Gentlemen: By the time you read this, I will have passed from this vale of tears. Please let Linda know how I loved her, though truly she must think me a wretch for the wrong I have committed; and tell her that now, in my final hours, I did at last apprehend how I should have heeded her warnings from the start.

I write this in a state of profound despair, paralyzed with horror at the chocolaty abomination our thoughtless actions have wrought upon an unsuspecting world—a world that never asked for another chocolate drink mix, nor lived in true want of one. While all mankind will suffer in the fudgy genesis we have so callously brought forth, the responsibility for this pestilence is mine alone to bear. We played God with flavored milk, and now all of humanity must pay the price for our hubris—a price I fear may be much higher than the $2.99 markup at most supermarkets.

Oh, sweet Christ who died for us, for what hellish new sins have we forced you to suffer?

Our task seemed simple enough at the start, as with Herculean strides we reached and surpassed every milestone our superiors set forth for us: to make our simple elixir creamy. Chocolaty. Easily dissolved in wholesome milk. Why, even in tap water our results were impressive. It exceeded our wildest expectations. Perhaps that in itself made us too cocksure, too like unto wing-borne Icarus in our own minds' eyes. Vain. Drunk on the power of which we had so often been warned when we were inculcated in the arcane arts of dehydrated dairy products.

Though I wish nothing more than to blot the memories from my mind, I will always remember the moment our nightmares merged and melded with a terrifying, undeniable reality. On that too-warm April evening when Dr. Jack Gerhardt summoned us to assemble in the Processed Whey and Rennet Laboratory, we thought only of sampling the sweet fruits of our labor. We were in a state of near bliss. So young, so naïve… so damned.

Dr. Chang was the first to sample our creation. O, the excruciations that flowed beneath his face upon downing it! I wrenched the chocolaty drink from his hand and gazed upon its ebon surface, while horror unguessed at poured through my heart. It was only then I knew: The divine spark that inflames all that is right and good in milk was absent from that unholy glass, and a cold and bitter wind, bereft of hope and humanity, howled through the void where Choco-MaxXx's soul should dwell.

The eternity of Hell is too brief, too humane a reward for our offense against all breakfast drinks. In our ignorant pride, we thought we could perfect the very milk of the world, make it into something better. What we have concocted is a bent, twisted, unhealthy thing, a mockery of all decent beverages, a shadowed reflection, thirst-quenching as glimpsed in a dark and terrible mirror.

What arrogant muse gave us the temerity to capture the very Promethean fire, to take up the hammers of gods and forge our own twisted, corrupt works upon the anvil of snacktime creation? Such an unholy drink Lucifer himself could ne'er conceive.

We had created something not meant for this world.

We had no choice but to destroy every note, every prototype, every packet, and every spoon relating to our work—though it would surely cost us our careers. Better that, we knew, than our souls and sanity. All evidence was set to the torch immediately, and the sick light that bathed the sky that night was not that of springtime stars, but the rot-glow of Choco-MaxXx, our most foul blasphemy.

Afterwards, we went to tell our superiors the very manner by which we sent the cocoa-flavored monstrosity into oblivion. Our myopic, greedy money lords would hear none of it. The foul and cursed brew was already being manufactured in far-flung factories for immediate packaging and resale. It chilled our souls. Right and wrong, flavor or flavorlessness—none had meaning to these ghastly corporate executives.

We pleaded, begged them to see reason. "We have strayed into the dark food sciences, following in the path of deep-fried ice cream and fruit by the foot!" we cried. "We have created an inexpensive, mass-producible, long- shelf-lifed horror that defies every good and honest instinct of the human mind!"

Their laughter was deafening.

Fools. Fools! Shall their dark masters spare them, one wonders, in the end? Or shall their final settling occur in the first dark shipment? For be it ever so far off, their sell-by date approaches with every curdling of time.

I will not burden you with the knowledge of what transpired over these past two months. In this moment, I sit alone in a darkened basement while everything that once made sense in the world falls apart. Our powdered chocolate drink has become quite popular in a short amount of time, and with it has come an age of madness. I know now that I must return to that fortress of saccharine evil and make right all that I have foolishly set in motion, for I am the only one left capable of doing so. Susan, our lead researcher, went to the West Coast to take a job at a jellied candy plant, a shell of the woman she once was: hollow-eyed, muttering, sleepwalking through life, like one who has seen that which must not be brand-named! Dr. Gerhardt has taken to drink. And we do not speak of what became of Dr. Chang.

I must go, and I do not expect to return. It is my last abiding hope that one day my children will read this and realize that, while their father once made unimaginable errors in judgment, he was a good man who ended his miserable life for their very survival. I regret with every ounce of soul I yet possess that I ever helped develop Choco-MaxXx. But tonight, I shall see there is an end to it.

Forever.