Intercepted Transmission (outbound) from the Interdimensional Book of Subject EX00023-90690ACE aka “Ace.” -- T.Q. Dear Mikey, I overheard Odd and Spooky talking about The Mutterer once or twice but never really got the whole lowdown, you know, like they’re talking shop when I’m probably playing with the dragonets or drawing or whatever. So last night I’m out walking, no dragonets, just wandering around the neigborhood, couple blocks from home on a route I don’t usually do, you know, narrow streets of little single-family homes and lots of trees and bushes. 3am probably, shadows everywhere. Fighting stick up my sleeve, stoned on some pot food Odd gave me, I don’t usually eat the stuff cause it hits me so hard and this is no different. Glad therefore that I do not have to like socialize or intreact with anyone. Anyway I jaywalk diagonally across an intersection, btw you know technically “jaywalk” isn’t just like improvising your time and place of crossing, it’s specific diagonal across an intersection? That’s what I heard anyway. Anyway I zag across this intersection, and the block ahead is like a tunnel, extra trees & mid-block streetlight out. Beautiful layered lace of black on black branches. There’s a streetlight down the next intersection, but in between we’re talking like haunted covered bridge vibe. I love it & can’t wait to go into there but it gives me chills. Like skin literally tingling & I’m all tense, or maybe braced is a better word. And you betcha I slide that stick down out of my sleeve & I’m not ashamed to admit I advanced into this tunnel of sub-urban darkness with that stick held out front of me with both hands in Shiner stance. Sure enough as soon as I’m engulfed in shadows, from the shadows halfway up the block ahead of me there’s the creepiest fucking muttering I’ve ever heard. Sudden, not really high-pitched but definitely not low, but definitely grating. And incoherent, that was the eeriest part about it. I don’t mean words in a language I didn’t understand. I can’t remember a word of the Mutterer’s first statement but it was english. Fragmented though. Like, broken up and remixed in ways that folks don’t do. Not like someone who isn’t fluent. Not like a stammer. Not like someone fucked up and slurring, or what’s it, spoonerizing? None of those. We’re talking like a recording smashed in pieces and rearranged randomly. But not mechanical. This voice had nothing mechanical about it. Somehow this thing, or person, just had a mind that worked that way, in fragments. I hate to admit being thrown off by that, I of all people can’t go hating on someone for being different, but it creeped me out more than anything. Regardless, if such a person wanted to, say, eat me, like, no thanks. Funny enough as I’m crossing the street to avoid this fucker the main thing occupying my mind is anxiety over what if I have to interact with it, y’know, socially. What do I say, the pot fudge from Odd making me barely able to think in words much less choose the particular right ones to say, and on top of that having a hard time remembering how to even like make my mouth work for speech. I don’t even know what this creature is, much less how to guess what to say to intimidate but not provoke it. Which maybe puts me in the shoes of being another Mutterer, hey maybe this creature is on fudge too? This is where my head went lol. Across the street making my way through more patches of pitch dark I trip on an uneven bit of sidewalk, you know, concrete pushed up by the roots of the gnarled old tree whose own shadow stopped me from seeing it. I reflexively curse the tree for it’s malice lol. One second later though that gibbering comes from the dark right in front of me, and I jump out of my boots and swing at the sound, whack right into the side of the tree trunk, vibration stinging up my fighting-stick. I can remember what it said this time, I’ll never forget it: COME INTO THE LAIR, MY PAVE OF GORE, AND FEED THE EGREMENT. Excuse me what the fuck? Backpedaling, my ear snags on a branch of the tree. I think I literally yelped. Flail at it with my fighting-stick which only made the switch whip back across my knuckles. Still no visible sign of this Mutterer. I bolt out into the street where the shadows are patchier, hoping to spot my way past this thing. Then there it is, in the middle of the street ahead, silhouetted against the next intersection’s fluorescence. Sticklike. Tall. Like that thing from the intersection near my house once I was done with it, but big, maybe twice as tall as me. It’s angular and its proportions are just… wrong. Again f’d up for me of all people to think that, but its body was literally unsettling to look at. PAVE OF THE GORE, COME MY FEEDMENT AND INTO THE EGRELAIR. Okaaay I run to the right and the Mutterer flickers out – and reappears directly in front of me. Never was one for U.S. football (“handegg” more like) but I can run and dodge well enough, so I zip around it to the left but it reappears in front of me again. Even this close up it’s still only featureless silhouette. Which just does not look right to the human eye, not my eye anyway, not right at all. Dunno if that’s me being prejudiced against the featureless (is anti-nightgauntism a thing?) but it’s enough for me to turn tail. But before I get away the thing shoves me, both hands shooting out on overlong arms, huge spindly hands with too many fingers, the Mutterer shoves me bam to the pavement skinning both elbows a little. Fuck. I jump up and sprint back southward to the previous intersection, running right down the middle of the street. As I barrel through the intersection the shadow-stick scarecrow-figure flickers into view ahead. I wheel around to the left and there it is in my path again so I continue my turn, cutting tight enough to lean half sideways, jabbing my fighting-stick against the pavement like a raft-pole to launch myself toward the mouth of the fourth and final option out of this intersection, the westward branch. But of course the Mutterer looms there in my way. Always in silhouette, no matter the lighting only silhouette. I back up, scanning all directions. The thing keeps flickering from one spot on the perimeter to another, appearing wherever I look. Looks like it wants me in this intersection. Maybe this is its intersection, dunno what it wants me here for but I’m willing to bet it’s not likely to be to my liking. But I’ve got my own tricks. Situating myself in the center I kneel, stab the asphalt with my knife, then draw (gods willing) on Loki’s poise and Thor’s might to raise my fighting-stick vertical, balanced, and slam it butt-down onto the knife, jamming it an inch into the pavement. I pry up a little hole, drop the knife, and fumble for another of my bindrune-scratched marbles in my jeans pocket. The Mutterer races at me, limbs wide, emitting a terrifying jabber: “LAIR OF HOLY, GOREMENT ONLY EGREPAVE!” So I feint at its face with my fighting-stick and it ducks but totally stumbles. Giving me an opening to whack it in the face solid. I don’t know where exactly I tagged its featureless gray noggin but it yelps and crab-crawls out of reach. Then stays perched there on bent spidery limbs, head cocked forward over its belly to stare at me. Motionless. Time enough to chisel out another couple bits of gravel. The marble clicks into place. I drop into trance, eyes roll back, aetheric self clicks into the kaleidoscope of the astral plane. The flat plateau stretches out to the horizon, colors shimmering. Empty void beyond and nothing but void overhead. I can see the streets intersecting here, barely visible colored paths stretching in four directions. A gleaming sphere at the center: my magic marble. The Mutterer, still spindly and giant, still in gray silhouette, lurches to its feet and looms over me. Even if you could free me, you couldn’t heal me, it mutters in croaky lamentation. You can’t free me from the Egregore of the Pavement. Its poison is soaked into and through my soul. At least I have this intersection to myself. Sometimes a site retains both the local spirit from Amarantis and the local spirit from Earth, stuck there together, usually fighting. Sometimes they’ve been spliced together by the shock of the Merger. Those are gruesome. But all of us are trapped by the Pavement. With only a few exceptions, and they aren’t necessarily better off. As an example, you should check out ThingTown Station, now those spirits are in a fucked up situation. They’d be better off enslaved by the Pavement. “We could kill it?” I suggest, craning to look up into its blank face. The Egregore holds sway anywhere and everywhere that’s been paved and built up, which means almost every nook of Tal Sharnis. And its essence is not just asphalt and concrete. It’s also made of law, custom, the domination of space by vehicles and those who own them, and many other things. Can’t be killed as long as the city’s standing. “Well,” I tell it, setting aside any post-civ thoughts for now, “first things first.” And in the aetheric plane I reach up and grab the Mutterer by the collar or something, and slam it down into the tiny glowing sphere. Everything shimmers and shrieks. I open my eyes back into the world where rocks are hard and water’s wet. No sign of the Mutterer anywhere in the intersection. Nothing moving in the shadows. I feel drained. With my knife I pry out the marble, careful not to nick the bindrune, and hold it up to the lamplight to peer in: a flailing little tantrum of sticklike limbs, and a faint miniscule hum. “Hang on,” I tell it. “You’re out of the Egregore’s reach for now. Let’s get out of here and we can talk about your future.” I pocket the marble and sheathe my knife and, feeling lightheaded, I use my fighting-stick to push myself to my feet. Head rush– –and sudden roaring of a horns and sirens and machinery and wind, holy shit, a Monster Hunter patrol truck speeding past, coming within an inch of hitting me! And in the screaming of those sirens I hear the warning: THE EGREGORE OF THE PAVEMENT HOLDS DOMINION HERE! And as I watch the truck disappear up the street the sirens wail: HERE AND EVERYWHERE! Anyway, let me know how your thing is going, it sounded kinda tense when you last wrote. Laters, Ace
As you might recall, the city-state of Tal Sharnis is located on the Plateau of Leng, which is the domain of Kaligast, a major god of chaos. That might go a long way toward accounting for why the boundaries between the material world and the spirit world are so permeable in Tal Sharnis.
See you next Wednesday,