Content warnings for this episode include: Abuse, Animal death (Bert, Heidi as usual), Several suicidal themes + mentions, Violence, Kidnapping and abduction, Death + Injury, Blood, Character Death, Birds, Static (including sfx), Emotional Manipulation, Drowning, Body Horror, Consumption of Inedible Materials (Mort). Life Support
Intro - Deep Wounds
You were all that I loved. How can I begin to describe it? I was all-seeing but I was never noticed, in all places and known in none of them. The least significant of the Council of Heavens, shunned by my superiors. But you noticed me. And it was not a passing glance, an order to watch the gates. It was with a fascination. A reverence. You saw something beautiful in me. I know you were troubled. That you could not always, despite yourself, let me in. I never needed an apology for that, for I know the wounds that made you, and they ran deep and I could never lap them clean. But I know how much you cared, for my eyes are written in all your creation. The heart that bleeds artistry, born of your subconscious, writes watching trees among its black pines. And so, please do not think that I am forgetting you. As I prepare to still your heart, the creation you gave your life to protect. As I extinguish the flame of your work, know that my thoughts of you will never burn out, and I will remember you with every single Hello from the Hallowoods.
Right now, I am where it began—I have seen this place once, when I fought against the doors of the Council Chamber while Marolmar, Garden of the End, was scattered across the stars.
I am where it ends—there is a spire of ice here now, water blasting up from the free heart to crystallize in the air. Those gathering beneath it plan to end it, at great cost. They are not afraid of what is to come. They only hope that it will be enough. The theme of tonight’s episode is Sacrifices.
Story 1 - Die a Martyr
Percy Reed wondered how many more transformations he could go through before he disintegrated entirely.
From the silent, pure as a white church rose daughter of the man who played the piano for morning service, to a rat in the desiccated shopping malls of Huntsville, Alabama, to dead, to a tortured life beyond death. A piano, a harp, a licorice tin, a pocket, a locket, a boy. A disappointment. His father’s murderer. A lover and loved one of the strangest, most ethereal person he had ever known, someone who wandered through the woods at night and could kill with a fingertip and was held together by frayed thread. Someone who was obsessed with writing the script to their own doom-filled destiny and playing all the parts.
It was Diggory that looked up to notice him, as so many times before. They always saw him coming before others did. One of their eyes was different, Percy thought; black bleeding in from the edges to consume the pale white.
Percy burned so bright and hot that he was solid, for the briefest of moments, as he collided with Diggory, threw his arms around them in the shadow of the great spire of ice.
“Percy,” Diggory said softly, and held him close until his material presence began to fade back into light. Percy gasped, a cold shudder running through his form—bound to a sliver of bone, the fire he burned had always been replenished, stable. But each moment was a drain now, ever so slowly, and the hotter he burned, the faster he felt himself dissipating. He shoved that revelation down in favor of the moment.
“Diggory,” he said. “I’m so glad I found you again. I didn’t know if I would ever…”
“I am so sorry,” Diggory whispered, and winced. “I should not have asked you to break your wire. To leave your silver body behind. I should have found another way…”
“It’s just metal, Diggory,” Percy said. “Metal and bone. Forget about it. Is Cindy here? Does she have the plan?”
“Only Mort is here,” Diggory replied, and glanced around past the metal crates and straps. “He is on the other side of the spire. I wanted a moment to myself. I am so relieved to see you. Have you seen any of the others?”
“Riot’s dead,” Percy said, and interjected as grief crossed Diggory’s face. “But… you know how she would never shut up about Clara? Clara’s taking her home. She seems to think she can put Riot back together. I haven’t seen Olivier at all, I don’t know where they went. If Cindy’s dead then the mission is over, isn’t it?”
“That crate is full of explosives,” Diggory gestured. “It seems we have been carrying them from the Scoutpost. She died while feeding a portion of them to the dark ocean, to Creep. That is the only reason Mort and I are still standing here, I think. We have enough to serve as a failsafe, of sorts. If the first plan does not work.”
“The first plan?” Percy said. “Diggory, what are you talking about? I think we drop the bombs in the water and we go home as fast as we can.”
“I am sorry I did not tell you sooner,” Diggory said, and Percy drew back from them a little; there was something tense in Diggory’s posture. “I have discovered something inside of me. Someone.”
“Another one? Great,” Percy said. “You can tell me all about them on the way back to the Scoutpost.”
“It is Irene Mend,” said Diggory, quietly. “She has revealed my purpose. It was her end of life preparations. And her beginning of life preparations, in a way. To go North. To lay my hands upon the heart and steal its power, channel it into new life. New life for her. I have always felt empty, Percy. Waiting for a final piece.”
“I don’t like the sound of that,” Percy said. “I don’t want you going close to that thing, Diggory.”
“When I do lay my hand upon it,” Diggory said, and held up their knife-tipped fingers. “I will absorb its power. That is what she made me to do. She will be reborn in this body. You know me as Diggory Graves, Percy, but I was never finished. I am not a whole person. Just a confusing set of memories sewn together. A placeholder for the one that made me.”
“So you don’t do it,” Percy said slowly, brows furrowed. “We ditch the bombs and we go home, and if they land in the right place, great. If not, we did our best. I’m not letting you destroy yourself.”
“Goodbye, Percy,” Diggory said, and black droplets rolled down their stitched cheeks. “When I see you next, I will not be myself. But I hope that Irene remembers a little of you from me, the way that I remember a little from her.”
“No!” Percy shrieked and his hands and eyes sparked suddenly with light, and he threw a bolt of flame into the pillar of ice above. A chunk of the glacier shattered, and came tumbling down against the ice. Diggory dove through the distance to pull the crate to safety, moments before a piece of ice the size of a car fell where it had been, shuddered against the frosted ground.
“I don’t want you to do this,” Percy screamed.
“Which would you prefer?” Diggory said. “If I do not, then Violet and Bern, Valerie and Clementine and Riot, everyone who has taken us in at the Scoutpost, people the world over will die. I have seen the future, Percy, in fleeting visions, and I know what waits for them if we do nothing.”
“It won’t affect us,” Percy said, clinging desperately to a terrible thought. “You and I will live for a long time. Maybe forever. No matter what. We could be together. I…”
“I hope you understand, someday, why I am making this sacrifice,” Diggroy said, without their usual warmth. Without anything.
“So that’s it?” Percy said. “You’re shutting me out? You’ve just made up your mind that this is the only way it can go. I don’t get any say at all.”
“If you would be so kind,” Diggory said, and removed a tear from their eye delicately with a knife-tipped finger, smiled in a way that Percy hated right now. “When you go back home. To the Scoutpost. Tell them that I did this. Tell them that I did this for them.”
Percy hovered silently in the wind.
“Percy?” Diggory said.
“No,” Percy said. “No. You don’t get that. You’re the second person in my life to try. But I’m not going to let you die a fucking martyr.”
And he turned, light streaking down his face, and disappeared into the wind.
Interlude 1 - Flood the World
Dreamer, if you live in the Northern Hallowoods, brace for impact. When the dawn turns into the rising of the sun, the light that falls over this snow-touched forest brings with it a new age. We will see shortly what kind of age it is.
Either the heart will stop beating, and the only thing you will notice is that the quaking in the world has stopped, and you might wonder for a few days whatever that was all about. And then your life will go on. A year will pass, and two, and three, and you will notice that the trees look a little more green this year, that the three-eyed deer have been less ravenous this season, that just outside you thought you saw for a moment a normal squirrel. The damage that has been wrought will never be undone, but it will become easier to weather.
Or the heart will erupt as the spring begins, and drive up the oceans, and flood the world with venom and take a piece of your earth’s crust with it, and life itself will twist into shapes not yet dreamt of, and you will lose yourself within the eternal call of the garden.
We go now to one who is used to being underwater.
Story 2 - Start Again
Mort sat by the hole in the ice, and watched the fishes. He’d made the hole himself, one giant scoop of his claw at a time. But he was surprised to find that in the black ocean, waving beneath the surface of the ice, there were little fish. They were black, but their red spines and fins gave them away. And so he sat and watched him, and they looked like little eyes, watching him back.
He was scared. That was the best way to describe how he felt with words. He had pretended to be brave when he told Yaretzi to go back to the forest. He was glad she had not asked him how he expected to survive an explosion right next to him, when he was so worried for her being even a mile away. The truth was, he did not expect to. He was the only one who could, of course. He had the suit, and he was not sure how well Diggory could swim or walk on the ocean floor. Whether their body could survive the pressure. Not like he could. And when it was over, if he was lucky, he would watch the fishes again.
He looked up as there was a thud against the ice, and he found Diggory had hoisted the bundle of explosives from their crate, brought them over to the black pool that Mort had created.
“I am sorry to interrupt,” Diggory said, and their face was wet for some reason, “But I think it is time for me to begin.”
“Right,” Mort said, and stood up. He stepped over to the bundle of grey cases. “Do you know how to start these? I can tell you, but my glove is too big for all the buttons.”
“Yes, I think I remember,” Diggory said, and plugged one of the controllers from the crate into the payload. “We should probably discuss what our timings will be. I believe it could take half an hour just to descend. I am unsure how much time I will need to access the heart—it will be open to the ocean, for it pumps out the blackwater, but if I recall there is a monumental casing, like a temple. I will give myself another half hour on top of that, to reach it.”
“I don’t know what you mean,” Mort said. “I am the one going down. To blow it up. That’s Cindy’s plan.”
“You don’t have to,” Diggory said, and keyed an hour into the controller. “I will go. I only need to touch it to disarm the heart.”
“Then what are the bombs for?”
“In case I fail,” Diggory said, and shook their head. “I do not know if even the explosion this will create would be enough to stop it. We have staked our hopes on Cindy’s calculations. My way is sure.”
“I am not letting you go blow yourself up,” said Mort. “It’s my job. Remember?”
“I am not letting you blow yourself up either,” Diggory said. “This is my destiny, Mort. You died last time.”
“We all died last time,” Mort said.
“Not for the same reasons,” Diggory said.
“I have the suit,” Mort said. Diggory frowned at that.
“Well. Irene is a talented seamstress. I am sure I can…” Diggory began.
“Beat you to it,” Mort said, and grabbed the payload, and poked the big green button on the controller; immediately the numbers were flickering. And he leaped for the water, and for the end, and plunged into an ocean as black as the water within his dome.
Marketing - Friend's House
Lady Ethel Mallory
It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for. If memory serves, this thing they call a road cuts through these beautiful trees here, and then splits off ahead… yes. I can see the trees in the distance. Getting close now!
I wonder what he’ll think. He’ll be so surprised to see me. Maybe he’ll invite me in for tea. Maybe he’ll say, hello friend, won’t you come in for some tea?
The old Ethel would say, no thank you. Maybe another time. But that’s not me. THe new Ethel would say yes, please, friend! I am so happy to have a friend! Alright. Through this last bank of foliage, here we…
This isn’t right. This is… has got to be the right place. Yes, that’s the same roof, the same…
The roof has fallen in. The porch has collapsed. It’s all burned out.
Not just the house, the property itself. This was all flat, green grass when I visited, and very nice flower beds. Now it’s huge tree roots, all worming their way through the ground.
What was I expecting?
I never… I never liked him anyway. Disgusting old creep. I… I…
Is this where it gets you?
I have worked so hard to grow. To be more. To reflect on past Ethel and be a future Ethel! Is this what it gets you? Huh? Standing in a dead field for a dead friend?
Waste of my time.
I can’t… I can’t…
No. Time for a new brand image.
This is what you get for being a self-pitying sniveling brat. Mother would have laughed and laughed at you. And you’ve been broadcasting your weak sappy nauseatingly whiny drivel to the world! What is wrong with you?
No, no, I can salvage this. I can respond. I can rebrand. The new Lady Ethel is a waste of time. Is this what it all was for? The New Lady Ethel is one that nobody wants.
I just want to be wanted…
And Lady Ethel is adored.
Lady Ethel is loved by the nation!
Lady Ethel is an American icon.
Welcome back, Lady Ethel. It’s time for a revival of the classic.
First point of business; I am going to go back across this country to California, and I am going to bite Oswald Bigg’s Botulus’ head off...
Story 2, Continued - Start Again
There is no time there is no time. We return now to Mort.
Mort plummeted into the deep dark water. A green light shone from his eyes, and from the control panel of the heavy parcel of mines. Bubbles of air flew around him as he twisted through the water, falling steadily. The underside of the world of ice was like a cracked mirror, green starlight filtering through the roots of the glaciers.
Diggory was at his side in the water, then, trying to wrestle control of the explosives away from him. There was no malice in their eyes, only desperation. Mort held the bundle of grey bricks tighter, and shook his skull within the dome, pointed upwards to tell them where to go. Diggory shook their head, black hair curling in the frigid water, and looked away as Mort felt the ocean move.
There was a shadow, a change in the pressure as darkness rolled through the water above them, blotting out the view of the starlit ceiling of ice. And then he saw them; two shapes in the water which he recognized.
There was another Diggory, hand outstretched, and another Mort, mirroring their actions as they sank, puppets in a great wall of shadow that filled half the ocean. The other Mort, with a skull that Mort guessed was Cindy’s, turned to look at him, and waved an ichorous claw. The shadowed Diggory waved in sync.
“Hello kids,” said Creep. “I’ve been thinking a lot about you.”
Diggory opened their mouth, but no words came out. They were sinking deeper, though how close to Creep, Mort could not tell. It was impossible to see where Creep ended and the ocean began.
“You killed Cindy,” Mort said.
“Oh she killed herself,” said Creep. “Wouldn’t you know, she’s having a lovely old time right now. I’m a little bit of her darling wife, after all. Together forever. She didn’t know it but this is exactly where she wanted to be. And she introduced me to something I have only felt once. Pain. Separation. Being scattered into a million pieces. It’s an agonizing thing, to put myself back together. But it looks like I’m just in time to rain on your parade.”
The ocean seethed around them, the force of something the size of an ocean reef flapping in the water, and the impact sent Mort and Diggory thundering upwards, clinging desperately to the payload.
“Why won’t you leave us alone,” Mort said. “Cindy? Cindy, if you are a part of Creep, why won’t you leave us alone?”
“Oh she’s a part of me,” Creep said, and its wall of flesh bubbled happily, and the black ocean blinked. “Yes yes. Her focus, her tactics, her knowledge about the big parcel of explosives you’ve got there. Oh yes, she fits in great.”
“I have just one question for you, before you kill us,” Mort said. Diggory shook their head urgently.
“Oh don’t worry. I plan to take my time with that,” said Creep. It had finished enveloping them now, and the lightless ocean had eyes and hungry teeth in all directions, slowly encroaching, constricting them. “What’s your question, Mort? Better make it a good one.”
Mort removed his thin, sticklike arms from the inner gauntlets of his shell, and used them to twist open the lock on the inside of his chest, and escaped his diving suit. He was small inside, pale bones and fragile hands. He placed Diggory’s hand on the suit.
“Wear this,” he said, and shook Diggory’s claw off him, and went floating up toward the ceiling of bones and eyes, and a thousand grasping hands reaching out for him.
“Creep,” Mort said. “Do you want to be my friend?”
Mort was dreaming, then, as his skeletal little hand grasped Creep’s hand of inky flesh.
And in his dream, he stood on a beach of bones. He was almost alone. There was a seagull, pecking away at a piece of blue fabric. Mort waved to Bert. Beyond the seagull stood a figure made entirely of rippling black water, an ocean in the shape of a person.
Mort gestured to the beach of little bones.
“Is this you?” he said.
“It is,” said Creep. “I should warn you, these moments usually don’t last long.”
“Why is that?” Mort said. Bert croaked at him from afar, and a black ocean rolled against the pale shores.
“Because I’m a black hole,” said Creep, and smiled, except that it was crying, except that it had no mouth. “I ruin everything I touch. That’s my curse. I’m lonely, and I die for company. But everyone I meet I touch and then they don’t exist anymore, it’s just me. I’m a bottomless pit of a thing and I devour everything I love. It drowns in the magnitude of me. And you will drown too, now. It only takes a moment for your bones to settle in among the rest. And then I will be alone on this beach again.”
“When I was lonely, I would pretend that the fishes were my friends,” said Mort.
“Well I’ve got millions of them for you,” said Creep.
“And when I left the fish I made friends,” Mort continued. “Polly and Bert and Yaretzi. And so many others.”
“I’m not sure I know what you’re getting at,” said Creep, and the shadow stepped towards him, bleeding water down the bones it stepped across. “You must be very lucky, Mort, because some of us don’t deserve friends. Who on this black earth is going to be my friend?”
“I don’t know yet,” Mort said, and raised a hand. It had knuckles and flesh he swore he remembered. A little of a past life clinging to his bones.
“But from now on, you and I are going to be friends. We are going to be kind. And we are going to be good. Because Polly and Yaretzi are my family. And they loved me, even though I was dead. And they will love us.”
Mort raised his hand for a handshake.
“I don’t think I believe you,” said Creep, eyeing his hand nervously. “One person has loved me and I killed him and I stole his name. I stay up here because the blood demands it and I won’t hurt anyone if they don’t come here. That’s all. It will happen again and and again and again and…”
“Not anymore,” Mort said, and shook his head. “You and I are the same now. Like you said. And things are going to be different. The world is full of friends.”
Bartholomew Chum took Creep’s hand in his.
“Let’s begin again.”
Interlude 2 - Blame Me
And with that, Mort ceases to be. Or continues to be, in a different way. That is what it always is, although I am not sure you can see it from your mortal position on the coil.
Did I know? When I woke him up from his slumber in the laundry room of the hotel where he was comforted and safe and loved, that it would come to this?
No. Of course not. Not exactly. But I had my suspicions, perhaps. Truth be told, to venture into this North, the guarded realm of Marolmar’s heart, is death for all who trespass. Yaretzi does not dream; she peels across the snow and finds a smoldering umbrella in the ice. She will not know for a while yet. And Apollyon is a world away. Neither of them will know yet, then, that Mort is gone. And I have done it.
I never wanted to hurt any of you, dreamer, with rare exception for marketing employees and annoying little men with guns. I did not think when I began this narrative that I would lead any of its members to their demise.
You can blame me, dreamer. It is alright. Yes. I have made a choice, to ultimately try and help you. Allow you to live. Not just you, but millions of dreamers upon your world. And if you think I have done wrong by trading one life for all of yours, you would be right to think so, I am sure.
But we can not linger long in grief, not yet. There will be a time for it. We go now to one who sinks into an empty ocean.
Story 3 - The Heart
Diggory Graves knew three things.
The first was that the massive form of Creep pulled in Mort’s bones, and every eye in its surface blinked out, and then it was swimming away, as silent and huge as a sky full of storm clouds. And then they were alone, except for themselves.
The second thing was that their spiked leather jacket would not help them as they plummeted into the darkness, the parcel of heavy explosives in hand. They reluctantly slid into Mort’s titanic suit as the pressure exerted itself on their fragile stitches; Irene’s work might have been warded but Walt’s was not.
They twisted the vault ring inside, sealed the suit, and slid their hands into the control rings within. Their knife-tipped fingers fit awkwardly around the control gauntlets, and they peeked their head up into the glass dome to watch the ocean grow darker.
They sank for many minutes, tracked time only by the disappearance of light, and the numbers ticking downward in the screen of the detonator pad. Up and down were immaterial concepts; Diggory felt as though they were falling off the face of the earth, floating through space.
Then the turbulence began, a thunder in the water. Diggory kept out of the stream of water boiling upwards from below, rode the downwash where the rising water collided with the ice ceiling high above. They noticed first a glint of light from below, and it grew brighter as they sank, until they came to rest on the ocean floor, metal boots stirring the ancient silt. A wasteland stretched lifelessly in all directions, a desert of ash beneath the sea, the surface of an alien world.
In the ocean before them stood a structure they might have described as a temple, for it was a place of cosmic worship. It had huge pillars like a cage, cast of some unspeakable obsidian stone. Stairs led up to an entrance that blazed with light like the aurora borealis, and a torrent of black water poured from its roof to cloud the ocean above. The heart within beat, and shook the ocean with each momentary tremor.
Diggory Graves, wrapped in Mort’s red armor, stepped up the great stairs, built for the feet of something much larger, kicking to jump fifteen feet with each step.
Every inch of the laborious monument was carved in love letters, although Diggory could not possibly know that. And Diggory rose to greet the heart.
There, at the end of a room of high pillars, supports to protect the heart within from damage, there was the first and only heart of Marolmar.
It was resplendent.
Great breathing-sacs and artificial arteries, living stone, forged god-matter, pulsing with unknown life. Designed to pump in the ocean and pump out something else entirely; designed to corrupt the fire of souls with each drop of ichor added to the cycling water. A machine built of great passion and great spite, hope for the future of the universe and bitterness for its past, a monolith of automatic creation as the universe has never seen nor will see again. There was no way for Diggory to know this.
Diggory drew closer, step by step, a metal shell trudging through the great hall of stone pillars, to stand before the blazing heart of creation.
Diggory Graves knew three things, and the third was that there had always been an empty feeling inside of them, the last piece of who they were waiting to be discovered. They had sought it in a run-down cabin in the woods where a desolate piano lay rotting, and in the community they had found in the Scoutpost, and in themselves. But they were not lonely, just unfinished, and as they raised a silver-tipped claw to pierce the heart, Irene Mend took their eyes, and thoughts, and Diggory fell, as so many times before, asleep.
And we hover there for a moment, dreamer, for they dream, a moment’s touch away from the heart of Marolmar, and it all begins to come to an end.
How many threads we have followed in these nightmares. How many dreams have led to this moment.
A ghost flies against the wind, without care for where he is going. His home is nowhere if not Diggory.
Another spirit hovers alongside a girl on a broom, bound southwards for the black pines, bound for ritual and redemption.
A weather witch reaches from a frigid balcony for the clouds, and they do not respond to her call, and she weeps cerulean tears.
A wolf holds an umbrella in her jaws, and weeps gold as she flees the ice barrens, and knows that her home and family have been lost in a day for the second time.
An old groundskeeper holds his sweetheart close, both long dead phantoms, and waits for the ice to shatter beneath their feet as the Grackle roosts and croaks.
A black expanse escapes the song of the arctic ocean.
A frog walks back from the arctic into the Northmost.
The Faceless King stands beside a long-dead German Shepherd; they wait patiently together over a torn yellow hat. A court of rats study the mysteries of the stars above, hoping for answers.
A father who knows each plant in Ontario, or at least he used to before they turned stranger every spring, holds his child and the other German Shepherd close, and hopes they can survive one more tribulation.
A girl who walks in dream searches against hope for any sign of her friends returning from the North.
Six siblings, each sewn from a dozen lifetimes, comfort each other in the early darkness, and mourn the seventh, already long gone.
A girl who began life fully formed, and yet has had to find her own substance, comforts her broken mother, a place she finds herself in too often.
Two elderly scouts look up at the sky, as the earth shakes, and wonder if their world is about to end for the second time of their lives. If it does, they will face it like the last one, together.
A former security guard and a former secretary for the most powerful woman in the world watch too, and worry for what future waits for their unborn child.
In the Spirit Sky Observatory, the Ascended Scientists of Xyzikxyz spread their wings and prepare to take flight.
An outcast from Fort Freedom stands on the ramparts of the Scoutposts, and wonders idly if Rick Rounds is still alive. His attention is diverted as he spies the survivors of the Downing Hill Fire, making their way for the safety of the Scoutpost.
In a dark lake, many liches wake at once, for their dreams have been disturbed by the vibration of the water, stirring hibernating frogs from their lungs.
Journeying North alongside a headless rider and a deathly steed, a grave keeper wonders idly if Buck is still alive. What he would say. Who he has become.
An invisible man returns inside, from welcoming the Friends of Zelda, to discover that the bed of his impromptu guest is empty, and he does not know where the man with the wooden arm has gone, and his green-finned lover comforts him.
A giant nestles with his dogs in the Find a Friend Animal Center and waits for the forest to stop shaking.
At Fort Freedom, a terrible mother prays in the living room, with her children gathered around. She prays that revelation will not come to pass just yet. She prays for more time.
Lady Ethel Mallory marches through the forest, lunging out to snap the trunks of trees as she passes in rage, and sets her sights on the silver angles of Box Polaris. I don’t care about her.
An old woman clasps her hands around the eye of Nikignik, and watches the end arrive.
A cat in many places surveys these potentially final moments. It is disgusting.
In the old chapel of the Church of the Hallowed Name, a woman who has given everything to the church prays before a painting of a field of sunflowers, and a hand of silver bones reaches out from the canvas.
In the Blackwood Coven, grandmothers and mothers and daughters raise their hands around a bent tree, and praise the coming spring.
Two vampires, and a head of crystal, and an eyeless corpse of mummified flesh, and Zorgelleck, gather what they can from the fallen hotel and know that something terrible has happened.
An automobile’s wheels touch the concrete floor of the Streets of Yesterday for the first time in months.
A man blessed by the spring walks hand-in-hand with a Herald of the Garden of the End, descends a mountain of little stones to walk together in the wastes of Marolmar’s World.
One who speaks to Moths opens moth’s eyes and pulls a dreaming visor free from moth’s head, and wakes from the endless nightmare.
The world’s most powerful man turns down reports of dangerous seismic activity and the alarming power surges from the Engine in the arctic. His son is all he cares for now, and the potential that comes with him; to save humanity in his own way. His dedicated scientist hatches his own schemes in the shadows.
A museum keeper holds a baby with the head of a beetle in their hands as the legs of the museum scrape on ice below.
An auditor, burning with hellfire and iron, pauses in his endless journey across America to acknowledge me. I am too sickened to return it.
A donut baker prepares a fresh batch for the morning, and looks outside the window, wondering what customers the dawn might bring.
A spirit in a Toronto apartment waves at a passing biologist; he is carried by a weed from beyond the stars, its blooms changed to thistles for the colder weather.
And of course, there is you, dreamer, sleeping as you should at this hour of the morning, before dawn. Perhaps wondering what this will mean for your world. I hope it will be a good life that follows this, dreamer. I hope that time, with all its blessings, will allow you to forgive me.
And Diggory’s pale eyes flicker as they dream a last dream, of a beach of bones, of their pasts and their singular future. The timer of their explosives, a blast large enough to cleave apart this dread machine, ticks into its last minutes, but they have enough time after all. Any moment now they will wake, and draw the pulsing flame of the Heart of Marolmar into themselves, and it will end.
There is another dreamer.
I have felt it, for the first time, just now. A fault line appears in the surface of the great machine.
This stone. This heart. It is hollow. Someone dreams inside. If I venture a little closer, perhaps…
No. No, it cannot be....
Marolmar? Is that you?