Episode Twelve- TEMPTED
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.
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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 Bodily Possession that may occur during your visit.
Enjoy your tour.
And good luck.
CONTENT WARNINGS: Loss of Sanity, Brainwashing
This room is more like a collection of information on a phenomenon than a standard exhibit about an item or event. Some refer to it as quotequotequote Mass Hysteria unquote, though that’s a bit reductive and possibly misleading. There are three main sections to this exhibit, and we’ll go through them one by one, starting with *Glitching intensifies*
The Dancing Plague/ The Singing Epidemic/The Pied Piper
This exhibit takes place in a town whose name has been lost to history, though is commonly referred to in apocrypha as Hamelin. The traditional tale would have you believe that a man came to a horribly rat-infested town and used his wonderful pipe-playing skills to lead away the rats, then when the town refused to pay, he used those same skills to lead away their children, never to be seen again. The truth is a little bit different.
The Pied Piper/ The Singing Epidemic/ The Dancing Plague
This exhibit takes place in a region that was in the process of recovering from a harsh winter. Many had died to starvation or cold, and there was little purpose to be found in life other than to continue struggling to live. The people were hungry, and mourning, and miserable, as they toiled at their labours day in and day out.
The Dancing Plague/ The Pied Piper/ The Singing Epidemic
The people of a small landlocked country had recently won their independence from their oppressive neighbours, and were in the midst of the difficult process of trying to build a whole nation from the pieces left behind by war. It was a time of great stress, of great hardship, and of great fear that if things didn’t work out they would be forced back to the way things were before, or worse.
And that’s when/ And that’s when/ And that’s when
A man arrived. He was certainly a stranger and yet he walked with the confidence of a man who was exactly where he meant to be. He spoke to the people, and his voice was like Honey/ Chocolate/ Coffee to the people’s ears. He said that he had seen their struggles and their misery, and that while he was not a man of means, he would do what he could to help. And he opened his mouth and sang/ sang/ sang
The rats pricked up their ears and followed him as he sang, his melodious voice echoing through the streets, all the way out into the countryside where the rats disappeared into the hills never to be seen again. The people in the fields raised their heads from their toil as they heard the beautiful song, deep as the lowest valley and high as the tallest peak, and they danced a jig all as one, for hours and hours without any need for rest. The people in the capitol and the children in the schools closed their eyes and opened their mouths and joined in, not knowing how they knew the melody but knowing that they knew it. The music went on for a full day, lifting the spirits of all who heard it, reminding them that life is about more than just being alive.
And then/ And then/ And then
The man stopped singing. He gave his farewells to the people of the town/ region/ country and departed, saying that it was time for him to go home. The people were sad to see him leave, but he could not be persuaded to stay. And as quickly as he had appeared, the man and his song were gone.
The children of the town were distraught. The rats may have been gone, but their town was still small and cramped and dull. They had hear true beauty now- how could they go back to the mundanity of everyday life now?
The people returned to the fields, legs a little sore, and found that- as little passion as they had had for the work before the man had come, they had even less now that he was gone. Some tried to recreate the dance that they had done the previous day, but the steps were alien and the rhythm was gone.
The people in the capitol, who had been brought together as one voice just a day ago, now found themselves more fractured than ever, the cracks showing more than ever in their fledgeling nation. All through the towns and cities of their burgeoning country, people were losing faith in their great endeavour, and were more afraid than ever that they would fail. They tried their hardest to return to the unity they had felt when they sang, but the music had left their hearts.
The children/ the workers/ the people decided they had had enough. As one, they left their homes in the night and walked out into the countryside, with nothing but the clothes on their backs, leaving behind all they had known for their entire lives in search of the man and the song they had known for a day. And they did find the man. And he welcomed them/ welcomed them/ welcomed them into his home, with open arms, never to returnreturnreturnreturn
Did you say something? I feel… strange. Probably just my entire being breaking down, nothing to worry about. Hopefully we can find a way to fix me, otherwise this is going to get bleak fast! Now, where were we? Ugh, the Mass Hysteria exhibit. This one’s a bit tedious if I’m honest, and it’s all probably either apocryphal or explainable by natural phenomena. Children being charmed by a flute player, people in the fields taking a break from their work to dance, the people of a country singing to cheer themselves up. Honestly, I don’t even know if this should be in the museum. There’s no real evidence that these constituted Alternatural Events, as they can easily be explained as spongy human brains cracking under pressure. I think I’ll put in a notice to have this one removed when everything goes back to normalnormalnormal
You are now entering the Museum Cafeteria. As expected, there are no staff currently on duty in here- presumably they’re tucked away safe and sound inside an Alternatural Event Shelter somewhere. Don’t worry though: they’re mostly just for show, as the vast majority of the food we serve here was either produced by an Alternatural Item, or simply appeared spontaneously! My understanding is that people need to quote “eat” unquote, so I figured it would be a good idea to stop by during our travels through the museum. Feel free to help yourself to anything you feel like- if the billing department is still alive out there, I’m sure they’ll let you pay your tab should you survive until the lockdown lifts.
If you’d like something warm to drink, the Urn in the corner produces an unending supply of piping hot tea, which should prove very refreshing provided you don’t mind tea that tastes strongly of Worcestershire Sauce. I don’t really understand the concept of taste, so I assume that’s fine. On the menu today, we have: Beef Wellington, served in an authentic Wellington Boot; we have a plank-grilled sea bass, which will serenade you as you eat it; and Chicken Tikka Masala. Do you know what, I have a feeling that the Cafeteria may be going a bit off-the-rails due to the lockdown and… lack of supervision. Maybe I wasn’t giving enough credit to the staff earlier. It might be best if you stick to the vegetarian menu for the time being. The Caesar Salad sounds lovely.
Oh, if you need to use the bathroom for… whatever it is people do in there, they’re just down the hall. Here at the museum, we offer Gender Neutral bathrooms, as well as ones designated “Men” and “Women”. I personally don’t understand why we need to have them segregated like that when there’s a unisex bathroom on offer, but some people get very weird about that sort of thing. Joke’s on them: the unisex bathroom is twice the size, gets cleaned twice as often, and has a bowl of individually wrapped sweets by the sink.
CONTENT WARNINGS: Death (Murder)
On the rack before you are dozens of immaculately knotted bow ties, all the exact same size, style and bold red colour. They look the same because they are the same: on an atomic level, each of these ties is identical to the other. This tie, or perhaps these is more appropriate, was a signature accessory in the wardrobe of talk show host Don Grayson. This exhibit is based largely on an account from Grayson himself, as described in the memoirs he released while serving multiple life sentences in prison.
You likely don’t remember Grayson, except as a morbid curiosity. Though his career spanned many years, it ended abruptly just as it seemed like he was about to take off, and it seems as though the industry as a whole has done its best to forget him- or perhaps, to sweep him under the rug. His signature role was an extended stint as the host of “Talk Time”, a daytime talk show, which he held for several years. In his youth Grayson had been an ambitious young man, determined to achieve fame and stardom any way he could. He had done standup comedy, acting, even a brief stint as the frontman for a forgotten rock and roll band. Those who knew him at the time often say that he was a charismatic, handsome, and socially energetic person, who made a good first impression… but eventually the driven nature that initially attracted people to him would reveal itself to be more like a hunger. He saw everything and everyone as a stepping stone toward greater success, toward the fame and fortune that he deserved.
He took the job of presenter at Talk Time with the belief that it would be one such stepping stone, a way to get his face on TV and raise his profile before moving on to bigger and better things. But the offers he’d anticipated failed to materialise. His auditions were unsuccessful, and his agent mused that he was stuck: just barely too recognisable from his talk show to be considered for more high profile work, nobody wanted to hire the daytime talk show host to act in their movies. The money from Talk Time was good, and every now and again people would recognize him on the street, but for Grayson these only served as reminders of the greater wealth and fame he deserved. Talk Time did well enough in the ratings to be continually renewed year on year, and Grayson came to view it as his own personal hell: a place he could never escape, a constant reminder of what should have been. He hated his job. He hated the guests who came on his show, whose inane stories he had to pretend to care about. He hated the audiences who filed into the studio day after day to guffaw and cheer. He hated the woman who knocked on his door and said “5 minutes, Mr Grayson” day in and day out.
But he hid all of that. He hid it from his fans, and the press, and his colleagues. Because the last thing he needed was a reputation for being ungrateful: getting stuck at Talk Time might not kill his career, but that definitely would. So the crew at Talk Time thought of him fondly, as the centrepiece of the show that put food on their tables, and it was because of this fondness that Grayson found himself walking into his dressing room one day to find the entire crew, from catering to the executive producers, waiting there with a big cake and balloons and streamers, to celebrate 10 years of his tenure on the show. He smiled, and laughed, and ate cake, and posed for cheesy photos with everyone. Then he did the show, and went home, to his modest house in a quiet street, well away from any neighbours- just how Don liked it- and drank all of the alcohol he could find. 10 years. He had been stuck. For 10. Years. He should have been a star by now. He should have been married to a supermodel, driving a different sports car every day, living in a mansion. And instead, he had been working on a tedious little daytime talk show that nobody cared about for 10 years. He vomited, and not just from the alcohol. Washing his face in the sink, he looked at his reflection in the mirror. He had spotted a grey hair just last week. His best years were almost behind him. He gazed into his reflection’s eyes, blue as his own, his most striking feature. And lashed out with his fist, breaking the mirror and his hand. Looking at his bloody knuckles, Don Grayson momentarily considered taking a trip to the emergency room, but thought better of it. He was just recognizable enough that he could wind up in the gossip rags on a slow news day if he turned up at a hospital drunk and with a broken hand. He could wait till morning. He went to bed, still wearing his suit and bow tie from work. The alcohol in his system dulled the pain, but he still tossed and turned as he slept that night.
He woke up, and stared into his own striking blue eyes. He lay there for a moment, the hangover he had well earned the previous night clouding his mind. Eventually, he forced his eyes to focus on the other Don, lying in bed next to him. The same in every way, from his toes to his subtly greying hair, to the rumpled suit and bow tie it wore. The other Don seemed to be examining him too, looking him up and down as if he, too, was curious about the double lying next to him. His eyes settled on Don’s hand, and Don looked at the double’s. It was intact. That settled it then: the one with the intact hand would be the one to go in to work today. In unison, the pair rose from bed: one called for a doctor to come and look at his hand, while the other cleaned up last night’s mess and slipped out the back exit to avoid being seen by the doctor. Don watched his duplicate leave impassively. It was the most natural, obvious thing in the world that there should be another of him. Why wouldn’t there be? If anything it would likely prove convenient having another Don Grayson around. He’d be able to go to twice as many auditions, for one thing, and sharing the load of working on Talk Time would effectively cut it down by 50%. His mind raced as the doctor bandaged and wrapped his hand, thinking of all the possibilities.
At the appropriate time he turned on the TV and watched as he walked across the stage in his trademark bowtie- the one he, too, was wearing right now. His double chatted enthusiastically with the guests, laughing at their lame jokes and nodding with interest at their tedious stories. Don got lost for a moment in his own performance: unlike the audience, he knew full well that the man he was watching was hating every minute of this, and even he could barely tell. Now that, he thought, is a man who deserves to be a star.
Don spent the next few weeks booking auditions and talking to contacts, while Don fulfilled their obligations as host of Talk Time. At first people were unenthused about the idea of casting him, as all he had to show from the last 10 years of his career were clips from Talk Time. Don didn’t let rejection get him down, however. This was the best shot he’d had in years! For so long he hadn’t been able to commit as much as he’d have liked to finding new and more stimulating work, as he couldn’t turn his back on the easy paycheck Talk Time offered him. But now, with two of him to share the burden, he figured he could just about manage. Eventually, his hand healed up, and he offered to switch places with his double for a time. But the double refused: Don had already built up momentum at finding new work. As miserable as it was, the double had to acknowledge that it made sense for him to continue working on Talk Time, while the other Don worked on the rest. Don was grateful, and more than a little ecstatic: he might never work a day on Talk Time again!
Then, after months of grinding, it happened. The phone rang, and the man on the other end introduced himself as one of the film industry’s most respected directors. And he told Don that he was to be a lead in his next film. Don felt like he could burst from excitement, and thanked the director profusely, saying that he’d had a really good feeling at the callback. The director chuckled. Actually, he said, Don’s audition had been kind of lousy. He’d only made it as far as he did because he fit the physical profile they were looking for. But then, the director had happened to turn on the TV in his office. And he’d seen Don Grayson, hosting Talk Time. And it was like he was a completely different man from the one who had sleepwalked his way through callbacks the previous day. The energy and passion of the man he had seen on the TV convinced him that Don was the man for the role. He’d just need some coaching to help bring out his potential.
Don thanked the director, and hung up the phone. It fell limply from his hand as he stared at nothing in particular. His double. He had been cast… because of his double. He had finally gotten his big break, everything was falling in place at last… and he hadn’t even earned it. Or rather, he wasn’t the he who had. He waited a couple more hours, alone in his house. Then switched on the TV. Talk Time’s cheesy theme music filled the room. Don Grayson strode out on stage, in his trademark bow tie, with a verve and energy that Don recognised as his own… but more. Better. This was who he had thought he was all along, but now that he saw it he realised he’d never approached this level of charisma. This Don was on another level entirely. The audience surged with joy as they saw their host- an audience larger than Don had ever seen during his 10 years on the show. Had they been moved to a larger studio without his knowledge? The Don on the TV settled into his chair behind his desk, and thanked the audience. And, with a smile and a look that Don could swear was aimed right at him, said that this would be the last episode of Talk Time during this time slot. Because due to a surge in rating and viewer engagement, Talk Time was moving to Prime Time.
Don sat in his living room and watched the entire episode of Talk Time. It was the best he’d ever seen- and he’d been there for 10 years’ worth. The guests were higher profile than any he’d ever been able to secure, and they treated Don like an old friend. At the end of the show, the Don on the TV thanked everyone for watching and, exaggeratedly straightening his bow tie, said he’d see them tomorrow night. The Don in the cold, empty house sat for a moment, before turning off the TV. He went to his bedroom to fetch something, then returned to the couch and sat, waiting, staring at the front door of the house.
Waiting for himself to come home.
Night had fallen by the time the other Don came home, clearly a little drunk from whatever celebrations the crew of Talk Time had thrown for the move to Prime Time. His bow tie was askew. His smile faded slightly as he saw the other Don waiting for him in the dark, but after a moment it returned as he switched on the charm. He closed the door behind him, then started toward the other Don, beginning his explanation with a “look,”.
The Don on the couch shot him in the head with the pistol he’d fetched from the bedroom, using a pillow to muffle the sound. The other Don collapsed without a sound, the life already gone from his body as his blood flowed from the hole in his head. Emotionlessly, mechanically, Don cleaned up the mess and burned the body in the firepit in his backyard, keeping only the double’s bow tie as a morbid souvenir. And went to bed.
He woke, and stared into his own striking blue eyes. It was the most natural, obvious thing in the world that there should be another of him. Why wouldn’t there be?
For the duration of the film shoot, Don worked on the film during the day and his double worked on Talk Time at night. He still couldn’t bear to work on the talk show, even if it had grown in success. The double never seemed to mind, though. And they never seemed to see it coming when he executed them, after a handful of weeks, when he felt that it was time. He didn’t quite understand how they seemed to be exact copies of him in every way, with all of his memories, but they never did anything to prevent their own deaths. Maybe they just didn’t mind. He certainly didn’t care. He simply took their bow ties, burned their bodies, and woke up next to a fresh copy the next day. Work on the film proved difficult. The spark of potential the director had seen in Don appeared to have vanished, and he grew frustrated. Worried that he might lose the role, Don quit Talk Time and started sending his double to the film set instead, and things started going much smoother. Don spent his days at home, staring at his growing collection of identical bow ties, while his double lived out his dream.
The night of the film’s premiere came, and Don was getting dressed for the event when his double entered the bedroom. Wearing the suit and bowtie that had been Don’s trademark for so many years. The pair locked eyes. And the double said, in a perfectly level tone, that he would be going to the premiere, not Don. Don laughed in his face. This was his event. He was the real Don. This night was for him. The double replied that he and his predecessors had done the real work, that Don was nothing but a fraud. That the reason he’d never made anything of himself was because he just honestly wasn’t good enough. With every word that the double spoke, Don grew more and more enraged. He was the original. This was his life. He had earned this, through years of grinding he had finally made it. And he wasn’t going to let this… thing stand in his way.
Don picked up the gun from his nightstand, and in the split second before he shot the double in the face, it smiled. Like it wanted this. And then it was gone in a cloud of blood. Don stood for a moment, panting. Then he went about the usual business of disposing of the double’s body, made sure that he hadn’t got any blood on his suit, and left for the premiere. By the time he got there, he was late, having failed to account for how long burning the corpse of his double would take. The street outside the theatre was deserted, but for a few crew members clearing up the detritus from the red carpet area. Don rushed up the stairs to the entrance, where a man who was leaving held the door open for him. He thanked the man as he passed, and glanced briefly at his face. And froze. As he stared into his own striking blue eyes. The double smiled knowingly, and simply told him to enjoy the premiere, before strolling away down the stairs and into the night. Then, after a moment, Don turned and walked into the theatre, to watch his film. His crowning glory. The life he had always deserved.
Don Grayson was taken into custody by police as he exited the premiere of his debut film. He reportedly lunged away from the officers as they attempted to restrain him- not to escape, but in order to sign the autograph book that was being held by a shocked fan. An anonymous tip had led investigators to his isolated home, where an enormous volume of incinerated human remains were found in the fire pit in his backyard, identified by a handful of partially intact bones. None of his victims were ever identified, although one lab report quote misidentified unquote one fragment of jawbone as belonging to Don Grayson himself. Some years into his indefinite stint in prison, Grayson released what he described as a memoir, although it was clearly at least partly fictional, due to its claim that his victims were a series of doppelgangers. It sold very poorly, in part due to the fact that Grayson had quickly faded back into obscurity, and partly because bookstores weren’t sure whether they should put it in the fiction or non-fiction section.
For many years after Don Grayson’s imprisonment, it was not uncommon to see reports of sightings of him in locations all around the globe. These were dismissed out of hand, of course, as Grayson was safely in prison.
And how could anyone possibly be in two places at once?
Thank you for visiting the Mistholme Museum of Mystery, Morbidity, and Mortality. We hope that you have enjoyed your visit, and that you will return one day, in this life or the next. Please, tell your friends about what a great time you had here- but don’t tell them too much! If they’re worthy, we’ll find them. Stay safe out there.