Before I left the church to the slinking death of its dying city, I nailed The Crucifier to one of his own crosses, merging artist with art, preserving his legacy. I hoped he would be taken for one of his own victims, and while his lethal dream would cease, he would remain an unnamed monster, forever. As for the new murder-lists I discovered, I transferred the names that hadn’t been crossed off to my own list (all except for my own name, of course). I noticed that The Crucifier’s list included names from the murdered hunter’s list, none of which were crossed off on the latter. I assumed I had unconsciously followed some kind of unspoken protocol.
Soon I was travelling the haunted countryside, wandering the art galleries of forsaken places, where many artifacts of the Great Darkness of 1999 still stood, glowing with darkest mystery. In the distance, rising up from the mists of dawn and the green tresses of the wandering forest, I could see one of my favorite monuments, The Tower of Teeth. How many mouths had been plundered to make a structure that soared taller than skyscrapers? Of course, a closer analysis of the tower revealed that not all of the teeth were human or even animal, but belong to creatures that had yet to be discovered—living or dead— anywhere upon the Earth. More importantly, they were obviously not the carved or otherwise altered teeth of already known creatures, as some of the more foolish theories assert. If it isn’t apparent to you already, I do not subscribe to the popular theory—proffered by frightened scientists and other wardens of societal norms (myths?)—that The Darkness was the effect of a one-of-a-kind “solar event” that drove us all temporarily insane. You and I awoke from the same dreams, and I know as certainly as you—it was no solar event. If ever this world had come under the reign of dreams, it was surely during the Great Darkness. It’s just a pity that we cannot remember what happened, as I’m sure that missing year must contain some of my best work.
I’m not one to devolve mystery into fact, but the game I was engaged in threatened my life in ways I had never imagined possible (as embarrassing as that is to admit), and I needed a fuller understanding of what was happening than was provided by dreams and murdered men. Thus, my next stop was a place I had only called upon once before—New Victoria. Given its past association with strange plagues of contagious nightmare, it’s easy to see why I once found it a suitable place to visit. However, I can assure you that I was quickly and thoroughly disillusioned of any relationship I suspected my art and the city might have shared.
Perhaps foolishly, I fear very few things—yet what I encountered in New Victoria inspired a feeling that surpassed any of the best descriptions of fear that I know. I was exposed to possible fates that extend far beyond the reach of any words to describe, and outstrip the dreadfulness of the darkest mytho-religious conception of damnation. While my memories of that horrific visit only carry back a hazy suggestion of blackest dreams—which burn and blister beyond the oldest darkness—it is more than enough to convince me that sometimes sleep is not worth the risk of dreaming.
Unfortunately, New Victoria was the only place I knew my recent (and apparently shared) dreams might be given some useful interpretation. I knew of certain persons who dwelt there—somewhere between this world and some much darker place—and interacted with dreams as intimately and completely as sculptors work clay. Given the level of wicked insight I achieved during my first stay within that awful city, I hoped I could safely and ever so briefly revisit it. I just needed to stay awake within its borders, or I might find myself eternally trapped within the alien dreams of wakeless, unspeakable things.
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