Ivan first noticed Button’s odd behavior after waking to relieve himself. It was the first night of his yearly summer trip to London, and such a dear companion as Button could not in good conscience be left home. His faithful friend sat at the edge of the bed, staring into the darkest corner of the room; the angles of the windows prevented any light from the street below from reaching this blackest of spaces. Button was alert, almost alarmingly so, and Ivan could not help but voice his concern.
“Button! What ever is the matter? There is nothing there!” Button ignored his cries, singularly focused on the corner. Ivan eventually had to accept Button’s behavior as an oddity, and resume sleeping.
During his trip Ivan was staying, as he always did, with his longtime friend Lord Baron Gregory. Gregory owned one of the more lavish apartments in town, and Ivan quite enjoyed the educated and thought-provoking conversation the two historically shared. This morning Ivan knew at once that Gregory would be intrigued by the mysterious behavior of Button the night prior. He broached the subject over breakfast.
“Lord Gregory, I would be remiss to not mention to you the strange occurrence of last night. I awoke to visit the lavatory when I noticed dear Button, sleeping as he often does at the foot of the bed, awake and alert, staring intently at the dark corner of the room. Such behavior from him I have never seen! What could possibly explain it?”
“Odd indeed!” Gregory exclaimed, “did you hear no noise that may have caught his attention? He is a creature of finer senses than our own.”
“I heard nothing! Could it be his senses detected something beyond our understanding?”
At this statement, Gregory’s dark eyes began to gleam with excitement. He spoke next with heightened animation, inching closer to his friend.
“My dear Ivan! This building has been rumored, nay, confirmed, to house spirits of a most ancient breed! It may be that your humble Button was observing activity outside the realm not only of our understanding, but of our senses!”
“What are you suggesting, Gregory?”
“The paranormal realm and its inhabitants have long evaded detection,” Gregory replied. “Button may provide us a glimpse into this most secretive of worlds!” Ivan, his curiosity piqued, agreed to observe Button that night to see if the phenomenon would repeat itself.
The night’s onset brought no sign of a repeat occurrence, however. Button settled himself on the bed and promptly fell asleep, snoring softly while Ivan looked on in a sense of vague disappointment. After watching his chest heave softly for several minutes, Ivan settled in to join Button in peaceful slumber. Strange shapes shifted through Ivan’s dreams until a slight, barely noticeable rustling disturbed him. He opened his eyes to find Button upright, nose pointed at the same dark corner as the night before. Ivan was elated; indeed, something mysterious was going on!
Gregory’s grin was broad as Ivan relayed the news to him the next morning. Sipping his tea, Gregory listened intently as Ivan explained the similar circumstances connecting the two nights.
“I have full reason to believe, my friend, that some stimulus as yet unknown to us is drawing my Button’s attention to that empty corner of the room.”
“And as we know the history of this building, of spirits and darkness that haunt it, surely this warrants further investigating!” Lord Gregory furrowed his brow in thought. “I have an acquaintance who may be able to assist us. Observe dear Button again these next few nights, and in a few days’ time I will have obtained the necessary instrumentation to test this matter further.”
Ivan and Gregory passed the day walking and shopping around town, discussing with enthusiasm the possible discoveries they could make. They both agreed that, in the absence of obvious external stimuli that could be attracting the dog’s sudden attention, eidolons of some variety served as the most likely culprit. Ivan was committed to solving the mystery. He decided to take a long afternoon nap, so that when night fell he would be able to stay awake to observe Button, and, potentially, a sign of paranormal activities.
The results of this night-long observation left him sorely disappointed. He stayed as still as possible (to trick Button and any watching spirits into believing him sound asleep) and watched his friend in his slumber, but Button slept straight through to sunrise. He expressed his disappointment to Gregory the following day.
“Button may have led us astray, my friend. I watched him the whole night and no spirits roused him.”
“Ah but Ivan, did you once consider that as you watched dear Button the shades may have been watching you, and therefore dared not to make even the slightest hint as to their presence!”
Ivan had not considered this possibility, and told Gregory just as much. The latter was adamant.
“I am sure this has been the case! Worry not, my Ivan, I have a surprise for you.” Gregory retrieved a preserved case of meats from his kitchen; the crate was post-marked from Bulgaria.
“Shall I attempt to draw out the spirits with meat?” Ivan asked incredulously.
“You and your jests, Ivan!” Gregory said, laughing, “no, these meats shall be for Button. For you see they are no ordinary meats by any measure. While we wait for my acquaintance to provide us instrumentation I had him imbue these meats with an energy that, according to the testimony of many trusted confidantes, shall enhance Button’s senses even further! The dark spirits he observes shall become corporeal to him, and at last he will be able to draw them into our plane.”
“What variety of meat are we speaking of? It does not appear ordinary.”
“It is specially bred, you must worry about it no longer my friend.”
Ivan was flabbergasted, but had no reason to doubt Gregory’s knowledge; his friend knew more of these arts than he, as a trained physiologist, could ever hope to. He agreed to, upon observing another strange behavioral episode, feed Button the Bulgarian meats.
That night Ivan put the plan into action. He slept as normal and, thankfully, awoke when Button roused to begin staring at the corner. He hurriedly fetched the meat crate, and Button happily gobbled down a morsel. Ivan then watched Button intently for any sign of a sensory change, but after an hour Button gave up his ritual and settled back down to sleep. A disappointed Ivan joined him.
Gregory did not share in Ivan’s dismay. “It may take several subsequent nights for the meat to take effect,” he proclaimed, “continue on and see how it goes. Every creature has a different aura and physiology after all, you know that.” He clapped a hand on Ivan’s shoulder. “It may take time for Button to feel the effects; let us then give him time.”
Button did not sense any spirits the following night, but the night after he perked up almost immediately after Ivan dozed off. He provided the special meat, but after several more minutes Button quit his focused staring. This pattern continued the next several nights: Button began his staring almost immediately after Ivan settled under the covers, forcing him to rise and excitedly provide a morsel only to succumb to disappointment. His feeling of dejection was furthered when he realized that every morning the bedsheets around Button were soaked through; not only was the meat not revealing spirits to Button, it was causing him to produce enough saliva to spoil the bedsheets! Gregory, as always, took a more optimistic approach.
“I have plenty of bedsheets to spare, that is naught to me! More importantly, night after night the spirits are active! This building is awash with spectral, dark energy! Do not give up dearest Ivan, we are so close! I at last have the instrument you need.” He handed Ivan a carefully crafted tube of viscous fluid; it had all the appearance of a modified thermometer, and Ivan told Gregory as much.
“Is this meant to measure the temperature the spirits most prefer? How does it work, Lord Gregory, do tell?”
“It is indeed an adapted thermometer, you have it true; however, the fluid inside is specially designed to respond to the queer electric energy that occupants of other planes are known to produce.” Ivan cast a doubtful glance at the instrument, which Gregory of course noticed: “you have my word that this device can perform as I’ve stated; my acquaintance has many years of experience in these matters. This is the best method possible to verify the existence of spiritual inhabitants in this apartment. Think of the fame, the prestige! The entire state of the world is about to be altered forever!”
Ivan took the unassuming instrument to his bedroom and placed it in the offending corner, electrified by Gregory’s talk. The discovery of spirits occupying the mortal world would surely go down in history as the greatest scientific achievement of all time; the course of human civilization would forever be steered down an altered path—and he at the helm!
“Take us into history, my beloved Button,” he said as he slipped into bed, patting the dog on the head. Enthusiastic licking reciprocated his affection, and he wiped his hand on his bed robe before turning off the light. The instant darkness flooded the room Button sprang up, more enthusiastically than ever. Ivan didn’t move, wanting to give the fluid in the instrument time to respond to the energy. Button, after several tense moments, let out a loud bark; the sudden noise startled Ivan out of bed, and sent Gregory soaring into the room.
“Such powerful energy, it must be! Grab the instrument, my friend, let us see!” Ivan did as he was bid, and confusion washed over the both of them as they saw no change in the instrument’s fluid level. Gregory was aghast. He sat down on the bed and immediately cried out: a wet spot! Ivan had never seen his friend so downcast; but ever the scientist, he insisted they try the experiment again. The three following nights saw still no recorded change in the instrument, and at breakfast the morning after their final attempt they came to terms with their defeat.
“Failure is a strong word, especially from a man of science,” Gregory chided when Ivan told him how he felt. “We simply lack strong enough instrumentation. As technological advancements are made, we will soon possess the capacity to detect the forces that humble Button already knows exist.”
“You are optimistic, my friend, and I hold that as one of your strongest qualities. Though I must return home in the coming days, rest easy knowing that I will keep this phenomenon we have observed forever in my mind.” He paused and thought for a moment. “I do believe the first thing I will do when I am comfortably settled is inquire into the health of my Button. The last few nights of our experiment he salivated excessively, despite being given no meat at all. Perhaps some disease or affliction led him to display the bizarre behavior, rather than spirits, spectres, or shades.”
Thus concludes the story of how Ivan Pavlov failed to verify the existence of otherworldly spirits.