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Episode Thirty-Eight: INCONCEIVABLE

 

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 deposit your audio device in the nearest incinerator.

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 Schoolgirl-like Giggling that may occur during your visit.

Enjoy your tour.

And good luck.



 

Glassway Expedition #3- “Heaven”

CONTENT WARNINGS: References to Brainwashing, References to Death


 

Retrieval Expedition Report: Alternatural Shelter 111 Glassway Traversal. Compiled by the Audio Tour Guide accompanying the Retrieval Team formerly codenamed Forest. 

 

Whereas most Glassway Expeditions are authorised due to the reports made by those who visited the other side during Lockdown, Glassway 111 was selected for the opposite reason: There were no reports about it whatsoever, as there was nobody from Shelter 111 around to make them. When lockdown lifted it took some time for Museum staff to realise that there had been no sign of the people, mostly museum patrons, who had entered Shelter 111 at the beginning of Lockdown. When staff went to check the Shelter, they found it empty. A Retrieval Team was sent through the Glassway to search for the missing people and rescue them if need be. They also failed to return. Drones sent through the Glassway showed no sign of danger: rather, the place on the other side appeared to be peaceful and verdant: blue skies and fields of purple flowers, with what appeared to be a settlement in the distance. And yet, nobody who went through the Glassway came back. Serious consideration was given to whether or not it was worth the risk of sending more people through- resources were stretched quite thin, and the remaining Heads of Department were still assessing the scope of the Museum’s problems. However, a small detachment was eventually authorized, due to a suggestion made by me: send a volunteer through with a copy of the Audio Tour Guide. Even if the worst should happen to the volunteer, the Audio Tour Guide they carried would be able to give live reports of exactly what occurred. If nothing else, at least we’d get some closure. 

 

A volunteer was found in a Retrieval Agent who was given the codename “Rescue”, who had no family or major ties to anyone outside the Museum, and was therefore more willing to take such a risky assignment than most. He was briefed on the situation with 111- as well as the situation with me, and my new abilities- and, with an audio device and earpiece added to his standard Retrieval equipment, he traversed the Glassway from which nobody had ever returned. The other side was just as the drone footage had shown: a beautiful, flourishing field of wild purple flowers, a soft breeze carrying a gentle floral scent- so Rescue told me- and the sound of birds chirping in a nearby copse. Fluttering flags could be seen peeking over the nearest hill, marking the location of the settlement that had been sighted by the drone- our first destination on this side of the Glassway, and hopefully the place that the missing people would be found alive and well. But Rescue wasn’t moving. He stood in place, only a few steps from the Glassway- which had manifested in a pool of crystal clear water, perfectly still despite the breeze- marveling at the world around him. He mumbled something to himself, too softly to hear, a faint smile curling the edges of his mouth. It wasn’t quite trance-like; it was more meditative, as if he was suddenly feeling a peace deeper than he had ever felt before. I almost felt guilty interrupting him, but we were there for a purpose; he apologised, for what it’s worth, and swiftly set off for the settlement. But, while I may not be the best at understanding human emotions, I am quite observant; in only a handful of seconds his whole demeanour had changed, his shoulders relaxed. 

 

With the benefit of hindsight, Rescue may have been a poor choice for this assignment; his lack of ties to the world outside of the Museum made him seem an apt choice for what, at the outset, appeared to be a dangerous mission- one from which a volunteer might not return. But… well, I’m getting ahead of myself. We crested the hill, unsure of what we expected to see. We were hopeful that we might meet some locals who could give us some indication of what had happened to the previous visitors. We certainly weren’t expecting to find them right over the first hill, none the worse for wear… But there they were. Peacefully going about their business in a bustling little settlement among a crowd of other unfamiliar people- though they didn’t look like any people we’d seen before. They were of all shapes and sizes, all colours and coats. Some had the same number of limbs as Rescue- uhh, that is to say, four- while others had more, or fewer. Some looked much the same as humans, only with orange skin and hair that glittered like fire. Others we wouldn’t have even have assumed were sapient were it not for the fact that they were; shaggy doglike things and plants that walked on their roots. All of them mingled together, talking and laughing and living as one people- and that people included the ones who were missing from the Museum. 

 

As we drew closer, a member of Team Forest- codenamed Birch- saw us coming and let out a cry of joy. Soon, we were ourselves surrounded by the delighted crowd, almost overwhelmed with the chorus of welcomes and cheers. The world became a blur as we were ushered into the settlement, the residents introducing themselves, showing us around, offering Rescue an assortment of food and drink- some familiar, some not. It was like Rescue- and I, by extension- was a distinguished guest, a stranger in need, and a cherished friend all at once. It was… wonderful. But while Rescue chatted with the people and seemed to genuinely have a good time, I felt somehow uncomfortable. It was all so lovely, so wholesome… surely there was a catch somewhere? Some horrible secret underneath it all? And besides- we were there to do a job, to retrieve the missing people. And here they all were, healthy, happy, and accounted for. We’d found them. It was time to go home. I politely tried to get Rescue’s attention, but he was distracted by some music that was being played by a nearby villager- literally, she seemed to have a flute made of bone for a nose. I waited for the song to end and just barely managed to get his attention before another villager could reach him with a platter of food. He seemed a little irritated at the interruption, but his sense of duty overrode his sense of frustration and he quickly got to work rounding up the people he had come here, allegedly, to rescue. But it was soon apparent that most had no interest in being rounded up, let alone returning to the Museum and their previous lives. They weren’t upset or angry at the suggestion- nobody in that place was ever upset or angry- but they simply couldn’t see why they would ever leave. Not even the Museum Patrons with families whom they hadn’t seen in months could understand why they should go home. This was their home now. We didn’t say it, but by this point we were of course concerned that they might have been under the influence of some sort of Alternatural compulsion. This was definitely a lovely place- I imagine it was even more wonderful for people with a wider range of senses and a broader context than I do- but these people had been stuck here for months. Why wouldn’t they at least want to pay a visit home? Eventually, Rescue was able to convince most of the Museum staff, including all of Team Forest, to come back with us for testing. Perhaps it was because they hadn’t been there as long as those who had gone there during the Lockdown, or perhaps their sense of duty to the Museum was stronger than the patron’s ties to their previous lives. Whatever the reason, I was certainly quite relieved that we were able to accomplish our objective, at least in part. I imagined that, once we had gotten some of them home, we could figure out what was going on and find a way to get the rest of them to come to their senses.

 

It was less than encouraging that each of the Agents who agreed to return with us insisted, calmly but firmly, that they would be making their way back through Glassway 111 when the testing was done. I was now, privately, quite convinced that there was something wrong with the place on the other side; it was nice, sure, but this was clearly not rational behaviour. Rescue brought team Forest and the rest through the Glassway and they were quickly taken away to a specifically designated section in the Research Department: part infirmary, part laboratory, it perfectly matched the dual purposes of understanding what had happened to these people and curing them of it. The Researchers ran a full gamut of tests on the returned Staff as they answered question after question about every aspect of their time on the other side of Glassway 111. The test subjects put up with all of this in good spirits, stating that they were happy to help. The tests lasted some time, but through it all they never complained: they simply smiled, a far-off look in their eyes, as they waited for their chance to return to the place on the other side. They didn’t complain even as tests dragged on far longer than expected, and even as they repeated tests they had already accomplished… because the fact of the matter is that none of the tests proved anything. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. In the strictest sense of the word, as far as one can prove a negative, the tests proved quite conclusively that there was absolutely nothing whatsoever wrong with the people who had traversed Glassway 111. Physically, mentally, Alternaturally… nothing. They may actually have been in better health than they had when they’d left the Museum. But that didn’t make sense, so the testing continued. 

 

It was difficult to accept that… at some point we just had to let them go. They wanted to leave, and we couldn’t prove that they were incapable of making rational decisions- we’d proven the opposite, in fact. We couldn’t hold them against their will based on a hunch that something was wrong; of course, elsewhere in the Museum that was already happening to the Security Department, though I had no idea about that. There was a sense that we were sending them to their doom- which is obviously ludicrous, because they were returning to a place that is, apparently, the most wonderful place known to humanity. Nobody could resist it. Except for me. Research did wonder why I, alone, was able to resist the allure of that place. On the one hand, maybe it was another piece of evidence that there was something wrong: the only person unaffected was Artificial, so that must mean… something. Or maybe it didn’t! We still don’t know. 

 

Maybe there’s nothing wrong with that place. Maybe it really is just that impossibly wonderful… and the problem is us, for being so certain that it’s impossible? Why can’t we believe that something as perfect and beautiful as what those people saw could ever exist? Are we just cynical? What does that say about us, that we hear about a place that’s so heavenly that nobody wants to leave, and treat it as if it’s a sickness? That we’ve sealed off Alternatural Shelter 111 so that nobody can ever go there, nobody can experience that bliss, just in case it’s a trick? Have we ruined Humanity’s chance at something better out of a pointless fear?

 

Rescue went with them, when they left. Why wouldn’t he? I promised him, and the rest, that the cameras in Shelter 111 would be left online. That I’d be monitoring them, in case they ever came back. Rescue seemed appreciative, but confused. Like he appreciated the gesture, even if he didn’t understand the motivation behind it. I hope we’ll see them all again. I wonder if that makes me a bad person? 

 

I’m worried I’ve editorialised a bit here. It turns out it’s quite difficult to remain detached when you’re discussing events you yourself were privy to. However I feel I am still relatively objective on the subject, as I personally didn’t impact events too much. It was my first Retrieval mission and I think it went okay. They’ve even let me go on a number since- I’m actually on several right now, so I guess I did okay. Okay, I’m definitely rambling now- I hope I don’t have to redo this...

 

Conclusions: Mission to locate missing Shelter Occupants and Retrieval Team- “Successful”. Alternaturality: Unknown. Presence of Sapient Life: Confirmed, unclear if native.. Presence of Hostile Entities: Unknown. Alternatural Shelter sealed, to be placed under perpetual monitoring. 

 

End of report.


 

A Headsman’s Axe

CONTENT WARNINGS: References to Capital Punishment, Blood

 

Hanging from the wall before you is an axe: with a solid iron head and a long wooden shaft, both well-worn with age and use, you can almost feel the history of this exhibit, the blood it has spilled and the lives it has ended. The Mistholme Museum typically tries to avoid including exhibits based around weapons, both for safety reasons and just because they feel like a bit of a gross thing to put on display- not to mention the dangers having weapons lying around in the vicinity of some of our exhibits could pose. However, this axe is not a weapon: it is a tool, if a rather grim one. This is a headsman's axe, designed and built specifically for the task of carrying out executions some centuries ago. 

 

It was used by a long line of headsmen, serving a long line of kings and queens, ending the lives of hundreds, perhaps thousands of people. Some were criminals. Some, traitors. And some, simply unfortunate in the time into which they had been born. The head and shaft are original, and as such the stains of its victims blood can still be found within both- though it is in no condition to be used ever again. 

 

It is usually around this point that this description would segue into a summary of the terrible power this axe contains as a result of the lives it has taken, or of a specific incident during its history, such as the death of a particularly noteworthy individual. However, this exhibit is a little different to most. Because, aside from its gory history, there is nothing special about this axe whatsoever. Not all of the exhibits within the Mistholme Museum are outright Alternatural in nature: some are more ambiguous, or are tied into a common myth, or are just outright strange enough that, on an indescribable level, they belong here. Morbidity and Mortality is in our name, after all, so it would not be unreasonable for the staff to consider this axe worthy of display simply for its historical value. 

 

But that isn’t quite it. Because surely, there has to be more to this axe. It has existed for centuries, spilled the blood of countless, been the source of untold misery… How, after all that, can it possibly remain a thing of wood and metal? Shouldn’t it be something more? The axe was brought to the Museum simply because The Research Department heard that it had been located, and assumed that- with all its history- it must have become Alternatural along the way. How could it not? How could it do all that it has done, and remain… mundane? 

 

What does it say about the world we live in, that something like this could exist, and still be utterly mundane?

 

There is another exhibit, theoretically similar to this one, based around a Guillotine that came to life and carried out executions of its own volition after a single taste of blood. What, exactly, makes these two things different? 

 

The axe is on display not just as an exhibit, but as a reminder- to patron and staff member alike- that we do not truly understand the world we live in. That it is both a stranger, and more ordinary place than we can ever know.

 

And that, perhaps, it is the latter that is more disquieting.



 

Retrieval Expedition Update

 

CONTENT WARNINGS: Violence

 

Restoration:
Guide, are you ready for our meeting?


Guide:
Uhh, yes ma’am! I’m not sure where the Head of Retrieval is, he should be here by now.

 

Restoration:
Well we informally start, I don’t imagine there’s going to be too much to go over.

 

Guide:
...No, Ma’am, I’m afraid not. None of the Retrieval teams I’m seconded with are any closer to finding the Curator, or the Man than they were last meeting. Team Gambit has been sheltering in place from a blizzard for three days now- Agent King says that if it gets worse we may have to turn back. Team Raptor is continuing to follow the Curator’s trail with the help of a local source, though it’s unclear how old the trail might be or how far it’s leading us. 

 

Restoration:
Is this source trustworthy?

Guide:
I think so? I’m no expert on reading people, but if it wanted to eat us it could have done so some time ago.

 

Restoration:
Hm. Encouraging. Go on. 

 

Guide:
Team Skywhale are preparing to redeploy, they’ll be heading through Glassway 510 next. Team Felidae are almost ready to move out from their base camp, they’ve gotten quite good at walking upside down. Team Chorus-

Radio sounds.

 

Retrieval:
I need the medical bay prepped and ready ASAP, we have an injured person heading their way.

 

Guide:
Oh, uhh- yes sir, I'll let them know right away!

 

Restoration:
What’s going on? Who’s hurt?

 

Retrieval:

That Officer you and the Guide were so interested in.

 

Guide:
Astrid? Oh no…

 

Restoration:
What’s happened to her? Is she okay?

 

The sounds of bustling and footsteps, wheels squeaking, doors slamming open

 

Retrieval:

She got jumped by her cellmates. Beat the crap out of her.

 

Restoration:
Has anything like this happened before? 

 

Retrieval:
No, nothing. None of the Security team have- well, they’ve never gotten physical with each other since they were put back here. Seems like they probably thought she was talking to us too much or something.

 

Guide:
Oh no…

 

Restoration:
That is speculation, this is not the time for that. Just get her to the medbay.


Retrieval:
Yeah, yeah, we’re on our way through the Hidden Wing now.

 

Guide:
I really hope he’s wrong about this, I’d hate it if Astrid got hurt because of us.

 

Restoration:

There is no point in getting worked up about it until we know what’s actually happened, Guide. It’s touching that you care about her, but for now what matters is getting her help. We’ll see what she has to say, and need be we can separate her from the rest of the Security Department. 

 

Guide:

Okay. Okay, sure. That’s true.

 

Restoration:
Is the Medbay ready for her? 

 

Guide:
Yes, I’ve let them know she’s on her way. They’ll be all set for-

 

Clattering, impacts, sounds of exertion, footsteps running away

 

Restoration:
What the hell is going on? Hello?

 

Retrieval:
God damn, she’s- nnnnghh, what the hell. 

 

Guide:
What’s happened?!
 

Retrieval:
She attacked us, I think she kicked me in the goddamn head. Jesus. 

 

Restoration:
What?! She hasn’t opened her eyes, has she?

 

Retrieval:
How the hell should I know, I haven’t opened mine. Hold on… Oh jesus. What the hell…

 

Restoration:
What’s happened now?

 

Guide:
Is she okay?

Retrieval:
She’s gone. She’s- the gurney’s empty, she’s not here. I’m- Astrid! Astrid?!

 

Restoration:
If she’s got her headphones on she won’t be able to hear you, and if she’s taken them off she’s got worse things to worry about. 

 

Retrieval:
Well what the hell do you want me to do, then?

 

Restoration:
Head for the entrance to the Negative-Perception Zone. Guide, tell the Agents guarding the entrance to watch out for Astrid- it’s the only way out, so if she doesn’t head that way she hasn’t escaped at all. 

 

Guide:
Escaped? Oh my-

 

Restoration:
Guide! Tell the Agents-

 

Guide:
I’ve told them, they’re told! Sir, how far away were you from the entrance when she got away?
 

Retrieval:

I don’t know, uhhh. Two turns, not far. 

 

Restoration:

Okay. She should reach the entrance any second now.

 

Guide:
She shouldn’t be able to see, though. How can she see in the Hidden Wing?

Restoration:
We can add it to the list. Has she reached the entrance yet?

 

Guide:

No.

 

Retrieval:

She should have by now, I’m pretty sure she was sprinting.

 

Restoration: Are you okay? Your Agents?

Retrieval:
Now you ask. I’m fine, probably a concussion. The others, too. Shaw’s blindfold came off but she had her eyes closed so no biggie.

 

Restoration:
Good. Guide, has she-

 

Guide:
What if she’s not heading for the exit. 

 

Beat

 

Retrieval:

Oh no. Crap.

 

Running

 

Restoration:
You’re not saying- she doesn’t even know about the Wish Engine, how could she-

 

Retrieval:
She shouldn't be able to see in the Hidden Wing, either. 

 

Restoration:
Engage Lockdown Protocol, NOW. 

 

The Lockdown claxon sounds

 

Retrieval:

Guide, do you have any cameras in there?

 

Guide:
The Head of Research has, quote “repurposed” unquote all of my cameras and pointed them at the Wish Engine itself, for her research. I can’t see the rest of the room. 

 

Restoration:
Microphones? Speakers?

 

Retrieval:
Damn it, I think I lost count of my steps when she kicked me in the face, Guide can you help me out? 

 

Guide:

Ahh, yes, you’re right in front of the elevator shaft.

 

Retrieval:

I’m what?! Holy- Ok, heading down. 

 

Restoration:
Guide! Microphones and speakers in the Wish Engine’s chamber!

 

Guide:
This would be a lot easier if you’d do this on separate calls. There’s still no speakers, she disabled all of them. Microphones, also no- wait. There’s one, I think she’s been using them for her experiments too but she only half dismantled one. It doesn’t have power right now, I think it’s a little broken-

 

Retrieval/Restoration:
Turn it on!

 

Guide:
Okay, turning it on!
 

Muffled, crackling sounds and speaking. Unintelligible.

 

Restoration:
Is that Astrid or the Head of Restoration, I can’t tell.

 

Guide:
I don’t know, sorry, I-

 

Despite the distortion, the Wish Engine’s voice is unmistakable. The sounds of the machinery overwhelm for a moment.


Restoration:

Well I recognised that. 

 

Retrieval:
I’m almost there! 

 

Restoration:
Guide are you sure you can’t say anything? Ask her to stop, tell her-

 

Guide:
There aren’t any speakers! I can’t

 

More speaking from Astrid. The Engine responds, and the machinery clamours again. Then, silence.

 

Guide:

It’s stopped. 

 

Restoration:

What does that mean?
 

Retrieval:
Ok, I’ve reached the Wish Engine’s room, I’m going to breach now.

The sound of the door slamming open. Running footsteps

Hey! Hey, are you okay? What’s happened, where is she?

 

Restoration:
What is it? What’s happened, what did she wish for?

Guide:
Is the Head of Research okay?

Retrieval:
She’s fine. Looks like Astrid just knocked her to the floor- she’s a tough old bird, though, she’s already getting her dictaphone back out. 

 

Restoration:
And what about Astrid? What’s she done?

Retrieval:
I have… no visual on Astrid. She’s not here. Where did she go? Shit.

 

Restoration:
What? What is it? Is the Head of Research okay?
 

Fumbling sounds as Retrieval hands Research his microphone


Research:
She vanished. Made two wishes, and vanished. 

 

Restoration:
Vanished? Where did she go?

 

Research:
Home. She wished to go home. 

 

Retrieval:
Okay, Guide we need to dispatch a team to Astrid’s home address, it should be in the personnel files-

 

Guide:

No, I- no I don’t think that’s right, sir?

Retrieval:
What do you mean?

 

Restoration:
What are you talking about, Guide?

 

Guide:
I’m getting calls from your Agents back at the Security Department’s cells, sir… they’re gone. They’re all just… gone.

 

Restoration:
Who’s gone?

 

Guide:
Security. They all just vanished. All of them.

 

Beat

 

Retrieval:

What the hell just happened?

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