It was a dark and stormy night. Actually, that's a complete lie. The early fall evening in the New Mexico desert canyon town of Beechwood (ironically titled) was warm, but not too warm, perfect sundress or t-shirt weather without the unwanted mugginess that tends to cause nasty sweat beads on the surface of one's skin, or sweltering, heavy, bug-filled air to tickle one's throat as it slides downward into their lungs.
The atmosphere in Beechwood was quiet, but that wasn't unusual. Beechwood wasn't your typical town. It belonged to The Tower, and the canyon walls were lined with thick steel. If you lived within the confines of Beechwood, you didn't ever leave. At least, not without a government escort.
Nearly twenty-two years had gone by since news of The ACCE (Anterior Cingulate Cortex Experiment) was outed to the public in 2020. An elite group of the country's most brilliant scientists were illegally funded by power-hungry billionaires with the goal to unlock the full capabilities of our minds. They began their early research in the old abandoned buildings once used for The Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, New Mexico, and then to further operate under the radar, they built The Tower in a neighboring canyon. Their beginning hypothesis was that if they could enlarge our anterior cingulate cortex, the section of our brains with connections to both the "emotional" limbic system and the "cognitive" prefrontal cortex, dormant abilities (in laymen's terms) or even perceived supernatural abilities (to the religious, the fearful, and the skeptics), could then be unleashed within us.
The world-wide broadcasted court case was laughable at best, and the sentences that the scientists received were more for show than anything else. Religious communities were shocked and horrified, skeptics devoted their lives to disproving the results, and believers, well, they knew that these discoveries were about to change the world forever.
Legal orders were put in place to protect the "victims" of the experiments, but no one was fooled. The government was far more concerned with protecting the world from the "victims" than the "victims" from the world. The Tower where the experiments took place was nestled in a canyon deep in the New Mexico desert, and that's where the "town" (aka prison), Beechwood, was formed. Homes within the confines of the canyon were built and "gifted" to the victims. Grocery stores, entertainment venues, schools, libraries, restaurants, and more were created to keep them occupied, plus all "residents" of Beechwood were gifted with a generous sum of cash, aka Hush Money.
Of course, there were catches. These mothers were given the assurance of a safe, comfortable life in exchange for their continued cooperation, and for their silence. They were not allowed to interact with the public outside of Beechwood. They were not allowed to accept any interviews from the press, so not even Oprah could get an exclusive about what had really gone on inside of The Tower during The ACCE, or what became of the children who were victimized in-vitro.
The mothers who chose not to abort their fetuses had to agree to subject their children to regular "noninvasive" testing. Even though they agreeably signed blood-oath agreements with the government, as the children grew, they began to voice valid questions and concerns. Would the children be under government lock and key for their whole lives? Would they be forever isolated from the rest of the world? How would their educational needs be met? What about their social desires, and would they be allowed to have families of their own? Should they be allowed to do so within Beechwood?
Promises were made by the government supposedly concerning the best interest of the children, but sometimes, those promises were broken.
The public was not privy to further information regarding the surviving children, but a bit more than a decade after the ACCE was outed, some of the children proved that the original hypothesis of the experiment was correct. When puberty hit, a select group began to display extraordinary abilities that went far above and beyond normal cognitive development. These abilities were described as extreme hypersensitivity to their surroundings. Not only did some of these children display chart-topping IQ's and an enhanced experience of the basic five senses, but they also possessed the ability to read even the most normally-undetectable micro-expressions of their fellow humans, and detect even the smallest inflections of their tone of voice. The scientists, fearful of these children and trying to ease their own minds, started to joke among each other that the children possessed a sixth sense about people. Eventually, this special group of children were labeled as 'Sixes.'
The government broke more promises to the mothers and began more invasive testing on these potentially dangerous human subjects. The mothers fought for rights of their children being able to lead at least a facade of a somewhat normal life inside of Beechwood, and there was disquiet between the mothers threatening to talk to the press if promises were not kept, and the government's threat to eliminate both mothers and children if they exposed more ACCE secrets to the public and brought any media attention back to the case. By this time, it had mostly been forgotten.
But disquiet can't last forever, and on a not-so-dark-and-stormy night in Beechwood when the stiff body of Zulia Montgomery was found outside of the schoolyard placed sacrificially across the grass, the Sixes claimed to know nothing.
At first, the government did not believe them, but when physical pain and threatening the lives of their mothers still failed to produce any results, they had to accept an even scarier fact than the probability that a Six (whom they considered the most dangerous) was a murderer. They had to consider the possibility that someone else inside of Beechwood had done this, someone that was somehow even smarter than the known Sixes. The government feared that worse acts of depravity inside of Beechwood were yet to come.
Author's Notes: Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this prologue, please consider giving it a vote.
The version posted here on wattled is NOT professionally edited, so please excuse any minor errors or typos that I might have missed!
Beechwood is serialized fiction following the pacing of a TV drama. Each novella (approximately 40k words) is told at the pacing of an episode. Assume that if scripted, each episode would take up an hour on television. A total of twelve episodes will culminate in a season. There will be at least two seasons altogether!
Each chapter has it's own companion blog with more author's thoughts and extra bonus content. Those can be found on my website at www.kellfrillman.com
The first Chapter will be go Live on January 1st, 2019. New chapters will then be published on TUESDAYS and FRIDAYS.
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