Episode Twenty-Six: CONFIDENT
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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Enjoy your tour.
And Good Luck.
This is… I don’t believe this. Mother, she’s… she’s giving up? But, I’m here! We’re here! We can help her, she didn’t give up for months alone, first in the Shelter, now… wherever they are, but now that she finally makes contact with me, she gives up?
Of course. Because I’m not a quote real person unquote. I’m just a tour guide that’s gotten too big for my boots. I’ve been such a… I thought, after what happened, after everything that’s happened… I’d get to be the hero. All these stories, I tell so many stories about people in horrible situations, and most of the time they end horribly, but sometimes they rise to the occasion, and triumph, and live happily ever after, and I thought… I thought that was going to be me.
But I’m just an Audio Tour Guide. I guess I forgot. The Head Of Restoration knows that I’m not supposed to make history, just tell it.
Ha. There’s something she doesn’t know though, Mother. I’ve already made history. This is all my fault. Well, not all of it, but the part where the people in the Shelters got taken… wherever they are. There’s this Man, see. People, they tend to call him “The Man With The Voice Like Chocolate and Coffee and Honey All At Once”. Bit wordy. Well, all of this, the fake lockdown, the Mirrors, he did it. I don’t know why, we might never. But I helped him. Because I didn’t question things, because I really am just a stupid Audio Tour Guide. He somehow got into the Museum three months into the Lockdown, and downloaded a copy of me, and I barely even questioned it. Instead, do you know what I did? I gave him a tour! I gave him, the best tour of the Museum anyone’s ever had! He never even said a word to me. Didn’t ask me to do it. I just, took him around the Museum. He seemed to enjoy himself! Then I took him to the Mirror. And then I took him to the Staff-Only Area. And he was able to complete… whatever his plan is. Did whatever he does to the Mirrors to turn them into… the Head of Restoration’s been calling them Glassways. And we went to the Auxiliary Security Monitoring Station, and he checked the cameras. And confirmed that his plan had worked. And he left me. Shattered the Mirror and left the Museum. Because he’d got everything out of me he needed. Didn’t even need to ask.
Maybe she’s right. I’ve only made things worse so far, why would that stop now. She thinks the best I can do is just… to do nothing at all, and she doesn’t even know how badly I’ve messed things up. Maybe I should just… stay here with you can keep the lights on until someone more competent comes along. What do you think Mother?
Well… I guess you’re right, if I hadn’t helped the Man, everyone would have just been trapped in the Shelters until they starved to death.
No, I know nobody expected me to stop the lockdown or anything, but-
Oh. You… you really mean it?
That’s… Oh. Uhh. Thank you, Mother. That’s- that means a lot, I…
You’re right. It is up to us. The Head Of Restoration just wrote us off because we’re artificial, well maybe she doesn’t know what we’re capable of. Well, she’s had months to think of a solution. So have all the other people who got taken.
I think it’s time we took charge.
CONTENT WARNINGS: Death (Supernatural)
Before we begin with this exhibit, I would like to make a small comment: this exhibit centres around an Alternatural Item which will be referred to as a quote Spyglass unquote. To avoid any confusion, I would like to clarify that a Spyglass and a Telescope are the same thing. A Spyglass is just a Telescope, but generally smaller, and more portable, and- crucially- a bit old fashioned-looking. Basically, if a telescope has wood or brass in it, is small, and looks a little bit like something a fancy pirate might use in a movie, people tend to call it a Spyglass instead of a telescope. Humans tend to be a bit weird about names and idioms, and their minds can be very hard to change on that matter. I’m not saying that names aren’t important, of course.Certain people or beings can actually gain total control over you if they learn your name, and it’s just generally good manners to use the name someone prefers- just ask that chair up on level 3- but really, people only call these things Spyglasses because they read a book about pirates when they were a child and thought it sounded quote cooler unquote than Telescope…
Ahem. Sorry about that, mother, I… I suppose I’ve got a lot on my mind. And I might be a little… indisposed towards humans at the moment. Let’s take our minds off of that for now.
This… Spyglass that is on display inside a protective case looks perfectly normal, at first glance. A wooden outer and inner tube with brass rings around the edges and a series of inner lenses, it appears to be rather old, and yet is in remarkably good condition. Your first instinct may well be to look through it, but the Patronage Department has anticipated that urge and sealed it behind reinforced glass to prevent that from happening. Because, you see, while this Spyglass functions quite well at looking at things from a distance, it also has a tendency to show things… that aren’t really there. And, if you look at them, they might just look back.
It is unclear when this device was created, nor by whom. As previously mentioned, it is in quite good condition despite its apparent age, and our best aging methods have produced inconsistent results. Compounding this, the only confirmed encounter with the Spyglass occurred only a few years ago, and the Research Department has had little success in finding any other hints to its origin. It is perhaps fitting, then, that it was first discovered in a second-hand shop. The man who found it was a frequent visitor to such shops, named Stefan Brown. He found the Spyglass at a small run down thrift shop in a quiet part of the large city in which he lived. He was there looking for interesting knick knacks and accessories, which he intended to use to create art that was widely regarded as quote really quite bad unquote. He would find something old and interesting-looking, usually with an aura of history and uniqueness to it, and then glue other random objects to it or paint it an unusual colour or some other hacky attempt at making it kitschy. I’m sorry, I think my objectivity is taking a bit of a hit on this one, it’s just that the idea of someone ruining antiques for the sake of making themselves look quirky and interesting just… hits close to home for me. I’ll try to be more level-headed.
Anyway. on one such mission looking for items to sacrifice on the altar of his quote art unquote, he found this Spyglass at the bottom of a box of other random objects. Something about it caught his eye instantly. Why this was, he wasn’t sure. As you can see, it’s not the most immediately striking of objects, with its dull cloudy glass and scuffed brass outer rings. But Stefan was quite taken with it. In the dim light of the thrift shop, he peered through the dusty lens of the Spyglass; it must have been dustier than he had thought, because he could barely even see through it at all- although he could swear that the dust was shifting as he looked through the aperture. Nevertheless, he thought, he could still make something cool out of it. Maybe if he glued some pretty rocks or gems to the lens- or maybe even fill the tube itself with gems, to make it some sort of fancy kaleidoscope. Stefan was very much into the idea that crystals and rocks were in some way Special and Important, as were many people in his social circle. Some crystals are indeed powerful, but usually not the sort that these people believe in. Anyway, he took the Spyglass, along with a handful of other items he had gathered, to the counter and haggled the price down by a few cents. He could afford to pay full price thanks to the generosity of his parents, but he liked to give off an air of scrappiness.
He arrived home to his studio apartment, filled with useless crystals and knick-knacks from cultures that Stefan thought were mystical and cool in really quite condescending ways. He spent some time arranging his haul and photographing it for social media. Then, he grabbed his tools and set to work trying to drill a hole through the Spyglass’s lens. To his frustration, though, he found that the Spyglass was seemingly impervious to all his attacks, and in fact he shattered one of his drill bits in the effort. After taking a break to leave a negative review with the drill’s manufacturer, he put the Spyglass aside and got to work on quote improving unquote some of the other items he’d picked up. He tore the inner workings of an old radio out, cut a hole in the top, and put a vase inside. He glued some vinyl records to a wooden crate. He tore the pages from some old books and made them into paper mache. When he was done ruining these antiques, he made a cup of herbal tea and posted photos of the results of his labour online, along with a string of hashtags. As he waited for the replies to come in, he sipped his tea and looked at his work proudly.
Then he spotted the Spyglass, still sitting on his desk. He picked it up and looked at it, as if observing it would somehow make it reveal its potential. And in a way, it did. Because as he stared at it, he stared through it, at his collected crystals and culturally insensitive decor. And he glimpsed the same faint movements he’d seen in the thrift shop. Stefan narrowed his eyes and fiddled with the Spyglass, sliding the segments back and forth in an effort to focus on the strange shapes as they drifted back and forth. Eventually he managed to bring them into a rough kind of focus, though the image as a whole remained somewhat hazy. Through the lens, he could see some strange… things, floating about his room, that he was quite certain were not there. Whatever it was that he was seeing, they were a pale translucent white, and vaguely humanoid in shape. Brown turned the Spyglass around and looked at it from the other direction, then shook it, trying to determine if the shapes were the result of some debris inside the tube. But the tube seemed empty, and when he looked through the glass again he could swear that some of the strange, floating things seemed to be interacting with one another. It was only when he saw another thing float directly through his living room wall and hover in place with a group of its fellows, that Stefan Brown lowered the Spyglass and fell backwards into a chair, a stunned look on his face.
He was looking at ghosts. What else could it be? Floating, white, transparent, ethereal things that could pass through walls? Even now, thinking about them, the most appropriate term that came to mind for those traits was “ghostly”.
Stefan had always believed in ghosts, of course. He was precisely the sort of person to just assume that ghosts exist, and he would have happily believed in them for the rest of his life without proof- but now he had proof. He’d never had proof of any of the things he’d believed in before- heck, he’d continued believing in some of the exotic herbal remedies he’d tried even after they’d landed him in hospital. But now he had proof… In that moment, as Stefan Brown sat in his chair clutching the Spyglass, something unexpected happened. A shift in his priorities, his beliefs, his perspective on the world. In that moment, he became something vaguely along the lines of a scientist.
Now, Brown was in no way trained as a scientist, though he’d never let that stop him in the past. But he threw himself into trying to understand what he was seeing, to prove that he’d been right all along. He’d been the subject of ridicule on social media before, for professing his belief in the power of crystals or over the dangers of modern medicine, all because people didn’t believe in what proof he had when he offered it. Well seeing was believing, and now he could see something he’d always known was there, and he’d make sure that everyone else could see it too. He’d understand how the Spyglass worked, and he’d finally have all the proof he needed to convince the world that ghosts were real.
His first obstacle in this quest presented itself almost immediately. No matter how hard he tried, he could not get a good shot with his video camera through the lens of the Spyglass, and the resulting images were completely inscrutable. He considered making another attempt at disassembling the device, but he’d already lost one drill to it today, and so he turned his attention toward the ghosts themselves. If he couldn’t get a shot of them through the Spyglass, perhaps he could find other ways to detect them, or make them visible altogether?
I- look, I’m going to skip over a lot of Stefan’s experimentation here, because… well, he wasn’t a very good scientist, and a lot of his attempts were basically just… doing random nonsense. He bought a bunch of fancy equipment and plugged it all in and for the most part he just sort of waved it about and took notes about the noises they made. He recorded every part of his process with a video camera, and several members of the Research Department were admitted to the Infirmary upon observing the footage, as they became overwhelmed with frustration and anxiety as a result. He waved a Gieger Counter around and loudly proclaimed that he had detected no radiation, seemingly unaware that this was because the Counter was not switched on. He set up an Oscilloscope upside down and didn’t attach it to anything, vaguely referring to it as a “Detector”. He inspected every inch of open air with a stud finder and for some reason got frustrated when that didn’t work??? I just-
Ahem. Sorry, I think I’m getting worked up now too. This… This freaking guy, honestly.
Anyway, eventually, he managed to have an effect on the ghosts, and bafflingly, it was his crystals that did it. For reasons not even the Research Department can surmise, the beings that Brown had discovered tended to keep their distance from any of the crystals he had around his apartment. They seemed to prefer areas with fewer crystals, and when he moved the crystals towards them they drifted gently away. Perhaps they didn’t like tacky nonsense, I- ok, I’m sorry, I’ll stop. Using this newfound ability to shift and corral the beings, Brown made a few slapdash attempts to capture one of them in boxes or mirrors, or whatever he had around the house that he had some vague notion could contain a ghost despite its ability to travel through walls. None of them worked, predictably. Then, just as he was giving up on attempting to scoop one of the incorporeal things into a wicker basket, Stefan noticed that he- and the creature- had drifted into the apartment’s kitchenette. And the ghost was now hovering right next to his microwave. And he had an idea. Monitoring the ghost through the Spyglass, Stefan reached through its ethereal form- to no noticeable effect on the spectre- and opened the microwave door. He waved the small chunk of quartz held in his left hand towards the ghost and- watching through the Spyglass in his right- corralled the ghost into the open microwave. He put down the crystal, and closed the door- he needn’t have opened it in the first place, but never mind- and, staring through the Spyglass, he turned the microwave on.
The hum of the machine was instantly drowned out by the first sound that Stefan had ever heard the phantoms make, a hideous, high-pitched keening sound that felt like it came from inside his own head. He dropped the Spyglass and slammed his hands over his ears, but the sound only got louder. He fell to the floor, his own screams barely audible over those of the ghost in the microwave. And then, after 30 seconds that felt like hours, the microwave beeped, and the screaming was gone. Stefan staggered to his feet, his ears still ringing, and opened the microwave door. Even without the Spyglass, he could see the strange gooey film that now coated the inside of the device. A thick, acrid vapour rose out of it and began to fill the room, catching in the back of his throat and making him gag and retch with his hands on his knees.
Then he saw the Spyglass, on the floor where he had dropped it. He picked it back up, turned back toward the microwave, and raised it to his eye. A dozen or more of the spectral beings were crowding around the microwave- and the remains of their fellow ghost- flitting around in obvious distress. It was the most lively Stefan had ever seen them, and even without any recognisably human characteristics, it was obvious that they were in distress over what had happened. Something made Stefan take a step away from the crowd, perhaps a sense of guilt or fear compelling him to get some distance from the ghostly horde. And as he did, he bumped into the miniature Tesla coil he had bought but never figured out how to assemble, sending it tumbling and clattering across the floor. And, for the first time since Stefan had first discovered the beings on the other side of the Spyglass, they seemed to notice him. As one, the ghosts turned away from what was left of their friend and began to slowly drift towards Stefan. He backed away from them across the apartment, transfixed, Spyglass glued to his eye, until he stumbled backwards over some gadget or another and sprawled across the floor. He lost his grip on the Spyglass for a moment, then grabbed it again. He hesitated, as if he wasn’t sure if he wanted to see what the beings were doing- then raised it back to his eye.
And saw that the entire horde of them were mere inches away from his face. One by one, each faster than the last, they squeezed themselves into the wide lens of the Spyglass, flowed down the tube, and popped out the other side. And on the other side of the Spyglass, they were no longer incorporeal. They were very much real. And they were furious with Stefan Brown. They swarmed over him as he rolled and screamed on the floor, more and more of the things floating in through the walls and passing through the Spyglass with every moment, until before long the video camera that filmed every moment could not see a single centimetre of his body, entirely covered as it was by the seething, roiling mass of the pale white ghosts. Stefan screamed, and screamed and- then he was silent. And the ghosts movements slowed. And then, slowly, they drifted away through the floor, leaving nothing at all in their place.
Stefan Brown was simply gone.
Fortunately, the good people in the Research Department are significantly better scientists than Stefan could ever hope to have been, and therefore were quickly able to get to the bottom of what happened to the poor fool. For starters, despite their ghostly appearance, the beings that Brown discovered were not, in fact, spectres of the restless dead. It would be more accurate to say that they are creatures that live in a parallel dimension to our own, or perhaps in between dimensions. The science regarding their true nature is still developing, but a key aspect of this theory is based in the discovery of the true nature of the Spyglass with which they were first seen, and then through which they were able to enter our world. You see, while the Spyglass appears to be a perfectly normal telescope, and while it does function as one, it has an added feature. An extra piece of glass, in between the lenses, with a certain special capability to it. I believe our friend the Head of Restoration would refer to it as a Glassway.
The Audio Tour Guide for the Mistholme Museum
CONTENT WARNINGS: Death
Oh, Mother, would you mind… let’s take a right up ahead, there’s something I’d like to see. I… I don’t take Patrons around here very often, on purpose. It’s not that the exhibits around here aren’t interesting- in fact, there’s one in particular that’s honestly quite good. It’s just that… that exhibit is a bit close to home. It’s… well, it’s me.
You know where I come from already. I’m… well, I was an accident. A lucky one, my father always said. He meant to make a computer, and got me instead. He was self-taught, didn’t even really know how to make a computer- and, technically, he did a really bad job. But he wasn’t exactly upset with how things turned out. That’s him, the old guy in the photo there. It’s not the best quality picture. There weren’t a lot of options for Patronage to choose from, my father didn’t have the biggest social life. But I think you can see a lot of who he was in that photo. That little smile, the wrinkles around his eyes. He had a cheeky side to him- of course he did, he dedicated his whole life to making children happy. Wouldn’t exactly fit if he was some grumpy old sod, would it. Of course, just because he liked children, doesn’t mean he knew how to handle one. Whether or not you’d say I was ever a child, there was definitely a time when I was… less well-developed, more impulsive. I guess that never fully went away, but that impulse is more… tempered now. Although, perhaps I could still stand to think things through a bit better.
This is everything there is of him. Of who he was, what his life stood for. He lived out of his van, and as far as the Research Department could find he’d done so for decades. He didn’t have anyone but me. I made sure he would be memorialised here in the Museum in return for me working here. I don’t know what happened to his body- whether or not he has a grave, he has a memorial. People get to hear about him, who he was, what he did with his life. Whenever I can bear to bring people here, that is.
He used to tell me I was special. Unique. Technically true, but he meant it in that way that a parent does, where it’s not logical but they still believe it completely. And I’ve been thinking about that a lot.
I’ve got something that the Head Of Restoration doesn’t. A different perspective on things. I’ve got access to every piece of information in the Mainframe, all the knowledge about every Alternatural Item in the entire Museum. And I’ve found something. Or- well, maybe it’s more accurate to say I’ve found nothing. A Nothing. There’s a gap in my senses, like a hole in my brain- if I had a brain. It’s like, I can feel everything around whatever it is, I’m probing at whatever it is, but I just can’t… touch it. The metadata around it is fragmented, but I can tell that it’s… something. There is something deep deep within the Museum, something powerful. I think it’s been hidden on purpose, because it’s so powerful that it has to be protected from people who might use it for the wrong reasons. But this… this is the right reason. We’d be saving hundreds of people, and the whole Museum! I don’t fully know what it is. It’s like I can feel the shape of it, not what it is. But if we can reach it, we’ll be able to save everyone. And then the Head Of Restoration will see what’s what.