Episode Five: DESCENDING
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The Helena Fortuna
CONTENT WARNINGS: Death (Murder, Drowning), Loss of Sanity
You are now boarding the mid-sized 20th century cargo hauling ship the Helena Fortuna. While she now resides in this indoor dry-dock/ display room, in years long gone she proudly sailed the high seas, a mainstay of the shipping routes along the eastern coasts of the American continents, under the steady hand of her captain Arthur Kellogg and his crew of experienced seamen. Then, one day, the Helena Foruna was found adrift, hundreds of nautical miles from its route. The crew were nowhere to be found, though a single lifeboat was missing; the ship’s cargo was present and intact, and no damage had been done to the ship itself. There was no indication of what had occurred to the crew, and none of them were ever seen again. Many people consider it to be one of the great mysteries of the sea; these people could do with a visit to this Museum, as we know have some idea of what happened to the Helena Fortuna, thanks to an anonymous delivery we recieved of an unmarked package. Contained within was a diary, belonging to a young man by the name of Thomas Banks, a crewman who had worked aboard the Helena Fortuna for several years prior to its disappearance. Please feel free to explore the ship, and I will relate to you some relevant entries from young Thomas’s diary. As always, please do not touch anything aboard the ship; under no circumstances should you attempt to dive overboard, as it’s quite a drop to the ground, and solid concrete doesn’t make for a very satisfying splash.
We left port before dawn. Captain seemed eager to get away. Saw the sun rise over the wide open sea. Never gets old. Got yelled at for dawdling so I could take a look at it, but it was worth it. Figured I’d try again at keeping a diary. Passes the time. And if anything interesting happens, who knows, maybe I’ll make a book out of it. We’re heading south from New York to someplace in South America, should probably know where. This job is mostly just doing the same thing over and over again without thinking about it, and I’ve gotten pretty good at the not thinking part over the years. Maybe it’s time for a change. Maybe I should have thought of that before we left. Oh well.
Mack asked if I’d noticed anything strange about the captain at dinner. Told him I hadn’t. Mack thinks the captain’s on edge for some reason. Really keen to get this job done fast. That’s why we left port in such a hurry, because the captain’s got some money troubles or something. Needs the bonus for getting this one done quick. Maybe even way trying to get away from some collectors in New York? Dunno what I think of that. Mack’s always loved a bit of gossip. Not a great quality to have when you’re trapped with the same group of people for weeks on end.
There’s bugs in the bunk room again. Was supposed to be fumigated while we were docked. Kellogg’s been cutting corners again. Sick of this.
Was talking to some of the engineers. Apparently the Captain asked them if they could make the ship go faster? Goose the engines or something like that. They told him that’s not really how it works, but Harris thinks he’ll ask again down the line. Food’s worse than usual. Feel like it’s been padded with sawdust or something.
Saunders yelled at me for taking too long cleaning the deck today. Not like him to get angry over something as stupid as that. Captain’s probably pushing him to be more strict, make sure things run smoothly. Or maybe he’s just stressed too. Captain’s so on edge the whole crew can see it. Saunders is First Mate, so he probably sees it even more up close and personal than the rest of us. Guess I can sympathise. We’re all trapped in here together.
I keep missing days in this thing. I know it’s not all interesting out here but if I’m not going to do it regular what’s the point? Got to do better. Anyway, at dinner the captain came in and practically dragged Saunders away by the ear. Looked furious. Mack said he could smell drink on him but I don’t know about that, the Captain’s a pretty straight and narrow kinda fella. Whatever it was got him mad with Saunders though, he sure was mad. We could hear him screaming at him through solid metal.
Archie says we’re changing course? Doesn’t know why. Adjusted our heading by a few degrees, told to expect more in the coming days. Captain says jump, he jumps, but still, what the heck is that about? Did our destination change or something? Oh damn it, I never asked where we’re going. We’re more than two weeks in, I can’t ask now, I’ll look like a damn fool. Anyway, I tried to catch Saunders, ask what’s going on, but he just told me to mind my own business. Had the strangest look in his eyes. I’ve got a bad feeling about this whole thing.
Folks are getting restless. Guess I’m one of them. Captain’s been dictating new headings to the helmsmen and he won’t tell us where we’re going. I’m not even sure where we are now. Jeffries, the radio operator, says there hasn’t been any communication from anyone on land about a change in plan, so either this was Kellogg’s plan all along or there is no plan. He’s in charge, so what he says goes, but this is crazy. Mack says Kellogg’s gotta be some kind of Commie spy or something, and we’ve all been roped into his mission. I’m just about ready to smack him in the head I tell you what.
The sun rose dead ahead this morning. That means we’re going east, right? Like, dead east. Are we crossing the Atlantic or something? What the hell’s going on?
We must have turned. It rose on the port side today. Back to heading south, I guess. There’s no need to change course like this, right? Captain’s lost it. Soon as we reach port I’m leaving. If we ever make it to port.
One of the boys, Merrick, said there’s something wrong with the stars. Was on lookout last night, couldn’t see a single constellation he recognised. I told him that’s because we’re in the southern hemisphere now. Constellations are all different down here. He acted like that made sense and dropped it. I don’t know if that’s actually how it works. Don’t even know if we’re in the southern hemisphere yet.
Haven’t been sleeping much. When I do, I get the strangest dreams. Everything’s normal on the ship, except we’re all underwater. Whole ship is completely submerged, the surface is way above our heads. People just going about their business like being 50 feet deep is the most normal thing in the world. And then, when I point that out, everyone gets mad at me. I can’t understand what they’re saying, because we’re underwater so it’s just bubbles coming out, but they’re furious. They grab me and toss me overboard, and instead of falling I float upwards toward the surface, way too quick, and when I reach the surface I try to breath but I’m drowning, like the air is poison, and then I wake up. I think this situation might be getting to me a little.
Haven’t been able to write. Captain’s been having Saunders and some other guys do patrols and searches of the bunks and common spaces. Says the crew are distracted and lazy, need to focus on the Work. That’s what he calls it now. “The Work”. Not the job, not the ship. It’s all The Work. Something ominous about that. I’m writing this in the john, it’s the only way I can do it without being discovered. This is all gonna be evidence when I sue this damn company. Nobody should put up with crap like this for a job. Gonna keep this diary on my person from now on just in case. I would have thought Saunders would try to convince the Captain that this was crazy, or at least that he’d just pretend to do the searches, but he’s changed. He doesn’t talk much. Just kind of does what the Captain says. There’s something about his eyes, too. He looks dead inside.
Merrick wouldn’t shut up about the stars. Saying they were wrong. That this whole trip was wrong. Saunders shut him up. Threw him overboard. I felt a little sorry for him, but he was being a damn nuisance. There’s nothing wrong with the stars. There haven’t even been any stars in the sky for a week now.
Mack woke me up. Told me to come with him. Dragged me down belowdecks. Looked nervous, like we were doing something wrong. Wound up in the engine room. Engines were off. Cold. Mack says he doesn’t know how long they’ve been off for. Doesn’t know how we didn’t notice. I went back to bed.
The Captain spoke to everyone at lunch today. I’m finally starting to enjoy fish by the way. He says we’re almost at our destination. The Work is nearly upon us. Mack and a couple of others spoke up. Asked where we’re going. Things got heated. A fight started. Three men dead on the ground. I cleaned it up. Got to keep the ship tidy.
There’s talk of mutiny. Like we’re pirates in the olden days or something. Factions forming. Still don’t know why some people are siding with the captain. They all seem different. Quiet and angry. It’s probably at least a third of the crew. Mack’s trying to rile people up, make them join his mutiny. I think I’ll try to stay neutral. Don’t know how this is going to shake out but it’s going nowhere good.
I think something’s going on, I heard a
I woke up in the lifeboat. Mack and a few of the others. Apparently the mutiny happened. Failed. I got hit in the head in a struggle, Mack dragged me away. I don’t know why we’re in a lifeboat. Nobody’s saying much. Mack is hurt. I think we’re just drifting.
Mack’s so pale. I don’t think anyone here knows how to help him. I guess when he dies we’ll push him overboard. Will he float or sink? I don’t remember which is right anymore.
The sky is wrong. Merrick was right. It’s not supposed to look like waves.
We’ve arrived. This place is huge. Dark. Not much sunlight makes it down here I guess. I wonder if this is where the Captain was taking us. He was a good man. I hope he made it here too.
I don’t need a captain now. I have something more. I have found my purpose. We are all in His service, now and forever. The Work must be done. This is much better than being trapped like sardines on that ship. I dream so deeply. I don’t know how I’m keeping my diary dry. I don’t mind though. It’s convenient. Think I’ll see if I can send it back home. Spread the word about this place. I think I’ll be really happy here.
A Cursed Doubloon
CONTENT WARNINGS: Death (Murder, Execution)
In this cabinet, we have an antique Spanish Doubloon, a gold coin estimated to have been minted in Spain in the mid 16th Century. It is made from real gold, and at the time of its creation it would have been worth 32 real- not an insignificant amount, but not entirely significant either. A wealthy man could be counted on to have several of these in his coin purse at any given moment. Today, of course, a coin such as this would be considered a priceless antique, thousands of times more valuable than when it was minted. This coin, however, has been treated throughout its existence as if it were worth a great deal more than even that: many men across history have considered it worth dying for, and in their tragic wakes the legend of the cursed doubloon has grown and grown. The following story has been painstakingly pieced together by the Museum’s Researchers through a great deal of time and effort. You might think it impossible to chart the movements of a single coin throughout hundreds of years of history, and that’s why you’d never make it as a Mistholme Researcher.
The first man to die over the doubloon did so on the very first day of the coin’s existence. The doubloon somehow became lodged in the works of the machinery which created it, causing an accident that came within an inch of killing the young man operating the machine. The doubloon was retrieved, and found to have had the distinctive groove you can see on its face gouged into it in the accident. As it was now unsuitable for release, the foreman ordered the coin melted down; however, the man who had nearly died instead pocketed the coin, declaring to some of his co-workers that, from that day on, it would be his ‘Lucky’ coin. He was mistaken. One of his co-workers, who had accrued substantial debts, accosted him that evening in an attempt to blackmail the thief. Things got out of hand, and the man who had taken the coin quote “fell down a flight of stairs” unquote to his death. The Blackmailer panicked and fled the city to lie low, with nothing but the coin. He made it half a day before having a run in with some highwaymen, who took the coin and his life, despite his insistence that it was defective, merely his “lucky coin”. The Highwaymen’s next encounter turned out to be a military patrol, and so the coin made its way to the pocket of a soldier, whose company were en route to a coastal town where the soldier and some of his comrades made an ill-fated attempt at desertion by boarding a merchant ship. Despite the soldier’s insistence that his new “lucky coin” would bless their escape, a sailor on said ship deduced their identities and reported them, and as a reward was granted the contents of the soldier’s pack after his execution; so, the coin made its way out to sea nonetheless.
The Sailor proved to be the most long-lived of the coin’s owners so far, lasting several months aboard his vessel: he might even have survived to see dry land again, had he not won quite so many hands of poker during the journey, gloating to another sailor about how his “lucky coin” had helped him win, and of the pleasures his newfound wealth would buy him at their next stop in port. His destination was promptly changed to “The Ocean Floor” and the coin’s new owner successfully passed off his disappearance as a tragic accident, a feat he quietly attributed to the good fortune with which his lucky coin had blessed him. Unfortunately for him, the ship soon crossed the path of a pirate vessel, who swiftly overwhelmed the merchant vessel’s defence through force. Though the coin’s owner survived the initial assault, he made the mistake of attempting to hide his coin from the pirate’s searches, and was punished greatly for it. He was one of the few owners of the coin who survived beyond the loss of the coin, though he wished ever after that he hadn’t, and never saw land again.
The pirate vessel that now held the coin among the rest of its plunder was named The Clumsy Petrel, and it had plundered these waters for several years prior to this encounter. Those among you with basic pattern recognition abilities might expect that its time on the high seas came to an end not long after, and you would be right. The Clumsy Petrel had been out at sea for many months, and it had amassed a great deal of loot in that time. Its hold was full to bursting with wealth- now including one Doubloon in particular- and its crew were eager to return to shore and split the take. The captain, however, had different plans in mind. Part of the reason that the Petrel had been out at sea for quite so long was to avoid certain enemies he had made on land; the captain feared that, no matter how far they had journeyed from their original port, his troubles could have followed them. As such, the captain did not share his crew’s excitement for landfall, and despite the eagerness of the crew he had no intention of returning to port. His journal, recovered by Museum Researchers, shows that he was quite overcome with paranoia, believing that his crew were scheming against him; he made a number of contingency plans for the event that they should turn on him. Many of these were frankly impractical, but the captain was certain that his newly acquired “Lucky Coin” would see him through. As time went on, this fear that his crew would betray him became a self-fulfilling prophecy, as their eagerness turned to impatience, then to frustration. Eventually, the captain was forced to act: he gathered the men and told them that they would make port- but only for one night in order to resupply, and that the take would not yet be split. In his paranoia, he believed that the best course of action would be to keep his crew together, in order to prevent any of them from leaving and potentially betraying him to his enemies. Unfortunately, this was instead his undoing, as the crew betrayed him in a different way: mutiny. That night, a fight broke out between mutineers and men loyal to the captain, which inadvertently led to the destruction of The Clumsy Petrel when the gunpowder stocks caught alight. The captain was the only survivor: as soon as fighting broke out, he grabbed a handful of coins- including one in particular- and leapt into a lifeboat. His paranoia had not saved him, however- merely prolonged his death. He washed up on a deserted island some time later, with only one coin remaining in his pockets, having lost the rest beneath the waves. With the last of his strength he buried all the money he had, filled in his final journal entry, and died lying atop the burial spot.
So the coin was lost for over two hundred years, buried beneath one of its victims. Eventually, it was happened upon by a pair of brothers from a wealthy family, young men who were exploring the islands in the region in their dinghy, searching for treasure and adventure. They pulled his diary from his pockets and, upon reading the final entry, dug up the coin that he had hidden. As they paddled home, the older brother remarked that the captain’s body and journal were a significant historical discovery, and precisely the sort of thing that would prove his manliness to the young lady he had his eye on- and there was something about the coin he’d buried as his last act that felt significant too. The younger brother, who resented the favouritism his older sibling had received all his life, and whom also had intentions toward the same young lady, took this to be the final straw in their strained relationship, and so after a brief scuffle in the dinghy, he returned home alone, now the sole heir to the family legacy- and the legacy of the coin.
The coin became something of a symbol to the family, as the younger brother kept it close for the rest of his life, believing it brought him luck. He married the young lady, and they had several children. Before long, the younger brother’s father died, and he inherited the family fortune. He was shrewd, and the fortune grew substantially in his time. He regularly showed the coin to his sons, telling them that it was a token of prosperity, of wit… and of doing everything necessary to get ahead. He was very long-lived for a man in his time, and especially for a man who held the doubloon. Too long lived, in the opinion of his oldest son, who grew tired of waiting for his time to inherit the family fortune, and poisoned his father and took the coin- and fortune- for himself. He met a similar fate some decades later, by a son who was himself killed by a rival family at the end of a bitter feud, the family fortune- and now-legendary coin- being seized in the process.
At this point the authorities finally became involved, and the coin- as well as quite a lot of other, less interesting money- was seized in a police raid, while the family patriarch was killed in prison some days later.
At long last, the Museum acquired the Doubloon through means you don’t need to know, and should know better than to ask about. Despite extensive study, however, there is significant debate among the staff here as to whether or not the doubloon is, itself, an Alternatural item. Certainly, it deserves a place in the museum, as its story is fascinating and definitely worthy of being told, but the coin itself does not appear to pass any of our standard tests for detecting the Alternatural. And yet, over 400 years of history, everyone who has come into contact with it has firmly believed that it has great significance- specifically that it is “lucky”, despite all evidence to the contrary- and has paid a terrible price for acting on that belief. And we think that’s interesting. Incidentally, there are some among the Research Staff who strongly believe that the Doubloon has brought great fortune to the museum since we acquired it.
At this point, the Museum would like to advise visitors that- should they find themselves eyeing up the Doubloon, weighing up their chances of getting away with “nabbing” it for themselves- this room has security mechanisms well beyond State-Of-The-Art, and the Head Of Security would, quote, “Like to see anyone bloody try it” unquote.
This is not a threat.
It is a warning.
EVERYTHING IS FINE
CONTENT WARNINGS: Unreality
At the end of this corridor, you will see a large empty glass case. It isn’t supposed to be empty. Please make your way to the nearest exit. Don’t run. Everything is fine. If you hear an alarm, shouting, or the unmistakable sound of rending flesh: no you didn’t. You didn’t hear anything. Everything is fine. Just keep walking. Please ensure that you do not think about your current situation, which is not a situation, because everything is fine. You should think about happy thoughts, like what you’re going to do when you get home, or the faces of your loved ones. Do you have a pet? If so, do not think about it. That will just make things worse, not that there’s any way that things could get any worse. Which is to say, there’s nothing happening right now that could make things anything other than absolutely fine. Everything is fine. Everything is fine. [ Voice speeding up] 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, of course you will why wouldn’t you everything’s fine RUN.