The Architect's Essence, The Diary of Sunrise

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Unknown Date 2479 A.R.T

The first memory I have of this life is that of an ash-clogged sunrise above a broken wall of charred brick. The smoke-laden sky that day had robbed the sun of the blinding corona behind which it usually conceals itself and I stared at its naked beauty with all the bewilderment of a new-born baby which had suddenly found itself born to the conscious world.

I still recall the smell of that morning too; brimstone and sulfur and cooking, charred flesh. I remember the crackle of fire-ravaged wood issuing all around me as the heat which had consumed it ebbed, allowing its wasted, blackened remains to settle. I remember the unnatural warmth radiating from the ground beneath me and the tremors which still shook it. I also remember the overwhelming feeling of relief that settled over me as I stared at the smoke-veiled dawn. Something terrible and lingering had come to an end and a new start had begun. I now realize that it had been my life that had ended and a terrible affair it had been, though it had not started out as such as is true with many terrible things. Some things begin quite positively, writing a book for instance. You can create your characters, map out an intriguing and engaging storyline, engineer a gripping opening, a thrilling middle and an ending which leaves a reader on the edge of their seat, but still you end up with nothing but a stack of cordially written rejection letters which would sooner fold themselves into a flock of origami cranes and give you a nasty paper cut as give you any glimmer of hope.

I hadn’t known how or why but as I’d stared up at the growing radiance and promise of that new dawn, I had realized that was different, altered, new and I had been filled with a sense of purpose. At the time the nature of that purpose had evaded me and I had been happy to allow it to, content with the view of my first sunrise.

I’d had a vague recollection of some cataclysm, jumbled images of fire and smoke mingled amongst fading echoes of screams and explosions which had been shallowly buried beneath the foundations of my new mind.

I had been so befuddled with my sudden consciousness that I had been uncertain as to what I actually was. For all I had known I could have been a scrundle or a pheasant or a particularly intellectual clump of moss and so I had flexed my body, making a mental checklist of its various appendages in order to form a mental image of myself. I had identified two arms and hands and two legs and feet. I had twitched each of my fingers in turn and had counted four on each hand; three digits married with an opposable thumb. I had detected no wings, no tail, no fins or horns and I’d felt fairly certain that I possessed no form of outer shell or scales. I had however detected the presence of a symmetrical arrangement of five toes which spanned the tops of each of my feet in ever decreased size from a big sturdy one, to a small delicate one on the outer edge of my foot. The latter were to be two appendages which would cause me severe agony in the months ahead and almost a millennium of foot-based concern and paranoia. To this day I rue the Architect’s decision to burden me with little toes but I am getting ahead of myself. The crux of my abhorrence for little toes is a tale for later and I would like you to understand that at this moment of my life I had felt grateful to have any appendages at all, even those as vile and dastardly as little toes.

I had lifted my hands to my face to see that my fingers were short and stubby and clad in leather gauntlets. I had touched my face and eyes to discover that they too were completely hidden behind a layer of leather, concealed behind a beaked mask and goggles.

I had sat upright, struggling to bend at what I had found to be quite an ample waist and I had discovered that my leather ensemble covered my entire form, enclosing my body in an all-in-one leather suit which bore no visible buttons or openings. The seams of my suit were neatly stitched with golden thread and upon closer inspection I had found deep pockets at my hips and a utility belt hidden beneath the bulge of my stomach. I had felt comfortable and warm within my suit and I had felt no desire to remove it. It was part of me, an integral element of my new form.

I had looked around at the charred walls which had corralled me, realizing that they formed an oblong cell. I use the term cell rather than room because a twisted cell door had hung off its hinges at the far end of the confined space, its iron bars twisted by what I can only know imagine to have been immense heat. In my confusion I had begun to sift through the ash and debris that had surrounded me, looking for any clue of what or who I was. In the corner of the cell I had found some lumps of brittle charcoal which, looking back on it now, were probably the remnants of an old bedframe which had served me during my previous life.

Near what I suppose had once been the foot of the bed my groping hand had caught hold of something warm and hard, an object which, upon fishing it out, I had discovered to be an old bent spoon. The handle of the spoon had been quite worn and its surface was black and tarnished with soot. I had sat in the ash and had cradled the spoon for some time, feeling a strange connection with it. I had felt certain that it was or had once been mine and as I’d stared down at its twisted, blackened form I had realized that it had been as altered by the fire as I had. I had slid my thumb over the worn edge of the spoon’s handle and it had stirred something within me, not in the same way that a spoon may stir sugar and milk into a cup of tea you understand but rather it had stirred something in my mind, triggering a compulsion which I believe my previous mind had frequented. Turning I had looked toward the rear wall, turning the spoon in my palm. The wall had been covered in thousands of tiny scratches and, gripped by curiosity I had unsteadily climbed to my feet to investigate, using the nearest wall for support. My legs had felt heavy and unresponsive and I had stumbled through the ash toward the far wall, tripping and skidding before steadying myself on its scarred surface. I had found that the scratches were in fact tally marks; four vertical lines conjoined by a diagonal to form a small gate-shaped glyph. Each of the gates represented the number five, but for a moment or two I had been lost as to what the tallies denoted. I had found myself scratching a diagonal bar into an unfinished gate with the handle of my spoon and it had dawned on me that each gate signified five days, five days which I had spent in the cell. I had stared at the completed gate and had realized that it was the last tally I would ever make in that place.

I had slipped my spoon into one of my deep pockets and I had turned my back on my wall of lost days, stumbling away toward the door of the cell. The door had fallen from its hinges at my faltering touch, clattering loudly onto the floor. Very cautiously I had stepped over the door and out into the corridor beyond.

The first sight that had met me upon entering the corridor had been the charred, skeletal remains of a minotaur, the bovine features and horns of the skull divulging its species. The skeleton had been lying prostrate, its head turned to the side. The blackened remnants of some sort of uniform had clung to the shoulders and lower legs and a large ring of keys had rested against its exposed hipbone. At the time I had supposed that the body had belonged to one of my jailers and, though I had been sickened by the sight, I had found myself wondering why my own body wasn’t in the same fire-ravaged state, rendered to ash and bone by the blaze which had obviously engulfed my surroundings.

I had turned away from the smoking corpse of the minotaur and had been surprised to see that another leather-clad figure stood in a doorway further down the corridor. For a fleeting moment I had thought that I was looking into a mirror and I had stared at my new form in wonder, trying to see my eyes beneath the dark lenses of my goggles. My reflection had not mirrored my movements however, bringing me to realize that I was looking into the goggles of another. The individual in question had been dressed almost identically to me, sporting the same leather outfit and goggles. The only difference I had noted between us was that instead of leather the stranger’s mask appeared to have been made from beaten bronze. He had also carried a satchel, the large, spacious type which you may see slung over the shoulder of that most despicable of public servants; the postman. (Please note that I use the term he here simply for the ease of narration. The stranger had displayed no discernable gender but I feel that it would be disrespectful and rude to refer to the stranger - an individual who I have come to know very well over the past millennium - as it.) The stranger’s physique had also mirrored mine; short, plump and bulky. The individual had waved at me and had beckoning for me to follow him as he had retreated further down the ash-clogged corridor.

I remember wondering if the stranger had awoken in the ashes of his former life as I had and I had felt no fear of him as I’d shuffled down the corridor in his footsteps, clumsily traversing broken bricks and charred, fallen beams as I went. The corridor I had been led down had been lined with burnt-out cells similar to the one in which I had awoken. All had been empty, their contents incinerated and their doors ajar or missing. I had followed the stranger around a bend in the corridor and he had clambered over the ruin of a fallen wall. I had followed, struggling to heave my robust form over the mound of broken brick and I had found myself in a bleak landscape of ash and smoke. I had stood in what I believe to have once been a garden. All vegetation that the garden had once boasted had been burnt away or smothered in ash and the only botanical specimen that had remained had been a large topiary angel which had loomed at its center. The angel’s body had been blackened and the wasted nature of its scorched branches had given it an eerie, skeletal appearance. The garden had been surrounded by a high wall topped with wrought iron spikes, the kind designed to prevent people scaling the wall and making their escape. Mounds of smoking, black boulders littered the garden like demonic rockeries, some of them glowing red with heat and a layer of ankle-deep ash coated the ground, gathering in great drifts at the base of the enclosing wall. Above the garden’s southern wall, I had spotted a landmark which I’d recognized, a colossal tree baring a sky-scraping canopy of autumn leaves. Its name had instantly come into my mind. It was The Tree of Creation which housed the holy city of Zorrogon. Where this knowledge had come from had at the time been beyond me but I had been comforted in the knowledge that the world I had been reborn to was not completely alien to me.

There had been many more of my leather-suited kin outside. Though their facial expressions had been hidden behind their masks I had discerned from their body-language that they were just as confused by their sudden existence as I was. Many of them had seemed to be aimlessly wondering the ash-clogged garden whereas others had stood motionless, unsure of the best course of action to take. I had scanned the crowd and though every individual present had worn a similar leather outfit to my own I had noticed many more slight differences between us. Some, like the individual I’d encountered in the corridor, had masks not of leather but of metal and I had noticed several variations; some were forged of bronze, some of copper and some of silver and the mask of one individual had appeared to have been made from a melding of all three, tiny squares of metal fused together as one. The tones of the leather they wore also greatly varied, contrasting from jet-black like mine through to a pale sandy brown. There were other differences too; one individual was extremely tall and well-built while another was small, having a stature akin to that of a brownie or leprechaun. One wore a wide brimmed hat and another appeared to have a bovine-like tail trailing behind him as if the tailor who had crafted his suit had not bothered to remove all of the appendages of the leather’s previous owner. I had been intrigued and disturbed to see one individual who had no goggles, his beaked mask baring two stitched crosses where his eyes should be.

Some of the leather-clad figures had held curious objects, most of which they were examining in quite a bewildered fashion. One had held a tall top hat, one a military medal and another an empty picture frame. One individual who I had spotted lurked near a cremated shrubbery had held what had appeared to be a dog collar, an accessory which he was desperately trying to strap around his neck. I remember wondering if the others had found their objects amidst the ash-choked cells as I had with my spoon and I recall retrieving it from my pocket to examine it in the daylight, taking in its blackened yet shapely form.

One individual in particular had stood out amongst the rest however as his body had seemingly been constructed from a jumble of mismatched limbs and junk. Nothing about him was symmetrical and even the two halves of his goggles didn’t match, one side having a large dark lens and the other side a smaller rose-tinted one. He’d had one large, broad shoulder which birthed a muscular arm adorned with leather tassels and another much smaller shoulder with an extremely long arm that hung down well past his knee. I say knee rather than the plural knees because the individual in question bore only one leg, the other half of his body being propped up by a wooden limb which appeared to have once been the leg of an ornate table or chair, a carved, wooden talon gripping a ball serving as his foot. Despite his bizarre and ununiform physique the individual had seemed quite content and had been busily rummaging through a pile of socks which lay in the ash at his feet, apparently trying to sort them into pairs. To this day I have not fathomed exactly why there had been such an abundant collection of socks in the ashen garden but it is my belief that the mismatched individual had seen fit to evacuate them from the building in which we had awoken.

Some of the individuals had waved at me and I’d felt inclined to wave back. No one had spoken and I had realized that I had lost, (if I had ever possessed it to begin with,) the ability to speak. I had stumbled toward an individual who had sat on the floor with his back against the garden’s northern wall. He had been cradling something in his lap and I think it was curiosity that had drawn me to him. His mask was leather like my own but it was of a deep chestnut. A tremor had rippled through the ground as I’d approached, sending me sprawling and knocking several others off their feet. I had regained my footing, dusted myself down and had stood over the sitting individual, strangely unconcerned by the quaking earth.

The sitting individual had held his hands out to show me what he held, revealing a large colorful butterfly which was nestled in his palm. One of the butterfly’s wings had been badly scorched and as I’d watched it had flapped its ruined wing, flopping uselessly in its protector’s hands, quite forlorn and unable to fly. The butterfly had been gently cradled and its protector had hung his head in sorrow, apparently saddened by its plight. A red, dancing glow had reflected in his downcast goggles and I had turned to see what was casting it, a motion which had caused me to stumble backwards in surprise.

A mountain had loomed above the charred ruins in which I had awoken, fire and molten rock erupting from its peak to sear its face. The sight of the mountain’s fiery fury had awoken a dark memory within me, a memory recorded by the eyes of the person I’d once been. I had remembered my cell before its incineration, its walls bare brick. I had remembered curling my fingers around the bars of the door only to have them struck by a cane. I had remembered dirty sheets and stale food, cruel words and rough treatment and all of this had come to me in a painful haze of fear and confusion which my new mind had no longer seemed able to fully articulate. I remember wondering and fearing that I had been a prisoner, an individual who had been locked away for committing some horrendous crime, someone deemed worthy of being forced to live in such a harbor of squalor, contempt and persecution. I am happy to say that my fears were mislaid that day, I had not been a criminal. I would not however wish the torture my soul had endured in that cell to even those who had committed the most horrendous and vile crimes. My soul had been injured badly in my prior life and as the images of what had been before had flashed through my mind’s eye I could feel its scars.

A heavy hand had fallen onto my shoulder and again I had felt no alarm or danger. I had turned and had looked into the dark goggles of another, an individual with a bronze mask and a suit almost as dark as my own. Though to my very limited knowledge I had never met this individual before we had greeted one another like old friends, enthusiastically shaking hands. I’d had the notion that we had been acquainted in our previous lives and some part of us still recognized one another. Though I now know myself and the individual in question were both incarcerated in the same institution, to this day I do not know if we had ever really interacted, locked away as we were.

My new acquaintance had put his arm around my shoulders and had led me towards one of the blackened walls of the building. He had reached down into the ash at the base of the wall and had fished out a rock. He’d used the rock to scratch a simple question onto the blackened brickwork but despite its simplicity the question had instantly stumped me.

Do you know who you are?

I remember being quite surprised at being able to read the question and I had been surprised further still when I’d took my spoon from its pouch and had used it to scratch out a response. I do not believe that literacy was a skill I had possessed in my prior form, though how I had acquired the talent was and still is a mystery to me.

I do not know who I am, I’d written. Or what I am for that matter.

My new acquaintance had nodded and had scratched out a reply which had stated that he felt he was definitely someone and that he had a strong belief that we were both something. What we were however he did not know.

Other members of our leather-clad brethren had taken an interest in our scripted conversation and they had crowded around the wall to visually eavesdrop on us, their suits squeaking as they’d shuffled closer to gain a better view.

I had found scratching out my words quite a laborious activity and by the time I had formed my next reply my wrist was aching with the strain. I had stated in as few words as possible that I believed I had previously been someone else, possibly a criminal and I had attempted to relate the pain of my clouded half-memories, an experience which I literally had been unable to put into words.

Another tremor had rippled through the ground and a strong wind had followed it, blowing in from the East, gusting over the top of the enclosing wall to whip the ash and embers into what, if it had not been for my goggles, I expect would have been a most blinding miasma. Visibility had been just enough for me to spy a dark shape fluttering into our midst, riding upon the ash-choked wind. At first, I had mistaken the dark shape for that of an equinox bat, its fluttering motion mirroring the erratic beating of their wings. The dark shape had circled the garden before swooping down upon us, flying straight into the face of a silver masked individual who had been so dazed by the incident that they had fallen to the floor in shock.

As the wind had died away and the ash had settled, I had realized that the ‘bat’ was in fact a large sheet of singed paper which had completely enveloped the head of the poor individual which it had become entangled with. As the paper had been torn away from the silver mask, I had noted that it bore a dark symmetrical ink stain at its center and I had realized that it was a blot test. Blot tests are a devise used by many medical practitioners as a means to make a psychological examination of a patient’s emotional functions and personality traits. The subject is shown a selection of symmetrical inkblots which he or she then interprets. The examiner then makes a psychological assessment of the patient based upon their answers.

The sight of the blot test had once again stirred the reside of my prior memories, dredging up a phrase from the depths of my consciousness. It had whispered to me in a voice thick with contempt and I recall wondering if the voice was that belonging to the cremated minotaur I had stumbled upon back in the corridor. “Tell me what you see old man.” I had scratched the words onto the wall with the handle of my spoon for all to see but I had omitted the term old man, realizing that it would not apply to all present. Up until that point I had not considered my age or gender. I had felt brand new in body but strangely wizened of mind and soul and as I had no record or solid memory of my previous life I had surmised that fathoming my age was going to be a near impossible task as I’d felt sure that some aspects of myself were much older than others. I’d not known at that time if I possessed any specific genitalia and, as there had been no opening in the relevant portion of my suit through which I could have pursued the matter further, I had decided that I would investigate my gender privately at a later date.

At the time the incident with the ink blot had seemed like an unfortunate if not slightly amusing accident but looking back on it now I feel sure that the stained sheet of parchment had been attempting to seriously injure, if not kill one of us. Judging by its behavior I believe it had attempted to suffocate the individual which it had so violently assaulted, a notion which has often caused me to sit and ponder how we managed to survive our early years with such a murderous sheet of parchment in our midst and I thank the Architect that we all escaped its wrath unscathed.

The victim of the blot test had been helped back to his feet and the ash dusted from his suit. He had held his attacker at arm’s length to view the stain at its center. With a nod he had approached me, considering the question I had scratched onto the wall.

Purple unicorn lost in dark alley, he had written, borrowing my acquaintance’s stone. That is what I see.

The individual with the injured butterfly had then stepped forwards with a stone of his own and in very small child-like writing he had stated that he could see a cloud in the blot.

I had studied the blot myself and had considered my own question. The dark whorls and splashes of ink which stained the treacherous sheet of parchment had resembled the naked sunrise which I had witnessed upon my awakening and so I had written, I see sunrise. The answer had seemed agreeable and a sudden notion had struck me. I’d like that to be me, I had written. I am Sunrise.

Then I’m Cloud, the individual with the butterfly had written.

But that makes me Purple Unicorn Lost in Dark Alley, the blot test’s victim had said. If I’d known we were going to use what we saw as our names then I’d have picked something less phantasmagorical.

We had all been most impressed by the use of the word phantasmagorical, so much so that the individual with the satchel had broken into a round of applause. I must admit, I had been in complete agreement. Purple Unicorn Lost in Dark Alley is an awful name which I find confusing in imagery and, due to its length, also a terrible strain on the wrist. I had suggested that we abbreviate the name to Pulida, a solution which had seemed acceptable to all present.

Another of our leather-clad brethren had then stepped forwards and had snatched the stone from Cloud’s hand. He had looked at the blot test and had written something so profane, offensive and rude on the wall that we had refused to name him after it. I also will not record it here for fear that children or persons of an innocent nature may be reading. The individual in question later became known as Taboo.

The notion of being named had quickly caught on and one by one the other leather-clad individuals had stepped forwards to see what name the blot test would give to them.

Some had given the blot test a great deal of scrutiny before submitting their answer whereas others had seemingly already decerned their answers whilst waiting their turn, scratching their new names straight onto the brickwork.

The naming of one participant in particular has stuck in my mind all of these years, that of the mismatched, table-legged individual. He had starred at the blot test with his unequally sized goggles for some time, his hands full of socks. All of a sudden, he had thrown the socks to the ground in apparent rage, stamping them into the ash with his wooden leg. He had taken the stone and had written OD SOCK!, in large letters. WHY ARE THEY ALWAYS OD ? WHY IS EVERYTHING ALWAYS OD ? At first, we had though he had misspelled the word odd but when Pulida had brought the matter up the individual who had just christened himself Od Sock! had replied I am quite capable of spel ing od but for some reason I find it impos ible to write two matching let ers in a row.

At the time we had not quite known how to react to this strange individual and many of us had shared a confused shrug, not sure how to respond to his strange ailment. Eventually Od had picked up the socks he’d stamped into the ash, dusted them off apologetically and had ambled off with them, allowing the next individual to step forwards and receive their name.

Each participant in our naming ceremony had scratched their name onto the wall as they’d received it and as the last of our number had stepped forwards, I had counted sixty-five names scratched into the blackened brickwork. The final participant in our naming ceremony had been the individual whose mask bore stitched crosses instead of goggles. He had stood before the ink blot and had chosen the only name his blindness would allow and so our sixty-sixth member had been christened Darkness.

The following pages display a list of the names given that day and the order in which they were received:

Sunrise (Yours truly)

Cloud

Purple Unicorn Lost in Dark Alley (Pulida)

****** *** (Taboo)

Oats

Blancmange

Slingshot

Sequin

Yin

Po-po

Clover

Tea Loaf

Omen

Nightmare

Phlegm

Smoke

Barrel

Skull

Gears

Sir Bartholomew I

Pitterpat

Incoming!

Oh Smudge

Banjo

Symmetry

Horizon

Big Top

Cerebellum

Ink

Butterfly

Rhythm

I Bet It’s Dice

Stuff

Corset

Waffles

Clouds

Hammock

Curves

Yarn

Tuxedo

Mistletoe

Sawdust

Quilt

Sunset

Junk

Puddle

Jellyfish

Script

Leash

Doorknob

Pineapple

Dead-or-Alive

Chakra

Magpie

Is the Answer Sheep?

(Shortened to Itas)

Bubbles

Od Sock!

Pumpkin

Mangle

Liquorish

Tadpole

Tumbleweed

Dragée

Grapes

Pointy Thing

Darkness


The mountain had continued its eruption as dusk had descended and the distant glow of the spewing lava had mingled with the gathering gloom to bathe the land in muted hues of red and orange. The Eastern winds had also returned with the dusk, blowing black, tempestuous skies towards us. A sudden fall of rain had turned the ashen carpet into a mire of grey sludge and had washed our conversations from the walls. The demonic rockeries, which were still aglow with heat, had hissed and crackled as the rain had pelted them, filling the garden with great clouds of steam which had caused a most blinding film of condensation to accumulate upon my goggles.

Though I’d still felt no hunger I had felt the cold, and the rain had quickly saturated my leather suit, afflicting me with a penetrating chill. Having nowhere else to seek shelter, myself and my brethren had huddled together for warmth, reentering the burnt-out building in which we’d awoken. The wind had intensified, blowing debris through the open roof and causing the few charred beams that had remained to groan ominously above us.

It was at this point that one of our number, a courageous individual who’d named himself Horizon had taken charge of our group and had led us from the dangers of the ruined building. He had taken us through the winding corridors, guiding us into what I can only imagine had once been a laundry room. The room had boasted several large vats of murky water and half dozen cremated mangles, their wooden rollers charred and cracked. The rear wall of the room, like the one which had given us access to the garden, had partially collapsed and it was through this breech that Horizon had led us out into the teeth of the mounting storm. We had all exited safely but Horizon had been forced to return for Mangle whom had chosen to remain in the laundry room in an effort to administer first-aid to his fire-damaged namesakes. Horizon claims that Mangle had been applying cold compresses to the horrifically charred rollers of the unfortunate appliances and, though he commends Mangle’s bravery and compassion he claims that the severity of the mechanical laundry machines’ injuries were beyond all hope and he for his own safety he had forced Mangle to abandon them.

Horizon wore (and still wears,) a tan suit, a bronze mask and the kind of faded red neckerchief popular amongst farmhands and cattle drovers. He also wears an extremely durable pair of hiking boots, an accessory which none of the rest of us had been gifted with. Some other exclusive items the Architect equipped Horizon with were a brass spyglass and a small, square, wooden celestial compass which bore a fragile looking yet extremely durable glass dome. As well as the cardinal points, Horizon’s compass also bears a direction labeled ‘New Horizons’ which is situated somewhere between east and south-east.

As we had braved the storm, cyclones of wind had appeared in the East, corkscrewing from the charred earth to the blackened heavens, whipping up the ash and dragging down the clouds. They had rapidly advanced upon us and Horizon had led us west toward the fiery glow of the distant mountain, guided by his celestial compass. It had felt as if the sky was waging war against the land and we were trapped in the no man’s land between them, rapidly running out of room as the combatants clashed.

Horizon had led us to the very foot of the mountain where, much to the relief of us all, we had found an opening in the rock. One by one we had squeezed through the narrow gap to find ourselves in a large, pitch-black cavern. The cavern’s walls had radiated heat and though the battle of the land and sky could still be heard outside, a calmness fallen over our group. We had sided with the mountain; become its ally and I had known then that it would protect us. We had spent that first night of our creation warm and relatively dry in the safety of our cavern.

This was the first of many storms, both literal and figurative, which we would weather within Mount Bedlam.


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