Summary of Evidence from Recovery Site V2008-5
I think it is important to provide context, so future generations may recognize the urgency of my endeavor.
In 1916, I enlisted into His Majesty's 5th Infantry Division, and in the bloody trenches of Europe I witnessed proof of humanity's barbarism and the absence of God. Wounded in battle and wallowing in septic mud, the fever fell upon me, and with it came the visions.
In my nightmares I saw a great iron worm, with jaws like that of a dragon, devouring the fields of Europe. It had no teeth, but masses of grinding gears that tore flesh and stone to pulp. Its voice was the roar of falling artillery, its breath the blistering poison of mustard gas. Damned souls were belched into a starless sky like smoke, lost into a cold, indifferent void.
I have no memory of my conscious actions during that time, but at last I found myself in a hospital in London. They told me the war was over, but the dreams did not leave. I would wake in a cold sweat, filled with purpose. Hastily I scribbled down designs that had been burned into my mind, strange and alien architectures I did not recognize or understand.
Finally I returned home to my wife and children. Brave Simon and little Simone were a welcome escape from my fear, but my wife Clarice took notice. "Shellshock," she called it, the word on the lips of every veteran's wife or mother. I tried to explain my visions, what instilled such fear in me, but she recoiled as if I were a mere madman. If only that were the case.
The children heeded my warnings, however. They were rightly afraid, yet that was not my intent. No, Simon, do not fear the beast. No Simone, please do not cry.
Father will not let you be fed to the worm.
The schematics! They must be the secret to stopping the worm. I feel a connection, a familiarity that likens them unto a great metal snare.
With them I will cage the beast.
So long, so long in my workshops. So long in the belly of my father's home, free from prying eyes. Working, ever building. My wife questions but refuses to listen. Only the children heed. Only Simon understands. A finer son no father could want.
My family's wealth is modest, but the urgency that gives energy to my limbs also guides my thoughts. Through clever accounting I can take advantage of the working class' desperation. So many seek work, an honest day's wages, that they do not question my motives. Some even show curiosity, enthralled by my designs. A work Leonardo himself would envy, they say. We are more than employer and laborer, we are a growing congregation, seers who know the truth.
With the enlightened to spur the others forward, we make excellent time. They build and forge, dig and reinforce, laying pipes and wrapping conductors in rubber. On the surface, they speak of a Great Depression, of economic and social despair. Below, I lay the foundation of a greater tomorrow. But I smell the burning breath of the worm. It is close. We must hurry.
I have seen the puppet of the worm. A puffy Austrian who commands power from the desperate and in their despair they hurl themselves into the grinding teeth of the worm and call themselves masters of a thousand years. I see his face in the newspapers and scream at his empty, hateful eyes, but no one listens! No one SEES!
The nightmares have changed. Now there are more than mere soldiers on an apostate battlefield, now there are prisons. Camps of men and women and children, their flesh shriveled by cruelty and neglect. The worm feeds on them, and their souls are so weak they cannot even flee into the heaven-less sky.
I fear for them, but I fear for my own children even more. In my dreams, I hear them crying on the battlefield. They call out for god, for their mother, for their father.
Only I can answer.
The vision came. I saw the worm, eating the rotten flesh of a dead world! The stars had burned out, the sun bled into blackness, until the only light was but a flickering candle, a torch held against oblivion. No Christian God holds that torch, no pagan worship, no politician or priest.
I hold the torch.
I stand within the snare, built of the iron of the earth and the blood of man, and I bait the worm to its doom!
SUCCESS! THE WORM IS TRAPPED!
My victory was short-sighted. The worm is caged but it has already unleashed its plague upon us. The bombs fall upon London. War rages once more. The worm cries out from below, mocking me even as it thrashes within its cage. This world is doomed.
The work crews fear it, or maybe they fear me? Some want to leave, to fight another pointless war for their homeland. Others stand behind me, terrified of what comes for us. How… how..? How can we escape this rotting world and the locusts that devour it?
I finally understand the purpose of my great machine. Not a cage. An engine. A device that dwarfs all measure of man's science, Satan's magic and God's miracles. A machine that will deliver us from oblivion! All it needed was a heart! A burning furnace to power it! How ironic, that the worm that promised my doom is now the engine that will drive our salvation!
The laborers who heeded my warnings have banded with me. Like a cult to its messiah they gathered at my feet, and as a dutiful shepherd I will guide them to paradise.
Some resisted. I do not hate them.
I do not hate the people of this ruined world.
I pity them.
It was all I could do to instruct my followers that a merciful death is preferable to the alternative. Those who would not come with us were better off sent away by their kin than by some heartless enemy on the battlefield.
I go to throw the switch of my great machine, and free ourselves from the madness of the grave.
Day 2,570 Day 1
In one brilliant flash, my engine and the manor above have been delivered from the war-torn earth to a new world. This place is like our own, but different in many ways. A gray mist swirls around the manor, free of the stink of gunpowder and urban decay. The manor sits in a field of grey soil devoid of vegetation. I hear no buzzing of insects. I see no sun or moon, just a dull, sourceless light.
A dismal arrival, perhaps, but a welcome one. I broke wine with my brothers and sisters. Today we are saved.
The engine has gone quiet now. The worm must have been consumed by its own fire. Some merciful part of my soul, so flushed with victory and new hope, prays the worm is at peace.
Where on earth there would be day and night, here the light never changes. The gray mist lingers, muting all sound. My followers look to me for answers. They say I am the Voice of the engine, surely I must know what to do. I push for patience and make promises I already begin to doubt myself. To satisfy their curiosity, I asked three of my bravest to venture out in search of… anything.
I try to reassure my family, but Clarice looks at me only with fear and hate. She has walled herself up in the bedrooms with Simone. Simon stays with me though. He wishes to go out to see this new world. I refuse him. I will not threaten his life for the sake of knowledge.
Even as I write these words, I am startled by what I see. This world was to be our safe haven, was it not?
The men I sent into the mist have returned, thanks to the lengths of string I provided them. No vegetation, no animals, no sun or stars, no civilization. This world is empty and grey. Not hell, like the world we left behind. A limbo.
Does that make it better?
The dreams no longer come. Where before I could scarcely close my eyes without envisioning arcane machinery and prophecies of doom, now my mind is empty, and the silence mocks me. The food stores are being rationed. I do everything I can to convince the followers that utopia will come, that this is just a transition, but empty stomachs speak with more conviction than a prophet without a prophecy. A nurse named Eudora seems to have taken it upon herself to stir the hearts of the following, but her sermons cut short as I approach, and she regards me with stony silence until I withdraw.
My wife refuses to leave the bedrooms. She does not speak to me, ignores the food I leave for her. I call for Simone but they do not come out. How I have come to hate my wife. Her spite will not save us.
Two of the younger followers attempted to steal food from the kitchens. They talk of dwindling food stores, of mistrust, of strange noises coming from below, though my great engine no longer turns. If we imprisoned them, the others would have protested. Instead, I go to the others, and tell them the young ones have run out in to the fog, intend to find answers. Not everyone believes me, including Eudora. Instead they go back to plotting in quiet.
I worry for my flock.
Now everyone speaks of sounds from below, of rattling pipes and grinding gears, though I assure them the machine has been shut off. To assuage their fears, I sent Danvers and Burtleby to investigate. We should hear back from them sometime later tonight. Or morning.
No one questioned the fresh meat prepared for dinner.
My wife is dead. I grew furious at her petulance, and pried open the doors with a pickaxe. She had arranged Simone for bed and then-
Damn you, Clarice. You rotten whore. I wanted to SAVE my children.
Danvers and Burtleby have not come up. The grinding noises come every hour now, louder and louder. The house shakes around us.
I fear the worm may not be as dead as I hoped.
Darkness has finally fallen, and with it came a terror I have never known, even in the trenches. Cold seeps in through the windows. Strange shadows move in the fog, and I hear what sound like footsteps on the rooftop. The house groans and shakes. The worm struggles .
The courage of my followers frays. They want to go home, they want to be free of this horror and this damnable grey purgatory.
They have taken Simon. Eudora rallied the followers. She declared that the worm spoke to her to her dreams and that she is the Voice now. The worm demands sacrifice, she said: The son of the man who trapped it.
I fought them. I fought. I would not let them take my boy, the only thing I have left, but they were many, and they had gorged on the flesh of their fellows. I was but one broken man. I am no savior, no torch in the darkness, just a puppet to my own madness. I feel that every action I have taken, every vision and design I feverishly scrawled from half-remembered nightmares, was forced upon me by a cruel intellect that wished to test the limits of my sanity.
They have taken Simon below. They will feed him to the worm. Let this be my prayer to the starless night, to a god that may not even exist: I will not let him be fed to the worm. I will hurl myself into its teeth, that my bones might clog its innards, before I let them take my son.
I'm sorry Clarice.
God, the noise! It is almost deafening. Wheels turn and pistons hiss, and from the deepest reaches I hear a low, mournful bellow.
I have brought my journal, to give my mind something to focus on as I traverse the machine. Looking upon it with my sane eyes, I realize this maze is no work of logic. The tunnels bend and twist without reason, stairwells lead to solid walls and doors open to gaping chasms. The transference to this grey world may have warped the machine, or maybe I never truly saw it for what it was, and just built according to my deranged whims.
I have heard and seen nothing of Simon or his captors. Doubtless their steps are guided by the same madness that has abandoned me, guiding them with fluid ease towards the worm's waiting jaws. I hasten my step, but I seem to be running in blind circles. If nothing else, at least I have a sturdy lantern and plenty of oil from the work crews that toiled down here.
Day and night are meaningless in this limbo, but down here there is even less to measure the passage of time. My journey has taken me deeper, into some kind of processing factory. These automated devices gather grey sand from the bare rock, heat it into a sickly-looking glass, and fill the created vials with foul-smelling chemicals I cannot identify. Against my better judgment I crept close to inspect a completed vial, and to my horror a fully-formed set of teeth began to take form. Another jar held an eyeball like nothing found in man or nature. What is the purpose of this factory? What does it build and for whom? Is this the result of my design, or some mechanical cancer, spread by the worm to twist the machine's function?
My quarry seems to be in dispute now. I hear them arguing through the ventilation ducts and empty pipes. Eudora has taken my son deeper, leaving the others behind to harass my progress or simply abandoning to the whims of the worm. I have my pickaxe and my training, but I must move with stealth. I have not eaten in nearly two days. Still, Eudora's men still carry strips of meat…
I also saw something odd near the lathe room I have hidden myself within. A painting of exquisite taste. It is the work of a master, but I cannot recall when I purchased it or what possessed me to leave it down here. The image shares a remarkable likeness to Clarice, smiling as though in happier times. It casts my thoughts to decades past when I was a different man, a smaller man, yet infinitely happier.
Can knowledge so damn a soul? In a universe of such cosmic evils that I have witnessed, is ignorance truly the only bliss one can enjoy?
My dreams returned, not of prophecy but memory. I am with Simon in the London Museum. He pulls me along, eager to see art and history, the beauty of all created by man and God. But I cannot see the beauty. I see only bloody mud and blackened skies, the ugliness of man and a callous God. Simon walks on with out me while I sink into a bench. The day fades away to night, and I sit in an empty museum of man's atrocities, the last living thing on a cold earth, overwhelmed by the weight of it all.
I wait for death or oblivion to take me, whichever could stomach so pitiful a morsel. But instead I feel the presence of another. I feel no light from this being, no warmth, yet I sensed that this was as close to God as any being could be. It looks like a man, but there is a weight to him, as though something greater, and stranger, were squeezed into his skin.
"The child wants, and doesn't know why," the gentleman speaks to me. "The child grasps, and doesn't know the danger. They burn their fingers and know they are not ready. Someday they will be. Someday they will give voice to the soul and sing with the essence of the universe. What gods they will be then. What galaxies they will weave with dreams and care. But now they are children, and children are selfish. They know only what they want."
And then I awoke back inside this machine, on a grey planet. So far from the world of my memories. It burdens my bones just to think of the inevitability. But I forced myself to stand just the same.
Simon cried out to me, I heard him far below. I called back to him but I heard no reply. Eudora's zealots hound me relentlessly, and I fear some horrible change has come over them in casting their lot with the worm. They speak with slurred, reptilian voices, or gargle as though choking. Some have even turned on their fellows. As I crept about the darkness I saw one such rebellion. A man I had tried to lead to paradise fell upon his companion in an argument over faith, and I felt the heat of his lifeblood splash across my astonished face. The teeth! Gnashing and ripping, so big and sharp, like the fangs of a wolf, yet also serrated as the blade of a saw. Animal and flesh, yet also machine.
My surroundings have been affected by the same mutation. Rooms I do not recognize bleed into one another like spilled paint. An office with plush green chairs merges with a warehouse filled with crates that rattle and bang with some unknown, stinking occupant. Ladders descend into pools of viscous liquid that have flooded what appears to be a school. Statues of marble and reliefs of brass decorate the ceilings and form the very walls. Rattling belts spew ammunition into neglected piles, shells the size of my head clatter to the floor in automated factories, producing the tools of death. I could not have made this! I could not have wanted such devices! And yet here they stand! And always the shrieking, the tapping of heating and cooling metals, the groan of pressurized hydraulics! I cannot remember what silence sounded like!
Day 13 or 14
Eudora's followers no longer heed reason. The demented growl and spit and scavenge for food, their ramblings the stuff of Bedlam. Others have become something… else. Feral, like the lycanthropes of myth. They crawl on all fours, their eyes adjusted to the gloom and shining red, twin pinpoints of demon light. I can startle them with my lantern, but they always return, trying to surround me from all sides. Hunters they are, and fast as wolves, but their howls are the shriek of tearing metal.
Eudora's voice taunts me now. It echoes up through the network of plumbing, from every open ventilation shaft. She announces her glorious ascendance, of her devotion to the worm, and I hear true lunacy in her desperate laughter. It ripples through this whole machine, as if she herself is a part of it.
I have found respite in a room filled with hospital beds, and windows that look out into an abyss. It reminds me of the hospital I awoke from the war within. But I must pry my eyes away from that dark, for my mind cannot tell if I look into lightless cavern, or starless void.
I have found Eudora. Pursued by her followers-made-monsters, I came upon a great cathedral made from organ pipes, marble, and the very flesh and bones of Eudora herself. Now I see how she could speak to me through the pipes, for her body has been torn asunder and stitched upon it. Her organs are pulled straight and taut though the tangled plumbing, her skin stretched and inflated with gases, her blood sizzling and steaming from the hydraulics. Only her head remains whole, wide-eyed and cackling, seated on the pulpit of this temple to dementia. The monsters refuse to set foot into this "hallowed ground," so I alone approached to speak with her.
I demanded my son's return, but she spat her own broken teeth at me and said he had been taken by the worm, delivered to the heart of the machine where its mouth sat waiting. Furious, I fell upon her with a vengeance, tearing what remained of her body from the brass organs around her. She died screaming, and at last was quiet.
But then a great bellow erupted from the machine, and a new voice spoke to me through the mangled organ.
"I am what you have made me. I am then and I am now. I am choice and I am tyranny. I am evil and I am flesh. I am beauty and I am chaos. I am the worm."
Stricken, I fell to the blood-stained floor and wept. I cowered, screaming, not because of the words it spoke.
But that they were spoken with my voice.
At last I beheld the truth I had tried to bury so deep. The worm, the machine, the madness that guided my hands. It was me.
I am the worm.
I do not know what compelled me to stand. I did not feel hope. I didn't feel despair. Like an automaton, I could only move forward to face revelation.
When I came upon the core of my great machine, I found my son.
The machine was not a weapon to trap the worm. It was not an ark to carry us to salvation. I had sought to exile myself from a monstrous existence, and in my cowardice and fear, I became a monster. I became the worm. I built a shell to hide within. An engine to spirit me away from the pain, the despair that had claimed my sanity. To abandon creation and God's cold distance. But it would not run without a catalyst.
So full of hope and faith, so full of love and dreams. How I envied your strength. How I envied your ignorance. I yearned to wrap myself up in that goodness and hide from the world. I threw the switch of my great machine, and it drank the heartsblood from your lifeless body, pumping it into every pipe and piston. I believed your love would carry us to paradise.
But it was tainted by my madness, by my act of murder. I dreamed of peace, and it brought me to unchanging limbo. I demanded paradise, but I deserve only perdition.
And I was so horrified by what I had done to you, I could not bear to face it. I spoke as if you were there with me, smiled as though I could see you smiling at me. When Clarice realized what I had done, what I was, she took Simone away before… before I sought her out as well.
This place is filled with your memories, Simon. Are they the last tattered shreds of love you have for me? Or are they here to taunt and punish me, as the man-beasts that stalk the hallways surely must be?
I do not know if any of you can forgive me. I only know that I promised to save my son. I promised to slay the worm. I leave this journal behind, in the hopes that someday, somehow, someone will know what I did, and remember the men and women I damned with my selfishness. My fear.
I hurl myself into its teeth
that my bones might clog its innards
I am the worm
and Ouroboros must eat itself