Reality is unraveling around me. While I watched Annabelle, my wife, rapidly descend into madness and throughout the time since her death, I’ve seen my whole world unravel around me. Everything that meant anything turned to rubbish. My home, my lands, my wealth, family and friends had all become shadows and ghosts. When the Gent fed me this morsel of information, I did not respond with shock or fear, but with disgust.
I looked down at the drink in my hand. As if to emphasize the point, the glass of ale was now glass of whiskey. I raised the glass to eye level and considered reality in the grand scheme of my life and muttered, “It’s just one more thing.” I tossed the whiskey down my throat.
The Gent watched me calmly through a thickening cloud of smoke. I refused to look at him, but I could see that he was content to wait for me to speak to him directly. I stared blankly at the two full glasses the barmaid had set on the table. I wanted nothing more than to down them both and hope they would finally grant me the oblivion I had sought. I reached for the nearer of the two glasses while the Gent looked on. I downed it in one swallow. Unlike the other glass of whiskey, this one was aged scotch and it burned all the way down.
I looked in his direction and asked, “Why?”
He reached across the table to take my empty glass. He dropped the remainder of his cigarette in the glass to smolder. “Something tragic has happened to you,” my snicker cut him short.
“You gonna tell my fortune?” I asked.
He started again, more forcefully this time, “Something tragic has happened to you and it has set you apart from other people. Something beyond the norm. Someone, somewhere is trying to use that as a means to open a door to another reality. That is why I’m here, Mr. Emries, to help you.” He stopped talking so I took that as my cue to speak.
“What can you do to help me?” I said accusingly.
“I can stop reality from shifting and maybe give you a bit a perspective, if you’ll let me.”
“What if I don’t let you? What if I don’t believe you at all?” I challenged.
“That could possibly pose a potential problem of epic proportions. Mr. Emries… Dathan, will you allow me to help you?” he pleaded with a degree of calculation.
A wave of defeat washed over me. I couldn’t find the strength of will to argue with him. If what he said was truth, then what harm could my cooperation do? If only I had known that this moment would lead to countless instances of “cooperation” with the Gent, I might have run screaming straight for the asylum. “What do we do?”
“Are you familiar with the works of Lewis Carroll?”
“Who?” I asked, perplexed.
He pulled a pocket watch from inside his coat and looked at it’s face. “Ah, right! First things first, finish your drink,” he gestured to the other glass as he stood up.
“I picked up the glass, “Will it help?”
“It wont hurt,” he said with a devilish grin as he turned and walked toward the bar. He spoke to the woman behind the bar and pulled out several strange pieces of paper. He gestured to my table and handed the paper to the woman. If it was currency of some sort, it was like none I’d ever seen, and I’d seen plenty. The Gent turned to the door and walked out without a backwards glance.
I downed my drink for the last time that night. I stood and the room tilted. I steadied myself on the table. When I felt sure of myself, I walked to the door in as straight a line as I could manage. As I passed the bar, the woman behind it called to me, “Take care of yourself, Mr. Emries.” Her tone was both familiar and motherly, though I’d never seen her before the past few minutes.
I responded without looking up or making eye contact, “Thank you, Nora, I will,” shocking myself with my own familiarity.
I found the Gent outside. “What do we do, now,” I asked.
“Follow me,” he said. It was such a simple statement. It is only in hindsight that I realize it’s many implications.
We walked up the street. He looked between buildings until he found what he seemed to be looking for. He beckoned me to follow him through a path between two buildings, the one on the right made of stone, the other on the left made of brick. The space was so narrow I had to walk leading with my right shoulder. “Stand here please,” he positioned me with my back against the brick wall. He moved directly in front of me and placed his hands on my shoulders. “This may feel… a little odd.” He began pushing me against the hard brick. I could feel jagged mortar digging into my back. I saw the Gent grit his teeth with determination. I was about to protest when I felt the wall soften. I feared the wall would collapse on top of me. Then with a faint sucking sound and pop I was through the wall.
I stood looking at the space that I had previously occupied from the other side of the wall, only there was no longer a wall of brick. Instead it appeared as a wall of glass with the history of my life reflected on it. This seemingly magic window stretched on forever in both directions and straight up into infinity. Seeing the images of my life like this made me feel so small. I thought of my Anna then. Images of our time together began to shimmer before me as though thinking of her had conjured them. Tears fell from my eyes as I saw the early days as we fell in love, our languid contentment after the wedding and the horror of our final days together. I tried to scream but found that I had no voice.
Suddenly, I felt a sensation like being watched. My presence drew the attention of something else. I turned my back to that damnable wall of sorrows. Whatever sanity I may have possessed in that moment shriveled into nothingness, like the void there before me. Nothingness, a completely empty abyss. It was the abyss that watched me. As I saw nothing within it, it saw nothing within me. We should be as one. I raised my foot to step into entropy.
There was a tug on my shoulder. I wanted to struggle away from it, but before the thought fully formed, I was yanked back through the wall. Oblivion was stolen from me.
Reality struck me in force. I crumbled to the ground. The Gent stood over me until I had found some sense of composure. Then he helped me to my feet. “That should stop the end of the world,” he said cheerfully. I looked at him and let out a deep sigh. He looked at me and I imagine he must have seen the haunted look in my eyes. He asked, “Have you ever heard of the Quasigentsia?”
I’m sure by now you have heard his spiel. It varies from person to person, but it all equates to the same thing.
By the time you receive this letter, Seth, I will be have gone far away. I fear that it is from our association that the ‘Gentsia has noticed you. I hope this letter reaches you in time to heed my warning. Keep you guard up with the Gent’s group of loosely knit freaks. Beware his carnival strong man and the aerial contortionists, they have dangerous agendas. Be mindful of your valuables around the Frenchman. If you choose to ignore everything else I say, at least believe this. Do not trust Eldridge Gent. He is not what he claims to be.
Goodbye and good luck, my friend.
This letter was found by Eldridge Gent among the belongings of Seth Emery. Seth has not been seen for two months since beginning his first assignment.