The first section of chapter 14 of the Fantasy Book Project.
Vishna has been arrested and charged with the murder and kidnapping of hundreds of the peoples in Charles Gate. He is now in the dungeon of Fayette Castle, awaiting what will happen to him.
The wooden pallet hanging from the wall had been difficult to get comfortable on. The stiff wool blanket had helped, but still, the bleakness of the surroundings had brought about a touch of melancholy in Vishna’s mind. He sat up and swung his legs down to the floor. They had taken his fine clothes and replaced them with simple linen pants and shirt, a drawstring at the waist so thin it seemed ready to snap. Most likely so the prisoners couldn’t hang themselves with it.
He shook his head and nearly laughed at the situation. He had been practicing his experiments for nearly five years now, searching for a path to understanding the idea of death. The fools around him; Nicodemus, Christoph, and the rest, had truly believed in that fantasy idea of Afterlife. However, after what had happened down in that cave, that fool Christoph’s sister had apparently come back. It didn’t make sense though, was it possible that this nonsense about a person’s smoke heading into Afterlife be true?
Was Akol Ramous real? He couldn’t believe it. Something else was going on. There was no way their ridiculous religion with all its contradictions and flaws could actually be true. He had to get to the bottom of it, but there was the small issue that he was now incarcerated and being brought up on charges of murder. That would need to be dealt with. He wasn’t sure what they would do with a serial murderer, but he was sure it wouldn’t be pleasant.
To be truthful though, while his experiments were necessary, they did involve the death of many peoples. He had worked to bring his subjects as close to death as possible but would try to get them to hang on as long as possible, working to observe what happened at the moment of death. Through these experiments, he was able to confirm that combustion only happened once a person’s heart had stopped beating for exactly one minute, no more, no less. Directly at the time of sixty seconds from the last heartbeat, the person’s body would begin to combust. It was too precise, too mechanical, too… designed.
There was a scraping noise just below his pallet and bent down to look underneath it. At the edge of the rough-cut stone, the mortar had been scrapped away, and a crack, large enough for his pinky was present. As he was investigating, a little twig poked through the crack, pushing a small pile of dust out onto the stone floor.
“Hello?” he asked tentatively into the crack.
“Oh, I had wondered if I had a new neighbor,” a husky voice said. “When did you arrive friend?”
“Only this past evening,” Vishna replied.
“Well, I’m sorry. I’m afraid you have come to a bad place. Were you arrested or just brought here?”
“Arrested,” Vishna said. “You?”
“I was searching for mushrooms in a cave down by Fayette Castle when I stumbled on something I apparently wasn’t supposed to see. I thought I had stumbled into some kind of subterranean cult or something, but when I realized I was in the Fayette Castle dungeons, I asked them what I had done and when I could go home, but the guards didn’t appear to know or care. I tried to tell them that I have met the queen before at my restaurant, but it doesn’t seem to matter. They are crazy! They are ripping the smoke from people.” The last sentence was said almost in a whisper. The horror of it needing to be stifled even though they were only two hearing it.
Vishna crossed his legs on the stone floor and straightened up, thinking. He had kidnapped nearly two hundred people from Charles Gate and the surrounding areas, but the papers had reported that around six hundred had gone missing. At first, he had thought it was just the papers exaggerating the missing persons, but as time went on, it became clear that he was not the only monster prowling the streets. Perhaps someone was working out of the government, using his exploits to cover up their own kidnappings? It was an interesting notion.
On top of that, it sounded as if they were kidnapping people for reasons similar to his own. The research of what smoke and combustion really were was the main reason he had started his own experiments. After a couple more minutes talking to this other prisoner, he discovered that this Mangalit, Marcum Wiggsnem, was a chief and had witnessed what Vishna would say was someone’s Smoke being separated and then collected for some reason. Fascinating for sure. Was he actually excited about this? He couldn’t deny the danger he was in, but there was an allure as well. He knew the person that Marcum had seen was Anzel, an Araneae or arachnid person. Most peoples had no idea such a creature even existed; he was the only one Vishna had any knowledge of at all.
A private researcher for the royal family, but very odd. Nicodemus had worked with him in the past, and even helped him on some research projects, but this was far beyond what Vishna could have hoped for. If he could somehow get to Anzel, then he might be able to convince him to let Vishna join him in his research. Of course, there was also the issue that if he was conducting research similar to Vishna’s, he was most likely completely insane. Vishna was sure he himself was and just as clearly, didn’t care.
D. Michl Lowe