Sunday, March 29, 2009


The thing picked up its pace and coursed ahead. Peter was compelled to take swifter strides to stay with the librarian, whose lack of caution in this place was unnerving.

Berlin! He could remember his first experience in the city. It was not entirely different from London – especially in light of his experiences in the cities of Asia. But the novelty of the city upon his first visit to it – its architecture, the streets, the sorts of things that one would see in German windows and hanging from German balconies – had been sufficient to pull Peter's attention in so many directions that, on his first afternoon out, he had failed to take note of any significant landmarks and gotten lost. It had been only a little problem to find his way once again, such was the helpfulness of its citizens in those days before a weakening mark had begun to drag on the soul of the common Berliner. Yet, it had been frightening for a moment – exhilaratingly so. For a moment it was suddenly Peter against the city, a huge living thing in whose innards he was then lodged.

Strange thoughts were becoming less strange with every minute. The objects on display, the objects hidden in corners – what bizarre information could they hold? There was no use pondering the question, for the librarian was moving much too quickly to allow Peter to stop and inspect anything – and so, his mind numbed itself with other images – of Berlin, of London, of San Francisco. Essentially beneficent giants, all.

A new beast, this. A new stretch of innards. Would such a repository be its heart? Its brain? Its colon? Peter understood that even still, the arcade was creeping into his memories of happier places. London, city of the moon, excreting into the Thames. San Francisco, a great missionary entombed in a foreign land. Berlin, letting the hours dwindle in lewd clubs while the teeth grind away from the gears of the city.

He got the sensation that the place was a maze, but if this was true, then its dimensions were, like the curvature of the earth, too large to be noticeable. The librarian seemed to be leading straight ahead at any rate.

Two hours, perhaps. In the center of the path was a dome. It was as wide as a king sized bed, about as tall at its zenith as Peter's waist, and made from . . . resin? Amber? . . . some shining, glassy substance. The librarian moved past it before Peter, accompanied by a reflective doubled on the dome's surface. Peter's guide brushed against the dome, or perhaps only its cloak did. There was a wet sound, like pulling a fruit apart, or twisting a moist stick, and an aperture opened in the amber dome.

Surprised, Peter halted and shifted back a step.

A finger – no, a thin, black limb – protruded from the aperture, which was now large enough for Peter to crawl into. It was not quite segmented, but long and whip-like, like an insect's antennae. It snatched at the air, no more than a foot or two, but fruitlessly.

For its part, the librarian seemed to have no sense of what was occurring in his wake. This was confirmed when the antennae – such alacrity, like a frog's tongue – shot forth a distance of yards and hooked itself to the mimic's cloak.

Yet, the librarian kept moving –

The antennae afforded Peter's guide only a second of slack, and in another the cloak would drop to the floor and be drawn into the shining dome –

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Little Faith

Irises widened.

The sun was spread across the entire sky; there was no sun.

Light came from everywhere. It neither poured from a source, nor shone from a point, it radiated: even from oneself.

Gradually depth was born. Contours emerged, shapes pushed from the matte.

Hands. They looked as if they were covered in sindur, soaking up all light but orange. Fingernails, knuckles, a papercut or an old scar – the sensation of breathing, heat – no shadows.

Here, before Henri, was a tower. A building with an open front, composed of square cells, each filled with like objects. Several were filled with scrolls and loose sheets of paper. In one compartment metal file cabinets, each three drawers tall, were stacked at least ten wide and ten high. Yet by far the majority of the cells in the structure contained objects whose purpose escaped understanding. It was becoming clearer now - how tall it was! – the building, itself composed of smooth volcanic stone, reached into the orange blur and the faint black wisps that hung above, mocking the shadows of clouds. Who could have assembled such a collection? Who could have used these things? – these dully shining metal boxes with surfaces so rough they might have been pulled like crystals from the stone – these blossoms of pipes and fins – these sheets of liquid energy pulled like cloth on the looms of wooden antennae – these painted, scaled hides stretched over strange lump-ridden shapes . . .

To the right, another skyscraper of compartments rose upwards. Indeed, there was, ahead, an entire gallery of them, arranged in pairs that extended beyond Henri’s ability to focus

Confronted with the baffling environment, Henri could feel his grip on his sense of self, his notion of a reality in which his existence had purpose, being thwarted. But, by some stroke of luck, his very inability to get past the surreality of the giant shelves worked to his advantage and he was spared the impact of . . . things making sense. This was not clearly a real place, and so Henri’s psyche was relieved of the burden of taking emergency measures to protect itself; for now.

He could feel his own weight now: first on his hands, then on his knees, and finally on his feet. There was a stone block to his right; resting on it, a book of some kind, some papers, and a lantern. Standing beside it, there were two human figures.

No. One was clearly human, a man. The other was just as tall as the man, and cloaked in a sheet like a child masquerading as a ghost. The sheet glimmered silkily in the radiation. Beneath, there was a shape like a head, and perhaps a pair of slight shoulders. Though he could not see it, Henri felt sure that on the cloaked head, there was an eye – a great black fish’s eye – and that eye was upon him.

That unseen gaze! Terrible and unreturnable, it was! Yet – even worse! – that man, that other human in this place, had been speaking with it! The significance of the man’s engagement with the gossamer spectre fell all too heavily on Henri’s mind. If another man were here, carrying on with a . . . a . . . carrying on like this, then it was that much less likely that anything could be explained as intoxication. In a desperate bid to protect the spools of truth around which his habits, his social face, and his values were all wrapped, Henri’s mind contorted around the new, threatening world before him.

(For each other’s benefit, please incorporate descriptions of your characters in your comments.

Lots of rules pertain to this situation. Here’s a summary: Henri loses a total of -9 sanity (in addition to the sanity lost from casting the spell in the hospital). He has gone temporarily insane, so for the next few minutes, he should act in a way that reflects an effort to deny the reality of the situation. He has gained +5 points in a new skill, Cthulhu Mythos, which represents knowledge that has been reawakened from somewhere deep inside Henri. His maximum possible sanity, in connection with this skill, has dropped to 94%. Finally, he has spontaneously developed long-term issues. Deborah, you might think of some ideas about what you think would be an appropriate affliction for Henri or what might be fun for you. Let me know - it should be something persistant and bothersome, but not crippling.)