«The bravest people, he said, were the ones who saw life for its futility and opted out of a game no one ever won»
— Jennifer Loring, Conduits

My beloved mentor,

As usual, I have had many visions over the past week.

I feel three of them are of utter importance because they relate to the first hidden memory of mine you chose when you started treating me.

The rat

A man, dressed up like a member of the Peaky Blinders street gang, sporting their signature overcoat and peaked flat cap, stands in front of the closed doors of an elevator.

His dark face is spotted with many small skin lesions resembling those caused by dermatosis papulosa nigra or seborrheic keratosis.

His reflection on the polished silver doors of the elevator vanishes as the doors slide apart from the center to disappear behind the concrete walls.

He steps in and turns around contemplating the vast empty room where he was standing an instant ago: concrete floor and walls, and a glass ceiling emanating an even light.

The doors of the elevator close in front of him. A matt silver surface around and below him, a cold light emitting from above.

There are no controls of any sort, no buttons, no touch surface, but he does not even bother to look around. He stands still until the elevator starts its descent.

The acceleration is breathtaking. It is a free fall. His body becomes weightless. He does not lose his composure, not even when his feet detach from the floor.

The deceleration is overwhelming too: he lands bending his left leg and gently touching the floor with his right knee.

As he stands up, straightening his coat, the doors of the elevator open.

The concrete floor and walls and the glass ceiling emanating the even light gave way to a wooden floor covered with dust and scattered with strands of straw, walls made of wooden boards, and a gable roof, also made by wooden boards, sustained by timber beams.

Light penetrates the structure through the gaps between the boards.

He takes a couple of steps forward and looks around. He is in a stable. A horse in its enclosure. Two cows in theirs. A few chickens moving around with jerks. Several utensils leaning against or hanging from the walls.

He looks behind: where the elevator was supposed to be, uneven wooden boards form a wall allowing light to penetrate between the gaps.

He walks out of the barn through its wide-open doors. The farmyard is arid. Tufts of dry grass scattered around. A dead tree stands leafless between the barn and the farmhouse, a wooden board tied to its thickest branch by one rope only: no one has been swinging on it in a long time. A BMX bicycle from the Eighties lies rusting not far from the tree, its saddle ripped and torn.

He approaches the farmhouse, pulls the screen door open, and pushes the wooden door inside. The palm of his hand can feel the cracks in the wood and its touch causes curls of paint to fall to the ground like dry leaves. As the door squeaks on its rusted hinges, he becomes fully aware of the preternatural presence lurking within the walls he is about the be surrounded by.

As his eyes adapt to the dark interior, coming from the blinding light outside, he discerns two roughly equally sized rooms at the sides of a flight of stairs right in front of the doorstep he has just crossed.

He slowly starts climbing the stairs, causing each wooden step to make cracking sounds as his feet rest on them.

Once he reaches the upper floor, he hears a female voice reciting a prayer, but he cannot make out the exact words because they are overlapped by an unhuman grunt, full of pain and sadness, like the lament of a tortured being.

Following the source of the sounds, he enters the master bedroom.

The stench is almost unbearable.

The father is seated on an armchair with his head resting in his hand in desperation, the mother is kneeled at the foot of the bed counting prayers over rosary beads.

On the once white bedsheet, now soaked with vomit, urine, and diarrhea, lies a boy.

His body is shaken by sudden, violent, irregular movements apparently caused by involuntary contractions of his muscles. Convulsions or seizures of some nature.

The boy, who might be between ten and twelve years old, wears nothing but his underwear, therefore exposing his filthy, sweated skin, displaying signs of dehydration and malnutrition.

The man would like to put a hand on the boy’s forehead and tell him that everything is going to be fine, as well as to reassure his parents, but he knows his presence cannot be perceived by them: he shares their space and time, but on a different plane of existence.

And he has a job to do.

He closes his eyes and focuses on the preternatural presence he felt when entering the house, trying to locate its source within the building.

After a few instants spent being completely still, not even breathing, he suddenly starts walking, his eyes still closed. He exits the master bedroom, climbs the stairs back down, turns left and crosses the kitchen avoiding the furniture as if he could see it, and stops in front of a closed door holding his breath once more.

Without opening his eyes, he grabs the handle, pushes the door slightly open, just enough to sneak in, and quickly closes it behind him.

This is the room where the father kills the rabbits with his bare hands, skins them, cleans their guts, and cuts their paws before cooking them; and the mother breaks the neck of the chickens, plucks them, and prepares them for the oven or the pot.

In this very room some malign entity is lurking.

He feels it.

He locates it in the space time.

He grabs it.

When he opens his eyes, he looks at the floor and sees the remains of about a dozen chickens and rabbits. Blood, entrails, feathers, and fur scattered all around.

He raises his right arm until his hand is in his line of sight.

A huge black rat is being choked by his clenched fist. Its eyes are bloody red and so are its fangs, still dripping the rabbits’ and chickens’ blood.

The beast looks at the man straight in the eyes with hatred, but it is unable to move.

He walks out and around the farmhouse until he reaches the woodshed.

While holding the rat on a tree stump, he cuts its head off with an axe.

As the huge head rolls on the ground, it starts glowing, and so does the decapitated body, still lying on the surface of the tree stump, every now and then shaken by involuntary muscle contractions, and so does the blood that is copiously flowing out of the severed neck and staining the blade of the axe. The glow grows brighter and brighter until it suddenly ceases, and then the blade is clean again, and there is no sign of the remains of the rat anywhere, not even a drop of blood.

The boy is saved.

This is what he does: he sets people free, people haunted by some malign entity.

This gift of his is a blessing and a curse at the same time.

He is not young anymore. He has been doing this too many times.

As he always does at the end of each mission, he takes out of the inner pocket of his overcoat his 2006 Sony MiniDisc player containing a disc on which he had recorded “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness”, the third studio album by The Smashing Pumpkins.

He puts the original in-ear headphones on, skips to the sixth track, and cranks up the volume to the max.

He walks through the farmyard back to the barn, leaving the farmhouse behind, where the healed kid is being held by his parents weeping with joy, and he screams from the top of his lungs «despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage».

And he feels like the lyrics this time are more appropriate than ever.

The snake

A young woman rides her three-cylinder motorbike along a deserted avenue, skyscrapers lined up on both sides.

Approaching the entrance of an underground train station, she abruptly hits the brakes, puts the motorcycle on the side stand, and, with one swift movement, she gets off the bike and takes off her helmet, letting her long straight black hair free.

She carelessly leaves the helmet hanging on the handlebar and starts climbing down the stairs toward the subway

The station is as deserted as the avenue she was riding an instant ago.

She walks to the edge of the platform, equally distant from the entrances of the two dark tunnels on her left and on her right.

Her gaze is fixed on the wall behind the platform across the train tracks where a huge poster advertises female underwear worn by an almost naked skinny Asian model, most likely Korean, with red full lips contrasting her bony figure.

Thinking of the black leather motorcycle suit and heavy boots she is wearing, a faint smirk forms on her thin lips.

She does not even flinch when a train, coming out of the tunnel on her left, suddenly enters the station, accompanied by the roaring sound of its engine and wheels, and by the loud screech of its brakes, almost brushing the tip of her elegant, well-proportioned nose.

When the train comes to a stop and her long straight black hair regains its composure, a sliding door opens just in front of her.

She steps in. The car is empty. She sits on the first seat on her left.

The sliding doors close and the train dives into the darkness of the tunnel opposite to the one it came from.

The lights in the car are off. She is surrounded by complete darkness.

As the train travels at a constant speed with zero acceleration, if it were not for the bumpy tracks, she might as well feel like she is not moving at all.

There are no intermediate stations between her starting point and her destination.

The train starts decelerating until it comes to a stop.

Every time she exits the tunnel to a new destination, she cannot avoid recalling Genesis 1:3 «let there be light» and feeling like she is born again.

The station is in decay. Debris, fallen from the ceiling, the pillars, and the walls cover the dusty floor. Posters were ripped apart and replaced by vulgar graffiti. Loiter is everywhere.

She climbs up the stairs to emerge in a suburban area versing in the same condition as the underground: the reign of degradation.

She walks down a desolate road. On her right, a concrete basketball court is surrounded by a rusty wire mesh that is falling apart. Both hoops are missing their chain nets, and one of them is precariously hanging on the board, held up by one bolt only.

She walks straight to the rotten apartment building where some malign entity is haunting a teenage girl; her steps are guided by the gift she was blessed and cursed with since the day she was born.

Before entering the building, standing before the entrance, she looks up scanning the rotting façade until her gaze reaches the gray sky above.

She steps in.

There is no elevator, so she starts climbing the stairs and, floor after floor, she glances at the corridors departing to the left and right of each landing. They all look the same. The floors are covered with carpeting whose grayish color hints that it once might have been green; the carpeting is scattered with stains of all kinds of shape and size. The walls, painted beige, are covered with scratches and writings, the paint falling off. The ceiling had once been white; most of the neon tubes hanging on it are flashing psychedelically.

On each side of the corridors stand parallel lines of identical wooden doors full of cracks.

Piles of garbage are everywhere.

As she approaches apartment 1137, she feels that the malign entity is now aware of her presence and knows she is coming for it.

Without hesitation she kicks the door open to find herself in a studio apartment where two women are lying on a double size bed facing each other. The daughter, somewhere between thirteen and nineteen years old, looks asleep; the mother is lovingly caressing her daughter’s right cheek.

They cannot perceive her presence because they share the same space and time, but different planes of existence. They do not even hear the bang of the slammed door, but the preternatural being does, and promptly reacts.

The young girl turns supine and starts breathing heavily, emitting a choking rattle.

Her throat starts to swell, pulsating like the throat of a croaking toad.

The color of the skin of her fingers and bare feet rapidly turns to black.

Thick veins, of a color between green and grey, bulge from her neck and face.

Suddenly, she opens her eyes wide and rolls them back.

The mother walks away from the bed covering her mouth with both hands to prevent herself from yelling, as tears roll down her cheeks.

It is time to act.

She closes her eyes and focuses on the preternatural presence.

With her eyes still shut, she strides to the bathroom.

She stops in front of the toilet and opens her eyes.

She raises the lid and, from a nauseating pool of fluid mixed with human urine and feces, a coiled snake hisses at her, moving its forked tongue in a threatening way and swinging its head from side to side.

Without hesitation she grabs the snake by the neck, faster than a mongoose.

She firmly holds the snake by the throat, her arm stretched horizontally, her clenched fist in front of her eyes.

The elongated body of the animal hangs from her right hand.

Her left hand disappears in a pocket of her leather motorcycle jacket. When it reemerges, it is holding a tactical foldable knife. The blade unfolds after a skillful action of her thumb.

She pushes the point of the blade into the throat of the snake, and then slides the knife down along its body until it reaches the tip of the tail, and the animal is torn open.

A copious amount of blood drips from the dying beast and collects on the floor.

She lets go of the throat and the animal’s lifeless body falls and coils in the pool of maroon blood with a splash.

As she looks at the blade of her knife, the blood that covers it starts glowing brighter and brighter to the point her eyes hurt, and she must look away. When the light goes out, the blade is as clean as new, and there is no sign of the remains of the snake on the floor, not even a splash of blood.

She steps out of the bathroom.

The young girl suddenly falls silent. Her blackened fingers and bare feet turn to their natural color. The bulging greyed veins disappear. Her swollen throat returns to normality as she ceases emitting that choking rattle and her eyes look around questioningly.

The mother runs toward the bed and holds her tight.

They both start crying in a mixture of incredulity and joy.

She is done here.

She exits the apartment, unnoticed as when she entered it.

On her way down the stairs, she lights a cigarette and ritually recites over and over her favorite verse from the Lord’s Prayer «panem nostrum supersubstantialem da nobis hodie», supersubstantialem, not cotidianum, for she has always believed that this is the correct interpretation of ἐπιούσιον as translated in the Vulgate Matthew 6:11.

The dog

He undresses, meticulously storing his clothes in the locker: he rolls the dark turquoise socks in one of the black leather shoes, the left one; he hangs the suit whose Prince of Wales check is made of various shades of blue; another hanger hosts the white cotton shirt, decorated by thin straight blue lines.

He does not like to be called a fashion addict, he simply has always been in love with beauty, and he has always loved wearing beautiful clothes, especially manufactured by Italian fashion houses; not the pricy ones though, but those that grew from artisan shops and, despite having become international brands, remained faithful to their origins.

His black leather belt, adorned by a silver-plated buckle, is carefully rolled on the shelf of the locker just above the shoes.

He takes off his IWC pilot’s watch mark XVIII, all black, except for the stainless-steel case, so beautiful in its essential nature.

Only his black underwear is left on, also Italian, not particularly fancy, but extremely comfortable and durable.

He looks at his tall muscular body in the mirror on the inside of the locker’s door before getting naked, folding his underwear, and laying it next to the belt.

He unzips his black sport backpack and takes out his black wetsuit shorts, which he wears like a second skin, then his tactical belt, featuring a multitude of pockets containing all kinds of equipment, including a knife sheath in which he inserts his scuba diving knife.

After securing the locker by means of some advanced biometric authentication technology, he leaves the empty locker room behind and enters the indoor swimming pool area, as deserted as the locker room.

After taking a quick shower to acclimate his body to the lower temperature of the water, he steps onto the starting block of the central swimming lane, takes the starting position with his left foot at the front of the block, bends onward to grab the front edge of the starting block with both hands, and, after a few seconds of hesitation, as if he were waiting for the sound of the gun, he flexes his arms upward while he forcefully extends his legs to drive his body off the blocks into the water.

By the time he emerges to the surface, the pool is replaced by a river whose waters slowly flow in the middle of a savanna.

He swims upstream toward a village located on the right bank of the river.

He walks out of the water feeling the soft sand giving way to harder and drier ground as he leaves the river behind him and reaches the middle of the village.

Round huts built using mud and grass are loosely clustered around an open space, a fragile fence surrounds bony cattle.

He hears a chant coming from one of the huts.

He follows the repeating melody sung by the voice of an old woman, accompanied by a rhythmic sound that reminds him of a baby’s rattle, a regular noise produced by small objects colliding, until he finds himself standing in front of the entrance of the hut, the interior hidden by a curtain.

He moves the curtain aside with his right arm and steps in, unnoticed.

The old woman must be a witch doctor. She wears nothing but a long skirt and an enormous number of necklaces and bracelets made of stone and wood. The dark skin of her face is covered with white paint. Each strand of her long black hair is entwined in a thin braid.

As she chants, her body slowly and rhythmically sways backward and forward, therefore causing the wooden beads adorning the charm in her hand to produce the rattling sound.

The charm oscillates over a wicker basket in which two identical babies lie completely still. They must be about six months old. Their naked bodies look so fragile. The natural dark color of their skin turned ash gray.

The cradle is held by the twins’ parents, both completely naked except for a few ornaments, way less than those worn by the medicine woman. Their heads, completely shaved, are painted red where their hair used to grow.

The basket oscillates under the charm, but the movement is not caused by the parents, who appear in fact as if they were trying to contain the displacement and fight against it.

Something is odd.

He should be able to perceive the presence of the malign entity haunting the babies.

He closes his eyes and focuses, trying to locate any preternatural presence in this space time, although he belongs to a different plane of existence.


He might as well have lost the gift he was given since the day he was born.

He allows himself an instant to ponder if losing the gift would be a blessing or a curse.

He must act fast if he wants to save the twins.

With his eyes still shut, he turns around and walks out of the hut through the curtain door.

He walks to the center of the open space surrounded by the huts and there he spends some time scanning the surroundings with his third eye that unfortunately appears to be blind, so he resorts to reopen the only two he can rely on.

He knows very well that the presences he fights use conduits to reach humans: beings acting as channels for the transmission of the entities’ ill will, typically animals.

What conduit would be chosen by a god haunting twins?

He likes to call any preternatural being a god: as a matter of fact, gods were invented by humans to answer questions they could not answer themselves.

So, he closes his eyes again and lets his mind tap into the collective unconscious and follow a thread of thoughts.

In Latin the twins are also known as the Gemini – literally “twins”. Castor and Pollux are twin half-brothers in the Greek and Roman mythology. Pollux is the brightest star in the Gemini constellation (and Castor is the second brightest), whose bordering constellations are Auriga, Cancer, Canis Minor, Lynx, Monoceros, Orion, and Taurus. The brightest star of Canis Minor is Procyon. The Hawaiians see Procyon as part of a group of stars they call “Ke ka o Makali’I” including Castor and Pollux. Furthermore, the Kalapalo people of Mato Grosso see Procyon and Canopus as a duck with Castor and Pollux representing its hands.

Procyon must be the nexus between Gemini and Canis Minor.

Canis in Latin means dog.

His eyes are now wide open.

He is after a dog.

He brings his right hand to his mouth and pushes the joined tips of the middle finger and thumb toward his tongue and thrusts air out of his lungs through his fingers, lips, teeth, and bent tongue, like his grandfather had thought him.

The whistle emits ultrasonic frequencies that startle the dog.

The animal runs out of his hiding place.

With one swift movement he extracts his scuba diving knife from its sheath, flips it in the air to grab it by the blade, and throws it at the beast.

The knife hits the dog in the neck penetrating it to its full extent.

The animal stumbles and rolls in the dirt, which is quickly soaked with the blood flowing out of the wound.

The man slowly walks across the village until he reaches the dying beast, puts his bare right foot on its chest, leaning on it with all his weight, causing the dog to yelp, and then grabs the knife’s handle protruding from the neck with his right hand and, sliding the blade like an expert butcher, slits the throat of the animal.

In an intense flash of light, the body of the beast vanishes, together with the blood that has been briefly soaking the dirt and staining the knife.

As the dog disappears, a chant rises from the hut of the twins’ family, praising the gods and rejoicing as the babies appear as healthy and lively as never before.

As he puts the scuba diving knife back into the sheath and walks back to the river, he is flooded by the memories of his great love.

Every time he saves a life, he feels his doings might contribute to get him back.

The man who had been the great love of his life, and will always be, was taken away from him by those indifferent, selfish, malign, sadistic entities that humans call gods.

He knows very well that, no matter how many lives he saves, he will never get him back.

Despite all his grief, he fights.

He is about to walk into the river when he feels his bowels loosen: the manifestation of his distress by the presentation of physical symptoms.

He pulls down his black wetsuit shorts and squats right where he is to let a good amount of diarrhea flow out of his body.

I look forward to sharing our thoughts again.

Your forever faithful disciple


I woke up this morning to a weird dream.

I was a young girl, around the age I was when I met you, my beloved mentor.

I dreamt of waking up in the house of my youth and walking to the bathroom.

I looked at my reflection in the mirror and saw an old woman, the face of my skin all wrinkles, my hair gray and sparse.

The woman in the mirror screamed and I ran away in fear, out of the bathroom, out the house, up the hill dominated by the remains of the small church surrounded by the scattered tombstones.

Halfway from the graveyard I stumbled and fell facing the ground.

I slowly turned on my back and rose to a sitting position.

My right ankle hurt.

I peeked at it and yelled: a hand covered with dried blood, emerging from the ground through the grass, was holding to it firmly.

That is when I woke up, twenty-three years old again, staring at my bedroom ceiling illuminated by the sunlight pervading my apartment on a beautiful springtime Sunday morning, the perfect day for a ride.

A couple hours later, I was riding my motorbike along a country road surrounded by fields of wheat still young and green, whose bounds were marked by rows of mulberry trees.

I crossed three riders heading in the opposite direction and we greeted each other the way only riders do.

In my rearview mirror I saw them stopping at the margin of the road, in an expanse of short grass, so I made a U-turn and joined them.

When they took off their helmets, I recognized the protagonists of my three visions.

I was not surprised at all, and everything happened afterward felt totally natural.

Beyond the expanse of short grass there was a marsh surrounding a pond.

The old man smiled at me and shared his thoughts.

Welcome among your kind!

It gave me a feeling of comfort, warmth, and relaxation.

The young woman also smiled at me in a reassuring way and shared thoughts.

Are you ready?

I nodded.

The young man nodded back and shared:

Let’s go then!

I looked at them jump into the pond one after the other and disappear underwater.

I ran after them and jumped in.


Fabio Scagliola,