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Episode Thirty: RAPTUROUS


 

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 Unfortunate Stretching that may occur during your visit.

Enjoy your tour.

And good luck.

 

Glassway Exploration Report #1: The Concrete Palace

 

Retrieval Expedition Report: Alternatural Shelter 037 Glassway Traversal. Compiled by the Audio Tour Guide accompanying the Retrieval Team codenamed Skywhale.

The Glassway in Shelter 037 was selected for exploration due to anomalous reports from those trapped on the other side during the Lockdown. Whereas the majority of the locations where Museum staff and patrons were sent during lockdown were outdoors- or at the very least, appeared to be naturally occurring- the place on the other side of the 037 Glassway appears to be indoors. This has been the subject of some debate, as the term “indoors” indicates that there is an outdoors, and despite extensive exploration, Skywhale were unable to find any such thing.

Also unlike most expeditions, the surface on which the other side of the Glassway formed was, actually, a mirror. A quite handsome full-length mirror, ornate and yet tasteful, with a polished bronze frame. It sat in what appeared to be a bedroom, well appointed with a large bed and armoire, in a style that appeared similar to that of the Georgian era. Except it was all made out of concrete. The furniture, the floors, the roof, every single thing that the Retrieval agents saw there, with the sole exception of the mirror that had brought them there, was made from pure concrete, all interconnected as if poured into a single, impossibly huge mould. There were even windows made from concrete, though for obvious reasons the view was less than stellar. As the team left that first room, they found that the rest of the place they had found themselves in was the same: from hallways, to the doorways, to all the furniture and amenities they saw while they explored, everything appeared to be a single interconnected sculpture of concrete. And there was plenty to see, although there were no light sources except the team’s torches to see them by. The team explored for days, leaving chalk-marks at most intersections they found leading back to the mirror in case they got lost. We never found an end to the corridors, nor did we see any notable repetition in the layout and contents of the rooms they found. Nor did we see a single living thing. As we wandered the endless, winding corridors, we saw no signs of life. Although… there was still a sense that this place was lived in. Concrete sheets on concrete beds left unmade, concrete food on concrete tables in a concrete kitchen left half-eaten. It was as if this had been a normal place lived in by normal people until moments before the team arrived, and then they had vanished without a trace.

It was on the second day, as the team explored a cavernous hall with ornate columns and a raised platform with a pair of large seats resting upon it, that I commented that this strange place we were exploring bore a striking resemblance to a palace. Once it was pointed out, it suddenly became obvious. This was clearly the Great Hall, with two thrones from which the monarchs could hear their subjects’ requests. The kitchens they had seen earlier, the abundance of sleeping quarters, the overall vibe of the place… it was so clearly a palace. One member of Team Skywhale had actually been one of the people who’d sheltered there during the Lockdown, and he was amazed that nobody had noticed it until now. Granted, they had lacked the torches that Skywhale possessed, and so had only ever seen the place in the dark, but nevertheless it was so obvious: they were in a concrete palace.

The rest of Team Skywhale’s sojourn beyond Glassway 037 was largely unremarkable, insofar as exploring a mysterious endless world of concrete can be unremarkable. No matter how far the Retrieval Agents walked, they always found more hallways, more rooms. And yet, the layout of the Palace always seemed to somehow make sense. Even as the size of the explored area reached into the tens of kilometres, there always felt like a logic to the space- the Agents remarked at one point that they could probably have found their way back to the Glassway even without the chalk markers they had left. They could not explore the entirety of the Palace, unfortunately, as while many of the doors they found along the way were open enough for the Agents to get through, many were not. And, as the entire place was made from pure concrete, this posed an issue. After some consideration, it was decided that the Agents were not permitted to demolish any part of the Palace, as they had no way of knowing whether this would anger those who had built the place- if they still existed, somewhere.

Eventually, after roughly a week, it was decided that exploration of the Concrete Palace on the other side of Glassway 037 would cease. While an interesting anomaly among the Glassways, it was clear that there was no reason to think that the Curator or anyone else had been there since the Lockdown lifted. The Agents were to return to the Museum through the Glassway and await redeployment. But it was then, as the Agents returned to the small room where they had entered the Concrete Palace, that, for the first time since their arrival, something changed. Perhaps. As Team Skywhale filed through the doorway, one of them paused. Something had caught her eye. She turned, and looked down the corridor, shining her torch into the darkness.

There was a man standing there. At the other end of the hall, utterly still, and silent as everything else they had seen in the past week. Slowly, the team approached it. The figure, just like everything else, was made of concrete, its feet seamlessly melded with the floor. It was androgynous, effectively featureless, but for one thing: the crown upon its head, which glittered with golden light as the team’s torches shone on it. The figure stood there, still as a statue- well, it was a statue, really- in an impassive pose, uncaring of the attention the team gave it. It did not move, as far as the team could tell it could not move. But it had most certainly not been there before.

Neither had the one at the other end of the corridor, back the way the team had come mere seconds ago. One of the team turned away from the first statue and it was simply there, not far beyond the door to the room with the Glassway. Silent and still as the first statue, and wearing a crown much like the first. The Team leader spoke up, attempting to communicate with the statues, but they gave no response. They didn’t need to. Despite their silence and neutral posture, their message was clear. And so, silently, the members of Team Skywhale filed into the bedroom, and passed through the Glassway back into the Museum, leaving the silent, “empty” Concrete Palace behind. The final Agent to traverse the glassway glanced over their shoulder as they passed through, and despite the dark they could swear that the door was slightly more closed than it had been before. And that there were figures peering through the gap.

Conclusions: No trace of either target located. Alternaturality: likely. Presence of Sapient Life: Uncertain. Presence of Hostile Entities: Unknown. Patronage Department to assess potential for future status as an Exhibit.

End of report.

 

The Energy That Surrounds Us All

CONTENT WARNINGS: Car Accident (Non-Fatal), Conspiracy

Here is a rare example of an interactive exhibit. On the wall before you, are two windows. On the other side of the glass, the Patronage Department has mocked up a rough approximation of a standard human living room: doors, windows, a couch, a bookshelf. All very standard stuff, I’m told. Looking through the window on the left, it would seem there is nothing unusual about this room, but if you’ll step up to the window on the right and take a look through it you’ll see that there is more to it than meets the eye. Through this window, you can see that, throughout the room, there are streams of coloured light that were not visible before. They flow in through the doorway, curving around partitions, past the furniture and out through the high window near the ceiling. This energy is all around us at all times, and has been identified and studied by a number of cultures throughout the world- however, it is usually invisible to the naked eye, and devices that allow one to see it are incredibly rare. This window was custom-made for the Museum by an expert on the subject, is not portable, and frequently breaks down- Restoration only just got it back up and running in the last few days, as the lack of maintenance during Lockdown really did a number on it. It has long been believed that this energy affects the world around us in an incalculable number of ways, and that manipulating and guiding that energy can be the key to living a quote good life unquote. But most people who attempt to manipulate the energy are unable to see it, and so rely on quote vibes unquote, usually with mixed results. The Museum is aware of only one person in the world who is capable of seeing this energy. She only gained this ability relatively recently, but she has already begun to making her mark on the world. And, much like the invention of the steam train or nuclear power, now that the genie is out of the bottle, there’s no putting it back in now.

The woman in question is Shyanne Fors- but most people simply know her as Shyanne, the name she used on Social Media in her quote work unquote as a Lifestyle Influencer. For those unaware of what this entails, basically she made her money by using Social Media to portray an idealised and semi-fictional version of her life to her fans, regularly recommending whichever products and services were willing to give her money in return. She would show off her beautiful home, and her perfect skin, and her perfect life, and her followers could dream that maybe one day it would be them living that perfect life. Or, rather, that was the idea. In actuality, while she had gained some success in her field, it was all an illusion: contrary to the glamorous portrait of her life she painted on social media, her actual life was anything but perfect. She worked a tutoring job to help pay the bills, and her home was a small apartment several storeys above a busy street, and a little messy- something she did her best to hide in her videos by being creative in the framing of her photos and videos. She moved the mess out of the kitchen when she needed to film a Healthy Cooking video, she moved it out of her bedroom when she wanted to do a Makeup Tutorial, and she moved it anywhere it couldn’t be seen on camera when she did a slice-of-life chat with her handful of followers. The mess moved around the apartment, but it never really got cleaned up: Shyanne was too busy with her two jobs to clean, and besides- cleaning didn’t really meld with the lifestyle she was trying to portray. Ideally she would have been able to afford a cleaner, but money was tighter than she’d like: despite her success, her experience with hashtag sponsored content had been mixed. There’s a saying about tidy houses and tidy minds that certainly applied to Shyanne, as she was nearly as much of a mess as her home and regularly missed appointments or failed to mention the products she’d been paid to mention.

Ironically, it was this absent-mindedness that led to a change in Shyanne’s life. She was midway through preparing for a video at home when she got a call from one of her sponsors- an angry one, asking where she was, and why she wasn’t at the photo studio where she was supposed to be modeling the company’s upcoming Summer Range. Shyanne panicked: this was far from the first time she had messed up with this sponsor, and by the tone of her contact’s voice it might well be the last time. She promised to be there as soon as possible and sprinted to her car, veering out into traffic without even taking the time to fasten her seatbelt. And let this be a lesson to any children who might be visiting the Museum today- under careful supervision from their guardians- to always fasten your seatbelt, and always drive safely. Because not even halfway to her destination Shyanne ran a red light and T-Boned a vehicle much larger than hers, sending her flying headfirst hard into the windshield and knocking her out cold.

Some days later, she was finally discharged from hospital with her head in bandages and a prescription for paracetamol. Her head was mostly healed, but she complained to her doctors that she was experiencing hallucinations of bright lights floating about the ICU, and thought she needed to stay for a while longer. Then the doctors had informed her how much this would cost, and she’d been discharged less than an hour later. As she climbed the stairs to her apartment, she had to pause for a moment as her hallucinations worsened and her vision filled with a barrage of colours and lights. Squinting through the visual cacophony, she made it to her bedroom and laid down to try and rest. She hadn’t checked her social media since the accident; she’d considered ways to turn her recovery into quote hashtag inspiration porn unquote, but for the time being the pain and the hallucinations were making that feel just about impossible. After a while she opened her eyes… And stared. The random swirling and flittering of the lights had calmed down a little and now… there was a sort of rhythm to it. A purpose? She couldn’t quite put her finger on it but there was something about the light that somehow made sense. She wasn’t sure if she was simply becoming delirious, but as she got out of bed and began following the paths of light throughout the apartment the pain in Shyanne’s head was completely forgotten.

It seemed to follow paths through the air that she couldn’t quite fathom. There was a sort of rhythm and logic to it that felt just beyond the edge of her comprehension. She wandered about the space adjusting curtains and opening doors, certain that this was just some trick of the light, but it was clearly distinct from the light of the evening sun. She noticed that it seemed to flow in through the door and out through the windows, but that on the way it collided with all the furniture and abandoned projects and other things she had left haphazardly scattered throughout the apartment. The shape and colour of the light seemed to shift as it came into contact with the mess, in a way that felt… wrong to Shyanne. It was as if the light was turning sour, like it was being twisted into something worse by the layout of her room. Almost without thinking, she began shifting things around, clearing the path of the energy so that it could flow better, coaxing it around in and around the apartment in a way that felt right somehow. She regularly paused to check on her progress, and was thrilled to see that the energy in the room was responding to her actions. With every obstacle she removed or pathway she tweaked, the energy flowed more easily and more swiftly, and the colour and ineffable feel of the energy seemed to lighten along with it.

Before she knew it, Shyanne had rearranged her entire home, and the clock had struck midnight. Every piece of furniture had been moved at least a little bit, she’d thrown dozens of items she’d forgotten she’d even had in the garbage, and she was even beginning to look into the logistics of adding a partition to her apartment to better guide the flow of the energy. Eventually, she had to concede that there was no such thing as a late night carpenter, so any further modifications would have to wait. So Shyanne went back to bed- after a moment of confusion, having briefly forgotten that her bed was now on the opposite side of the room. When she woke, it was like she was a whole new woman. The light that flowed in through the windows felt like liquid gold as it fell on her face, and even though she would never normally consider herself a morning person she felt fully awake and ready to tackle whatever the day threw at her. It wasn’t until she looked in the mirror that she remembered her accident. She picked up her phone to post a quote “Morning Vibes” unquote photo on social media, and logged into her account for the first time since her accident. There were fewer notifications from concerned fans than she’d expected, though there were quite a few along the lines of “OMG so pretty check out my profile for 50% off keyring!!!”, which even Shyanne could tell weren’t left by real people. It seemed that her online followers were so fickle that most hadn’t even noticed when she’d gone offline for days, on account of some scandal involving some other Influencers so petty and yet convoluted that Shyanne could feel her headache returning just reading about it. But, for some reason, she didn’t mind. The world seemed somehow brighter than it had the previous day, and she didn’t care about the darkness. Then she remembered: the light. She stood and looked around her apartment at the colours and patterns that flowed around her. The work of the previous night had done wonders for the vibe of the place, and she could feel in her body that it had done the same for her. The energy that permeated her room- that, as she could see looking out her window at the glittering street below, must surely permeate the whole world- was more than just light. It was an energy that enveloped and affected the world and everything in it. If it flowed smoothly, it left tranquility and energy and focus in its wake. But if it was impeded, it could wreak havoc.

It was beautiful. It was glorious.

And she could manipulate it.

A year later, Shyanne was an online sensation, having pivoted to a career as a lifestyle consultant who could turn your whole life around just by giving your home a makeover. She was highly sought after by rich and famous people all over the world, those who could afford to have extensive renovations and alterations performed on their homes in the hope that it would- seemingly by magic- make their life better in a material way. They would feel better in the morning, their work would come easier and be of a higher quality, and the world in general would look a little brighter. Perhaps the most significant effect- as well as the most difficult to quantify- was that Shyanne’s techniques imbued her clients with good fortune. An actor who employed Shyanne’s team would, without fail, land the next big role they went for. A singer whose star had been on the wane would get surprisingly good sales on their next album. One of Shyanne’s earliest clients was the creator of an obscure podcast, which shot to fame when their series was mentioned offhand by a celebrity the very next day. Shyanne kept her secrets close to her chest- not least because she had quickly discovered that the energy she had discovered had in fact been a well known part of many mythologies the world over and she was eager to avoid accusations of cultural appropriation. She would insist that the owners of the home she was hired to renovate were not present for the process, and utilised the labour of a select group of trusted tradesmen in order to keep her secrets secret.

One can attribute Shyanne’s meteoric ascent to global fame and success to a sort of feedback loop. The techniques she used worked, and she was able to parlay positive word of mouth with her years of experience at social media into further good publicity. But one cannot overlook the fact that she was also making use of the positive effects of the world’s energy, manipulating it in just the right way to bring further good fortune upon her. It is entirely possible that, for Shyanne, failure was literally impossible. But that isn't to say she was without critics. Many were skeptical of the science behind her methods, claiming the results were based purely in confirmation bias and the placebo effect. She was nothing but a grifter, capitalizing on the naivety and desperation of others in order to fleece them of their money. Publicly, Shyanne ignored these accusations. But it did not escape the notice of those who cared to notice that her critics had a tendency to meet unfortunate ends, usually in freak accidents or sudden health crises or downward emotional spirals. A handful of souls on the internet alleged that Shyanne had directed her subordinates to break into the homes of these people, in order to subtly rearrange their possessions in such a way as to spoil the energy of the space, leading to their sickness or misfortune. But such allegations were never made very loudly, as those who tended to criticise Shyanne were typically also the sort of people who didn’t believe in her methods, and thus would never think to make the connection.

After several years of great fame and success, Shyanne Fors disappeared quite suddenly, leaving no trace of where she had gone or what had happened to her. The authorities were only alerted to her disappearance when she and her team failed to arrive for a scheduled appointment at the home of a disgraced actor who had hoped to use her skills to turn his career around. Searches of her home and those of her team turned up nothing but meticulously arranged furniture and architecture, all in accordance with the philosophy Shyanne had espoused for years. Her computer was missing. CCTV footage was eventually located which showed her getting into an unmarked black SUV in the company of several burly men in suits, which led to allegations that she had been kidnapped or abducted by government agents- although others pointed out that she seemed to be going with the men willingly. Eventually, most people forgot about her, and while her philosophy endured in some alternative health circles, the fate of it’s creator was little more than a curious footnote for those who partook: the fate of the famous in the Online World.

Some, however, continued to search for her. And one enduring theory, espoused by the denizens of some lonely conspiracy boards in the recesses of the internet, is that she disappeared because she received an offer she couldn’t refuse. To manipulate the world’s energy on a truly unprecedented scale, to previously unthought-of effect. The CEO of an enormous multinational company, or the prince of a small-but-wealthy nation in the Middle East, or a shadowy secret society that pulled the strings of world governments; the details changed depending on who was telling the story. But the most important part remained the same: Shyanne Fors was in a secret location, somewhere in the world, building a city. A city that would be designed, from before the first foundations were even laid, to guide and enhance the flow of energy on an impossible scale. Nobody knows where the city is, or who is funding its construction, or what its ultimate purpose is. But one thing is for certain: whenever its construction is complete, whoever controls it will wield more power than anyone else in history.

 

 

Retrieval Team Raptor Deployment

Head of Retrieval:

Ok, people. Form up. You’ve all been briefed already, so I’ll keep this quick. Behind me is Shelter 601. It’s currently sealed, but we’ll be re-opening it so you can enter- we will then seal it behind you, and it will not re-open until you give the all clear signal. You are to proceed through the Shelter and pass through the mirror- excuse me, the “Glassway”, and begin your search. You’ve been briefed on who your target is; I don’t need to reiterate how important the success of your mission is.

Eagle:

No sir.

Retrieval:

Now, the Glassway in Shelter 601 opens up in a forest. I understand the other side is pretty nice according to the people who were stranded there during the Lockdown. However: you are not there to sightsee. You are not to let your guards down, do you understand? You’ll be in a completely unknown environment on the other side, so all First Contact protocols will be in place during this mission. That means, firstly: do not enter into any bargains with entities on the other side without first consulting with me or another Head Of Department. It may well be the case that you’ll meet friendlies on the other side that can help you look for the- that can help you. But, bargains can be powerful things, and we want to make sure every precaution is taken.

Next: No agreeing to riddle contests or other games of wit. I don’t need to tell you all how dangerous that can be. It cost me an eye, it could cost you a lot more.

Next: No True Names. There are plenty of beings out there who can do whatever they want with you- or make you do whatever they want- if they learn your name. None of you are to use the names of any person, alive or dead, on this mission or off. No exceptions. Your callsigns for this mission are: Eagle. Hawk. Falcon. Buzzard. Vulture. Got that? Good, I’m not repeating it. Your Unit call sign will be Raptor, obviously. Eagle, you’re team leader.

Eagle:

Yes, sir.

Retrieval:

Next… yada yada yada. You know all of these. Enough wasting time, let’s get on with it. One last thing: as noted in the briefing, we’re trialling a new communication system at the moment. As we are unclear where- if anywhere- the locations on the other side of the Glassways are, traditional radio communication is unreliable at best. So, during this mission, your primary point of contact with the Museum will be via the Audio Tour Guide.

Guide:

That’s me!

Retrieval:

Yep. That’s… it, alright. Eagle, you have a copy downloaded already?

Eagle:

Yes sir.

Retrieval:

Good. It’s a quirky little thing, but I think it might prove useful. As far as I understand it, the copy in your phone is the same as the copy in the mainframe, so anything you guys see, it sees, and the version here sees it too. Don’t particularly understand the science, but if it works it works.

Guide:

Happy to help!

Retrieval:

Alright, if there’s anything else that comes up in the field, tell it to the guide, it’ll tell us back here, and so on. The Guide will be more than happy to explain it all to you if there’s any more questions. Stay safe out there, team.

Guide:

This is going to be fun!

Footsteps. The sound of a heavy metal door opening, then closing after a few seconds. More footsteps.

Eagle:

We are approaching the Glassway, located in the bathroom of the former Alternatural Shelter.

Guide:

We are approaching the Glassway, located in the bathroom of the former Alternatural Shelter.

Eagle:

I will be first through the passage, followed by the rest of my unit.

Guide:

Eagle will be first through the passage, followed by- Uhh, Eagle?

Eagle:

...Yes?

Guide:

How about we leave the monitoring stuff to me, I’ll pass along anything that needs attention as it comes up. Just to save on double handling, you know?

Eagle:

I- fine, ok.

Guide:

Great! As you were.

Eagle:

I am… Ahem.

Guide:

Right. Eagle is climbing up onto the sink, beneath the mirror. He’s preparing himself to step through the Glassway. And… We’re through! Woah, that’s a funny feeling. We are now… in what appears to be a forest. Very tall trees all around. Ahh, oh! The Glassway appears to have formed in the reflective surface of some sap that’s flowing from one of the trees. Uhh, the trees are… very tall. Difficult to judge from the ground, but some appear to be at least 50 metres tall. The ground is covered in what appears to be moss. The air is temperate, no signs of any animal life thus far. Oh, the rest of the team have made it through the Glassway.

Eagle:

Guide?

Guide:

Yes, Eagle?

Eagle:

Only when necessary, thanks.

Guide:

Oh, ok. Sure thing! It’s just… Well, saying things out loud is kind of how I remember things, you know? It helps me process the information.

Eagle:

Well, we don’t know what could be out here listening, so I’d appreciate it if you could keep it down.

Guide:

Oh! Right. Only the highlights, then.

Eagle:

Sure. Only the highlights. Ok, people. Let’s stay frosty out here. First thing we need to do, find a spot for a base camp. See if we can get the lay of the land. Once we know what we’re dealing with, we can start the search.

Guide:

Woo! ...sorry.

 

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. 

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