The Mojave Man

“The Mojave Man” is based off of a trip to the Mojave desert.

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Back in the 60’s, there was a wave of experimentation done to humanity by the United States federal government for the achievement of a better understanding of both the human mentality and physicality. Many of these experiments were derived from the Nazi experiments performed on imprisoned Jews, yet were not with the intention of killing (as stated by the government, which I wholey agree). However, many of these experiments were deemed unethical by civilians and my fellow scientists alike, which encouraged the production of protests and strikes towards and in the workplace, which eventually ended the practice of these experiments. I am still bitter towards those who pushed the end of my work and my journey of understanding. Yes, while many of the operations and events proved fatal to those being tested on, it was in our best interest to extract knowledge rather than to kill. I still believe to this day that if we had intentionally devised the experiments to kill those we tested on, we wouldn’t have wasted massive amounts of uncommon and costly resources and millions of dollars. We are not inhumane, but so humane in fact that we become uncanny to the general public.

In any case, we were closed down by the states’ governments and dispersed. I found a job working in the development of nuclear weapons due to my esteemed position in the 60’s (a job which I still hold to this day). My position as a nuclear engineer is completely unrelated to my studies in human experimentation and research, and few know of my past, though I am asked about my previous career by those interested in our push for knowledge from time to time (often those close to me). Most tend to be young and interested in the history of their parent’s lives or in the history of the United States, but regardless of what gives them the inspiration to ask upon me, they usually share the same result: disgusted in my stories. I don’t tell them that I disagree out of fear of hatred or violence towards me, especially after what I’ve seen done to my peers by protestors, but I do.

I do.

I do with the exception of one project of mine. An early project I ran that seldom required any funding and was drawn for the purpose of outlining and understanding the reaction to long-term alienation and isolation in humans. To this day I am still shaken by the experience and feel sympathetic towards my poor test subject… which in this case only I call a victim: Mr. Derris Applegate.

The experiment is labeled under the United States records as Project Mojave, with me labeled as its creator, director, and lead scientist, a young man of 27. I had shown exemplary work in the field and was given the chance to promote my own work, starting with a project of my own (compared to working as partners with another on their project; this was an honor). Project Mojave was named after the location in which it took place, the Mojave desert; a portion of it located in Southern California, specifically. As I have stated, the goal of the operation was to gain a larger and possibly better understanding of the effects of alienation and isolation on the human mind and body, which the Mojave desert is a fine environment for said research, with its openness and usually undisturbed, almost haunting quality. As a result of the nature of the project, I was given many human resources by the government: many different scientists, psychologists, behaviorists, biologists, geologists, many types of health specialists, etc. I was even given a survivalist! I was supplied with everything and everyone that I would require in the studying of my procedure; everything and everyone that would be useful in the studying of the test subject and their environment. I took upon it myself to research and discover the near perfect test subject.

After a month or two of searching, I found a man whose qualities mimicked those of which I was interested in. He was a young, spriteful 30 year old male who regularly exercised, ate and drank healthily, drank the accurate amount of fluids, slept an adequate amount of time each night, and often worked his mind with pastimes such as reading and puzzle solving, boasting an average IQ of 90. In other words, he was your average man who would enjoy a good trip to the cinema. And, most importantly, he was eager for a job; he had lost his most recent job and was looking for work. He was told of the experiment and was introduced to a contract which I had written by lawyers that he needed to agree to. He read it thoroughly and signed. Applegate was ready.

Though I rarely had or still mention the names of my test subjects due to my want for not becoming subject to attachment in them, Derris Applegate has already claimed my sympathy, a sympathy of which I could never remove…

With the ideal subject and all of the necessary resources, both human and non, I set out to find the exact location in which the experiment should take place. Many different areas of the desert seemed quite retired, so choosing was not a burden. My team of carpenters were instructed to build a small shack and yard in a secluded area at the base of a hill, perfectly placed. The shack would contain a toilet, bed, shower, furnace, a piano (for “fiddling” purposes; he had had a small amount of playing experience before, so it was not useless for him), and small workbench. The yard would be filled with food: with livestock hens and with vegetables nestled inside an artificial soil. There would be cameras camouflage inside and outside the walls of the house and in the rock equipped with microphones, perfect for viewing him and recording his behavior. And, of course, he was supplied with a large first-aid kit in the event he caught himself injured. He was to survive while being watched. Within 2 months, the small plot was completely set up and completely isolated from the rest of the world, nearly 10 miles away from any known highway or settlement. The experiment was ready to be commenced. It was time.

On the morning of the unofficial start of the project, Applegate and I were brought out to the test environment by means of helicopter. I was there to see him off. The pilot flew us out to a quarter mile from the campsite and dropped us off with supplies, intending to stay in the helicopter; I was to walk back to the helicopter after leading him to Applegate’s home. By midday I had brought him to his enclosure and had sat around with him for a good half hour before heading out, reminding him of his contract. This included that he would not run off at any time to go find others or he would be revoked of his pay and that he would not be removed from the experiment until it was stated officially that he could by myself (this pushed the intended time of the experiment’s end indefinitely). He was also reminded that, stated by the contract, he was supplied with hundreds of notebooks and many, many pencils, and would use them each and every day to record his experiences and daily life. He was ecstatic to be there and was ready to abide by the contract at all times. However, to ensure that he would, a wrist-watch beacon was given to him so that we might be able to track his location.

I set out and around half an hour later made it back to the helicopter. We flew back to my research facility and I started recording the process of the experimentation. With each and every camera and microphone in place, he was visible at all times and was recorded all day long. He and I were prepared with everything we needed. The experiment had commenced.

Day 1 (the day after he was dropped off) was relatively peaceful. An uneventful day with average wind speeds of 8.25 miles per hour and not a cloud in the sky, a bright sun beating down. Applegate had woken up at 6:42 A.M., tended to his chickens and crops in the morning, ate a breakfast of stew, and moved to go exploring his hill. At 11:57, he returned to his domain and started journaling for 27 minutes, after which he started to experiment on the piano. For the rest of the day, he really sat around radiating no trouble whatsoever, resting and journaling more. At 8:41, he started stretching and then partook of a run around the hill three times. After finishing and then cooling himself down, he began cooking dinner for himself, ate for thirty minutes, and went to bed at 9:01 P.M.

Most of the beginning weeks consisted of this pattern with the occasional difference of maybe a longer sleep or a skipped feeding, all of which was documented and was being deciphered by my many teams. During week 3, he had composed a piece of music using the piano that I recall him naming Mirth, a notion to which I did not understand, nor did my associates.

Months had passed, and nothing much had changed, except that he started going to bed later and sleeping in later. His journal entries consisted of what one might expect to see. He was reportedly feeling a sense of loneliness and a slight sadness, feeling “desolate”. Another two piano pieces were written that he entitled Obsolete and Wind, both of which displayed a sense of longing and arguably melancholy. It was apparent that he was slipping into a depressive state and should be monitored more closely, not because we felt sorry for him (which was not the case) but because we wanted to see how his emotional stance progressed in his latter days.

Over the course of the many, many days, his mood slowly decrescendoed into a depression. This was expected by my team and I when our experiment was compared to human psychology. We hypothesized that once in depression, he would slowly start to regain a sense of permanence and would begin to readjust to his atmosphere.

Time passed, and our assumptions were correct. He began to slowly recede back into the state he was before. However, one thing puzzled us. While he seemed to be on the road to “recovery”, he wrote both a passage in his record entries and a piece of music that seemed odd when compared to his behavior at the time. The piano piece he called Laughter, its title fitting for the music. But instead of maybe a setting that might cause laughter in one, it was laughter, the embodiment of the sound of laughter. He had found a way to mimic the sound of laughter. It was not so strange that he wrote the piece but what the piece itself was. His record entries were not much different. He had begun talking about his life before the beginning of the project and “how sweet those days were compared to… sand,”; “I miss the bustling atmosphere of the city. It’s a nice place, and I yearn to go… rock,” and so on. A recurring theme had appeared: random words placed at random intervals. We believed that they related to his environment, though we were soon proved wrong with words such as “partially” and “sideshow”.

This is when things started to degrade.

Instead of a depressive state, Applegate was now showing signs of a more… observant state, often commenting on very minuscule details about his life: the texture of the ground of which he walked on, the “pattern he saw on the walls”, a concerning remark considering that his walls were of plain stucco, a plain beige. It was at this point that he started sleeping a drastically less amount than before, usually only three hours, complaining of a “sound that comes to me when the light’s off”.

A few more weeks of this behavior, and another change was seen in his character: one morning we found that the piano we had given him was changed, re-tuned. The instrument had become battered up and played what sounded like atonal sounds, often very percussive and non-melodic. A stiffening sound. And yet Applegate continued to abide by his contract, though with what seemed to be a changed perspective. What he was writing seemed to be compiled of nonsense, words that never functioned with each other. It was at this time, too, that he stopped watering and feeding his chickens and his crops. This was an anxious time for my peers because they believed that he was to die without his food sources (as he would have), but I insisted that the experiment resume in complete volume without any interruptions from us, the institutors, at any point in time.

Then, one night, things changed for the worse.

We were startled to see that for three consecutive hours during the dead of night, Applegate, with his unshaven face and disgruntled hair with his clothes in a wreck, was making noise on the piano and was spouting stupidly loud gibberish from his mouth. He smashed the keys while yelling at a massive volume, increasing and decreasing in time, only to return to his loudest blast of cacophony. My team had no clue as to what could have caused such a violent outbreak of sound other than the fact that he was obviously going insane. But from the absence of human contact? He had been exhibiting “normal” behavior just a day before. It was a questionable act that prompted time lost in my sleep, waiting for an answer.

A few nights later, this time for five consecutive hours, Applegate screamed. Screamed at a concerning volume and tone, as if he were in danger. He started to rip his clothes and even deal damage to himself with objects around the room such as his gardening tools and his desk. Banging his head on the desk, he screamed and rolled around maniacally, even cutting his ear and his hands, smearing a small amount of blood on himself. It was at this time that many of my colleagues and team retracted themselves from the project as they saw that a clear outcome was in place and that if I would not interfere with the subject’s concerning state, they would not become affiliated with the death of him. Those who were left of my people continued to examine Applegate’s behavior.

With more “screaming nights”, it was speculated that Derris was experiencing hallucinations. He seemed now to be screaming with a purpose, as he would lash out at the empty spaces in front of him and cower into corners, his actions evolving. By now all of his food was gone, his foul and crops dead and rotting. This malnutritious wave took a toll on his physique. He was long past exercising and without eating, he began to thin out and become more disheveled by the day. Most if not all of his clothing was now ripped and destroyed, serving him no purpose in the cold nights. He had also stopped journaling his experiences everyday, the last few days of the habit being filled with gibberish: “AgsdhJKAHSHGDhvKJDBSfjhv,” and so on. Though this breached his contract, I again found it fit not to interfere and to let it go.

Even I, against my better judgement, had started to emotionally connect with Derris. I began feeling both remorseful and disgusted at him and his now even more violent tendencies. More sleepless nights on my behalf were wasted away wondering about what he was going through. It didn’t help the situation when the 12th of January arrived.

All day that day, he was curled up in a ball on his dirtied floor, rocking back and forth like a child. Then, when the sun set, he began not to scream nor spastically move as he had done for so many nights before, but to stop rocking and sit in a fetal position on the floor with eyes wide open in a listening stance. I had practically put my face up to my monitors of him with curiosity and anxiousness, listening as he was. What for, I had no idea. Nothing but the sound of almost complete silence, excusing the faint wind blowing against the roof of the shack, entered my ears. I had absolutely no idea what we could be listening for, and I had begun to file it in my brain as part of his “insanity”. But then, only minutes later, I heard the most spine-chillingly dreadful sound that had entered my ears and into my head so long as I lived: a faint laughter. Not a human laughter of any kind, nor of Applegate, who at this point was acting quite inhumane, but of an animal. It was impossible to officially classify it to any animal on my behalf for the first few minutes of the sporadic, distant laughing, but I eventually made it out to resemble and mimic the laughter of a hyena, the gross, ugly, devious gargoyles of the African savannah. A hyena’s laughter quietly filling the dark sky at long paused intervals, never getting louder than a call from a friend waiting for you to catch up, to get to the top of the hill with him. Yes, never exceeding the volume of a soft hush, yet striking eerie, confusing, and unsettling emotions inside of me. And inside of Applegate it seemed to be striking the utmost fear and terror that I’ve seen a man suffer. Listening intently, he never ushered a word; not a sound. He waited with nothing that could be done. It was just the Hyena and him.

When morning came, I nearly collapsed from exhaustion, drenched in cold sweat and staring and listening for hours on end. The laughter was gone and Applegate was in the same condition as he had been. I had initially thought that what I and he were experiencing were delusions caused by sleep deprivation, though an audio recording of that night argued otherwise. The hollow, haunting sound echoed inside my mind, straining my comfort into a grave discomfort, more horrid and cold sounding the second time listened to. I couldn’t comprehend the event well and it caused me to slightly panic, to become both gravely worried and curious for Applegate. More of my team had left me, and so it, now, was myself and a few others.

As the day passed, I intended to continue observing Applegate extremely closely, and I had developed the intention that if the Hyena creature were to appear again, there would be nothing done. We would never interfere and would continue observing the situation from afar.

Dusk eventually showed, and just as before, Applegate was stone still and quiet, not moving a muscle nor yelling. He was there and alone. The silence filled my head and gut with a dread seeping through me and into everything and everywhere that I could comprehend. The silence was too long, much too long, purposefully attacking my mind and clawing it to pieces, overrippening my thoughts and destroying my comfortability, stabbing my chest thousands of times, causing my heart to palpitate and my legs to seize up, my lungs inhaling the strangely stale and cold air. And then, after an infinitely long time, the Hyena was back. It’s laughter struck an anxiety so strong in me that I couldn’t breath quite right, causing me to require immediate assistance from my peers. Applegate was still and listening just as I had been, terrified to move and barely breathing. Perhaps the most unsettling quality about all of this was the laughter itself. It took on a slightly louder, clearer form, though still as though the sound was from afar, just slightly closer. It pierced the still abyss and seemed to be advancing. Inside of me was an extremely powerful fear, an emotion I rarely confided in. Yes, now it was fear: fear of seeing what produced that ghastly din-spawn from what seemed to be of hell.

Again, morning came, and I was again extremely uncomfortable. So uncomfortable in fact that the thought of peering back into the monitors shocked me to my core. I couldn’t bear to watch those things for another five minutes. However, I had to. It was my duty. I had to see what was happening to Applegate and now I. The days were relatively peaceful with Applegate still unmoving, so I’d skip monitoring the day and move on to solely the night.

Sunset. Darkness. Waiting. Waiting and waiting for the Hyena to arrive. Hours of dead silence; not even the wind dared move it was so quiet. It was silent. Derris was silent. I could only hear my own thoughts and anxiety. Nothing spoke of anything and anything was non-existent.

By 6:00 A.M., I was dreadfully confused. What had happened? Where did he go? Applegate is there… and with this final thought I involuntarily drifted asleep; I had lacked sleep for two consecutive days and could not wait anymore.

I woke up at 2:00 A.M…

And I had woken up to the sound of my nightmares. The laughter was back. It was back. It was back and Applegate was not there. A small trail of blood led out the open door, shimmering in the moonlight, stagnant and unmoving. I started to panic and began checking Derris’s location to see where he might be. The tracker was unresponsive, giving me no location whatsoever. I immediately began contacting what was left of my team while through the monitor the maniacal hyena laughter began condescending slowly, minute by minute, pause by pause. The hideous sound crept into my soul and filled it with a terror I had never yet experienced before. The abominable, wretched thing coming closer and closer, its laughter louder and louder. Louder and louder, doing nothing, coming from nowhere! It was loud now, as if the thing was outside the door in the yard. Closer and closer! My sweat was pooling onto the floor and my eyes watering out of fear. Pure terror was the only emotion inside of me while the booming laughter filled everywhere and everything.

Silence; my panting and heart the only thing audible within miles.


And then, I laid eyes on the most unforgettable sight that would ever tread into my cursed life.

It was so horrid and unbelievably, disgustingly, indescribably terrible that any foul creature damned by God would tremble in its wake. The moment that I had seen it with disbelief I began vomiting and retching, my eyes refusing to behold such a great sight, my brain demanding the truth behind this unspeakable horror; but I couldn’t take my gaze away from the thing. No man alive would be able to describe this amazingly ghastly creature; all I can say and have ever been able to say is that it seemed… humanoid. My body and mind could not take such a bloody, cut, awesome thing. I was going into a sort of shock, my face and clothes drenched in salty, sticky sweat, tears streaming down my face like hot iron, my throat unable to open, and a never-ending tearing at my soul existing, pressure as if I was placed in between mountains at the center of the Earth. The laughter was constant now, a constant shriek of hideous animal call, a disgusting, mocking, stark noise beyond my comprehension. And the eyes… the darkest pit-like gate-ways into Hell, the never ending abysses of torment and wrath. I couldn’t remain conscious while it was. I could not.

I awoke to find myself in a hospital. For what seemed like hours I sat in bed contemplating where and why I was. I suppose that it had only been minutes when nurses began flooding into my space, both excited and nervous. With my raspy, bloody voice, I asked where I was and what had happened to me.

I was answered by one of the doctors now entering the chamber. He explained to me that I was found in a most dreadful, disheveled state and was rushed to the nearest hospital immediately. I had experienced severe shock and had borne a coma lasting over two years.

When I was visited by a close coworker of mine that was involved in Project Mojave with myself, I asked him what became of it, the experiment. He responded in a remorseful tone, one that sunk my almost non-existent spirits. He spoke to me about the subject, which appeared hard for him. He said that when I was admitted into the hospital, the first course of action was to indefinitely suspend the project. For months, search teams were cast out into the desolate wasteland to search for Applegate, who could not be found even to the best of their abilities. Due to Applegate’s lost position after months of seeking, he was deemed by the federal government to be “terminated”. With the loss of the test subject and the head director, my friend explained, there was no reason for the experiment to continue. The operation was shut down in time and the project was labeled as an “unsuccessful experimentation” within the government’s record documents, with little information attached.

I myself searched for Applegate for some time after my recovery, but as the searchers before me, my journeys yielded fruitless finds. It was now five years since the attempt I had commenced on making an impression in human history that failed and ended. I eventually began experimenting again after time to reconcile with myself and with a very timid approach, riddled with a never ending fear for what I had seen. Instead of leaving an impression, I was left with an impression. An echoing, haunting, terrifying impression that I would never be able to release.