[INT. PRISON, VISITATION ROOM]
[TAPE CLICKS ON.]
There. Much better.
[His handcuffs jangle as he speaks, and there’s the usual prison background noise we’ve come to expect.]
You know I don’t care if John hears this.
Come on, Martin. It’s been so long since I’ve seen you. Let’s not start with lies.
[Martin takes a steadying breath.]
I am very pleased to see you.
No time for pleasantries? Very well, then. To business. What can I do for you? Tired of running budgets for Peter? I know I would be.
I’m – I need to – (inhale, then short hm) Is he telling the truth?
[His handcuffs rattle.]
About any of it.
[Elias inhales heavily.]
Everything Peter has told you is true.
(huh, really?!) Oh…
For all his… many faults, Peter is legitimately trying to stop the end of the world as we know it.
So why haven’t you helped him?
My relationship to the apocalypse is more… complicated.
(overlapping sigh) Seriously?
Seriously. Anyway, I have helped him. I’ve given him control of the Institute, I’ve provided him with –
– any manpower he might require.
[Martin scoffs: Yeah, right.]
(increasingly heated) Yeah, but if – if he’s right about the Extinction, what it is, then why didn’t you say anything before; why am I only hearing it about it now; and why doesn’t John know?
In my case, while Peter has talked of it before, it was only very recently that I was forced to admit the Extinction is real. And as for our dear Archivist, I’m afraid I no longer have any real control over what he does or does not know, unlike yourself. I notice you haven’t told him either.
Yeah, well. I’m still not sure I really believe it. (long exhale) A,And I don’t… I – I’m –
(rattle) Worried he might charge off into another coffin.
[He makes a smug little sound.]
Quite. (rattle) As for why I’ve done so little about such a looming existential threat, (sigh) to be blunt, I have been rather busy.
[Martin makes a sputtering noise that equates to: Yeah, right x2.]
Don’t forget, I – (rattle) – am still living at Her Majesty’s pleasure, due in no small part to your actions. So by this point, all I can do is confirm that everything Peter has told you is true.
I think he wants me to join the Lonely.
Then it sounds like you have a decision to make.
What? (small dry laugh) That’s it? No, no monologue, no mind games? You love manipulating people!
That makes two of us.
No. This is too important for me to jeopardize with cheap – (rattle) – mind games. I simply have to trust that when the time comes, you’ll – (rattle) – make the right choice.
Great! (small sigh, under his breath) Great, great. (to Elias) So what you’re actually saying is that you’re gonna be – no help whatsoever!
[You can hear the grin in Elias’s voice when he speaks.]
Just like old times.
I don’t know what I expected. (shaky inhale) Right, we’re done here.
[He starts to walk away.]
Don’t forget to keep in touch, Martin. There are so many people in here, but without one’s friends…
[Martin unlocks/opens the door to leave.]
It does get rather lonely.
[TAPE CLICKS OFF.]
[INT. MAGNUS INSTITUTE, ????]
[TAPE CLICKS ON.]
M-Martin Blackwood, Assistant to Peter Lukas, Head of the Magnus Institute, recording statement number… 8671302. Statement of Robert Smirke, taken from a letter to Jonah Magnus, dated 13th of Februrary, 1867.
[He clears his throat.]
My dear Jonah,
You will forgive me, I hope, for being so forward, but I feel I must break the silence that has characterized our acquaintance for these past few decades.
You see, Jonah, I feel the hour of my death approaching, and, though you have always been reluctant to pay due heed to my warnings or counsel, I continue to see in you the reflection of my own past hubris. I could not go easy to my grave without offering one last plea for your restraint. What we built at Millbank should be left well enough alone, resigned to the nightmares of the reprobates and brigands contained within its walls.
I have been blessed with a long life, something few who cross paths with the Dread Powers can boast, but now, at the end of it, my true fear is that I have wasted it, chasing an impossible dream. To speak plain, I have begun to lose faith in the possibility of balance, of any sort of equilibrium among them.
It is telling, that of those I have brought into my confidence, it is only you and I who have continued this far without falling to one power or another, despite all my instruction and work. This is, of course, assuming you have not taken the path of the Eye that I know has called you, called us both for so long. Even since before we began our work on Millbank.
I suppose I had to believe that the darkened natures of our terror could be kept in check, weighed against each other so that the great wheel would keep turning forever, without reaching the velocity I feared would crush us. Perhaps my sin was to see them as something that could be knowable, and harnessed.
I’m sure you recall what happened with the Reform Club, but you may be unaware of some of my other experiments below the very streets of London. Places I have tried to cover with churches, of all things, in the faint hope that… perhaps the site of our Saviour will be enough to contain them. A rather feeble hope, for my own salvation.
Did I ever tell you about the dreams? I’m sure I must have. I would dream about them, you see, as a young man, long before I devised my taxonomy. I would find myself in nightmares of strange, far-off places: a field of graves, a grasping tunnel, an abattoir knee-deep in pig’s blood. I believed then, as I still believe now, that these places I saw were the Powers themselves, expressed in their truest form, far more entirely than any “secret” book can claim.
And if, as I came to believe, the Dread Powers were themselves places of some sort, then surely with the right space, the right architecture, they could be contained. Channeled. Harnessed. So yes, hubris. Not simply in that, I suppose, but in believing that those I brought into my confidence shared my lofty goals.
So many have abandoned us, casting about for rituals that I helped design. In my excited discussions with Mr. Rayner, I perhaps extrapolated too much from his talk of a grand ritual of darkness. The Dark, I thought, was simply one of the powers, so it stands to reason that each of them should have its own ritual. Perhaps they already did, even before I put pen to paper.
They certainly do now, and I shudder to think how Lukas, Scott, and the others may use this conception.
Fourteen powers, with their opposites and their allies, each with an aim no more or less than manifestation. Apocalypse. Apotheosis. I wonder, did my work bring about these dreadful things, or – did I simply develop the means by which they can be known?
I should have realized, of course, when we first discussed the Flesh, for how can there be true balance, each one to its opposite, when new fears can emerge and change as civilization itself grows and alters, when a new power can birth itself screaming from the torn remnants of others?
I know you say the Flesh was perhaps always there, shriveled and nascent until its recent growth, but to grant the existence of such a lesser power would throw everything into confusion. Would you have me separate the Corruption into insects, dirt, and disease? T,To divide the fungal bloom from the maggot? No. No, I – stand by my work, and thus, we must conclude that the only explanation is a new Power, created from what was once others, yet also distinct. And if such change is possible, how, then, can any true balance be achieved through immutable, unchanging stone?
I have been dreaming again, Jonah. The same every night for months, now. I imagine myself a boy again at Aspley. I awake, cold and alone in the dormitory. The sky outside is dark, and I see no stars. I light a candle, to better see my way, and step down the silent corridor. The master’s rooms are empty, the fire in the kitchen is dead. Eventually my steps lead out into the courtyard. It is so quiet that the sound of my feet upon the grass is painful to my ears. I stop, and look up at the sky, that empty black nothing, and I see the edges of the horizon becoming a dull white. I cannot understand what I am looking at.
And then the sky blinks.
And I awake.
I am not a fool. I know well enough what this dream is likely to mean, and I warn you again, that if you have any remaining ambitions to use our work, to try and wear the Watcher’s Crown, you must abandon them! Not simply for the sake of your own soul, but for that of the world! I have always had the utmost respect for you as a man of dignity and learning. Donot allow yourself to fall to this madness.
I have been thinking, of late, about the first origin of the Dread Powers, if such beings can really be said to have true origins. Are they eternal? Or were they created from our own fear by some – grand accident, or, worse, some grand design? I believe the latter to be the case, as you well know, for I have in vain struggled to reconcile their creation with the existence of a loving god.
They are not demons, of this I am sure, though we have drawn parallels with their acolytes and certain monstrous figures from ancient myth. No, I feel certain they were brought into existence by some – ancient civilization, some foolish tribe from pre-history.
Do you know of Alexander Cunningham? He’s been working with the viceroy of India on the Indus Valley digs, and has discovered some quite remarkable things. Burial pits full of burned bones and ash; skulls with markings, as if the eyes were removed; and others that seemed buried alive. Perhaps a dying civilization sought to harness its own terror, as we once thought to harness its results.
Of course, such things are pure conjecture. (long inhale) I have not brought Cunningham into my confidence on this, nor do I believe there will be any cause to, even if there was still time remaining to me. (soft hm) Perhaps you’re wondering why I’m so convinced of my imminent demise, and why I should see it as cause to reach out to you, after so much silence and distrust has passed between us. Certainly, you must either wonder, or you already know all too well.
I have been watched for some time, now, since shortly before the dreams began. It was subtle at first, easy to ignore and dismiss. What possible harm could there be in the idle glance of a footman, staring at you as you leave your home? And no doubt the shopkeeper is permitted to watch whomsoever he pleases within the confines of his own establishment. (inhale) So I have been reassuring myself, as I attempted to ignore my own growing disquiet.
But what is not to be dismissed is when your driver, on the long road from London, takes his eyes from the horses and begins to turn his head, slowly at first, but with a clear determination, inch by inch without ceasing, neck cracking and skin stretching, until his whole head seems as though it were placed atop his shoulders in reverse by some careless sculptor.
The others in my carriage seemed not to mark this awful sight, but I could scarce look away, and the eyes of this twisted figure locked on my own, tears streaming from their corners. It was such a dreadful spectacle that it took every ounce of my composure not to hurl myself bodily from the coach.
The journey was not a short one, and for all those hours the driver did not once for a second look away. The horses seemed to take it all in stride.
Since then, I have attempted to avoid such situations, and have traveled primarily by the railway – but, even then, it seems I cannot avoid the ceaseless gaze of those silent figures who gather along the side of the track to stare at me as I pass. I count the billowing smoke as a blessing, for though it sends me into coughing fits, it at least serves to hide me from their relentless eyes.
I am choosing to assume that these manifestations are unintentional, Jonah, and you have not simply decided to implore a dark patron to end the life of an old man. I further find myself supposing that they might emanate from your own intrigues and preparations to culminate those plans which we agreed to abandon so many decades ago.
I beg you, do not pursue this goal; if only a single lesson may be gleaned from my life of long study and longer hardship, it is that the fear of death is natural, and to flee from it will only bring greater misery. Repent of your sins, Jonah. Seek forgiveness. I am certain the Dread Powers cannot take a soul who keeps faith in the Resurrection.
As for myself, I must cling to hope, for I cannot ultimately deny the wavering of my own faith. I have pleaded with the Lord to give me strength, to help shield me from the things I have sought these many decades, to protect me, as my end draws near. I do not believe my prayers have been heard.
Last night I was awoken by a noise from the drawing room. I was in my own bed, and the moon shone through the window, casting the place in a pale and sickly hue, though it was illumination enough to assure myself I was alone. The noise came again, however, and I called out to Laura, asking if she had woken in the night. There was no reply. I struck a match, and lit my meager candle, clinging desperately to its small pinprick of warmth and light, and I crept towards the drawing room.
The door opened slowly, and the room within was in pitch darkness, the heavy curtains having been drawn across the window. In the sputtering glow of the candle, I could see a figure stood in the corner opposite the door. It wore a long nightdress, and seemed at a glance to be my dear, sweet Laura. I let out a breath and began to settle myself, asking her what she was doing out of bed. She did not respond, however. She remained silent instead, facing into the corner of the room.
I approached slowly, that restored confidence fleeing me as swiftly as it had arrived, and asked her again. This time, she began to turn, with such a slowness I was reminded instantly of the driver. I started to speak again, but at that moment my candle went out, plunging me into abject darkness. I fumbled desperately for a match, and, finding one in my nightgown, I struck it in a panic, casting a sudden light on my surroundings.
Laura’s face was inches from my own, her eyes staring into mine, so wide that they seemed to take up half her face or more, bulging grotesquely from their sockets. I screamed. Just once. She gave no response of her own.
I wanted to run, to – lock myself in my room, but under the sight of those horrible eyes, my entire body seemed to freeze, and I stood there, match held aloft, eyes locked with this awful parody of my daughter.
After an eternity, the flame reached my fingers, and I dropped the match, letting the relief of darkness wash over me. I stood there until morning, only to find Laura gone. It was then I began composing this letter.
Laura, of course, claims no knowledge of the night’s events, having no memory of even leaving her chamber. The Eye has marked me for something, of this I have no doubt. My humble hope is that it may be a swift death, an accidental effect of your own researches, which I once again implore you to abandon. It is likely too late for me, but I will not –
[Martin breaks off, flips the page over.]
Um… He, um… the letter ends there. Uh – apparently Robert Smirke was found collapsed in his study that evening, dead of, uh… apoplexy. Hm. I-I don’t know how the letter reached the Archives – I mean, (noncommittal sound) I can guess, but…
So. So what; what does it mean? Am I supposed to be reassured that new entities can be born, that there’s some – some kind of precedent for the Extinction?
(slight pause) Peter? (pause) Huh. Maybe he has gone to a party. (clipped exhale) Anyway.
(inhale) Smirke was clearly wrong about the Powers balancing each other, at least. I mean – i-i,it’s obviously impossible. There’s too much variation in, in how much something is feared by people any one time, an-and if that’s the case, I suppose it’s… not impossible that Peter… might be telling the truth.
I don’t know what he’s talking about when he mentions Millbank. The old prison I guess? Tim said the tunnels under the Institute were all that was left of it, but – John said he’d checked them pretty thoroughly.
(sigh) I’m not the one who knows all about this stuff. I wish – (he breaks off) N,no. No, it’s fine; I’m fine; (huff) I can do this.
(slight pause, inhale) I don’t know what Peter’s planning; my, my guess is that it might involve something below the Institute. Hopefully by the time you get these tapes I’ll have something more concrete for you.
Good luck, John; I –