Gull’s in a maze of passages and alleyways. He seems to be traversing the campus of a labyrinthine university designed by a madman for madmen to study the truth of madness and tentacles and the stars and what lies beyond and between them. Some buildings look like churches with pointed steeples. Some look like bloated manor houses with flat roofs. They’re all black, except for a single golden dome and a single, painfully thin, leaning purple-gray tower, both of which dominate the skyline.
Gull knows to fear the tower. He also knows to fear the dome, but the dome is where he must go.
He has to chain the night.
And time is running out.
He melts and transforms into a raven, so as to fly over the buildings rather than trying to navigate the maze. But when he leaves the ground, crossbow bolts tipped with yellow feathers start flying and as they clip him, he realizes he’s agile as a bird, but not agile enough. Not as agile or as quick as a real bird. He drops to the ground.
Gull transforms into a mole so as to dig under the buildings. He slips his claws into the moist earth and starts digging, but he hears the soldiers coming. They’re too close and he’s too slow. A real mole would have been hidden underground already, but he just can’t move quickly enough.
Gull reverts back into his true form—a plagueridden, snot-covered, useless little boy wearing soiled diapers and tear-soaked orange scarves—and he races for the nearest building. He’s really scared now and so of course he shits himself. Again. As he flutters and flops pathetically across the courtyard, he slips and lands face-first in a smear of his own waste. He briefly thinks, lying there… fear the corpse orgy… but that thought flutters away on the wind as he picks himself up.
He transforms into a ghost in order to walk through the closest wall, but he smashes his face and starts his nose bleeding. He turns into a monkey in order to scamper quickly up to an open second-story window. A cluster of identical orphans watching from the window blow out their torches and slam the window shut, and then the soldiers grab Gull’s tail and fling him into a nearby tall stone monument.
The monument is wrong. It points at the bruise-colored sky like an angry yellow finger. It’s both flat and round. It’s both tall and squat. It’s covered in squirming symbols and it’s etched with stars that have too many points.
Why do those stars have so many points?
Gull’s head is ringing and his sores are leaking—exactly like his uncle’s did—and there’s too many soldiers. They’re dressed like dolls in pretty dresses and thick, sodden brown diapers and they’re waving weapons around and ALSO waving pieces of soiled yellow parchment covered in black charcoal drawings.
“WHAT HAVE I DONE!?!?” the soldiers yell.
Gull turns into a cheetah, and tries to run. But he’s not fast enough: they shoot him in the leg. He tries to turn into an ogre, but it doesn’t work—it never works; he can only become small things, useless things. He turns into a mosquito. They slap him. He turns into a snake. They chop off the end of his tail and laugh. He looks up at the top of the golden dome and realizes how profoundly he’s failed.
The night will never be chained.
The gleaming gold of the dome starts to fade away as Gull loses consciousness. With what feels like his last breath, he sees one of the doll/soldier things shed its skin as a pale man like an eel with teeth and a razor explodes out of it. Blood leaks from his mouth as he says, “Oh, THERE you are. Clever boy. You’ve been a hard one to find. Frankly, I don’t know how you managed it. All of you. Getting away. From ME. You must’ve had help. Outside interference.”
Just over the creature’s shoulder, Gull sees the Crying Man, the man with the wet eyes, the man with the long white hair, the man cloaked in misery, walking through the courtyard as if none of this scene were actually happening.
The nightmare man wails, “Look at me when I’m talking to you! LOOK AT ME! NEVER look at him!”
“Know this: you can’t hide from me in here. No one can. Not forever. Look: wanna see a horse?”
A magnificent pale horse enters the courtyard.
“Wanna see it die?”
The soldiers turn in unison and jump on the horse. They pull it down with their bare hands and they start eating the horse piece by piece while it’s still alive and wriggling and screaming.
“Yeah, yeah. Yummers. So. HE won’t let me out to play out there. But he can’t contain me here. And neither can you. Thought you were SO good at hiding, didn’tcha? You were, you were. I’ll giveya that. Better than orc man. He was fun. Never been a kid in a dog mask before. And the boy. Oooooooh, so sweet. So broken. I’ve always wanted to watch a Joymaking.”
The creature leans in close. “But you thought you could hide. FROM ME? No longer. I’ve gotcha now. Every single time you close your eyes, from now on… I’ll be there.”
He reaches out a filthy, pale finger and Gull is frozen as the nightmare man casually sticks its finger deep into his ear up to the third knuckle. Something pops inside Gull’s head. Something important.
“Oooo! Lookie here. I know you do magics now. You AND the kid. Better hang on to those extracts ‘cuz you will NEVER SLEEP AGAIN. Oh, and tell your wife something for me, willya? When you’re slipping it to her in the dark, you whisper something in her ear for me. Tell her: she may think her mind is a fortress… a mansion on a hill… with a hedge maze and everything… but you tell her MUMMY’S COMING. Down your mouth, down your throat, down to the ocean to die.”
He tears Gull’s testicles off with one clawed hand to the sound of a hideous POP, and his razor blade slashes out with the other hand towards what remains of Gull’s face… and then time literally STOPS as he says:
“Oi, I know your real name. DO YOU?”
And then Gull dies.
First Reference: Chapter 8
Other Notable References: Chapter 10, Chapter 22