Fabula 4 – Digressions

17 July 2016

The group search the Infirmary for clues to what is happening. They find a wealth of papers on Dr. Parnassus’ work desk along with O’Connor’s medical records. Clay has taken possession of the Dr.’s head-mirror and notices that when he looks through it, the device allows him to pierce the veil and see into a different realm. He could see clearly the aura enveloping each member of the group: grey for Dr. Billings, … for Sgt. O’Connor, …for Josh, and pale blue for himself. Coincidentally, he finds a wooden pill box in one of the pockets of Dr. Parnassus’ coat, and inside four pills, each matching the same colour palette.

Using the mirror, he thinks he can glimpse something behind O’Connor’s damaged eye; coiled tightly. He decides not to say anything. When he rifles through one of the surgical drawers, he comes across unusual devices that seem out of place amongst the surgical steel. On closer inspection wearing the head-mirror, he can see but a faint outline and within a void that soon hurts to look at. He leaves the instruments alone.

O’Connor finds a surgeon’s knife and uses it to cut swatches of cloth from one of the sheets and then begins assembling a series of Molotov cocktails. He takes a grey woollen blanket off one of the beds in the surgery and ties it around himself like a poncho. He looks around for an ignition source but is frustrated when none is immediately available.

While searching Parnassus’ work desk, Billings uncovers a personal diary with a date stretching back about six months. It is written in Greek, so he passes it to Kennedy to translate. Inside it features a series of entries including several diagrams; one of a cross-section of an unnamed patient’s skull highlighting an “engorged Pineal gland” that appears to have pushed its way out a narrow opening. Another is an anatomy study of one of the creatures and several references to “screw worms”.

Clay reveals to Dr. Billings that the head mirror, “allows you to see and experience what is happening in this other dimension”. Billings is skeptical, but takes the apparatus and looks through it for himself. Clay relinquishes the head-mirror and for the briefest moment suffers a twinge and the sensation of something snapping back inside his head. He blinks and realises that his vision had permanently altered from wearing the mirror and sits down to take stock.

Donning the head-mirror, for the first time, Billings sees into the other realm that co-exists alongside our own. He sees the waves of energy radiating out from each person. He notes that Parnassus’ diary has a four-dimensional after-image that shows where it has been carried throughout the room, but also a trail that leads out of the infirmary in the direction of the eastern part of the facility.

Kennedy continues to read. Parnassus’ papers appear to suggest that the patients that have been  brought here are to be used in part of a joint experiment with Burroughs to, “add their energies in an attempt to re-tune the regulator before it can send out its fateful signal,” but to whom  or what, he does not say.

The papers further reveal that individuals that have had “unique experiences” with the Mythos “become attuned and begin to vibrate at a frequency that is slightly different to the rest of the world;  this quality uniquely suits them to assist in providing energy in sufficient numbers to attempt this procedure.” Their search for these people has taken them all around the world over a number of years, but finally their work is approaching fruition. The final entry notes that, “The last group arrives tomorrow. I hope it is not too late or the covenant will be broken and all we have worked for will be lost.” The date coincides with the arrival of the party.

With his new-found sight, Billings looks around the rest of the infirmary, and finds a small canister that appears to have a preserved example of one of the floating creatures; something named by Parnassus as a “juvenile”. Although it appears dead, Billings is sure it is only sleeping.

Having finished his preparations, O’Connor decides that the best course of action is to return to confront Burroughs and force him to release them from the island by repairing the wireless. Determined to cross the exercise yard as the shortest route, he is about to enter the area clothed in his blanket and carrying his gently-clinking glass phials when a bolt of lightning strikes, destroying the only tree in the yard and sending it toppling and burning; blocking the far door. Realising the danger, he demures when Billings suggests they follow the after-image of the journal back to its source.

The group make their way towards the east. Reaching the junction that leads towards the other Ward, they continue forwards along the corridor that borders the yard until it exits into a Library. Books are carefully arranged according to the Dewey system but the shelves form a maze. Billings continues to follow the after images as they have become slightly brighter, and eventually he reaches the centre of the maze. Kennedy carries the journal with him.

In order to avoid becoming lost, O’Connor ties one end of a thread from the blanket he is wearing to a door handle near the entrance then carefully unravels the thread as they enter the bookshelves.

Kennedy, overcome with wanderlust at the esoteric nature of the volumes, simply wanders off, eventually coming to a cul-de-sac that truncates with a black-curtained space over an apparent doorway. He pulls open the curtains to reveal a space similar to a confessional. Sitting in a pile on the seat is a series of cross-sectional diagrams of the Aetheric Regulator including scale pictures of people apparently joined somehow to the machine by lines that run back to their heads. When he turns back to where he entered, he notes the curtain has closed, although he cannot remember doing so. When he reaches out to pull it aside, he is assaulted by a fragmented kaleidoscope of images of his companions. The shock sends him to his knees and into a cold sweat. He raises his hands to the pain that explodes briefly in his head. His hand feels something below the surface of the skin on his forehead snake and move and then pop back. When he raises his head, the curtain has gone and he quickly regains his feet and eventually finds the thread and traces it to the centre of the maze.

In the centre of the room is a large oak table, apparently connected to the floor. Resting atop it can be seen a maritime map showing various marked locations: Rockport, the island, major shipping routes, the Coast Guard patrol routes, to the north lies Devil’s Reef and to the east is marked “Ponape’ and a date underneath ‘depth charges and torpedoes’. Another further south at a different coordinate notes ‘Ward and Regulator’

Billing identifies a slot in one bookshelf where the after-image of the journal truncates. He instructs Kennedy to place the journal and is rewarded with a faint click as though something was opening. Looking around the room, he notes the far wall is covered by a red curtain similar to that in Burrough’s office. On a nearby lectern sits an esoteric volume.

Josh looks more closely at the book. A copy of the …. Billings examines the curtain and discovers that it is locked and looks around for the key. Taking the tome from Kennedy, he flicks through it and a small key drops out and onto the carpet – unseen by anyone except himself and Clay. Picking up the key, he uses it to slide the curtain across.

While he does this, O’Connor has been examining the table. It appears attached somehow to the floor so it will not move. He looks for a trapdoor under the table, but does not find one. Finally, he notes the surface of the table appears to be covered in something vaguely warm and taut like hide. He rolls the map up and off the table to reveal a horrifying sight – the elongated features of Mr Waits face appear stretched across the surface. Suddenly the eyes flick open and the tip of a tongue runs across the teeth as it finally manages to mouth, “Bourbon.”

O’Connor mindlessly frees the bottle from his pillowcase, opens and pours some of the contents into the gaping maw. There is an unnatural slurping followed by a sigh of relief. The face rolls its eyes and Wait’s voice asks: “Where are we?”

Beyond is a long white corridor, seen only by Clay and Billings. Just as he completes this act, one of the other patients sleepwalks around the corner and stops. Clay and Billings can see the remains of the hollow vessel as the last fragments of energy wafts away along the tether at the back of its head, and then suddenly drops away. There is a low humming and a thrumming and a wave of pressure begins to build as the form stands blocking the exit to the room.

Clay and Billings watch as creatures from beyond swarm into the stationary form as its eyes flick open revealing the void before it begins to shuffle forwards.

Telling the others to hold on, Billings steps past the threshold and into the space beyond the curtain. There is a slight strange tear as with their hands on each other’s shoulders, the group moves off into the corridor. O’Connor is last and draws the curtain across just as the figure lunges; it appears no longer human rather than a swarming collection of the creatures, then it loses all coherency and slides onto the floor and is gone.

The corridor is long and without feature. It is lit but by what cannot be determined. Billings and Clay are concentrating on travelling to Burrough’s office and eventually they reach a door. Billings reaches out, turns the handle and opens the door and the group are once more in the office of the Director, although he is not there.

The fire has guttered but O’Connor fashions a makeshift torch that he jams in a ring on the fireplace until he needs it. The sculpture above the fireplace has broken and part of it lies on the floor. The door that leads back into the Lobby is locked, but O’Connor takes an andiron and a piece of wood and begins knocking the bolts to the hinges off in an attempt to open the door.

The others look around the room for clues. They find three books. One sitting on an identical lectern to that in the Library. However this volume is darker, bound in a hide that slips through the fingers and is cold. Looking at it with the head-mirror reveals a sense of power and water and watching. Kennedy declares it to be, “a copy of the Cthaat Aquidingen, an old text translated from German into Old English, quite rare, very likely priceless.”

Scattered around the bookshelf, they also uncover a set of old accounting records about the establishment of the covenant, a separate set of treatment records and notes compiled from interviews with patients conducted by Burroughs and Thompson including their conclusions on the relationship between those “touched and re-tuned” and finally, in a locked cabinet that they force, an old phonograph complete with Edison reels.

While they debate what to do next, O’Connor completes the removal of the office door. Clay takes the pill-box he took from Parnassus from out of his pocket and looks at it. He slowly opens the box and stares again at the set of four pills neatly housed within. Gently, he reaches in and takes out the pale blue pill and rolls it between his fingers. It is gelatinous in texture and smells faintly of the sea. He opens his mouth and pops it inside and swallows. A complete sense of calm comes over him and for the first time since he arrived, he feels completely himself.

Smiling, he offers the open box to the rest of the group…