The End Of The Tale
That is really the end of my tale for now. I would like to congratulate all those who have made it to this point alive and in relation to events which will unfold in Vol. 2 of my diary (if I shall ever write it,) I would like to leave you with the following tale;
As I have mentioned previously, I was once taken into custody by the I.R.T.F and locked in a cell of the Spectral Penitentiary with a document which listed the sixty-eight names of Hush Prairie’s patients at the time of Mount Bedlam’s eruption. As you now know, sixty-six of the patients were burnt during the eruption and were reborn as the Orderlies, a fact which accounted for all but two of the names listed. One of the unaccounted-for patients (to whom the I.R.T.F gave the codename Patient Sixty-Seven) had been the cause of my incarceration at that time but the identity and fate of the final patient who, (following the I.R.T.F’s example,) I will refer to as Patient Sixty-Eight, remained a mystery to me for some years to come.
The following is an account of an incident which, coupled with some information I have recently received from my contact within The Hall of Recorded Happenings, finally sheds some light upon the fate of patient Sixty-Eight. It is a tale pertaining to an Orderly named Yin, an individual who never felt complete.
Yin would like to dedicate the following tale to all those who have lost someone whom they cannot replace.
Memories may fade but hearts never forget.
In the fifty years following our creation no words were spoken within Mount Bedlam, all correspondence within the mountain being of a purely scripted nature. This all changed upon us being recognised as an official mental hospital and receiving our first patients in the summer of thirty-two. As you might expect most sentient races of the Known Expanse communicate verbally and after admitting our first one-hundred patients the halls and corridors of the newly refurbished Mount Bedlam Hospital had reverberated with the chatter and laughter of a dozen different languages. At first, I had found the noise quite deafening after our half-century of quiet solitude but after a few weeks I had acclimatised myself to the babbling and bustle of the patients and I had even begun to enjoy it, joining in with their conversations and inviting them to see my personal spoon collection.
The voices of the patients however had caused a strange phenomenon to occur in a large hall off the central corridor which at the time we had set up as a theatre where the patients could perform and enjoy drama productions. Pineapple and Rhythm had co-produced a musical play (Pineapple had written the script and Rhythm had choreographed the dances.) The musical was entitled Speechless in the Snow and it was based on actual events which had occurred in and around Mount Bedlam shortly after the goings-on you have just read in the main storyline of this diary. Pineapple, Rhythm and a troupe of dramatically inclined patients had rehearsed the play for several months, utilising a side chamber whilst Sawdust constructed a stage and seating in the main theatre.
The show had caused a great deal of excitement amongst patients and Orderlies alike and most everyone had contributed to make Speechless in the Snow possible. The show had included fifteen songs in total and six different scenery changes. Yarn had tailored the costumes and Pitterpat had painted several enormous backdrops which could be dropped and raised behind the stage using an ingenious arrangement of pullies, gears and weights which had been designed by Jellyfish and crafted by Sawdust. Banjo had consulted with Pineapple on the music and had cobbled together an orchestra of patients, volunteers and Orderlies which, after a lot of practice, had sounded rather good. Pineapple had even written himself a musical number entitled I Don’t Need a Song to Sing, which I believe to be the only song in the Known Expanse which has lyrics that are intended to be written in time to music rather than sung aloud.
On opening night, the actors and actresses had filled backstage in full costume, all ready to tread the boards of Sawdust’s newly completed stage. One of the patients had been playing the part of myself and had been outfitted with a leather leotard and a plague mask and goggles. In my opinion Yarn, had applied far too much padding to ‘Sunrise’s’ midriff but the patient who was playing me had looked the part all the same.
I had taken my seat in the audience with great excitement, eagerly awaiting the performance of a smashing song called A Spoonful of Ashes which I had heard the cast rehearsing over the prior two months. The song was performed by Sunrise and the cast and was one of the catchiest yet sorrowful songs I’ve ever heard.
On a whole the musical had gone off with barely a hitch, only experiencing a few technical difficulties, a smattering of forgotten lines and only one costume malfunction (Pineapple’s fruit headdress had fallen apart on stage.)
During the performance both myself and Horizon (who had been seated next to me with a big and rather noisy sack of popcorn) had noticed that the acoustics of the theatre seemed to have a strange quality. It had sounded as if every line spoken and every verse sung on stage was echoed by the hall, repeated in a foreign, female voice.
Speechless in the Snow had reached its grand finale and had received a standing ovation from Orderlies and patients alike but oddly the applause had not been echoed as the lines of the actors had. At the time I had thought little of it, dismissing the selective echo as an odd quirk of the theatre’s acoustics.
Later that same day I had passed the theatre on the way to the cafeteria, the catchy lyrics of A Spoonful of Ashes still playing through my mind. I had been surprised to hear voices within the theatre and I had entered expecting to find Pineapple, Rhythm and a troop of patients preparing for their next musical extravaganza. The theatre had been dark however, the footlights long since extinguished but even so the voices had continued, emanating from the rear of the theatre, their words swallowed up by the vastness of the theatre.
Curious, I had lit the syphon chandeliers and had made my way toward the stage, taking special care not to stub my toes on any theatre paraphernalia which may have been lurking in the gloomy isles. I had climbed the stage steps and had passed through the red curtain at its rear, the voice growing louder and clearer with each carefully placed step I’d taken.
To my surprise there had been no one backstage and I had begun to wonder if the voices were all in my mind. I had stood still for a moment in order to listen to what the voice had to say and I had quickly realised that it was reciting lines from Speechless in the Snow. Before long the voice had burst into song, singing A Spoonful of Ashes in a powerful yet impeded voice. I had wheeled a costume rail away from the rear wall and had placed my ear against the brickwork, realising that the voice was emanating from the very walls of the theatre itself.
Who are you? I’d written, showing my chalkboard to the wall.
The wall had not responded but had instead changed the lyrics of its song to those of Dirty Indefinite, another of the show’s musical numbers.
Understandably I had been most unsettled by the vocal walls, which not only had the power of speech but which also appeared to have memorised every line and song from Speechless in the Snow and I had hurried from the theatre in such a state of alarm that I had exercised little or no thought for the welfare of my little toes. I had convinced myself that I had fallen victim to one of Slingshot’s practical jokes and so I had sought him out to ask him how he had managed to manifest such a strange phenomenon.
I had found Slingshot near the Steam Chambers, setting up some sort of tripwire which had been attached to a suspended jug of custard. Upon hearing of the strange goings-on in the theatre he had denied any involvement with them and had abandoned his tripwire to investigate them further.
On the way back to the theatre we had happened across Edel, a young Faun girl who had fallen into our care several decades earlier. I understand that the notion of a young girl who is decades old is both confusing and contradictory but I must urge you to take it as fact for now. All will be revealed in The Passages of Time.
Edel or Edelweiss to use her un-shortened name had also been a principle character in Speechless in the Snow and like the Orderlies she did not have the power of speech, communicating, as we do, with a chalkboard.
Edel had been a kind and gentle soul, remaining true and just despite the many cruelties and injustices she had endured. Her name came from the common title of a pretty and unusual alpine flower, a name which was derived from two words, edel – meaning noble and weiss – meaning white. Her name stood for noble purity and she suited it perfectly. She was loved and doted upon by all of the Orderlies and in turn she had cared for us deeply. There has never been and I fear never will be again an individual who will love and understand us as Edel did and the fact that I now have to describe her in the past tense fills me with a sorrow and grief so profound that it brings tears to my goggles. I would now like to echo Yin and in her memory, I would like to share with you the words which now adorn Edel’s gravestone;
Memories may fade but hearts never forget.
Edel, ourhearts will never forget you.
They will always bear the scars you left upon them.
They are the most treasured scars we bare.
Where are you boys headed in such a hurry? Edel had written, stepping in our way and wrinkling her freckled nose mischievously. Has Magpie pilfered all of the cafeteria’s silverware again?
Slingshot had attempted to convince Edel that a gang of onions had taken over the kitchens, were holding Blancmange hostage and that we were heading there to negotiate their ransom demands, a yarn which had caused her to roll her eyes and shake her head in disbelief. She knew Slingshot well enough to know when he was trying to trick her.
I had explained the situation regarding the talking theatre walls to Edel and she had immediately hitched up her dress (which was several sizes too large or her) and had told us that she was coming to see the strange phenomena for herself. Somehow Slingshot’s tale of the onion hostage situation seemed more plausible than the actual truth and I had wondered why she had believed my tale over his, concluding that I must just have an honest face.
Edel had been just as mystified by the theatre’s talking walls as we were and she had rushed off to find Pineapple and Rhythm, wondering if they could shed any light on why the walls were reciting lines and songs from their musical.
Pineapple and Rhythm had arrived on the scene in a state of great excitement, Pineapple squeaking and gesticulating wildly and Rhythm performing some sort of energetic samba dance.
Our musical was such a hit that even the walls are singing along! Pineapple had written. Do you think it would like my autograph or would that just be seen as graffiti?
But talking isn’t the typical behaviour of a wall, Edel had written. There must be some explanation. A spell or a ghost or a curse or something?
When Edel would write on her chalkboard she would often make verbal noises to accompany her words as she attempted to speak them aloud, a fete which unfortunately for her was quite impossible.
To our surprise the walls had quietened themselves following Edel’s wordless mumbles and a few minutes later they had copied the sounds she had made, repeating them in a female voice.
It copied you Edel! Slingshot had written. The walls have ears!
(Ink would just like to clarify that whilst the theatre’s walls quite clearly had heard Edel’s mumbles no actual ears were found upon the brickwork or staging.)
But why is it copying my voice? Edel had written, I can’t even form my words properly? What good are malformed words to the walls of a theatre?
Again, the walls had copied Edel’s verbal accompaniment.
It has a lisp, Edel had continued. Listen. She had chattered away wordlessly for some time and I recall listening to the tone and slight huskiness of her voice and thinking of what a crime it was that someone (who shall remain unnamed for now) had chosen to take her power of speech as I’m sure she would have had a beautiful voice.
The walls had absorbed Edel’s mumblings as they had done before and had repeated them back to us. Just as Edel had said, the voice of the walls seemed to have a slight speech impediment, elongating the S sounds and putting a strange inflection on the Ws.
You’re right Edel, I had written. The voice does have a lisp but I don’t see how this helps us? We don’t know many people with voices let alone voices with lisps.
No that’s true, Edel had written back. We don’t know anyone with a lisp, but I do know someone who once knew someone with a lisp.
It was around this time that Taboo had entered the theatre, profanities scrawled across his board and blue custard dripping from his mask and goggles. It was also around this time that Slingshot had decided to conceal himself behind the costume rail.
Upon seeing Edel Taboo had erased his vulgar message and had written, Pleg me! If it isn’t my favourite little faun! He had crossed the stage toward her and had enveloped her in a hug, smearing her dress with custard and chalk dust.
Hello Taboo, Edel had written, freeing herself from his arms and heading for the exit. I’m not being rude but I really have to go.
Don’t you worry, Taboo had written. You don’t need to be rude; I’ve already got it covered. He had turned towards us. Now, he’d written, wiping a glob of custard from his beak, have any of you pleggers seen that duck floater Slingshot?
Unfortunately, Slingshot’s chosen hiding place had been less than adequate and Taboo had quickly apprehended him and had given him a few choice words (none of which will be repeated here.) Taboo had also threatened to insert a jug of custard into a certain part of Slingshot’s anatomy, a procedure which had sounded quite uncomfortable and was made all the worse by the fact that Slingshot did not actually possess the orifice Taboo was describing. It was at this point that I had decided to step in. I had attempted to distract Taboo from his planned custard insertion by relating to him the mysteries of the theatre’s talking walls, a plan which had worked quite well. The incident with Slingshot’s tripwire had soon been forgotten and by the time Edel had returned Taboo had been attempting to teach the walls a plethora of rude words and dirty limericks.
Edel had not returned to the theatre alone but instead she had brought Yin and a volunteer named Callistemon along with her.
Yin had always been a very reserved Orderly, not joining in with conversation and shying away from social interaction on a whole, a personality trait which many may view as a negative attribute. None of the other Orderlies thought any the less of Yin for his self-isolation however, respecting his needs and giving him the space he needed. We all understood that his retiring nature was likely the result of some scar he still bore from his previous life and though we had tried on a number of occasions to discover the crux of Yin’s problems we had never found a definitive answer, gleaning nothing more than that during his rebirth as an Orderly Yin had lost someone very close to him and he mourned their absence greatly.
Hello Yin, I had written in confusion. What are you doing here?
Edel said I should come? Yin had replied, glancing around at the others self-consciously. I’m sorry, I’ll go.
No, you won’t, Edel had written, placing her hand on Yin’s shoulder as he headed for the door. We need you here. She had looked towards me with excited eyes. Sunrise, Yin once told me that he remembers that the person he is missing had their front teeth knocked out by a guard at Hush Prairie.
Yin had nodded sadly. Yes, that’s right, he’d written. I don’t remember their face but I remember their pain. They cried. The teeth never grew back and they couldn’t speak properly afterwards, couldn’t make S or W sounds properly. I did the talking for us after that.
They developed a lisp, Edel had written, raising her eyebrows.
Realisation had dawned on me and I had ushered Yin forwards.
Rhythm had done a sort of jig in the corner.
Rhythm wants to know why Cal is here? Pineapple had translated, pointing toward Callistemon.
“I’ve been wondering that too,” Cal had said.
“I’ve been wondering that too,” the theatre had repeated, instantly seizing upon his words.
Both Cal and Yin had jumped in surprise.
Cal is here because unlike me he has a tongue, Edel had written. I was hoping he could talk to the walls for us.
“But who exactly is it I’m talking to?” Cal had said in confusion. “Who is this word thief and why are they here?”
“But who exactly is it I’m talking to? Who is this word thief and why are they here?”
I know that voice! Yin had written. He suddenly seemed unsteady on his legs and Edel had steered him toward a chair.
They’re here! Yin had written, dropping his chalk in his shock.
So, I was right, Edel had written. It’s the voice of the person you lost. She had wiped clean her board and had turned to Cal. Cal could you please address the voice and tell it that Yin is here.
“Sure,” Cal had said, taken aback. “Excuse me . . . voice,” he had said to the empty air. “We would like you to know that Yin is here.”
“Sure,” the theatre said. “Excuse me voice. We would like you to know that Yin is here.”
We had tried to communicate with the theatre for some time to no avail, every question and prompt we attempted repeated back to us. Yin had not written a single word since first hearing the voice and he had sat staring at the walls and ceiling with tearful goggles, his chalk lying at his feet.
“We’re not getting anywhere,” Cal had eventually said. “It just copies. It’s just a voice. There’s no intelligence behind it, no comprehension of what we’re saying.” He had looked towards Yin. “I’m sorry Yin.”
“We’re not getting anywhere. It just copies. It’s just a voice. There’s no intelligence behind it, no comprehension of what we’re saying. I’m sorry Yin.”
At that Yin had retrieved his chalk. Tell her I miss her, he had written. Tell her I’m still here for her, still by her side.
Cal had sighed and rubbed his eyes. “Yin misses you,” he had said. “He’s still here for you. He’s still by your side.”
This time the voice had not immediately repeated and Yin had climbed back to his feet, staring expectantly at the walls.
“Tell . . .” the voice had finally said. “Tell . . .”
We had all looked at each other in great excitement. Though its words sounded strained and laboured the voice had spoken independently.
“Tell what?” Cal had pressed. “What do you want me to tell.”
“Tell . . .” the voice had said again. “Tell . . . what? Tell . . . Tell him I . . . miss him too.”
To my knowledge this is the only time the voice has ever spoken independently.
Though we knew that the voice belonged to the individual who Yin had been pining for so terribly we still did not fully understand who she was or how her voice had become trapped within the theatre. Following this revelation, the theatre had been closed and relocated and Yin had moved in to be close to the disembodied voice of his loved one. In the intervening years the old theatre has gained the name The Hall of the Word Thief and it is now treated with fear by both patients and Orderlies alike. I must admit that I myself do not like the atmosphere within the hall. I feel awkward and on edge if ever I venture inside it to visit Yin, as if I am trespassing on something sacred and private.
In recent years the voice of the Word Thief has become all the stronger and has gained the ability to speak snippets of conversations which have occurred far beyond the walls of the old theatre, reciting the chatter heard in the cafeteria and even the early morning sleep talk of slumbering patients.
As I said at the beginning of this passage, I have recently received some information which I believe finally sheds light upon the identity of The Word Thief. Over the years I have made several enquires on Yin’s behalf, corresponding with a friend and contact within the Hall of Recorded Happenings, requesting any information on the sixty-eight patients of Hush Prairie Asylum at the time of its destruction. I also made enquires with the I.R.T.F to see if they still possessed the blood-stained register upon which I originally saw the sixty-eight names. Unfortunately, the I.R.T.F informed me that the register was in deep storage and was not available for viewing. My friend within the Hall of Recorded happenings however has managed to unearth the medical records of the final patients of Hush Prairie, documents which, knowing of our papyrophobia, she offered to relate to us via memorandum crystal.
Yin has given me permission to reveal my findings here but has requested that I omit species, names, ages and any details relating to his original family or lineage. He has also asked me not to include any diagnoses relating to the mental condition of himself or his loved one, (details which he himself does not wish to know.) To that end I will inform you that two of the patients within Hush Prairie were a rather unique brother and sister, both of whom had a shared deformity. The medical report explains their condition better than I ever could and so I have included the relevant excerpt for your benefit.
The patients were born fused at the lower chest and upper abdomen. Their anatomy is that of two people above the rib cage, but they merge almost into one below the stomach. Though it is unsubstantiated it is believed that while the twins have a heart and a set of lungs each, they share a stomach, bladder, kidneys and liver.
It is my belief that Yin and the Word Thief were once the conjoined twins mentioned in these medical records and that, for reasons unknown, the Architect was either unable or did not wish to create an Orderly from Yin’s sister. I believe that after separating Yin from his sister and giving him a new life as an Orderly the Architect simply discarded what remained of the sister, an act of negligence which somehow resulted in some aspect of her consciousness becoming affixed to the chamber in which we had built our theatre.
Why He would do such a thing is quite beyond me. Surely an all-powerful entity such as the Architect would have the power to reconstruct and build an Orderly no matter how broken or incomplete his raw materials were, after all He was able to create Od despite the strange destructive curse which stains his soul. I also must question why the Architect would create a conjoined body in the first place. Was it by design or simply bad workmanship?
Yin has his own theories on why the Architect could not create an Orderly from his former sister. It is his belief that he and his sister shared more than a conjoined body, believing that they also shared a conjoined soul, an element which explained why Yin missed his sister so badly. He believes that the Architect was unable to divide their shared into two without damaging it irreparably which gave Him no choice but to create a single Orderly from Yin and his sister. Believing that some part of his sister still lives on within him has given Yin a great deal of comfort and his theory seems to be supported by the fact that The Word Thief is not in fact a ghost which suggests to me that her consciousness and her soul have indeed somehow been separated.