Deus Ex Animo

“I. Am not. Crazy.” I announced to myself.

"You keep telling yourself that."

Deus’s idle, silvery voice sounded in my head. It was not an unpleasant voice, rather soft in fact, yet it accompanied me with every step and every waking breath.


1. The Wake Up Call

My name is Aaron. I am human, and this place was not my home.


These three facts are the only things I know to be true.


The sheets I slept in were fluffy and warm, the mattress I lay on was soft and nothing short of heavenly.

But a gilded cage is a cage nonetheless.


Rise and shine, sweetheart.


“Shut up.”


I heard a human saying once: 'The early bird catches the worm'. By this time, all the worms are looong gone.

“Deus: Shut. Up.”


I yawned and stood up.


Yep, not a worm in sight.


I rolled my eyes and clambered out of bed, letting the covers pool in a heap of the floor. Yawning again, I padded over to the bathroom


Aaron, by the way you walk, it almost looks like you don't care that an unknown number of strangers are looking at you in your underwear.


Carelessly, I slapped the light switch and stared into the mirror. Fifteen years of insomnia and cynicism glared back at me. My stark black hair was ruffled from tossing and turning, and my eyes- a shade of slate so deep they were almost black- glared back at me. My thin lips were pursed in dissatisfaction, no surprise there. Everything looked normal, save for a tiny speck of brown paste on the corner of my mouth.


“You ate something whilst I was asleep.” I accused him.


What, who, me? Why would you think that?


“There’s Nutella around my mouth.”


Okay, you got me. But I can't help it.


I sighed heavily. My ‘Argument’ rang out, alien in the quiet of the bathroom. I’ll say it now, I’m not crazy. I’m not, okay? Well, yes, to the cameras in my room (Or should I say cell) It looks as though I’m talking to myself, but I’m not. I breathed slowly through my mouth.


“I. Am not. Crazy.” I announced to myself.


You keep telling yourself that. Deus’s idle, silvery voice sounded in my head. It was not an unpleasant voice, rather soft in fact, yet it accompanied me with every step and every waking breath. Deus is- well- to be honest, I have no idea who or what Deus is. He’s been with me for as long as I can remember, pretty much. Well, that isn’t exactly difficult in my current state, but hey-ho.


I showered quickly, and got changed for the day. The bathroom, as far as I was aware, was the only place without cameras. I paced through to the living room.


Don’t get me wrong, my captors went to great lengths to make the place look as friendly as possible: The lounge itself was spacious, furnished with slim, modern furniture. The four walls were bare, and looked weird when unbroken by windows. I’d never actually seen what was outside. For all I knew I could’ve been on the moon. In the center of my living room was a carpet emblazoned with a logo like the ambulance symbol: A winged staff with two snakes twined around it. Beneath it was the word ‘Caduceus’. I assume that’s who’s keeping me here, but I’ve been wrong before. Set into one wall was an empty bookshelf. Adjacent to it was a sofa and a TV. I don’t watch it, but Deus does when I’m asleep.


I suppose I should explain a little. Well, I would, except I can’t remember any of it. I’m serious. I know how to speak English, I can read and write; I can set up a chessboard, but I have no idea who or where I am. I didn’t even know why I was there, although I presumed it was because of the timeless consciousness that shared my body.


You're making me blush.


I glanced around the room, making note of all of the cameras: Most were very subtle, for example, there was one in a potted plant by the sofa. There was another hidden in the shade of the lamp on my bedside table. But there was one nestled right in the corner of the room, by the door. It followed me, blinking very humanely, wherever I walked. I walked up to it, stood on the tips of my toes, and rapped at the lens.


“You gonna let me out yet?” I demanded, keeping up my rhythm on the camera.


Good luck with that.


I ignored Deus and ran a hand across my face. How much longer of this crap? The only human contact I’d had in the time I’d been here was the hand I saw when they slid my meals through the flap in the door. I sighed and slumped down on the sofa.


“It looks like it’s just you and me today.” I said, yawning.


Oh joy, what shall we do today? Shall we sit on the sofa doing nothing, or shall we do something else? Oh, wait.


“Your attitude doesn’t exactly make things easier around here.”


Look, we do not even know where 'here' is.


“And I thought with you and your infinite wisdom, you’d have an idea by now.”


I have already told you. We've been here three months, apart from that I have no idea.


I drummed my fingers against the sofa impatiently. “You can’t look through my memories?” I asked the air.


I could, yes, but that's the problem; you have none.


I was about to reply when a screeching sound cut through the semi-silence of the room: A microphone turning on.


“Aaron Conoway.” Announced a commanding, male voice.


You should probably answer that.


“Yes?” My own voice sounded shaky, and a small voice in the back of my head (not Deus, his voice is much louder) noted that my first word to another human in three months was ‘yes.’


How poetic


“You will stand at least five meters from the door and place your hands on your head. Refusal to do so will result in pacification.” The voice wasn’t asking, it was telling.


I placed my hands above my head. The room fell silent for a moment, and then the handle of the door shook. There was a pause before it slid open and I was greeted by a bizarre sight:


Three men- well, I assumed they were men, they had their faces covered- marched in. They wore gas masks and some sort of body armour, like policemen. They held rifles up to their shoulders, sights trained on me. They breathed heavily and advanced with sure-footed maneuvers. The three formed an evenly-paced arch around me and through the door a fourth figure emerged.


He was tall, with wispy white hair and a snowy, neatly trimmed beard. His eyes were the grey of old flesh, holding neither light nor warmth. He dressed in smart black trousers, and a navy blue shirt. Above this, an alabaster white lab coat with a name tag pinned to it, which I couldn’t read from here.


“Aaron Conoway.” His voice was as dead as his eyes, which regarded me with a mix of suspicion and intrigue. According to his badge, his name is Lucien Wells, Deus told me. The men in masks lowered their rifles without signal, and the old man walked up to me and held out his hand. Tentatively, I reached out and shook it. His hand was icy cold, devoid of warmth. I am getting a bad vibe from this man. Deus sounded wary, and probably for good reason: I had no idea who this man was, but I doubt he meant us any good.

“My name is Lucien Wells,” he introduced himself, smiling a smile that never reached his eyes.


I bet his middle name is Creepydeadguy.



“I gather by now, you probably have some questions. I will permit you one now. Choose carefully.”


Ask him what his favourite colour is


“Who are you people?” I demanded at once. I took a step forward and the armed guards raised their weapons. If Lucien was scared or offended, he made no show of it.


“You may refer to us as Caduceus. We research… Unusual… People. You happen to be one of them, meaning no offense.”


Gee, none taken.


“Our aims are simply to get a firmer grasp on cases like yours. When we have discerned what we can, you are free to leave. The matter is as simple as that.”


“And why am I an unusual person?” I asked, my voice cold. Wells laughed a fake laugh that didn’t at all match his personality.


“I’m afraid, mister Conoway, that you’ve already asked your one question. For now, there is work to be done.


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More of this? Or back to writing The Subtle Mage.


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