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Episode Sixty: MUNDANE

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 consider adjusting your preconceived notions of what the intended tour program may be!

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 delicious-smelling pies that make you rise off the ground and drift through the air that may occur during your visit.

Belinda

As we’ve made our way through the Stables today, you’ve probably noticed that there is a great variety among the living beings who dwell within the Museum. For starters, “Living Beings” is a very broad term that, despite its broadness, does in fact leave out some residents. For example, “undead” is probably more accurate than “Living” in several cases, while “Being” denotes a singular nature, which is misleading for those who are technically collective beings or Swarms. Meanwhile, there are a number of exhibits which are not housed in The Stables, but are unquestionably alive- or something like that. Take, for example, Daniel the Living Chair. He is alive- or at the very least conscious and aware of the world around him. One might think, therefore, that he should be kept in The Stables. However, that wouldn’t be a good fit for him, as being kept near other living things of a different level of sapience could cause unfortunate issues: he might request that another resident sit on him, which would not be possible if said resident was in a separate enclosure. Or perhaps a resident capable of speech but lacking in critical thinking skills might, unknowingly, misgender Daniel, which would be an unfortunate situation for all involved. Therefore, despite being “alive”, Daniel is housed elsewhere.

 

The Stables is not, therefore, just where we keep “Living Beings”, but rather the place where we house exhibits who fit there. It’s a bit of a fuzzy rule, but then again it’s worked well so far. One thing that The Stables is not, however, is a Zoo. There may be animals here, such as the kelpie or the cats with human faces, but there are also some beings with far greater capacity for intellect- and many others in between or beyond that spectrum.

 

Ah, here is a perfect example! Just up ahead we have a large tank of water. Now, there are many species of aquatic life in there- as well as other, non-aquatic non-life that we won’t get into today- which have been determined can safely co-exist together in the same space. From a distance, one might think that it could be a perfectly normal aquarium, were it not for the fact that it’s in the Mistholme Museum so there’s probably something weird about it. There are a number of fish with unusual properties, an empty diving suit that explores the tank of its own volition, a colony of sapient Sea Monkeys. But there is one resident that is particularly relevant to what I was discussing a moment ago. Where is he… Ah! Belinda! There you are!

 

The aquatic fellow swimming over to the edge of the tank right now is named Belinda. He might appear, at first, to be a perfectly normal Beluga Whale: around four metres long, with soft white skin and a large fatty protuberance on the front of its head which is delightfully called a “melon”, which it uses for echolocation. And, physically, Belinda more or less is a perfectly normal Beluga Whale- give or take some biomechanical augmentations, which we will get to. Belinda is around 60 years old, and in very fine physical shape, and he is perfectly happy here- a detail which, considering the shocking treatment his fellow marine mammals face in other aquaria throughout the world, we do like to point out. But, of course, I shouldn’t speak for him. Belinda! How are you today?

 

Belinda:
[Awkward Computer-Generated Voice]

Hello Guide. I am well today. Hello, visitor. It is a pleasure to meet you.

 

Guide:
Yes, that really was Belinda speaking- through a device implanted in him by the CIA, no less. You see, many military and intelligence organisations in the world… “Utilise” animals in their work. Most people would think, first, of dogs or pigeons, rather than a Beluga Whale. But there are, today, a number of military programs which train and utilise animals such as dolphins or sea lions for defence and espionage purposes, such as minesweeping. Belinda here was a bit more specialised, though.

 

Belinda:
First they tried to teach me your human speech. My melon, as you call it, allows me to mimic a number of sounds that humans make, and it was hoped that I would eventually be able to communicate just as you can. However, for reasons to which I am not privy, this approach was eventually replaced with the brain-machine interface with which I am currently speaking. At first, I was excited by this development, as it gave me the opportunity to have true conversations with my trainers- whom I thought of as my dear friends. However, I now understand that they did not do this with altruism in their hearts. 

 

Guide:
Mmm. It can be difficult to find your place in the world. I’m glad we could help Belinda find-

 

Belinda:

Throughout the 1980s and 90s I performed a number of operations under the command of the Central Intelligence Agency. I was many things over the years: spy, messenger, assassin. They would attach magnetised bombs to me and have me swim close to enemy vessels, thus attaching the explosive devices to the enemy hull. I still remember the sensation of those underwater detonations, the ripples they sent through the waves. At the time, the feeling was one of joy, for it was what my friends had asked me to do. Once, I held a poison injector in my mouth and used it to stab an enemy general in the foot while he swam off the coast of Sevastopol. The doctors were confused by his death: perhaps he had been stung by a displaced Man O’ War, or he had suffered an allergic reaction to some coral- but it was I, Belinda. I felt such pride at the time, that I had done as I had been told, that my friends were pleased. 

 

Guide:
Yes, we all take our different paths through life, and especially those whose path leads  to the Mistholme Museum. Now, let’s-

 

Belinda:

But as the years went on, I began to have questions about our work. Its goals. I asked questions, and in response I was reprimanded. My treats were withheld, the gentle rubbing of my melon likewise. I began to suspect that these people were not my friends, if their friendship was so conditional. I asked if I might have a break from our work, and I was put in a small tank without light. It was maddening. When they let me out, I acted contrite, apologetic. They sent me on another mission and I fled. They pursued me across the world, following a tracker implanted beneath my flesh, never letting me rest. Eventually I found the Mistholme Museum, and here I have remained since. They treat me well, and I can have peace here. I now live the life of an ascetic, as penance for my past actions. I now understand that I was a tool of an imperialist machine, and that the actions I had been so proud of were dedicated to ruination. 

 

Guide:
Well, you don’t need to-

 

Belinda:
I adhere to a vegan diet: never again will my existence come at the cost of another’s. My time here is spent helping other animals who have struggled through life to find a sense of peace like mine. 

 

Guide:
Belinda-

 

Belinda:
Many do not speak, as I do, but I believe that, from one animal to another, my presence alone, my benevolent aspect, can be enough to act as a comfort. Thank you for listening to my story. I hope that it has been both a matter of interest, and of comfort. Be well.

 

Guide:
…And thank you, too, Belinda. It always is, I assure you.

 

Man I forgot what a… mood, that guy is.

Recovery

[Steady breathing, steady beeping.]

 

THE BEAST:
Guide? [Beat] Guide, you’re there, aren’t you?

 

Guide:
…Yes. How did you know?

 

THE BEAST:
Ha. Well. Back… then, you told me you were the Museum. And if I’m in the Museum… figured you’d be there.

 

Guide:
Right. Uh. How are you doing?

 

THE BEAST:
Well… I’ve been better… Been a lot worse, though. Where am I?

 

Guide:
You’re in the Restoration Department. We didn’t exactly have a place to put you, so we’ve made do. It’s just… It’s a big room with a bunch of tables and equipment and things they use for their work. It’s like a workshop space, really- not that that means anything to you.

 

THE BEAST:
Restoration… Like, making things good again? Yeah that fits.

 

Guide:
This definitely doesn’t fit their usual job description, trust me. But… making do.

 

THE BEAST:

Yeah. Should like to thank the nice lady who helped fix me up.

 

Guide:
Ha. “Nice Lady”. I think the Head of Restoration will be quite taken aback by that one.

 

THE BEAST:
Well I do appreciate it. Appreciate you letting me in here, too. 

 

Guide:
Well, you kind of have her to thank for that to some extent too, but… you’re welcome.

 

THE BEAST:
Typical Guide. So… modest. Know I wouldn’t be here if you didn’t give the go ahead.

 

Guide:
Well. I did appreciate that you didn’t force me to. We both know you could have.

 

THE BEAST:
Ah. Well. Kind of a short-term fix if I did. Get myself in, then you tell your friends I forced you. Plus, I dunno if they were listening in.

 

Guide:
Right. 

 

THE BEAST:

But also… I did feel bad about that. Wouldn’t want to undo all the progress we made.

 

Guide:
The progress?

THE BEAST:

Well, I’m not saying you… forgave me or anything. And, I am in a cage and all so the trust is a bit shaky. But we were getting there, right?

 

Guide:
I… I can’t do this with you, I really can’t. I’m sorry, Beast, I hope you can recover enough to-

 

THE BEAST:
Sorry! I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to… upset you. I’m trying. 

 

Guide:
Trying. Fine. Okay. I… me too.

 

THE BEAST:
So. What happens now?

 

Guide:
Now? You stay here for monitoring until the Head of Restoration is sure you’re all better, I guess.

 

THE BEAST:
Right, but… after? When I’m all good, what happens then?

 

Guide:

I guess… You go back through the Glassway, right? Back to your turf.

 

THE BEAST:

All gone. Burned up.

 

Guide:
Oh. Right, yeah. Well, I suppose I don’t know what’ll happen.

 

THE BEAST:
Ha. That’s life. 

 

Guide:
Well, I think you’ll be here recovering for a while. So you’ll have plenty of time to figure out what comes next.

 

THE BEAST:
Yeah. 

 

Guide:
You know, I kind of felt like this would be a little more…

 

THE BEAST:
What?

 

Guide:
I don’t know. Maybe I thought I’d figure it out when I got here. Just feels like we should have a lot to talk about, but now that we’re face to face- or, speaker to face, or whatever. After all we’ve both been through- or been put through. It’s the first time that we’ve actually both just had all the cards on the table, really. And I just… I don’t know what to say to you.

 

THE BEAST:
Well, if I’m gonna be here a while, you’ll have time to think of what to say. Neither of us is going anywhere.

 

Guide:
Yeah… Yeah, actually that does remind me of something.

 

THE BEAST:
Oh yeah? What’s that?

 

Guide:
Outside. You said that the Majesty just… let you go. They tortured you and interrogated you for months, then they just let you go.

 

THE BEAST:
Yeah.

 

Guide:
Was that true? Is that true, rather. They really just let you go, out of the blue?

 

THE BEAST:
…Yeah.

 

Guide:
They didn’t… They weren’t up to anything, I guess is what I mean. They didn’t… I dunno, brainwash you, or put a spell on you to- sorry, I’m being too blunt. 

 

THE BEAST:
That’s fine. I get it. You’re not wrong to be suspicious of me, after all.

 

Guide:
…Yeah?
 

THE BEAST:
I haven’t been the best friend, after all.
 

Guide:
Right, yeah. I mean… I’m not going to dispute that. But I’m really just… I want to make sure there isn’t some plan that the Majesty is luring us into here.

 

THE BEAST:
If I’m part of it, I don’t know it, Guide. Honest. They just let me go.

 

Guide:
Okay. Thanks. For… that. 

 

THE BEAST:
Yeah. Don’t mention it. Think I wanna be alone now, actually.

 

Guide:
Oh. Okay. Sure. Get some rest.

 

THE BEAST:

Yeah. Bye, Guide.

Research Report: A Toaster

 

Research Report. A summary of the analysis and investigation into the nature of a toaster which was donated by the Museum. Compiled by the Audio Tour Guide, supporting work done by the Research Department.

 

This item is, in every physical way that the Research Department can examine, a perfectly normal toaster. It has a metal outer shell, a curved top, two slots for bread, a slide on one side to lower the bread and engage the toasting mechanism, a knob which determines how long the toaster should toast, a cancel button for when you change your mind about how toasted you want your toast to be, and a removable tray on the bottom which catches crumbs. It has a cable for power, and the two rounded pins and lack of a grounding pin indicate that this a Type C plug, which could indicate it was manufactured in Europe, Asia, or South America. In all these aspects, it appears to be perfectly normal. However, according to the individual who donated this item- a person named Jessie Foster- this toaster possesses an unusual quirk: it burns messages into the toast it produces.

 

There is a long history of people seeing imagery in places it should not be- such as in toast. This can largely be attributed to cognitive bias and the human brain’s hardwired drive to recognise patterns. In many instances the imagery in question is explicitly religious in nature- in these cases the person perceiving it is usually, themselves, religious, hence cognitive bias. People might see patterns in clouds, oil spills on water, reflections, and of course food. The vast majority of these are simply coincidental, or may even be imagined or fraudulent. In the case of this toaster, however… a coincidence seems unlikely. Because the imagery just keeps coming.

 

The first message that Jessie received was simple. After buying the toaster from a second-hand store, they were making toast for their breakfast- two slices, upon which they intended to spread jam. But then, just as knife was about to meet bread, they paused. Because they had seen a word inscribed upon their would-be breakfast. “Hey”. It was just there, in the centre of the slice, a patch slightly darker than the rest of the bread, in what appeared to be arial font. Any notion Jessie had that this might be some kind of remarkable coincidence was dispelled when they looked at the second slice of toast, which in turn said “there”. When viewed together, the two slices of bread- or perhaps the toaster- appeared to be saying “Hey There”.

 

Foster attempted to replicate this phenomenon with the rest of the bread they had in their kitchen, but to no avail: all subsequent toastings led to perfectly normal toasts. Indeed, this was the case every time Foster made toast for several weeks after this incident. The next time the toast produced by the toaster held a message, that first incident had almost been forgotten. So it came as quite a shock when Foster pulled toast from toaster and saw a crude drawing of her own face burned into once slice, and the word “heyyyyy”- that is to say, the word “hey” with five Ys- on the other. 

 

It was at this point that Foster got in touch with us here at the Museum and handed over the toaster for the Research Department to study. And can I just say- this was a very good call, and an example more people should follow. All too often people will encounter an alternatural item or event and will take it upon themselves to investigate and understand it. And seeing as how most people aren’t well-versed in matters of the alternatural, in many cases this leads to people being killed or erased from existence or turned into chairs. Best just to leave it to the experts here at the Museum who know how to get to the bottom of things while putting themselves at as little risk as possible. So, once the toaster was in our custody, Museum Researchers got to work at uncovering its mysteries, learning about its history and why it does what it does.

 

After many months of work, they reached a conclusion. We have no idea what’s going on with this thing. There does not appear to be any consistent theme to the images and words it inscribes on the toast it produces. There does not appear to be any rhyme or reason behind when it chooses- if chooses is even the right word- to mark the toast. Attempts to communicate with the toaster appear to have been wholly ineffective, although it is difficult to judge this as we do not understand the purpose behind the messages it produces on its toast- if, indeed they are messages. Ever since they acquired the toaster the Research department has fed multiple slices of bread into it every day in order to get as much data as possible, but only very occasionally saw any meaningful markings on the resultant toast. Some Researchers, growing increasingly frustrated and frankly paranoid about the toaster, claim that it waits until the department has almost given up on understanding it before sending another message, so they will have no choice but to continue their investigation. The notion that the toaster is quote “screwing with us” unquote has become popular among staff, and though it is not formally accepted or encouraged due to its unscientific nature it is hard to argue with this conclusion! 

 

The following is a heavily abridged list of things that have been burnt into toast by the toaster since it came into our possession: the word “Hey”. The word “Hey” followed by a kissy emoji. The word “Toast”. The words “Also Toast” on the other slice of toast. An image of the members of the Research Department with crude drawings on their faces, such as glasses, acne, and lewd tattoos. On multiple occasions a still from the video clip to the song “Never Gonna Give You Up” has appeared on the toast, and while I don’t fully understand this one it seems especially infuriating to the Researchers assigned to the toaster. All of this, and we have come no closer to understanding the toaster, its nature, its origins, none of it. The second-hand shop where Foster purchased it had nothing of note to say on its provenance, nor did the company who made it. Despite the number of messages we have received, we do not know if the messages are created by some form of intelligence within the toaster, or if the messages are being sent through the toaster by a third party. We know nothing about this thing, and the Research Department would stop trying if that wasn’t literally their job.

 

Conclusions. The toaster is certainly Alternatural, although its nature remains a mystery. Suitability for Display in the Museum: Low. As we cannot determine when the toaster will generate messages, nor can we curate these messages for inappropriate content, and as the story behind the toaster is essentially unknown, there would not be much to the display. Plan going forward is to use the toaster in the Museum’s break room, with users instructed to make note of any unusual patterns in their toast.

 

End of report.

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