Sunday, June 18, 2017

Midas Touched I


The Hölle District was constructed in the name of progress, the apotheosis of civilization, and was, by necessity, a place of fire, steel, and transmutation. When hell poured into Berlin, none could have imagined a positive outcome among its flames and darkened keepers.

Here, along one of its red-brick sidewalks, a faun advanced with singular purpose. A young woman, no longer a child but hardly yet an adult, shadowed her cloven hoofed master by a few steps behind. A handkerchief over her nose and mouth was of little defense against the sulfurous odor of tortured elements.

“Katja,” The faun maintained a steady saunter as he spoke. “What do you know of Hölle?”

“That it's hot and smells of rotten eggs.” she replied, her dreadful tone betraying misery. How any could live here was to her a mystery.

He sighed, rolling his horizontal pupils. “A comfortable environment has resulted in an entire species of whiners. Truly, you are the epitome of your race.”

Clearing his throat, the faun returned to his point. “Anyway. Kobolds were the first non-humans to be encountered by the German people - and they arrived with a bang. The ground ruptured, breathed fire, and grew to resemble the hell of human myth and superstition. Devils, your people thought, and your doomsayers for once seemed vindicated. Humanity struck first, though I am able to understand how they would have seen things differently, and thus ensued a dreadful bloodba-”

“The Massacre at Mitte. Falkenrath taught me about it.” she interrupted.

“Good! You've actually learned something, if not manners. May I please continue?”

“Of course, Mr. Pox. I apologize.”

“Right then. As I was saying...” he paused, his gaze falling upon a gathering of kith. “Eh. I'll save that tale for another time. I do believe we've arrived at the scene of the crime.”

Golems and pickelhelmed constables barred access to the alleyway. Faces grim, they moved aside to allow the pair to pass without speaking a word. The officers barked orders at the crowd, their demands for dispersal inadvertently luring more to the scene. Katja saw their gawking eyes peeping through the gaps between black uniforms and man shaped metal.

It was early, her tired eyes red from lack of sleep and the brimstone fumes of industrial transmuters. She stopped suddenly in her tracks, an audible gasp escaping her lips.

“You'll get used to this,” said Pox, donning a pair of rubber gloves. “Eventually.”

Katja was paralyzed. Her stomach churned and she covered her mouth against a rise of vomit. Loose skin and viscera cloaked the victim but a radiant light reflected from various fissures. Retrieving surgical scissors from his side satchel, Pox proceeded to snip through strings of sinew. The remaining epidermis unraveled with a sickening schlop, revealing a golden skeleton preserved mid-contortion. 

Averting her gaze, Katja leaned up against a soot-stained wall. Pox had already begun to speak while she scrambled to find a notebook and pencil.

“Decedent resembles human female. Dark hair; fair skin; facial features unrecognizable. Clothing has merged with what little flesh is left. I am able to discern the remnants of a corset among the mess. Possibly a skirt as well. Nothing else. Soles of the feet are well preserved; heavily calloused and blackened by grime. I also detect the heavy aroma of cheap perfume – something obnoxiously French. Victim was likely a prostitute and one that was fairly active in this district. Will likely find many who were familiar with her, if there was only some way to identi- ”

Pox stilled his tongue, shifting all attention to the soft remains which he lifted from the ground and unfurled, letting the flayed hide flutter like a banner in the wind. Katja turned to the wall and vomited.

“Toughen up, girl. Take a closer look.” said Pox, responding to the noise of slurry on stone.

Katja wiped breakfast from her lips. After a moment of mental preparation, she turned to face his ghastly display. It was a grotesque effigy of the woman that once was, distorted by lack of shape and substance. Pox pulled the skin, rendering it taut and its details more perceivable. There were deep cuts and lesions; they had not healed well but they had at least healed.

“Scars?” She hoped her answer was enough to satisfy that persnickety old goat.

“Explicate. Remember what I told you before.”

“Scars...” She paused, mindful of his expectations. “Scars tell a story. They represent the history of an individual and their relationship to others, as well as their environment.”

“Close enough but what do you see? Read the scars. Be precise.”

“The scars aren't too distinctive. Lots of cuts – probably from a knife. This woman likely lived a traumatic life. And what's that? Above her left breast. It doesn't look like the others.”

Pox turned over the husk and studied the mark. His yellow eyes narrowed and then abruptly expanded. “A brand.”

“Someone branded her?”

“Quite crudely. It appears to be the letter M.”

“But why?” A question almost childlike in its innocent naivety; it felt out of place among the blood and flesh and that auric enigma.

“Because they could. It is not unheard of for a pimp to mark their so-called 'property'.”

Katja shifted her gaze to the golden statue. “Okay. So - cause of death?”

“Death by chrysopoeia. Human transmutation. I've only ever heard of them happening in industrial accidents. A worker falling into a live transmutator – that sort of thing.”

“Putting the 'how' aside for a moment – but why wasn't the rest of her converted?”


“An astute observation! That, however, is outside my area of expertise. We'll have the body delivered to Shimndglurm. That old kobold will know what to make of it.”

Sunday, June 11, 2017

An Introduction

Introduction:

I am an amateur writer with no formal training. I have degrees in history and philosophy but, in retrospect, I should have focused on creative writing and am currently searching for classes where I can better myself as a writer. My hope is to become a professional writer, as I've always had stories in my head and I am a bit limited now with regards to my choices of employment (chronic illness problems). I have done some writing under the name Metaphysician for the SCP Foundation, for those who wish to check it out: http://www.scp-wiki.net/metaphysician

Masquerade's End is a weird fiction alt-history setting in which the 'veil' is abruptly lifted following a series of catastrophes beginning on December 22, 1863. The degree of this veil lifting is something I am not entirely settled on and has limited my ability to really move forward with a proper narrative. My initial idea simply involved a world in which alchemy and the "occult sciences" are actualized, ultimately ushering in various technological, scientific, and cultural changes.

Other times I consider leaving the veil down, where only a few glimpse what lies behind it. My ideas for those stories generally follow a weird fiction/horror/detective noir.

In time I will have to make a choice on this, but here is a full list of potential events and alterations that set this Earth c. 1900-1920 apart from baseline reality. It is entirely possible that I will not stick to all of these or will end up creating things not currently listed. These are different factors that may or may not shape the finished world.


  • A Global Cataclysm: The end of the world arrived unannounced. There were no dread harbingers on horseback; no angelic choir or trumpet’s blare. 22 December, 1863 was a date never forgotten but a day few could recall with much clarity. Those that did remember were locked away in asylums or otherwise removed from 'polite company'. The event (known by many names, including the Naufragium, the Rupture, the Lost Day, the Shattering, and various apocalyptic terms) could only be understood through its aftermath - including a quarter of the population either dead or missing without much rhyme or reason.
  • The Deluge: Floods arrived without rain, occurring both globally and simultaneously, destroying many coastal cities. The truth was not to be discovered until years later as the oceans contained no more water than they had before - the water had merely been displaced by the emergence of new lands, some seemingly lifted from the abyssal depths while others lacked any scientific explanation whatsoever. These lands include places such as Lemuria, The Coral City, and the Drowned Kingdoms of Mu.
  • The Aetheric Bleed: Aether composes the structure of a dimension that binds reality to a local level, separating it from dimensions that would otherwise overlap. Scientists believe that recent events are tied to a weakening of this structure, allowing dimensions adjacent to our own to 'bleed' into ours. This 'bleed' includes the terrain and lifeforms from these other worlds, resulting in trans-dimensional refugees. Many of these refugees have been assimilated, suffering many of the plights associated with immigrant life. I hope to explore these people in a later post. It is suspected that the Aetheric Bleed has always existed at greater or lesser strength than it currently does.
  • The Scramble for Subterra: Powerful quakes have caused the earth's surface to rupture, opening paths to the Great Below - a realm of massive caverns, subterranean seas, and where the only light is the sickly glow of bioluminescent lifeforms and pools of magma. It is home to strange fungi and troglodytic fauna, as well as the ruins of civilizations far older than man. Despite its inhospitable nature, the deep colonies of various states can be found throughout the Great Below and it is where the first esoteric elements were discovered, leading to the development of working alchemy. Native denizens include the Pale (which stand as evidence that the deep colonists are not the first humans to descend below), intelligent parasitic fungi (who view human corpses much the way a hermit crab does a shell), and leviathan sized nudibranch.
  • Anathemas: Humanity was forced to once again broaden their definition of disease. Anathemas produce anomalous, debilitating symptoms tied to individuals, objects, and places. A noise, an image, even a thought can serve as an anathema’s vector. The Pariahs’ Fellowship was created in order to provide support groups for afflicted individuals. Entire regions can develop an anathema, often leading to their abandonment with the unforeseen benefit (depending who you ask) of allowing nature to reclaim the land. Such environments are commonly referred to as "blighted".
  • The Nevermeant: A failed and fallen creation - an amalgam of stillborn realities; a cosmic abortion that seeps into our world. It is distinct from the rest of the Aetheric Bleed by virtue of its sheer destructiveness and dreamlike qualities. Various parts of the world have been consumed by the Nevermeant, including the city of London - resulting in the collapse of the British Empire. 
  • Hexenborn: A minority of those born after the Aetheric Bleed are anomalously gifted. They are naturally able to wield the occult, altering reality by force of will. They are feared by many, revered by some, and different cultures respond to their birth differently - some are removed from their families and trained to serve the state, others are killed at birth, and in a few places, they have become the dominate power.


Some Prose:

A corpulent doomsayer spewed forth another dread portent. Gaunt disciples sift for meaning among the vomitus. Sallow blindfolds fail to hide the weeping wounds of their hollowed sockets. "Eyes plucked by their very own hands," went the rumors. "Saw something they shouldn't have." They cry tears of ichor, ignored by all.







German war-zeppelins rain down fire and brimstone from the sky. Those below rasp profane litanies from their sulfur soaked lungs, cursing God more than any man. The air is a fetid yellow. The wounded drown slowly in puddles of blood, mud, and excrement; there would be many lies told in their name, lies of glory, honor, and martyrdom. The British charge from the trenches, a row of privileged officers stay behind - ready to open fire on those that refuse. They charge and die, unaware that there was no more Britain to fight for. Black robed mystics gather around a mountain of corpses. Laying hands upon the dead, they chant words belonging to no human tongue in accents thickly Russian. The mountain moves.








Industrial transmutaters redefine matter and form, bathing all in its elemental fallout. Workers cough up blood, lungs ravaged by unseen silicates. There are shadows burnt into the brickwork and radium touched eyes glow in the twilight. Desires for better lives disappeared with time, their leaden minds dulled and stupefied. Shouldering the cost of progress, never knowing its reward.








He left a gift of candles and scrolls outside the windowless monastery. The Jesuit only wished to understand the heresy. "Take off your mask," urged the bandage wrapped Perfecti. "And shed that cloak of Demiurge flesh. We see how its seams begin to fray - a soul eager to be born. Its light burns so bright." Those within walked on phantom limbs and spoke with phantom tongues.








An ill omen goes ignored in the night. Blame falls on the watchman, who is swiftly flayed and hanged from the bow. It would be enough, the sailors thought. The crew is silent, anxious; several prostrate themselves in prayer. Echidnean spines pierce the hull. Water floods the vessel, rivets burst from pressure. Straws are drawn. Again. Blood on the wind. Again. Screams that never seem to end. Still they pray. Another straw is drawn. It is not enough. The Drowned Kingdoms call. A gunshot rings from the cabin and the captain is missing. Throats are slit while others swallow cyanide. There was no escape from Her Undulating Vastness - Her Eternal Embrace.








Life was cheap in the Great Below but its denizens breed quickly in the darkness. Labyrinthian ruins were known to inspire strange blasphemies throughout Earth's hollow, distressing the Churchmen of the world above. "The deep colonies were a mistake and the same can be said of this mission," lamented the Bishop in his letter to the surface. "Not even the Lord's Light reaches these depths. There are structures here older than Adam, I shudder at the thought and refuse to consider its ramifications." Few remembered the Sun but the deep colonists claim to have found another. It was said to be beyond the fungal forests and the Abyssal Sea - beyond the Pale and their hideous familiarity - and somewhere beyond that terrible blasted city and its numberless, unspoken crimes.

[Children from Grayshade Enclave, an American (U.S.) deep colony c. 1899]