In Chapter 22, Dora performed psychometry on Dr. Losandro's office and learned the tragic story of what happened there on 17 Lamashan. She experienced two visions.
In the first:
She saw Losandro’s office, looking nearly identical to how it looked ten days later—only without the giant pool of blood or the cloud of rainbow fog. The curtains covering the giant windows were mostly closed, but Dora could see a little through where they were partially open and the view outside the giant cathedral windows was very prosaic: a beautifully landscaped courtyard, green grass, blossoming trees, all tucked inside the two- and three-story walls of a collegiate-looking stone structure.
It was mid-afternoon, so there was light outside, but because the curtains were mostly closed, the room was dim. In fact, it was lit by a single candle.
Dora had a view of the center of the northern wall of Losandro’s office for the first time, and she saw six pieces of artwork hung in exquisite frames: five black charcoal drawings, plus a painting in red, all on yellowed parchment paper. The charcoal sketches depicted cityscapes and buildings that Dora recognized as the nightmare city where the Tatterman stalked the party. The sixth was a painting, all in red, of a monument: a stela. Unsettling symbols were carved all over it, and at the apex of the stela was a star—but rather than having the traditional five points of star iconography, it had many more than that. Ten or eleven.
Brief sidebar: as Dora described this aloud, Gull immediately recognized the stela as the monument he saw in his dream. In the dream, the stela seemed like it had been located at the Sincomakti School, but upon reflection Gull believed that not to be the case.
The vision continued:
There were two people in the office, a man and a woman, both human. The man was tall and thin and pale, with big, blue, wet eyes, a long white ponytail, eerily smooth and soft skin on his face (except for a path of bumpy scars along his jawline), but wrinkled and worn old-man hands. He was standing up, but he looked catatonic and unaware of his surroundings. It was Ulver Zandalus.
The woman was in her 60s, dressed like an academic rather than a doctor, in long red robes and glasses. But unlike a stereotypical academic-type, she looked tough and confident, strong, fierce. It was Dr. Losandro, Dora could tell at once.
Zandalus stood in the center of the room, not far from where the center of the rainbow fog would later be found. Losandro stood a few feet away, reading by the light of a single candle from a giant tome laid upon an elegant carved wooden book holder. The tome was ancient, thick, weathered, worn, and filled with arcane and occult writing. Losandro was reading from a ritual of some sorts and seemed to be a long time into it, maybe an hour or more. Her voice was growing raspy from continuous incantation and she was sweating from exertion.
At this moment, Dora recognized the book as an object she visualized when she cast her burst of insight spell.
With a long, loud string of occult technobabble, Losandro completed the ritual. There was a huge flash of blinding red light and a roar of sound like a chorus of screaming souls, and two things happened at once.
First, Losondro was thrown backward five feet, landing on her back with the wind knocked out of her.
Meanwhile, deep inside Zandalus’s body, there was an audible popping sound. He arched his back as all of his muscles seemed to simultaneously contract and tighten. His mouth opened wide in what must have been a scream, except there was no sound. There was no sound because he seemed to be choking on something. Dora saw the inside of his torso, beneath his patient’s gown, start to bubble and then expand. He was filling up with something. It moved higher and higher, up to his throat, up to his mouth… and then an eruption of black sludge exploded out of his mouth and nose.
It was shiny and inky and thick, like living tar, as it splatted onto the floor and moved together to form a spinning ball of black nightmare sludge, growing and growing and growing as more and more foulness erupted continuously from Zandalus’s body.
It probably felt to Zandalus as though it took hours, but in reality it took only a matter of seconds. In fact, it happened so quickly that Losondro was still looking up at the ceiling from her position flat on the floor as she recovered herself, and she missed what happened next.
But Dora didn’t.
Just as the stream of nightmare sludge pouring out of Zandalus’s face was tapering off, a full-sized human arm came clawing out of the poor man’s mouth—gray flesh covered in sores, long jagged nails. Zandalus’s eyes widened in horror as a second arm emerged, this one clutching a gleaming war razor. Then a head emerged: gray flesh, wrapped in writhing, living yellow bandages, eyes covered, lamprey mouth dripping blood.
“AT LAAAAAASSST!” the Tatterman howled.
Zandalus stared in terror at the creature climbing out of his mouth, weeping openly, but then a sudden resolve came into his eyes. The tears stopped. He reached out and grabbed the Tatterman’s head and shoved him back inside his body. The struggle was intense, but quick. Before Losondro could even look up, Zandalus had forced the creature back inside of him and clamped his mouth shut.
With a WHUMP, the ritual ended. All was still. All was quiet.
From the floor, Losondro whispered, “Did it work?”
She reached out a finger and touched the floating sphere of nightmare sludge and it POPPED like a bubble.
“Ulver? Ulver? Are you all right?”
Zandalus looked completely changed. Where moments before, there had been nothing behind his eyes, nothing in the carriage of his body, he seemed to be present. He tried to speak, but nothing came out. Nothing had come out of that mouth except for night-terror screams for over 30 years. He cleared his throat. It clearly hurt.
Then, finally, he said, “I should very much like to sleep now.”
A wide grin transformed Dr. Losandro’s face and she broke down into tears. “We did it! We did it! Oh, Ulver, your long nightmare is finally over!” She leapt to her feet and embraced him.
After a moment’s pause, he hugged her back. He repeated, “I should very much like to sleep now.”
“And sleep you shall. The sleep of the righteous.” She knocked on the eastern door and an orderly entered: tall, Varisian, stocky, friendly-faced.
“Is it all right in here? That was… that was something. That was something, all right.”
“Yes, Campre. Everything’s fine. Everything’s going to be just fine.” She crossed to her desk and quickly scrawled something on a slip of paper Dora recognized and handed it to him. “Take this up to Clara on two. Your discretion shall not go unrewarded.” Campre took the slip of paper and tucked it into his orderly’s coat. “And now, please escort Ulver to his room, if you would be so kind.”
Campre nodded and crossed to Zandalus. “All right, Ulver. You gonna come with me, now?”
Zandalus hesitated for a moment, and in an act that might have otherwise seemed mundane, Campre reached out and grabbed his arm. And Dora saw something neither Campre Linweigh or Eliege Losondro saw: Zandalus’s eyes went from blue to black within the span of a single blink.
And then that vision faded.
In the second vision:
Dora saw Losandro’s office, again, looking just as she last saw it. Looking out the cathedral windows, she could tell it was later, probably 7:00 or so. Again, the space was lit only by a single candle. Dr. Losondro now sat at the fancy black marble desk. She wrote in a small notebook, desperate to document every detail of her recent experience while it was still fresh.
Then, without warning, Ulver Zandalus burst into the room from the door on the west side of the south wall. He was still in his sepia patient’s gown, but a flame was now chalked in white on his forehead. His eyes were wide open. Eerily so. And his irises were black, black as his pupils. And he was grinning. And moving really weirdly. Like he was a puppet being yanked and jerked around by someone with no experience operating that particular human meatsack.
He had a cluster of goons with him. Five men: two patients, three orderlies. All big, all grinning. As the gaggle of disturbed men spilled into the room, the goons whispered, “Praise, praise…” as they clustered around Dr. Losondro.
Losandro started to say, “What is the meaning of this?”
But that’s all she got out before the goons swarmed her, restrained her, covered her mouth, and dragged her to the center of the room—exactly to where the epicenter of the rainbow fog cloud would later be found. One of the goons stood at the desk and tore out the pages of her notebook, eating the pages one by one.
“What’s the meaning of this, you ask?” said a voice coming out of Ulver Zandalus’s mouth. “I’ll tellya what’s the meaning of this. He went to sleep, he did! Now, I was already having ever-so-much-fun poking around in the dark spaces where your earliest-to-bed were sleeping. Killed myself a few little kids. Killed myself a couple of old prunes, too. But then… Who knew? When HE fell asleep… I GOT THE BODY. OUT HERE!”
The goons holding Losandro all laughed in her face. She tried to talk, but her jaw was held shut too tightly. One of the guys licked her ear and whispered, “Words fail,” and they all laughed.
“So then I showed my friends here a few things. And they’ll never be the same, will they?” He threw his head back and yelled, “PRAISE!” and the rest of them howled like wolves, and with their mouths open wide Dora could see that the goons all had blood-stained tongues and bits of fatty gristle in their teeth. They’d been eating raw meat. Eating something—or someone—while it was still alive and wriggling.
“But back to your question: what’s the meaning of this? Well, I had myself an idea. I was thinking of the King, you see. Praise! I was thinking of Alar, on the lake. Like we’re on a lake. Yeah. And I was thinking of the sign.”
All the goons simultaneously whispered, “Have you found the Yellow Sign?” right into her face.
“And I was thinking there are loads of ways to bring things to other places, isn’t so? To transport minds. To transform faith. To move people, if you get what I’m saying. And I thought of…. this.” He laid a twitchy finger on the book lying open on the stand. “Chain of Nights, yeah? I know it. It’s appeared quite prominently in so many nightmares over the centuries. Enough… that I think I know how to make work. HOLD HER, BOYS!”
Losondro started howling and writhing, but the goons were too strong. Zandalus read occult gibberish from The Chain of Nights for a straight hour by the light of a single candle. And when he finished, there was a blast of red light and a rush of noise like a thousand screaming souls.
Zandalus howled in agony as a thousand tiny cuts opened up all over his flesh. He howled in triumph; he loved the pain; he laughed and laughed and laughed—as he bled and bled and bled.
Meanwhile, Losondro’s body twitched and jerked suddenly and her spine arched steeply backwards. The goons stepped away from her as there was a terrible wet, slick, snapping sound inside of her gut. Her irises and pupils vanished and her eyes went immediately solid white. She opened her mouth in a soundless scream as her body bubbled and stretched from the inside. Something had been opened up inside of her and she was filling up with something. It rose and rose and rose, closer and closer to her throat and her mouth.
Suddenly, she shook and convulsed, and then her pores all opened up and every single drop of blood left her body in one mad, wet, splash, forming a still pool around her.
Zandalus looked down at the blood. “Oh shit. That’s weird.”
Losondro’s eyes were nothing but whites and she had no blood in her body but, horrifically, she was still breathing, and her eyes were still blinking, and from the expression on her face Dora could tell she was experiencing indescribable agony.
Then with a sputtering rush, puffs of fog started billowing out of her mouth like she’d swallowed a fog machine. It was yellow at first… then dark black… then it transformed into a dark gray cloud mottled with rainbow sprinkles. It expanded outward and consumed her. The last Dora saw of Eliege Losondro was the sight of her still-living face frozen in agony as she became an undying conduit for… something.
Zandalus was clearly upset. “Well, that was a bust. It’s not going anywhere. WHY’S IT NOT GOING ANYWHERE?” He dragged a finger through The Chain of Nights for a moment. “Oh. Yeah. Right. Ah, well. Fucked that up. I’ll do better next time. Grab the book, boys. And the stand.”
And then the world went mad as the thing below the island, touched by the energies released by this ritual, was stirred ever-so-briefly in its slumber and a devastating earthquake throttled and shook the asylum. The air filled with screams and the sound of stone crumbling and windows shattering and total apocalypse. Looking outside, Dora could see Briarstone Asylum crumbling to pieces.
Zandalus stared out the window. “You know what this looks like to me?”
One of the goons came over, squatted on the floor beside him, and licked his hand. “Opportunity, master?”
“Opportunity is right.”
Then Zandalus suddenly fell to the floor, as though he’d had his legs kicked out from under him. “Shit,” he said. “I think he’s waking up. All right, listen to me now. Find me some volunteers for the procedure. Four of ‘em. Keep ‘em on lockdown till tomorrow night. Find me a couple of good rooms with big open windows. And then you know the drill: when I’m HIM you don’t do ONE FUCKING THING HE SAYS. Praise him, feed him, keep him closed away. Don’t hurt him, keep him alive. We’re tied together now, me and him, somehow, someway. And it can’t be untangled. Not anymore. And when I’m back—”
He didn’t finish the sentence, but suddenly sagged lifelessly and fell over on his face.
After a moment he sat up. His eyes were no longer dark black pits; they were blue and wet. And he seemed… sad and scared and confused. “Where am I?” Zandalus asked.
The goons merely said, “Praise.”
Zandalus looked around, “Oh, no. I can… remember… It wasn’t another dream. Oh, gods! What have I done?”
The goons threw a bag over his head and dragged him out of the room, along with The Chain of Nights.
And the vision faded.
First Reference: Chapter 22
Other Notable References: —