December 08, 2019, 11:03:17 AM

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Messages - Giddler

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16
Magnum Opus                                                                                                              1460 words

Professor Godfrey Faulkner had captured the hearts of the Capital in years long past with his bold scientific mind - a mind many believed would bring the country into a New Golden Age of reasoned thinking and science-driven industry.

 His self-funded Academy of Natural Sciences had cemented his reputation as one of the country’s great philanthropists, and he had courted the working classes with his efforts to provide free education for all. His star had seemed ever-ascendant. His success, combined with his youth and charismatic personality, had made him a hugely popular and influential public figure.

Then his star had fallen.

Colleagues had spoken out vehemently against him, railing against the new and impossible ideas he put forth. Rumors of eccentric theories and erratic behavior had caused him to be shunned by his academic peers.  In response, he had avoided the public eye, preferring the drab surroundings of Faulkner Abbey to conduct his research. The sneering ink of the newspapers had a long memory, however, and it was to be many years before his humiliation was forgiven.

His abrupt return to the Academy’s lecture circuit, therefore, had been received with enthusiasm by the scandal-hungry public. Faulkner, now eminently middle-aged, was billed as a champion of the common folk and  lauded with adulation once again.

Dupes, all of them, thought Edward, bitterly. You’d be laughed out of the building if these people knew the truth about you, Godfrey.

 He looked around the lecture theater, packed with the studious working families come to learn and improve their lot. Peering myopically through his cage bars, he nibbled his cabbage leaf. He had been witness to Faulkner’s recent works: where once scientific reason ruled supreme, he now resorted more and more to occultism and spirituality.

 “As every student of physics is aware, between every particle of any object is empty space. Space formed by the interplay of positively and negatively charged energies.”, Faulkner was saying.

He thumped his fist on the lectern, scattering the speech notes he had discarded.

“But what might we find if we were to peer deeply enough into the gaps between these tiniest of bodies? This is the crux of my great work: to answer this greatest of mysteries!”

He was distracted by a movement in the front row. A boy, scrubbed, starched and no older than seven, had slumped drowsily forwards in the stifling press of bodies. He snapped awake with a startled yelp, provoking laughter from the assembly. Faulkner chuckled, casting an indulgent smile at the mortified lad.

“Fear not, my boy, I have almost finished my dry oration. In fact, perhaps you would be so kind as to help me with my demonstration?” The young lad blushed pink, his embarrassment forgotten.

“Yes, please!”, the child squeaked, prompting further amusement throughout the crowd.
“Splendid! And your name, young fellow?”
“Frederick, sir!”

Faulkner bade the young boy up onto the stage, and gestured for the Academy porters to remove the lectern. He then had Frederick open the stage curtains with the lever at the left wing of the stage.
 
The audience was utterly silent as the device was revealed. It's appearance was so strange as to seem alien. Central to it was a screen composed of a leathery material pulled tight across a circular frame. It resembled the mounted skin of a Kraken. It’s color was drab but undefinable, seeming to shift constantly.

Throwing a switch on a panel of the device, Faulkner turned back to the restless crowd.

“Now, while the flux settles, I will explain this device. As I stated earlier, my research is devoted to the spaces between realities. This machine”- he stumbled over the word, as though about to say something else- “will open wide this hidden space, and allow us to see and go beyond!”

The device began to emit a droning hum. As the crowd stared, the stretched skin on the frame began to glow a baleful purple, swiftly intensifying into a lilac so bright it hurt the eyes, throbbing like a migraine.

Panic suddenly gripped Edward. Faulkner was no fool. He wouldn’t test an unproven device on himself.

“Frederick!” cried Faulkner.

Torn from his rapt attention on the device, the boy started in shock. In the front row a stout man, clearly the boy’s father, stood up to protest, obviously fearing the worst. Edward’s stomach lurched at his next words:

“Fetch me that cage, would you?”

Frederick stood goggle-eyed for a moment then hastened as fast as he could to obey. The boy’s father sat self-consciously down. Edward felt himself being plucked from the ground. The cage turned to face the glowing screen and the door slid open. Faulkner lifted Edward from his cage and held him close as he approached the device.

“I can’t go first, you see, his anger is too great,” Faulkner whined, audible only to Edward. “A sacrifice was supposed to be made, but I couldn’t. And I’d been promised so much.”

Stop this insanity!, snapped Edward, nibbling futilely at the hands grasping him. Faulkner! You madman, look at me! Look me in the eye! You can’t do this! You cannot -

Edward’s whole world went blank. He was falling.

- do this, you lunatic!

Edward felt himself rolling down a steep bank. Desperately, he splayed his legs out to arrest his momentum and remain shell-upwards. The slope leveled off and he slid to a halt.

Ash-black desert stretched off forever. He craned his neck up to look at a dead sky. The light here had the same quality as was emitted by the apparatus in the lecture theater. Edward looked around despondently.

“Greetings, little soul.” A deep, male voice spoke behind him.

Edwards span with excruciating slowness. Stood before him was a gaunt figure in dark plate armor. His eyes were the purest black, pits of void in the man’s ashen features.

 The warrior shifted the huge sword hanging across his back and sat, his armor making no sound.

“You were sent here in the stead of one too weak to match deeds to words. My name is Belioch-”

Fear gripped Edward as he recognized the name. Much of Faulkner’s occult research had concerned this entity. Belioch, the dark patron of thwarted ambition and unrewarded effort, if Edward’s memory served.

“-and your soul is mine.”

Edward cringed in his shell in terror. The demon smiled, leaning close.

“Although, a deal could be made.”

———————————

The lecture hall was almost empty.

“Most impressive, Sir! Most impressive!”, the boy’s father was saying.

Faulkner was barely listening. His imagination was afire with the possibilities of the wonders which were waiting beyond the portal.

“-and young Frederick is so proud to have assisted you-” the oaf wittered, nodding at the boy. Faulkner’s mind was elsewhere.

All knowledge. All experience. The demon had promised this and more when he first appeared to him during a summoning. The demon had shown him how to build the portal device, and had provided skin flayed from it's own torso to stretch across the frame of the portal. The final component was Faulkner’s soul.

 No sooner had the bloody skin appeared from nowhere onto the frame of the machine, Faulkner had reneged on the deal. The demon’s rage, contained within the summoning circle, had been awful.

Howl away, Belioch, he thought as the boy’s father droned on. Our contract is finished. You have a soul. You have no claim over me.

He was tugged from his reverie, aware that the fat buffoon had fallen abruptly silent. He noticed the look of horror on the man’s face, his horrified gaze fixed on something just behind Faulkner.

He turned slowly. On the face of the portal a small shape was forming, ripples spreading outward as it slid smoothly from the surface. A seething black fluid dripped from it, evaporating before it hit the floor to reveal a dome of smooth obsidian-dark metal.

Four legs and a tiny head emerged from the dome. Faulkner was dimly aware of Frederick and his father scrambling across chairs for the exit. Dark shades began to bleed across the walls.

“Edward?”, he whispered..

All knowledge, Godfrey. All experience. The voice spoke aloud in Faulkner’s mind. The little eyes locked onto his.

It began as a trickle. All the thoughts and memories of every creature ever to think or feel, growing in intensity until a mass of knowledge heavy enough to crack the mind of a god brought Faulkner to his knees, red tears trickling from his eyes. His last sensation was of a huge pressure building up in the base of his skull.

Faulkner’s whole world went blank.

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