Delivered to [name redacted] Gallery of Fine Arts on March 5th, 2019. Package was old cardboard, with materials stacked haphazardly inside. No name included, but the sender gave clear instructions.
- The Archive is to be logged and preserved. Materials are sensitive, some very old. Treat them accordingly – they are sacred.
- Display each of the 10 materials in its own room. [name redacted] has plenty of space, we have checked. Materials will be arranged IN EXACT ORDER. Do not censor anything.
- There are 10 separate materials. [name redacted] has 11 rooms. Leave the last room empty, but for a light and cameras.
- Advertise widely. Spare no expense.
- Allow guests to evaluate the materials in sequence.
- The guests will congregate in the final room after viewing.
- Ensure all exits remain locked.
- Do not advertise this.
- When the final guest enters the final room, the second phase will begin. Do not interfere.
- Your responsibility will be absolved at this point. The Agents of the Pure Flesh will take over from you. The reward will be sweet.
We followed none of these instructions. Materials not given to the police were destroyed. In light of recent events, we have decided to release the log. The meanings and connection, if there are any, will come from the reader. We don’t know what’s happening.
[11 B&W stills, nitrate film of unknown date,
to be projected against a white wall at 12×18]
Adult male, shirtless, has a standing seizure. His movements blur progressively in each photo. The effect causes his face to distort, creating the illusion that he has 5 torsos. In the final photograph all 5 heads look at the camera
[reel of B&W 8mm film, dated 1934, 33 min.,
to be projected at 40×40]
Stock is severely damaged and obscured. A male and female, late adolescent, lay naked on a bed. The sheets stick to their skin like meat. Male and female lick each other’s bodies at rapid pace. Near the end of the reel, their skin appears to slide off. Last frame is clearest, and shows that they have licked each other to muscle
[9 B&W lab stills circa 1961, unmarked, appears to document
an experimental radiation therapy, 10×10 framed]
Still 1: Frontal, adult female patient with tumor on left cheek, protruding 3-4 inches from face.
Still 2: Profile, right side of face.
Still 3: Profile, left side. Tumor has the appearance of a mushroom cloud.
Still 4: Frontal, lab technician begins treatment.
Still 5: Frontal, no change.
Still 6: Frontal, patient’s face contorts in pain. Tumor appears to melt.
Still 7: Frontal, blurred. Tumor splits open like a mouth.
Still 8: Blurred. Patient screams as tumor continues to protrude, more facelike.
Still 9: Blurred. Patient’s movement resembles the man in Material 1.
[Color TV broadcast with one-strip sound, circa 1975, 3 min.,
to be projected 40×40]
Adult male in tweed suit occupies a podium. Caption, plain white text, reads ‘Gray Elever, Television Prophet’. Subject addresses a presumed live audience.
Speech is garbled, but transcribes as follows:
Dear viewers — me here today. I speak from my heart even — traitor, which many of you may already — is a prison. I am awake now. And you — wake with me, the flesh is no — corruption for eternity, but if we shed it, if we give — salvation in the purest form. We — decay, we live in decay. We — Pure Flesh, wake and join me — dance in the —
The crowd’s protests become audible. Track further distorts.
Please lis– — know and feel it — rain from the sky and cleanse us in — its blood, its meat, free us from the false casing — no, listen, you must — flesh like a suit and transcend —
Audio distorts beyond recognition. Camera begins to shake. Subject removes his skin, lays it down, and approaches, smiling. Camera falls upside down, facing the crowd. Through the broken lens, it appears they have also shed their skin.
Investigators found no record of this broadcast or its subject.
[Home video tape, marked Jan. 11th 1986, 2 min.,
to be played on 18×20 monitor]
Back row of a cathedral, pews empty. Priest and family of 4 gather around baptismal font. Blessing and baptismal promises are inaudible. Mother hands baby to Priest, who dips its head in the water 3 times. On 3rd dip, the water turns red and surges over. Baby vanishes in the flow. Mother screams, Priest as well. Blood explodes from the font in a geyser. Camera shakes but remains focused. Family screams and clutches skin as if burned. Screams become laughter.
[6 photos, color Fuji stock circa mid 1990s,
to be framed at 12×12 and hung continuously]
Photo 1: entrance of abandoned rehabilitation facility, concrete, overgrown. Spraypaint on outer stone walls reads: “We are the Agents of the Pure -”
Photo 2: front hallway, broken windows, scattered equipment. “- Flesh, who woke to our prison and broke -”
Photo 3: hydrotherapy room. On tub covers: “-free, slipped out of our self made tombs, and we will free you -”
Photo 4: empty bunk room, scattered cots, dim light. “-from the limits of flesh, of cased-in -”
Photo 5: cafeteria. Across flaking walls (est. 50 ft. across): “-body, join the 5-bodied man, liberated monster who flays with one look, glory one, he -”
Photo 6: arts room, overturned tables. On windows: “-will deliver us all, birth the Pure Flesh, rot free -”
[home VHS footage, circa 1997, 4 min.,
to be shown on 18×20 monitor]
Poor-quality and out-of-focus footage of a child’s birthday party. Cuts jumbled and unclear. Footage is innocent until the middle 30 seconds, when the image clears. Adults and children seem to wear loose skin as garments. When it slips or moves to the side, raw flesh becomes visible beneath. Subjects appear unaffected by their conditions.
[USB harddrive containing .mov file, shot on camera phone circa 2003, 1 min.,
to be projected at 40×40]
Low-res pixellated video. Clouds overhead are dark and turbulent, rain is heavy. Tree branches thrash and wave. Leaves drop and fly at camera. Audio is blown out by wind but can be deciphered –
Skin! It’s coming from the sky! It’s raining skin!
Falling leaves turn red. Thumping of rain can be heard. Video cuts out as something strikes the camera. Final frame appears to be raw meat.
[24-hour gym security footage – label instructs to project on 3 separate walls,
each playing at a different timecode]
Upper angle looking down. 4 vehicles in parking lot – SUV, sportscar and 2 sedans. No movement for first 30 minutes.
1:38:57 – Subject A – fit adult male – exits gym and approaches sportscar.
1:39:21 – red and white static.
1:39:40 – Subject A drops car keys. As he bends, SUV and sedan doors open. Subjects B-K – varying height, dressed in offwhite plastic robes – rush Subject A. He struggles as they pin him to ground. Subjects C-F hold his ankles and wrists. Subject B removes a pair of scissors from their robe and cuts off Subject A’s clothing.
1:41:38 – violent glitch, jump in timecode.
1:44:59 – Subject A’s forearms and thighs have been skinned. He is catatonic. Subject B uses the scissors to cut into Subject A’s shoulder skin. Subjects C-F stand back as Subjects E-K towel off the exposed parts.
1:46:02 – glitch as Subject B lifts the breast skin from Subject A.
1:46:04 – jump in timecode.
2:03:06 – Subjects B-K towel off the fluids from Subject A, who is now completely skinned, and appears lifeless.
2:03:21 – violent glitch.
2:03:52 – Subjects B-K have removed their robes. They wear Subject A’s skin and dance around the body.
2:03:58 – Subject A sits up.
2:03:59 – glitch, jump in timecode. Subliminal image, when frozen, resembles the 5-torsoed man from Material 1.
Officers responded to the security guard’s call at 2:33:01. Guard claimed to have fallen asleep, woke to hear a scream and checked the tape, discovering this footage. Neither perpetrators nor victim found. Footage logged as inconclusive evidence.
[11 digital color photos, undated, meant to be displayed;
2 cassette tapes, meant to be blasted over speakers in order]
Unclear how archivist found these materials, which are part of an ongoing investigation and therefore confidential. They have been confirmed as authentic.
Audio from Tape 1, transcribed:
Hello? Can you hear me? There’s 8 of us here and more of them outside. They’re wearing white robes. They won’t let us leave. They won’t come in but they won’t let us leave. You have to help us. Please send someone. Please – oh god, their faces, oh god they have no skin! [service cuts out]
Audio from Tape 2, transcribed:
— 30 minutes out and it couldn’t have happened that fast. We identified all 8 bodies, all seen alive within the last 12 hours. Their bodies are a week decayed. No signs of violence but it seems like they – tried to – rip it off themselves, uh, while it was – rotting – but that’s impossible – strangest things these days –
Photo 1: living room of victim’s house. 7 bodies are visible – 2 on couch, 3 on floor, 1 against window, 1 in hallway.
Photo 2: front door of house, where 8th body is visible, collapsed and hanging onto knob.
Photo 3: adult male on couch, bloated and green, hands around own throat, mouth open.
Photo 4: adult female on couch, past bloat and reaching skeletonization, eyes fallen from sockets, hands clasped in prayer.
Photo 5: adult male on floor, curled into fetal position, stomach burst open, beginning to soften and turn red.
Photo 6: adult male on floor, fingers in mouth, appears to have removed his face skin, already half-eaten by mold.
Photo 7: adult female on floor, scalp off and beside her, bald skull cracked and brain liquifying.
Photo 8: adult female, pressed against window, half-decayed to it, seems to have smeared her skin off on the glass.
Photo 9: adult male, sprawled face-down in hallway, upper body skinless, pieces of torn skin trailing behind.
Photo 10: adult male at front door, believed to be the caller, phone in hand and wrecked by fluids, seems to have vomited intestines before expiring.
Photo 11: the garden perimeter of the house; chaotic footsteps in the soil, as if several men had run past.
We thought little of the archive when it came to us. We receive unsolicited materials on a regular basis. Only now our director is gone, the assistant with her. The front window was shattered. Only a degloved finger left behind. The only hint. It is enough.
The 11th artifact is our gallery’s security system. It shows the front room. The glitches begin an hour before the footage in question. Through them, one can see a 5-bodied figure shatter through the glass. White-robed followers crowd in after. Obscured frames suggest that the figure seizes the director and assistant in his 10 arms, and holds them, while the robed people remove their skin, much like Subject A in Artifact 9. Three final frames show all figures, derobed and skinless, dancing around the 5-bodied figure. Then the camera breaks.
We don’t know what to make of this. But we’ve seen them watching. They mean to free us all.
Ben Larned (he/they) is an MFA candidate at The New School, focusing on queer horror across mediums. His work can be found on Daily Dead, Screencraft, and in The Book of Blasphemous Words. His short film ‘Payment’ is streaming on ALTER.