39 years ago: A nine-year-old child stands at dusk on the polished, blue-tiled floor of an audience chamber fit for a king, but possessed by a monster. She clutches a long, sharp knitting needle. She was forced into this moment by the baron. He stands over her mother, and something terrible is happening. She cries out. The baron whips around and slaps her.

22 years ago: A nine-year-old child stands at midnight in a steeply sloping alleyway, bare feet wet with sewage. He hefts a burning torch. The air is salty and foul. A storm is coming. He was forced into this moment by the headmaster.

19 years ago: A nine-year-old child stands beneath the unrelenting heat of the mid-day sun, at the heart of natural amphitheater. He grips a jagged shard of volcanic black rock. He was forced into this moment by the chieftain. He turns to face his brother.

13 years ago: A nine-year-old child stands, at dawn, beneath the eaves of the Wailing House, shrouded in mist. He has a length of chain wrapped tightly around his hand. He was forced into this moment by the doctor.

And in the year 4679, in 4696, in 4699, and in 4705… the same person watches them. And it is not by coincidence that she is there.

Then something terrible happens.

The needle stabs out. It slides into the baron’s eye with an explosion of gore.

The torch flies. Time briefly freezes as the boy notices the cluster of small heads looking down at him from the second-story dormitory. Kids. Dozens of kids. They’re all still in there…what the hell?

The rock swings. His brother’s head explodes.

The chain closes tight.

A Loss.

And life changes forever for each of these kids. They’re all young, but they understand this one thing instinctively: Nothing Will Ever Be The Same Again. The world they knew five minutes earlier is a world to which they can never return. Even if they wanted to. Something terrible has happened, and the children are terrified.

Consequence.

So what do they do?

One lashes out in desperation, but misjudges the approaching danger. He falls forward, and lands flat on his face. The howling starts… and with it comes the pain.

One stumbles backwards into a corpse, lets out a faint moan, and then runs—runs nearly blind— as tears cloud her vision, turning her world into a refracted watery prism of dozens of rooms, hundreds of hallways… left, up, right, up, right, down, up, left.

One slowly brings his hands up to wipe the tears from his eyes… and then suddenly makes a break for the woods, running pell-mell across the square… yet he hesitates when he hits The Wall: the low, faded stone wall beyond which They Are Not Supposed To Pass.

And one backs away, unable to take his eyes off what’s happened. He’s facing forward, but moving backward. He stumbles down a dead-end alley, ignoring the sewer grate, and reaches desperately for the slick, coiled cloth rope draped over the nearby wall.

At this moment, at four different points in time, a thousand other things might have happened to these children—at this moment when their lives changed forever—but instead…

Into each scene, in each time, the “woman” steps forward. She is wearing yellow leather, tightly bound over a thin body that bulges in unexpected and unsettling places. She radiates euphoria. And agony. She smells of alien flowers blossoming beneath the red rays of a distant sun. Her eyes are milky pale orbs sans pupil or iris. Her mouth is covered by a yellow scarf. The silk… moves… it wriggles… even when she’s not talking.

She reaches down. She takes the child—each child—by the hand. “You will do nicely.”

And in each year, of each child, the Stranger asks, “What is your name?”

One answers, “Call me whatever the fuck you want. The others call me Riptusk. I’m just trying to hold on here.”

One answers, “A hateful old witch gave me a name. But you can… you can call me Ray.”

Another answers, “Call me Rony. It was my uncle’s name. He’s dead now. Everyone’s dead.”

The Stranger leans down to the little girl. “It’s all right. You can tell me. You are Dora?”

The girl answers, “No. Dora’s gone now. She was weak. She was scared. And that’s not me. Not anymore.”

“Then what shall I call you?”

“I am ANATHEMA.”

 

First Reference: Act I Interlude
Other Notable References: Chapter 35 (Part 1), Act I Epilogue, Act II Interlude, Chapter 73

 

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