The Architect's Essence, The Diary of Sunrise

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Unknown Date 2479 A.R.T

We had left out on our expedition early the next morning, setting out from the top of the staircase where I had arrived to find sixty-four excited members of my brethren. Some of our number had literally been jumping up and down with excitement and someone had graffitied the wall at the top of the steps with the phrase, Day Trip! These words, though weathered, still remain at the top of the stairs to this day and in later years they gave the name to the eastern entrance of Mount Bedlam, the Day Trip entrance.

Horizon had taken the lead, brandishing his compass before him and I had brought up the rear of our troop with Cloud. Cloud had still been very low and his goggles had been permanently downcast as we had made our treacherous descent. Some of the steps had been so worn that some sections had only been passable if you sat on your behind and slid down to the next available step. Despite the dangers of the dilapidated stairway most of us had made it without accident. This had not been the case however for an individual named Butter whose feet seemed to have had the knack of catching themselves on even the tiniest piece of detritus and sending her sprawling to the ground. For some reason Butter’s leather suit had come equipped with a wide brimmed leather sunhat which often drooped over her goggles and needed constant attention to ensure it did not slip from her head.

After Butter’s third fall on the stairway I had begun to count her mishaps and by the time we had reached the stratum of cooled lava which divided the steps, she had fallen to the ground thirty-seven times. I had later learnt that we had descended only seventy-two steps at that point meaning that on average she had tripped once for every two steps she’d descended. I had made a mental note then that if we were going to be using the stairs often then they would need to be made safe, for Butter’s sake if not for the rest of us. At one point I had feared that Butter was going to fall and tumble to the very foot of the mountain and so I had enlisted a rather bulky individual named Skull to help me stabilize her as we traversed the lava flow. I had not realized it at the time but by soliciting Skull’s help with Butter that day I had sowed the seed of a powerful and special friendship between the two.

It had been around this point that Omen had simply stopped. Omen was the shortest individual in our party, he wore a suit of dark tan and he had a silver mask which appeared to have been cast to resembled the skull of a crow, the nostrils, beak and eye sockets all clearly visible. Omen also wore an overabundance of talismans, all of them hung on rope around his neck. The talismans had displayed the religious symbols of at least two dozen faiths, all of them cast in bronze and copper, adornments which had seemed far too bulky for his tiny stature.

Omen had been sliding out over the glassy surface of the cooled lava flow when he had suddenly frozen, rendered immobile with fear. Those ahead of him had gesticulated toward him, urging him to continue and those behind him had begun to tap their feet with impatience. Myself and Cloud had been at the rear of the queue and so I had left Butter under Skull’s protection and I had slid out over the lava toward Omen to see if I could resolve the situation. I had slid down to Omen’s right and had seen what had instilled so much fear in him. As I’d mounted the crest of the lava flow the mountainside had seemed to drop away almost vertically beneath me and I’d had a clear view of the muddy ground, some sixty feet below us. Omen had been rigid with fear. The beak of his crow-like mask had quaked with anxiety and he’d only managed a slight turn of his head to acknowledge my presence. I had taken my spoon from its pocket at my waist and I’d scratched the word, together, in the liquorish-black stone between us.

Omen had afforded a terse glance toward my words and then to the outstretched hand which I’d offered him. He had given me a curt nod and I had taken his hand, prying it away from the stone. Together we had gingerly shuffled towards the onlookers and we’d soon found ourselves on a relatively solid group of steps on the other side. I remember breathing a sigh of relief, pleased that I had managed to coax Omen onwards but my breath had caught again as I’d looked back to see Skull and Butter venture out onto the lava flow. Butter had already been sprawled flat on her face and was being dragged onwards by Skull who’d had an air of extreme exasperation about him.

Some forty minutes later we had all reached the base of the steps and I am pleased to say that, barring some scuffs to Butter’s suit and a slight dent to her bronze mask, we had made it in one piece. Horizon had approached me and had suggested that, upon our return journey, we didn’t attempt to reclimb the stairs but rather retraced our steps through the cavern and up the ladders, a notion which I had agreed with.

The mud that had been left behind by the flood had been thick and sticky and it had exuded a most putrid, beak-bending stench. Horizon had led us through the mire to the west and The Creation Tree had crept across the horizon to stand dead ahead of us. In some places the mud had come up to our knees and had gripped our feet, making our progress slow and arduous. It had however prevented Butter from falling, effectively gluing her feet to the floor.

Despite its repugnant smell and texture, one of our party, an individual who had christened himself Oats had taken a special interest in the mud, picking it up in great handfuls and squeezing the moisture from it. He had rubbed the sludge between his thumb and forefinger, seemingly scrutinizing its composition. It was at this point that I had noticed that Oats possessed an extra finger to the rest of us, giving him four fingers and a thumb on each hand. Oddly, though his hands were now filthy I had also noticed that the leather which covered his extra digits was emerald green in color, making them stand out against his black suit. Oats had noticed my interest in him and he had quickly thrust his muddy hands into his pockets and had continued on his way. I had been tempted to pursue Oats and question him about his extra digits and his interest in the mud but as there was no solid stone around for me and my spoon to voice our queries upon I had decided I would indulge my curiosity with Oats when we were all safely back the mountain.

By the time we had reached the small opening in which we’d taken shelter from the storm some three weeks earlier the sun had risen high into the sky, preparing to make its decent towards dusk. I had been pleased to see that Bubbles’ plan was working. Cloud had lifted his head and the air of sadness that he’d carried since his realization of the butterfly’s demise had seemed to be lifting.

Bubbles had joined Horizon at the front of the troop and she had pointed towards the half-buried remains of the burnt building which had given birth to us. The building had taken further damage during the storm and flood and two of its walls had now completely collapsed, giving views of the cells within. We had altered direction to head towards the building and I had surmised that Bubbles thought its ruin would make a fine setting for the game of hide-and-seek she had planned for us. As we had neared the structure, I had noticed a large, rectangular piece of wood lying in the mire, chains and a bracket trailing from its longest side. It was the first piece of unburnt wood I’d seen and, realizing that it was a sign I had pried it from the mud with some interest, curious of what was written upon it. I had surmised that it had been washed in by the flood waters and I had wiped the filth from its surface to reveal a message which had caused a tingling coldness to cascade down my body. The sensation had weakened my knees before settling in my feet.

HUSH PRAIRIE

ASYLUM

Keep heading south

and you’ll get there.

In a painful flash of realization I had understood that Hush Prairie Asylum had been the building in which we had awoken and though I had been relieved that I had not been an imprisoned criminal, the comprehension of my origins had once again dredged up distorted memories of pain and persecution which had sent ripples of unease across the previously calm surface of my constitution. I had recalled being beaten in my moonlit cell for nothing more than crying. I’d remembered how I had been ridiculed for my mental ailments and how the orderlies who had been tasked with our care had been more like jailers than caregivers. Our carers had treated like vermin, something unpleasant which should be hidden away and forgotten for fear of upsetting the ‘sane.’ In the eyes of our orderlies we had been beyond reprieve and we had been denied even the most basic of comforts such as clothing and company.

This rush of unpleasant memories had mentally crippled me, locking me in the pain of my past life, a most repugnant emotional situation where I had remained until someone had taken my hand, pulling me back to the present. I had been surprised to find that I had fallen to my knees and I had looked up to see Cloud standing above me. He had squeezed my hand reassuringly and had helped me back to my feet.

Many others members of my brethren had gathered around and I could see that the sign, which now lay face up for all to see, had disturbed them in much the same way as it had disturbed me. Only Cloud seemed unaffected. He had glanced around at the others and had held out his free hand toward me, asking for the sign. I had retrieved it from the mire and had dutifully handed it over. Cloud had released my hand and had scooped up a handful of wet mud, daubing it on the sign. When he had finished his work, he had turned the sign towards me. It had read:

HUSH PRAIRIE

ASYLUM

Keep heading south

and you’ll get there.

The bad people and the bars aren’t here.

They can’t hurt us no more.

We are our own orderlies now.

Now it time for us to care.

Now it is time to play.

This sign now hangs in my office, still baring Cloud’s grammatically incorrect message. I use it as a reminder of the pains we endured during our previous existence and also as a reminder of what I believe we now stand for. Cloud’s message had sowed a seed in my mind that day, we are our own Orderlies now, now it is time for us to care.

Some decades later I had been gifted with a fine gilded book of words by the wealthy family of a patient of ours which I had kept in pride of place on the bookshelf in my office. It had been written by a lady faun by the name of Miss Samuela Faxoniana, an author of the time who had attempted to compile a list of all know words and their definitions and, as we do a lot of writing, it had been an ideal gift. Unfortunately, the book had eventually showed its inherent papery evil and had turned against me, folding its pages into a deadly swarm of origami squirrels which had driven me from my office. To this day I still bare scars from its gilded pages. Before its mutiny however I had taken the time to look up the meaning of orderly which I found sandwiched in between the words order and ordinary.

Or.der.ly

adjective

Neatly and methodically arranged.

noun

1. An attendant in a hospital responsible

for nonmedical care and maintaining order

and cleanliness.

2. A soldier who carries out the orders of an officer.

I am pleased to say that I now own a less deadly and more up to date copy of Miss Samuela’s book of words, which has been specially etched onto sheets of copper for us in order to conform with our paperless policies. It is the heaviest book in our Reformed Library and requires a two man lift. In this new edition, Miss Samuela’s grandson who continued his grandma’s work after her death, has honored us by amending the definition of orderly. In now reads:

Or.der.ly

adjective

Neatly and methodically arranged.

noun

1. An attendant in a hospital responsible

for nonmedical care and maintaining order

and cleanliness.

2. A soldier who carries out the orders of an officer.

proper noun

A race of benevolent caregivers who inhabit Mount Bedlam and care for the mentally ill of the Known Expanse.

We had reached the charred remains of Hush Prairie Asylum around half-an-hour after discovering the sign and Bubbles had immediately begun to organize our game of hide-and-seek. She had strategically nominated Cloud to be the seeker during our first game and he had covered his goggles and had begun to count, using a stick to make tally marks in the mud as he did so. He had tallied up to sixty and then had come looking for us. Unfortunately, Bubbles had failed to adequately convey the rules of hide-and-seek and Cloud had found sixty-one of our number immediately as most of us, (myself included) didn’t really understand what the game involved and had made no attempt to conceal ourselves. Out of the four of us that had remained unfound; Magpie, Bubbles, Sir Bartholomew I and Mistletoe, two; Bubbles and Sir Bartholomew had chosen to stand directly behind Cloud and hide behind their hands. They had been the next to be found.

Despite hiding himself Mistletoe clearly hadn’t fully understand the object of hide-and-seek either as, while Cloud had searched through the ruins of Hush Prairie, he had jumped out from behind a low wall and had tackled him, lifting Cloud off the ground with an overly enthusiastic hug.

Magpie, being the only member still unaccounted for was declared the winner. Cloud had searched for Magpie for the next hour to no avail at which point the rest of our brethren had joined in the hunt. After a further two hours of fruitless searching we had admitted defeat and we had been forced to skirt the base of the mountain in order to find the entrance to the caverns before night descended. I had been wracked with worry over Magpie’s absence and fearing he had taken the game too seriously and was lost forever I had vowed that we would never again play such a reckless and foolhardy game. We had retraced our steps through the gloomy caverns and had once again ascended the ladders which led to the ledge where the empty sockets of the Coomobra skull looked out toward Zorrogon.

To my surprise and relief, we had found Magpie sitting at the mouth of the corridor with Darkness. He had looked very pleased with himself and after much reprimanding and a good deal of finger-wagging, I had discovered that he had separated from our party not long after we had negotiated the lava flow. It had turned out that he had become distracted by a shiny crystal which he’d spotted imbedded in the wall of the mountainside and he had spent the rest of the time digging it from the rock before heading back the way he’d come. He had reached into a pocket at his waist and had retrieved a bright chunk of quartz which was roughly the size of a large pebble or small rock. (I must apologize for my vagueness but I find comparative descriptions of size and length difficult to convey.) Magpie had held out the quartz toward the setting sun, captivated by the way its facets had refracted the dying light into a rainbow and he had declared that he found it lovely to behold. Darkness, who was unable to partake in the crystals visual charms had simply said that ‘he found it lovely to hold.’


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