LOSS OF ESSENCE

AUTHOR'S NOTES: The fanfiction you are about to read is the result of random fangirl musings, hours of poring through Edgar Allen Poe & various historical texts, & my habit of incessantly viewing (& quoting) "Dr. Strangelove" for the past several months. Feel free to have a chuckle or two to yourselves in light of this rather amusing introduction, then once you're done laughing, allow me to explain the origins of this story in further depth—this time, in a not-so-amusing manner.

For as long as I've been cultivating my obsession with the cinematic classic of which I now speak, I, the author, have pondered about the reasons why General Jack D. Ripper, the ill-fated commander of Burpleson Air Force Base, succumbed to insanity. After paying more attention to a certain number of Ripper's lines, & reflecting upon the possible meanings behind those lines, I have come up with an interesting theory that might offer an explanation about the mental collapse of our late, lamented general. This theory will be elaborated upon, dear readers, in the tale that I am about to present to you.

Now, some of you might be wondering, "Just what kind of a story is this fanfiction of yours?" Think of it as a narrative in the old "Gothic" style of writing, only one that relies more on the conventions of modern language; to capture the overall mood & feel of Gothic writing, I turned to some of Poe's greatest works—including "The Tell-Tale Heart", "The Cask Of Amontillado", & "The Masque Of The Red Death"—for inspiration. I'm hoping that you will be impressed with my efforts in perfecting the effect of the grim & macabre elements that I have added to my fanfiction.

Also, please bear in mind that while this story is rated PG, it's a very strong PG, as it does contain a few references to "the physical act of love" (as General Ripper so eloquently put it). However, said references are not explicit or overly-frank in detail, & have been written in such a manner that they would probably be considered safe for work (& most homes). I have the authors of several classic novels to thank for providing me with some inspiration & ideas on how to write innuendo that does a clever job at disguising the hidden messages, but (hopefully) doesn'tcome across as shoddy or weak or anything of that nature. That having been said, let me offer a few last words to you, before we begin our "feature presentation".

Our story, which I have entitled "Loss Of Essence", is told from General Ripper's perspective, in the moments before Group Captain Mandrake first arrives at his office. Imagine Ripper sitting in a plush chair at his hard-wood desk, quietly smoking a cigar in the solitude of his chambers; the doors to the room are shut, & the blinds are drawn, depriving the area of the bright morning sunlight, which helps to create a feeling of darkness & dreariness that matches the dark & dreary emotions that are raging inside of the general. For behind the façade of cold stoicism & rational level-headedness, there are secrets that General Ripper is hiding...secrets that he feels can only be entrusted to you—the readers who are fortunate to hear his tale. Guard Ripper's secrets well, my friends, & make sure that they remain safely-hidden from the eyes of the public world...After all, General Ripper does have a reputation to protect.

General Jack D. Ripper & all elements & properties belonging to "Dr. Strangelove" © Stanley Kubrick & Columbia Pictures. I only claim ownership to the story itself.

When you're finished reading the story, feel free to leave a review. I'll take anything from simple comments to constructive criticism, as long as they're not flames or written in a mean, rude, or overly-harsh manner.

And now that my copyright-&-disclaimer is finished, let the fanfiction begin! Happy reading!


August 1, 1952

The little clock upon my office wall is ticking, slowly ticking, marking the passage of time with each movement of its black, plastic hands. Just out of the corner of my eye, I can see a tiny shaft of morning sunlight trying to reach the floor of my office, aiming to touch the ground & spread across the room as it fills my lonely chamber with its warm, golden glow...But the blinds are too narrowly-spaced for the sunbeam to get through, & quietly, it draws back through the glass of my big square window, leaving the office in darkness once more. Shadows fill every corner of the room, haunting me, taunting me with their presence...Those alien, black blobs are shrouded in a hazy aura, disguising themselves in the most innocuous of forms—alas, they are not mere silhouettes, but dark spirits that wish to torture me!

The spirits have haunted me for as long as I can remember, & no matter what I do, I can never escape them, for everywhere I go, I can sense an evil spirit hiding in every person I happen to meet. Like vicious velociraptors, the spirits are watching, waiting to leap out at any moment & attack me; they want to get inside my mind & gain knowledge of my most personal thoughts & feelings! They want to exploit my weaknesses, to tear down my defenses & overpower me with their corrupt influence...but they never will! I won't let those spirits gain control of me, or anyone else, for that matter! I would rather die than let myself be subjected to the wicked whims of those shady fiends, those Commie punks who try so hard to win people over to their side with their powers of subversion & coercion...But today, the Red Legion & all who sympathize with them will be vanquished & thrown into Hell, where they belong! By the time my boys have finished carrying out their duties, the world will once again become a safe haven for all who believe in democracy & freedom!

(sigh) Oh, why do I even bother? I can't keep this up anymore. I'm losing it. There's no question in my mind about it. I am definitely losing it. You know it. I know it. The people at Burpleson Air Force Base know it...well, except for Mandrake. He doesn't know yet, but he'll soon find out, one way or the other. Why don't I just save him the trouble of discovering on his own? I'll tell him I'm losing it!

But losing what, you're probably wondering? My mind? My essence? The little time I have left to live? Well, I'll give you a clue: it's not any one of these...

Hmm, I don't seem to be getting any response. Are you having trouble guessing? Have I left you stumped, somehow? Then, pray allow me to unravel the riddle for you, & I shall reveal the true answer: it's "D"—all of the above.

My days on this Earth are numbered, & as my life forces slowly & gradually slip away from me, so does my sanity. I am doomed to waste away in silent agony, as my brain melts into a limp lump of gooey Swiss cheese, losing its ability to function as a tool of my once-powerful intellect. This process of deterioration will only continue, until nothing is left—of body or brain. I've been this way for a long time, but I wasn't always aware of it. Only very recently, have I discovered the root of the physical (& mental) problems that have been plaguing me...& already, I'm beginning to wish that I had found out earlier. Had I sought treatment for my ailment 28 years ago, I would've been fine & perfectly sane...but, alas, it's far too late to do anything now! The disease is in its tertiary stage, so no treatment or cure can save me from the brink of the abyss. The chance to be free of that burden is long gone. There's no hope for me! I am gone! I am gone! And once I take that final plunge into never-ending darkness, the world will have seen the last of General Jack Duke Ripper! But I promise you—no, solemnly swear to you—that I am not going to leave this world without leaving my mark on history!

This whole tragedy could have been avoided, had the hands of fate been a little kinder to us living creatures. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn't have satisfied the urge to start a war, & those orders would never have been sent to the bomb-wing! But these are desperate times, my friends, & desperate times call for desperate measures. My move was a bold one, I'll admit that much, but I have no regrets! It had to be done—for the sake of our nation, & our way of life! The good people of the United States will be sure to thank me for my heroic acts when this ordeal is over, for those brave soldiers out there will have died for a noble cause; they'll have sacrificed themselves in order to protect our great country from the Communist menace! And if anyone thinks that such acts of martyrdom weren't worth taking the risk I have taken, they can take comfort in the fact that they'll forever live in freedom from Red totalitarianism. That's how their late loved ones would want them to live...

Now, you may be thinking that I, who claim responsibility for the potential loss of life in the forthcoming war to end all wars, am in no position to assume what deceased beings would have desired for their friends & families. But if you will indulge me a little, please try to look at the situation from my perspective, &, hopefully, you'll see where I'm coming from. You have to understand, I only had the best intentions when I made my decision to send the 843rd bomb-wing to fire weapons on their targets inside Russia. The whole point of this endeavor was, as I have already mentioned, to defeat the Commies & prevent them from spreading their evil empire across the globe...oh, & also to prevent them from fluoridating our water supply.

You seem surprised by that last statement...although it's no surprise to me that you seem surprised. After all, no one outside of military or political circles is supposed to know about fluoridation of water...but as it happens, you're the first civilians to find out about it, & if you promise to keep it a secret, I'd be happy to shed more light upon the subject for you. You see, fluoridation of water is the most monstrously-conceived & dangerous Communist plot we have ever had to face!

Just think about it—really, really think about it for a second, will you? The fresh, pure water that once flowed from the faucet of your kitchen sink or your bathtub is now being polluted with fluoride particles! By tapping into our water supply & tainting it with toxic chemicals, the Communists wish to sap & impurify all of our precious bodily fluids! And those Red devils don't plan on ending their fluoridation scheme there; in addition to water, they also plan to poison all sorts of condiments & confectionary delights! If the Commies should infiltrate our food-processing plants, they'll be able to get away with fluoridating flour, fruit juice, milk, sugar, soups, sauces, & ice cream! Ice cream, for God's sake! Even the poor, innocent little children are not safe, as long as the Commies are around to make their villainous goals a terrifying reality, & a living nightmare for all peace-loving & law-abiding people throughout the world!

But, as I keep stressing to you, that's precisely why I started this war in the first place. With plenty of strength & luck on our side, our military forces will annihilate the Communist savages, & when the Russkies are gone, so are our problems. Our water & food will be free of toxins, &—more importantly—the men, women, & children of every nation can live their lives in peace, without having to worry about suffering under the iron rule of a socialist dictatorship!

I know, I know, no need to tell me...You fancy me mad. You think that I'm insane. Now, don't try & convince me otherwise; I can hear you snickering to yourself, scoffing at my ideas like they're a bunch of silly fantasies. But these theories are no products of an addled mind—I've thought of them long before I became afflicted with the sickness. How is that possible, you ask? Well...erm, let me try & put this as delicately & discreetly as words will allow me to do. I first discovered my theories...during the physical act of love, shall we say. As to how that came about, it's a long story, but if you're willing to stay & listen, feel free to take a seat on my couch, & kindly lend an ear, while I explain to you about the origins of my hypotheses (& don't worry—I'll take great care to spare you from hearing the more graphic details of my tale).

It all began 28 years ago, near the middle of the Roaring 20's...in August of 1924, if I remember correctly...I had recently turned 20 years old, & was soon to enter my third-class (or sophomore) year of college at West Point Military Academy. I had taken leave to spend my summer vacation with my parents in New York City, & before I even knew it, said vacation was already coming to an end. On one hot Saturday afternoon, during the very last weekend of August, I bid "farewell" to Mom & Pop, & left the hustle & bustle of the Big Apple to return to West Point, where I could get settled in & prepare for the forthcoming school year. At one point, upon reentering the campus grounds, I decided to have some dinner at one of the cadet-oriented restaurants in the area, & when I was finished with my meal, I began to make my way to my old dormitory...but on my way over there, I suddenly stopped when I heard a peculiar sound. It wasn't the whistling of the wind, or the shuffle of students' footsteps upon the ground...My ears were perking up to a sound that wasn't of the usual campus environment. But what was it, exactly?

A few seconds passed, & then, I heard the strange sound again. It was the airy laugh of a young lady! Had she somehow wandered into West Point? Feeling curious enough to try & find the woman, I followed the sound of her laughter, & then, after walking a long way away from the academy, I came into a clearing, & found the mysterious girl, standing a few feet in front of me. She was around my age, but she had a mature look about her features; her face was adorned with makeup, & she was dressed in the height of flapper fashion—long, dangly pieces of jewelry, a beaded skull-cap, fishnet stockings, & a brightly-colored dress with matching high-heels. She was a very pretty lady, indeed, & I couldn't resist the urge to approach her, in the hopes of getting acquainted with her.

The girl & I introduced ourselves to one another, then started talking over various topics. At some point, during the course of our conversations, we were feeling friendly enough to come a little closer to each other; then, one of us would be stroking the other's arm, or petting the other's face, or smoothing a hand across the other's hair...Eventually, all that tender touching led to a part of our encounter that was much more intimate than anything we had experienced before. Keeping my earlier promise to you, however, I won't tell you anything more than that; I'll just skip ahead to the very end of my rendezvous with the alluring young lady.

15 minutes after the girl & I had retired into a small forest near the clearing to get to know each other...a little more personally, if you will...we sat up beside one another on the small patch of grass where we had continued with our tête-à-tête. After pulling my white shirt-sleeves over my undershirt, fastening them, & tucking them into my trousers, I turned to face the girl, who smoothed down the hem of her dress, before taking a moment to properly adjust her once-disheveled jewelry. When she had fixed her large pearl necklace, the woman turned to look at me with a nervous expression on her lovely face. She was probably a little embarrassed about what had taken place between us, but I tried to assure her that it was OK. "Hey, don't worry," I said to my lady-friend as I gently held her hand in mine. "It was my first time hanging out with a girl, so I'm a little embarrassed about it, too."

"That's cool," said the girl as she tried to put on a smile. "At least, I know I'm not the only one to feel like this."

"You've never hung out with a boy before, have you?" I asked the girl with a playful smirk.

"Well...not really," the girl said hesitantly.

From the way she had said those two words, I wasn't too sure if the girl was lying to me, or if she was still feeling embarrassed. However, I decided not to push the issue further. Still holding the girl by the hand, I rose to my feet, helping my fair lover up at the same time. Then, I turned to look at her again, & asked, "So, where do you live? Your parents are probably wondering where you are right now...I think I should take you home, before they start to get worried sick about you."

"Oh, don't worry about me," the young lady said, still smiling coyly at me. "I appreciate your concern, but I'll be all right. Really." Then, with a kiss on my cheek, the girl gently pulled her hand out of mine, & began to walk away, her well-rounded figure swaying tantalizingly to & fro in the pale moonlight that was shining down on the Earth from the starry skies.

No sooner did I watch the girl finally disappear from my view, like a beautiful apparition that had once been dancing before my very eyes, than I let out a sigh of breath. For a moment, I felt as though I were beginning to miss the girl's presence...but then, I began to breathe over & over again, inhaling & exhaling more deeply & more loudly each time. As I did so, I started to think that, perhaps, it was more than just a mere sign of pining for the girl; in the pit of my stomach, I was beginning to experience a sense of fatigue, a feeling of emptiness. I felt drowsy, wanting to just go somewhere to lie down & rest for several hours...My vision was clouding, but it was getting even harder for me to see as I struggled to keep my eyes open. Why was I feeling so tired all of a sudden? The night was still young, far too early for me to think about sleep now...

And, then, it hit me. I wasn't just losing my ability to stay focused—I was losing my very bodily essence! My life forces were slipping away from me, but why? What was the cause of this strange ailment that was afflicting me? Then, I began to reflect upon that lovely enchantress, & the time we had spent together in the forest; I remembered feeling just fine, up until the moment we parted & went our separate ways. It must have been her fault! I was now quite certain that, during our rendezvous, the girl had taken away my essence! I didn't know how she did it, or why she did it, but the all-too-obvious fact was staring me right in the face, long after the girl had gone & flown away to God-knows-where!

She was too far away from the clearing now. There was no way to get in touch with the girl again, to ask her what was happening to me, to see if she could somehow help me! I was alone. More than that, I was confused. I was scared. I was angry, & ashamed at myself for having gotten into this mess. I was a college kid, so young & so full of life, with a bright future ahead of me, & a career in the U.S. Army Air Forces with my name on it! And of all that was going to go down the drain, just because I had to jump on the bandwagon that most other college boys were already on! I had to have a summer fling with the prettiest girl I could find! And now, I realized that I was going to pay a terrible price for listening to my heart, & not my head! What would the people at West Point—even worse, what would my parents—think of me, when they heard what had happened tonight?!

But that's just it, I assured myself. They're not going to find out what happened between me & the girl! It'll just be my little secret...Nobody else will have to know a thing. It was settled, then. Not a living soul would ever hear about my encounter with the girl who had milked me dry & run for the hills, bringing with her the goods she had taken. And if nobody found out, nobody would punish me for what I had done. As long as I kept the knowledge of those painful memories to myself, I would be A-OK. Or so I thought...

The following morning, after waking up in bed in my dorm at West Point, I went to take a bath in the washroom. I quickly disrobed, got into the tub, & started washing myself thoroughly with soap & hot water, hoping to remove all traces of my romantic encounter with the girl from last night. By the time I'd begun washing my, erm, groin, I gradually noticed that something had appeared in that area...something that shouldn't have been there. It felt like a big bump or a sore, but it wasn't at all painful! Could it have been a leftover bug-bite? Maybe, a mama mosquito had sneaked up on me & the girl while we were in the forest, & decided to have a taste of my blood...No, on second thought, it wasn't a bug-bite. It felt like something else entirely, although I wasn't really sure what. However, since the bump didn't irritate my skin, or look like anything out of the ordinary, I paid no more mind to it, & finished washing up, before getting out of the tub, getting dressed, & going to set up my dorm in preparation for the upcoming term.

For the next 4 weeks, that little bump remained on my body, until, finally, on the end of the 28th day, it suddenly disappeared, leaving only the traces of a faint scar in the area where it had once been. Strange...Never before in my life could I ever recall receiving such an unusual skin eruption! But in the time that followed after my affliction with the sore, I started to hear complaints from some of the other cadets that they, too, had received similar bumps on their bits-&-pieces, or elsewhere; coincidentally, the bumps on these students appeared just 10 days after, for whatever reason, they came into close contact with me or anyone else who had the lesion. Whenever one of the cadets went to ask me if I knew anything about the peculiar sore he was getting, I just shrugged & told him that it would probably fade away in a month or two, like mine did.

Back then, my fellow cadets & I thought that there was just some kind of funny little bug going around—nothing to worry about too much—but we lived in a more innocent time in those days. Hardly anybody who wasn't a doctor or a nurse knew about syphilis (nor did they bother to ask anybody what it was, if they should ever hear about it). In the Roaring 20's, & much earlier than that, nearly everyone (if not everyone) believed that you could only get diseases like that from partaking in lewd or lascivious behavior with other people. Your eyes were never opened to the grim reality of the matter...that anybody—not just men or women of ill repute—was at risk for receiving a horrible ailment like syphilis. And when generations of people grow up in ignorance, & fail to educate themselves or their children about things they should already know, the ignorance is passed on, & the cycle of foolish unawareness can only continue, providing pathways to unseen dangers & deadly hazards that—had our ancestors only been brave enough to enlighten themselves with knowledge, & debunk their foolish fantasies, those nonsensical notions that left them trapped in the Dark Ages—could have been avoided.

More than we like to admit it to ourselves, we are ultimately responsible for perpetuating the stereotypes that have been ingrained in our minds for centuries—how males & females are "supposed" to behave, how certain species of creatures are "destined" to be superior over others, how certain races of people are "meant" to be inferior to others—but with education & enlightened minds, we can break the cycle of ignorance & intolerance, & begin building our society in such a way that there are no boundaries for anything or anyone, except for those that you set for yourself! Alas, only recently have we finally begun to tear down those earlier barriers between the different groups of the world, but the changes resulting from our newfound freedom are quite noticeable. More & more women are working outside the home & seeking a new place for themselves in a civilization that was once ruled by men, while an increasing number of white folks are trying to open up to people of other races, & poverty is becoming less widespread than it was in the past...just to name a few of the powerful revolutions that are taking root among us.

Slowly, but surely, we're beginning to see signs of progress, but although we've come so far down that road, & are making such great improvement in our lives, we still have so far to go. I have no doubt, however, that we'll get to the end of that road one day, & eventually, all the people & beasts of the world will live together happily, without a single drop of bad blood to be found anywhere. Even so, we must remember that education & enlightenment are the keys to the utopia that awaits us all! But, unfortunately, those keys were not handed down to the people of my generation. We were the unlucky ones, the ones who were fated to spend the rest of our lives trapped behind closed doors, wandering in the darkness & not really knowing anything, not fully understanding about the ways of the world...

In the Jazz Age, education—true education—was a privilege & a benefit that more often went to the nobility, rather than to anyone else who could afford schooling at the college of their choice. Sure, if you were middle-class or higher (or if you were lucky enough to afford this year's tuition with the savings from your piggy-bank & your weekly paycheck, plus tips), you could sit down in a chair & listen to the teachers talk about this & that, then hopefully graduate with a diploma four years later...but there was a far greater chance for you to not only get your diploma & leave the confines of that dreary lecture hall, but to go out & actually see the world & everything it had to offer, if you belonged to one of the nation's finer families.

And if you didn't? Well, you were much better off spending all your time in the library & trying to learn about life from thousands of old books; it was certainly a lot safer than taking the other route, that of mingling with the masses on the dingy city streets, & reveling in a dense, never-lifting haze of ignorance. A haze that (try as you might) you could never see past; a haze that could never be penetrated with even the strongest beam of light; a haze that alienated you from everyone around you, so that you could not find your way through the mist to reach out to those figures in the distance—to acknowledge their presence, to approach them, to actually get to know them for who they were. In that fog, with all those other people around, you were never alone, & yet, you were still isolated—from the dozens of folks that you chose to ignore, in favor of staying close to your comfort spots. That is the driving force behind ignorance—people are too afraid to look past their experiences & seek additional knowledge, to enrich their minds & gain new insight into the way they view themselves & the rest of the world.

It was this same fear that left so many of us—so many people of my generation—in the dark, without a single light to show the way to new levels of consciousness. Many of us went to college & came out with a degree in whatever subject tickled our fancy, but we still didn't really know anything. Nobody told us the truth that lay behind many of the myths & misconceptions we held about life. And the fairy tales about syphilis & other diseases of that nature were no exception. Hence, I had no reason to suspect that something much worse than a bump on my groin was taking place inside of me, spreading across my system like a deadly parasite that wanted to poison every organ, every nerve, in my body, before taking hold of the tainted tissue & eating away at it—like pack animals devouring the meaty flesh of a poor, helpless creature they had just killed for a fresh meal. The disease was the predator, & everything it could get at in my body was the prey. It was only a matter of time before my brain, too, would become a victim of the virus' ravenous hunger.

A little more than a month passed after the disappearance of that single sore, but I regret to say that my physical troubles were far from over. At the beginning of November, as I was walking back to my dorm on my way home from classes one evening, I started to feel a rash all over my body. It was driving me crazy, & I felt a continual urge to keep scratching at it, although it didn't do anything to relieve the irritation. When I got back to my dorm, I flopped down in a chair, & quickly peeled off my shirt & undershirt, before reaching to grab a bottle of salve that I kept on my chair-side table. I opened the bottle, dabbed some salve onto my hands, & frantically applied it to the rash, hoping it would go away...but it didn't. In fact, it began spreading everywhere—even to the palms of my hands, & the soles of my feet! And, God, that rash hurt even worse than it did just a few minutes ago!

Hoping to make myself feel better, I got some more salve out of the bottle, & applied it to the rash again, but my efforts to make it disappear were futile. The small, reddish-brown hives were plastered over every square-inch of my body, making me want to writhe about in uncontrollable agony. Nothing I could do would ever seem to get rid of the rash, & for the next 2 weeks, I went to my lessons at West Point with ladies' cover-up over my person, & a paper bag over my head—I was too embarrassed to show my face to anyone while I was in this condition. But the circumstances of my strange ailment did not escape the notice of my teacher, & at the end of the fortnight, he sent me down to the nurse's office, where she quickly checked me out, & then suggested (with the teacher's approval) that I should take leave for the next few days, until I was feeling well enough to come back to school. And so I did.

But those next few days dragged on into weeks, & another fortnight passed, during which I lay in bed all day, unable to get up for even a second without collapsing to the floor in agony. As those two weeks went by, the rash that had covered my body gradually disappeared, leaving some discoloration on my skin, but that wasn't the end of my pain & suffering. During & after the last few days of that hideous rash, I was struck down with a sore throat, followed by a fever of no more than 101 degrees. My hair began to fall out of my head in little patches—& even fell out of my eyebrows, too—& my weight dropped down by several pounds, leaving me weak & emaciated. I felt a vague sense of discomfort all throughout my body, which became more & more unbearable for me with each & every day that passed, to the point where all I wanted to do was try & sleep my sickness off. And as if I wasn't already feeling bad enough, along with the growing discomfort, came headaches & a stiffness in my neck!

It seemed as though my misery would never cease...until the end of the fortnight came along, & I soon began to feel better, instead of worse. After a few more days of rest, all of the symptoms of my illness went away, & I was feeling well enough to return to my classes at the academy. When I came back into the lecture hall, my fellow students were glad to see me among them, & I was equally glad to be back. From that point on, things went smoothly for me at West Point, & after two more years of faithful attendance, I was a proud member of the graduating class of 1926. From there, it was off to the Army Air Forces, where I spent the next 24 years working my way up through the ranks from Second Lieutenant to Brigadier General, & in 1950, I was appointed as the commanding officer of Burpleson Air Force Base near Alvarado, Texas; in my new position, I was held responsible for overseeing the affairs of the 843rd bomb-wing in what was now known as the United States Air Force.

Much to the delight of my superiors, the staff base, & the members of my assigned wing, I performed my job very well, & in the 2 years it has been my privilege to be commanding officer at Burpleson, I have never given my comrades anything less than what they expected of me. I have come to greatly enjoy & appreciate the duties that have been passed down to me, & I would never risk losing them for anything. In fact, it is now those very duties that I endeavor to fulfill, in order to help the people of the United States through these difficult times, & bring our nation to victory in our forthcoming war with the Red Army. But I am sorry to say that my career has not been untouched by tragedy; shortly after the beginning of my first year at Burpleson, things began to change, little by little...& not for the better.

In June of 1950, I was halfway through the first year of my new job, &, already, I was beginning to feel right at home at Burpleson. During my first few months on the base, I had gotten to know several of my employees, including some of the members of the Armed Forces' new officer-exchange program (one of whom happens to be none other than my most loyal & dutiful servant, Group Captain Lionel Mandrake). I was being paid well enough to have a comfortable office with a bar & several other treats & trimmings, & I had earned the admiration & respect of all the people in my service. Life as a commanding general was, simply put, positively splendid.

But when summer began, I had started to come down with a strange ailment, much like the one I had received all those years ago, at West Point. In the middle of work, I would sometimes stop & stare into space, gazing out at nothing (&, yet, all sorts of things) in particular, until I came back down to Earth several minutes later, & was left wondering why I had zoned out like that. Other times, whenever I was taking a catnap or dozing off during the night, my slumber would be troubled with horrifying nightmares, visions of hideous monsters & all sorts of terrible things! Then, I would abruptly awaken in a cold sweat, frightened & gasping for breath, as I looked around at my surroundings in a panic, trying to figure out where I was. And still other times, when nothing else occupied my mind, I was occasionally struck with a fleeting fancy, a notion of a peculiar nature, that didn't seem to make sense at first, but gradually became more believable to me as I thought about it. A couple of weeks after I first came down with my mental malady, one of those strange ideas that occasionally crossed my mind began to "stick", like a bothersome fly that had become fused with sticky adhesive paper, & that idea remained firmly grounded within my brain throughout the remainder of my career—it stays with me, even now.

But what's the idea, you ask? Well, it's the same idea that I have discussed with you earlier: that Communists are attempting to fluoridate water & various other things, in order to sap & impurify the precious bodily fluids of the American people! If there's anything that the first few years of the Cold War has taught us, it's that we need to be on the lookout for suspicious activity, because if we're not careful, the Commies will bring about our downfall. Until we actually defeat them in battle, those Russkie punks will still have an opportunity to try & harm us. They'll gladly take that opportunity, unless we stop them in their tracks! And we will...

The last couple of years have marked the dawning of the Red Scare, which has only served to enforce my theories on fluoridation of water. That little idea that once entered my thoughts, has become a full-blown realization of the Communist conspiracies that are underway, taking place without the knowledge of Americans. All the propaganda against the Socialists, all the political subtext you see on TV & the movies, all the rumors that are circulating about Communists in the newspapers—it's true! It's all true! The Commies are a danger to our society, & everywhere you go, you see proof of this! Every day, Russians are brainwashed by their totalitarian leaders into thinking that anything that's American or democratic is dangerous, & thus to be avoided at all costs! Those Red demons want to overpower us, to take away our freedom & all of the things we hold dear, but when we kick their butts in the upcoming battle, they won't even get the chance to achieve their wicked goals!

Please, please, don't look at me that way. You need to realize, I'm not trying to do anything stupid. I know exactly what I'm doing! When this war is finished, everything will turn out right! By the time this ordeal is over, & the Communists are brought down from the position of power that they once so proudly held, you'll see! You'll see that my ideas are no foolish fantasies! Do believe me when I say that I only have the best intentions for the people of the United States. I only want to do what's right, so that I can help to protect poor, innocent people like you. You are the product of an enlightened age. Don't fall prey to the Communists' lies, or you, too, will be brainwashed, & brought back into that barbaric age that the people of the world once lived in...

Alas, when the war is over, & the people of the free world have a chance to taste the sweet fruits of victory, I fear that I will not be feasting with them. As I have told you earlier, I have recently come to realize that for all this time I've been here, & long before, I've been ill with a disease that has now degenerated to a point where it's far past the point of a cure or treatment. The opportunity I had to heal myself is long gone, & I am gradually wasting away during what may be the last few months of my life. There is a chance that I may not even live to see the end of the war...but if that turns out to be the case, I'm certain that I will be watching down on everything from Heaven. I no longer fear the prospect of my looming death, for I happen to believe in a life after this one...

Do you understand where I'm coming from now? Hopefully, you do, after listening to my tale. But if you don't, that's quite all right; just understand that every man has got his reasons behind everything he does—rationale in each action, for all intents & purposes. The things I do may seem unstable, but just try a little bit to empathize, because it's no use if you're unable to see things through others' eyes. That having been said, I bid you leave to go; no doubt, you probably have business to attend to elsewhere, & I have a private conference to carry out with Group Captain Mandrake. He should be here any minute...Well, speak of the devil! I think I hear Mandrake on his way in now! My, he's awfully early; I wonder what might have happened that made him want to see me so soon...