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Prologue to The Great Apocalypse

Here is the text, in case you would prefer to read it:

Prologue – In the Halls of Madness

From the journal of Thomas Adams:

Of all the images, it’s the simplest one I find the most disturbing. I’m staring at a large garbage bin drawn on the wall of a patient’s room. The lid is slightly open, and two glowing eyes peer from within. Delicate shading produces the illusion that the bin has escaped the cold grasp of the plaster surface. I’m not sure how he accomplished that effect with just black and gray crayons.

I have been studying the drawings on the walls of the psychiatric hospital since yesterday. They are mostly apocalyptic in nature, carefully framed by blocks of coded text. Fantastic beasts from the book of Daniel are displayed prominently in a peculiar style. They resemble artwork from propaganda posters and literature of certain nineteenth-century end time sects, but the garbage bin is different. I can’t figure out how it relates to the other symbols.

I’ve made some progress interpreting the clues and the few lines of text that the government has been able to decrypt, but his motivation continues to mystify me.

Why would a billionaire ignore his vast empire of brick, mortar, and steel to make a final statement on the walls of a psychiatric hospital with colored markers, crayons, and finger paints?

I’ve recently become obsessed with the idea that the picture of the garbage bin isn’t a mysterious symbol or elaborate puzzle. It might be just a perverse joke, cruel in its simplicity. Earlier today, I saw a satellite image of a large metal bin in the middle of a scorched hole in the Nevada desert.

Could Lauren be in that bin? Were her eyes staring at me all this time, pleading for help? Was the former inhabitant of this room mocking me from beyond the grave?
I need to convince the Feds to search that bin.

It might not be easy, but I think I can persuade them if I build a solid case first.

It’s difficult to concentrate when I’m overwhelmed by thoughts of Lauren in peril, but I must try. I look around the room for other clues and focus on a picture of a bear, one of the beasts from the book of Daniel. The rest of the creatures were drawn elsewhere. This is the only one drawn in his room. It’s bigger than the others and appears above his dresser, where you would normally expect a mirror.

I’m beginning to suspect that the bear is a self-portrait painted in the language of symbols.

This new insight shatters my earlier misconceptions. I had tunnel vision. He left some of his clues in the open for the whole world to see. I literally walked right past one the size of a small mountain without noticing its meaning.

My head starts to spin as I finally begin to understand the writing on the wall.

His symbols point to a real empire that collapsed suddenly, while hinting that he was responsible. I wonder if he really believed that or was simply being metaphorical. He has already crippled the economy and triggered an international crisis. Was he also capable of toppling empires?

He might have been suffering from a mad delusion, but I need to take the threat seriously. The evidence suggests that he has set something in motion.

I can barely keep up with my thoughts as I make fresh connections and look at old information in a new light. I think I finally know who the second witness is. My mind contemplates a terrifying hypothesis while I reluctantly perform the simple arithmetic that confirms it.

I believe I now have a time and a place for an event that could shake the foundations of civilization.

At least the Feds and I can narrow our search for Lauren in the two days that remain before the world is scheduled to end.