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Memoirs of a Mad Scientist
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:: Monday, September 22, 2003 ::

A Special School

I can't take credit for this piece. I reproduced it from here

My life ended three days after my fifteenth birthday. As often happens when a life or even the world ends another life or another world will take its place and existence will go on, and that's how it passes that there is still a person wearing the name and matching the physical description and carrying the memories of the life that was lost. But make no mistake, my life ended three days after my fifteenth birthday.

That was the day I was awakened at four in the morning by two very large men who asked me politely to dress and then grabbed me and put me in handcuffs. While my parents watched passively I was dragged into a van and then to a chartered jet and then to the island of Jamaica, and made a member of a special tropical Hell.

You might ask what drove my parents to have me committed to the School. I asked myself that a lot over the next three years, and I'm pretty sure I know. I was too perfect. I made mostly A's and the third highest score my high school had ever seen on my entrance exam. I never did drugs, drank, or hang out with anybody; I was always at home. I was on the computer a lot, and while my parents probably thought I was playing games I was actually trying to master the deliberately obtuse computer language Brainfuck.

And nothing was ever good enough for them. The one time I got a C in History (I hate rote memorization) they hounded me for months. They complained that I sometimes forgot to take out the trash. I was picked on and I was a loner, so I kept to myself, and my parents picked on me so I kept a lot back from them too.

Nothing in my history has given me much cause to like people so I became a student of how they turn bad. I read Colin Wilson, I read Sade and Neitzsche and I even flipped through Mein Kampf. I became a connoisseur of hate propaganda. I read King and Koontz and the Goads' Answer Me! and I read some pretty disgusting stuff online that required me to lie about my age in order to access it.

If my life had not ended three days after my fifteenth birthday, if my parents had allowed me to simply mature into my obsession, I think I would have become a pretty good social scientist or criminologist. I might have become like Colin Wilson, who wrote at obsessive length and in gruesome detail about crime for his entire life but never showed any sign of wanting to commit a crime himself. I might have been a quiet loner, archiving the data to bolster my basic axiom that humans are, when you get down where the short hairs grow, just plain not very nice.

But I didn't get to mature into my obsession. Three days after my fifteenth birthday the darkness with which I was obsessed came for me, and my life as I knew it came to an end.


I knew all about the School, since it was among the evils I had catalogued. I had a pretty good idea what they would try to do to me, and if I hadn't known my life would have still ended but in an entirely different way.

They market themselves as a "behavior modification facility" and it's an accurate title, but their methods are more down to the Viet Cong than the American Psychiatric Association. They had taken everything from me and would make me as uncomfortable as possible without killing me. (A couple of times in the past they have even fucked up the "without killing" part, a factor I had to consider.) The only thing I had left was my mind, but that in turn was what they wanted.

I knew there would be rituals I could exchange for a little comfort -- rituals designed to wear me down, to make me doubt myself. Rituals well proven to erase the old personality so they could build up a new one to their liking, a personality that would be compliant, subservient, respectful and fearful of authority.

What they wanted from me, literally, was my soul. I decided while I was still on the jet that I wouldn't let them have it.

I had to think about it. It was a big decision. They would hurt me, a lot. They might even kill me, if only by accident. The thing was I had developed a huge distrust of all things human, and I didn't want to lose it. I didn't want to be supplicant and worse, I didn't want to be stupid; I was smart and I knew it and it was the one thing I had to call my own when the jocks were pushing me around. If I lost my curiosity and drive what would I be? I decided there at the outset that I'd rather die than become the drone they would try to make me.

So the plane landed and they gave me the drill. I'd start out at "level one," not allowed to do anything without permission -- talk, go to the bathroom, look out the window, anything. There was also no privacy, even in the bathroom where my "buddy" would make sure I didn't do anything untoward, like masturbate. Even though it made sense this little detail astonished me. I imagined the pervert sitting in a comfortable office in Utah who decided with the stroke of a pen that thousands of teenagers under his care would not be allowed to have orgasms. Their vision was breathtaking.

The overt rules concealed a network of secondary rules which were only implied, and much more sinister. You couldn't trust anyone or become trusted by anyone since the rules required you to narc any unpermitted behavior you observed. (I once read a story by Norman Spinrad set in a dystopian future where "any act not permitted is prohibited," a terroristic state of affairs that prevails at the School.) Yes it was a simple matter to proceed up the levels, if you were willing to sell your soul. If you were willing to undergo "sessions" where you spilled your most intimate secrets to be ridiculed, if higher up you would become complicit by handing out demerits yourself to those at lower levels.

Unlike most captives of the School I was already familiar with brainwashing techniques before I arrived and I saw right through their bullshit. Unfortunately that didn't change the fact that I was under their "care." Their major sanction for uncooperation is "face time," lying face down on concrete with your arms tied painfully for hours, days, even months on end. I foresaw doing a lot of face time.

Theoretically face time is only for wild, out-of-control behavior, but in reality it's for anything that pisses off the staff. I got my first taste of it on my second day and I don't think it's for anything I did; I think it's because my family host considers it a point of pride to make all new recruits cry, and I didn't.

I knew from the outset that my secret weapon was my dignity. I knew I couldn't shame people who are shameless torturers of children, but it wasn't about them; it was about me. They could apply any ridiculous sanctions for no good reason and this was beyond my control; but if I could shrug and simply endure the discomfort and quietly cooperate with the things that weren't important, it would be a tremendous victory.

On my second day at the School, lying on my face with my elbow nearly dislocated, I realized two important things. The first was that I could take the torture if I had to. I could take it to save my soul. If I simply alternated between a little face time and level one I could survive. I'd have a lot of time to think, but thinking is something I do well. Blind people learn to organize their thoughts without paper; I might acquire a similar discipline and extend my understanding of algorithms.

The second thing I realized was that I would never forgive my parents. They were suggestible and I knew, having seen it online, that the School's literature was slick. While they weren't evil people they had a responsibility, and they had fucked it up unforgivably.

On my third day I sat and did my mail-order lessons. (cheap bastards couldn't even be bothered with teachers, despite charging P and M over $30,000 a year for incarcerating me.) I raised one or two fingers depending on whether I needed to take a piss or a dump. I tried to get used to my "buddy" watching me wipe my ass. I didn't say a word. Late in the afternoon my case worker visited me, a truly despicable piece of human trash whose name I have erased from my memory.

It began to occur to me that I could cultivate a taste for masochism. I wasn't naturally disposed to enjoy pain but it might be better than crushing boredom.
"Well, you seem to be adjusting better than most, Brian. A little face time helps the attitude, doesn't it?" I shrugged and shook my head.
"Come on, you can answer freely, I'm your casey. Along with your family members here, I'll be deciding whether you move up the levels, eventually to graduation. So you should be open with me."

"I have no intention of moving up the levels."

"Come on, the rules are simple. All you have to do is follow them."

"I don't feel like it."

"That may change."

"It may or may not. Time will tell."

"An unusually poetic thought for a School member. But time has told many times, and you'll find life at level one gets old pretty quickly."

"In some ways, I've been at level one my whole life. I think I'll handle it okay."

"Come on, a smart lad like you will want to occasionally venture an opinion."

"I don't see why. Doesn't seem like much of a privilege to be allowed to talk to people who are running a brainwashing camp, and their toadies at the high levels."
Not surprisingly, that got me my second day of face time on day four.


After a week I was told I should write a letter home. Just like that; typical of the place's attitude, subtle as a brickbat over the head. It was obvious that P and M had been inquiring. So I wrote them a letter:
Daniel and Margaret:

I won't bore you with tales of how awful this place is, since I'm sure they will assure you I am trying to manipulate my way out of the situation. And so I would be; life itself is manipulation, each organism trying to get the best position for itself in life.

I have given much thought in the last seven days to the question of whether I can ever forgive you. And sadly, I find that I can't. It's not about the treatment here so much as the being dragged out of bed and hauled off to a foreign country at the behest of people you once trusted. If I can trust you that little, even if you were sending me to Club Med I'd have to avoid you for the rest of my life.

Looking back I see I made a terrible misjudgement. I thought you were not monsters. Now that I am paying the price I vow it is a mistake I will never make again.

Please do not write again. You are dead to me.

That got me three days face down on the floor, and I'm certain they didn't send the letter. Not that it mattered, because the intent was sincere and the content didn't change a week later when they asked me to write another one.


Of the three years I spent at the School the middle year, when I was sixteen, was hardest. The first year I lived on rage and the last year I lived on hope, knowing they had no choice but to release me on my eighteenth birthday. (They tried to tell me they could keep me until I was twenty-one but I knew that was a lie.) But the middle year was very hard, and sometimes I'd falter in my meditation or find myself crazy with addled lust.

If I'd been incarcerated at thirteen or fourteen instead of fifteen I think they would have gotten me. But I was stronger than I knew and I was as exceptional as I thought and after awhile, never seeing level 2 became something of a badge of honor.

I saw three Fun Days, when we are "allowed" a little "freedom." Actually a little free-acting is demanded of us before our parents show up. The place is cleaned up, much more so than usual. (The filthy conditions aren't just cheapness; they're part of the overall brainwashing thing of making you "uncomfortable." Also, the unpermitted adjustments which are necessary, like hoarding the inadequate supply of toilet paper, make everyone vulnerable even if they've reached level 3 or 4.)

I spent my Fun Days looking out through the chain link at the beach as my parents begged me to get with the program. They were obviously hooked deep into the School's cult, spouting their little code words and parroting the same bullshit my casey did. Eventually I'd start talking, and shortly thereafter the "interview" would be over because I'd basically restate the topic of my first and every following letter home. I was done with them. The only good thing about the ongoing train wreck is that I knew it was bankrupting them.

Although I had formed the theory that it would be a good idea I never was able to cultivate a taste for pain. I was able to learn to drive it out of my mind. As Nietzsche said, "whatever does not kill you makes you strong." I became very strong indeed at the School, but not in the way they wanted.

Since I'd always had a problem with rote memorization I made a project of memorizing every aspect of the School. I memorized all the workers and their names and practised recalling them at will and in as much detail as possible. I memorized the layout of the place. At first it was very difficult, but eventually I got the trick. Before I left I had memorized nearly all the other prisoners, too.


The School director affected scorn as he teased me with the airline ticket, but I could tell he was as genuine as a used car salesman. He was losing an income stream, and he wasn't happy about it.
"We've advised your parents to cut you off if you don't graduate the program," he warned as if it was important. "You'll never inherit, you'll be on your own."

"I've never planned to inherit since my third day here," I said. "I'm an adult now and I can honestly tell you to go fuck yourself. As for my parents, as I've written in every letter you've demanded I write, I'm through with them."

"Well, you may find it hard to make your way in the world without their help."

"I know, this little adventure sabotaged all my chances at a real education. Don't worry, I'll deal with it."

"You'll be back."

"You know, you may be right."
He thought that was an admission of weakness and he smirked as he handed over the ticket and the fifty dollars. But it wasn't weakness, it was a very dark truth.


The School had advised my parents to put me up at a hotel for a few days with just a little money and no car, a different kind of leash. I took the room and refused to meet with them. I wandered around town and tried to figure out what to do next.

I happened to run across a tree crew cutting down a fallen oak. It's an interesting truth about the economy that shit jobs are never in short supply; somebody will always underpay you to do hard physical labor. It's the lack of jobs that pay enough to let you buy a house and raise a family that get the economists all in a lather. I found the tree crew foreman and asked if he was hiring.
"We're always hiring, but you look a little frail for this job."

"Mister, you wouldn't believe what I can put up with. Will you at least give me a chance?"
I had always been afraid of heights but the School had taught me that I could overcome fear. I learned quickly and on my very second day I earned overtime, $18 an hour for working as the dusk closed in.

My parents showed up as I was packing to move out of the hotel room.
"We were wondering if you'd reconsider," Daniel aka Dad said.

"No. I have a job and I just rented a place and I'll be fine."

"But we hate to see you wasting your potential. You could still go to college if you complete the program."

"You wasted my potential. I am just picking up the pieces. And if you ever come near me again I'll get a restraining order to keep you away."
Whatever does not kill you makes you strong. I could never have told my parents that before the School.


I had nightmares. I went to the library and looked up the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and three cherries came up. None of the treatments looked very effective. I thought about it and realized that the one lesson the School had taught me successfully was to face my fears. Every night I meditated at length, focusing on one of the employees whose faces I memorized. I made up elaborate deaths for all of them.

The nightmares didn't stop, but they became manageable.

At the library I noticed Internet terminals. I was far from being able to afford a computer and broadband Internet access but I could get an hour for free just by hanging around. I started hanging around a lot when I wasn't cutting down trees. I found a huge amount of information online about the School and its sister Schools around the world. I found a number of victim support groups and one time for long minutes I contemplated joining one.

Thinking of my nightmares, and how they always ended now, I realized that this was not the way to deal with things. I was meant to confront my demons, not to complain about them or run from them but to duke it out, mano a mano whatever the odds might be. I was the owner of a great power. I had successfully resisted three years of brainwashing, as I watched hundreds of other kids fold up. This was not a thing to be taken lightly.

I wasn't spending much money and soon I could have bought a computer, but I bought a gun instead. I also had some pictures of my parents blown up to life-size and I brought them to the shooting range where I used them as targets as I learned to use my gun. At least one good thing about the School is that, unlike a real prison, it doesn't encumber your rights. Seven days after filling out the form I was the proud owner of a brand new Glock pistol.

I mastered it quickly. I have always had a knack for machines, and this turned out to be true even for machines of death.


I made the decision to become a criminal easily, but not without some sadness. I had important things to do which would not be financed by cutting down trees, and I needed the time and energy.

I heard the ghost of Colin Wilson whispering in my ear about the criminal shortcut, and I politely asked his forgiveness. Colin had not envisioned the thing that had been done to me. I researched everything and acted boldly when necessary. I became skilled in the arts of false documentation and I practiced the casual theft of things like cars and boats. I decided not to learn to fly; if I was going to become Repairman Jack then the paper trail would be too thick.

Being a successful criminal requires you to understand things, but moreso it requires you to understand people. Which is easier, hot-wiring a car or simply driving off in one whose engine has been left idling? I became a student of what people do not notice. I learned disguise. I learned to make myself invisible.

I learned Spanish.

I took what I needed only from those who could afford it. When you are a criminal you walk like a god among men; everything is potentially yours to command. Of course there is a flipside to this, and most criminals are undone because they forget to be careful. I was very careful. I had developed a wonderful memory for detail thanks to the School and I could collect opportunities for future action simply by walking down the street and noticing things.


I wrote a script which polled a government website for flight plans filed to and from the little airport nearest the School in Jamaica. It ran quietly for me on one of the computers at the library. One day I checked in on it and noticed a charter was due to depart soon from Lakefront Airport, only a few miles away.

If this was what I thought it was, I could not let it happen.

I hot-wired an old beater I found in the parking lot of the local mall and drove out to the airport. I quickly found the plane; it wasn't hangared but neither was there anybody around.

Whatever you have been told about airport security after 9/11, let me assure you it doesn't apply to small private airports. I knew enough about aviation to spin a good yarn but nobody even confronted me as I wandered around the parked aircraft. Acting like an admirer I schmoozed up the plane scheduled for Jamaica, and as I inspected its three-point landing gear I snuggled the gun up to one of the rear tires and blew it out. (This wasn't the Glock registered to me; at this point I had many untraceable guns.)

After that I puttered around one of the nearby aircraft as if I was the owner. Eventually a little procession arrived, the pilot followed by two burly goons and a handcuffed teenage girl between them. When the pilot saw the blown tire, a great altercation started. Clearly he was unwilling to fly with it that way, and equally clearly the goons wanted to get in the air ASAP.

I strolled over casually.
"Problem, guys?" One goon pointed at the tire.
"You know anything about this?" he snarled.
"As a matter of fact, I did see something." I pulled the gun and shot him in the neck. Before his co-goon could react I wheeled and shot him in the neck. Then I wheeled and drew a bead on the pilot.
"Please, man...I'm just flyin' 'em."

"How often you fly handcuffed teenagers to Jamaica, mon?"
I gave him a few seconds.
"You shouldn't work for evil people, mon. Your deeds come back on you." And I shot him. Knowing this was a momentous act, my first murder, I troubled to notice my feelings. And I had never felt better. I had wiped a giant dog turd off the foot of humanity, and mentally I patted myself on the back for a job well done.

Then, calmly, I got out my handcuff key and unlocked the girl's restraints. She was understandably upset, and I had fucked up; she had seen my face. I'd have to change my appearance and assume a new identity.
"You killed them," she said, and it wasn't an accusation. Her tone conveyed wonder. As it possibly should have.
"They were evil people intent on doing you great harm. I have come back from where they were taking you. You don't want to go there."

"What do I do?"

"Run, and don't get caught until you are eighteen. Trust no one. Steal what you need from those least likely to notice. Don't go to a relative, no matter how well-meaning they are. If your parents are behind this they can have you sent anyway."

"I don't have any money. I don't have anything."

"One way or another your life as you knew it is over. It's your choice whether to let them turn you into a nightmare-plagued zombie or resist them."
To this day I don't know how it ended, if she evaded her pursuers or get sent to the School anyway. I do know that the ambush made only the local papers, and nobody made the connection with the School. I suspect it cost the School a few bucks to keep it that way.

Since I'd compromised my identity I didn't bother going home. I could get everything I needed again in short order, and soon I was a different person living in a different American city. And the gun which had killed the "escorts" lay at the bottom of the Mississippi River two hundred miles upstream, where I was confident it would never be found.


I read the survivors' accounts faithfully. Always my destiny hung in the air as I visited the library. I could have afforded a computer of my own; I could have afforded a Beowulf cluster of them, but I rarely stayed in one place long enough to justify getting a broadband hookup. And most libraries have Internet access.

I considered recruiting helpers, but my basic distrust of people was too great to let me take that route. What I wanted to do required an army, but it would have to be an army of one.

I made it to Jamaica on a stolen yacht, which I abandoned at a point on the island far from the School. I stole a speedboat and bobbed offshore until my calculations told me the hour was right to revisit the School.

There had been a little employee turnover but jobs at the School pay very well on Jamaican terms and for the most part I knew who to kill. I was methodical and efficient. I knew they would hear and become aware; some of the students were too complicit to cheer me on, and there is no such thing as a "silenced" firearm that is really quiet. So I planned my route to make use of the chaos. When the workers affected to be prisoners I recognized them and picked them away. The staff were used to dealing with compliant teenagers on overwhelming terms, and against me they had no defense.

I made my way back to the speedboat, to yet another part of the island, where I had identified another yacht ripe for stealing. In two days I was back in the USA.


I had the first sleep without nightmares since returning from my first visit to the School.


I smiled and thought of other Schools in Mexico, Samoa, even the northern USA, and I began to formulate plans.

But first, I prepared to visit my parents.
:: everist 10:09 PM [+] ::

:: Wednesday, September 10, 2003 ::

Studying at 5am

I woke up at 4:30am today for no particular reason. This is happening quite often lately. I think the combination of a hungry kitty in the morning and the fact that my mind is racing ever since I got back to school, conspire to allow me to sleep for pure physiological reasons only.

Last night I prepared my presentation on Marcel Schoppers' 1987 paper on Universal Plans. I had a lot of fun researching this since I studied related papers and its criticism as well as talk to the author directly. Working at NASA JPL now, he was kind enough to answer my questions via email, and I obtained wonderful insights about research work in the trenches. Of course, he doesn't do research anymore, since he got fed up with it.

This morning I'm reading about a theory of evolution of the brain by Michael Arbib, one of my professors teaching my Brain Theory & AI class. This class is quite interesting but also quite difficult. There's so much new terminology like 'cerebellum', 'amgydala', and 'basal ganglia'. Fun!

:: everist 5:20 AM [+] ::
:: Monday, September 01, 2003 ::

There and Back Again

7:00am - Woke up to the meowing and harassment from Bean. Pushed him off the bed a couple times and finally threw a blanket at him to make him shut up.

8:00am - Alarm went off. Immediately Bean began meowing insistently that I feed him. I got up and walked to the kitchen while the blood was rushing out of my head. Gave him a scoop, reset my alarm and went back to bed.

9:00am - Alarm went off. Reset it to 10 and fell asleep.

10:00am - Alarm went off. Reset it to 11. Tried to go to sleep. Bean began harassing me again, and I realized that I needed to go to the lab to work today. Got up. Ate cereal. Drank coffee. Listened to the radio and answered my email.

11:00am - Got in the car and drove off to Marina del Rey where the research laboratory was.

11:45am - Signed in at the desk, and took the elevator to the 8th floor.

11:50am - Took the elevator to the ground floor and signed out after realizing that it was Labor Day and no one was there. Drove back to my apartment.

12:30pm - Got home. Ate some lunch. Drank 2 cups of water. Ate a handful of Cheez-It's and 2 granola bars.

1:00pm - Wrote the schedule of my day on my web log.
:: everist 1:19 PM [+] ::