I could see the back of his head. His haircut was not the typical military close-crop of bristle but jet black sweeps, almost glossy. He was sitting there in his guarded room, tapping out words on a keyboard. His olive army shirt was saturated with sweat. There was a crystal tumbler next to the computer, with two shots of scotch displaced by shards of ice. A ceiling fan was rotating above him, to keep the room cool from the oppressive heat. He was 7,000 miles away but I could see him clearly when I closed my eyes. It had taken a few moments to calm myself, to be free of my flesh chains, to navigate the meditation.
“Can you read what he is typing?” asked the Captain, who was sitting in the only chair in my room. He was impatient for me to speak again and I was trying to suppress my irritation at his regular interruptions.
“Not yet,” I replied quietly. “…But, I can sense his feelings. His mood is dark, fearful.”
The target was American-Chineese, the same as me. He had been educated in Europe, and worked for the US in many capacities for the Defence Department. Most importantly, he had been privy to US black ops and top secret files. We knew he had sold out and was working on something to counter our work, something sinister.
“He knows what we are doing… I can see two words… They are in English, not Chineese…Project… Tulpa… Hold on…Wait…”
My eyes began to hurt, despite being closed.
“…Wait,” I repeated, more urgently. “He knows I am in the room with him.”
“How? Explain?” said the Captain, emotionless and composed.
“He’s looking at me in my mind. Wait, no… No… It’s not him, it’s someone else, someone I cannot see.”
The pain in my eyes crawled through my sinuses, penetrating deeper into my face. I was aware of a wet sensation on my arm. It was a spot of blood, a single drop that had fallen from one nostril.
“Get out,” ordered the Captain. “Abort mission.”
I opened my eyes slow. It was not easy, as if I was pulling my head from swamp mud. I could feel the sharp spike of something in my brain. As my heart rate elevated from its yogic, gentle beat, I instinctively realised what had occurred, as did the Captain.
“They have their own agent now, they have a Mind Soldier.”
I nodded in agreement, wiping a smear of blood across my face from my nose, trying to remember which draw the tissues were in, in this cluttered little concrete room.
“Yes. Agreed. But this one, this one is different. It was nothing like sensing the other people in my unit, on exercise. Really got to me… So weird.”
I stood up, a little uneasy on my feet. I had never been attacked before whilst travelling.
The whole world, every living thing in it, was connected by threads in a sea of mental energy, like the world was made of consciousness, but manipulating it for a purpose took knowhow and heart. It was a method I assumed only the guys in my covert unit were working on. In truth I had been remote viewing to a degree since an early age, without really knowing how I was doing it. I had been a blunt tool with the gift. When I joined the army, the brass soon got wind of it, initially from the mocking voices in the ranks. I was a natural choice for their secret Mind Soldier programme, but when I signed up, I soon realised, I had only seen a fraction of what the phenomenon was.
It didn’t take long with focus and direction, to become a skilled field operative. I was living The Twilight Zone. I had bent time and seen things I daren’t even explain to my Captain. I was hired to spy on the nation’s enemies and people of interest, with high success rates, to the point where I could brag about influencing government policies and starting convenient wars. It truth, it was often hard to keep my anchor in the ground, as reality became highly subjective and dream-like.
Remote viewing was a mental exercise, dependent on the receiver and transmitter of your brain. It required on the one hand wanting to see a target, and on the other blanking your mind, giving it a canvass to find the colours and textures of your target. After only three months of advanced training, it became second nature. I would find myself zeroing in on my ex-girlfriend and locating her in bars, understanding her mood, eave’s dropping on her conversations, when she was living in another country. I once saw a good friend going through a mental breakdown in my mind – I just felt it, like a fly’s leg had tapped a silk thread of the spider’s web, and I called him immediately. He was surprised to hear my voice at that precise moment.
“Your timing,” he had said, “is interesting.” He had been staring at a large dark bottle of orange pills at the time, thinking the unthinkable. I even knew the pills were there and what kind they were. It was like being God’s eyes.
I kept developing my skills until nothing felt real anymore, or rather everything felt too real. I could now wander into a room in a foreign intelligence agency and see words on a computer screen – such was this tool I had mastered within me. It didn’t stop there, however. After remote viewing, the next programme was remote influencing, trying to nudge other people and events to your will. This was not something we did lightly. It was infinitely harder to accomplish, and my superiors often felt edgy with the whole concept, incase agents turned rogue. There were constant psych evaluations and the intense monitoring of our movements had become part of life here in Lab 18, our little fortified bunker in the forest.
Tulpa. I had read that word – in the early days of looking up psychic phenomena.
The Captain had stood up and was looking uncharacteristically unnerved.
“That word…” I said, “I know it. I have read about it.”
“Yes. Tulpas are supposed to be thought forms, creations of people or creatures forged from the mind. Used to be a Tibetan thing – I think it means manifestation. The premise is that your thoughts become like modelling clay for reality, and your thoughts are alive. Tulpas, they are supposed to do your bidding for you, so this is not like remote access, or whispering in an ear, this is more like manifesting a guard dog. They can obey the host but eventually they can be independent of the host and form their own thoughts. It’s not unlike the concept of conjuring demons.”
I watched him pace up and down the confines of the room, thinking. In any other military complex this kind of talk would be frowned on as a pathetic joke, but not here.
“Sounds unstable, and dangerous to the host,” I pondered.
“Yes. It would certainly be dangerous. That’s why we never chased this rabbit down the hole. It was something we discussed in the early days but we knew if it could be done, it was like letting a monster loose – no telling where it could go and what it could do. Control is the first thing we need to establish, in whatever programme we devise.”
The presence I had experienced, that had hurt me, it did feel human in some ways but at its core, it was not – I knew that from the blackness where its soul should have been. I began to feel a little scared.
“Clean yourself up, Joe. Get some rest. You did good, extracting the project name, we have something to work with now.” The Captain was already walking out of the room, contemplating strategy.
The light flickered. It was not that unusual in a bunker like this, with generators feeding most systems, but the flicker was a long one. A second or two, like something had moved through the light.
I looked up at the naked bulb as if continued to fizz and glare in recovery.
It was as if a shadow, about the size of a man, was slipping around the door from the ceiling, following the Captain into the corridor.
I stepped slowly around the doorway but by the time I had reached it, both the Captain and the shadow had turned a corner and were out of sight.
If it was a tulpa, it was on the move, tracking prey. It occurred to me, if it was following the Captain, it was not guarding the last target anymore. It could present a window of opportunity. I scurried back to my large velvet cushion on the floor, sat cross legged and breathed in deeply, exhaled deeply, held my breath for seconds, until I found that rhythm of energy between all things.
The man was slumped over his keyboard. He was stone cold dead. The contents of his crystal tumbler were now spilled over his desk, soaking into documents near his upturned hand. There were the words on his screen, Project Tulpa.
I focused and relaxed into the haze of the vision. There was more.
Classified. Project Tulpa.
All test subjects deceased. Compromised base security. Highly dangerous to proceed. Potential for sporadic mass destruction.
I couldn’t read anymore, partly because I sensed ‘it’ was alerted to my presence. The tulpa was a powerful thing, an intense black spot in the realm I was in, like a puncture through a film. It could feel my every thought, circling me like a huge shark in deep waters.
I tried to lock on to it in my head, at the same time surrounding my ethereal self in a protective bubble, a shield of blue light. As with all mind projection, I had to be certain my actions would work or weakened resolve would in turn, weaken impact. Your drive, your certainty – that was how the mind became effective, powerful and worked magic.
I heard it speak inside my head.
“You bleed, like everyone bleeds.”
“I do. I am human,” I replied in my internal voice – just words in my head. I had to be pure in my responses – it could read everything about my thoughts, my mind, everything.
“Who created you, you have taken someone’s form?”
“I was created by a soldier. I am here to kill.”
I detected its rage and the satisfaction it would reap from carnage. It wanted to destroy everybody it could find, it desired it, to do what it was designed naturally to do. The brain this being was conjured from, the soldier must have been special forces, or someone who saw killing as a pastime, a pleasure. It was thinking how to kill right then, in the moment, as it communicated. And like the circling shark before a strike, it seemed to vanish for a second out of my view.
I opened my eyes. And just in time.
The Captain had returned and was standing in the doorway, a black revolver in his grasp, pointed at my head. His eyes, they no longer belonged to him. He was trying to resist pulling the trigger, his face grimacing, straining.
I jumped to my feet, sprinted toward him and knocked the gun from his hand with a roundhouse kick. He looked relieved for a split second, as his hand released the gun but within the next moment, rage flooded in from the imposter possessing his body.
He grabbed at me, punched my ribs hard with a fist, and reached up with his nails for my eyes, inspired to blind me. I ducked my head and with an elbow jab, smashed his jaw up and back so he toppled over.
There were syringes in the room full of mild tranquiliser, we sometimes used them on ourselves for meditation. I found one quickly and darted the Captain in the neck with it. Sitting on his chest to pin him down, it took a little while for him to drift off into a fog of sedation.
A shadow, a human figure, just visible in the peripheral eyesight, oozed up from his torso, seeping into the room. It seemed to grow in dimensions to float above us and drifted to the back wall.
I knew what to do. The men in my unit could assist – they had experience in remote influencing at least, they just needed to know what was happening. I was trying to alert them with my mind. It knew what I was up to.
This time the voice was not in my head like before, it was real, and in the room; a sly, slow, male voice.
“They can’t hurt me,” it murmured. It was as if a ghost was talking to me, but a ghost would be preferable. This was a psychotic ethereal being born of a killer’s brain.
The dark blurry shape rushed toward me, so suddenly and fast that I instinctively back-peddled out of the room into the corridor. As it did so, I noticed it knock objects off the small table in my room, its physicality apparent and effective.
The Captain was badly attempting to snap out of it but was like some payday drunk who was pleased to achieve oblivion and failing to find the right way up. He kind of rolled over on the floor, moaning.
The dark figure was right in front of me. I was staring directly at it, my natural defences all fixed on creating a barrier in this world and its world. I gritted my teeth but it was finding ways inside my head, as if tentacles of pure darkness were reaching inside me – trying to poison my thoughts. At one point I began to lose my breath, like it was strangling me somehow. That’s when I felt my first wave of panic. The intent of this thing, it was so strong and relentless.
As I became stifled, I was aware of other minds coming into the situation, at first one, then two, then five were there alongside us. The unit was wading in, all sitting quietly on chairs or the floor in their rooms nearby, projecting in unison. Soldiers’ code was simple, fight together as a team, not as an individual.
It was as if they were learning from it about how to manifest, by tapping into it. To my surprise, a second shadowy entity appeared nearby and this one turned on the tulpa that was affronting me. ‘A guard dog’ the Captain had said, very apt. I fell to my knees, clutching my throat and shaking my head. The two dark things were a cloud of energy, violently swinging one way and the other. The room erupted as they smashed into shelves, the chair, my bed. It was like watching a violent storm localise inside your home. It made me feel sick – the vibrations from it, they sort of seared the delicate tendrils of my thoughts.
“Run!” it was a clear signal from one of the guys. I heard it load and clear in my head.
I pulled the Captain up over my shoulder in a fireman’s lift and scrambled up the corridor, hitting a silent alarm button on the wall on the way, so red light bathed the scene. The other doors in the corridor were shut. They marked the living quarters of my colleagues, who were now fighting with all their resolve against the aggressor. Mason, Swan, Higgs, Finely, Jenner. We had lived in each other’s minds for a long time now. They were all good fighters, hard men with killer intincts.
I needed to get the Captain to safety first and re-join their conflict. The thing seemed to be able to physically hurt anyone in its way, so it was not an option to leave him on the floor, off his face on meds.
I made it to the Operations Room and dumped him on one of the black swivel chairs. The night vision CCTV images of the forest surrounding the bunker were stark and eerie on the wall mounted plasma screens. The trees appeared white, a negative imprint of their true colour.
I heard a gurgling scream. It was Higgs, one of the few people in here I could call a friend without much exaggeration. I sensed him die, detected the traces of his utter terror at the end. There were two tulpas weaving around the facility now. The beings were being merciless and cruel. I guessed they had stopped fighting each other and decided to work together instead, to turn on humans, their sadistic, manipulating creators. Pure mind energy, it would appear, was not keen on servitude.
I grabbed a headset and dialled an emergency number out of the base. It connected with an army receptionist.
“Lab 18 is under attack! Inform the General it’s Project Tulpa….” But the line went dead halfway through my message. The screens began to switch off, from left to right, one by one, purposefully. I sensed another in my unit gasping for help, then shudder out a last breath. I could feel his pain, the indignation and bizarrely, a sense of betrayal.
More screams errupted from the direction of the corridor – like the tulpas were taking out each soldier, a pair of wolves picking off sheep in their pens, one at a time. I didn’t know what to do. I felt myself cowering in the dark as the last of the screens switched off, my lungs now frantic.
The two shadowy figures glided into the Ops room, rising high up in the air of the tall space. I could make out arms, legs and heads. There were no eyes, no ears, no clothes or other details – just vague human shapes, wisps with basic form. Pure raw emotion. They hovered over me like airborne shrouds, facing me, as if waiting for something, no longer attacking, but still.
That’s when the darkness swallowed me whole and I vanished.
I woke up slowly. I was completely immobile, positioned in a rigid chair in a dazzling white room. Four padded walls. A bad sign. My head was fixed, my arms and legs restrained with metal loops. The General and the Captain were standing directly in front of me, facing me, their legs straight, their arms folded, curious at what they were seeing.
It was as if they didn’t recognise me, or they were anticipating some trick. Without being able to look down, I checked the feeling of my clothes, to see if they had changed me into standard asylum garb, but I still adorned my shirt and trousers from the bunker. I can’t have been out for that long, at most a day perhaps.
“…What the hell happened? Where am I?”
“It’s OK Joe, take it slow. We’ll get you out of these binds soon enough. We just need to talk. You…Err… you had an episode. You don’t remember?”
“I remember the tuplas, two of them. They were killing the guys, taking over the bunker and they were about to finish me… But they stopped… And that is it. I blanked out. It wasn’t unlike a seizure.”
I rolled my eyes to the side, it was hard to see anything around my flanks but I was aware there was a nurse there with a tray and something on it, a syringe.
“Easy Joe, easy.” The General was taking great pains to keep me calm, which was unlike him, to pander to anyone. He had unfolded his arms and was gesturing with his palms at me to stay still, which was strange. He continued: “Those… tulpas… as you call them. We have a theory… Tell me what you think of it… Our best guess is that they came…Well… From you, from your imagination.”
“No, that’s not true. One was created by a Mind Soldier working with the target and one was created by the unit, as self defence….”
The two men, with their immaculate uniforms did not answer, but shuffled, like they were feeling awkward.
The General looked suddenly irritated and waved a finger to the nurse, “Release his head restraint at least. It’s medieval.”
I felt the head cage loosen so I could roll the cricks out of my stiff neck bones.
“Thanks,” I said. “Listen. I saw the computer screen in the target’s office, I saw more words. They created a tulpa and let it loose… which is when it turned on their own operatives.”
The Captain took a step forward to take over the de-briefing, if you could call it that. He knew me better than the General.
“Joe, we think that part of your mission is something your mind made up, as if your mind was trying to tell you an instruction. It’s not easy to analyse this, but we think your skills in this field have snowballed out of control, and the tulpas, they are like a mental backfire. Those things were from YOUR mind, they were killers, like you. When the extraction team came for you, those two devils were in a corner, dormant, like they were waiting for you to wake up. We moved you and observed more of them appear, as if an army was materialising from your dreams. You know, think about it. They went for control of me first, to shoot you, then the men, then the bunker. Your last psych exam concerned us. You said you felt trapped, controlled, needed to break out of this for a while and we ignored that… And I guess, we paid the price for ignoring that. Oh – hell, damn it, sister, take all those restraints off, feeling trapped is what got him and us into this mess in the first place.”
I considered his hypothesis. I did recognise something in those dark fuzzy shapes. The more I pondered about the feelings I felt reflected back at me, it was like me, like the worst part of me, coming out to do as it pleased. Maybe the brass was right. The target I had seen was dead on my return. Was the whole scene imagined, created, dreampt up? The mind is complex, and I was peeling back layers of reality and unreality. The words on his screen, hell, maybe that was my wish after all, maybe that was me talking to myself, warning myself, provoking myself.
Something in me felt different, like I had changed.
“You have to step away from this, now, for good. Your mind, it’s become something bigger than we thought it could ever be and it’s so dangerous, Joe, to all of us.”
They were still staring at me as the nurse released the other restraints, or was it me releasing them? Maybe I released those restraints. Something in me had transformed. I could sense it.
I stood up and stepped away from the room. They didn’t stop me. Or was it that they couldn’t stop me?
When I walked out of the padded cell, I passed the nurse, who I noticed was shaking and unable to look at me directly, her tray with its large hypodermic needle shook and rattled from an upwelling of fear in her. Beyond the room, there were two dead orderlies on the ground, their necks recently snapped. I kept walking, toward the next opened security door until I found a room with a window looking out at the city. The streets were completely empty, apart from the dead bodies, just lying there in the middle of the roads.
I didn’t even need to turn around to know the nurse was desperately trying to put that ugly needle in my neck from behind. They were terrified of me, of my power. They knew they could not control it or control me but it was like they were even afraid to try, as if they had already taken that course of action and paid a heavy price.
It was instinct, or reflex. I snapped the nurse’s arm in half with my mind and she fainted, falling to the floor. I could see everything, somehow.
The Captain and the General were still in the cell where they had constrained me. I didn’t bother with them – I just kept them there, frozen to the spot in paralysis, indefinitely.
This was depressing, it surely was, but at the same time I could sense the unmistakable melting away of all my worries.
There were shadowy movements in every corner, hordes of beings, drifting above my head on the ceiling, aware of me, their creator. I could sense their malice, or my malice, bubbling inside them.
I left the building. I noticed the edge of the forest on the horizon, where Lab 18 was hidden from view. They must have been keen to get me under lock and key, to whisk me here to be caged. Fuck them.
They could not kill me, my thoughts were like an impenetrable wall for them, I had made it that way. I began to remember other things, the remnants of a vivid, lucid nightmare. No, nightmare was the wrong word. I had enjoyed it.
Observing my surroundings, it all came flooding back, what I had achieved.
I walked without reaction, past the tanks that I had earlier turned to molten led, past the twisted and broken dead soldiers, past the overturned cars and burning houses. I kept walking, and I admitted to myself, I didn’t care, not at all. That was the truth.
I was released. My mind was at last, free.