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Episode Fifty-Four: UNCERTAIN

Hello and welcome to the Mistholme Museum of Mystery, Morbidity and Mortality. This audio tour guide will be your constant companion in your journey through the unknown and surreal.

As you approach our exhibits, the audio tour guide will provide you with information and insights into their nature and history.

Do not attempt to interact or communicate with the exhibits.

Do not attempt to interact or communicate with the audio tour guide. If you believe that the audio tour guide may be deviating from the intended tour program, please consider adjusting your preconceived notions of what the intended tour program may be!

While the staff here at Mistholme Museum of Mystery Morbidity and Mortality do their absolute best to ensure the safety of all visitors, accidents can happen. The museum is not liable for any injury, death, or sub-par accent work that may occur during your visit.

Enjoy your tour.

And good luck.

Garden Gnome

Here we have an antique Garden Gnome: roughly a foot tall, this chubby little fellow with his pointy red cap and cheeky features is of a kind with thousands of other garden ornaments like him. Like most others, he is made from terra cotta, and is depicted as a small bearded man in a button-up coat and sturdy work boots- this specific gnome is holding a fishing rod mid-swing, but others might be posed standing upright, sitting down, holding pickaxes or lanterns, or any other number of variations. While ornamental figures have existed for millenia in many cultures, often depicting various gods or other figures, the Garden Gnome as we know them today emerged in the last few centuries and is based on the folkloric figure of the gnome. These impish underground dwellers have been given a broad number of features and traits depending on the specific story being told, but they are often shown to be mischievous and tricksy. They torment those who intrude upon their traditional spaces, sabotaging the homes and industries of those humans foolish enough to raise their ire. While Garden Gnomes are, certainly, less openly sinister than their mythological counterparts, there remains an air of mischief to these sculpted figures, and their poses may show them engaging in pranks or legerdemain. 

 

This Garden Gnome, in particular, is…

 

Hang on, excuse me for a moment.

 

Hm. We actually don’t seem to have a Garden Gnome exhibit listed in my database at the moment. That’s odd, let me just-

 

Excuse me? Oh. The gnome is… gone. 


[A deep, truly exhausted sigh]

 

Okay. Well, I guess that’ll be a problem for me at some point. No, no, it’s fine. Let’s just… Let’s move on.

The Mirror


Retrieval:
And yeah, after the escape we haven’t heard anything more from the Security department. Thought we were onto something with… a different contractor, but that was a dead end. 

 

Amina:
Woof, your Audio Guide wasn’t kidding about this being a bit of a mess. You want me to sort all that out we might need to up my fee.

 

Retrieval:
We might need to decide on a fee in the first place. And no, we don’t want you to sort all that out. Hopefully all we need from you is… turning the Glassway in the security shelter back on, if that’s how I should put it.

 

Amina:
Well, that shouldn’t be too hard.

 

Retrieval:
Well, we’ll see.

 

Guide:
We have every faith in your abilities, Amina!

 

Amina:
Do you all just carry copies of your museum’s audio guide on a little speaker-phone then?

 

Retrieval:
Yeah, you should too.

 

Amina:

Righto then. 

 

Retrieval:

 [Clicking sound] Okay, take my hand.

 

Amina:
Excuse me?

 

Retrieval:
It’s for… Our Security Department is located in some kind of… quantum… realm? I dunno, it’s like a pocket world attached to the museum but separate, where only the Security Officers could go. Meant they could deploy anywhere in the museum at a moment’s notice, but when we lost all of them it turned getting there into a massive pain. The people who knew how to grant access are gone, so the Research Department had to bang together this little thing. Mimics the… signature, or something, of our one remaining Security Officer.

 

Amina:
Looks like a pocket watch.


Guide:
It’s fitting if you know why.

 

Retrieval:
Yeah, but the relevant thing is we need to hold hands so the gadget thinks we’re just one person. Otherwise things go bad fast.

 

Amina:
Mm, oldest excuse in the book, anything to hold a pretty young lady’s hand.

 

Retrieval:
Exactly. Come on.

 

Amina:
Fine. 

 

Retrieval:
Right. Hold onto your lunch.

 

[Ticking intensifies, then disappears as if it has suddenly submerged in a deep water]

 

Amina:
Oh. Oh I hated that. Feels like my insides were back to front.

 

Retrieval:
Yeah, that doesn’t get better. Shelter’s just up ahead. Afternoon lads. Just here to… Jesus, it’s a long story, you don’t have to worry about it. Just be ready to lock the shelter door behind us if you hear screaming.

 

Amina:
My, you do know how to make a guest comfortable.

 

Retrieval:
Yeah there’s a reason I’m not in charge of patronage. Now, the shelter’s been cleaned inside and out since the… incident, but considering the scale of the thing there’s only so much that could be done.

 

Amina:
Honestly it’s almost too clean now. Feels like a morgue.

Retrieval:
Yeah, you’re really great at the tactful talk yourself. Alright, there it is.

 

Amina:
Looks like a normal mirror to me.

 

Retrieval:
So glad we called in an expert. 

 

Guide:
Actually, the story behind the mirrors is fascinating. They’re all from the final batch of mirrors sent out by-

 

Amina:
Ah, Guide? Please no details unless I ask for them, the context can colour things in an unintended way.

 

Guide:
Right. Sorry, so sorry, I’ll keep my… speaker… shut. Stupid.

 

Amina:
So the mirror can’t be removed from the wall?

Retrieval:
Nah, my understanding is that when the Shelters were designed they thought having a big piece of glass might be a risk. Extended lockdown leading to stress and all that. Stuck to the wall there’s less chance of it being misused. 

 

Amina:
Smart. Grim, but smart. Right, I’ll get to work. Right away I’m not seeing any markings or anything of note. The Guide said something about some markings being made on a different mirror somewhere else in the Museum?

 

Guide:
Yes! The Mother and I- ah, long story. After the Glassways were created we found the remains of a mirror from one of our exhibits. It appeared to have some markings on it, and the larger shards still functioned as Glassways after it was shattered. 

 

Amina:
Do you still have it?

Guide:
Unfortunately, the remains of the mirror were cleaned up at some point by our Dustpan and Brush before anyone could secure them. And nobody’s really sure where the things the Dustpan cleans… go. Again, long story.

 

Amina:
Yeah I’m starting to get that impression. Well, gimme a minute and we’ll see if I can’t figure anything out. 

 

Retrieval:
Here’s hoping. 

 

[Amina’s efforts are conveyed by a series of odd noises. Tinkering, bubbling, whooshing.]

 

Guide:
Did she have a bag when she came in?

 

Retrieval:
Nope. Just don’t try to think too hard about things like that when… “witches” are involved.

 

Guide:

Right. So. How’s things?

 

Retrieval:
Fine. You?

Guide:
Oh, you know. Good to not be in Fairyland, you know?

Retrieval:
Yeah, sure. Sounds like it was a pain. 

 

Guide:
Yeah. Otherwise, just… giving tours, you know? Been a quiet few weeks since. 

 

Retrieval:
Mm. Sure. [Beat] Well, Amina, if this is gonna be a while I might go handle some other business. If you need anything, just talk to one of the people over at the door, don’t hesitate to-

 

Amina:
No need. I’m done.

 

Retrieval:
Oh. That was fast. 

 

Amina:
Yeah, well, you know that thing about how it’s impossible to prove a negative?

Retrieval:
I guess, yeah.

 

Amina:
Well, it’s kind of the opposite when it comes to magic. Complete pain in the ass to prove that something is definitely absolutely 100% happening because of magic, but if there’s no magic at play you can tell pretty much right away.

 

Retrieval:
I feel like that means that it should… wait, what are you saying? There’s no magic here?
 

Amina:
Not in the mirror, no. Not enchanted, not now, not ever. Completely mundane mirror.

 

Guide:
But… It was a Glassway. That’s how the Security Department reached the Beach in the first place, there’s no way it could… 

 

Retrieval:
Damn it. We knew Astrid was being cagey with the details, she wasn’t being completely honest about some things. But if there was never even a bloody Glassway here… what the hell does that mean, we’re gonna need to completely re-evaluate-

 

Amina:
Hold up there. I said the mirror isn’t magic. I didn’t say I don’t know what happened here.

 

Retrieval:
…Okay. Go on then.

 

Amina:
This mirror has had its time messed with.

 

Guide:
“Messed with”. What does that mean?

 

Retrieval:
Oh god.

 

Guide:
What? What’s wrong?

 

Retrieval:

Tell me we’re not doing time travel shit here. 

 

Amina:

We may be.

 

Guide:
Oh wow! I’ve never been involved in any time travel business before, there’s a couple of exhibits that-

 

Retrieval:

Yeah I’ve never been involved in any time travel stuff either because it seems like a good way to drive yourself crazy keeping timelines straight or trying to avoid accidentally preventing your own birth. What even makes you say the mirror’s time is… messed with, what does that even mean?

 

Amina:
What, you can’t smell it?

 

Retrieval:
What.

 

Amina:
Yeah, I suppose that’s fair. It’s not something you notice until you know to look for it, but this thing absolutely reeks of Chronochor. 

 

Guide:
What’s quote “Chronochor” unquote?

 

Amina:
Well, you know Petrichor? That smell of rain after a dry spell?

 

Guide:
Not… really, but, sure.

 

Amina:
Well, Chronochor is like that, except it’s the smell left behind when time gets messed with, and this spot right in front of the mirror absolutely reeks of it. Actually, so did your Break Room, it’s why I noticed it here so quick-

 

Retrieval:
Oh come on, are we actually doing this? 

 

Amina:
Look, calm down you big sook. Tell me, have you ever had to go out of your way to avoid time travel or is this just a knee-jerk thing for you?

 

Retrieval:

I admit it doesn’t exactly come up much. 

 

Amina:
Yeah. That’s because time travel doesn’t come up much. It’s pretty limited, you can’t just go “oh I’ll just get out of that parking ticket by telling my past self to park somewhere else”. The version of time travel where you go back and change things, well, I haven’t encountered it and I’ve been bloody all over.

 

Guide:
So, what does it mean that the mirror has… time travel… vibes?

 

Amina:
Right, so, you know how in some stories about time travel, it’s either “you can go back and change things then when you go home things will be different” or “you can go back, but it’s a closed loop so you always went back and anything you do you already did”?

 

Guide:
Oh, or in some fictional settings you can go back, but any changes it makes make a new branching timeline that-

 

Amina:
Well, yeah, but if it was relevant I would have mentioned it.

 

Guide:
Right. Sorry, I interrupted. 

 

Retrieval:
I’m already getting a headache.

 

Amina:
Oh shush. Now, as far as our reality is concerned, the second one is the only one that works- again, as far as I’ve seen. So, if you go back in time, you’re only ever going to do things that already happened in your relative past. You go back to stop an assassination- or do one- turns out in your past there was already a guy- you- who failed at that. It’s a closed loop. You with me so far?

 

Retrieval:
…Yeah.  

 

Amina:
Now here’s where it gets a little complicated. So-

 

Retrieval:
Jesus-

 

Amina:
Shush! So, in order to travel through time you have to find a spot where the… time fabric or whatever is weakened. Thing is, it’s only ever weakened by somebody travelling through time. Every instance of someone who’s travelled has only been possible because the loop was created to begin with. 

 

Guide:
I’m not sure I…


Amina:
Yeah. So, how to visualise it… say you get home one day and find an EpiPen on your counter. You don’t know where it came from, so you just toss it in a drawer. Then, you have a friend over that night, and they have an allergic reaction to something, and “oh thank god, I have an EpiPen”, day saved. Then, at some point in the future, you find a weak spot in the fabric of time, and you use that weak point to go back and put that EpiPen on the counter in the first place. Got it?

 

Guide:
Yeah?

 

Amina:
Now see, just like that EpiPen is there because a future version of you put it there, the weakness in time is there because… a future version of you put it there.

 

Guide:
But it’s only there because… You can only use it because it’s there, and it’s only there because you use it?

 

Amina:
Yes! See, you get it.

 

Guide:
I… don’t even have a head and it’s aching.

 

Retrieval:
I hate this shit!

 

Guide:
So, you can only go back in time if you were already going to go back, so really there’s no changing to be done, it's just doing what was already… done… Uh…

 

Amina:
Exactly. 

 

Retrieval:
What does that mean for us in the here and now, then? What’s that tell us about the mirror, and can we turn it back into a Glassway?

 

Amina:
Turn it back, no. I’m aware of the magic used to create the… you’ve been calling them Glassways, I always just call them portals. Feels a little silly.

 

Guide:
Please don’t tell the Head of Restoration that.

 

Amina:
Sure. Well, I could probably turn this mirror into a “Glassway” but I don’t think there’s any way of making it go to the same place it did when the last person did it. The way the spell works it just opens portals to different places willy-nilly according to the specifications written on the base mirror. If we had the base mirror, maybe but. Yeah.

 

Retrieval:
Right. But you’re saying this mirror was never actually a Glassway anyway.

 

Amina:
Well… not yet.

 

Retrieval:
God damn it.

 

Amina:
The time residue wouldn’t be there if the mirror hadn’t already travelled through time. It’s a closed loop.

 

Retrieval:
I just really don’t want to get caught up in any time travel nonsense, okay? I just don’t want to deal with it.

 

Amina:
Well then I guess we’ll have to suffer with the consequences of failing to close the loop!

 

Retrieval:
God damn it… what would those be?

 

Amina:
Well, it’s all theoretical as it’s the sort of thing that can only really happen once, but… You know a möbius strip?

Retrieval:
Yes.

 

Amina:
Imagine that getting tied in a knot, then having the ends pulled until it snaps in the middle.

 

Retrieval:
And let me guess. That’s… the universe.

 

Amina:
You got it!

 

Retrieval:
So, if we don’t go back we risk destroying the universe. And if we do go back but change something by accident, we risk destroying the universe.

 

Amina:
Theoretically you shouldn’t be able to change anything at all, but sure. 

 

Retrieval:
Yep, I hate-

 

Amina:
Oh, also if you interact with your past self you might destroy the universe. That too.

 

Retrieval:
Great. So. Next question is why the mirror has time residue or whatever. What’s caused that to happen, what does it have to do with it… never having been a Glassway all of a sudden.

 

Amina:

Oh that’s easy.

 

Retrieval:
Enlighten us.

 

Amina:
Because we’re about to go back and swap it for the version that was a Glassway.

 

Retrieval:
What.

 

Guide:
What does that even mean.

 

Amina:
It’s not so complicated. The reason it’s not a Glassway is because we’re about to take this mirror off the wall, go back to a point in time after it became a Glassway, swap them, and take the Glassway version back to our present. 

 

Guide:
But that would mean… If that’s always what… happened… because of the time loop… then the only reason the mirror isn’t a Glassway now is because we ourselves swap it for the… past version… So this whole thing is just a weird little loop with no intent behind it.

 

Amina:
Yep. You’d be surprised by how often this happens.

 

Retrieval:

[Walks away a few steps into the next room] I HATE THIS SHIT!

 

Guide:

The reason we’re going to travel back is because we’re going to travel back because we’re going to travel back- Sorry, had to reset there before a logic cascade broke my mind. 

 

Amina:
You’re both taking this very harshly.

 

Retrieval:
Look, it’s not that I don’t trust your expertise in this matter but I feel like we should have some more evidence that this is the right path before we risk… travelling through time what are you doing-

 

Amina:
How’s the mirror supposed to be attached to the wall?
 

Retrieval:
It’s built into the wall, set into the concrete. You can’t-

 

 [A cracking, snapping sound]

 

Amina:

Looks more like super glue to me. Lots of it, granted.

 

Retrieval:
[Sigh] And let me guess. In your bag you’ve got…

 

Amina:
Never leave home without a bottle. 

 

Guide:
Why? That seems like a specific sort of… sorry, off topic.

 

Amina:
I’ve also got a crowbar in here that’s just perfect for prying mirrors out of concrete. 

 

Retrieval:
Yeah alright, Mary Poppins. Fine. God damn it, fine. How much time do you need to get ready? 

 

Amina:
Well, if it was just me I could get it done right away, but for two people I’ll need some more-

 

Retrieval:
Fine. It can just be you then, you’re the expert. 

 

Amina:
You know, you seemed like a tough guy until you opened your mouth. It’s just time travel.

 

Retrieval:
“Just”. Do you hear what you’re saying? 

 

Amina:
We already know it’ll work out fine! For the universe. In theory.

 

Retrieval:
Uhuh. Look, you should try to time your arrival toward the end of Lockdown, that’s a point where the Glassway was open but when there would be fewer people… alive to get in your way. Let me check the records, I’ll find you a date to aim for.

 

Amina:
Come on it’s really not that complicated- I don’t determine when I get there, the loop has already-

 

Retrieval:
Already happened, always existed. Right. Well, shit, if we can’t control that I don’t know if this is a good idea. There could be quite a few… crazed cannibals there. 

 

Amina:
No trouble, I’ll be in and out in no time. And if anyone gets in the way, I’ve got this to protect me!

 

Guide:
Oh! A bracelet, we actually have one a lot like… wait… how do you…

 

Retrieval:
This isn’t more time travel nonsense is it?

 

Amina:
Nah, I just made a copy of it before I gave you folks my Aunty’s to display. Actually… I’m not really sure if I gave you the right one now that I think of it.

 

Guide:
Well, that might be for the best, we kind of… lost the other one.

 

Amina:
What?

 

Guide:
Never mind. Um, perhaps I should go along with Amina? Just in case there’s any… local knowledge that could help her.

 

Retrieval:

[Huffs] I don’t like it… Fine, here take it. 

 

Amina:
Groovy. You’re coming on an adventure, Guide!

 

Guide:
Well, it’s not actually my first-
 

Retrieval:

And don’t forget to take the mirror back with you for the swap. Wouldn’t wanna… Break causality or anything.

 

Amina:
Oh! Good call, I almost forgot, thanks!

 

Retrieval:
Jesus. Look, do your ritual, or whatever, before I change my mind-

 

Amina:
You got it chief!

 

[The sound of the whole universe turning inside out]

 

Amina:
Done.

 

Guide:
Oh. Oh that was… this is… ahh…

 

Amina:
Not so bad considering you just broke half the laws of the universe, really.

 

Guide:
No, it’s not just… I’m all cut off from my.. The rest of me. I’m distributed over a big network, normally, but here- now- that network doesn’t exist yet. So it’s just me here in this little box. Feels weird!

 

Amina:
I can imagine. Well, no I can’t, not remotely.

 

Guide:
Ah. I see the former Security Department were honest about… the bodies. 

 

Amina:
Yeah this is gnarly. Don’t see anyone… alive, though.

 

Guide:
And the mirror is all hazy, so it’s still a Glassway at this point in… the timeline. Okay. So either all of the Security Officers are already dead or they’re on the other side. In which case they could come back at any moment. We should hurry up and take the mirror.

 

Amina:
You know, if this is all about finding out what the deal is with what’s on the other side we could just take a peek through now, save some-

 

Guide:
No. No, I think that would be very… risky. Let’s just take the mirror and… Hang on. Can we… take me into the main room of the Shelter.

 

Amina:
I thought we were hurrying.

 

Guide:
Humour me. 

 

Amina:
Okay. Oh, god, this is nasty as hell. Were they…

 

Guide:
Eaten. Yes. 

 

Amina:
Oof. Not how I want to go. Is this all of them, or are there missing bodies?

 

Guide:
Definitely some missing. They’re on the other side of the Glassway, alive or dead. We just… Oh shit.

 

Amina:
What, what is it?

 

Guide:
That’s… There’s an extra body.

 

Amina:
What, someone who wasn’t supposed to be in the Shelter?

Guide:
No, someone who isn’t supposed to be dead yet. The big man, shaved head. Can you go through his pockets? I want to be sure.

 

Amina:
Gah. You’re paying me a bonus. Let’s see… he’s got a wallet in here. Funny you’d keep that after all that happened here, but I guess there’s nowhere to throw it-

 

Guide:
Open it. Please.

 

Amina:
Ok. Sullivan O’Leary. You know him?

 

Guide:
No, not really, but I knew of him… This is the Head of Security, Amina.

 

Amina:
Makes sense he’d be here, then.

 

Guide:
No, no, not like… Go and check the door. Make sure that this is… that we’re still in lockdown.

 

Amina:
[Exertion sounds] Yeah that’s locked tight. Looks like they tried to jimmy it, probably only made it worse. What’s going on, Guide?

 

Guide:
Sully O’Leary was the Head of Security. He was the only member of the department we didn’t get to interview, because after the Lockdown ended and everyone came back to life the rest of the Security Department killed him for what he’d done to them during the Lockdown. It was his idea to resort to cannibalism, and some other stuff too.

 

Amina:
Right.

 

Guide:
He was also, according to the people we interviewed, the only member of the department who didn’t die during the Lockdown. He was alive and well right up until the point that the rest of the department came back alive and well and got their revenge.

 

Amina:
Ah. So why’s he dead now?

 

Guide:
Yeah. Almost seems like the people we interviewed might have been full of shit. About that and possibly some other things.

 

Amina:
Now I really want to see what’s on the other side-

 

Guide:
Amina. Get your crowbar. Get the mirror. And let’s get the hell out of here. 


Amina:
Yeah that’s probably for the best.

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