no results which could mean this is a hoax, it could mean it hasn’t happened yet, or…it could mean it’s been covered up. I also can’t help but wonder if the name on that business card wasn’t Hyde, but actually Hydra, as this seems to fit that organization’s activities.
Whatever the case, I’ll be taking some extra precautions on this end and I’d like everyone listening to know that should anything happen to me, I’ve scheduled several episodes to automatically be released so nothing will stop these papers from getting out there. I know some of you listening to this podcast have left me voice messages and emails as you’ve investigated these further. I’d encourage anyone else looking into these to also take precautions to ensure your own safety if you continue. With that said, no matter what, another episode will be posted in two weeks. See you then.