After many days of travel, I found myself in a small village. Its sole redeeming feature was a monument that had been built during the Great Darkness. The only clue as to this statue's purpose or station had been inscribed upon its base: “Mother of the Stillborn.” It had been raised by unknown persons for unknown reasons, but that fact hadn’t stopped the development of various secretive cabals in her honor (another dream that was showing promise). It has been alleged that some persons possessed of vague dream-memories from their time within the Great Darkness recalled the presence of a strange, monstrous woman who wandered the skies above the spaces where stillbirths were about to occur. This daemonic creature would catch the tiny souls as they spiraled toward the void, and with each one her womb would grow ever larger. After the requisite number of stillborn souls had been accrued, she would give birth to an ancient child—a grey wizened heir to the boneyards of the world, who would preside over the courts of the dead from upon a throne raised from tombstones.
I walked to the secluded meadow where this goddess resided. She had her frail arms clutched around her stagnant womb, and she framed herself with her featherless wings. The approach to the towering statue was crowded with small humps of piled dirt, each one marked with the browned blossoms of baby’s breath. The meadow had become the burying place for tiny hopes, where grief-stricken mothers came to offer their lost children one last chance at life, or un-life. The sable statue had become the single grave marker for throngs of the dead.
I’d never visited her before, yet I always wondered if a relationship existed between this mother and the one that presided over the Deadworld. Once I stood before her graven image, I could clearly see that no such connection existed. This was a mother who served a purpose, one that made her among the darkest functionaries of forgotten dreams. I stood in the meadow for quite some time, soaking in the statue’s shadow. There was something about her face that reminded me of my own mother. It brought back a memory of a near-dead twilight, where lingers the first clear memory I have of her. I remembered her pale face emerging from the red-rimmed darkness—she was like a child born to night, just a shadow swathed in cooling blood. Her smile was soft like a last breath, and her touch was the gossamer of fading dreams. Yet it was her eyes I remembered clearest—they were so black they shamed the night that surrounded them, and when they looked upon me I was plunged beneath the lightless waters that fed from an endless sea of haunted primal night. All of this from only the pools that floated serenely above her delicate cheeks. At some point in my reverie, I think I might have reached out and touched the hem of the anthracite dress carved onto the statue in front of me. I might have spoken a name. It was a name that drifted between two worlds, lost to both. My mother told me never to remember it. I didn’t.
I fell asleep at the foot of the statue and dreamed that my mother stood where the statue had in waking. She gestured to the tree line, and when I looked to where she conducted my gaze, I could see the pale children standing in the darkness, staring at me. Behind them, hanging by chains from the branches of hundreds of pine trees, were large cages—each one large enough to house only a single occupant. I knew the names of each child gathered in the darkness. I wanted to go to them, but the air seemed to thicken and my movements became heavy and slow. I wanted to say something important, but only silence escaped my mouth. Before long I sensed something approaching from beyond the trees, and I heard the baying of many wolves. When I turned back from whence the wolf-song had emerged, the children had vanished and my mother had been replaced by the statue. The death goddess smiled as the wolves washed over me like a carnivorous wave, tearing the flesh of my mind from the bones of an old dream.
It was night when I awoke, as if while I nightmared the shadow of the statue had swallowed the whole of the meadow and the pine forest beyond it. The goddess standing above me had lost her sinister smile, having gained a faraway stare that likely settled upon invisible worlds—places filled with the exuberant laughter of lost children, thrilling to games that only the dead may play. A third woman entered my thoughts—Black Molly Patience. I had no idea where to find her. She roamed across and under the night as free and light as a whisper, devouring those who appealed to whatever strange appetites controlled her. Yet like the deathly being carved from coal and shadow, she was not without a following of faithful. I would start with them.
The next city I arrived at was hardly in need of a name, as it was untroubled by any meaningful distinction that might merit a label. I roamed its benighted streets coiling lazily around structures of a seemingly identical nature—if it weren’t for the numbers carved into the rotting wood and crumbling stone of their facades, there would have been no telling them apart. The few people I observed were as iterative as the buildings, and I wondered if for purposes of identification, numbers hadn’t been carved into them as well.
The city was either remarkably brave or so emptied of anything approaching common sense that it found its dangerous proximity to New Victoria an acceptable sacrifice for the fine view of the distant mountains. Yet for whatever reason, the city appeared largely untouched by the plague of sleep, as I detected none of the late-night screaming and moaning that so often preceded the “disease.”
Before long, I found my way to the city’s Museum of Darkness, as I’ve heard them called. Once I broke into the building, the place appeared to be little more than a disordered and forgotten repository for local relics of the Great Darkness, likely preserved in an effort to understand the bygone event. I preferred to believe they were conserved, unconsciously, as brooding talismans with which to call down the Great Darkness once again—and perhaps if we’re lucky enough, next time we’ll be allowed to exit the Darkness with our memories intact.
I sorted through hundreds of articles fashioned from solid madness before I alighted upon what I sought. In a box marked “monsters,” I recovered yellowed newspaper clippings that tracked the antics of those individuals who had come to be referred to, by certain medical professionals, as neopsychotics—persons who had emerged from the Great Darkness governed by inhuman wit and savagery. It was as though they had evolved in mind and body to enjoy the comforts of Hell. What the professionals never discovered was that certain populations of these neopsychos were fervent worshippers of Black Molly.
While most of Miss Patience’s activities were well documented, I wanted to see where it all began. I wanted to read it from the first papers to ever outline her darkness in dying ink and decomposing paper. It was here I would find my next destination—one of her early homes beneath the earth, where I could learn more about my quarry and introduce myself to her devotees.
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