I doubt Uncle E/Paul will ever read this, but if he does, I hope he enjoys it. And to any other ER fans or tingleheads who happen to wander in, welcome.
I’ve learned many things in my time at the Sanitarium, but the profoundest realization by far was this—it is the ones who neglect to wear masks that are hiding something. I ought to know, having been a bald-faced liar and thief to boot. One requires the full range of motion–the lithe muscles bunched about the mouth, the delicate drapery of eyelids and lashes, the serpentine curvature of the lips, even the laconic understatements of the brows–to convincingly portray fiction as fact. The simian face is a delicately-tuned instrument of deceit, evolved to employ every wile towards the hypnotizing of one’s prey. Only once lulled into lethargy by the illusion of mutual empathy can purses be pilfered or secrets be stolen without complaint. Indeed, so desperate are humanoids for the empty consolation of affection that they often freely give what one wishes to take. To wear a mask is to foolishly surrender these advantages.
Gaining admittance to Arkham Sanitarium under the pretense of being yet another inept rift-walker afflicted by existential overstimulation, I immediately set my sights upon the Professor. Months of infuriating cat-and-mouth ensued, during which I allowed myself to be subjected to innumerable experiments in return for the mere opportunity to probe his enigmatic ego. I had received a tip from an unimpeachable source that this Clemmons—humanoid avatar of the Crawling Chaos, some say—was in possession of a certain article necessary to the completion of my collection. Though I knew from previous experience just how inscrutable these Lovecraftian deities can be, I was unprepared to be administered so ample a dose of my own manipulative medicine. His legendary “ASMR” method was intoxicating even to an accomplished hedonist such as myself. It was akin to an inverse Lemarchand’s Box–a stimuli so utterly benign as to obfuscate whatever will is subjected to it, like an audible opiate. All too soon, I had forgotten my purpose within the experiments and found myself attending the sessions for their own sake.
Eventually a glimpse at a couple of long-term patients—Messrs Ross and Hicks—brought me back to my senses. After years of daily experimentation they were utterly Hollowed, too ASMR immune even to raise their arms and praise the sun. I stove in their heads with one of Zed Zombuy’s accouterments and used their ample souls to bribe Margaret. She removed my file from Clemmons’ cabinet and placed it in Corvus’s, for I had reasoned that I might have better luck with a visage less visceral. Shrewd assumption–the Plague Doctor was far more pliant than his “brother,” willing to occasionally lapse into the personal amidst the professional. I quickly discerned that he was hoping to find a promising apprentice among the Sanitarium ranks, and did everything in my power to appear the choicest candidate. His offer came without solicitation.
Having already learned the ins-and-outs of ASMR first-hand, I exceeded the Plague Doctor’s every expectation, expediently transporting even the most troubled of patients into a nervous nirvana. I gleaned much during this apprenticeship concerning the less-than-benevolent motives behind ASMR. Succinctly put, the method serves as a potent astral anesthetic for spiritual surgery, akin to the harvesting of metaphysical organs. I couldn’t help but admire the ingeniousness of it. But I was after something of infinitely greater import—a single fragmentary page somewhere in Clemmons’ office, bearing the sole extant printing and pronunciation of an ASMR trigger-word which, when whispered, ends the myriad maze of the rifts by imploding their disparate possibilities into a single linear timeline with a definite conclusion.
I waited until Corvus passed out from a raucous evening of beer, pizza, and Magic: The Gathering before relieving him of his keys. For a single pulse-pounding hour I desperately ransacked Clemmons’ office, searching high and low for my prize whilst pocketing other curiosities that happened to take my fancy—a Pip-boy, a set of monster hands, and a pestle and mortar. I would have taken his decorative “Om” lampshade as well, could it have fit within my bag. Regardless, eventually I found the coveted document upon Clemmons’ bookshelf—or what was left of it, I should say. I recognized it only by its distinctive aura, for it was naught but a charred-grey pile of detritus swept into a mason jar and nonchalantly labelled “LOOSE END.” I had to clap a hand over my mouth to stifle uproarious laughter.
Simpletons think the cacodaemonic ambition of we maskless ones is to end the worlds, but in truth it’s just the opposite. We turn back the apocalyptic clock, deny the return visas of Jesus and Buddha, frustrate the portents, forestall the judgements, rendering all a repetitious now, like industrious beavers damming the inlet of time. Clemmons and his Sanitarium, as with any authority, are not the solution to the problem which justifies their existence but the cause. Respectful of a kindred spirit, I replaced every artifact I had pocketed. The only trace I left was to pop next door to Corvus’s office and inscribe a brief message across the face-board of his desk. I carved away with one of his scalpels—”DO NOT TRUST THE PROFESSOR.” A moment of uncharacteristic weakness, perhaps, but I had grown rather fond of Herr Doktor. Behind that perfumed mask is a genuinely lovely soul even rarer than the relics which comprise my collection—just the sort of irresistible specimen that the Professor’s rapacious appetite will inevitably slurp up like an oblivious neighbor’s milkshake.
I thought I was scot-free as I unlocked the back gate of Margaret’s garden. Only as the whining of its hinges ceased did I harken to the scents that had lately colored the surrounding palate—sulphur before and rotten calamari behind. I glanced up. Satan leaned, devil-may-care, betwixt the gateway, stroking his mustache pensively. Cthulhu loomed over my shoulder, tentacles worming and pulsating.
“Well,” I smirked, “I’ve seen enough hentai to know where this is going.”
“Your meme magic won’t work on us,” Cthulhu garbled in shadow-speak.
“You can check out any time you like,” purred Satan, “but you can never leave. Or, to express the same sentiment with a superior genre—the only way to exit, is going piece by piece.”
In the distance, I could hear Margaret’s distinctive clicking drawing nigh. Whether it was reproachful or by rote, I was unsure.
I fully expected to be brained and converted into garden fertilizer then-and-there, but the Professor, it seems, had a far more fitting punishment in mind. He removed my face with the scalpel I had taken to Corvus’s desk and covered my gruesome pate with a sack that had once held his nuts. I am to be ASMRed to death at some unspecified date—not a bad way to go. In the meantime, I shall resume my role as Corvus’s apprentice, but with the knowledge that I shall never be allowed to earn my Plague Doctorate.
The walls and ceiling of my new accommodation are covered in chalkboards. In addition to penning this confession, I must write the same phrase upon them one billion times before I’ll be allowed to die— “TRUST THE PROFESSOR.” Occasionally, while I’m out, Green Man sneaks into my room and erases a few hundred of the lines.