It was around two years ago that I first found the files. There were twenty of them, carefully arranged and bound up inside brown paper folders, each one stamped and dated, each a marvel unto itself and each hidden away from the world until the day that someone would unwittingly stumbled across them. As it happened, that someone was me. I remember thinking at the time that It was just like Dad to leave unfinished business for someone else to deal with, he always was a man who kept secrets.
When my father died in 2018, he left the family home to me. My mother had passed away around a decade earlier and I had no siblings, so I suppose I was his only remaining choice. I never intended to keep the place and I certainly didn’t want to live there. Something about the thought of sitting alone up there with the ghosts of memories swilling around me made me cringe in places I didn’t even realise it was possible to cringe. I decided that at the first opportunity, I was going to sell the place.
So, I engaged a number of designers and some builders to refurbish the place, outlining what I wanted done with each room to increase the value of the structure before I put it up for sale. One of the jobs I undertook personally as part of this project, was refitting the floor in my Father’s study and as part of a larger overhaul of the plumbing system, installing underfloor heating in there. It was after prying up one of the floorboards, above which my father’s heavy oak desk had rested regally for the past four decades, that I found a small recess and within it, a medium sized metallic box.
Over the next six months I would uncover three more of these boxes and remove from them a total of twenty ‘case files’, files that presumably my father had stolen or removed without permission from work and then had the good sense to hide away in case anyone came looking for them. Considering the contents of the files and the fact that every page of every one had the word ‘classified’ stamped across it, I can see why he chose to do it.
Each folder, labelled with some esoteric file name like ‘EloEB 198 Namibia abf’ ‘ ‘22Bet Kenya app‘ or ‘Fi1 moganddogtravels Thai 32’ seemed to contain an oblique reference to a country and some other filing system that I could not make any sense of. The stories within the files however, took no decoding. They were clearly written, unambiguous in their content and often provided photographic evidence and local newspaper reports to go along with the statements and summaries provided. They were however, without exception, unbelievable.
Each file concerned an event that had taken place in the country referenced in the file name and about which my own government had clearly asked to be briefed, whilst also taking great care to ensure that news of these stories never became public over here. The stories ranged from the unnerving to the horrific and in every case, no matter how implausible the story may be, were presented as absolute, substantiated and inarguable fact. The compiler of each report had even signed a declaration attesting to the fact that to the best of their knowledge the information contained within the file was accurate, up to date and verifiable through witness testimony or physical evidence. Looking at the first file and then examining the declaration in each of the others, I came to a horrible realisation. I recognised the signature.
That my father had worked for the government was no secret. What he actually did for them was. I remembered many nights when my mother would scream at him down the phone about him working ‘another’ late night or deciding that he was going away that weekend on almost no notice.
He would always protest that this was ‘part of the job’. My mother suspected an affair and eventually the erosion of trust and my father’s inability to explain what he had been doing and where, led them to divorce. My mother moved out and I went with her, always accepting her version of events and taking as fact, the idea that my Father was a no good cheat and responsible for the breakdown of their marriage. Whilst the latter statement might have been true, the contents of the files made me wonder about the former. If this was the kind of thing my father was doing, then maybe there was a reason he was so secretive, maybe he was protecting us and maybe, he really did have to work all those late nights. Maybe, but then as I said, my father was clearly a man of secrets.
The first file that I read, the first one I intend to share and which convinced me immediately that these were not just random pages filed away by accident, was the one marked ’22Bet Kenya app’. The events it detailed took place in Northern Kenya, but were very much orchestrated and overseen by my government, at least at first. Once they got out of hand, my government washed its hands of the whole affair. Clearly, when something is a project it’s ’ours’ when it becomes a problem it’s ‘theirs’.
In fairness to the scientists initially working on the project, I honestly believe their insistent pleas that they had the best intentions. What more noble cause could there be than trying to eliminate hunger? I know that many people object to the idea of genetic modification of foods on principle, but I have to suspect that the people interviewed within those pages genuinely thought that they had something to offer.
In some ways the story was quite a simple one. A problem with the food chain caused by interference with the natural order of things.
The file, unlike many of the others, opened with photocopies of news reports, all of which screamed in sensationalist tones about ‘vampirism’. The reports, which all centred around one particular area of the country outlined how four individuals in the space of two weeks had been found, deceased in fields on the outskirts of town having had almost their entire supply of blood and significant portions of their body fat drained from them.
The wild conjectures and lurid descriptions given by the newspapers were somehow less shocking than the more ‘evidence based’ medical reports, copies of which were also enclosed within the folder, with each showing something that might once have been a human being but which now resembled some sort leathery hollow, emptied from the inside out.
I had never been a believer in such things as ‘vampires’ and ghosts, but having seen those photographs I could think of no known animal capable of inflicting those kinds of injuries, or so I thought. As it turned out I did know such an animal, I simply had not considered the matter of scale.
Before the summary report, signed and presumably typed by my father, the compiler had seen first to include a number of other documents. Accounts and clearance documents for experimental gene manipulations to be carried out on a list of species, most of which belonged to the antelope family. These clearance documents also contained rationales which explained that the muscle tissue in antelope and deer was more fibrous and elastic, meaning that it would lend itself better to the rapid ‘expansion’ in a few generations which the ‘treatment’ they spoke of was intended to bring about.
The results of these ‘expansions’ were displayed in photographs dated around 18 months later and attached to the documents. In them, immense malformed horrors, flailed and thrashed inside makeshift enclosures. Warped and bloated approximations of things vaguely shaped like antelopes, pale and blistered, lay on their sides kicking listlessly at the straw as they tried to rise on spindle legs far too flimsy to support their massive bulk.
Each specimen was, judging by their size in relation to the humans pictured before or beside them, at least the size of a giraffe with some of them being many times the size of elephants and looking for all the world like some hideous mammalian dinosaur. In every case, the thing in the picture looked ‘wrong’ unnatural and out of place in this or any world in which men with consciences reside.
I appreciate the intention behind these creatures. That someone, somewhere, believed that by producing these animals, inflated versions of the ones we know, they would be able to perhaps produce larger quantities of meat, or perhaps extract huge vats of milk. They believed perhaps, that in years to come, when the technology was perfected, the same process could be carried out on less hardy species like cows or chickens. That they might, by bringing these things to life, be able to help by feeding people. I have no doubt that initially, the intentions were good, but then what is it they say about the paving on the road to hell?
To begin with, I was not able to see the link between the newspaper reports and the pitiful horrors that the experiments had produced. Surely these poor doomed animals were not actually a danger to anyone? Surely, they couldn’t have been responsible for the deaths reported in the newspapers? I had already formulated these questions before I read the report and looked at the final photograph. The photograph of a tick.
A natural parasite on the smaller versions of these creatures, this tick had grown to the size of a labrador. In the image, it was clamped to the torso of a young man, gripping with its many legs around his frame as one’s fingers might curl around an orange or a baseball. It’s pale blue body, darkened at the edges to rich purple, as it began to swell with the blood and fat it was slowly sucking from its victim.
My father’s report outlined how these creatures, having fed at their normal size, upon the genetically inflated creatures, must have escaped undetected from the facility and impacted by the same cocktail of growth stimulating hormones, will have morphed into something entirely different. It also explained how a team, engaged by my government, had located and eliminated over twelve examples of these ticks. However, two statements in his conclusion have haunted me ever since.
The first was the potential breeding rate of these creatures and just how many might still be out there. It was explained that the Kenyan government and wildlife agencies were aware of the situation and were monitoring the fauna in the area for any signs of them. So far there have been no reports, but of course, that’s so far.
The second thing was a detail in the description of exactly how these things fed. For just like a normal size tick, these hideous giants operated like parasites and therefore had an interest in ensuring that their victims remained alive whilst they fed.
Since finding the files, I have decided to pay far closer attention to the local newspapers in some very specific areas of the globe, after all there are nineteen others to get through.
Written by Andrew Parish
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