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When you’re getting out of a police car at 3:00 a.m., it’s never for good news.

This thought went through Inspector Cassidy’s mind as he got our of his unmarked police cruiser and zipped his jacket up, pulling his cap slightly forward to better shield his face from the pounding rain. The house he was standing in front of had three other police cars parked outside, all with their their lights on and flashing. Yellow tape with the words DO NOT CROSS wrapped around the front of the well-trimmed lawn and bent around to the back of the house, intending on keeping all unauthorized personal off of the premises. A few of the neighbouring houses had their drapes draws aside as scared, pale faces looked out to see what had happened. Cassidy didn’t blame them for being scared, things like this didn’t happen very often in a small town like this.

Cassidy made his way into the front of the house, stepping gingerly over the yellow tape and giving the two officers he passed a curt nod. The two of them, just as pale as the faces peering out of the nearby houses, nodded shakily back as they stared blankly forward. Cassidy knew these two, Jim and Peter. They had been in the force for the past ten years, and were used to spending most of their shifts handing out speeding tickets or breaking up parties. Nothing like this had ever happened in their career, and if Cassidy hadn’t spent the first twenty years of his career in the poorer regions of the Yukon before moving down here to the small, quiet town of Atarah, British Columbia, he assumed that he’d be feeling the same way Jim and Peter felt.

As soon as Cassidy entered the house, the smell of rot and vomit hit his nose so hard he could feel his eyes instantly start to water. The body that had been discovered in this house had most likely been in there for over five days. They would need to wait for the coroner to give his results for them to be sure, but since the man who now lay dead in the bedroom across the hall had failed to show up to his job as a deli clerk at the local grocery store for the last five days in a row, combined with how bad the smell in the house was, Cassidy had little doubt that this was the case. The deceased man, thirty-one-year-old Bryce Williams, had been discovered by his sister, who had come to check on him after the grocery store manager had contacted her about Bryce’s failure to show up to work. She was currently down at the local hospital with a social worker, being booked for counselling and psychiatric care.

Cassidy passed the kitchen on his way to the bedroom, and gave a quick glance in. Blood was streaked on the kitchen walls in messy hand prints, the sink bowl completely coated with it. Various arrays of knives and other sharp kitchen utensils lay scattered on the kitchen counters and floor, all of them with blood on them.

Closing his eyes, Cassidy took out a handkerchief and used it to cover his nose and mouth, steeling himself for what he was about to see. As he stepped into the bedroom and looked upon the scene, it took every ounce of his willpower not to throw up.

Blood was everywhere. The walls, the floor, even some of it was splattered on the ceiling. The bed mattress was soaked with it, now such a dark shade of red that it almost looked black. The corpse on the bed, Bryce, was completely naked. Cuts covered his body from head-to-toe, the deepest of them now crawling with maggots. Bryce’s penis was missing from his pelvic area, and when Cassidy looked closer to his face, he could see it, shriveled and rotting, between his yellowing teeth. A long, rusty nail had been hammered into Bryce’s left eye, his right one staring at the ceiling in an expression of pure terror.

It would take the coroner a while to figure it out, but every wound on Bryce’s body had been self-inflicted. This, combined with the fact that no other DNA but Bryce’s and his sister’s could be found on his property, gave the police no other choice but to label the case a suicide. Bryce Williams, who had never been late to work and was known as the happiest, most up-beat guy to anyone who knew him, had spent an entire day cutting and stabbing himself until he bled to death. The various pages found beside his bed, with neat lines of algebra written on them that made no sense to any experts who read them, remained a mystery.

Aaron Walker, fourteen-years-old and exhausted, gave a sigh as he shut the metal door of his locker and clicked the lock secure. It had been another long day at school. He wasn’t exactly sure why the day had been so difficult for him to get through, but it had been, and no matter how hard he tried to ignore the sadness creeping around his brain, it always squeezed in his chest at the most unpredictable of times, demanding his full attention. He had been feeling this way for the last few months, and it was starting to affect his grades.

Sliding on his backpack, Aaron slipped his earbuds into his ears and put on some music, avoiding eye contact with the groups of students who lined the hallway as he walked past them. Aaron had always been an incredibly shy person, and his anxiety had withheld him from making any friends at school yet. He attended a private school, St. Peter’s, with a population of less that three-hundred students, so it wasn’t like there was a lot of options for friends. Atarah was a small town, with a population of fifteen-thousand. Aaron’s parents told him that once he got older and moved to a bigger area, he’s make more friends. Aaron wasn’t so sure.

Exiting the side entrance of the school, Aaron trotted down the small set of concrete steps and approached the crosswalk, patiently waiting for the light to change to green. His house was a twenty minute walk from the school, as long as he took the shortcut through the forest. Bryce’s death, which had happened last week and had been plastered all over the news, had already been labelled a suicide, meaning that there was no fear of any murderer out and about in the town. Aaron had felt a pang of remorse for Bryce when he heard the story, especially since, on rainy weekends when all of his homework was finished and his he was bored of his video games, the thought of suicide had started to creep into his mind for reasons Aaron was unsure of.

When the light turned green, Aaron crossed it quickly, waving to the drivers as a thank you for stopping, and started his steady stroll towards the forest. Birds chirped around him on this sunny day, but Aaron heard none of them, as he had the music in his earbuds set to max volume. He wanted the music to drown out the sadness, to cause its slimy tendrils to slip off his brain and chest and to leave him alone.

When he entered the forest, the sunlight immediately dimmed, the massive trees surrounding him blocking much of it out and casting showy patterns over Aaron and the ground. About five minutes into his walk through the forest, Aaron came across a man sitting on a bench along the pathway. He wore dark rouge dress pants, a dark green shirt, and a bright white lab coat that went down to his knees. His build was slim, with a young, clean-shaven face and chocolate-brown hair gelled stylishly on his head. He was writing away quickly in a leather notebook he had resting on his lap, humming away as he did so with a large smile on his face. As Aaron got closer to him, he instinctively felt the need to take his earbuds off, and did so with haste.

Once the cord had been stuffed into his pocket, the man looked up at Aaron, his smile widening as if he was expecting him. In a thick Scottish accent, the man said “Hello, Aaron”.

Aaron had never met this man before, but he felt not the slightest bit of alarm when he spoke his name. On the contrary, he felt rather comfortable around the man, the sadness that had been bugging him all day fading with each step he took closer to him. Returning a smile, he said hello back.

“Why don’t you take a seat with me, Aaron? I’d love to show you what I’m working on.” Excitement fluttering in his chest, Aaron agreed and quickly sat to the man’s right, not even asking what his name was. An infatuation with the man had taken over Aaron, and although he hadn’t the slightest clue why it was there, he didn’t question it for a second. He hadn’t felt this happy for a long time.

The man held up the book, rubbing the brow, dry leather on the outside. “This here is bat leather. Bats are my favourite animal. Do you know why, Aaron?” When Aaron shook his head, the man said “It’s because bats show us what we can achieve when we fight against what comes naturally. They are the only mammals that can fly, flapping through the air with skin stretched between fingers too wide apart to function properly. They achieved flight by going against what comes naturally to them, which is why, when one of my pet bats died from rabies, I took his skin and made this book. All of my most precious discoveries are written down here.”

Aaron looked up at the man, smiling and nodding. Everything the man said made perfect sense to him. Information about the man flooded into his mind, and although Aaron didn’t know where it came from, it all made sense to him, and he wondered how he didn’t know it sooner. He had felt no need to ask this man for his name because this man didn’t have one. He was a doctor, a mathematician, from a physical reality outside of humans, merely masquerading as a human so that he could gather his information more easily.

“That’s right, Aaron,” the man said, reading his thoughts. “I’m not from here. The world I came from was destroyed by its own inhabitants, who tore themselves apart through war because they could not understand the emotional pain they each went through. I am the sole survivor of that world, and I have come to this world to save your race from the same fate as mine. If your human society continues on the path is it currently on, they will end the same way my race did, and for the same reasons.”

“But how?” Aaron asked, as confused as he was amazed. “How can you save the human race if what we fight over is in our minds?”

“Though science!” the man, who started to take on the alias as the Scream Scientist in Aaron’s mind, said as he showed Aaron the pages he had been writing on. On them, written in the neatest penmanship Aaron had ever seen, were straight lines of math Aaron had never seen before. They were a mixture of variables and numbers, with signs Aaron didn’t recognize. Aaron couldn’t make any sense of the writing.

“Don’t worry, I didn’t expect you to understand it,” the Scream Scientist said in his Scottish voice, putting an arm around Aaron and giving a tight hug. Aaron smiled and hugged back, loving the embrace. “This here is math I created myself. It’s sort of a mixture of math and science, and its focused completely on human emotions. Since I’m able to enter the minds of humans, and to see what they fear and regret the most, I’ve been slowly working towards creating a mathematical spectrum for emotional pain. I’m also able to control their emotions, and create hallucinations for them, both of which are essential for the experiments I preform.”

Completely wrapped in the Scream Scientist’s influence, Aaron felt not the slightest pang of fear, even though he realized he was in a trance. A realization came to his mind suddenly.

“It was you who caused Bryce Williams to commit suicide, wasn’t it?” Aaron asked with simple curiosity. “You manipulated his emotions and gave him hallucinations, which lead him to cause the harm he did to himself.”

A look of genuine sadness came onto the Scream Scientist’s face as he nodded. “It was hard on me, watching Bryce do that to himself, but sacrifices must be made for the good of science. If I’m not allowed to carry on my work, the human race will eventually tear itself apart.”

“You want me to be your next text subject, don’t you?” Aaron asked, the tendrils of sadness now complete gone and far away.

“Yes,” said the Scream Scientist, taking a piece of paper out of his jacket pocket. “I can already tell by the low levels of dopamine and high levels of serotonin in your brain that you are well on your way to developing Major Depressive Disorder. It’s what has caused the sadness you’ve felt for the last few months, and why your grades are slipping. You’d be the perfect test subject. If you just sign this consent form here, we can begin the testing immediately.”

When Aaron didn’t arrive to his home by sundown, both of his parents panicked and called the police. A search part was sent into the forest, and it didn’t take them long to find Aaron’s body. He was hanging on a maple tree not far from the trail, with his shirt off and a noose around his neck. Both of his eyes had been gorged out, and his stomach was ripped open, many of his organs resting in a pile beneath him. Deep, angry cuts covered his chest and face.

Just like Bryce Williams, Aaron Walker’s death was declared a suicide.