A man with a story and a deadly secret.
August 27, 2015
I MET AMBROSE LINCOLN the night I couldn’t sleep.
It was late, almost midnight, and I was roaming television channels when I stumbled across a documentary that was absolutely intriguing.
It dealt with secret military experiments.
It dealt with mind control.
It dealt with horrors I had never imagined before.
They all took place sometime during the 1930s.
I had no idea they had ever happened.
It was a secret project that didn’t exist, and it took place in a secret hospital that didn’t exist somewhere outside a secret little town that didn’t exist.
Men volunteered for the experiments.
They came from prisons.
They came from asylums.
They came from the military.
And doctors tried to reshape their minds.
They used drugs.
They used LSD.
They used electrical shocks.
They were building weapons, human weapons.
Men who walked into the hospital were not the same men who walked out, and not all of them walked out.
I was seated on the sofa.
I was mesmerized.
I was alone.
“That’s what happened to me,” the voice said.
The words were calm and measured.
I turned my head, and there he sat.
He appeared, for all the world, like a man whose soul had left him even though the last flickers of a pulse stayed behind.
His hair was brown, but the flecks of gray had left it as ashen as lava spilling out into a sunburnt desert. It had been carelessly combed, probably dried by the wind, moistened by the rain, and he needed a haircut. He looked to be somewhere between his early thirties and mid-forties. It was difficult to tell. The years had not been kind to him. His face was pale, his cheeks sallow. He had broad shoulders and hands scarred even worse than his face. When he spoke, his words were as direct as a fatal pistol shot.
“Who are you?” I asked.
I stared at him.
He stared straight ahead.
“What happened to you?” I asked.
“They took my mind away,” he said. “They removed my memory.”
Ambrose shrugged. “A man without a memory is a man who is not afraid.”
That, he said, is what the doctors told him each time the electrodes touched the tattered nerve endings of his brain, each time the worn purple switch sent jolts of electricity racing down the dark tunnels of everything he had known in life and could not find anymore.
The electricity wiped it clean.
“Why did they do such a thing to you?” I asked.
“There was a war coming,” Ambrose said. “They needed men who could operate deep within Germany.”
“What if the Germans caught you?”
“It didn’t matter.”
“A man who knows nothing can reveal nothing.”
“And your mind is blank.”
“Wiped clean,” he said.
“Were you the only one who volunteered?” I wanted to know.
“There were nine of us in the beginning,” he said. “They took us one by one.”
He shrugged again.
“I’m the only one left?”
“Why did you come see me?” I asked.
“I have a story to tell,” he said.
“What’s it about.”
“Secrets,” he said, “secrets of the dead.”
I switched off the television.
“Where should we begin?” I asked.
“At the funeral of my wife,” he said.
“How did she die?”
“I don’t know.”
“How long had you been married?”
“I don’t know.”
“Did you love her?”
For the first time he looked at me.
His eyes softened but did not blink.
“I had never seen her before in my life,” he said.
I knew it would be a long night.