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07-20-2009 3:50 PMD is offline Send an Email to D Search for Posts by D Post Reply with Quote Edit/Delete Post       Go to the top of this page

victorian era, if you were wondering.


---

William Crane woke with a shudder. He was hunched over his desk, had developed a crick in his neck from sleeping at such an awkward angle. He lifted his head just a bit, and he felt dried saliva on the side of his mouth as his maw stretched to yawn. There was a damp spot on his sleeve, and after he had lifted both arms up and stretched, he saw the drool had dribbled a bit onto the last piece of paper he had been working on. A schematic, like everything else there, only this design was not some massive piece of machinery industrial; it was something smaller, and much more sinister. It also had self-contained instructions for the assembly of the device, whose final form was not pictured but that Crane had a good guess at. The letter it had come in on, signed by an old acquaintance, named it simply:

HOWDAH

No other identifying words, not even so much a mention to its purpose. Crane was not an idiot, however, and having worked at manufacturing firm for the production of firearms, knew a pistol when he saw the parts of one.

The chief content of the letter was the same old nonsense; a call to adventure, to daring, to utterly stark madness. The paper was aged; the ink dried years ago and the dust displaced by William's thumb had been witness to the previous decade that tore his life down like one of those insufferable Luddites having at a factory.

The letter had remained open and in an untouched corner of this desk for some time; he had once planned a response but he ran into the selfsame penman in tavern not too long after, making any formal reply meaningless. So they spoke, and after sufficient amount of alcohol had passed, began to yell, until such point that they both left in disgust of the other. Mr. Crane's handlers had to drag him all the way back to his home, where his wife (far along with child) had to care for him as he slipped into a strange state of incoherent babbling and shrieks that made her feel great terror.

Crane did not remember much from that night, save it was the last time he saw that particular fellow and was last tempted by the thought of taking several the industrial designs he had invented and making for America. To do so would entail ridding himself of his handlers (his own personal policemen who were there to ensure he would do no such thing). His tempter had given him the way to a means.

Ten years later, the finished product was directly in front of him, weighing down some other miscellaneous scraps. He worked on it for twenty four hours, for some godawful reason. It did not take that long to put it together, but he had gotten into etching in little phrases all over it as they struck his fancy. Phrases like the ones his wife told him he said that night, words of a lunatic. The day before, she called him a neutered coward who should have tried to make a run for it, to try for ambition and glory and a life worth living. This brought up a darkness in him that pumped his arm in a wide arc and directed his palm toward her cheek. For all intents and purposes, their wedding vows were broken, and she left sobbing. Their son was off with family. There was no one to comfort him.

This was a shock to him, to think that he had failed her. But it was true, and it hit him like a bayonet in the chest though he had always known it to be true. Why else would he have reacted that way? He had wasted two lives. He was no better than a murderer.

Once he had gathered enough strength of will to stop his bawling, he decided to build that howdah gun and get rid of his greatest obstacle.

So there he was at his desk. He reached for the gun, and brought out from under it a sheet of blank paper. Crane reached for where his pen usually was, and being met with nothing but flat surface, opened a drawer and found a piece of graphite. He wrote in bold, print letters "I am sorry."

He cocked the gun and put it in his mouth, not even praying before pulling the trigger with a whimper.



.

.

.

.

Light. Grim, yellow light barely sketching out a decaying room filled with people in brown-stained, yellowed garments that might have been white in the past. There was a revolting stench of rot, and metallic pains. Is this hell? was the only thought behind the eyes of William Crane. He could not see his body, but could see that the people in the room were deeply interested in it, moving anomalous pieces of meat to and from where his chest could be. His mouth felt numb, and he had trouble trying to think. His arms, hands, and even the individual fingers were strapped down. He heard the ticking of a watch. He tried to breathe, but had lost that power. It was being done for him. Panic seized him, which caused him to tense his muscles and startled one of the people moving meat. She spoke in German. This caused someone he had not seen before to come out from behind him, shoes clacking in time with the watch. A heavy, lightly bearded face hovered near his.

"Ahh, Herr Crane. Allow me to, ehh, thank you for bore."

Bore?

"This said, please close your eyes. Guten nacht."

The man pressed on something near his throat, which caused him to feel dizzy and begin to nod off. Memories flashed by him, and right before the black came over him he recognized the face as that of the man he had argued with so long ago.

---
Lingering memories of red, sowing needles, and maybe a few leeches were visible in the mind's eye of William Crane as he awoke in a bed, not his own, wearing simple clothing, the kind even a gentlemen might wear to sleep. He moved with slight, undefined aches in his body, causing him to moan as he sat up.

The room consisted of 4 great stone walls with windows placed high above to let in the morning sunlight, out of his reach entirely. The only furnishings were the bed and a small tray on the far wall. A glass of water and some bread were set out on it. Crane's jaw tried to drop, but it had some trouble. There was gauze on his head, covering the top and bottom of his head. He tenderly touched it, looking for whatever wound had necessitated it, starting from the bottom up. A certain spot on his scalp was very tender. Horror spewed forth out of his memories, causing his hand to retract as goosebumps spread across his skin like wildfire. He'd killed himself.

Crane had never been a pious, praying man. Though he'd never admit it, he had deep reservations about the thought of something like God, and his faith was flimsy at best. Now, the thought that he could be in hell seemed as real as anything else in the world.

Out of morbid curiosity and sheer necessity, he began taking the bandage off. As the very last layer was getting ready to come off, William expected the sudden pain of tearing away sticky, scabbed blood from the affected area. It came, but no where near as bad as he had been expecting. He felt the wound, surprised the hair was still there and even with the rest. The description of the wound was more akin to being severely cracked over the head with a cane than the exit point of a heavy caliber ball. It would have gone through, completely. He felt the roof of his mouth with his tongue. Again, nothing to indicate the gunshot there.

This was probably hell. Why else would he heal? There was, no doubt, some hapless demon coming for him with a pickaxe to drive the pointy bit through his cranium from now 'til the end of time.

Still, it must not be so bad here. At least they feed you. He edged himself off the bed and onto his feet. Each step he took was a foreign, like he'd never walked like this before. He picked up the bread first, smelled it. It was not a sulfurous, rotting hunk of maggot loaf, to his surprise. He broke it in two to confirm if this supposition held to the center (correct!). Crane bit into it greedily, stuffing his mouth faster than he could chew and swallow, taking in a bit of water to soften it.

Once finished, he had to catch his breathe. He had never eaten so fast, so honestly, so full of desperation that you could have seen it from behind.

Once done with the food, he looked at the door. It was imposing, almost gothic to him. He hesitated for a few moments, afraid of what might be out there. If this was hell (he was sure of it), he might just throw away his last few moments of painless clarity.

Well, what now? He had flinched at the prospect of risks his entire life. It had driven him to suicide. Now, was he to maintain this course in the after life?

He pulled the door open with all the strength he had, feeling weaker than he should have. Crane slipped out into an empty hallway with a white marble floor. The roof, walls, and doors were all painted that same color. His bare feet slid comfortably along the smooth surface, which was very un-hellish to him. He strained to hear any noise, any signs of life, but try as he may to focus he could not. He walked up one end of the hall and rounded a corner that led into an identical hallway. Proceeding down that one, he also heard no noise and turned another corner into yet another long white marble hallway. In his head, he pictured a giant square. He would go down this one, turn the corner, see the same thing, go down that, turn the corner, and be back where he started.

On what would have been the last of the long, white marble hallways the color scheme changed to a soft sepia, with large double doors on the outer wall that would allow (according to the design he was working out in his head) escape from the loop.

He sprinted across the floor, looking to see if anyone was silently watching. He slowly and quietly began pulling the door open, peeking inside just in case a few legions of devils were waiting for him. Nothing but bookshelves. Carpeted floor.

He let the door fall closed as slowly as he opened it, and it was not until it had shut that he realized he should have looked more carefully. Before him were bookshelves, and only bookshelves. They were tall, like everything else in this wretched place, and he was in what might have been the most cramped library in existence. He looked for a clear path out past the infinite tomes, but found himself going in a labyrinthine squiggle. A maze of knowledge. He kept on going, eager to get out. The old left hand trick helped maintain steady progress. For about an hour he walked, the roof giving no indication of an end.

"Herr Crane! Nice to see you out and about."

English with a distinct German accent came out of the bookshelf he had his hand on. He recoiled from it, and saw gray eyes peering through a large empty space. The other man chortled at this sight, and in a few footsteps came up in front of William.

"My name is Doctor Baum. You are my patient."

He held out his hand. Crane took and shook it out of habit.

"Now, let us talk about your condition."

The good doctor spoke at great length about how fortunate it was to have been put in his care, as this facility was the most modern of any and he was the most advanced amongst all practitioners of medicine. He led them out of the library, but Crane kept a little mental map and by that reckoning they had simply walked into a wall and kept going into some physically impossible space.

They came upon a room by mid afternoon with a startlingly plain wooden door. Some more bread and water awaited him outside the door. This was too well planned, but he couldn't see any other option but to follow along.

Dr. Baum waited for Crane to finish before opening it and walking inside. It was dark in there, and he could hear rattling chains inside.

"Now come along, we have some things to do."
---
Crane walked into the dark room, his eyes having trouble acclimating to the lowered light. A few lanterns were dangling from chains that stopped about his arm's length above him. The chains went up much farther than he could fathom. The room was quite large, but apparently served no purpose but lead to somewhere else. The floor came into focus as wooden, no more than simple planks over bare earth. Underfoot he felt a few bumps scratching at bare feet, which he realized were nails , randomly driven into the boards in large, patterned clusters. He wondered what purpose they served. The doctor's voice came out of the hallway, beckoning him forward.

"Here we are, William."

Their destination was some sort of medical station. A large table was there with many straps for operations was there, with a variety of phials on a counter behind it. Some instruments were on a tray. He recognized the cutting implements, but there were some ghastly mechanisms there also that called to his inventive mind. Doors on either side.

"This is a very unique institution. We are dedicated to healing, not so much the body, but the mind itself. Our equipment is one of a kind, and our methods the most modern, as I have told you. I want to emphasize this to you, because some of the things you see here you will be inclined not to believe as possible, or sorcery. We do not practice alchemy here, Herr Crane, only science."

He went on in this fashion, using new words in different combinations but adding nothing new. This place was the epitome of scientific advancement. Crane took it as seriousky as he could.

"So, you might be wondering why you are here. Why you are alive."

This caught his attention.

"Our modernity allowed us to perform the radical procedures needed to revive you. Collecting the scattered brains of a man after a point blank bullet shot is no easy task, not one taken lightly or for every miserable soul who quits himself. Reviving a man after having scattered his thinking bits across his room would be thought impossible by those who have not walked here."

Crane felt his heart pickup and breathed a little faster.

"So why you, you ask voicelessly inside your head. Answer is simple: your body was under contract, the corpse ours once you were done with it, for experimentation. You damaged yourself, however. This is why you are alive yet; our healing powers sometimes get out of hand."

Crane felt like he should thank this man. Before he could start to speak, though, the doctor continued.

"You are ours now, completely under our ownership. My ownership. And I think you will make an excellent tool for one of our latest methods."

The doctor clapped, and from one of the doors came in two large, burly men carrying another man who was extremely thin. He put up no struggle, with his eyes wide open and blank stare on his face.

"This poor soul was one of our earliest patients. He was developed a mania in his youth that drove him to psychosis. With a technique developed by a colleague of mine, we pacified him with a simple series of incisions to the brain. This worked well. Too well. You see, he was reduced to a living doll, resembling a man in appearance only. Maybe we were imprecise. Maybe he had a weak mind. We repeated the technique, to similar, though not as profound, results.

The very same colleague developed a method of restoring the state of the brain. This is the very method we used to put your head back together. This method, as your own cognition can attest, improved operational capacities of our wards back to previous levels, minus their mental problems. A pure success. Since then, we have moved onto the manipulation of chemicals to shape the mind favorably, which is much easier than cracking skulls open."

The doctor chuckled at this. The man was laid on the table and strapped down. He looked straight at the ceiling almost blissfully.

"This man has not recovered, against all reason. We've tried everything on him. Even my most potent concoctions have little effect on him."

The doctor took a phial, containing a dark green substance. He had the two men pry his mouth open, and dropped the substance in the man's mouth. The patient started to blink and move around, as would an unaltered man, and became agitated. He looked at Crane for an instant with a gaping mouth, then dropped his head back on the table and slowed his motions. The doctor sighed.

"He refuses to come outside of his mind. This is where you become a tool."

Crane looked at him quizzically. The doctor gestured for the men to remove the patient, waited for them to exit out their door, and opened up the other. Lots of doors in this place.

"Go inside and sit down."

Seeing no reason not too, Crane did as he was told. There was what looked like a brass throne with all sorts of small wires and gears on the side, with a single cord coming out from behind it and leading up to (presumably) the unseen ceiling. Against his better instincts, he sat down. The throne shifted under his weight, adjusting to his frame. He leaned back into it, the back shortening until the padded top was at his head. It was comfortable.

The door slammed shut, and before he could react, a metal crown fastened itself to his head as iron bands extended and latched him still.

The sensation of several needles piercing the tender spot on his scalp made him scream. For a moment, all was black.

***

The crown and bands vanished. The pain did not even linger. He leaped out of it, turning around on his heel to look at it. It was just a brown chair, now. He looked about himself. The walls looked like the wounds of a burn victim, black and cracked and bleeding. The lanterns on long, thin poles instead of chains, perfectly still but somehow brighter than before. The room was longer, now. The door was much, much farther away from the chair. He moved toward it, not knowing what had just happened. In two steps, he had come directly in front of it. Some sort of trick of the eye? Maybe he was injected with chemicals? He could not say. He was dressed now.

He opened the door, and instead of the doctor and the operating table, was his childhood room. He walked into it, the door slamming itself. Everything was scaled up, and somehow different. Inventions were intermingled with his toys. Portraits of his parents, his wife, his friends, his son, and himself adorned the walls. Confused, he wondered where the doctor was. He grabbed a mirror next to the bed stand. It was blurry, and he was unable to see himself clearly. He tried to wipe it off, maybe it was dirty. It did not help. He became frustrated, and his reflection spouted steam out it's nose and ears. He could not believe his eyes, so he again tried to wipe it off and really focused on it.

He saw a double image. First, himself. Second, the face of that patient, superimposed on him.

"Welcome to your mind, Herr Crane."

A little metal soldier marched up to him, speaking in the Doctors voice with full volume.

"The machine you have sat on is our very latest and most advanced contraption ever devised. It allows one to enter one's own mind as if it were an actual place! Exciting, isn't it? Letting the mentally ill play with their thoughts is not a good idea, however, so we made some modifications and several adjustments that I will not pester you with. Suffice to say, it now works that one man can enter the mind of another now, and eliminate the problem at the source.

Now, I implore you to get your bearings straight and cross over into the mind of that man you saw earlier. You'll know the road. Now take the first step."

The toy soldier saluted and melted into a ball, perhaps suitable for a pistol. Crane picked it up, still trying to comprehend the world around (within?) him. Maybe there was a weapon in this room.

***

Crane found a pistol, but now powder. He tried to fire the ball like that, but it failed to do anything but fall out of the barrel. He reasoned this to be because he did not know the acting ingredients of gun powder, and thus his mind would be unable to make it. The room he had begun in was his collection of treasured things, the things closest to his heart that comforted him through troubling times.

He passed through other rooms, and a field, all representing various things that were not immediately apparent. His mind was laid out like a large estate cut from the various places he'd ever lived or been too. The last room on his way out was his office, where he saw himself holding the gun contemplatively, like he was walking into a play. He could not bear the sight of this, and rushed out.

He came to a street that, when he stepped on it, he could not feel any affirmation of there being ground below him. His shoes did not make a sound, and he felt very lonesome and afraid as he made it closer to the halfway point, so much so that he broke into a desperate run for the end. He made it onto terra firma with a dive, gasping for breathe, venting his anxiety through his lungs. Crane was laying in grass, now.

He picked himself up and saw a large castle in the distance, under a starless, moonless night. He walked toward it, but stopped at a large chasm in front of him. The chasm stretched like a moat all around it in a generous ring. Below lay nothing. Darkness above, darkness below.

Crane started walking along the edge, looking for some way across. There were many drawn bridges dangling off either edge, having long ago broken off from one end or the other. He at last found a narrow bridge stretched loosely across the chasm. It did not look sturdy, but he had no other way to move forward. Upon his first step, it trembled terribly and he began to hear noises behind him. He ran as across it as quickly as he could, minding his step, and made it to the other side. Suddenly, sunlight. Bright, happy sunlight cascading down on him. His eyes adjusted instantly, and be looked around. The castle looked even more ominous than it did before, with it's own additional water moat. There was a man, though, not too far from the entrance to the castle. He was sitting on a chair, admiring the grass, staring out into the horizon, sipping from a cup. Crane went up to him.

"Yes? May I help you?"
---

The man barely acknowledged him, but he did motion with a lazy wave for Crane to move closer. He raised his foot less than a hair's width when the ground seemed to shift and he advanced several strides. Nothing changed, but somehow, impossibly, he had moved.

"I was sent to help you."
"Help me? Why would I need help? I'm so perfectly happy here. Look at this view!"

William looked towards where the man should have been looking, and saw the Sun hanging across a great expanse of white beyond the chasm. He did not see it at first, but it soon became apparent to Crane that there were lights dancing across that expanse. He tore his eyes away from them before long, lest he also be enraptured by their movements.

"What about that castle? What's in it?"
"Oh, go away now. Find someone else to bother."

Crane tried to walk in front of the man, to block his view, but found himself unable to. The ground would shift back with each step, making him walk in place. He gave up, and decided to try to get inside the castle. He got up to the water's edge and, as he did with the chasm, followed it's edge around until he found a way across. The entrance was in the back, it's massive drawbridge upright. A tall stone obelisk was placed opposite it on Crane's side. He walked over to examine it.

The design was physically impossible. It was on a base that looked like it revolved, which was not impossible in and of itself, but near Crane's waist a large segment was broken off, exposing clockwork underneath. The entire thing was hollowed stone filled with machinery. Crane peered inside it. There were two figures, silver and gold, man and woman respectively. An odd thing to include inside a thing no one would normally see. I'm in another man's mind, though, nothing here is supposed to be clearly logical. Upon closer inspection, he saw that the two figures were part of the mechanism, obviously intended to be locked in place for the gears to turn. He dug his hand in there and manipulated the figures into place and twisted them until he got it right, at which point he quickly withdrew his fleshy fingers before some unseen part of the contraption bit them off.

The obelisk clicked at Crane for a few beats, then rotated violently until it completed three revolutions. The drawbridge fell unceremoniously. He was somewhat surprised, but proceeded across it regardless. Before he was to pass under the massive stone arch, two guards suddenly sprang out and crossed their weapons. Some sort of lances.

They both bore more than a passing resemblance to Dr. Baum. As he approached them, the Sun crashed into the horizon, casting him into darkness again. The guards changed, or maybe were only revealed, to be giant, gaunt cylindrical constructs with several dozen arms ending in various tool-ends, many of them surgical. They made a noise not unlike the one the obelisk had made.

The lances had been subtly changed, and became arms in and of themselves. Crane walked very slowly, cautious of them. Though their arms were still crossed, there was a big enough gap that a man could slip under the gap with a bit of ducking. He did not dare touch them, and once he was out from under the gap, he darted as far from them as his feet could move him.

He was well into the courtyard before they reacted, and only then to bring up the drawbridge, paying him no heed. Relief. He looked about himself, taking in as much as he could in the darkness. The only thing of importance seemed to be a fountain in the middle. As he approached it, the sun shot up. He took a step back, and it sunk again as quickly as before. Forward, backward. He tried this a few times until he had it bouncing like a rubber ball above him. This was not as amusing as it was intriguing. What caused this change?

Crane sat on the edge of the fountain (which was dry) in full sunlight, and saw that the guards were perfectly human men once more. There were many ways up and out of the courtyard, none of which seemed populated. He turned to look at the fountain itself, a proud cherub atop and a mosaic depicting a procession of women being buggered by men in a Zodiac arrangement. He made note of it in his head, and stepped back into the darkness. Many of the paths he could see by light were impassable in the darkness, being obstructed or decayed enough that Crane was discouraged from seriousky considering trying to go through them.

He went into one of them for no particular reason, and covered his ears as soon as he was inside. There was a horrible, clacking noise inside that filled his ears. He nevertheless decided to move forward, looking for the source of that infernal noise. He was in a corridor poorly lit by means unknown, though he could not see too far into the darkness. He felt for a door or a corner to turn, but felt only the cold stones of the wall. After progressing for some time, he began to see sparks emanating from the walls ahead of him. As he got closer, he saw figures moving near the sparks, and closer still they vaguely resembled the guards. Vaguely, because these things were much simpler, and had no face, instead sporting a blade where it's head and neck should have been. They were chopping at the walls with their heads, the spindly digits on their hands and feet drilled into the walls for support so they could make a long cutting motion that could have cut a man perfectly in two.

Crane's footsteps began to lightly splash, and he looked down to see a dark liquid that had puddled near here. He did not stop to think about it; it was probably blood. Blood of what, though, was the real mystery. He stepped gingerly forwards, and nearly vomited at the stench that awaited him. Underneath the blade-men were grisly piles of gored remains, having rotted some time ago. He covered his mouth and breathed through his sleeve. If this man's problems were to be found, surely their roots would become manifest after more gruesome sights.

There were many blade-men, none of them reacting to his presence though William did not think to provoke them. He passed the last of them with a sigh of relief and proceeded on dry ground. Almost as soon as he stopped worrying, he heard a good deal of barking and growling, and then the sounds of something walking. Towards him.

Crane tried to see what it could be. A glimpse of it's silhouette, however, and he turned and ran as fast as he could. It was not a dog, though it walked on four legs. It looked like the misshapen head of a man had grown as a tumor and absorbed the body whole, save the limbs. Large, brilliant teeth that could crush him with ease, no doubt.

He was again the presence of the blade-men, still at their work. Crane did not bother to cover his ears anymore, and looked around for something, anything to fend himself with. He tried to grab one of the blade-men and dislodge it, but his arms failed him. He looked around for a discarded part (maybe one had broken down and left something behind) to use as a blunt weapon. When these ideas failed him, he took up running again. The thing was moving at a brisk pace, and a shard of terror cut into Crane's throat at the thought of the monstrosity pouncing.

He heard it pick up it's pace to a run, it's misshapen feet adding a new rhythm to the cacophony of the chopping. It gained on him. Crane did not feel as tired as he should have; his mental stamina was higher than his physical one. Then, the chopping stopped. The clicking noise filled the air, and Crane turned on his heel to see what had happened. The creature had stopped chasing him, now merely eyeing the blade-men. In unison, they tore themselves from the wall and began to encircle it. The blade-men were stronger than he had thought, for their hands cut through the creature's flesh and grabbed it at the very bone. It was brought over to a wall, squealing and screaming and barking. A single blade man took its upper limbs and drilled his hands through them into the wall before doing the same with its feet. The rest returned to their former positions, and when the last one had inserted himself onto the wall, the chopping began again.

Crane dry-heaved from the sight of that hideous thing's entrails being sliced apart and falling into a rough pile. He did not want to go on. But he had too, now, seeing the horrors buried in this man's mind.
---

After what felt like hours of searching, Crane had come across some important facts as he delved deeper into the castle. Certain rooms contained the whispers of memory, large canvasses from the man's perspective that played out over and over. Crane looked over all of these, avoiding several hazards that tried to bind him. It had become clear that the man had, prior to his "correction" been a sexual miscreant on the level that rivaled the very Marquis de Sade, and this castle was part of an elaborate fantasy the man had dreamed up in emulation of the very same deranged noble. His name was Leopold, and his mind was host to the sickest collection of deviances that Crane himself never thought possible.

Certain artifacts, for example the Fountain and the grass outside, were lone beacons of goodness in the tempest of darkness. From their point of view, everything looked as a perfect picture. The man himself could not wander from these too far now, incapable of facing his demons, of which there were many. His understanding of Leopold's thoughts informed him that the creatures were how his powerful emotions felt. The first one he had encountered, the dog creature, was a brutish manifestation of the memory of childish urges to play, tainted by the gross sexual impulses that overwhelmed him. There were others like that, malformed men-beasts in the mold of birds, snakes, and other lower animals. Crane had quickly become adept at leading them towards the blade-men positioned ubiquitously about. One that began plaguing him as he went deeper was what he believed to be a variant of the dog-thing, which was leaner, of more muscular constitution, and possessed sharp claws and teeth. Where the other had been dumb and plodding, this one had been frighteningly vicious. The blade-men would take it down, as they were wont to do, but not without sustaining serious damage to their integrity. The first encounter with one of these did two things to Crane's benefit: educate him on the lethality of those demons, and it gave him a viable personal weapon (he salvaged a part of the "spinal cord" of one of the machines with a fragment of the business end still attached, which came out as essentially a long knife). Crane was not a decent knife fighter and cutting edge did not possess any mystical properties, but it was sharp and better than his own two fists. The noise it made when striking a wall was more useful in deterring the less vicious creatures.

The machines that were ever present baffled him. They all had a similar design, made that clicking noise, and served as protection for reasons that remained mysterious. He once stepped into a bathing chamber and was assaulted by what he thought was a black automaton (and thus different from all the rest) but turned out to be a pile of gore bound up in the shape of a man that spurt streams of blood and leaked mushy sinew where Crane stabbed at it. The machine designs were elegant and colored only by the steel that they were composed of, cold and asexually proud in a way that clashed with everything else he could see in this mind. He could not find their origin. This element of the unknown scared him deeply, as he could not be sure they wouldn't turn on him.

The castle was a labyrinth, passages twisting and turning every which way, the floor level shifting deeper at some parts than others. The farther he went, the more irregular his passage became.

He passed through a lace-curtain, weapon forward, waiting for anything to try to attack. Nothing but books. It was a library. No, it was not just a library. It was the library. The one from the institution. Only, where the real one had been long and expansive, this one was tall and narrow. There were not as many bookshelves (that he could see) but they stretched off far toward the sky. The roof was indistinct, but it was there.

The books on the shelf were of variable width, some only pamphlets while others were tomes larger than a small child. They were labeled with pictures and words, representing all the knowledge Leopold had collected since he was young. There was no way (as far as he could see) to ascend to the higher shelves, so he walked around looking to see if there was anything of interest on foot level. He came to a point where he got behind a bookshelf and could no longer see his entrance, which did not bother him…until he made to go back. Where had been the exit (by his reckoning) was a large, imposing desk that looked rather immobile. Behind it was a bundle of rags shaped into a vague mountain.

"Ahhhhhh…William. Nice of you to come by."

A hand, gnarled and wrinkled with big, thick nails came out from under the pile, beckoning him forward.

"You seem lost. Come closer, man, let us have a look at you."

Crane pointed his blade at the hand with violent intent.

"Oh, drop that little toy, won't you? Stop hiding behind it."

The hand tore off a part of the rag, revealing a dark chasm across which two embers burnt silently.

"Don't you want to see what secrets I hold?"
The hand was joined by a twin, struggling with something behind the desk. They pulled out a tome as large as a Gutenberg Bible, bound crudely.

"Come closer, come now. Open it to the first page and read to me, my eyes aren't what they used to be."

After standing there with his blade in total silence for a few minutes, Crane realized this was how he would go forward, and obliged the man. The book was light, much less heavy than he had anticipated. He grabbed too many pages and flipped too far. A simple mistake, correctable with a slight motion of the thumb. He did not have time to correct it, as he had glanced down at the contents of the book. He saw only random smudges, thought nothing of it until his own hands, of their own accord, shut the book and covered his eyes.

An image flashed in Crane's head. A complicated crest of black and yellow depicting a chained face, a pair of swords pinning down a tattered book, and an archangel casting down a demon into eternal shadow. It fit perfectly, designed according to its own geometry, and made Crane feel uncomfortably excited. He felt the urge to touch, bite, cut. To sodomize his wife. His sister. His cousins. To pollute himself, to become dangerously intoxicated. Excess in excess.

He doubled over, falling on the floor twitching. The desires and feelings he was experiencing were not his, and were so utterly foreign that even his body tried to reject it. His vision blurred. The floor became unreal, and he could have sworn he saw the throne room for a few glimpses. Something poked at his neck. The "possession" ceased.

"Oh, stupid useless man..."
"What? What?"
"Making me have to strain my bones…"
Crane pushed himself up on his knees. His head reeled, but he managed to grab hold of the desk and began to pull up. At this time, the hands had put down the thing used to poke Crane, an oversized fountain pen now full of a red and vile ink, and closed the book.

"Ack! Get up, Billy, we haven't an eternity to do this!"

For the first time in this expedition, Crane felt angry. This being was insulting, patronizing, and obviously enjoyed belittling him.

"Why can't you read it?!"
"Why won't you?"
"It just made me have a seizure!"
"That's because you didn't listen to me. Now, please, open to the first page and read."

There was no point in arguing, so after some frustrated gesticulations he carefully opened the tome to the first page and looked upon it. He involuntarily uttered two harsh syllables in ten different ways, ten times. Crane's throat felt horribly raw, and he grabbed his neck to make sure it was still intact, but not before slamming the book down.

"Yes, yes. Very good. Expected as much. Oh, if you were wondering what you just said, it was merely a recounting of your recent adventures in language I'm more comfortable with. I might have asked you directly, yes, but this is much more efficient."

Crane felt very naked before this bundle of talking rags.

"Now, allow me to introduce myself. I am the Keeper of Knowledge, and I know all or come to know it soon enough. I'll share some of it with you now."

The Keeper explained Leopold's life, from the moment he was born, was garnished with the puritanical domineering of his parents, and responded in accordance with physical law. He was a man full of misdirected love more than anything, unable to express it in a socially acceptable manner because he had never seen it done that way. The family kept books of a rather questionable nature, for the purpose that their immoral content be recognized and rejected as the devil's own filth. Leopold found pleasure in them, unaware that the acts therein were of the most foul and deplorable kind. He thought they were admirable, and wanted to try them himself.

He loved his sister so very much that he decided to bugger her. After the fact, they both felt wrong, but by this time Leopold was so depraved he insisted they do it again. So they did, again and again. There was sympathy for this devil in Crane's heart. He was only trying to do good.

They were caught, of course. Leopold's father beat them both senseless, sent the sister off to a nunnery, and came to the good Doctor by means of a tavern. For a man of medicine, he spent a lot of time in places of drinking.

The lobotomy process had cut off much of Leopold's memories. This was a preferable state, as even though he did not remember he knew he was better off. Resistance to the Doctors efforts to restore anything, be it memory or whatever, was therefore the only proper and natural response.

"What can I do?"
"You must go deeper. Much deeper. There you will find the coagulating horror and pain this man has not let himself feel for years. He has built up…defenses around it that keep it both safe and restrained. You must undo these, and find someway to destroy it. That knowledge I do not yet possess, but if you keep your wits about you, I am optimistic about your survival. Now hurry along, Billy, we haven't an eternity…"

The hands shooed him off, and the bookshelves slid to make a clear path in that direction. Crane could feel a distance from himself, like a fatigue on his body, as he went deeper, making running for long sprints about as tiresome as it really should have been. Things became darker, there was less light, and more importantly there were less and less blade-men.

Near what he felt was the very core of this man's soul, he came across an large operating room made for observation, like the ones used for medical students with a glass ceiling for the benefit of the audience above. There was a large, bandaged behemoth of a man, wrapped in cloth and strapped to the table in the center. The door behind him shut, and the only other way out of here (and presumable forwards) had no handle. Desperation set it, and he looked about to see what mechanism would allow him to continue.

His eyes came across a hammer and a pick that reminded him of the lance arms of the guardians posted at the entrance. He picked them up. Lobotomy tools, something in his head whispered to him. A light came on from above, flooding the room with obnoxious white. His eyes had trouble now, but when he could see again he saw another pick laying on the chest of the man in the middle. There were X's drawn on his head where the eyes should have been.

There was a rattling noise coming from the ceiling. Crane glanced up once, but stopped himself from staring for too long, because he did not want to lock eyes with the many glowing embers that stared down.

He took the first pick and drove it into the left X, the second into the right. As soon as the second was driven in, he heard the straps holding him down tear, let go of the hammer, and leaped back. The man screamed underneath the bandages, freeing his arms and legs with horrific strength. It tried to pull the picks out, but this effort made it scream more. It flailed about until it fell off the table, writhing. It picked itself up, still screaming. Crane brought out his knife, unsure what to do, and backed towards the unopened door. It's dumb, muscular arms destroyed everything around it. Underneath all the wrappings and restraints, Crane could make out the figure of a massive, well built beast of a man.

Crane began to feel a little stupid, as he did not feel as much panic as he should have until it began moving towards him. He slammed his shoulder into the handless door, hoping it would give or break. He tried again. Once more, for good measure. It slid open, and there was an inhuman giggle that emanated from above. The lobotomized man came a little faster, and he wasted no time in getting out. He felt so tired, but forced himself ever onward.

He was so tired.
---
After much chasing, escaping, and wall slashing, Crane found himself inside a roofed coliseum, near the very top of the stands. In the pit was a sprawling, deranged circus at work, focused on a skinny pale figure in the center. The ringleader was not tall, be he was wide and stout caricature of a man, and was dressed in a black coat that bellowed coal smoke. Its thick arms moved in mechanical whipping motions, lashing the disfigured tigers along in a circuit around the various other 'acts' that, in reality, would have probably killed the faint of heart.

The ground shook as Crane descended the many steps, each shake more powerful than the last, until Crane felt like he was an undersized titan, small yet terribly heavy. On the first of the last 10 steps, the roof collapsed, falling upon the circus and wiping out many of them. From up above flooded in a muted light in a disgusting shade of orange, a mockery of sunlight. The 9th caused the stands to become rubble, sliding down into the pit and blocking off either exit. The 8th caused the stairs themselves to break apart, causing him to scramble, and 7 steps later he was struggling to dig himself out of a pile of dust.

He coughed violently when he got out, gasping for air. He awkwardly made his way down to more or less terra firma, and looked up at the remaining horrors. Just the ringleader and the pale figure, now. The ringleader did not respond to his presence, so Crane decided to watch it a little bit to try to understand how it worked. It was mechanical, but not like the others. It was crude and reminded him of train, and likely had an operator. It took a while for him to notice, but there were cables running from its belt (a rotating ring above its elephantine legs) to the pale one, who was (as expected) Leopold, looking about 15 and strung up to a system of levers and pulleys that forced him to move at the ringleaders commands. It was not tight, and he had some room to move around, but only had enough energy to gyrate his hips wildly.

Crane tightened his grip on the knife in hand. He was not sure how he would do it, but that machine had to be destroyed. He circled the sight a few times, observing, planning. He finally decided to simply charge at it from behind, and hope the knife was sharp enough to breach some vital apparatus.

The ringleader caught on before Crane could stab, and wheeled its torso around to punch him in the stomach. The blow was nearly crippling, winding him and causing him to fall over. Fear and panic at the machine's aggression was motivating force enough, though, to make Crane scamper on his back away from it. Its legs were slower than its torso, however, and it took ponderous steps. Crane vomited from the pain, but managed to get up and move to a better position, getting around behind it, forcing it to change directions to slow it down. The apparatus Leopold was mounted on had wheels and moved easily,

As if on cue, dust and rubble shot out from one of the hidden, covered entrances. In poured blade-men in a disorderly mob, blindly charging at the ringleader. A bit of hope flared up in Crane's heart. This would do it!

The whips were more lethal than they seemed, and not one got within striking distance. Shining brass cogs spilt from their steel bodies, and Crane was paralyzed at this. They had defeated everything thus far, now they were defeated.

As the last blade-man valiantly charged blindly to its doom, the ringleader began to smoke even more, and moved with increased speed towards Crane. Its whipping quickened as well.

Seeing the incoming figure of smoke and death, Crane did the logical thing and tried to misdirect it again. It was not as successful as before. He went straight for the exposed opening, and as he was about to enter it he heard that familiar clicking. Out strode the two guardians, pick-arms forward. They seemed to ignore him.

Crane could not help but admire them, moving so elegantly, like he had always imagined a knight should have during the age of chivalry.

They locked in combat with the ringleader, slashing and stabbing at its black body, causing it to ooze liquids of varying viscosity and color. After a short interval, the ringleader suddenly flayed one of the guardians apart, and proceeded to throw the other across the coliseum. Crane rushed over to it out of instinct (what instinct, he could not tell) and examined the machine. It was not terribly damaged, but its head (shaped like a simple model of a human head with a plain face carved on it) had come loose, exposing a brain of the very machinery Crane had wasted his life maintaining, improving, and repairing. With the ringleader coming at him, he decided to try and fix it, rotating pieces with his hands into place and finally giving it a nice, solid thwack to see if it would go.

The guardian picked itself up and took a stance before Crane, ready to engage the ringleader once more. As the two machines locked in a horrible, squealing combat, Crane seized the opportunity to rush under them and sever the cables at its belt. He hacked away as hard as he could, and after a few tries he got into the proper rhythm. At random moments, the two would break off from the other, giving the ringleader time to punch Crane again. This happened once, which nearly caused him to faint as he severed the last one. The smoke stopped, and the guardian ripped its enemy's arms off. Crane moved toward Leopold, partially to free him, but most importantly to get away from the murderous machine that had just saved him. He cut away at the bindings with careless force, sometimes going a little deeper than necessary and slicing open the poor boys flesh. Minor wounds, thought Crane, that would be of little importance to the major healing.

The boy, naked and free, slumped into his arms, and golden true light shined. Crane stood there for entirely too long before he realized he wasn't about to come back to reality, and made his way through the open exit. He felt stronger now, like he had at the beginning.

As he made his way out of the castle, rid of the corrupting shadow, he saw memories play themselves out in the halls instead of paintings, thoughts flowing freely and in general a very healthy atmosphere. Sometimes, though, he would see deep gashes in the living walls, and blood on the floor of creatures long since vanquished and ribbons of now destroyed memories, and wherever these were the healthy atmosphere was not, flowing around it. He thought little of it.

He came upon the courtyard of the castle and was greeted with the sound of music and laughter. The fountain was flowing now, its dark mosaic hidden under the rushing flow of the water.

As he exited the gate, he noticed the guardian there had reverted back to his human self, and the other conspicuously missing. Defeated defenses of the mind? He could not say, but merely proceeded to the grass. The chair there was empty, and Crane laid the boy there. He stared out at the lights, holding himself, until realization came to his eyes and he was able to look around.

"Hello, sir?"
"Hello, young man."
"What happened?"
"You're free now. Everything will be alright."

The boy smiled at him, and watched the lights beyond, then wandered off, taking off in a full run among the grass.

Crane felt a little better, now, and took the bridge back across the chasm, returning to his own mind. He kept the knife, as a memento, and looked at it as he crossed the numb divide. When he was back in himself, he noticed a slight change. Everything was a little brighter, and there was a chirping of birds he had not heard in many years. There was also movement there, of what he could not say, but he thought it was probably good.

He smiled to himself as he laid the knife down in his collection of deep memories, and kept it as he walked across the throne room to take a seat in the high chair. He did good. He actually did good. His head leaned back and suddenly everything rushed up and out of sight. As everything was sucked up into the infinite above, he felt his throat close up and a tingle of fear spread across his spine and infect his body. He saw demons. Demons in his mind. His final conscious thought was a half mental and half physical yell for help.

Crane awoke again in same bed, wearing the same clothes, in the same room as before. Bread and water was waiting. He thought about what he had done and seen. The bandage was there again.

He ate silently.

__________________
"Final Fantasy 6 had an exceptional story
that made you think about some rather abstract concepts like:
Resistance to autocratic rule."

07-20-2009 10:52 PMNine XXVI is offline Send an Email to Nine XXVI Search for Posts by Nine XXVI Post Reply with Quote Edit/Delete Post       Go to the top of this page

Holy fuck, this is long.

That's all I got at the moment.
Peace.

__________________
"It's about the realism, I mean there has to be some underlying tenant of logic
going on or else you just become the writing team from Passions," - Sharpie.

07-20-2009 11:08 PMD is offline Send an Email to D Search for Posts by D Post Reply with Quote Edit/Delete Post       Go to the top of this page

Quote by Nine Blanchett:
tl;dr


you should have seen how long it took for the post to go through

__________________
"Final Fantasy 6 had an exceptional story
that made you think about some rather abstract concepts like:
Resistance to autocratic rule."

07-20-2009 11:26 PMRussian Agent is offline Send an Email to Russian Agent Search for Posts by Russian Agent Post Reply with Quote Edit/Delete Post       Go to the top of this page

If this is what you were asking about the crimean war for, it took place in the 1850s in case you need to zero in on a date

__________________
JE SUIS CHARLIE


These are not fairy tales, or myths. This place of power is tangible, and as such, can be found, entered, and perhaps, utilized in some fashion..

Quote by Nina Fortner (regarding faking one's death):
Been there done that. No one would believe it this time.

Quote by Alizarin:
holy fuck i am ready to burn it all down. all of it.

07-20-2009 11:53 PMDiglett is offline Send an Email to Diglett Search for Posts by Diglett Post Reply with Quote Edit/Delete Post       Go to the top of this page

There is not one usages of Howdah in this textwall.
NOT. ONE.

I am disappointed, Aliz's mom. Not only do you fail at parenting, you fail at guns.

Also, your writing bores me for some reason. I got halfway through before stopping.
07-20-2009 11:55 PMD is offline Send an Email to D Search for Posts by D Post Reply with Quote Edit/Delete Post       Go to the top of this page

Quote by Terry Bogard:
There is not one usages of Howdah in this textwall.
NOT. ONE.

I am disappointed, Aliz's mom. Not only do you fail at parenting, you fail at guns.

Also, your writing bores me for some reason. I got halfway through before stopping.


I'm sorry.

__________________
"Final Fantasy 6 had an exceptional story
that made you think about some rather abstract concepts like:
Resistance to autocratic rule."

07-20-2009 11:59 PMDiglett is offline Send an Email to Diglett Search for Posts by Diglett Post Reply with Quote Edit/Delete Post       Go to the top of this page

SORRY ISN'T GOOD ENOUGH.

Dick.

Also also, I'd probably like your writing better if I didn't have to read 400 pages of it.
07-21-2009 12:01 AMD is offline Send an Email to D Search for Posts by D Post Reply with Quote Edit/Delete Post       Go to the top of this page

Quote by Terry Bogard:
SORRY ISN'T GOOD ENOUGH.

Dick.

Also also, I'd probably like your writing better if I didn't have to read 400 pages of it.


You just channeled my alcoholic friend. This is exactly the kind of shit he would say.

Sir, have you been drinking tonight?

__________________
"Final Fantasy 6 had an exceptional story
that made you think about some rather abstract concepts like:
Resistance to autocratic rule."

07-25-2009 11:40 AMGudetama is offline Send an Email to Gudetama Search for Posts by Gudetama Post Reply with Quote Edit/Delete Post       Go to the top of this page

IN MY DEFENSE I HATE READING ANYONE I KNOW'S WRITING SO I AIN'T READING YOURS

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07-25-2009 11:50 AMD is offline Send an Email to D Search for Posts by D Post Reply with Quote Edit/Delete Post       Go to the top of this page

Quote by Lain:
IN MY DEFENSE I HATE READING ANYONE I KNOW'S WRITING SO I AIN'T READING YOURS


You always have the best responses.

__________________
"Final Fantasy 6 had an exceptional story
that made you think about some rather abstract concepts like:
Resistance to autocratic rule."

07-25-2009 11:53 AMGudetama is offline Send an Email to Gudetama Search for Posts by Gudetama Post Reply with Quote Edit/Delete Post       Go to the top of this page

Quote by D:
Quote by Lain:
IN MY DEFENSE I HATE READING ANYONE I KNOW'S WRITING SO I AIN'T READING YOURS


You always have the best responses.


Thanks Luv

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10-03-2009 7:37 PMAlabastard is offline Send an Email to Alabastard Search for Posts by Alabastard Post Reply with Quote Edit/Delete Post       Go to the top of this page

...How did I miss this? Ouch.
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What a Weird World We Live In » Media Area  » The Coffee Table Book - Writings  » Probe 3