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.)


  1. Of course, the first things Henri noticed as his mind struggled against collapse were the man's clothes. They were so thoroughly, dreadfully pedestrian: dull wingtip shoes, cuffed trousers, a cotton shirt (with the collar detached) worn under a buttoned vest. In this strange organge-ish illumination, Henri could not be entirely certain of the garments' coloration, but under normal conditions he guessed they were somber and banal, utterly bereft of joy or imagination. The horror!

    The wearer's fashion agnosia was likely a hereditary affliction, for in his face Henri detected unmistakably Anglican features, and the expression thereupon seemed rather humourless. Blue eyes stared back at him from behind conventionally round-framed spectacles; sandy blond hair lay slicked back against the scalp with the help of some cheap pomade.

    "Wait a moment," the Englishman said to the veiled, tubular cyclops at his side.

    For his part, Peter had been startled by the unheralded appearance of another human being, and feared in that instant his trespass had been discovered by one of John Daniel's cohorts. But his concern was dispelled as it became clear to him that this new fellow was as much a stranger here as he, if not more so; for, if the young man's pallor and perspiration were any indication, this seemed his initial visit. (But how had he made the journey without the mirror? Were there other mirrors out there somewhere, or other means by which the library could be accessed?)

    Recalling the intensity of his own dread upon first experiencing the library, and the psychic disintegration that followed, Peter anticipated the worst for him. He wanted desperately to say something helpful, anything to put the poor stranger at ease; but what succor could he hope to provide in the face of the overwhelming alien horror that even now was knotting its way through the fellow's synapses?

    "My name is Peter," he said to the visitor at last. "Try not to be afraid. You are dreaming, more or less."

  2. Henri ran a hand back over his fair hair, smoothed in place with his favorite lilac pomade. The man--Peter he called himself--looked to Henri like some nightmare version of himself, as if he'd somehow lost all sense of fashion and style. He blinked his own blue eyes and looked down at his own clothes. Still his perfect charcoal suit. His orchid shirt and primrose tie looked strange in the orange light. His peach pocket square looked stark white. He pulled it from his breast pocket and flung it to the ground.

    "A dream?" he said and looked at this 'Peter' again. Of course it was a dream. What else could it be? It made absolutely no sense otherwise. Nothing in the world, not even Jones' world of wizards and crystal balls and hats of human skin, even hinted at something like this. "Yes, a dream. Naturally.Naturellement. It's all very Freudian isn't it? You're the man I managed not to be, aren't you? It's funny you're English, but I suppose that's psychology all over. Though why you're called Peter is beyond me, unless it's more Freudian than I first supposed."

    He realized he was babbling and shut his mouth. Then he wondered why it mattered if he were polite in a dream.

    "That silvery stuff was some sort of poison. I've been poisoned and I'm lying unconscious. Thank goodness I was already in a hospital. I'm sure I'll be fine. As for you, I won't be you and you'd better call me Henri. I won't stand for anything else. I'm sure with enough effort I can change what I'm dreaming and make you go away."

  3. Silvery stuff? Poisoned? The man's ramblings suggested that he had not come here by the same method as Peter. Perhaps he had been unfortunate enough to come into contact with some of that powder the cult used to incapacitate Mohan?

    "Yes, Henri," Peter affirmed delicately, "I'm sure you'll be fine. I've no doubt that soon you will wake up safe and sound in the hospital, and perhaps you'll even laugh at the absurdity of what you've seen."

    "You don't need to dream me away. I was just about to go looking for something when you showed up, so you have but to ask and I will resume my business."

    "But before I go, perhaps you would be so kind as to tell me more about yourself and how you came to be here? I must confess that I feel at a disadvantage, Henri, since it seems you already have me all figured out when I still know so little about you."

  4. The sheathed, columnar creature tilted drastically in Henri's direction. "Yes, Henri," it said in a voice uncannily like Peter's own. "Be fine. Be afraid, dreaming," it continued with its borrowed tongue. Tilting towards Peter like a giant metronome on a painfully slow meter, it continued, echoing Henri's own voice now, "Naturallement. You, poisoned . . . species proteins, salts of humans, I managed not to be." Duplicating Peter's accent once again, it asked, "Assistance? Must confess."

    Another voice, distinct from the others, echoed in Henri's head. "What do you see?" it asked. "Tell us what you see." It was Ramanuja.

  5. "What are you looking for?" Henri asked Peter, tilting his head. He took a slight, sliding step further away from the cloaked thing.

  6. "Um," Peter muttered as he scratched the back of his head. "Hm. A horse? I'm not quite certain, actually, but this entity," he gestured toward the intrusive, wobbling creature, "freely offered its assistance. It's, um, analogous to a librarian, I think."

    "Now, Henri, I have answered your question. Would you kindly return the favor, or shall I leave you alone?"

  7. "I don't think that's a good idea. Maybe you can't meet its demands," Henri said, unconsciously repeating what Ramanuja told him. He gave a fearful look at the creature, then looked back at Peter. "I came here through Pierre's mirror... Oh, that's why you're called Peter! Monsieur Swami told me to look, but I'm not sure it was a good idea."

  8. Swami. This suggested a connection to Indian spiritualism, and possibly with the cult as well! The implications were troubling, and Peter started to grow suspicious of this visitor of whom he knew so little.

    Interestingly, the discombobulated, foppish Frenchman had spoken of a mirror, though it was not yet clear as to whether he was referring to an artifact or to something else. Of his own mirror, Peter was resolved to say nothing.

    "I don't know from Pierre," he said with a shrug. "I am called Peter because that is what my father named me."

    He regarded the alien cyclops again. "Maybe it isn't a good idea," he acknowledged in response to Henri's misgivings, "but unless you know how else I might find a horse in this hellish place, I'm afraid my options are rather limited."

    "On that note, I should probably be on my way. Give my regards to Monsieur Swami, won't you?"

  9. "Wait," Henri cried, alarmed. "Don't leave me alone with this thing. How do I wake up?"

  10. "That's a very good question," Peter remarked, realizing then that he did not know how to wake himself up, either. "The last time I was here, I regained consciousness in a hospital. So, in that respect, at least your body is in the right place."

    "And don't worry; I'm not leaving you alone with this.. um, fellow? I require him - it? - to lead me to that which I seek."

    "Proceed," he directed the veiled thing, projecting more confidence in his voice than he felt.

    Over his shoulder, Peter called, "Bon chance, Henri. It was nice meeting you."

  11. The saffron cloak rippled and shimmered as the "librarian" leaned away from Henri and began to slide in the direction of the long stretch of repositories. "Don't worry; I'm not leaving you alone," it repeated after Peter. "It was nice meeting it."

    Gigantic! As wide as a city block, and no deeper than a garage on either side, the unending height of the edifices was structurally flabbergasting. They did not bend, nor break at any point, but stood impossibly still in an atmosphere bereft of wind.

    The librarian, tilting and incongruous with the architecture, pointed the way through them, to the supposed location of a horse. (A horse, Henri reasoned, was no more or less likely to be here than anything else.) Taking on Henri's accent once again, the voice from beneath the cover urged Peter on. "Proceed," it said. "It's a good idea."

  12. Henri hesitated, slightly leaning after the departing figures, uncertain if he should be alone in this horrible place or stay with the strangely disturbing yet strangely comforting figure of Peter. Being alone seemed worse somehow and he took one slow step after then when he heard Ramanuja's voice.

    "Kaa Shi Raa Saa Gaar," he repeated carefully after the sounds in his head. "Ba Da Len Pa Honch. Lo Pa Mu Dra."

    He closed his eyes and waited, hoping when he opened them the hospital room and normalcy would have reasserted itself.

    "Why a horse?" he wondered aloud before opening his eyes.

  13. As Peter and the loathsome stranger walked into the infinitude of shelves, Henri recited the swami's spell.

    As the Frenchman's pronunciation of the unfamiliar words was halting and clumsy, it took Peter a moment to recognize that he was speaking Urdu, and the realization stopped him in his tracks.

    "Kaa Shi Raa Saa Gaar."

    Kshira Sagar: the Ocean of Milk.

    "Be Da Len Pa Honch."

    Badalen pahonch: the syllables from the yantra, the command for change.

    "La Pa Mu Dra."


    Peter wheeled around in alarm. "Stop!" He exclaimed. "Where did you learn those words??"

  14. The visitor's eyes were closed. As he completed the name of the dread goddess from the nightmarish fiasco in Mohenjo-Daro, Henri's body ceased to glow with orange radiation. He became transparent, like a stained glass window. Peter watched his corpus fade into a ghostly shade before utterly disappearing.

    Neither man had an answer to his parting question.

    A trail of footprints ended where Henri had been standing.