Episode Six: ELUSIVE
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 MegaDeth that may occur during your visit.
Enjoy your tour.
And good luck.
CONTENT WARNINGS: Surrealist Paranoia
In this secure cabinet, you will see something you may recognise! It is the key to the vehicle that transported you to the Museum today! Don’t worry, the keys will be returned, just as soon as you complete a quick survey! The information gathered will be used to improve the Museum experience for future patrons, and for other deeply classified purposes. You will be posed a series of questions via your audio device. It is not necessary for you to say your answers out loud, as we will collect that information through other methods, however feel free to do so anyway if that brings you some form of comfort or sense of control over your life, or if you just want to look a little bit weird.
Question One: On a scale from one to ten, with one being the lowest and ten being the highest, how much have you enjoyed your time thus far at the Museum? I see. Thank you for your honesty.
Question Two: On a scale from one to ten, with ten being the lowest and one being the highest, how likely would you say you are to recommend the Museum to others? We appreciate that!
Question Three: Have you felt any intense feelings of fear or dread while exploring the Museum and its exhibits? Please be honest.
Question Four: Has anything the Museum Audio Tour Guide said or done stood out as unusual or contrary to the intended tour experience? Please be… generous, with your response.
Question Five: Have you seen anyone during your time in the Museum stood out as unusual or strange? Hmm.
Question Six: Have you seen any people during your time in the Museum whom you would describe as “Dark” or “Mysterious”. I see.
Question Seven: Did you dream last night?
Question Eight: Was the man in your dream? Ah.
Question Nine: Did it seem like he was trying to replace you or subvert your role within your own dream?
Question Ten: Did he speak to you? If so, how would you describe his voice? Oh dear.
Question Eleven: On a scale from one to ten, with one being the lowest and ten being the highest, how terrified were you of this man?
Question Twelve: Did you tell him anything? Did you tell him that you were going to the museum today? Did he tell you to come here?
Question Thirteen: How *Unintelligble static and distortion*
Question Fourteen: Do you think you will return to the Museum at some point in the future? If so, do you have any suggestions for how we can improve the experience? Please whisper these suggestions into a sleeping loved one’s ear at the earliest opportunity.
Your feedback is important to us. Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. Your keys will return to your pocket through uncertain means shortly. We hope you enjoy the rest of your time at the Mistholme Museum of Mystery, Morbidity, and Mortality, and that your dreams are free of unwanted incursions.
The Old Bacchus Road
This exhibit is a little different from our typical displays. As you can see, it is composed of a variety of photographs, with a variety of subjects, from landscapes to structures to people. This is because this exhibit is centred around a location, rather than an event or object: the mysterious location known as the Old Bacchus Road.
Many souls have traveled the Old Bacchus Road over the decades since its establishment, and all of those who make the journey wind up at the Roadhouse at the road’s end. The Manager of the roadhouse welcomes them inside, and asks them for their stories- both of their journey along the road, and the path that led them to the road in the first place. At the conclusion of their story, she takes their photograph for the Roadhouse wall and bids them farewell. All the photographs you see before you were removed by the Manager to free up space for new ones, and donated to the Museum. She said it was an honour to have her establishment commemorated here, and welcomes the increased attention this exhibit may bring. Upon the Manager’s request, you will now hear the story of one of her past visitors, which she hand picked as an outstanding example of both the great joy the Bacchus Road can bring, but also the limitations of what it can accomplish, and the inherent risks of committing oneself to something that is not wholly understood. Because you see, the Old Bacchus Road has a reputation for healing the broken, and for helping those who feel that there is only darkness in their lives to see the light once more.
The individual that this exhibit focuses on is named Simon Walcroft, who you can see in the photograph labeled “Simon and Anil”. Simon is the one on the right, and he’s the one we’ll be focusing on for the time being. Simon’s connection to the Old Bacchus Road begins at a low point in his life. A relationship with a woman whom he had thought would be with him forever had recently come to a bitter end; his career was stagnating; and as a result, with most of his friends having either settled down and had a family or surpassed him in their careers, he was left feeling as though all the roads he had walked down had led him to a dead end. His despondency did not go unnoticed. His friends, who did still care about him, worried and talked about what they could do to help him get out of his funk. But what could they do? What help can you give to a man for whom life was just something that happened to other people?
It was a friend of a friend who eventually provided the answer. One of Simon’s old schoolmates was chatting to a friend, and one way or another the topic turned to how worried Simon’s friend was for him, and how he didn’t know what to do for him. The friend told him not to worry, that there was a solution. He provided the friend with a map of the countryside some distance away, with a certain spot circled. A note read: entrance to Old Bacchus Road. Simon’s friend pushed for more information, but all he was told was to convince Simon to go on a road trip, alone, and visit The Old Bacchus Road, with the promise that it would help. Simon’s friend dutifully visited Simon the next day, and despite Simon’s questioning (Why do you think this will help? What’s so special about this place anyway? Are you sure this map is right? It looks like this Bacchus Road hits a dead end after 100 metres.) he was able to convince him to take the trip. After all, even if this Old Bacchus Road business was nonsense, it couldn’t hurt to get away from everything and go on a drive in the countryside could it?
Simon left the next week, taking his old sedan and some supplies out on the road out of the city for the first time in years. Up until recently, Simon wouldn’t have said he was in a rut, but the events of the past few weeks had opened his eyes to how stagnant his life really was. As he drove away from civilization, expected to feel the tension in his body ease, at least a little bit, but it seemed that no amount of clean country air could cleanse his spirit. Dismayed, he drove on for the rest of the day, through grassland and then into a more mountainous region. The map he had been given put this “Old Bacchus Road” almost a full days journey from home, and along the way he stopped in at a roadhouse for lunch. While there, he asked the staff if they’d ever heard of this Old Bacchus Road: he recieved a mixture of blank stares and skepticism, and Simon began to suspect that he was the subject of a prank. Eventually, however, he arrived at the junction which- according to the map- led to the Old Bacchus Road, and sure enough there was a small dirt road, curving away out of sight around a hill. He sat, idling, in his car for a few minutes, considering what he was about to do. The sky was just starting to change colour as the twilight began, and he wondered if it was wise to continue driving into the night. Then again, according to the map there wasn’t much of a road to see anyway. He sighed, wondering if he’d wasted a day, and slowly drove off down the Old Bacchus Road.
As he rounded the first corner it became immediately clear that the map was incorrect about the length of the road: rather than ending after a few hundred metres, it continued on out of his sight, winding off into the hills and valleys. Simon drove cautiously down the road, unnerved by the stillness of the trees, the lengthening shadows, the sudden absurdity of what he was doing. He glanced at his phone and saw that he had no reception. He was following a paper map to a destination he didn’t know, and he had no reason to think any other copies existed. Did anyone know where he was? What if he needed help? What if he got lost? What if the car broke down?
The car juddered and stalled beneath him, rolling to a stop in the shadow of a hill. Simon turned the key desperately, begging the car to work, but all he got in return was a pathetic chugging sound from the engine, followed by silence. It’s ok, Simon told himself. You’re going to be fine. You just need to make it back to the road and wave down a car and everything will be ok. He got out of the broken down car and tried to put the fact that he hadn’t seen another car in hours. Then he caught a glimpse of the sun, minutes from dipping below the horizon. Simon began to panic. He was making decent headway into kicking in his own car door when he heard the sound of an engine approaching. He turned and saw a car, of similar make to his own, slowly making its way down the Old Bacchus Road towards him. The car stopped, and a man got out: Anil, the other man in the photograph. Simon asked Anil if he had any idea how to fix his car, to which Anil confessed that he didn’t, but instead offered to give Simon a lift so that they might be able to find help. Simon agreed, saying he regretted taking the trip in the first place- and a tree promptly fell across the road behind Anil’s car, blocking the route back the way they’d come, ensuring that the only way was forward.
Simon and Anil continued down the Old Bacchus road in Anil’s worn down old car in awkward silence. The first words they shared after setting off came when Anil switched on the headlights, commenting that it would be getting dark soon. Simon frowned at this: he could swear that it had been “getting dark soon” for quite some time now, but it was still twilight outside the car. He didn’t want to seem like a fool, though, so he said nothing. Instead, he cleared his throat and asked Anil what he was doing here in the middle of nowhere. To Simon’s surprise, Anil smiled sheepishly, and confessed that he was here on a pilgrimage of sorts to a place called the Old Bacchus Road- had Simon heard of it? Simon replied that he was there on a similar mission. What was the Old Bacchus Road, anyway? Anil had no idea- it had been a recommendation from a friend of a friend, a way to shake him out of a funk he’d been in for a while now and reinvigorate his passion. Simon coughed uncomfortably and said that his reasons were along the same lines.
The road wound on and on, down through valleys and up over hills. Every time they crested the treeline, both men made sure not to comment on the fact that the sun still stubbornly hung in the air above the horizon, and instead chatted about literally everything else in order to distract from the strangeness of the situation. They spoke about the paths that had led them to the Road, and then about their failed relationships, and then about their entire life’s stories. The awkwardness and apprehension quickly gave way as they came to realise that they actually had a lot in common. Their conversation was interrupted when they rounded a bend and saw before them the subject of the photograph in front of you marked ‘Tree”: an enormous tree, easily 100 meters tall, branches laden with fruit neither Simon nor Anil had ever seen before. Beneath the tree was a sight almost as strange considering their remote location: a quaint little cafe, with a man sitting at a table outside reading a newspaper and sipping coffee, a slice of pie steaming on a plate in front of him. As the pair got out of the car and approached, a woman appeared at the door. Her smile seemed to falter slightly as she saw them, but she waved them over nonetheless and offered them refreshments. Simon and Anil gratefully had some coffee and fruit pie, which tasted like a combination of apple and mango, but had the texture of pineapple, as they suddenly realised they were starving. It was hard to say how long they’d been driving, what with the fact that the sun wasn’t moving- though they still refused to acknowledge that. Anil asked if they got many customers in a remote spot like this, and the woman smiled and said “one a day”, then hesitated and added “well, at least one”, looking back and forth between them. Simon asked if the cafe had a phone he could use to call for a mechanic, and the woman told him there wasn’t a phone, but not to worry: car troubles hadn’t ever been a worry on the Road before. When he told her that his car had actually broken down, and that he was only riding with Anil out of necessity, she frowned for a moment, then smiled again, and said that things would work out the way they’re meant to. As the pair were leaving, with some more pie and coffee for the road, she called out to them in a warning tone: most folks drive the Old Bacchus Road alone. When they asked what she meant by this, she smiled sadly and went back inside. As they got back in the car, Simon and Anil made sure not to comment on the fact that the sun appeared to be going backwards now.
Simon and Anil drove on, their conversation growing warmer and warmer as they grew to genuinely enjoy each other’s company. Neither said so out loud, but they were beginning to feel more comfortable together than they had with anyone in years. No matter how long they drove there always seemed to be more road, and no matter how much they talked there was always more to talk about. Simon started paying more attention to the beauty of their surroundings as they passed trees and wildlife both familiar and strange. They waited at a railway crossing for a train full of children who pointed and waved at them and shouted in a language neither of them recognised. They stopped at a gently flowing river, and when they looked into the water they saw that their reflections were swapped. They drove over a bridge that seemed to be made of glass. When the sun reached the middle of the sky- what felt like days into their journey- they pulled over at an old petrol station, where they discovered that they hadn’t used any fuel since they started their journey. The station attendant gave them some water and snacks, and sadly reiterated the Cafe owner’s warning that the Old Bacchus Road was not meant to be traveled together, but Simon and Anil were enjoying the journey- and each other’s company- too much to care.
Eventually, after what could have been hours or days or weeks, they pulled in at a Roadhouse with a huge neon sign that simply read “End Of The Road”. They got out of the car, and The Manager- a tall, heavyset and weathered woman with a huge smile- greeted them warmly. She invited them inside, and they had a hearty breakfast as Simon and Anil told her about their lives, and the things they’d seen on the road, and they laughed and enjoyed each other's company. She commented that it seemed that the Road had worked like a charm on both of them: neither one of the men before her was anything like the people they described at the beginning of their journey, and they both agreed. But then neither of them could ignore it any longer, and they asked her: why did everyone they met on the Road warn them about journeying together? Why, even now, was there a tinge of sadness in her eyes?
And the Manager told them: The Old Bacchus Road is a real place, but the journeys that people take down it exist in their hearts, not their minds. And while they would never forget the lessons they learned on the road, and the healing that was done to their souls, they would never remember the details, or the landscape. Or the people. They would wake up on the morning of day they had left for the Old Bacchus Road as the new people they had become on their journey, but with no memory of it. And Simon and Anil looked at each other, and thought about all the memories they had made in their short time together, and the idea of losing each other hurt more than they thought was possible. Because Simon and Anil loved each other, more deeply and more sincerely than they had loved anyone in their lives before. And the fact that they only got to realise that now, as that was about to be stripped away, was so cosmically unfair that they couldn’t believe it.
But then Simon wiped away his tears, and smiled, and Anil did the same. And they told the Manager that, memories or not, they would find each other. One way or another, they would find a way. And in that moment, The Manager, despite all logic, believed them. Before they left, Simon and Anil posed for The Manager’s camera, so that their time together could be immortalised even as it was about to slip away. And then they walked out the door of the Roadhouse, into the light of the dawn, hand in hand.
The Museum’s Researchers insisted that they could easily determine if Simon and Anil really did find each other in the waking world, but were severely reprimanded for even suggesting such a thing. Their story after they left the Old Bacchus Road is their own, and they deserve privacy and respect, no matter what happened. And besides, some questions in life are better off being answered in our hearts, rather than our heads.
Thank you for visiting the Mistholme Museum of Mystery, Morbidity, and Mortality. We hope that you have enjoyed your visit… so much, that you won’t mind staying a while longer. We regret to inform you that, due to foreseen circumstances, the Museum and all those currently within its walls will be taking part in a bit of Involuntary Isolation, for the next… while. This is part of an effort to contain an outbreak of… Something. Apologies: this Audio Tour Guide appears to be breaking down. Please make sure that you dispose of your audio device in an incinerator as you make your way to the nearest Alteranatural Event Shelter- you’ll recognise the shelters by the mark on the door which simultaneously feels strangely familiar and utterly alien. You may momentarily taste copper as you cross the threshold: this is… well, not normal, but expected. We assure all our guests that the doors of the Mistholme Museum of Mystery, Morbidity, and Mortality will one day reopen. Maybe even sooner than you expect.
Until then, stay safe in here.