Beyond The Holders
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The Holder of Fog
On any coast of any continent, go to the ocean alone just after sunset. When the moon is risen, half full, and no one will see you, strip completely naked (you must be barefoot, especially), sit on the wet sand facing away from the water, and close your eyes.
Wait until you are shivering, covered in goosebumps, then state aloud "I wish to see the Holder of Fog."
If a wave strikes your back, the Holder has accepted you. If not, the Holder has denied you. The sea will rise. You will be unable to move, drowning in the tide. Some potential Seekers have fought through this paralysis long enough to get away from the beach, but invariably complain of crippling joint-pain and severe shortness of breath while within 10-to-15 feet of water forever after, and tap-water will never again emerge warm from pipe or faucet.
A significant number have died from slipping in the kitchen, bathtub or shower.
If you are able to stand, open your eyes. A thick gray fog will surround you. The ground will be pale sand; take with you only Objects, and wear no clothing. Choose a direction in which to walk; regardless, you will reach your goal so long as you do not stray. It will be difficult. You will see nothing but the gray fog, and lumps of black driftwood jutting from the wet and ashen sand. The solitude and silence will inebriate your mind and befuddle your senses. If you lose your way, the fog will madden you. You will wander cold and alone forever.
The shapes of things like gulls can be seen wheeling above, but their anatomies are grossly distorted; similarly, the things that splash half-seen off the dark shore are neither fish nor serpents.
Pay no heed to the sounds coming from inside your skull or the growls out in the fog, they should leave you be. If they don't, you have not yet failed this quest -- they will hunt you in the shifting mists to tear you to shreds, but some Objects may serve as weapons against them.
There is much trash and detritus along the beach, all of it sodden and ugly. You will encounter camp-sites and torn clothing, empty food wrappers and used condoms, rusty machinery and water-logged old pornographic magazines: all the useless, cast-off, moldering debris of humanity's passage. Moisture beads upon and slickens everything. Your breath will be ragged and choked within a few hours, and your feet numb to all but the deepest cuts from broken glass and bent nails hidden beneath the surface of the icy sand.
You will develop pneumonia, bronchitis, a severe chest-cold or some nasty combination of these ailments. It is recommended that you allow for six-to-eight weeks of bed-rest after attempting this test.
Eventually, you will reach a series of dunes -- and after these, a crumbling mountain-castle of wet-packed sand. The ascent of this final edifice will take quite a long time, and must be completed with your mouth full of brackish seawater. As you go up, the sand will give way to rocks, sharp shells, and sodden black driftwood that will cut your bare feet and hands. Do not stop to rest or you will feel yourself sliding down in the sand and you will have to begin again at the bottom.
Once you are here amongst the dunes, the larger predators will begin to move in.
They are here to feed.
At the very top of the crumbling castle should be a rocky peak, edging above the fog. A hunched and aged man holding a crutch has already scaled the rocky dune, his left foot bent and broken.
Climb up to the man. When you finally reach him he will laugh, saying "So you have come for my Object?"
It is recommended you do not respond, because any answer you give will cause the man to laugh harder and cast you back down to be hunted in the fog. However, this is your one and only opportunity to refuse the test; if you swallow the seawater and apologize to the man, he will acknowledge your mistake and allow you to wake on the shore of the real world naked, cold and wet.
Or you may chose to say nothing. To face him. Because you are here, in truth, to take the Object.
The man will draw back a hood to reveal his terrible face. His cheeks and nose are bloated from humidity, and his skin is pale gray from lack of sunshine. Much of the skin on his lower jaw is missing. Milky, fat tumors hang limply from him, and one eye weeps a yellowish mucus continually. His scalp is spotted with scabs and sores from exposure to salt and open air.
His expression will sour, and then he will take from his pocket a single dry cigarette.
He will challenge you, "Go get it, then."
You must dive after the cigarette. Catch it before it is lost on the ground, soaked through and ruined in the blink of an eye, surrounded by hungry scavengers.
If you fail, the man will begin to cackle; taking another mouthful of seawater, you may attempt the climb again. Again and again, you may try. Always and forever, the man at the high peak has a single fresh, dry cigarette that he casts down the side of his castle into the wet dark. It burns cold, exhaling mist and killing fog instead of smoke.
If you succeed, you will land back on the beach among your clothes. When you reach your hand into your pocket, the cigarette is always there.
This cigarette is object 2483 of 2538. You breathe only poison, now; your lips leak salt-water.
|Last modified on 2013-04-06 02:45:05Viewed 1776 times|