MAG127
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#8312111

Remains to be Seen

[INT. MAGNUS INSTITUTE, ARCHIVES, ARCHIVIST’S OFFICE]
[TAPE CLICKS ON.]

ARCHIVIST

Statement of Dr. Jonathan Fanshawe regarding the months leading up to the death and autopsy of Albrecht von Closen. Original statement given as part of a letter to Jonah Magnus, November 21st, 1831. Audio recording by Jonathan Sims, The Archivist.

Statement begins.

ARCHIVIST (STATEMENT)

Jonah. I must first and foremost decline your generous offer of a medical position servicing Millbank Penitentiary. While the terms you have laid out are, no doubt, more than adequate, I have for these last months come to the unfortunate conclusion that our intimacy and friendship must cease immediately. I do not know what interest you have in the poor condemned souls within those walls, nor do I care to guess. In the light of what I have so recently witnessed, I can no longer in good conscience associate with any of your endeavors. Nor will I continue to collect or provide those accounts of the esoteric and otherworldly that you and your… Institute so eagerly require. Consider this the severing of our acquaintance.

This cannot come as a shock to you. Surely you must have understood what you were asking when you implored me to visit with Albrecht, and apply my meager skills to the illness that beset him. You must have known the nature of that illness, even if only in the most general terms, and no doubt you had some intuition as to its cause.

But, should all this be a true surprise to you, then I shall do my best to explain, and hope that any revelations contained here in me sway you from the path you have started upon.

I arrived at Albrecht’s estate early in April. The trees were dense with renewed greenery, and the rain drummed heavily on the carriages as we approached. I remember it so clearly. The smell of the rain cut through with an unexpected whiff of smoke, and as we got closer I saw the orange glow of flame through the trees.

My first thought was that the house had caught fire, and I would arrive only to a scorched ruin and blackened bone, but as we got closer I could see that it was a single tree that was burning. A gnarled and ancient elm, that sat removed from the rest of the forest. A small crowd surrounded the spectacle. One man, who I took to be a groundskeeper, stood closer than the others, with a lit torch in his hand.

On my instruction, the driver pulled closer, though the horses were nervous, and I asked the man why they were burning the tree, when the rain was coming down so heavily. Surely it could have waited for drier weather. The man simply shrugged. My German is… fine, though I have had little cause to use it of late, but his accent was thick, and all that I could get from him was a sense of… resignation, and the insistence that his master, who I took to be Albrecht, wanted the tree dead. I’m sure that he used that word, though. Not burned, not removed, or destroyed. Dead. I resolved to ask Albrecht about it when I saw him.

As it transpired, that was sometime later than I had anticipated. As I’m sure you’re aware, Albrecht’s wife Carla was taken by a fever some years ago, and his sons were away at school, so it was the housekeeper who greeted me when I arrived. Greta, her name was, a pleasant, red-faced young woman with a smattering of English that she insisted on using at every opportunity.

Once I had dressed in dry clothes, she brought some food and a drop of brandy, all the while making apologies that the master of the house was indisposed. I did tell her that I was a doctor, and specifically visiting in order to help end any indisposition. But she just shook her head and told me he’d see me when he was ready.

The house seemed.. so empty. The rain battered on the window, and the clocks ticked away in every room, but there seemed no sound of life to be found anywhere. As I sat in the drawing room, I realized Greta had left the door behind me open to the corridor beyond. I tried to ignore it, simply drink my brandy and continue waiting.

But I could not ignore the sensation that someone was out there, watching behind me. The corridor was dark, and I thought for a second I could make out a shape, crouched there. But there was nothing, so I closed the door. Eventually evening came, and Greta informed me that dinner was served. I ate alone, sat in a long dining hall that seemed to have far too many windows. Turning behind me, I saw Greta watching me from the doorway. Her face held nothing of malice in it that I could discern, but still I was uneasy. I called, trying to dismiss her, but she didn’t seem to hear me.

I retired back to the drawing room to smoke my pipe, but even that simple, reassuring action brought me no comfort, and I made my way to the room I had been given without ever once having seen my elusive host. I noted that the window looking over my bed had neither blind nor shutter, and I was all at once very aware of my candle, and the sickly illumination it spread over everything, the point of light reflected back in the glass like the glint of an eye.

I did not sleep well that night. The feeling of being under-observation did not lessen, and I remained unsure of the exact nature of this errand, an errand, I remind you, Jonah, I undertook at your insistence. Eventually a fitful sleep found me, and I had some measure of peace.

It was still dark when I awoke, and that feeling had intensified to a terrifying measure. I was now certain that something was in the room with me, staring at me. I reached over and took a match, striking it against the bedpost. And there, looming over me, was a face, pale and shaking. The eyes sunken, and the cheeks were dirty and unshaved.

It was the face of Albrecht von Closen.

In the light, his eyes met mine, and his mouth began to work furiously, repeating the same phrase over and over, increasing in volume until he was screaming it into my face: (breath)

“Leg sie ala zurück. Leg sie ala zurück.”

Put them back. Put them back.

I felt a sharp pain in my fingers as the match burned down, and I dropped it with a cry. The room disappeared into darkness once again, and when my scrabbling hands had gotten another lit, he was gone. And I was alone. I did not sleep any further that night.

When the sun finally crept through my uncovered window, I dressed quickly. Greta’s pleas that I come down for breakfast were roundly ignored, and I started throwing open any door I had not yet seen behind, looking for my host.

I found him in the library, where a fire already blazed in a feeble attempt to keep the morning chill at bay. He stood in front of it, eyes lost in the flame, looking every bit as feeble and warm as he had when he crouched over my bed the night before. I shut the door behind me before Greta could object, and demanded to know why he had come into my room.

He… apologized, in such a pitiful tone that the anger seemed to abandon me all at once. He seemed so small. He gestured for me to take a seat, and I did. As he walked the shelves, stroking the spines of each book in turn, I started to ask him about his health, and explained why I was there, but he showed not the slightest sign that he was listening.

“I had them rebound last year,” he said. “Damp can do terrible things to a book.” I told him I was certain that that was the case, but I must insist we talk about his health. Again he ignored me. Instead, he took the seat opposite me and started to tell me a story. And then another. And another. A stream of strange tales began to pour out of him, and I just sat there, transfixed, desperately wishing I had the strength of will to leave, but all I could do was listen.

He told me of a seamstress, who laced her body with fine black thread, and when she pulled it all out in a single swift motion, her skin dropped away like a loose shift. He told me of a man so scared to die he spent a year weaving a rope blindfolded, so he would not know the length, and could not foresee the moment it would tighten around his neck when he finally threw himself into the void. He told me of a fire that burns so hot and fierce that to even know about it is enough to burn a man’s tongue from his head. He told me so many terrible things.

And at the end of it all, the only thing I could think to ask him was where he read them. My eyes darted to the books that surrounded us, but Albrecht laughed at this, and placed his hands across a spine that was simply labeled ‘A Warning.’ For a moment, he looked as though he were about to wrench it from its place and hurl it into the fire. But it passed. He turned back to me. “You do not understand,” he said to me in German. “I do not read the books. They read me.”

I did not ask him to clarify further. I got the key to my room from Greta and made sure this time, the door was locked as I slept.

As my stay progressed, I learned more of his condition. I would have initially described it as a… natural mania, that had found a totemic focus on the books of his library. But when he finally told me the story of how he discovered them… and the awful tomb from which they were retrieved, I began to suspect that perhaps the books had brought some contaminant into Albrecht’s home, which had gradually corroded his mind. I had neither the time nor equipment to conduct the sort of tests that might have confirmed such things, but I became convinced that removing the books would go some way to addressing his health concerns.

I expected some stiff resistance on the subject, but Albrecht’s response seemed closer to relief than any sort of distress. He simply asked if I would help, and, to my eternal regret, I agreed.

What shall I tell you, Jonah, about this… fool’s errand? That damnable journey we embarked upon? Shall I regale you with the awful experiences of transporting a library’s worth of books through the Black Forest? Perhaps I should write you an account of finding that ancient cemetery, of descending into that bleak and frozen mausoleum. Or would you prefer to hear about the hours we spent placing volume after volume on empty grey shelves, ignoring how out of place the new bindings appeared against the antique stonework?

No. I’m sure all you want to know was how Albrecht died. Why it was that, as I replaced the last book taken from that place, I heard his – scream from the top of the stairs and ran up to find him sprawled and dead before the stone coffin. But I cannot answer that. I do not know how he died. I saw nothing and no one with him, and his body seemed whole and undamaged. But I do have some idea as to why it happened.

For as I filled those dead shelves with freshly bound volumes, I could not help but notice that every page was blank. I have since checked with [Paines], who I believe to be your preferred book-binders. And I know that the books poor Albrecht was returning to the grave were not the books that were taken. I hope they bring you much wisdom, Jonah, for the cost was dear enough.

Nothing stood in the way of my retreat, and I dragged Albrecht’s body back as far as the coach. We left that awful place, and I have endeavored most acutely to forget the route.

Before he was buried, I was able to secure permission to do an autopsy. I had some thought as to discovering the cause of his sudden, violent passing. Do I need to tell you what I found, Jonah? Do I need to detail what covered his organs, his bones, the inside of his skin? What clustered together in their dozens, and all turned as one to focus on me as I opened his chest, their pupils constricting in the light, with irises of every hue and color? Because whatever it was that did this to him, I know in my heart that it is your fault.

I have had the body burned. Please do not write to me again.

Your obedient servant,

Doctor Jonathan Fanshawe.

ARCHIVIST

Statement ends.

(sigh) Disconcerting to find my namesake in a statement, especially one connected so directly to the Institute. I can only hope breaking faith with Jonah Magnus didn’t go too badly for him.

Hm. Jonah Magnus. I’ve never really given much thought to him, not nearly as much as I should have. I suppose I had always hoped there was a chance he was… innocent in all this. I know, I know. But I had – (sigh) I just – hoped that maybe the founding of the Institute was in earnest, and not simply the foundation-stone for all the terrible things that have happened here. But no. Whatever is happening now has its origins two hundred years ago, in the work of an evil man. (shaky breath)

Exactly two hundred years in fact. Don’t think that little detail has evaded me. I don’t know the precise date the Institute was founded, but I do know that it was in 1818. (shaky breath) Something’s coming. I know it is. (pause) But I just – don’t know what I need to do.

(sound of recognition) (calling)

Come in, Basira.

[The door opens and closes as Basira comes in.]

BASIRA

I was waiting for you to finish.

ARCHIVIST

I know.

BASIRA

I don’t like that you’ve started doing that.

ARCHIVIST

I – I know. (pause, sigh) How’s Melanie?

BASIRA

How do you think?

ARCHIVIST

Ah – I-I, uh, I should probably talk to –

BASIRA

(overlapping) You should probably stay as far away as possible. She doesn’t want to see you.

ARCHIVIST

No. No, o-o-o-of course.

BASIRA

But, she did want me to… apologize.

ARCHIVIST

(soft, surprised) Oh.

BASIRA

From her, for… the shoulder.

ARCHIVIST

Oh. It, it’s fine. Scalpel wounds – (nonchalant laugh) – they heal quickly.

BASIRA

Hm.

ARCHIVIST

(dry breath of a laugh) Too quickly, really.

[He gives another of those same laughs.]

BASIRA

Already?

ARCHIVIST

(long sigh) Just another scar for the collection.

BASIRA

Hm.

ARCHIVIST

D-Do you think it worked; is she…?

BASIRA

I don’t know. She seems more… coherent, I guess? And you did get an apology.

ARCHIVIST

(quiet) Yeah.

BASIRA

She says she can cry now, which is, um –

ARCHIVIST

(even quieter) Oh.

BASIRA

– progress? I think?

ARCHIVIST

Uh –

BASIRA

She’s still angry, but she hasn’t attacked anyone. Not even sure she has it in her anymore.

ARCHIVIST

Well that’s – that’s good.

BASIRA

(ehhhh) Mm.

[The Archivist sighs.]

BASIRA

So. You can’t be killed by a collapsing building. Major injuries scar fast. You can force the truth out of people, and knowledge pops into your head whenever you need it.

ARCHIVIST

Yes. I, I think that, that about covers it.

BASIRA

…And what was that you were doing yesterday?

ARCHIVIST

…When?

BASIRA

You were sat on the floor for like four hours.

ARCHIVIST

…Oh! Uh, no, I,I,I was – I was – listening, you know, trying to see if the statements (inhale) …called to me.

BASIRA

And?

[We hear the flip of pages as the Archivist indicates the Fanshawe statement.]

BASIRA

Brilliant.

[The Archivist puts the statement down; we note at this point that there is some static that has just come in.]

ARCHIVIST

Look, I don’t know, Basira. I hope I’m still human, but it – (sigh) But it’s seeming more and more unlikely.

BASIRA

I didn’t ask.

ARCHIVIST

No, I suppose you didn’t.

BASIRA

Don’t snoop in my head.

ARCHIVIST

I’m not snooping; I’m not looking; that’s not how this works!

BASIRA

Explain it, then.

ARCHIVIST

I,I’m not sure I can!

BASIRA

Humor me.

[The Archivist lets out a long sigh.]

ARCHIVIST

It’s – hard. It’s like there’s a, a door, in my mind. A-a-and behind it is, is the entire ocean.

ARCHIVIST

Before, I didn’t notice it, but now, I – I know it’s there, and I can’t forget it, and I can feel the pressure of the water on it. I – I – [unintelligible noise] – I can keep it closed? (sigh) But sometimes, when I’m around p-people, or.. places, or.. ideas? A drop or two will push through the cracks at the edges of the door. And I’ll… know something.

[Pause.]

BASIRA

What happens if you open the door?

[Pause.]

ARCHIVIST

I drown.

[Pause.]

ARCHIVIST

I’m sorry, Basira, I,I will try to keep anything I’ve learned about you to myself. And my priorities haven’t changed. I hope you can believe that. (shaky breath and sigh) I’m still on your side. You can trust me.

BASIRA

(tired exhale) Yeah. People keep saying that.

ARCHIVIST

Do they? Who – who – who else – did Martin say something?

BASIRA

(brief pause) It was a few months back, after the attack. He’d started spending time with Lukas.

[The Archivist sighs.]

BASIRA

At least, he said he was. And I wanted answers.

BASIRA

He kept telling me to trust him, to hear the guy out, even though he still wouldn’t actually show his face. I told him he could drop me an email or vanish me.

ARCHIVIST

Right.

BASIRA

Honestly, I kind of regret not just – grabbing Martin and shaking an explanation out of him. But I didn’t want to push it. He was in a – bad place, what with the attack and his mum and everything. Now I try and bring it up and he just – disappears. Nothing to be done.

ARCHIVIST

S-sorry, you said – what happened with his mother?

BASIRA

Oh, yeah. She died. About two months after you, uh…

ARCHIVIST

(in the background, quiet) Oh.

BASIRA

(pause) Martin was… He tried to stay strong, keep it together, but – that sort of thing… (sigh) Then those Flesh things burst in, and well – here we are.

ARCHIVIST

God.

BASIRA

He didn’t tell you?

ARCHIVIST

(surprised) No.

BASIRA

Hm. Guess you don’t know everything then.

ARCHIVIST

N-no, I,I guess not. (shaky breath and sigh) So what do we do now?

BASIRA

You tell me. Just don’t expect much on trust these days.

ARCHIVIST

(hm) Yes, I, I suppose that’s fair.

[TAPE CLICKS OFF.]

[INT. PRISON, VISITING ROOM]
[TAPE CLICKS ON.]
[We hear the sound of a door or two being unlocked, and then locked again. There’s a bit of echoing background chatter.]

ELIAS

Good evening, Detective.

[Basira walks up to him.]

BASIRA

I’m not a detective.

ELIAS

Of course.

BASIRA

You wanted to see me?

ELIAS

Yes.

BASIRA

Something too important to tell the Inspector?

ELIAS

Maybe I – just wanted to have a chat.

BASIRA

Well, good luck with that.

[She starts walking back, begins to unlock what sounds like a grated door.]

ELIAS

I – found one of these in my cell.

[Basira pauses.]

ELIAS

(continuous) It wasn’t recording, but I assume this means he’s awake.

[Elias’s handcuffs clink.]

ELIAS

Basira?

[Clink again.]

BASIRA

Can we cut the bullshit?

ELIAS

What “bullshit” might that be?

BASIRA

The part where you pretend you don’t spend your whole time watching us.

[Someone yells something in the background.]

ELIAS

Sometimes I’m eating.

BASIRA

You know he’s back. You’ve seen him.

ELIAS

Fine. Yes.

[Another clink.]
[Pause.]

BASIRA

So what’s with the recorder? Who gave it to you?

ELIAS

(handcuffs clink again, nonchalant) Oh, no. That – that really did just appear in my cell.

BASIRA

Right, so, what, you figured you could just record us for him? Serve some distrust from afar?

ELIAS

Our arrangement with the inspector notwithstanding, I rather feel that right now all the distrust is very much your own. And, as to whether he’ll ever hear this, maybe he’ll get the tapes, maybe he won’t, but the recordings have helped so far, so…

BASIRA

Do you know what they are?

ELIAS

What a question.

[Basira sighs.]

BASIRA

Fine. So you won’t see him, but you’re happy for him to hear our conversations.

ELIAS

He can listen all he wants, but he’s at a very delicate stage right now, and I fear my presence would be a, um, a distraction.

[Clink.]

ELIAS

I made it clear my cooperation is contingent on his not seeing me, and my terms have been accepted thus far.

BASIRA

So why am I here? What do you want that’s so important you needed to tell me to my face?

ELIAS

I believe you recently lost Melanie.

BASIRA

We saved Melanie.

ELIAS

As a person, yes, but as a defender… (he tsk-sighs) I would have thought you would want all the help you could get, or have you forgotten what happened the last time you let your guard down?

BASIRA

We’ll work it out.

ELIAS

(heh) Possibly. Then again, you are beset by enemies on all sides, Basira. And, unless you expect John to record them into submission, it would seem you are in rather dire need of another option.

BASIRA

And you just happen to have one.

ELIAS

I might have an idea, (clink) yes.

BASIRA

And what does it cost?

ELIAS

Just some of your time, Basira. Just your time.

[Pause.]

BASIRA

(letting out a long sigh) Okay. Let’s hear it.

[TAPE CLICKS OFF.]