As I documented in my first client overview, The Orphanage for Unfortunate Children was built with security top of mind. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more fortified building or advanced security system anywhere in the world. Still, we are dealing with children — and that’s something we never forget.
Upon entering the facility for the first time, the children who come to us vary wildly on the emotional spectrum. Some are sedated and calm, others are wild-eyed and bawling — and then there was David.
We’d lost several good men during transport, so his arrival had put us all on high-alert. David was our first confirmed ‘Velatik’ in years, the second-highest classification level. The full extent of his modifiers were still unknown at that time, but what we did know was more than enough to cause intense panic amongst the guards and lower-level staff.
Sometime during the summer of 1987, a pair of backpackers stumbled upon a gruesome and mysterious scene in the wilds of Canada. A mummified woman, mouth frozen in a horrid scream, was sprawled across a small boulder in the middle of a wide valley. Unlike the surrounding area, all of the vegetation in a quarter-mile of the woman was wholly brown and devoid of life; the place had just experienced weeks of heavy rain, making this even stranger.
Huddled in a pile of dead leaves, just feet from the dead woman, was a pre-teen boy in heavy winter clothes. The hikers approached the boy, grasping for his hand. He attempted to shoo them away, but they were undeterred. When our recon team finally found the hikers, they’d been reduced almost to ash — identified through the few strands of hair not incinerated.
That young boy was David, and our security teams caught up to him several months later. He was sleeping in a crater of bone-dry soil that had been a several acre-wide lake only weeks prior. Half of the team who recovered David never made it home; those who did were scarred for life.
Upon arriving at the orphanage, David was in a state of uncontrollable rage. He was thrashing about like a wild animal, screaming obscenities and flailing his limbs with malice intent. Luckily, his modifiers remained dormant despite the violent outbursts.
In the beginning, he would only calm down when heavily sedated. Eventually, we realized what David wanted more than anything was isolation — so that’s just what we gave him. David was rehoused in a set of connected concrete cells, located in the sub-basement of the orphanage. At his request, all outside light and noise were blocked, and face to face contact was eliminated.
The change in David was almost instantaneous; he became a thoughtful and respectable young man overnight. He even began to open up, albeit via video chat. It took nearly a year for David to let me in fully, but everything I had ever thought about the boy was proven wildly incorrect once he did.
VIDEO LOG # – 0428SL0 (February 17th, 1989)
David: I wish I could be happy, like really happy.
X: Well, David, that’s not an uncommon feeling. Many people, most even, struggle with that.
David: You don’t get it; it’s different for me. When I’m happy, people die, so I can’t be happy.
X: People die? Can you explain?
David: Anytime something good happens to me, when I crack the slightest of smiles, my belly starts to burn, like ‘I’m on fire’ burn. If I don’t stop myself, if I don’t get super angry or sad, something comes out of me, and it hurts people.
X: Do you mean, literally, something comes out of you, or, you react violently?
David: I mean something literally comes out of me, it’s like — like — well, a tentacle of fire…
X: I can sense the pause in your voice; there’s no judgment here. Please keep going.
David: Well, this tentacle, it shoots out of my stomach and buries under people’s skin — but they can’t see it, only I can see it. I can see the flames traveling through their veins, entering every corner of their body, but they don’t notice until it’s too late.
X: What happens when it’s too late?
David: Steam starts rising from their body, and they shrivel like a raisin. If they struggle too much, they’ll light on fire and burn down to nothing.
X: So, when you first came into the facility, you weren’t angry at us, were you?
David: No, I was angry because I didn’t want you to die.
David and I chatted regularly for many years after, and our discussions would often turn to philosophy. We’d ruminate on the nature of existence, the vagueness of morality, and the limits of ethics — he was a brilliant child. Although there were countless others to attend to, I always found time for David because he needed it more than most.
Cruel does not begin to describe the type of mental flagellation David would inflict on himself, all in an effort to ensure he’d never be happy again. His goal was to walk into the free world, a tortured man, one continually teetering on the edge. That was his penance, a sacred oath he swore to himself, and on his eighteenth birthday, it seemed his wish was fulfilled.
The man who left The Orphanage for Unfortunate Children was completely broken, as years of extreme isolation and pronounced anguish have proven to do. He was returned to Canada but dropped off our radar within a week. I hadn’t heard from him in almost thirty years, that was until last month when a letter arrived.
It’s been a long time, but that was by design. You were always good to me, too good; in my life, that is not a healthy relationship. So you must understand I am writing to you under only the direst of circumstances.
I’ve lived a terrible life, an endless series of depressive episodes and unfortunate events — it’s been perfect. That was until last week, when I had the worst realization of my life. I realized that I’ve successfully spent my life repenting for my sins, keeping my inner demons at bay, and you know what, that made me happy — really fucking happy.
Here’s the biggest problem of all, I’m enjoying being happy, and I can’t go back. I need you to find me because the truth is, I won’t stop, I won’t turn myself in, I won’t even regret what happens next. I’m a broken man, but unfortunately, I’ve also broken through.