Vertigo

The following passages are excerpts from
an unpublished biography of Caleb "Verti" Parker,
as written by Horace Chalem.

PART I.

In 1951, Caleb “Verti” Parker was born in Kampala, Uganda to Patricia Wright, daughter of a British general, and Gary Parker, professional game hunter. Patricia’s father did not approve of her choice of partner, so the couple was not allowed to marry. This angered Gary immensely, as Gary felt strongly that Patricia, if she really loved him, would pay no mind to her controlling father. But Patricia, though she did love Gary and their newborn son, obliged her father, and did not wed Gary. To spite Patricia and her father, almost immediately after the birth of his son, Gary turned his back on Patricia and married Medina Samburi, a wealthy daughter of the most sought-after building contractor in all of Africa. In 1952, when Caleb was only 18 months old, Patricia’s father relocated back to England during the decolonization of Uganda and took Patricia and Baby Caleb with him, supplying a new life for Caleb in England.


During the early developmental stages of his life, Caleb did not seem to crawl, stand, or walk correctly. Caleb fell down an unusual number of times, even for a two-year-old child. By the time he was three, Caleb was diagnosed with Meniere's disease, a disorder of the inner ear, which causes severe episodes of vertigo and dizziness.


Though able to use common objects in his surrounding environment to cleverly stabilize himself while developing, this disease stunted Caleb’s ability to learn to walk properly, as he was always dizzy and stumbling around. He did eventually learn to walk correctly by the time he was five, but the constant feeling of vertigo and unsteadiness coupled with the occasional fall without warning made him an easy target for bullying in school, especially after he was forced to wear a helmet to prevent injury.


A group of children began calling Caleb “Dizzy” in third grade, then “Mr. Vertigo” in the fifth grade when their vocabulary increased. However, the degrading nickname shortened to “Verti” on one afternoon in middle school when his dizziness was more noticeable than usual and he spun around in a windmill pattern, knocking the books off of three other students’ desks during a lecture. While Caleb was spinning, one of the heckling students yelled “look at Verti-GO!” What followed was an entire class chanting “Ver-ti, Ver-ti.” The name stuck with him from that moment on. Never one to let much bother him, he accepted the nickname.


In 1963, when Verti was 12 years old, his grandfather, Patricia’s father, passed away from complications with a stomach ulcer, leaving Patricia by herself to care for Verti.


Consistently ignored by many of his peers in middle school, Verti, who was very intelligent from birth, spent his time outside of class alone, building things while his mother worked two jobs, one as a nurse and another as a mail clerk in the British Armed Forces. He invented small contraptions, mostly unnecessary but fun nonetheless. He created a hinged metal board upon which a single sheet of paper folded in the correct sequence made the perfect paper airplane each time. He built a four-pronged pencil holder so that when he got in trouble at school, which happened often, and had to write sentences over and over, he could accomplish it four times as fast as with one pencil. With this contraption he also invented a new form of art he called “fourth dimensional art,” which entailed drawing the same exact picture four times over at the same time, slightly overlapping side-by-side on the same surface. The “fourth dimension” label, of course, was scientifically inaccurate but no one minded, because nobody really paid much attention to Verti in middle school.


In summer of 1964 yet another harsh turn of events occurred in 13-year old Verti’s life. His mother Patricia, who had been feverishly looking for a male companion both to fulfill her needs and to fill in as a father figure for young Verti, contracted syphilis. Though syphilis was usually successfully treated at the time, she was embarrassed by her promiscuity and neglected to get it treated. Patricia Wright died in 1964. Verti was alone.

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PART II.

As fate would have it, the very same day of Patricia’s death, 2000 miles away in Nairobi, Kenya, where Verti’s father Gary Parker had relocated after his second marriage, another disheartening reversal of fortune had occurred. Gary’s wife Medina, heir to her father’s large building company, died suddenly of unknown causes, leaving Gary with an unimaginable sum of wealth.


With no legal guardian and still five years until his 18th birthday, Verti was sent back to Africa to live with his father.


At the simple sight of him, Gary was reminded of his own guilt. Simultaneously, Gary reminded Verti of his abandonment and his bullied upbringing. Needless to say, the beginning of their rekindled relationship was strained at first. Verti was never sent to a public, or even private school in Kenya. Rather, he was home-schooled, tutored by some of Gary’s co-workers, servants, and chefs who had also lived on the large estate, and with whom Verti had also developed close friendships in his father’s absence.


Not long after Verti and his father were reunited, however, Gary accepted his position as a father, and openly wanted to play the part. So during periods where Verti’s studies were on hiatus, Gary began taking Verti along with him on his hunts around the world in hopes that he could bond with him through teaching him the “family” trade.


Gary worked alongside fellow hunter Bali Mauladad, perhaps the most famous big game hunter in the 1960s, and the first Mohammedan to become a member of the exclusive Professional Hunters Association. Gary and Bali’s clients included American millionaires, Indian Maharajas, Greek oil tycoons, and Ethiopian diplomats, among other private commissions. Verti, who had never even wrapped his hands around the handle of a real gun before, was apprenticing with two of the most prestigious game hunters in the world. Things may have looked up for Verti at this point in his life, were it not for one crippling detail: his Meniere's disease stopped Verti from ever standing still long enough to lock aim with a rifle. When Verti stumbled and shot into the ground six feet in front of him on his very first attempt at shooting a small gazelle, he was an embarrassment to his father, the laughing-stock of his father’s crew, and a safety hazard in the eyes of Gary’s partner Bali.


Not one to let failure stop him, young Verti convinced his father and the crew to let him continue to try. But each time, the same failure occurred. Verti’s handicap simply stopped him from being able to hunt with any success.


But Verti had finally found an activity in which he wanted to excel. He admired the hunt. He admired the long treks through the deserts and jungles, the interaction with local villages, sleeping under the stars, the adrenaline of the first sight of the beast, and the respect his father was showered in by the local villagers and press from around the world. However, his father would not let him join in on the hunts if his disease was to be a hindrance. So once again Verti was left alone with his studies while Gary travelled the world. But now that he had a small taste for the spoils of the hunts, Verti wasn’t going to let his handicap stop him from adventuring.

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icecreamman

PART III.

Calling upon his old passions, Verti made great use of his time alone. But unlike his old inventions from elementary school, this time the device Verti created was very practical. Verti’s left ear was where his Meniere’s disease called home. In most cases, when Verti lost his balance, he would sway and fall to the left, especially if he was holding something like a rifle. With this in mind, Verti crafted a metal band around his upper left thigh. Hinged to this band was a series of metal rods that unfolded and sprung downward upon the act of hitting a trigger, creating an extra leg, or a kickstand for Verti. When it was unfolded and touching the ground, Verti’s weight would naturally lean into it and he could stand as still as dead fly on a windowsill, even holding a rifle. His contraption allowed him to resemble a human tripod, both in appearance and in practicality.


Verti was excited to show his father his new creation upon his return from the Amazon. Gary, always the skeptic, but attempting to be supportive, humored Verti and allowed him to tag along on a local hunt the following week, but was well-prepared for a letdown. However, to everyone’s surprise, especially that of the great Bali, Verti did not fail. He cocked the rifle, stared directly into the eyes of a rhino that was easily 14 times the size of him, held up the barrel, slightly lost his balance, and started to sway. But at that moment, when the entire crew assumed this was the point of failure, Verti used his left hand to hit a trigger on his chest and his new extra leg sprung outward and downward, digging itself into the sand. Sure enough, Verti stopped swaying and was more solidified in his stance than the men had ever seen anyone before him. And in two shots, the rhino was floored. Dead.


In that single action, Verti had proved himself worthy of learning the secrets of his father’s trade. Within a month, Verti, with the help of his father, but mostly on his own, had taken down the coveted “big five”: lion, elephant, leopard, rhino, and buffalo. He was the youngest hunter ever to do so.


Over the next few years, both Verti and Gary Parker’s fame grew around the globe, with Verti’s unique talent catapulting the team to a new fortune on top of what Gary had already been allocated from the untimely death of his wife, Medina. By 1970, they had separated from Gary’s partner Bali, who had retired, and were a very lucrative and professional father-son team. Throughout their adventures, Verti was able to acquire many useful skills that would help with the hunts. He learned firsthand knowledge of the terrains. He adopted multiple languages, making communication easier among a vast number of local tribes. He learned weapon repair, as well as camera and car repair in order to make sure they would always get the full experience even if their equipment had broken. He learned confidence. He sharpened his sense of humor. He learned to have a taste for alcohol, and with that, he learned to entertain his clients. He had become, over the course of three years, the youngest, most charismatic, most skilled, and deadliest hunter that anyone had ever witnessed. He possessed the skills of both his father and Bali combined, yet he was almost 30 years their junior. But there was one other thing that Verti picked up along that short path: guilt.


Verti attempted to toss his guilt to the side during that period of his life, as the pace of his lifestyle increased rapidly over those following few years of hunting and growing with his father. This accelerated lifestyle change had taken an effect on Gary as well, and Gary had taken to drinking alcohol heavily to keep up. First, he consumed alcohol mainly as a celebration of a successful hunt. Then, he used the alcohol to reminisce about the hunt. Then, the consumption increased as he relied on alcohol for a physical and mental emotion regulator. Then, he used it simply to quench his thirst. Though Verti did not indulge in the drinking as heavily as his father, the quick pace of these hunts allowed him little time to question the ethics of what he was doing. The adventures were fast and fierce and occurred as often as millionaire clients would hire them, which, because of their fame, was often. And after all, hunting wasn’t exactly frowned upon during this era. Being a successful hunter was in fact a status symbol. In Verti’s experience with them, successful hunters were the closest thing to the heroes he had read about in comic books and serial novels. But the guilt slowly overtook him. These animals had done nothing more than exist in their own environments. Verti was the trespasser. Verti was the one seeking out where these animals hid, and fed, and attempted to protect their families. Eventually, the guilt was too much for Verti to handle, and when he was still a young 23-year-old hunter, Verti confronted his father and informed him that he would never hunt again, at least not in that same fashion. Verti vowed to never hunt again strictly for glory, or money, or fame, or fun, or for someone else’s pleasure. This sudden change of heart, of course, enraged Gary, as he and Verti were a world-famous team. The likes of them had never been witnessed by anyone previous to their ascension. They were a spectacle. Though Gary and his estate had already obtained more riches than they could ever spend, if Verti left his side on the field, Gary feared that once again, his son would embarrass him publicly. The fame would dissipate. The number of jobs could possibly be cut in half. The Verti/Gary team had inspired so many other men, (and even some women) to become hunters that soon, Gary would just blend into the crowd of thousands of hunters competing for the same jobs. Gary would not stand for that, but Verti’s decision was solid. He was done working for his father in that capacity. His father, unfortunately blinded by his own alcoholism and as stubborn as ever, would not accept Verti demoting himself. Verti was a hunter. In Gary’s blurred and desperate eyes, that was the only thing Verti was good at. And it was because of Gary’s teachings (he was convinced) that Verti was even good at that. Gary threatened to withdraw Verti from his will. And as Gary had still not eradicated his own guilt of abandoning Verti as a child, he took the decision personally, as if Verti intentionally wanted to ruin Gary’s life as some sort of long-term vengeance plot. A vengeance that Gary would make sure Verti was never able to deliver. Gary secretly planned on killing Verti.

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PART IV.

Gary eventually pretended to calm down. He pretended to be supportive of Verti’s decision, on one condition: Verti had to complete a couple more smaller hunts alongside his father until they figured out a way to publicly go their separate ways with the least amount of scrutiny directed towards the family business. To show some small sliver of gratitude and compromise for the life that his father did give him over the last few years, regardless of whatever intentions Gary had had, Verti agreed to this proposal.


Gary immediately began plotting against his son. As an entrepreneur and travelling contractor, Gary had ties to many high-ranking private businesses. He quietly hired a small team of scientists who had been working on an experimental war drug to sell to the Americans. The purpose of the drug was to increase the toughness of the soldiers’ skin. It was called ARMA (short for its code name, Armadillo). ARMA’s development had been cancelled because of its uncontrollable side effect of temporary depletion of serotonin. In simpler terms, getting shot with a bullet, even if it did not penetrate the soldier’s skin, would still ignite pain receptors, therefore stimulating anger. With enough bullets hitting their bodies with force, the soldiers’ anger and adrenaline would theoretically skyrocket. With no serotonin to counteract the anger, the soldier could become be an unstoppable monster. Though the project was cancelled by the American military and a majority of the ARMA was supposedly disposed of over the Pacific Ocean, these scientists created a high-concentrate dosage from their original formula that would basically make any living creature impenetrable to almost any force. They sold this drug to Gary Parker for an undisclosed amount.


Gary sent out an extra team of hunters and gun-bearers to the proposed site of the next hunt a day before Gary and Verti would arrive. This extra team was paid to feed the concentrated ARMA to as many animals as possible within a 20 mile radius of the site. Gary’s plan was to let Verti stand his solid ground and shoot the animals just like any other day. However, these animals wouldn’t stop advancing and Verti would be attacked and killed, therefore providing a public explanation as to why Verti would no longer be a part of the family team.


Things did not go as planned, however. Yes, the team drugged over 34 giant beasts. And yes, one of those beasts did attack Verti and Gary. But the outcome was very different from what had been expected. Verti took the forefront and faced a charging rhino the size of a small van head-on. After firing five shots into the beast, Verti realized that this rhino was different. Stricken with terror, he froze, and braced himself for an attack. A moment before the rhino made contact with Verti, however, his “kickstand” snapped, causing Verti to fall to the left, somehow avoiding the giant feet and head of the rhino. Nearly missing Verti, the beast continued charging towards the jeep, smashing it with its horn and crushing the side panels and the seats into Gary’s legs and torso. The rhino then swung his head like a golf club, hitting the jeep even harder with its horn and snout, ejecting Gary from the vehicle with numerous broken bones. The rhino then approached Gary, whose legs were crippled, rendering him unable to move, clutching only his rifle, which he knew was useless against a beast injected with ARMA. Still he shot. The bullet only infuriated the rhino. Moments before Gary’s head would have been crushed with a two-ton calloused foot, Verti, posted and focused, with his broken kickstand-leg jammed into the ground, shot again, stealing the rhino’s attention away from Gary. Snarling, huffing, and smoking from the many flattened bullets that had barely dented its skin, the beast charged Verti, who tossed his gun to the side, quickly yanked off the metal band around his thigh that connected his kickstand, and folded the three metal rods of the leg back into their collapsed position. As he swayed to the left, Verti held the leg-stand in front of him like a sword, and as the rhino opened its mouth for its final war-cry before crushing Verti, he pushed the button on his chest and the three metal spikes of his fake leg extended forcefully into the throat of the rhino, stabbing the back of its throat and opening every vein inside the vicinity of the rods. Verti was just able to move out of the path of the rhino as he sat in the dirt, witnessing the rhino screaming and thrashing in pain as its mouth and stomach filled up with so much blood that the rhino drowned in its own blood and lay next to the destroyed jeep, dead.


Stumbling and weary from his lack of balance, Verti meandered over to his father, who lay broken and battered in a pile of metal, dirt, and blood. Scampering to help him up, Verti attempted to lift his father, but Gary pushed him away. Verti was confused. Then, Gary, for the first time since Verti had known him, began to cry. Gary quietly confessed that he had been hoping that the rhino would have killed Verti, and that he had set him up. Then he apologized, and put the rifle in his own mouth and pulled the trigger. For the third time, Verti was abandoned.

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PART V.

Yes, Verti was abandoned, but he was nowhere near alone. Over the years, Verti had built strong relationships with many of Gary’s co-workers and helpers, all of whom would gladly stick around the estate, especially if Verti was now in charge. With no other immediate family, Verti was most certainly in charge now. Gary left every asset he owned to Verti. It seemed that the threat to remove him from the will was either empty, or Gary had more faith than he should have had in the drugged and deadly animals that were supposed to kill Verti. After wrestling with personal issues surrounding his vengeful father, his long-gone mother, and the guilt of killing innocent animals, Verti decided on the direction in which he would take his new life. He would use his riches, his skills, and his loyal family friends and team members to—once again—hunt. However, this time the hunts would be different.


Along the journeys with his father, Verti and Gary often passed through villages that had been terrorized by rogue wildlife that had decided to pray upon the children and townspeople of the villages. In many cases, animals whose gums had atrophied and whose teeth had decayed made hunting other quick and tough-skinned animals difficult. So, out of desperation, the animals preyed on easy targets, like children. The villages could never afford the services of skilled hunters such as Verti and his father, so Gary often just offered his condolences and bypassed these villages. But now, with an unlimited budget and no one telling Verti what he could or couldn’t do, the path was clear. With his team, Verti set forth to venture to every small village that was under siege from man-eating animals and to use his hunting skills strictly for the protection of these villages. For once in his life, Verti felt as though he actually could be somewhat similar to the superheroes he read about in his comics.


Verti’s charitable plan proved successful. He traveled around to various countries and villages, killing only animals that were proven to have attacked, mauled, or eaten humans and could not be detained. Mainly his adventures involved hunting tigers and leopards around Africa. But occasionally a rampant rogue elephant in Thailand, an alligator in the United States, or a giant snake in the Amazon would terrorize a town. But Verti could handle anything and everything.


As word got out about Verti’s more-than-capable team of super-hunters, his fame and ability to cordially communicate with many tribes brought Verti a great deal of work amongst the smaller tribes in the Amazon, who believed the man-eating animal problems were beyond their own control. Verti spent many days living with these tribes when he was called to help the villagers, and oftentimes learned a great deal about the unique beliefs and rituals of the tribes. Some tribes, like one in Peru, believed that dressing like and imitating a jaguar (complete with black paint and real whiskers pierced into their cheeks) would channel the spirit of the jaguar throughout the village, thus protecting the village from the deadly jaguar, which they would refuse to hunt and kill. Another tribe, in the northern region of Brazil, whose village surrounded a dangerous river, worshipped the deadly piranha that populated the river, and the villagers used the sharpened teeth of fallen piranha, dipped in scalding hot ink to carve tattoos into their bodies to allow their insides to be closer to the worshipped creature. One tribe had never spoken a word, and communicated only through the flapping of elaborate wings made from tree leaves and animal hides. But one small tribe in particular, the TakiKapchiy (or Taki for short), deep in the heart of the Amazon, on the border of Brazil and Peru, struck a large interest in Verti. The Taki believed that sound, and more specifically, music, was magical, and that the correct combination of strung-together sounds could perform any action one could imagine. Though their beliefs might have been brushed off as nonsense by outsiders, Verti witnessed plenty of events in the few days he worked amongst the Taki that would have been hard to discredit. While he was there, he saw some strange things with his own eyes. One woman felt disgraced because she completely lacked ovaries and could not reproduce. Her 18th birthday occurred while Verti was there, and he watched an elder beat on a drum for seven hours straight that night. The next morning, she was pregnant. A gatherer arrived back in the village after hunting for food, his eyes fused shut from an accident involving frog poison and fire. The skin from his eyebrow ridges covered his eyes completely. A woman gently played a flute-like instrument by his bedside for two days. When the man with the fused eye-sockets emerged from his hut, Verti watched him open his eyes, and the skin surrounding them simply disappeared in the wind. His vision was better than ever. A song brought rain. A collection of shouts started the fire for cooking. He even saw fruit appear instantly on a dead tree after a girl made small, melodic hiccup sounds at its base. There were rumors amongst the surrounding villages that the Taki even had songs that could kill people--as well as bring them back from the dead. For all Verti knew, that entire tribe could have been dead for 100 years and still walking around, gathering fruit, and dancing. Though Verti was only in the presence of this tribe for a few days, these events, and this belief, always stuck with him.


Years passed and Verti’s team did exactly what they had set out to do. They were professional problem-solvers for people that couldn’t normally afford to solve problems. They, in a way, were exorcists, removing the demons from the towns that were being ravaged by them. They had gotten the hunts down to a mundane science, so much so that Verti began to grow bored. Not with the satisfaction of helping people, but of the hunts themselves. If things didn’t change soon, Verti feared that he would lose interest in the career he had spent his entire life mastering.


Well, the winter of 1985, things did change. Things changed more than he could imagine.

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PART VI.

Verti and his team didn’t often get called to North America or Europe for jobs. But a small fishing village on the western coast of Finland requested their services, as the village had no one else to to whom they could turn. In a fearful state of mind, however, they requested that only a small group come to the village with Verti so as to assure the secrecy of their tragedy.


Without hesitation, Verti packed lightly and brought his four best associates along with him as they travelled to Finland. They arrived to find a village in shambles. Upon assembling with the town-leaders who had requested Verti’s services, they repeatedly said it was “a monster, or some kind of demon,” and that it was “neither human nor animal.” Though they were usually not abundant on the coast, Verti was convinced that the damages were reminiscent of those that might have been caused by a large brown bear that perhaps had wandered east into the village and was acting out of fright and confusion. The only odd thing about the damages was that of the 12 people and pets that were attacked and murdered, 11 of them had very focused attacks around their mouths, and of those 11, most were missing their entire lower jaws. The villagers assured Verti that it was no bear. But whatever it was, it only came out at night.


Immediately Verti and his team set up shop in one of the victims’ cottages, and the hunt for the mysterious creature had begun. For the first time in years, Verti was excited by the factor of the unknown involved in this hunt, even if the culprit did turn out to be a small rabid bear. He felt his adrenaline bubble. He felt his hands rediscover their grip on the butt of his rifle. He felt invigorated, even in the wet, cold environment of the Finnish coastline.


Though no records exist as to the specifics of the actual hunt, the result of this pursuit changed Verti’s life. After three days, Verti successfully tracked and killed what could only be described as a monster. The only photo in existence depicting the victorious capture shows Verti standing next to a large, off-white lump of shining flesh, speckled with rot and blood. The beast had two arms and two legs, and was bipedal, but was in no way human. Verti looked three feet tall in comparison to the fallen monster, which must have been over ten feet tall and six feet wide when standing slightly hunched. At the time of the hunt, Verti believed that perhaps the beast was a fabled yeti. However, this beast’s skin lacked any fur or hair at all. Its skin was bumpy, armored even. A closer look at the photograph would reveal that the beast’s skin was lined with various sizes and shapes of teeth, some broken, some rotted, some yellowed, some sharp, and some dull. There was no question that this beast’s entire body was fashioned by thousands and thousands of dense teeth.


Exhilarated by what he had caught, Verti was eager to share his discovery with the world, but the townspeople were opposed to making it public. Though they were grateful for his kill and protection, they wanted this to be kept a secret because if word got out to the surrounding areas that monsters may be among them, the small village would soon perish due to a dip in its economy. If he had to keep it a secret, Verti asked if he could at least continue to stay in the town for a few more days and investigate where the beast may have come from. Together, the villagers froze the dead beast, crated it, and buried it as deep as they could in the forest—and the inquisition began.

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PART VII.

During the weeks preceding Verti’s arrival, when the monster was attacking the village on a nightly basis, the village had been in chaos. None of its citizens had any rational explanation for the attacks. The entire town had argued as to the possibilities. However, after the beast was revealed and killed, the entire town pointed to one person: A seven-year-old boy.


The boy, Fredrik, lived with his parents in a small cottage next to the butcher shop. During the attacks, the boy consistently described “a dinosaur-man made of teeth,” and claimed to have dreamt about the monster each night of the attack. The townspeople hadn’t even flinched at his descriptions, as they had had no reason to believe a child, and had been frantically searching for logical reasons for the attack. But now, on the other hand, the child’s descriptions brought forth questions and accusations from the citizens. In Fredrik’s bedroom, where he had dreamt of this monster nightly, Verti began to question him. Fredrik described his nightmares, in which he was chased, but never actually attacked by the monster. Instead, the monster would get close to Fredrik, open his own large mouth, which was also lined with thousands of rows of teeth, and inhale. The force behind his inhalation would break apart Fredrik’s teeth as he screamed and his teeth would float through the air and adhere themselves to the monster’s body, joining the other teeth that lined his huge frame. The monster then laughed maniacally and ran away, leaving Fredrik in tears with a broken and empty mouth. At that moment, every time, Fredrik would jolt awake, oftentimes knocking over the lamp as he wailed. When asked how long he had been dreaming of this boogeyman, Fredrik’s parents admitted he had been mentioning the monster for over a month. However, the attacks had only started occurring over the previous two weeks. Verti was dedicated to finding out more.


Spending additional time with Fredrik, it was obvious that neither he nor his parents could have truly known about this beast prior to the attacks. There was no conspiracy present. There was simply a monster in a child’s mind that was somehow real.


While continuing to talk to Fredrik about some of his other dreams (none of which seemed out of the ordinary), Verti picked up on a strange sound that was faintly repeating somewhere in the room. He could barely hear it over the sound of the snowstorm outside, but he was sure he could hear something. After digging around in Fredrik’s room, Verti located the sound. It was a broken alarm clock, stuck ticking a high-frequency noise that sounded like a combination of a reindeer bell and a cough, but somehow sounded melodic. He stared at the clock, and listened intently to its subtle sound. The longer he stared, the more mesmerized he became. Verti’s partner grabbed his shoulder to get his attention, which startled Verti, causing him to drop the small clock, breaking it even more. When Verti picked up the clock from the floor, it was no longer emiting any sound. The clock was completely broken. When questioned about the clock, Fredrik’s parents mentioned that they noticed it was broken about two weeks earlier and assumed that Fredrik had accidentally broken it in his sleep during one of his nightmares.


Verti was invigorated. He could not share his excitement, however, or the townspeople would surely think he was mad. Instead, he admitted defeat, packed up and returned hastily to Kenya with his crew.


Verti did not share any of his thoughts with his crew along the journey home. But upon arrival in Kenya, he called off all scheduled hunts and projects immediately and sat in his estate alone, dwelling on the events that had just taken place over the last week. He questioned his own sanity. He doubted the logic in the theories he was creating in his mind, but he could not help but continue to try to rationalize them. He replayed the dark melody of the broken alarm clock over in his head. He recounted every observation he had made about the teeth-monster. He wrote down every word that Fredrik had used to describe his dreams. And he reimagined every sound and event that had happened while he was living with the Taki tribe all those years ago. It seemed to make sense, but not in this reality. Everything seemed to connect correctly, but the logic of what he was thinking about simply wasn’t possible given the knowledge he had accumulated throughout his lifetime. But still, Verti instantly became obsessed with exploring these thoughts further. Putting all of his absurd inferences together, Verti had a solid, though far-fetched, theory: the melodic combination of sounds from the broken clock lured the nightmare out of Fredrik’s imagination and into the physical world.

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Verti Parker

PART VIII.

On paper, the theory seemed ludicrous. But based on what he had actually experienced, both in Finland and years earlier in the Amazon, this theory was the only thing that made sense.


Obsessed and by his lonesome, Verti hastily made his way back to the Amazon to reunite with the Taki tribe and share his recent discovery. The Taki were not surprised by his experience, and, in turn, shared similar stories from amongst the tribe, though none were as incredibly deadly as what Verti had experienced. The Taki explained that they were a quite harmonious society, and it was extremely rare for nightmares to even occur amongst the villagers, unless, of course, rare poisons and plant mixtures occasionally induced these visions after ceremonies and rituals. Therefore, because of their lack of experience in what Verti had described, the Taki had no knowledge of a specific sound combination that would cause a nightmare to manifest in a physical form. But Verti had completed his first major step: finding reassurance.


The Taki tribe’s faith in his theory about his experiences in Finland was enough for Verti to feel confident in moving forward with his experiments.


The 13 years following his last visit to the Taki tribe were uneventful. Verti became obsessed with his theory, and, in addition, began the reconstruction of his entire estate into a laboratory. He also spent an unaccountable amount of money on research, manufacturing unique musical instruments, learning about sound frequency and effects of musical tones on the brain and traveling to visit clinics for the mentally ill in hopes of learning more about genuine nightmares and fears. He learned a lot, but none of his researched helped him to arrive closer to his goal. There were too many variables in the equation to successfully reenact what he had experienced in Finland. So Verti decided to approach his experiments a little differently. He also stopped construction on his remodel, leaving his estate somewhat in shambles, with building materials, scraps, scaffolding, and waste strewn about. What was once an extravagant estate was now falling apart due to Verti’s obsession.


In the late 1990s, Verti met with a group of scientists in India who were developing a prescription drug to be used to control dementia in Alzheimer’s patients (an early form of Donepezil). He commissioned the scientists to alter the drug so that its effects were reversed, and actually induced dementia in sleeping patients who showed no signs of it. Basically, Verti financed the creation of a drug that induced nightmares. With this nightmare-inducing drug, Verti could now confidently experiment with different sound patterns while his patients slept, recording the different effects that sounds had on the sleeping brain and attempting to use the data to formulate the correct sound pattern needed to lure out the nightmares.

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PART IX.

For two years, Verti administered the drug to anyone who would volunteer. However, the results were nonexistent, and Verti continued to fail. He was doing little more than terrorizing patients in their sleep with frightening nightmares, making up random melodies, and building small music boxes that played a mathematically constructed string of musical sounds in various pitches repeatedly. That is, until Christmas day, 1999. His latest patient, a Korean student named In-Su, had come over to Kenya a year earlier on an exchange student program but had decided to stay in the country when he fell in love with a Kenyan girl. Unfortunately, the girl was a con artist and depleted him of all of his savings, forcing In-Su to stay in Kenya while trying to earn money doing small odd jobs, like being a guinea pig for medical experiments. While on Verti’s nightmare-inducing drug, In-Su had complained night after night of drowning in his dreams. He drowned in sinks, in bathtubs, in the ocean, in a pool on another planet, and even in a coffin. Then, in a moment filled with sheer terror and excitement, in the middle of In-Su’s sleep, as Verti was turning the crank on his latest handmade cleverly crafted music box that was emitting a soft repeating lullaby in different pitches, In-Su began to gag. Before Verti could react, In-Su leaned over the bed and violently vomited a stream of clean, clear liquid. As it splashed against the marble floor, the vomit swirled up into the air and before Verti could process what had happened, a 15-foot-tall smiling demon that resembled a twisted rendition of a Dokkaebi (a gremlin-like beast feared in Korean folklore) made entirely out of clear, flowing water was standing before him. Grabbing In-Su in one swipe, the beast shoved him into its chest through the liquid membrane of its skin. Verti saw In-Su open his eyes, and both In-Su and Verti realized at that moment that In-Su would drown inside this beast if Verti couldn’t save him within a minute or two.


Immediately recognizing that traditional weapons would not work against the monster and understanding that enough heat could not be generated rapidly enough to cause the water to evaporate, Verti’s adrenaline allowed him to adapt and react quickly. The confusion and excitement he was experiencing were the feelings he had missed; this had been the entire reason for his studies. Verti grabbed a large bag of powdered cement mix leftover from the halted construction, flipped out his “kickstand,” kicked a large hole in the bag and threw the entire bag of powder at the demon. Nothing happened at first, but within seconds Verti could see the effect of the cement. The beast was turning to mush, dripping and splattering on the ground in a muddy mess. Verti grabbed another bag and tossed its contents onto the beast. When its torso began to dissipate, In-Su fell to the ground, gasping for air and coughing up water. Verti quickly ran to In-Su’s side and pulled him away from the drips and slops of the quickly dying Dokkaebi. Within minutes, the monster was scattered around the room in a thousand pieces, all soon to be rock hard. Verti had both extracted and defeated his second nightmare, and this time, his “clock” was still intact. Verti snatched up his music box, wrapped his arms around it and held it as closely to his chest as possible. He had finally found his formula. He had finally created a machine that could exorcise nightmares and manifest them in a physical form. He finally had a new crop of people he could help. And he finally had a new way of helping them. But more importantly, after 15 years, he finally had something new to hunt: nightmares.


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