Category Archives: Correspondence

Letters to and between the Quasigentsia.

A Real Son of A Bitch

Did you know that if I wanted to I could explain to you the mathematics of your recent Pandemic? This is but only one of the ridiculous little shrapnels that can embed itself. I wouldn’t even want to talk about it really, but you would. Of that I have no doubt. Not just something to wile away our short little jaunt, you would go on and on with endless goadings for more of this and that. Do you see? How much I know of everything I don’t even want to?

Let’s just drop it. Let’s pretend for a moment that we have an endless here and now to be sincere and meaningful. Tell me then about the ones you lost, the ones most closest to you. Your mother, your siblings. Better even, tell me did you lose someone that you really loved? I think I can relate to that believe it or not. But you really must begin Conjuring or else the image goes fleeting. Wait, oh yes then, here it comes, hold your thought because I have it just now coming back to me. But it’s running a bit backwards.

Oh the terrible fright! There’s the cup falling from his youthful hands, a solemn drivel lolling off the rim and soaking into the slate floor, already dank and grimy from all the shuffling of our long Dark Work. All backwards. He drinks with lips chapped from, from, from what? Canting. That’s right. Canting for hours on end. Now a hymn. Good Lord it’s beautiful. Something we wrote together in the Goddamn blasphemous vain notion that it would do that one thing for which there is no math to bridge the void.

Aargh, break it off! It is more than I can stomach right now that failure. What was it you were going to mutter. Oh, uh-huh. Yes, I see. By God that would have been right around the time I first met Garreth. Could you almost see it leave her like I saw it leave him? The Ghost exiting? The spirit just bursting right forth in total hopelessness and despair? Jesus Christ can we stop for moment and rest? I don’t like this euphoria at all. We have to find something different to talk about.

Okay fine, about that. Yes. We’re almost there anyhow. You have to promise me that you won’t find this sad or compulsive. These tomes, now scattered to the awful winds. I did not write them. All I did was read them is all. They came from strange corridors of used London bookshelves. Or crates tucked under makeshift street-vendor tables. One I remember finding in an absolute drunken rage flinging through the rot of a landfill -suddenly betwixt at it’s cyclopean stare. The Hurting Game. Yes that one indeed.

Here let me show you. Just up the stairs. It’s where we’re going now. Watch your step. Let me introduce you to a real Son of a Bitch.

The Revelation of Eldridge Gent

In my time trapped in limbo aboard that unfavorable Antelope with the duly respected Captain, I grew increasingly disconsolate and listless. Rage built up like steam in an over-stoked boiler until I could no longer sustain my unfocused fury. Off balance and in a spiral of despair, I was consumed in the conflagration of the frenzied firebox. The boiler split open scalding skin and ripping flesh from bone.

There was a time of great hunger, and darkness, and isolation. I searched my inner recesses and scourged the walls of my prison seeking escape or absolution. In my time of most dire dread and—when God was supposed to have appeared with offerings of reassurance and solace—there was no succor to be had.

Pled out and despondent, surrounded by empty bottles—as I was drinking straight from the bottle like an unregenerate sot, I thumbed through the brittle pages of my memory in search of any painless recollection that I could use as an anchor for an excuse to resist the rash act.

In that lonely silence I heard a slight murmuring of familiarity. I caught my breath and the gasp scared away the apparition. There was something beguiling about that forgotten whisper, something needed, or perhaps just curious—whatever the reason, I was intrigued. I had to lure it back. I willed my body to ignore its need for breath. I counted the seconds. By the time I had lost count my face burned and my eyes strained with pressure and tears. I imagined I was possessed by Yanluo.

I scowled and shook and strained. I felt the world give way. And there was the whisper. A rustling of leaves and a crunching of snow. I had to track it without motion or breath, like a desperate hunter hiding in a blind fearful of scaring off the prey.

The muffled whisper grew louder and sharper. I could see it now as gathering smoke. The smoke emanated from every corner of the cell, from the ceiling and the floor. The diffuse darkness flowed together in chaotic knots, it’s filaments weaving around one another until some critical mass was reached and it took on weight and solidity. Enraptured and enraged I clutched at it but its solidness was but illusion and the smoke swirled about taunting me. I lashed out in a furor and was rewarded for my ire; I caught hold of something ineffable but definite. And there, as the sun faded over a darkened wood, stood a snarling nymph—brunette of hair and eyes as dark as the sea.

Standing slack and shocked I recalled that I had never wanted to bare witness to her cold cruelty again, but something kept calling me back. I couldn’t make sense of these phantom memories. Were they real, could I possibly have known this baleful beast? Meanwhile she appeared equally as shocked, as if the prey she pursued was unknown yet familiar. She ignored my commands and pleas for answers. She kept still in silence gazing at me with those haunted eyes. She wiped a tear from her eye and reached it towards me and fled the other way.

I gave chase. In an unfamiliar world I bounded down hills strewn with rocks; pulled my young body up muddy raises; tripped over roots while branches whipped my raw face.

Around a bend of a rocky trail on the side of a mountain with my feet slipping out from under me, and rocks slicing into my knees she let me catch her. And when I did, I pinned her down. I kneeled on her arms and gripped her throat. She was either smiling or sneering, laughing or taunting. I was unaffected by her disjointed and ambivalent emotions. I forced her to tell me her secrets.

“In the beginning,” she gasped, I loosened up my grip, “there was the Word…”

I was shooken and collapsed into a heap of boneless flesh as the words echoed in the void, pierced my ears and cut my flesh.

“and the Word…”

There was a great squall and the world roared away as she stood over my sorrowful body. Through bloody lips she could barely discern me sob “was with God.”

I reached out to her and she vanished. I was back in my torturous isolation, back aboard the menacing Antelope, surrounded by shattered bottles and hate. But, I was now in possession of something comforting. Oh, it was neither salvation nor redemption, but something bleaker. I held with me the echo of a power that can save us all.

A Gentle Tale

My Dear Bel, I wish I could report this is the end of times, but unfortunately it seems to be just the beginning.

I have long meditated on how I got here, and how you there. Alone without hope, without championship, without the specter of escape.

All I can figure is I am the brunt of some cosmic joke, a high conspiracy designed by some sick and tormented soul that draws its only pleasure through my suffering.

If I had the power I would make them pay, I would have them live one day here, in this hell, in my stead. For surely, one day would be all it takes to break the most resolute. One day would be my revenge.

Now, if you will excuse me, and possibly forgive me, I have plans to conjure.

I look forward to seeing you. It will be my one solace in this life. An hour with you, be it asking too much, is all that’s left to hope for.

Yours, 
 
Eldridge

The Engines of the World

My Dearest Beltran,

How deeply I miss you. I have been stranded on the seemingly unmovable Leroux for what I estimate to be nearly an eternity. Being forsaken on this bulk, more-or-less alone, has gotten the better of me. The only other living soul aboard is the Illustrious Captain whom I am having to avoid due to a subtle miscalculation and miscommunication on my behalf. Therefore, having little else to occupy my mind durning this ever extending stay I have taken to exploring the labyrinthine corridors and halls—which, for good or ill, have come to encompass the entirety of my existence.

My most recent adventure left me adrift in a sea of memories of you—your curious passion for the inexplicable, the chaotic, and the magical. All of which I had the great misfortune of discovering on my latest expedition when I stumbled upon the most disagreeable—I suspect you would find charming—spectacle within living memory.

How I longed to have you at my side, me Dear Bel, to help me make sense of the mysteries that, while well lit and autoptically revealed, made no rational sense. I recall watching the wonders of your city as you explained the sublime inner-workings of all manner of technological wonder. I am lost without you my Dear Friend.

At some point as I wandered along the abandoned and never-ending corridors I ventured down an unspecified section between the unending and never-was where I came upon a perfectly ordinary and unadorned doorway that gave no hints, whatsoever, as to what was to lie beyond its threshold. You well know how I feel about doors.

In keeping with that most basic and fundamental philosophical outlook—that nothing is as it seems—my curiosity was piqued and unfortunately got the better of me. I had to know what this seemingly unimportant doorway’s function was—why it was there, what it concealed, why there wasn’t so much as a sign or a warning. I promptly secured access and scurried inside where I beheld the startling sights in question—and, as I have mentioned, promptly longed for your counsel.

Upon entering I took only the time to ease the door shut while making sure the lock was intact and secured. Upon turning around I was immediately struck by the absurdity of the sight that lie beyond the vestibule. I will attempt to describe what I beheld, but I fear that even my words will bring no justice to the outrageous scene I found. There was a series of skewed catwalks and twisted scaffolds which surrounded a tangled maze of delirious ductwork that appeared to be more of a crazed patch randomly planted by a deranged committee of mad gardeners than it did an orderly apparatus dutifully planned and manufactured by a rational team of engineers.

My Brilliant Bel, imagine a mass of impossible joints and connections bursting through one another at impossible angles. I was ready to believe that is was some form of outrageous New World vegetation until I discovered the occasional rent in the ductwork that revealed the series of planetary gears and multi-segmented rods contained within the stalks. These clearly mechanically impossible contraptions somehow managed to keep their shape and continued to churn away despite being twisted and folded into senseless positions.

I was compelled to force my eyes away to continue exploring the baffling tangle. I fought my way through that tormented maze and stumbled into the main compartment. It was a room of preposterous dimensions that I lack the confidence to describe in any meaningful way. The best I can come is to say it was easily as large as the central transept of the Crystal Palace—but of that I cannot be sure, by this point my senses were rebelling against my rational mind. I certainly could not tell which side was winning.

Along the walls and continuing into the main space itself were a series of trellises securing to themselves strangely distorted platonic-solids that appeared to function as gears. They were connected by a series of control rods, pumps, and various shafts and levers arranged in such a manner as to only make sense to the deranged and the damned. The gears seemed to collapse into themselves as they whirled merrily along in and across all possible dimensions.

Eventually this demented assemblage connected to impossibly large swash plates—which were driving which I could not tell. These many disks were centered in the impossibly high ceiling at unbecoming angles to one another. They were, as far as I could tell being at such a great distance, the size of small elephants.

Notions of perspective and scale were rendered meaningless. I was at once looking at and through the mad assemblage of misaligned and maladjusted parts. The machinery closest to me—breaking out through the rents in the stalks, or simply encased in transparent connectors—appeared to be a replica of the entirety. I felt as if I was being spun in various directions as were the gears themselves.

What was I witnessing my Mad Bel. What strange technological marvels or magics could you have revealed to me. I felt as if I had entered a purgatory that spanned the chasm between the mystical past and the rational present. A netherworld of tormented and broken spells that could only be contained through ingenious, or utterly deranged, engineering. Was this a prison for ill-fitted and criminal charms?

At any given moment I expected to be scourged by angelic-demons which would no doubt emanate screaming from the hallows of the menacing shadows which surrounded me. I made my way as quickly as I could out of that lunacy—which, I am sure, you would have found delightfully engaging. It wasn’t for me!

On uncertain feet I scraped over the catwalks—flimsy under me, and down the scaffolds—twisting within my grasp. I scuttled back along the same path on which I ventured into this arcane den. My retreat was barely more than a series of stumbles across uneven flooring and collisions into warped walls—an eternal ricochet of paranoia and fright.

I was overwhelmed with grief and panic as I fought to gain composure and relief by finding the familiar, the solid, and—above all, the rational. I needed only to return to the safe-haven of my cabin; a measured composition of wood and brass, and kind angles gently complementary to one another.

That is my story, my Kind Confidant, of my misadventure into the strange automatous mechanizations that plot against my sanity and my freedom. It is my forlorn hope that one day you will receive this letter and decipher the madness.

Until then I shall pour our favorite drink and fancifully recall the good times.

 

Salut!
 

Eldridge

The Beginning of All My Tomorrows

Epigraph

How I met the Gent continued

Main Content

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.

 
Your Friend,

 
Dathan

 
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.

The Very First Memory of the Strongest Man in the World

When starting a thing it is good to do so at the beginning.
 
My first memory is of my mother. I was an infant and she was weaving the magic that would make me the strongest man in the world. Though I understood every word she said to me, I didn’t understand her words, only their meanings. The words I learned later, long after she was gone, and applied them to that night, to the memory of it. Of her.

Moving through a memory is like moving through a dream, and as if in a dream, we must move forward without questioning, for in a dream to question is to become lost. Let meaning come afterward, if it will.

The memory began with her presence. I was young. So young my eyes did not really work yet. The images that came through them were largely meaningless. Sight was so confusing and without reason that I kept my eyes closed, blocking the madness without.

I was acutely aware of the separation from MOTHER. I was somehow outside her, and I knew this was a wound that could never be healed. I wanted to scream out. I wanted to die of loneliness.

But then I could sense her, somewhere near, whispering to me.

Whether this awareness of mothers is universal among very young babies, or part of the magic that she enveloped me with I couldn’t say. I only knew that she was near me, and that the rhythms of her body contained the oceans of sound and the symphonies of touch which I had been immersed in from the beginning of time and that, though nothing would ever be right again, I could at least find comfort from the nearness of her.

I stretched my trembling hands out for her, reaching desperately into the chaos for her touch.

Instead of her hand or her breast, I touched something else, something that seemed at once strange and immediately familiar. Words are useless here. I felt something like a string of ribbons. Or more like a lattice of spider webs. Perhaps it was like bead of sweat drifting down a young lovers back. It was all of these things and it emanated from her and wrapped around me, and drew me into her. Pulled me into her with an intimacy that was as dangerous and innocent as a mouth to the breast.

It was magic. Her magic. And it washed over me. Poured into my mouth and nose and ears and carrying a seed into the fertile virgin woodlands of my consciousness. Like a snap of the fingers I could see her. She was standing over me, smiling down at me, her face equal parts love and worry.

“I don’t have much time Otto. I have to leave you little one. I have enemies, terrible people who would hurt you to hurt me.”

Her hand drifted down to my forehead.

“Poor Otto, you are such a beautiful baby. Always know I would stay with you my whole life if I could. If it were safe to do so.”

She looked away, out the window of the dark room we were in. whatever she saw out side caused her face pinch with worry.

“Otto. Later, when you can understand all of this, you have to believe it. Don’t let yourself think you are crazy.

“Your going to be a strong boy. A strong man.” I could see the web of magic coalescing around her fingers, flowing outward and down upon my face.

“You are going to be very strong. And you are always going to help people who need you. I don’t have anyone Otto. It is a terrible feeling. You be there for anyone who needs you and deserves help.”

“Your father will love you. He is a good man, but he wont understand you. He is part of the everyday world. Be patient with him.”

I felt a strange hesitation within her. Doubt surfaced on her for an instant, making her look older, for a few seconds I could see the weariness within her.

“I love you Otto.” She said. And like a thunderclap the understanding was gone, the strands of magic withdrew as fast as lightning. I was alone and forever separated from all I had ever know.

I had the mind of a normal baby afterwards, except for those few moments. They were crystal clear then, and they are crystal clear today. From that moment on it was as if the moment had just happened. I had an intuitive understanding of the memory, but it was many years before I could understand any of it on an intellectual level.

It was many years before I realized it was possible to question this memory.

As I grew up, I indeed grew strong. By thirteen I was as strong as a full grown man. By fifteen I was stronger than the strongest man in town. Any young man with gifts like that is in danger of becoming arrogant. But I knew that my own mother had power to put mine to shame. She had in fact created me, with the magic of birth, and she made me strong with some other kind of magic.
 

And then she was gone.

 
 

Ottoman Von Luitgard

Best for You and I Both

“I recall without any fog of mind the very first day that I fell in love, and I can never forget the moment I woke up from that strange spell, against all of my will, clawing against its dark dawn everything.  I am now in despair.  Where are the ridiculous innocent fictions that I seem to have never gotten quite so good at?  What has become of my coy and playful ruses?

The first day I fell in love she was nothing but a child, and she moved across the market square like a slow wraith.  Grimy from the city’s ramshackle steam project of rocketing into Tommorrowland against the day and all common sense.  A street child and nothing more, but floating with an abandonment that comes with being an orphan at the age of seven in an Atomic Wonderland such as this.  A dignity born out of depravity.  I watched her grin to herself mildly (O’ be still my heart) and then take a sudden but choreographed tumble into the mud and piss of the gutter.

Shuddering, I almost failed to catch my sense and nearly hurled myself irresponsibly into the makeshift stage-play.  I might have ruined an otherwise brilliant production (or become victim of it).  But I caught myself, retracted, and stared on from across the river of jostling Patronairres peddling and seeking their daily wares.  Like a vortex she plucked two then three of these hapless Materialists out of that coursing torrent – specimens of fine accoutrement and given to swoons of conscience they were.  As they bent to show the girl concern, dark crevices and cracks in the surroundings suddenly gave off further little Gremlins that set silently to work and with impressive motion removed these pompous pieces of Charitable Meat of the wealth that weighed them down.  I swear to you, it was such a subtle piece of street art, that I remain convinced I be the only witness of that stupendous performance.

I hung back briefly at the Newsstand as the act came to a musical close, but I followed that young dirty dripping thing with my gaze as she vanished into the mist that roils thickly at either end of the thoroughfare on these cool, humid Autumn morns.  My imagination and intellect began to crescendo upon her eloquent and nuanced exit into obscurity.  All of the petty cheating and squirming that had become my stock in trade as a young spoiled Privileged, winding my way aimlessly through Law School, not to mention the endless charades of smiling and complimenting customers at the Mercantile at which I worked, these all served a demon seed for something grander and insidious now in the proximity of her inspiration.  The child, in her graceful bitch quality, had just educated my boredom with this world on how to Live in the face of so much meaninglessness!

And O’ how I did throw myself thereafter into the romance of the Con!

But how could I have known how deadly my subsequent plays of fiction could be?  What possessed me to eventually turn to such Dark Arts for my newfound trade in the Steal?  What possessed me indeed.  I speak to you now my good audience of strangers and perhaps no one at all in this Void which sprawls before me.  I tell you that it would have been better for me to cling to the facades and motions that shield us from the deadly Mystery that groans behind the curtains of this vicious comedy.  Yes, the Quasigentsia certainly has its fair share of dark alleyways.  I am but a shell of a man now for flirting with its shimmering Mirage.

And I ask now where is my innocent love?  Where is that child-thing?  Did she happen to fare as bad as I in the end? Or did she happen to turn to me before entering the fog?  Did she turn and caution the limits,  caution my sloughing off of any such station in this ‘Real World’ so completely?  I tell myself there may be a way back from the bizarre paths that my posturing led me down, but as the days roll on I fear there is not.  And so I can only remain to whisper backward from this haunted existence that I now occupy.

Only you remain to take heed to the many tales I have to tell of scampering off the precipice of all Sense that followed that fateful morning of regretful inspiration.  Yes, I have many boundaries to chart for you good friends.  But these talons that are now firmly in my side have reduced my stamina like the burden of the ages, and we must tread slowly at any rate, for there are many eyes and ears in this Dark Wood that I have brought back with me from the Nether Regions into our midst.  It will be best if we go forward now in very small chapters.

Best for you and I both.”

After All This Time, Back To The Beginning

Epigraph

How I met the Gent

Main Content

Please forgive my rudeness when last we met. I was quite taken aback and at a loss to hear you utter that infernal word and the name of the one I most associate with it. I had to remove myself from your presence before I made some rash action that I surely would regret later.

It has been my over-riding hope to keep you sheltered from such people and things, and much more so, with my participation in what they represent. From your inquiries, I can assume you now know that I am indeed affiliated with the Quasigentsia and it’s best pitchman, Eldridge Gent. I have no doubt that he has approached you with an offer or a warning, as that is his Modus Operandi. Before I can explain the ‘Gentsia, I must first relate how I came to meet the Gent, or more accurately, how he came to meet me.

It was some time after the death of my wife when I saw the Gent before me. I was sitting at a table in a rat hole that passed for the local tavern. Bleary eyed and slurred of speech, I demanded the barmaid to bring me two more pints of what she insisted was their finest ale. Though I sat alone, I ordered two at a time in the hope that my sorrow would soon drown. I was completely oblivious to the raucous celebration going on around me. With the exception of my table, the place was filled with singing, cheering and all around merriment. I stared straight ahead, for a hundred miles, which was affixed to a tiny point on the wall across from me. When the barmaid finally brought my drinks, I clumsily flung a silver piece across the table. It bounced off the back of the chair beside me and landed on the seat beyond my vision of the table.

Polite as you please, this dark haired wench bent over the back of the chair and returned with a gold piece in hand and asked, “Would you like change ?”

“I think I’ve changed enough. Bring me two more,” I muttered. I turned to find my spot of the distant horizon upon the wall and was shocked to see someone from the party had invited themselves to my table. “Are you lost, mate?” I asked before downing the first of the two pints. I looked back at my new companion, but no one was there. I glanced about the room to see where they got off to so quickly but saw only more revelers. I downed half of the second pint with the intention of nursing it until the next two arrived. I set the pint down and looked into the eyes of a stranger. “The party is over there,” I gestured to the other celebrants.

“Oh, I’m not here for them, though they do appear to be enjoying themselves. I believe they are celebrating the victory of war,” he paused for a moment of consideration, “or possibly some sort of sport. It gets more difficult to discern the more I see of either.”

I studied him for a moment. I tried to gauge whether he might be a hallucination.

“By the way, I’m no hallucination, though I do strike quite an image,” he said while tugging at his cuffs.

Just as I was about to say something, two more pints were placed in front of me by a blond waif of a woman. She shot me a bright smile and turned to go. I shot out my hand to tug her apron, but, in my drunkenness, grabbed her hand instead and pulled her back. “What happened to the other waitress?” I slurred at her.

She leaned in close to my ear and whispered, “I’m the only one here. I checked that coin you gave me and I’m willing to let you give me another kind of tip if you want.” She stepped back with another bright smile and dashed away. I looked to the man across from me to see if perhaps I was the butt of a joke I didn’t understand. He was grinning and wagged his eyebrows at me.

“What in hells going on,” I asked this stranger, “and who are you?”

“Eldridge Gent,” his hand hovered before me as though it had been there all along, “pleasure to make your acquaintance.” It was then that I made my first mistake in a long history of mistakes concerning Eldridge Gent. I shook his hand. “Might you indulge this instance of inquiry to introduce yourself, Sir?” His smile never wavered from his face.

“Dathan. Dathan Emries.”

“Emries,” he said as if he tasted it, “like the wizard?”

“No, Emries as in Ian Emries, my father.”

He clapped his hands together. “Splendid!” he shouted as though a great discovery had been made. “Dathan, would you favor me a flight of fancy?”

“What?” I asked incredulously.

He completely ignored my dismay. “Look about this dour dwelling and tell me what you see.” He gestured by opening both arms in an arc whilst turning his head, eyes scanning the room.

The ale was giving me a headache and this fool was taking a survey. I tried to clear my head with a gentle shake. I looked around the room with dawning incomprehension and widening horror. Nothing was as it was. The revelers were now all sitting calmly and speaking in subdued tones. The barmaid was a frumpy woman with bad teeth serving drinks at the bar. Even the tavern itself had changed. The floor and tables were solidly built, where before they looked as they would crumble at the slightest knock. The place was clean and the patrons had become well mannered and civilized. I wondered how one such as myself could come to be here. “Mr. Gent, what is going on?”

He was reaching inside his coat when I turned to him. He seemed to find what his fingers were searching for. He pulled out a silver cigarette case. He opened it and smiled as though he was pleasantly surprised by what lay inside. He held the case open for me to see and asked, “Would you like a cigarette?” I shook my head no. He began tapping a cigarette against the silver case, then placed the case back in his pocket. He lit his cigarette and inhaled deeply, before blowing out an impossibly large plume of smoke. He straightened himself to face me and looked straight into my eyes and said, “Reality is unraveling around you, Mr. Dathan Emries.” He leaned back and took anther drag on his cigarette.

The Return of Ottoman

Long have I been away.
 
Things have passed and new things have been born into the world since my sixty years of confinement. I am, as of yet, unready for this new world outside my windows. The memories of the events that led to my betrayal and imprisonment are still fresh upon my mind. It took all I had, and all I could summon, to survive those years. Precious little of my wit or resources could be spared for the luxury of self reflection. But now that time is over, and though I am hunted still, and still lack many of my former freedoms, I exist in relative peace. Before I immerse myself in the world of the now, I must revisit the world of then. Perhaps I can answer many of my own questions along the way.

I live in an anonymous, peaceful town. I am sure there are crimes and dark secrets and betrayals here, as there are everywhere, but as I have money and am quiet, I am shielded from them by an expensive lawn and a freshly painted old house. I am a simple man at heart and the solitude and quietness of the town are like salve to my heart, quickly healing me of the chaos and viciousness I learned to embrace during my captivity.

Though I was a private detective for many years, my most joyous discovery was that I was not suited to the awfulness of the depravities and brutalities to which I was subjected, and which I sometimes committed, during that captivity. Those dark days are now beginning to lose their potency for nightmares. Instead of nightmares I am now hunted by questions. Though I know who was responsible for my imprisonment, the damned and mad Bill Amsterdam, I don’t know why.

For these answers I can only return to my past, and write down the incidents of importance, and perhaps sort out a pattern, or perhaps notice a small detail, as lost in memory as a bit of broken glass on a beach of sand. The devil is in the details, as they say. It is possible there exists somewhere in my memory the key to my current circumstance.

Lisa has been my constant companion during these last few months. Though I insisted the debt owed by her grandfather was long since paid she has assisted me and aided me in my convalescence without interruption or complaint. Though as small as I am large she has a drive and energy that would be formidable if she were to present herself as a foe. As luck would have it, she came to me as a friend and in the early chaotic days of my freedom she saved me again and again.

It is not that I needed physical help. I still look much as I did in the days of her grandfather, William, who never quite learned to stop asking dangerous questions. Indeed, it is possible that I am still the worlds strongest man, though my isolation currently prevents me from knowing that fact with any certainty. What I required most was kindness, which had been sorely absent from my life for many years.   Strange, dark Lisa gave that to me, after her fashion, reversing the ledger books of her grandfather debt.

Outside a light blanket of snow has draped the trees with a ghostly blanket of white. I feel introspection mounting within me like the slow rumble of avalanche. I feel the pieces of my past fusing together into a single tale. Perhaps this tale will someday lead me to revenge, perhaps even redemption, but for now I am unwilling to act. Now I must journey inward, toward the deepest recesses of memory, and it will be from there that I report to you next.
 
Your long absent, but not forgotten friend,
 
Ottoman Von Luitgard