Featured Stories

This is the Featured Stories list, a collection of stories deemed "well-written" by the Holders community. Reading through them will give you a good idea of the gems in the Holders stories. Better yet, some may inspire you to write, or even write better!

If you are new to The Holders and wish to write one, the following stories are great examples of what to do.

Tʜᴇ Hᴏʟᴅᴇʀ ᴏғ Aɢᴏɴʏ

In any city, in any country, go to any mental institution or halfway house you can get yourself to. When you reach the front desk, ask to visit something which calls itself "The Holder of Agony". The eyes of the person behind the counter will widen in surprise, as if they didn't understand why they recognized the name. They'll sputter for a moment, but their facial expression will soon change to a drawn, furrowed, pensive scowl. They will shudder, turn away, and refuse. You must ask again, and continue asking in a calm, soft voice, even if they weep or scream. Eventually, the life will leave their eyes, and they will lead you, with a shuffling gait, to a room with no apparent number just down the hall.

The worker will open the door for you. As you walk past to enter the dark room, they will land a sharp kick on the small of your back, hurtling you into the room. Whatever you do, do not stop or turn around while passing the worker. Please just trust me on that.

The room will smell simultaneously of alcohol sanitary wipes and the metallic tang of blood. You won't be able to see much until the same door you entered through opens, and the gray light from within illuminates a lanky, cloaked figure entering the room. When the door shuts, it will be darker than before.

Immediately, you will feel the cloaked figure press itself against your body. Its bony limbs will jab your ribs and stomach as it says, "I know you." Its voice will reverberate through your entire body, and you will feel every type of discomfort - like you're being watched, being molested, like your foot feel asleep, like you're dizzy, nauseous, impatient. Stand perfectly still. Make no sound, except to ask: "Why are they in pain?"

It will reply, in its gut-wrenching hiss, "I will hold you here for all time, and every night, I will mutilate you, rape you, and murder you." You will have no time to brace yourself or think, and especially no time to move, before you feel a wicked, jagged blade thrust into your abdomen and come out the other side. You will feel its rough surface grating against your organs. Do not move. Do not speak. Do not scream.

The voice will continue. "I will murder everything you love, and make them see your face as their killer. I will ruin everything you find beautiful. I will twist your mind until you are as grotesque and perverted as the rest of us." It will not stop, even as fiery, acidic pain lances through your nerves from the blade in your gut. The pain will stop your breath and perhaps your heart, but you must remain perfectly still. More of the blades will pierce your body, in soft places, in impossible places, and the voice will continue hissing its deadly vows, its baroque tortures that become so creatively inhuman and meticulously soulless that you will be in danger of losing your mind.

Stillness is your only defense. If you move, the blades, growing in number from one to five to thirty to a hundred or a thousand, if only you had a chance of counting, will tear away in every direction, forcing every chunk of your flesh and nerves to stay conscious and aware as they are rent apart again and again forever. Stay still, even as your entire body is wracked with agony that couldn't possibly exist; you would be wishing for a reprieve of snake bites on your eyes and razor blades in your nerves.

You must listen to the voice carefully, for eventually, it will say one of those things.

If it says, "This glory is reserved for those who have proven themselves," then I can offer only my condolences. Your eternal suffering will be so insanely horrible that anyone on Earth who has seen your face or heard your name will have nightmares of your agony even after they have passed on to the afterlife in Heaven or Hell. Your soul will be a wasted husk.

If it says, "Your whole existence of forever is untouched by this agony," you must reply, quickly and confidently, "The agony fills us all until they have stopped hurting." For every second it takes to muster your reply through the haze of unbelievable pain, you will suffer from another unique and unerring agony for the rest of your life. If you cannot speak, you will never know another moment without torture, and each day you will consider the prior day's pain to be the tickle of a feather.

If you reply correctly, everything will stop - the pain, the hissing - and you will feel the figure, once pressed against you, crumbling into nothingness. Lift the cloak and you will find a leather pouch. Open it only if you want to know what it would be like for the world to be torn asunder by a plague that even Hell wouldn't condone.

This tortured dust is Object 65 of 2538. Don't run, or you'll never know.

Tʜᴇ Hᴏʟᴅᴇʀ ᴏғ Cᴏᴍᴘᴀʀɪsᴏɴs

In any city with a large university or college, attend a public lecture. The type of lecture is irrelevant, but lectures on more advanced subjects (such as quantum mechanics or nuclear physics) are more likely to lead one to the Holder. Listen to the lecture in its entirety; when it ends, while the rest of the audience is departing, approach the professor who was giving the lecture. When you have their attention, you must say to them, "Fascinating discussion, but may I see your comparison data?" If the professor lets out a deep breath, like you've asked an extremely piercing question, they will ask you to follow them. They will lead you toward their office or regular classroom. You are still free to go at any point during this walk, or even to make small talk, for the professor has no reason to harm you.

At the office, the professor will open a small door and gesture you to enter. Inside will be nothing more than an empty faculty office, but enter anyway. As you do, he will start to follow you in, but turn and say to the professor, "No, thank you, I will speak to the Holder of Comparison alone." They will insist on joining you, but you must stand firm and demand you go alone. When they finally relent, turn around. The office will be replaced by a dark staircase leading down. This is your last chance to escape unharmed. If you hear loud machinery from below, immediately leave the door and tell the professor "I did not realize they were busy," and run. With luck, you will not have disturbed the Holder's study. If, on the other hand, there is silence, it is safe to proceed.

Descend the stairs until you come to a long hallway. By all accounts, this will appear to be an ordinary college hallway, with postings of journals and projects on the walls, but do not pause to read them if you value your sanity. In this hallway, there are only two doors. One is always locked; do not attempt to force your way in lest you disturb the Holder. Inside the other sits a hunched, distracted figure, making manic calculations on arcane mathematical devices. Open the door, but do not enter until he acknowledges your presence. When he does, you must say with a complete casual air, "I am here to help with the Comparison, professor." Saying this will fill the man with delight, and he will immediately abandon his work to lead you across the hall, talking enthusiastically about his research the whole time. While his talk is filled with intense detail, you are not to pay attention to it, for in the next room your mind will need utter clarity and focus.

Beyond the locked door is a massive and deeply horrifying machine, so complex that there is no sure way to even describe what might operate it. The researcher will hurry you to a wall, which is covered, wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling, with gauges and meters to take hundreds of thousands of measurements. He will be jabbering away at this point, but you should be paying attention to this wall, for when the Holder says "Right, then, shall we?" the trial will begin. Turning from you, he will begin operating the machine, occasionally calling out for a reading from you. At first, the machine will simply be loud, and you will have plenty of time to find the reading the Holder asks for and report it back to him. However, as minutes turn into hours, and hours to days, you will have mere seconds to find each bit of data he calls for. All the while, the machine's volume will rise, from a mere mechanical rattle to the screams and wails of suffering souls, which will reach a volume that makes hearing the Holder a near-impossible feat. In addition, as you stare into the dials and displays, faces will emerge from between them, shouting at you. Sometimes they will offer advice; other times they will wail at their own errors in calculation. At any time you should fall behind, or give a wrong reading, the machine will come to a sudden stop and the Holder will place a hand on your back. With an almost-kindly tone, he will say "Oh, well, mistakes happen on first days," before pushing into the wall, where your face will join the others in a maddening lament of imperfection.

This pursuit of data will take days, but eventually, the machine will slowly wind down and the Holder will beckon you over. With a pleasant beam, he will present you with a stack of papers far thicker than even the heaviest of dissertations, instructing you to run it down for copies. Accept the papers and leave by the means you came. The report itself categorizes and analyzes every pain of every being's life, comparing them with such detail as to drive most who read it insane with the urge to compare every aspect of every little thing. The final section of the document, however, contains a mire of statistics, comparing the Universe's current condition to the time when They were reunited.

The report is Object 512 of 2538. You know He is researching. Now you must find out why.

Tʜᴇ Hᴏʟᴅᴇʀ ᴏғ Dᴇɴɪᴀʟ

I've worked in halfway houses and mental institutions all over the country, in countless cities and towns. The work isn't bad and it pays a bit better than most menial jobs I've had. I try to be a good girl, to be kind and polite to others, but my job has affected me. To help the sick and broken you need to harden your heart and accept unpleasant truths about people. Accept that some addicts don't want to get clean. That what seems like compassion can sometimes be indulging the delusions of the mad, and that some people really do need to be restrained for their own good.

I won't say the name or location of the place I work now, only that I've been here for a long time. When I was first hired the pay was low and the hours were short and I was not in a position to complain. I'd been working reception for a week or two when a man came in, walked with purpose to my desk, and asked to see the Holder of Denial. A look of confusion must have come over my face, because he grew suddenly impatient. He screamed at me and I flinched, he banged his fist on the desk and insisted that he see the Holder of Denial. I was still trying to calm him down when my supervisor came forward. Mr. Musil took one look at the man and the man fell silent. Mr. Musil nodded to me, said "It's all right," and led the man down a hallway that I must have passed a hundred times without ever noticing. The man glanced back at me with a grim smile on his face. I glared at him, there was no excuse for rudeness like that, and I was irritated that he'd calmed down so quickly for my supervisor. It had made me look incompetent.

Others came after him, all demanding to see the Holder of Denial, all screaming and making a scene only to calm down once Mr. Musil arrived to take them away. I walked after them once or twice, just out of curiosity, just to see what they were doing. Each time, Mr. Musil led them through a door, locked them in, and walked away. He smiled at me when we passed each other. Once he left the key in the lock behind him and I nearly used it to open the door. But when my hand touched the key I felt a sick sense of guilt, a hard chewing feeling in my gut that I'd felt before when I knew the mess I was about to be punished for was my fault and my fault alone. I pulled the key out and returned it to Mr. Musil's desk. He'd left early that evening.

It wasn't until the next day that I heard what happened to him. How he'd driven his car with his wife and son in it off a bridge. How the windows had been rolled down and the seatbelts buckled, and how it seems that none of them had tried to get out of the car. They'd all sat there while the filthy river water rushed in and drowned them.

The next time someone came demanding the Holder, I hid. I can't stand to be yelled at, so I ran to the back room and hoped the red-eyed, pregnant woman at the front would go away and look for her "Holder of Denial" elsewhere. She'd been shouting for eight solid minutes when I went to Mr. Musil's desk and found the key I'd left there. I led her to the door at the end of the hallway without the slightest feeling of unease. Though I did wonder if Mr. Musil had been in the habit of going back to let them out later in the day. He always locked the door behind him, so they surely weren't getting out on their own. There must have been some other exits they were using. That seemed likely.

I didn't worry about it.

After the pregnant woman, the next person to ask for the Holder was a young man who'd only started his shouting when I cut him off, saying, "I'll only take you if you quiet down and ask me politely." He looked around uncertainly and repeated his request in a more civil tone. He trembled as I led him to the door, as did the next few who came to see the Holder. All were at a loss in the face of a few words that they hadn't expected.

From then on I took care of the sad-eyed, determined ones who asked to see the Holder. They were mostly men but there were a lot of women too. Almost all of them wore a dry, haunted look on their faces, and a few who didn't smile so brightly that they frightened men. I took the ones who wore piles of rags and the ones who wore tailored suits. I took the ones with scars and tattoos, with long beards and tight smiles, with pale skin and dark skin and veins that bulged at the surface. None of them came back. I felt such tenderness toward the quiet, broken-looking ones. With them, I felt like a mother putting a sick child to bed. The arrogant, cruel-eyed ones I sent through the door laughing inside, feeling an inexplicable, mean satisfaction. For the life of me, I couldn't tell you why; after all they'd asked to go through that door, hadn't they?

I must make it sound as if people come in every day, but that's only because they've blurred together over the years. Really, they arrive occasionally and randomly. Sometimes months will go by without one arriving and then two will come on the same day, just hours apart. I've only seen a lot of them because I've been here a long time. The bad habits that used to keep me from holding down a job - tardiness, absentmindedness, my tendency to slip out the back and sneak secret joints that led to the absentmindedness... none of these things bothered anybody so long as I kept leading the Seekers to the door. I took longer hours. People covered for my mistakes and started looking at me strangely, the way I used to look at Mr. Musil.

By and by I began to feel a nagging doubt. I wondered; what if there was no second door, no exit for that room? I'd never seen anything but darkness inside, never taken more than a second's accidental look. How big could it possibly be? All those people going in and never coming out, it must have begun to get crowded in there. It might be better if fewer people ever entered the door. Around the time I started entertaining these thoughts I began to notice a button under the front desk. I don't know if it had been there before, hard and jeweled and amber-colored, but if I pressed it when a Seeker came the lights in the room would flicker and go bright. And while I was blinded I'd feel something soft move past me and smell something foul, and when the lights returned to normal the Seeker was always gone. Sometimes they'd leave a tear in the carpet or a dark stain which I had to clean, but at least I didn't have to send them all down the hallway.

I pressed the button on the Seekers who hadn't learned that I value politeness and on those that didn't ask politely enough. When I saw something smirking and contemptuous in the Seeker's eyes I would press the button hard enough to break the skin of my palm. I began to take comfort in cleanliness of light and the muffled cries that sounded like songs. I took any excuse I could to press the button and not send the Seeker down the hall. Those I did send still didn't return.

Until one day, when one mad did return. I didn't like him from the moment he entered, with his sharp suit and sharp smile and empty, empty eyes. I went for the button before he reached the desk, but something stopped my hand. He nodded and asked me, very politely, to see the Holder of Denial. Some people I lead to the Holder tremble with visible fear, others hide it, and a very small number seem to be able to suppress it. But this man simply lacked it, the way a story might lack a proper ending. It chilled me. I was relieved to send him through the door. He gave me a too-wide smile and a wink, and disappeared into darkness. I locked him in, stumbled outside, and smoked until a thin excuse for calm returned to me, then I went back to my desk and pretended to busy myself with paperwork. I heard footsteps coming down the hallway that I must have walked down a hundred times without hesitating on, and the man with empty eyes came out. He was carrying something in his hands. Something covered in hair or perhaps made of hair, long wet strands of hair that trailed down through his fingers. I tried to press the button that would bring the clean, white light, the light that was pure and that would cover this ugliness. He stopped me. He moved faster than my eye could follow and stopped me, keeping my hand held in his, grinning a devil smile and clucking his tongue. His grin was too wide. I was sure it would swallow me up.

Terrified, I only asked one question: "What are you going to do to me?"

I thought he would kill me. What he did was much worse, he explained things to me. He told me what had happened to each person I had sent down the hallway. Told me in great detail the tests they had failed and the tortures they had suffered. He told me what happened to Seekers under the blinding light that kept me from seeing the things that set on them, that tore them apart and dragged them into the white-hot filament of each lightbulb. He told me about the thing I had been helping to guard, and the thing that helped me guard it. He made me see what I had done.

He left. I didn't.

Seekers still come asking for the Holder of Denial. Some I send down the hall, some I press the button on. I don't know if there's anything there for them to Seek anymore. No others have ever come back. I try to be a good girl, kind and polite to others, but my job has affected me. To stay whole and healthy, you need to harden your heart to unpleasant truths about yourself. To tie your thoughts down for your own good.

The trichobezoar the man carried out is Object 138 of 2538. And I am the least of the trials that you must face to find it.

Tʜᴇ Hᴏʟᴅᴇʀ ᴏғ Dᴏᴏᴍ

Yeah, I'm the Holder of Doom. Holder of Object 2500. And you know what? I'm not gonna tell you about my Object. Fuck that. Wouldn't do you much good anyway, really. It's already gone, you know. My best friend took it. How's that for irony? I get turned into a fucking Holder, and my best friend in the whole fucking world nabs my Object. Bastard. But whatever. It's been a long fucking time since I've been able to talk to anyone, so I'm gonna tell you about my friend and me. I think you'll find it interesting.

His name's not important, but we were Seekers together, a long time ago. Way before this website got created. Way before electricity, actually. Hundreds of years ago. Maybe thousands; I lost track of decades and centuries a long time ago. I can't even remember how we met, but we were great friends. We traveled around the world, collecting Objects. We'd tag-team it, share the Objects. I remember us flipping the coin to see who had to go after Salmacis and get turned into a... shemale? Yeah, that's the word. And then there was this one time when he woke up with me holding the Mirror of Fear right in front of his face. The bastard jumped through the roof, literally. He forgot to take off the Wristband of Heights before he went to sleep. Fucking hilarious stuff. This one time, after he'd gotten The Worm, he entered some eating contest. Got twice the score of the guy in second place. We had a good laugh after that one. I miss those times. They were good ones, my happiest memories. They were times where we could forget that we were gathering the means to destroy the universe and just chill. It was great. But then, things started to go wrong. Really, really fucking wrong.

Everything started to get fucked up when we met this other Seeker. Forgot his name, but he was creepy. No, scratch that. "Scared me shitless" is what I'd say if I were a human in your time, I think. He had gray skin, gray hair, he seemed to exude gray. And there was something about the way he moved that wasn't natural. He'd be perfectly still, but then suddenly move so fast that he'd leave an afterimage. There was no way that fucker was human. Needless to say, I kept my distance. My friend, for whatever reason, took a liking to him immediately. We'd only see him occasionally, but whenever we did, he and my friend acted like they'd known each other since the dawn of time. I'd bug the fuck out, using any excuse I could to get as far away from the bastard as I could. It was unnerving, to see him and my friend talking and laughing together. Oh, fuck. That laugh. Even now that I'm a Holder, thinking about that laugh still creeps the fuck out of me. I think the modern word is "bloodcurdling". And his eyes, let's not talk about those. Anyway, my friend and this guy always had a regular fucking yukfest together. And then my friend, well, he started to change.

He started to get more sadistic, more twisted. I think, no, I know it was that Seeker who did it to him. Fucking corrupted him. He volunteered to go after Pleasure, just so he could mutilate his girlfriend. He told me, happily, what he did to her. I don't wanna describe it. It was the kind of stuff that the Holders do to Seekers who fail. But then, somehow, he got Love's Object too. It was fucking unbelievable. And he began to change physically, too. His skin started to turn pale, and his veins stood out more, except they turned black. It was disturbing. Whenever I asked him what was up, he either acted like nothing was happening or he just started laughing. That laugh again. It sounded like the other Seeker's. Was the other Seeker's.

Later, for reasons I'm not sure of, everyone in our village became un-fucking-hinged. The residents slaughtered one another horribly, in sick ways. Only me, my friend, and some poor bastard named Michael survived. Don't know what happened to him. Anyway, that gray fucker blamed the destruction of our village on us three. No, I could see that it was our fault. It had all been. I think I snapped after that. My friend sure as fuck did.

Soon after our village annihilated itself, he went on a fucking non-stop Object spree. He'd sometimes get like three or more in a day. He went through Satan, Connection, Anarchy, Evolution, Conflagration, Entropy, Nostalgia, and like 10 others in about a week. And with every Object he managed to get, the more fucked up he got. I decided I needed to get away from him, so I went after an Object myself. I went for the Holder of Doom. Everything was going fine, until I committed an error. Fucked up. Whatever you call it now. I made a big mistake. I dunno what I did, but it was bad. I won't tell you what happened to me. It'd probably drive you insane, though not as insane as I am. Suffice to say, I became the new Holder of Doom. Let me tell you, that is a tortured fucking existence. If I had known what I would become, I never would have become a Seeker. Hell, I would never have been born, if it would stop this. But I can't. I'm stuck like this. And what's worse, my Object's gone. yea, I guess that's the kicker, the punchline of this whole story, huh? Lemme tell you about that.

Time passes differently for Holders, so I can't tell you how long it was after I became a Holder that my friend showed up. He passed the test to get to me easily. Fuck, he looked bad. His eyes were black and glassed over. He didn't seem to need them. His teeth were sharp and too long for his mouth, so that they'd puncture his lips whenever he moved his jaw. He moved like that other Seeker, moved like nothing anyone can imagine should move. I think, I think he was more Object than Seeker at that point. Anyway, when he got to me I shouted to him something to the effort of, "You look bad, man! Here, get me out of here, we'll get you back to normal."

He started laughing. It was the most demonic, most evil thing I've ever heard. I screamed in pain when he laughed. I'm a Holder. I've endured more pain than anyone or anything can possibly imagine. I screamed. And as the laugh crescendoed, he pulled out the White King's Sword and plunged it into what was left of my ribcage. The pain of that, combined with his laughter, was driving me insane all over again. Then, instead of taking the Object out of my hand, he grabbed my wrist. And tore my fucking arm off. He laughed the whole time. Holders can't pass out from agony, can't die, so he just left me there and took the Object, Object 2500. Took it with my arm still grasping it, and left.

I haven't seen him since. I've heard rumors, though, lots of things. They say he's become a Holder now. Serves that fucking bastard right. I hope he suffers like I do, suffers more for what he's become. If you happen to meet him, make him pay. Put him through as much agony as you can, and then a little more. And before you end whatever passes as a life for him, tell him the Holder of Doom sends his regards. I don't know how to find him or how to get to him, but I think I can give you a lead.

I hear they call him Legion now.

Tʜᴇ Hᴏʟᴅᴇʀ ᴏғ Dᴏᴏᴍ, ᴀs Aᴄᴄᴏʀᴅɪɴɢ ᴛᴏ Jᴀᴄᴋ

When humanity was truly young and Athens was far off in the seas of time, Doom was there. I would never advise the weak of mind to attempt this Object; as always, the images one might be exposed to were horrific and unsettling.

You could have gone to any unfinished structure, preferably a wall, and ask to see "The Holder of Doom". The wall would have swung aside revealing a long and winding road.

You could have walked down this road. At your left you would see the great civilizations that were to come. At your right you would see them as they fell. On your left would walk all the people who would be; on your right, their ruined corpses.

Wandering from that path brought doom.

You would eventually enter a tunnel, lit by a bright, blinding light. This light could damage the retina. Most would close their eyes and continue by feeling the walls.

As you traveled down the lights might have gone out. This darkness brought doom.

A garden lay at the end of the tunnel. A new young tree sat in its center, budding with apples.

A fate worse than doom fell on he who plucked an apple.

On top of the tree sat an eagle; at the bottom, a snake. A rodent carried insults between them.

That would be the time for the question.

You would ask Them, "Are all endeavors doomed?"

They would say, in a long and convoluted way, yes. They would then let you take their Object.

That was then.

When humanity was youthful and Rome was at the height of its rule, Doom was still there. I still would never advise the weak of mind to attempt this Object; as always, the images one might be exposed to there were horrific and unsettling.

You would have needed to have gone to the door of a building that had outlived its purpose and asked to see "The Holder of Doom". The door would swing open to reveal a narrow path shooting off into the distance.

At either side stood every living thing, every building, every village, town, city, or country that had ever fallen, forever playing out the actions that doomed it.

Wandering from that path brought doom.

Eventually, you would reach a tunnel, dark as pitch. Eyes were no use there; they might as well have been closed.

As you traveled down a bright light might have ignited. This light brought doom.

A garden lay at the end of this tunnel, a great tree at its center. Grown into it was a man.

This is the fate of the man who plucked an apple.

The man would insult you and scream at you. You could have traded insults with him.

That would be the time for the question.

You would have asked Him, "Are all endeavors doomed?"

He would say, in a long and convoluted way, no. He would then hand you his Object.

That was then.

This is now. No terror lurks there for you; any and all can take this path.

A door in the old, ruined capital of an old, ruined empire is what you seek; now in no other place will this magic be strong enough. Ask for "The Holder of Doom". You will have to pull the door open to reveal a long road suspended in nothingness.

In the darkness, the occasional image will flicker, and the occasional sound will be heard. None of it will be coherent.

No matter how hard you try, you cannot stray from the path.

You will soon come to a tunnel. The light and shadows in it will balance each other, creating a dim gray. You will be able to see fairly well in there.

The light will never change.

At the end of this tunnel lay an empty, barren field, save for a tree with a one-armed man grown into it.

This is the fate of those who get in my way.

The man will tell you a story. I will play an important role. He is mostly correct in his telling save for where he has no knowledge. I will tell you what he leaves out: his imprisonment is my fault. He made the crucial error of trusting another. Not me, of course. But his questions enlightened me to his plans. I made my own. Now he is a tree.

You can attempt to ask him the question, but he will not be fazed.

He will continue his story. At the end he will repeat it, all over again. He is quite mad, you see.

His Object was number 2500 of 2538. It was a rotten apple with a single bite taken out of it. His best friend took it and with it his arm. I find that funny.

Tʜᴇ Hᴏʟᴅᴇʀ ᴏғ Fᴏɢ

On any coast of any continent, go to the ocean alone just after sunset. When the moon is risen, half full, and no one will see you, strip completely naked (you must be barefoot, especially), sit on the wet sand facing away from the water, and close your eyes.

Wait until you are shivering, covered in goosebumps, then state aloud, "I wish to see the Holder of Fog".

If a wave strikes your back, the Holder has accepted you. If not, the Holder has denied you. The sea will rise. You will be unable to move, drowning in the tide. Some potential Seekers have fought through this paralysis long enough to get away from the beach, but invariably complain of crippling joint pain and severe shortness of breath while within 10-to-15 feet of water forever after, and tap water will never again emerge warm from pipe or faucet.

A significant number have died from slipping in the kitchen, bathtub, or shower.

If you are able to stand, open your eyes. A thick gray fog will surround you. The ground will be pale sand; take with you only Objects, and wear no clothing. Choose a direction in which to walk; regardless, you will reach your goal so long as you do not stray. It will be difficult. You will see nothing but the gray fog, and lumps of black driftwood jutting from the wet and ashen sand. The solitude and silence will inebriate your mind and befuddle your senses. If you lose your way, the fog will madden you. You will wander cold and alone forever.

The shapes of things like gulls can be seen wheeling above, but their anatomies are grossly distorted; similarly, the things that splash half-seen off the dark shore are neither fish nor serpents.

Pay no heed to the sounds coming from inside your skull or the growls out in the fog, they should leave you be. If they don't, you have not yet failed this quest - they will hunt you in the shifting mists to tear you to shreds, but some Objects may serve as weapons against them.

There is much trash and detritus along the beach, all of it sodden and ugly. You will encounter campsites and torn clothing, empty food wrappers and used condoms, rusty machinery and water-logged old pornographic magazines: all the useless, cast-off moldering debris of humanity's passage. Moisture beads upon and slickens everything. Your breath will be ragged and choked within a few hours, and your feet numb to all but the deeper cuts from broken glass and bent nails hidden beneath the surface of the icy sand.

You will develop pneumonia, bronchitis, a severe chest cold, or some nasty combination of these ailments. It is recommended that you allow for six-to-eight weeks of bedrest after attempting this test.

Eventually, you will reach a series of dunes - and after these, a crumbling mountain-castle of wet-packed sand. The ascent of this final edifice will take quite a long time, and must be completed with your mouth full of brackish seawater. As you go up, the sand will give way to rocks, sharp shells, and sodden black driftwood that will cut your bare feet and hands. Do not stop to rest or you will feel yourself sliding down in the sand and you will have to begin again at the bottom.

Once you are here amongst the dunes, the larger predators will begin to move in.

They are here to feed.

At the very top of the crumbling castle should be a rocky peak, edging above the fog. A hunched and aged man holding a crutch has already scaled the rocky dune, his left foot bent and broken.

Climb up to the man. When you finally reach him he will laugh, saying, "So you have come for my Object?"

It is recommended you do not respond, because any answer you give will cause the man to laugh harder and cast you back down to be hunted in the fog. However, this is your one and only opportunity to refuse the test; if you swallow the seawater and apologize to the man, he will acknowledge your mistake and allow you to wake on the shore of the real world naked, cold, and wet.

Or you may choose to say nothing. To face him. Because you are here, in truth, to take the Object.

The man will draw back a hood to reveal his terrible face. His cheeks and nose are bloated from humidity, and his skin is pale gray from lack of sunshine. Much of the skin on his lower jaw is missing. Milky, fat tumors hang limply from him, and one eye weeps a yellowish mucus continually. His scalp is spotted with scabs and sores from exposure to salt and open air.

His expression will sour, and then he will take from his pocket a single dry cigarette.

He will challenge you, "Go get it, then."

You must dive after the cigarette. Catch it before it is lost on the ground, soaked through and ruined in the blink of an eye, surrounded by hungry scavengers.

If you fail, the man will begin to cackle; taking another mouthful of seawater, you may attempt to climb again. Again and again, you may try. Always and forever, the man at the high peak has a single fresh, dry cigarette that he casts down the side of his castle into the wet dark. It burns cold, exhaling mist and killing fog instead of smoke.

If you succeed, you will land back on the beach among your clothes. When you reach your hand into your pocket, the cigarette is always there.

This cigarette is Object 2483 of 2538. You breathe only poison, now; your lips leak salt water.

Tʜᴇ Hᴏʟᴅᴇʀ ᴏғ Iɴᴅᴇᴄɪsɪᴏɴ

There are Holders out there who would kill to safeguard their Object, up to and including all human life. There are many more who have gone mad with the loss of that Object to Legion, grasping now only at shadows, memories, and traditions of agony. There are some who would willingly give their Object away to the first Seeker that managed to find them; still, others are desperate to find a Seeker to replace them, and would beg to die if they could still speak anything but their tale.

And then, there's me.

What do I mean by that? Well, I'm somewhere in between. I'm either-or. I don't mean to imply that I'll necessarily give away my Object to the first happy-go-lucky, oh-my-gosh-I'm-gonna-get-a-real-Object Seeker that crosses my path, of course. I do, admittedly, have a few... requirements.

You ever get that feeling of now knowing what you were supposed to do? Like walking into a room, then looking all around the room, and then realizing that you didn't even want to go in at the first place?

That's my calling card. It's my true name.

I'm most often found in the early hours before sunrise, in a quiet house that is not your own, where some people are sleeping and you can hear voices in another room. It might be the TV; did that door lock behind you? If you ever come by one of these moments, and you actually do want to meet me, then this is what you should say, "I, err... want to, eh... no. I mean, see the Holder of, no, um... Indecision."

Yes, those pauses and clutch words should be part of what you say. Your mileage may vary, of course; feel free to ignore my advice, if it suits you. You may find that something else works better. Or worse, of course. Without the correct words, though, you may find yourself transported immediately to my brother's domain.

Trust me, even though he used to be a ruthless, sadistic, and overall brutal monster of a human, he was nothing compared to what he is now, as the Holder of the Oxymoron.

Where was I? Right, if you do utter that incantation, and do it correctly, you will instantly feel faint. Your words will be slurred, your vision blurry, and you will feel the urge to sleep. If you value your sanity, don't.

Your indecision on whether to sleep or not to sleep is the only thing protecting you from forces beyond even His control; there are far more pleasant ways to lose your mind, I assure you.

You now have a mission. You must stay in this state for twenty-four hours, no more, no less. Don't worry, I'm a fair Holder. As soon as that last second is up, if you haven't yet succumbed to the pounding in your head and fallen asleep, you will suddenly find that your senses have returned, and they are fully functional.

You'll be red-green colorblind forever, of course. That's a given. And nothing will taste quite right, ever again.

But you will also find that you aren't quite on Earth anymore.

Welcome to my world. This is the land of Specna, and although you may still see many aspects of your own life here, you will find that many things are... half-finished.

Birds only have one wing, the traffic lights are permanently orange, and people are constantly shifting listlessly from one destination to another. Objects of human construction are tumbled-down and ruined, if not stretched and warped; living things are often bisected hideously, as if sliced in twain or pulled in two directions simultaneously.

I've been told that the place is deeply depressing; the half-light of the shifting eclipses and the cold, grayish rain are apparently quite unpleasant. I'm given to understand that sound carries poorly here, as well, especially below the ground in the wet catacombs.

I'm ambivalent about the place, myself.

Anyway, find my office. This shouldn't be too hard... who am I kidding? Of course, it will be hard. The only way I can help you is that I'll send along my calling card when you happen to be in my direct vicinity.

Finding me may take a great deal of time. There's one fellow who has been here, Seeking, since at least the eighties. If, at any point, you want to give up and go home, well... good for you! Start looking for a way out. It can't be harder to find the exit than it is to find me, I presume.

Once you go into my office, you'll see me. My profession changes for every Seeker, but I'll always have something on my desk with two options, which I will be puzzling over, be it a questionnaire, a mortgage form, or even an autopsy report.

If you don't see me, well, I hope you enjoy waiting forever for the demons' decision on whether to eat you, or just plain kill you.

Take a pen from my desk. Any color, I don't mind. Although there are some I like better than others, in all honesty; do try to be courteous. Circle the option that you think is correct. Be warned, this may not be an easy choice. Once you think you've made the right decision, lean in close, and whisper, "Why can't they make our choices?"

If you've made the "wrong" choice, fret not. I don't have punishments as harsh as eternal damnation, but I will remove your ability to think decisively, cursing you to a life on Earth with all your choices made by others. You will lose your own free will, and will become a puppet and a servant of fate. From what I've been told, the worst part is that the future formation of positive long-term memories is apparently a conscious choice: you'll exist in a fugue state, aware but unable to remember much except waiting in line, trying to understand where you are, or agreeing to the various unpleasant things people tell you to do.

If, however, you made the "right" choice, not only will I tell you the answer to your question, you're free to go.

I'll even toss you a coin on your way out. It belongs to Legion, as a matter of fact, and to a number of other Seekers - many of them long dead - so don't be too shocked when it goes missing at some point.

It might turn up again. Also, it might not.

When you come face-to-face with a difficult decision in life, flip the coin. If it lands heads, both choices will result in a gain. If it lands tails, they will both result in a loss. If you catch it at the halfway point, either selection will be a mixture of each.

Keep in mind it can only work when there are exactly two choices.

Beg for the promotion or quit. Leave now or stay forever. Marry her or kill her.

The coin is Object 2013 of 2538. The choice is yours whether to bring them together or not; why do you think you know best?

Tʜᴇ Hᴏʟᴅᴇʀ ᴏғ Lᴇɢɪᴏɴ

In any country's capital city, go to the building where the country's leader works. When inside, locate the visitor's desk and ask to visit someone who calls himself "The Holder of Legion". The worker's expression will freeze and he will ask you to leave. Do not obey. Instead, keep asking, about once a minute. After some time, maybe minutes, maybe hours, the worker will finally give in. By this time, he will be close to crying, probably even collapsing due to the pressure you're putting on him by the mere mentioning of this Holder's name.

Depressed, he will rise and take you into a part of the building that no one else even seems to notice exists. It looks exactly like the rest of the capitol would - in a thousand years. The walls are cracked and sagging, the support pillars are buckled and leaning dangerously, the paint is faded and almost completely peeled off the walls, the pictures are torn, faded, and hanging askew, and the carpet underfoot is rotted and full of bugs. You will be taken deep into these hallways, deep down below the surface. The worker will take you to a door further below than any other in the building, possibly even a hundred meters below the basement.

This is where your last chance to turn back is. Should you decide to go into this door, your fate will be sealed, and there will be no chance of ever leaving alive. Turn back if you want to find other Objects. If not... Well, then ask the worker to unlock the door. He will beg you to leave, tears flowing over his cheeks, and he will scream at you if badgered enough. But he should give in if you are determined. He will open the door.

Enter, and it will be closed behind you, and locked. Now there is no turning back, and no matter what you do, you will eventually die. The beings creeping in the shadows of the room have already begun to leech your life from your body and you will feel older with every second. Run as fast as you can to the door on the other side of the room and enter it. The beings here are simply minor demons, not even capable of scaring the smallest child. Follow the red path you see and you will soon reach a wooden door.

Knock thrice. If you are lucky, someone will ask you to stay where you are. Your death will be a quick one. Should he instead tell you to enter, do so. Your feelings do not matter; nothing matters after you have entered this room. Here, you will see them, all behind a kind of forcefield that repels anything that gets too close. You will see two thousand of them, precisely two thousand. Or rather: One thousand-nine-hundred-ninety-nine. The last of them is held by the person in the middle of the room. But you will also see things that cannot be described by human words. Things that show that this very room could be a tiny part of hell. Things that might drive you mad if you look at them for too long.

Walk closer to the one in the middle, him, her, it. It does not matter what the being there is. Ask him: "Why do you hide them?" He will answer you. He will tell you how he got his first one and then proceed to look for all those others you see around you. The tale might drive you mad, it might kill you, it could do anything to you. But in the case that nothing happens, he will ask you to take his Object. It is attached to his chest, but do not even come close to it. Tell him the following: "I came to see, not to touch. You may now let me leave."

He will then laugh. He will laugh even worse than the devil, more evil than anything in the world. He will then say a simple sentence. "Your fate is sealed." The Object on his chest will begin to glow and you will feel pain. Then madness. And finally, death.

You have three choices here. One is to accept your fate, and descend to the lowest level of hell for eternity. The second is to kill him, promptly and speedily, but to do so is to take his place as the Holder of Legion, thus rendering your entire quest worthless.

The third is to produce the first Object.

If you do, he will scream and attempt to attack you. Do not worry - he can't get past the Object. Eventually, he will begin to melt, as he dashes himself against the forcefield generated by the symbol of madness you hold in your hands. Do not open your eyes until no more sound is heard.

Toss the first Object away and look. Where the thing once stood, a single, gigantic diamond lies twinkling on the floor. Grab it.

It will embed itself in your chest, becoming part of you as much as your heart or your brain.

You are now the final Object of the 2538. Bring them together, and show us your smile.

Tʜᴇ Hᴏʟᴅᴇʀ ᴏғ Pᴇᴀᴄᴇ

In any city, in any country, go to any mental institution or halfway house you can get yourself to. Storm up to the front desk with a look of rage on your face, and demand to see a person who calls themselves "The Holder of Peace" immediately. The attendant will recoil, and ask you to speak softly. Do not comply with his request - if anything; speak louder - for the anger in your voice is all that keeps the chains locked on the door behind the desk.

Keep the anger in your voice - the attendant will duck under his desk and point with a quivering finger down a hall to the right that was not there before. Immediately turn and stomp off down the hall. Do not look over your shoulder, for should the attendant catch you - and he will - he will casually lean back and flip the lock off the door behind him.

Walk until you find a door with a beautiful mother-of-pearl inlay design. Throw it open, but take the rage off your face immediately - the ones inside do not appreciate such anger.

With a peaceful look across your face, enter. You are in a beautiful, open-aired temple, with ivy curling up the marble pillars and beautiful mosaics embroidering the walls. The door will lock behind you. Do not try to open it, for it never will, and the monks in brown robes you see wandering about will do anything to get you to stay - even if it means your death.

Wander around. No matter what language you speak, the monks speak it too. They're friendly, and all of them would love to chat, but politely decline. Tell them you must speak with the Head of the Order.

Eventually, you will be directed to a man sitting at a chessboard - the temple's abbot. The figure across from him is hooded and wearing armor. Do not attempt to speak to the hooded figure, or your death will be far worse than any vision of hell that man could conjure up. Instead, turn to the man in the now-familiar brown robes. The game is one move away from checkmate.

Bow, and ask nicely, "Why do they gather, Father?"

He will open his mouth as if to speak. But the figure across from him will let out a demonic howl of rage and draw a sword. It is beautifully crafted, but seems somehow stained with an unthinkable evil. With a yell, the figure will kick you down and begin systematically slaughtering the other monks. They will try to fight back, but they have only staves, and the sword the madman wields is so sharp that it slices through the pillars like a knife through butter.

As you are watching this, the abbot will make the final move in the game. The man in armor will swing around, and then run at you with the sword upraised.

If you were rude or did something wrong, you will be rent at the atomic level by the blade of the sword, and the pain will never cease. However, if you were polite, the abbot will step in front of you and jam the black king into the right eye of the warrior.

Pay no heed or sympathy as he falls to the ground, screaming, or the abbot will whirl around and do the same to you with the white king. Instead, focus on the abbot, who has now turned around to face you.

He will tell you why they gather. It is a long tale, so fraught with bloodshed and horror that it may very well snap your mind. But if you survive its telling, he will reach under the table with the chessboard and pass you a scabbard richly jeweled and inlaid with gold. Though you have never seen it before, you instinctively know that it matches the sword the warrior was wielding a moment ago. Do not hesitate - take it, walk over, pick up the madman's sword, wipe it, and sheath it. Buckle it on as well - you will have need of it.

Move to leave, but before you do, the good Father will halt you and gesture toward the, now unhooded, face of the warrior. He was handsome, but pay no heed to that. The one thing you should be focusing on is the fact that the black king is gone. Look up at the abbot, who will nod and say one word: "Regicide".

A flash of light will blind you, and when your sight returns you will be standing on the curb two blocks down from the asylum or halfway house. Step back onto the sidewalk - you don't want to have an accident.

The sword you now wield once belonged to the white king, and is Object 45 of 2538. The Black King is running from the scene of his murder, and the White King's sword longs for vengeance.

Tʜᴇ Hᴏʟᴅᴇʀ ᴏғ Rᴇɢʀᴇᴛ

Do not embark on this quest alone. Find someone you trust; inform them truthfully, and explicitly, of your intentions.

Ask them to read this, if you are able, and make sure that they understand both the risks and the rewards at stake.

Make sure, above all, that they know that one of the two of you is going to die.

It is possible, of course, and even likely, that both of you will die; it is also possible that you'll ask the wrong person. Actually, scratch that - you probably will ask the wrong person. At least at first. Most people you ask will be horrified. Many will believe you are joking, or crazy. But there's one person out there, somewhere in the great wide world, who will agree to go with you. That person is not even going to ask too many questions because that person is connected to you and understands your mission as a Seeker and their task to replace you if you are the one to die.

You may not understand how the two of you are connected. You may be surprised to discover that this person's fate is so deeply intertwined with your own. You may be shocked to learn that this is your soulmate.

Imagine how surprised you'll be when the betrayal happens.

Once you two are ready, take to the road and travel through the country until you find an abandoned and ruined church on the left side of a nameless gravel drive. It will be raining when you find it. This trip may take hours, days, weeks, or months. Talk to one another while you travel; you want to know every triumph and failure, fear and fantasy of your partner.

Walk inside the church together; you must try to be as close to one another as you can get. At this point, I might even suggest tying yourselves together with a rope - some Seekers claim to have found it useful. If you get separated at any time after you've entered the church and the trial has begun, you'll never see each other again; the first one of you to give up the search will be doomed to wander the church ruins forever, hungry and alone, shivering in the rain.

If your friend gives up before you do, you'll eventually find yourself back at the car. This could take a very long time.

Walk up to the atrium, get on your knees, close your eyes, and whisper in unison that you wish to see the Holder of Regret.

When you open your eyes, there will be a very old priest in front of you, looking down on you with a grimace of sorrow. A dead twin, ancient and rotted, is conjoined to him. Placing his hands gently on your shoulders, he will very quietly ask, "Are you sure you wish to go on?"

If you have any doubts or are no longer sure you wish to continue, tell him so and he'll let you go. You may speak to him at great length if you desire; he makes an excellent counselor. If you tell him a lie, however, the grip on your shoulders will crush you down and you'll meet the demise of all those he deems duplicitous, buried alive and broken inside the walls of the church.

Otherwise, just say, "We are sure."

The priest then will turn without saying anything else and lead you to the bottom of the bell tower. There are many bloodstains here, and smears of much fouler things as well. The pavement is cracked from where heavy things have fallen from high above, and rain trickles down into puddles. As you and your friend slowly follow the priest up the spiral staircase, darkness will gather. Soon you will not be able to see even your hand in front of your face, let alone the next step - so be very careful about your footing. There are missing steps here and there, and a fall would mean certain death.

You must help your friend as you climb. Your friend must help you. You will stagger together like drunks in the sagging wet dark, always trusting the other as you crawl one step at a time into the cold infinite. If your trust fails, you will fall; if your friend makes a mistake, you will both die.

You'll climb for hours in damp and shifting darkness, thinking you should have reached the top a long time ago, but the staircase will stretch on for what seems like forever. Keep climbing until your strength runs out. Crawl if necessary, but don't stop. You'll reach the top about the time that the weaker of you has reached the limit of your endurance.

You'll find you have arrived at a circular wooden room, lit only by a single candle on top of a table, beside a glittering knife. Behind the table, a thin man stands hunched and waiting. Get on your knees and ask him, "Will they ever forgive?"

For an answer, he'll stand up and approach you slowly. There's no telling how or why he chooses, but he'll place his hand over the face of one of you.

Immediately, that person's mind will be filled with brutal depictions of long-forgotten but never-forgiven sins against life and everything that people hold sacred. Visions of violation and betrayal, in every manner from subtle to sacrificial; every cruelty, every treachery, and every lie will be made clear. As the images wash away all hope and humanity from that mind, a burning rage will rise through his or her body, transforming it into a voracious beast that will hiss and tear apart the thin man with vengeful claws and fangs.

That person will speak of what they see. You will never forget what you hear.

This is the only chance that the one of you not touched by the Holder will ever have. You must run to the table, grab the blade there, and shove it into your former friend's heart. Once it is embedded, you must never remove it. As the beast struggles in agonizing pain, set it ablaze with the fire from the candle and sit closely staring for hours as it is slowly reduced to ashes.

Don't take your eyes away from the flaming corpse for a single moment, or you may miss the chance to spot a small black cat rising from the ashes before flickering out of existence - and then all this would have been for naught. Pull the cat from the flames and run down the stairs and away from the church as fast as possible. The church is ablaze, and you don't want to be caught inside as it collapses anew.

The black cat will flicker in and out of existence, and it will often go missing for days at a time. It will never warm to you. Eventually, it will disappear for good, never returning. This is because it truly belongs to Legion now, and that is where the cat's true loyalties lie.

In the short amount of time you have the cat, however, you may read the mind of anyone who has some measure of your tissue - flesh, hair, blood, or other fluid - within their body. Likewise, you may read the mind of another, as long as you have some drop or snip of their tissue within you. Many owners of the black cat begin to collect the nail clippings, hair, blood, and teeth of acquaintances. You will always be able to read the mind of your biological parents and your biological children.

This is often deeply unpleasant.

This ability will only manifest while at least two of the following conditions are met: it is night, it is raining, you are holding a cat, or some part of you is cut with a knife or burnt by a candle. It will never function while in a church.

Every night before you fall asleep, you'll feel the bright yellow eyes of the cat staring at you. Accusing you. And you'll wonder, every time, whether it was your face the Holder touched, after all, and whether it was your voice speaking of monstrosity as you plunged that blade into the heart of your friend.

Sweet dreams.

Tʜᴇ Hᴏʟᴅᴇʀ ᴏғ Rᴇᴍᴏʀsᴇ

Is this quest enough to sustain you? Is this accumulation of curses really worthwhile? Has everything progressed perfectly, with no loss or sorrow?

Not so, for me.

I once sought, as you do now. I know, more than any other could, the burden you bear, the enormity of the actions you have taken. And in the end, it was all for nothing. What has been will be again. What has been done will be done again.

You have questioned other Holders. You have fought them in labyrinths of fire and stone and whatnot, endless battlefields and pocket universes. Your weapons and allies have multiplied beyond number. But, in the end, whether you have the blade or the card, the nectar or the needles, you will face me alone.

All I offer you is a choice. The same choice I was given. If you decide not to make it now, I won't stop you. Leave through the backdoor, and you'll find yourself back where you started. Return when you have strengthened your resolve.

You may take my Object, and continue your futile scrabbling at eternity. Rail against the inevitable. Crush those who come in your way, whether friend or foe, beloved or hated, none can or will be spared. Lose yourself in blind lust for power, like so many before. Damn the world for its own sake, until even the souls confined to the darkest pits of Tartarus weep for what it has become. Let loose evil, and let it embrace the cosmos. Watch the stars die out, and laugh as the last ones wither, and all that is left is ashes.

And then you will reunite Them.

Or, if you have any regrets at all, if you have any remorse for what you have done, any shred of humanity remaining, I can make you the next Holder. Your hands will be clean of death, and the atrocities you've committed will never have come to pass. As the next Holder, your only duty will be to reverse the damage caused by the Seeker. A small price to erase a lifetime of pain. A trifling cost to save everything.

I'm not a polygraph. The punishment for lying is the same as that of foolishness. You will have to live with the consequences of your choice.

By the time you need to find me, you'll know where and how. Any number of Objects may guide you. I have no reason to hide.

Object 519 of 2538 is a ruby wheel. No matter how anything may try, it only turns clockwise. Some things cannot be undone. What you do with the Object cannot be taken back.

Tʜᴇ Hᴏʟᴅᴇʀ ᴏғ Sɪɴᴄᴇʀɪᴛʏ

In any city, in any country, go to any maternity ward you can get yourself to. Find the area where they keep the newborns. There should be a female nurse watching them through the window. If it is a male nurse or anybody else is present, leave the hospital as quickly as you can. The Holder knew somebody was coming. If you are lucky, you will remain unknown and be allowed to try again. If not, well, good luck avoiding children for the rest of your life. If only the female nurse is present, however, approach her and ask, "What does it cost to speak your mind?" If you have done this, the nurse will sigh and open the door into the room of babies. Thank her for her time and enter.

No matter what size the room was, it will now be larger than imaginable, filled with rows upon rows of cradles. You will notice that the final cradle in the room is empty. Walk to the closest one you see and check for an identification card, it is easy enough to spot. If these cards are not present, leave immediately. If nothing arrives to stop you, you may try again once nine months have passed, but entering any hospital before that time will lead you to unspeakable horror. If you do find the card, you will notice several things. The card will bear the name of someone you have previously met and three pictures. The first picture is the person as you remember them, the second is a picture of the person in the prime of life, and the third is a picture of the person after they have died. If this is what you see, you know it will be safe to continue.

This Holder is relatively kind, so he will let you choose your own path through this adventure, but only once. The babies in these cradles represent all the people you have ever met, ranging from people you have briefly met in passing to the people you love most. They are highly prone to suggestion and the person they will become is entirely based on what you tell them. Your task is to go to each and every one of these cradles and tell the babies what they will become. You are fully welcome to lie to all of them, for their benefit or misfortune, without being harmed. You will even be allowed to leave and continue your life. However, you give up any chance of retrieving the Object by doing this.

To continue your task, you must accurately describe what you know about them, fully aware that what you say is bound to come true. This may not be very hard at first, but when you tell your friends and loved ones about traits that cause them harm in the future you will want to end your own life out of guilt. If you show this weakness, the Holder will be more than happy to put you out of your misery... painfully. He may be kind, but he cannot tolerate people that hide the truth.

After you have spoken to all the babies, wait at the empty cradle. If nothing happens, resign yourself to years of watching the lives of all the people in the room without you present. Life continues to move without you, and death will only claim you after the last person you have known dies. Unfortunately, these people will live for a very long time.

If a doctor rushes in with a newborn baby, you know you have spoken correctly. He will place the child and the card into the cradle and walk away. The Holder is pleased with you and is offering you one of the most merciful choices you have ever been given in your quest for the Objects. You will quickly discover that you are the baby lying in the cradle, and the pictures on the card display you as the paragon of success, you as a corpse, and you as you are now. The pictures show the three actions you can take.

The first action has attracted many Seekers who feel they deserve a "reward" for what they have done. You can tell your infant self any number of lies about what you are, and what you say will come true and more. If you walk out the door after that, you will be reborn. You will find that everything comes to you quite easily in life, and everybody clambers to be your friend. The truth is, this is because this is the only chance for them to feel any measure of greatness. You steal the skills and fortune of others to use for yourself, and they are left with the consequences. Your family will be stricken by poverty paying for your many schools and interests, and your friends will be confined to lives far worse than what they could be living. Of course, this way means not only losing the Object of this task, but forsaking all of the other Objects as well. This desire will remain with you until it becomes too much and you take your own life. You will be sent to the lowest levels of Hell for endless torment. After all, you took the easy way out. Your entire life was a lie, but your afterlife serves as the ultimate truth.

The second option is to kill your newborn self. This is one of the few ways to forever escape the personal damnation of the Objects. By destroying yourself, you may even be found worthy of a peaceful afterlife, as your sacrifice prevented you from completing countless other horrors. However, even this ultimate gift of the Holder comes at a price. Someone is bound to come after you, and it is certain they will unite Them.

The final option is the only one that will lead you to the Object. You must tell your infant self nothing more than the absolute truth about yourself. You must tell him everything you love and fear, all your dark desires, and all your well-hidden secrets. Hold nothing back, for no harm can come to you at this point. Finally, you must tell yourself about the Objects. Many Seekers go mad at this point, as they realize there is nobody to blame for their obsession, as it is their own fault.

If you have chosen the third option and were successful, the doctor will come into the room again. He will tell you how sincerity is a devastating weapon. He will tell you about the people that spoke their minds and were punished for it, and of those who fell to ruin and death after they learned what people really thought about them. After he tells you this, he will motion for you to leave. It would be wise to obey.

You will find yourself in the hallway you began at. The nurse who led you in will be holding a baby draped in a black blanket. It won't take long to realize that the baby has died. She will tell you that he choked on his pacifier, that the item intended to calm him ended up killing him. She will then tell you that sincerity is similar. It is a double-edged sword that can be used to console, but also to destroy. She will then hand you the child's pacifier, telling you to always value sincerity, "for the Doctor's sake".

The pacifier is Object 233 of 2538. There's nobody to blame but yourself.

Tʜᴇ Hᴏʟᴅᴇʀ ᴏғ Sᴏʟɪᴛᴜᴅᴇ

In any city, in any country, go to any mental institution or halfway house you can get yourself to. As you approach the front desk, keep your gaze on the floor. Should your gaze wander, then you have already failed. At the desk, do not move or shift your gaze until the worker makes a sound, recognizing your existence. Without upturning your eyes, ask her for the being known as "The Holder of Solitude". As these words leave your lips a great gong will ring, shaking the very ground you stand on. Once the ring of the gong turns to silence, you can finally observe your surroundings.

You will find yourself under a strange sky in a vast and morbid wasteland, only a cold stone path leading toward the horizon. The instant you become aware of this lifeless wasteland, you must start moving, for they know you are there. And they do not take well to outsiders.

Should clouds gather in the sky and darkness encroach on the path during your crossing toward the horizon, shut your eyes and kneel. No mortal has ever let his stare rest upon this world's inhabitants. As you kneel, you must plead: "I do not know you, nor have I any wish to. But my path is here and I must follow it." After you have uttered these words, await their judgment. Should they choose to allow your presence, you will feel them retreating; should they decide otherwise, then this was not your fate. Hope that they end your existence quickly.

At the end of your path awaits an obsidian pillar. Perched atop it is an obsidian gargoyle, regarding your approach. The gargoyle will only stir to the sound of one question: "Who shall perish?" Once these words are spoken, the gargoyle shall descend upon you, and his wings will envelop you in darkness. There he will show you the lives of all human beings as stars in the darkness, and as stars, you will watch them flicker and die. For eons, you shall watch the deaths of those who came before you and those yet to come. And you shall experience their loneliness as you watch them die, sensing how utterly separated they were from each other.

This shall continue until your sanity shatters or until only one light remains. And so the gargoyle shall speak: "Your end is not mine to reveal to you, and it is not what you seek." These words will echo inside your head until the day the task is completed. Once again you must shut your eyes, lest you keep your gaze on the last remaining light, and the gargoyle will devour you. As you shut your eyes, you will feel as though you are being hurled through the dimensions, spinning endlessly until solid ground is only a vague memory. At that moment you will be thrown to a stone floor, and it will be as being born again, as returning into the light after eternities in darkness.

And once you open your eyes you will look around at a gargantuan, withering ballroom, the cracked marble floor covered with dead leaves. At the far end of the room, you will see a light, calling you. As you advance toward it you will be able to make out something hung upon the wall: a dark kite shield decorated with macabre symbols, the symbols seemingly alive and pulsating. You need only to take it off the wall to claim it.

The moment the shield leaves the wall you will be back at the front desk where the worker is staring at you intently. She knows what you have started and she hates you for it.

The shield you hold in your hands is Object 41 of 2538. Pray that it can protect you from what is to come.

Tʜᴇ Hᴏʟᴅᴇʀ ᴏғ ᴛʜᴇ Eɴᴅ

In any city, in any country, go to any mental institution or halfway house you can get yourself to. When you reach the front desk, ask to visit someone who calls himself "The Holder of the End". Should a look of childlike fear come over the worker's face, you will then be taken to a cell in the building. It will be in a deep hidden section of the building. All you will hear is the sound of someone talking to themselves echo the halls. It is in a language that you will not understand, but your very soul will feel unspeakable fear.

Should the talking stop at any time, STOP and QUICKLY say aloud, "I'm just passing through, I wish to talk." If you still hear silence, flee. Leave, do not stop for anything, do not go home, don't stay at an inn, just keep moving, and sleep where your body drops. You will know in the morning if you've escaped.

If the voice in the hall comes back after you utter those words, continue on. Upon reaching the cell all you will see is a windowless room with a person in the corner, speaking an unknown language, and cradling something. The person will only respond to one question. "What happens when they all come together?"

The person will then stare into your eyes and answer your question in horrifying detail. Many go mad in that very cell, some disappear soon after the meeting, and a few end their lives. But most do the worst thing, and look upon the Object in the person's hands. You will want to as well. Be warned that if you do, your death will be one of cruelty and unrelenting horror.

Your death will be in that room, by that person's hands.

That Object is 1 of 2538. They must never come together. Never.

Tʜᴇ Hᴏʟᴅᴇʀ ᴏғ ᴛʜᴇ Fɪʀsᴛ Sᴇᴇᴅ

If you ever find Dargaia's nectar, you'll probably be one of the ones who have been looking for it all their lives, and thus won't need any instructions on what to do with it.

Just the same, it's pretty simple, at least to start with. Make sure your affairs are in order (in case you have a bad reaction), and then? Bottoms up.

The coming months are the least pleasant part. You'll find yourself unable to keep food down long before you're far enough along to stop needing it. Same with sleep. The color of your blood will be off, and your veins will consequently stand out more. Expect a few ingrown body parts; little things, just fingers and ears, and teeth, usually pressing up against the skin. Make sure you're caught up on your booster shots because you're never going in for a checkup again. Or wearing anything more revealing than a trench coat in public, most likely.

Eventually, a little cut on your belly will start "unhealing", becoming a pus-filled wound in a few days. Over the coming week, three things will emerge from this.

The first object resembles a greasy black beechnut with maybe a tooth or two growing from it. When you're dead, someone will eventually find it and use it to make a new batch of Dargaia's nectar. Hide it well, make things fun for future generations.

The second object basically looks like softball-sized cluster of veins, many of them broken and leaking oily black stuff, all wrapped around something. Then it'll squirm and you'll notice the twisted little skinless fetus in the middle. It will only survive for about twenty seconds. Burn the remains.

The third object will - Well, let's just call it "Object 448". It's easier that way. You can plant it anywhere you want. I advise someplace where you don't mind spending all your time and no one else would go. Your backyard or under your cellar works if you don't have any roommates; as long as there's fertile soil. Dig at least five feet down. It won't want to be buried, but just keep piling dirt onto it (if you can still hear it when you're finished you didn't go deep enough).

Its veins (or roots, I guess) will eventually spread in all directions about a foot-and-a-half for every year of your life. Grass and weeds will grow stiff and bony, or black and oily, or take on the color and texture of a spider bite, or rice paper. Wood will be infected too; you'll hear the arteries in your walls pulsing on quiet nights. The ground will rot with dead insect and animal life. Don't mow your lawn; it bleeds like hell.

This is your sanctuary.

No matter what threats or injures beset you outside, here will be safe and healthy. Well, what passes for "healthy" for you now. And if you really hate someone, bring them here. Trick them into coming. They'll get infected, one way or another; a lungful of spore, a thorn prick, a bit of residue on their hand. They will blood-vomit and the blood will have tiny centipedes in it. They'll shit out their own spinal fluids. Their eyes will milk over and hatch; little spines and brambles will grow from the sockets. They'll survive for months or years, doctors will be baffled, it will be completely fucking great.

That's all for starters. You'll learn more as you go. Much more. But if I told you everything now, you might not do it.

Whatever you do, just guard it with your life, with your very soul. If you think you're in danger of losing it, dig it up, kill it with a silver needle, let someone else make a new one someday. You'll feel as if you've pierced your own heart, but it's better than letting it fall into the wrong hands.

Because you're a Holder now.

And you'd better not let them come together.

Tʜᴇ Hᴏʟᴅᴇʀ ᴏғ ᴛʜᴇ Mᴀɴʏ

In any city, in any country, go to any theater or cinema you can get yourself to. When you reach the ticket counter, ask to see "The Holder of the Many". If the ticket taker's smile is replaced by a look of disbelief, tell her: "My audience awaits, and their patience wears thin."

She will then start, as if out of a trance and motion you to the door of the booth. When you open this door, you will be greeted by a dingy hallway. Be sure to close the door behind you quietly. Advance down the hallway, walking at a steady pace. Do not break your stride, for an ever-growing host of damned will begin to follow you.

Dare not to look upon them, and do not speak. If you should happen to acknowledge them in any way, these fell beasts will begin to murmur; dark hissing in a long-dead tongue. The only way to save yourself now is to speak in a loud and clear voice: "When all have come, all will receive the chance they are owed."

Should you misspeak, or remain silent, you must run. Run and pray to whomever you will that the end of the hallway is near. At the end of the hall will be a single door. Complete silence will descend as you approach. Enter it. A man will be waiting for you, an old usher's uniform hanging off his emaciated frame. Do not break the silence, for he has the power to rend flesh from bone. Mutely, he will point to a small staircase nearby. Ascend this set of stairs.

You will emerge on a brightly lit stage, standing in front of a massive audience. Each member of this countless crowd will appear lifeless, desiccated. Each member will be focused silently on you.

You must perform. I cannot tell you what to do to sway them, for every act will be unique to the one who creates it. Know this, it will be the purest expression of inspiration ever conceived, or it will be your death. Should you fail, the crowd will rush the stage; howls of fury the world hopes to never know sounding out of frozen faces. They will surround you and torture your soul for all eternity, disgust and loathing etched into their lifeless features.

When you finish, bow before the audience and close your eyes. Hope that they have accepted you. If you have succeeded, the many will rise to their feet and begin a deafening applause that will shake you to your very core. Do not move. They are fickle beings, and to move would be to invite their wrath. After a time, the applause will cease, bringing about a silence as profound as the noise had just been.

Look up to see the same frail usher standing before you. He will hold out a microphone; take it. He will respond with a sad shake of his head. You must now look out into the many and ask: "Why must the pieces be so many?"

Involuntarily, you will begin to see every evil thing that has occurred in the name of entertainment. Do not cry out, do not shed a tear, horrid though these things may be. For if you break your calm demeanor, then each thing you have seen will happen to you, over and over, throughout eternity. When the torrent of imagery finally ceases, you will find yourself in front of the theater you entered, now overgrown and abandoned. At your feet will be a comedy/tragedy mask; take it. For good or ill, it is now yours.

This mask is Object 403 of 2538. The many are watching your every step. Keep them entertained.

Tʜᴇ Hᴏʟᴅᴇʀ ᴏғ ᴛʜᴇ Mᴏᴛɪᴠᴇ

Through your travels, you have done many things both honorable and dishonorable. You have killed in the name of honor, but also killed in the name of cowardice. You have ignored those for whom you feel sympathy, yet you did your part to kill the ones that are cruel. You have used the greatest love you share to gain an Object, yet mutilated that same person to gain another. I realize that as you had approached the other Holders, you have made few decisions of your own - otherwise, you would be dead, insane, or suffering eternal torture at this point. Many times, you have even suppressed your innermost feelings and emotions to gain an emphatic Holder's approval. Everything you have done up to this point was shaped by the will of beings of greater powers, not by your own will.

Let me change that.

Seek me out however you wish. It does not matter where you ask, nor does it matter who you ask or for whom you ask. If you carry the Badge of the Observers, your best chance would be to ask your allies for my position, as nothing escapes their master's eyes. Once you find me, I have no physical test to put you through. I have no reason to care about the limits of your strength, your athleticism, your endurance, or your resolve. Feel free to look around as much as you want. I will be sure to remove from my chamber anything that could potentially drive you insane at first glance. I wish to know something about you, something buried deep in the recesses of your soul, and I need you to be alive and sane to tell me. All I ask is this: What is your motive for collecting the Objects?

To reunite them, to protect them, to destroy them - I do not care for those answers. That much I will already know; you are not the only one who can access the Great Observer's memories. I want an answer that cannot be easily observed, one that you probably do not yet know yourself. You have heard the tales from other Holders. These stories have moved you, given you a larger perspective of the true nature and true power of the Objects. After hearing these, your movie has undoubtedly changed from what it was at the start of your quest.

As you contemplate your motive, you will notice that there are people in the room that were not there previously. Your best friend, your lover, your mother, your father... Everybody you have ever come to know and love. They already know of your quest. Many of them will likely beg you to stop. Some of them might be in deep shock from learning of what atrocities you have performed. But along with me, all of them eagerly await your answer. Just as I do - perhaps even more than I do - they wish to know why you have chosen your path.

Do you wish to avenge those whose purity has been defiled? Do you intend to use the Objects' power to conquer the unbearable solitude of death? Maybe at this point, your quest is nothing more than a mindless obsession. I do not judge. No answer shall be deemed incorrect or unworthy as long as you firmly believe it to be your true motive. You may not leave my chamber until I have your motive, however, and I will know if you are lying. If you cannot figure out why you seek the Objects, or if you are too ashamed to bring yourself to say it in front of your loved ones, then you may be stuck with me for a long while.

Once you have found your true motive, recite it to me with confidence. If I am convinced, then your trial is over. Your loved ones will each offer you a parting message as they disappear. You will not see them again until your quest is over, but worry not, for they are safe with me. When the last one has vanished, you may take whichever item you desire from my chamber and leave. It matters not what item you take. I will not miss it.

This item is Object 499 of 2538. All was once set in stone, but that stone has since been shattered. You may very well still have a chance.

Tʜᴇ Hᴏʟᴅᴇʀ ᴏғ ᴛʜᴇ Rᴀɪʟs

In any city, in any country, go to any subway station you can get yourself to. This Holder will test your patience, and impatience will get you massacred. Once there, go to the closest officer to you and ask to see "The Holder of the Rails". Should a look of doubt and fear come over the officer's face, you are in the right place, but if a look of greed and lust come over the officer's face, run out of the station and keep running. You will hear an inhuman sound behind you, like the sound of a rabid dog chasing you, but do not look back, for if you do, the now distorted and gruesome face of the pit fiend the officer has become will send paralyzing fear through your body and you will be caught, raped, and fed upon for the rest of eternity, feeling everything as freshly as the moment it started. Keep running until that sound disappears or until the very act o inhaling feels like it will shred your lungs like so much cheap tissue paper. You will mercifully pass out. When you awaken, the officer will be gone and a new one will be in that officer's place at the station.

If you were in the right place, however, the officer will take you to an elevator. Before the doors open, close your eyes. When you hear a bell, wait 5 seconds, then take 3 steps in. Make a 180-degree spin, and keep your eyes closed. The officer will get on with you and press a button. You will never know what floor you will end up on, so don't fret. The same thing will happen over and over. You will be riding on the elevator for hours, going straight down. You will hear a bell and the doors will open. The officer will say, "Is this where you want to go?" Do not answer, do not open your eyes. After a while, the officer will sigh and the doors will close. You will go down another floor and a buzz will ring out instead of the bell. The officer will say, "End of the line." Take 7 steps out and wait 30 seconds before opening your eyes. You will be in a long, dark hallway with old white, filth-caked walls. Blood will be oozing upward on the walls. Pay it no heed and walk. Walk swiftly, but don't speed-walk or run. The demons hiding in the shadows love fast prey, and your scent will slowly drive them wild with hunger.

When you get to the end, there will be a door with no knob. Push it open and you will be standing at the top of an escalator. It seems to go down into endless darkness, but don't let your mind waver and don't let your bravery falter. You've made it this far; there is no turning back. Should you hear a voice urge you to come down, ride the escalator at a normal walking speed. Count the first 20 steps in an indoor voice. Once you say "20", stop counting, but don't stop walking. You will hear loud footsteps behind you, matching your footsteps, sometimes a bit slower, sometimes a bit faster. Do not slow down, do not speed up, do not look behind you, and do not speak. The footsteps will sound like hard sandals hitting metal and you will become very annoyed. Still, keep your pace and do not falter.

After about 20 minutes of walking, you will reach the platform. The footsteps will end and you will feel a presence right behind you. Turn around to face your follower. If it is a female apparition with a scarf on her head, you are safe for now. If it is a male apparition that stands at least 2 feet taller than you, throw yourself onto the tracks and the train will come instantly and end your life on the spot, which is a fate far more welcoming that what he would intend.

The female will smile at you and lean up to kiss you. Let her. She will thank you for accompanying her down the long escalator ride. At that time, ask her, "Where do I go?" She will gasp and move away and beg you not to continue. She will confess her love for you and wrap her arms around you. Ask her again, with sternness in your voice. "Where do I go?" If she pulls back and pushes you onto the track, pray that the train comes and takes your life before the woman calls forth her small demons. As small as they may be, they will enter your body and eat you from the inside out.

Should she pull away and cry, caress her cheek and tell her you love her softly. She will begin to tell you in a riddle-like manner where the last and strongest Holder is. Ask her this, "How will I know when it happens?" When she opens her mouth to answer, the train will come, blowing its horn and awakening all of the demons from your worst nightmares. They will begin stampeding down the escalator, rage flaring in their monstrous eyes. Run as fast as you can to the front car of the train. Those doors will be the only doors that open, and they'll open for anyone. The apparition is in the driver's seat, looking at you with sadness in her eyes. Don't stare into her eyes, for they will enchant you and cause you to forget your mission. The demons will rip you apart slowly and each day, you will heal just for it to happen again.

Reach over the apparition and press the only button. It will make the train move and seal all the doors. Now, it is safe to look at the apparition. Ask her the question again, "How will I know when it happens?" She will begin to blink in and out of existence and finally fade away, smiling. Her spirit is now free. Now, however, the station around you will begin to crumble and the train is speeding out of control. The lights will turn red and a gruesome demonic voice will answer you.

"When the sun shines at night,

And the moon lights up the day,

When the Devil runs to Heaven,

And god hides away,

When the plagues return at once,

And all of the firstborn sons die,

When thunder flashes and lightning rains,

And the Earth becomes the sky,

When fire cools and water burns,

When clouds surround and the mountains churn,

When screams are silent and silence becomes sound,

When angels fall from the melting ground,

The Legion will arise."

The voice will speak slowly and you must run to the very last car into the control room and pull what looks like a jewel-studded lever down. Once you pull it down, pull it out of the panel and you will see it's a dagger. Where the button was in the first control room there will be a heart. Stab the heart and close your eyes. Scream out as loud as you can, "I fight for the souls that were lost in this trial! This motion is for them!" Drag the dagger down the heart and a loud screech will be heard.

Your eyes will open and you will be arriving at the station closest to your home. You will be sitting in a random seat with the dagger in your lap. Since it's illegal to carry weapons on a train, you may want to conceal it as you leave. There will be a red taxi with wings on the door and a horn on the hood. Go to it, put your hand on the handle of the door, and close your eyes. Get in, don't speak, don't open your eyes. Count to 10 in your head and open your eyes. You will be on your couch at home. If you look on your nightstand, you will see a picture of yourself and that apparition while she was alive. You two will be in a playful embrace and suddenly, sadness will wash over you. You will suddenly think you have just lost the love of your life, the love you never had. Look at the dagger.

That dagger is Object 78 of 2538. It will only pierce one heart - that of its owner. It is now yours, and it's up to you to decide if you will use it.

Tʜᴇ Hᴏʟᴅᴇʀ ᴏғ ᴛʜᴇ Sᴛᴏʀʏ

Once upon a time, there was a Seeker who got himself to an asylum, made his way to the front desk, and asked for the one who calls himself "The Holder of the Story". A look of puzzlement crossed the worker's face.

"Who?" she asked.

"The Holder of the Story," was the response.

She insisted that she knew nothing of what he spoke. Many times did the Seeker repeat this name and insist on visiting him. He grew angry when he was denied. Soon enough, the receptionist threatened to call security.

The Seeker was smart. He ceased and walked away, knowing he had failed in his quest.

The next morning, he did not awaken. They knew his purpose and had found him.

The End.

Once upon a time, there was a Seeker who got herself to a library and asked the librarian for the one who calls himself "The Holder of the Story". The librarian disappeared underneath the counter and came back up with a library card. On it were written unrecognizable words in an indiscernible language and the Seeker's name written in her language. She accepted this gratefully, hiding the surprise and dread that lay thickly in her stomach. The librarian then pointed her to a section of the library that she had not seen before and walked away without a word.

The Seeker made her way to this section. Its shelves were lined with old tomes bound with the skins of creatures unknown to her. Their titles were in languages unknown to her, but with each title she read, clearer and clearer their meanings became. They were stories of redemption, of romance, of adventure. The mere titles brought tears to her eyes, elation to her heart. They were tales with both familiar and alien themes. Something within her longed for these stories, just as we all long for answers to our questions and solutions to our problems.

The temptation to read them became greater and greater, almost unbearable. Her curiosity was like a great weight on her shoulders. She saw no harm in pulling a book out and skimming through it. The words were unknown to her, but the images of the story manifest themselves. Soon enough she knew the story and carefully put the book back. In place of her burning temptation was an odd certainty.

An old blind man dressed in a single white cloth approached her and asked for her library card. The Seeker gave it to him. He put it away.

"What is your story?" asked he.

The story she had read spilled from her lips against her volition. The words she spoke were in the language that she had read. Even when her tongue twisted and cramped, she spoke on. The last word of the story was the last word she ever spoke.

The old man returned her library card. In place of her name was the last word of that story. She accepted it and returned home. Her path had been chosen and she knew what to do.

It attracted Them. She could neither scream nor beg.

The End.

Once upon a time, there was a Seeker who got himself to a library and asked the librarian for the one who calls himself "The Holder of the Story". The librarian disappeared underneath the counter and came back up with a library card. On it were written unrecognizable words in an indiscernible language and the Seeker's name written in his language. He accepted this gratefully, hiding the surprise and dread that lay thickly in his stomach. The librarian then pointed him to a section of the library that he had not seen before and walked away without a word.

The Seeker made his way to this section. Its shelves were lined with old tomes bound with the skins of creatures unknown to him. Their titles were in languages unknown to him, but with each title he read, clearer and clearer their meanings became. They were stories of redemption, of romance, of adventure. The mere titles brought tears to his eyes, elation to his heart. They were tales with both familiar and alien themes. Something within him longed for these stories, just as we all long for answers to our questions and solutions to our problems. The temptation to read these stories was almost unbearable, his curiosity a great weight on his shoulders, and yet still continued on.

Soon enough (and yet it took too long), the Seeker came upon an old blind man dressed in a single white cloth. The old blind man asked the Seeker for his library card. The Seeker gave it to him. The old blind man put it away.

"What is your story?" asked he.

"I have none," was the response. "Tell me His."

The old blind man smiled. From his mouth spilled a story never before conceived by any author. It was spoken in a language that the Seeker could not understand, but the meaning was very clear indeed. But the Seeker's mind was weak. It was easily broken by the story. Upon the last word, his sanity fled him. But the story remained in his mind and still does to this day as he wanders the maze-like shelves of the hidden section of the library.

The End.

The story is Object 330 of 2538. It has determined many ends, but it up to you to determine its own.

Tʜᴇ Hᴏʟᴅᴇʀ ᴏғ ᴛʜᴇ Uɢʟʏ

In any city, in any country, go to the newest hospital or clinic that you can find. When you reach the front desk, there may be a beautiful young woman wearing an ID tag that spells out a name you've never seen or heard before, but which seems somehow intimately familiar. Ask her for "The Holder of the Ugly".

If the attendant laughs, that will be the last sound you will ever hear.

That tinkling elfin laughter will follow you for the rest of your days.

The ensuing deafness to all other sounds will be grating at first, and the sleep loss will prove damaging both mentally and physically for at least the first six months, but a great number of people suffering from complete hearing loss live very full, healthy, and active lives. Within five years, statistics say that you will have acclimated marvelously.

There will also be substantial weight gain, hair loss, and ensuing full-body acne, but these are treatable.

If the young woman only smirks, then you are safe for the moment.

Your teeth will be gone within three weeks, and you will require cataract surgery once a year for the rest of your life to avoid total blindness, but you're technically safe.

The attendant will then lead you to an ordinary-looking section of the hospital or clinic a few floors up; the only thing different from the rest is that there is not a speck of dust, not a hair out of place, and not a person wandering the halls. Do not look at the doors lining the walls, for the names - each of a woman you've known - will only tempt you to look inside.

If you do peek, you will behold for a second the most beautiful figure you have ever seen, or ever will. All other beauties, from this day forward, will pale compared to her. After getting your eyeful of the occupant, it would be wise to avert your gaze immediately. There is no record of what she becomes; the only thing those who survived could do was scream until their dying day.

Some of them became very adept at biting off their own extremities, as well.

At the end of the hallway, the attendant will turn to you. If she laughs, once again, the test is over. No god can save you... although knee- and hip-replacement surgery techniques are much more impressive now than they were only a few short years ago, and the loss of a quarter-inch in height each month is survivable for a surprisingly long period of time.

If she does anything else, you're on the right track. At this point, the attendant may ask you questions, give you a riddle, or even attempt to seduce you; feel free to engage with her mentally or physically as you see fit, but I would suggest avoiding any topics that might cause her to laugh.

She will eventually unlock the door at the end of the hall on the left titled BURN UNIT and walk back.

Open the door she has unlocked and step inside. The room will be filled with pornographic photos of beautiful models, with a single mirror on the wall opposite you. DO NOT LOOK AT THE MIRROR. I will spare you the description of the true nature of this horrible thing, suffice to say the lowest circle of hell would be a welcome respite from the sight you will see.

All right, fine. One hint: the mirror reflects what you truly look like at your very worst, stripped of all artifice, poise, and expectation. It encompasses your total appearance and presentation at the depths of your most drunken, helpless, depressed, and unwashed, and shows you for who you really are. The mirror reveals the way your worst enemy saw you on the day they hated you the most; it is the image of you in the mind of everyone who wishes you had killed yourself.

If you've ever had a single nagging doubt about yourself, you really don't want to take a look.

Avoid the photos as if they were of brutal executions. In the center of the room, there will be an attractive, 40-ish aged woman asleep on a hospital bed with an exquisite form and luscious hair. Do not take your eyes off of her. Wait until she stirs, and then quickly yell, "Why do they smirk?" before she raises her head.

If she continues to move, immediately look at the pictures on the wall, for anything is better than the horrible sight before you. If she stops, she will begin to speak in a soft, sweet voice and tell of the beauty of the world; slowly, her tale will turn into one of jealousy and hatred, petty revenge and casual cruelty. Listen carefully and never take your eyes off of her hair.

She will discuss in condescending tones what makes the world beautiful, and will laugh as she explains, at length, what the thin, dim glamor of glitter and sunlight truly hide.

When you hear the word "ugly", cover your eyes. She will attempt to coax you into opening them, but do not yield. She will become insistent. She will beg, and she will whimper. She will promise, and then deliver, a variety of shocking sexual acts, and will also engage in lengthy sessions of violent self-harm using a variety of medical instruments. Finally, you will hear a scream and the mirror shattering. Open your eyes. You should be at the entrance of the hospital or clinic. The attendant will ask you why you look so tired, and flirt with you; ignore her and reach into your pocket. There will be an envelope there. Do not open it. Do not hold it up to the light to see inside. There is only a photograph.

This photograph is Object 565 of 2538.

Seeing the photograph causes seizures, vomiting, swelling of the tongue, and complete loss of bowel control. It is a weapon. Use the horror.

Your reflection will be distorted and inhuman for as long as you live.

Tʜᴇ Hᴏʟᴅᴇʀ ᴏғ ᴛʜᴇ Usᴜʀᴘᴇʀ

Long ago, in the time of the ancients, there lived a certain man. The origin of this man is to this very day shrouded in mystery, but legend has it that on a lonesome night, when the moon shone at its zenith, he climbed to the highest peak in the world. On that clear night, he called out to the wolves' moon, "Where may I dare seek the Holder of the Usurper?" Following his request, the stars painting the portrait of the night faded out of the sky, and the moon began to emit a column of blue light, pale yet brilliant. Encircling the man, the blue light shone upon him, slowly lifting him up to the heavens.

When the man reached the point where the light of the earth could no longer penetrate the consuming darkness of the night, he began to descend. Gliding so gently from the sky, the man gazed down upon what seemed to be a city below.

This was no ordinary city.

What must have once been a brilliant, glittering jewel in the night had become a gruesome battlefield. Pearl-white buildings stretched on for miles, encompassed by a massive white wall that had crumbled and fallen. At the edges of the once-magnificent city, small straw and wood buildings were set ablaze, the flames scorching the very night itself. Closing in on the center, beautiful structures resembling homes and marketplaces lay in ruins, the rubble unable to attest to their former glory. Finally, in the city's inner ring, high buildings resembling monasteries and schools, libraries and parliament buildings, still stood proud and majestic. Rows of catapults and military installations were perched on these buildings, emplacements whose sole purpose was to suppress the plague of black advancing on the centermost structure. The crown of the city, the pearly-white tower rose high into the night, penetrating the veil of darkness which completely enshrouded the massive city. The gargantuan bell tower perched on top rang loud and steadily, echoing through the hollow streets and silent night circling it, calling for help that would never arrive.

People ran amok in the streets, fleeing for their lives from soldiers dressed in black. The cruel black warriors relentlessly maimed and destroyed all in their path, fueled by their hatred for the denizens of the White City. The roads ran red with innocent blood, amplified by the blaze engulfing the streets.

The man began to approach the center tower, the fallen wonder of the city, where the most remarkable battle was taking place. Monks clad in white armor stood sentinel around the temple entrance, ready to fend off the intruders with their white blades.

Feet lightly landing on the battlements of the chapel, the man was approached by the white monks in a very brisk manner. They immediately embraced him, and soon the man found himself clad in the white armor. He was an ally to them, and they could use all the help they could get. These monks appeared to be the city's elite soldiers, for the shining white armor they bore was emblazoned with cryptic insignias, surpassing in every aspect the scraggish armor the other troops wore.

As the battle on the ramparts approached the steps of the chapel, the elite white monks began to unsheathe their weapons. The man knew that this battle may be his last, but he was not unlearned. As the last defender of the chapel fell to an ebony blade, swarms of black troopers advanced toward the group. The elite guards began to charge, hurling themselves at the enemy, running them through without relent, their ivory swords turning crimson with enemy blood. They were clearly overpowering the oncoming waves of black soldiers trying to haul toward the tower.

But the waves of enemy soldiers did not cease, and soon the white monks began to tire, slowly falling to the wicked black blades of the enemy. Friend after friend began to fall to the evil of the oncoming hordes. Finally, all of the white guards had been eliminated, and the man, tired, injured, and knowing he would soon follow suit, fled for the tower entrance.

Bursting through the gate, the sweaty, tired man beheld a sole figure standing in the middle of the great hall. The white monk that awaited him seemed to be the most elite of the allied soldiers. Brandished upon him was a golden-white breastplate, as well as greaves, boots, gloves, and a magnificent golden helm. The man could tell as he approached him that he was benevolent, yet burdened. His stance was that of someone who had known battle most of his life. What was most intriguing to the man was the beautiful scabbard that rested on his left hip.

When they met, the figure gave him a slight nod, signaling him to wait behind him. The black troops finally began to swarm the great hall, hungering for the final kill. As the man behind the figure glanced in despair at the oncoming wave, he knew that the lonely soldier ahead of him would stand no chance.

He was wrong. Dead wrong.

As the first ebony blade swung toward the white figure, he reacted. In a feat of inhuman reflexes, the white warrior unsheathed his blade and decapitated the trooper ahead of him and the ten troops behind him before the blade could so much as touch him. The remaining black soldiers were to follow suit, falling to the swift slashes of the ivory blade before they could so much as blink in surprise.

As the last soldier's corpse piled upon those of his comrades, the man knew that this must be the fabled White King. But his glory would not last long, as darkness began to flood the chapel. A lone black figure entered the bloodied chapel. Stepping over the bodies, both the white and black figures locked eyes with each other, hatred seeming to overflow the boundaries of their minds, affecting even the man next to them. This black newcomer seemed to equal the White King in every aspect, save for the sense of pure evil pouring off of his wicked suit of armor. They drew their opposing blades, both soldiers radiating the urge to kill. That was when the man realized:

The Black King...

Their battle was one that lasted the entire night, shaking the very foundations of the city. Sparks soared into the top of the great hall, fires starting with every clash of the blades. Matching each other's every move, it seemed as if the battle would last an eternity. But in a feat of incredible strength, the Black King disarmed the White King of his shining ivory blade, which flew out of his hands and was wedged into the wall. Bringing the White King to his knees, the Black King delivered the final blow, burying his blade into the chest of his opponent, sending a massive shockwave in every direction as far as the eye could see. The man went flying into the wall, denting his body. As the Black King looked out of the great hall, he released a wicked laugh that would shatter the conscience of any normal man. Too weak to stand, the man watched as the Black King stole the throne of the White King, extinguishing the light of the great hall forever. Blood decorated the once pure white marble floor. A sudden darkness overcame the city, leaving only despair in the hearts of the remaining righteous.

It was then that the man gathered the remnants of his fading strength and ran to the corpse of the White King. Wrenching the black sword from the chest of the White King, he focused his eyes on the Black King, who began to look at the man in terror. The scene began to blur, and the man fell unconscious. Waking on the mountaintop, the man was bruised and beaten to near death, still clenching the black blade in his right hand.

The Wicked Blade of the Black King was once Object 577 of 2538, but since then it has been lost, forever forgotten in myth. Banished for its wicked power, it shall only answer to the Dark One. May it never find him.

Tʜᴇ Hᴏʟᴅᴇʀ ᴏғ Tʀᴀᴅᴇ

In any city, in any country, enter the largest shopping mall you can find - we recommend you take a fast car for a quick getaway afterward. Bring with you your most prized possession (not another Object - they are not your possessions; they merely let you hold onto them for a while). Find the Customer Service desk and ask politely to speak to "The Holder of Trade", while handing over a cash bribe - $1,000 or the local equivalent should do. The person at the desk will look around furtively, and then lead you to the door of a nearby office which you didn't see before speaking to them. They will knock three times and open the door.

The person who steps out should be a burly gray-haired man, wearing a blue business suit and smoking a cigar. If you see anyone else in his place, flee for your life, and with great fortune, you may escape. He will greet you gruffly and ask what your business is. Do not be fooled, this is merely the guardian of the one you want. Stare him in the eye and tell him, "I seek an audience with the true Holder." A look of terror will flash briefly over his face, then be replaced with anger as he tells you he is the Holder, how dare you question him. Keep staring him in the eye and repeat, "I seen an audience with the true Holder."

Finally, he will wilt, and turn back into the office, slamming the door behind him. Do not follow him, nor listen to his pleading and whining on the other side of the door. Finally, it will open and he will lead the true Holder out by the hand. The Holder always takes the form of a small child, though its exact appearance varies. It will be carrying a green silk drawstring purse in one hand. Pretend you believe it actually is a child. Try not to look in its eyes; you won't like what you see in them.

The child will rush up to you and grasp your hand. Its hands are so cold you will fear that yours will freeze solid and snap. Do not flinch. You are safe as long as you do not show any sign that you know there is something odd about it. Greet the child kindly, coo over it. Ruffle its hair if you like. The guardian will follow it out of the office, reassuming his former gruff manner as he tells you to keep a close eye on his child and take good care of it. Ignore the fact that he is not starting to sprout odd appendages; horns, tentacles, extra eyes, and so on. He is currently harmless; it's the child you need to watch. The child will look up to you - once again we must point out, do not look it in the eye - and say you brought them a gift. Hand over your most treasured possession. It will take it, look up at you, smile benignly and thank you politely, then tear or smash the item to pieces with inhuman strength. Smile. For the love of your soul, do not protest. Smile at the child, and keep smiling as it takes your hand. The guardian will nod at you and reenter the office, still shifting form as he does. Turn around, back into the main mall.

The mall looks a little different now. The lights are made of human bones and skulls, glowing a sickly phosphorescent green, just enough to see by. The walls drip stinking blood, and the floor feels as if it is breathing under your feet. You will notice that everyone you pass is turning slowly into something horrible, each one different and each more hideous than the last. Do not respond. Smile at them if they look at you, apologize if you bump into them, and generally act as if they are normal humans. Some of them are; the people who were in the mall are still normal humans, seeing no difference in their surroundings, thinking they are going about their normal business, their metamorphosis pure illusion. Others, however, actually are monsters, losing the illusions which made them seem human. There is no way to tell which is which, and you must not waste your energy trying. Find a shopping cart, there should be one nearby. Do not be put off by the fact that it is made of rotting bones. The child will hand over a scroll of human skin. Take the child's hand in your left hand, and enter the stores one by one.

Follow the list the child gave you. Parts of it are written in incomprehensible hieroglyphs, but then so are all the labels on the boxes and packages. Match them up closely. Other parts of the list are in your own mother tongue, but they tell only complex riddles to describe which item to take. Be careful; one hieroglyph looks much like another, but you take the wrong box even once, you will be devoured by what comes out of it. Examine every shelf in every store, make sure you get everything. Don't worry too much about how long you take. You have all the time in the world, though we advise that you work fast enough that you will still be in condition to drive when you get out.

As you work, the child will jabber nonsensical words continually in an increasingly shrill voice and run back and forth, jerking your arm until your shoulder feels close to dislocation. Every time you stop, it will dart forward and scatter items from the cart on the floor. Pick them up with your right hand - do not release the child's hand for even a moment, pay no heed to the agonizing cold of its hands or its wild struggles. Do not show any anger. Smile indulgently at the child's antics. If you express any emotion other than adoration toward it, it will scream for its brothers and sisters, which are the real monsters among the mutating shoppers, and if you are familiar with the other Holders you should by now have a pretty fair idea of what they will do to you.

Scour each shop for every item on the list - you can only enter each store once, so make sure you have read the full list and checked every item in the store. Check off the items on the list as you go, if you can do so one-handed. When you have finished with each one, approach the checkout clerk at the front. The clerks are even more monstrous than the shoppers, and you may feel your mind bending in a futile attempt to comprehend them. Remain resolute. They will glance at your items and tell you a price, and then the child will hold out the silk purse in the hand you are not holding. Place your right hand in the purse without releasing the child's other hand or taking the purse from it, and dig around for the correct change by feel only. This is even harder than it sounds, even though the currency is of the usual mint of the country you are in; every coin but one in the purse has had its edges chipped and sharpened to razor-fineness. Ignore the mess they will inevitably make of your fingers, do not allow your smile to fade. do not remove any money other than the correct change from the purse, and certainly do not remove the normal-feeling one, or the coins will all fly out at you sharp-edge first, eventually leaving your body in pieces. Should this happen, your flesh will be devoured by the demons, each piece still conscious for every second of digestion, and the discs left of your bones will become more coins for the next Seeker to handle. Hand the money to the clerk when you find it, making sure each coin is well-smeared with your blood, and say, "So shall I shed more blood before this is done, and do it with a will to reach my goal." As you do this, each clerk will nod and fade into nothingness, smiling, insofar as you can tell with their mutilated faces.

When you have found the last item on the unbearably long list, the writing will fade from the scroll. If you exit the last store having missed even one item, the list will burn to ashes, taking the building and every real human still there with it, and leaving you to suffer perpetually in the pain of the fire and your own rage at yourself for your failure. If you succeeded, head for the front doors. As you come within sight of the outside world, you will be confronted by the most horrible creature yet. If you can bear to look at it without screaming, which would alert the rest of the beasts and call them to feed on you, you may notice that rags of a blue suit hang from its misshapen form. This is the true appearance of the Holder's guardian, its transformation complete. The Holder will release your hand at this point, run forward, and hug the monster. Let it do so, and make sure that you do not lose your smile. Push the cart forward for the beast's inspection. It will nod, and say, "Do you have the change?"

Politely ask the child to hand you the silk purse. It will do so. Dig around in the purse, laughing and talking as you do so - we recommend you comment on the fabulous deals you found at the stores. Scoop all the coins except for the one with no sharp edges into your hand, but don't remove your hand from the purse yet. Mutter about how the last few pennies seem to be caught in the lining. Keep making rummaging motions with your hand in the purse and talk absentmindedly until the thing clears its throat impatiently.

Hurl the money into its face and scream as loud as you can, "Is this a fair trade to keep them at bay?" Run toward the doors before it recovers; make sure you still have hold of the purse. The child will follow you. Push it to the ground and leave it, throw yourself out through the front door, and get away as fast as possible. You will hear the screams of the child as you go; it has failed in its duty, and its kin are exacting their revenge. Do not be tempted to look back, however heartrending - or satisfying - you may find the sound, or you will see what the "child" really looks like, and none who have seen it have remained sane long enough to describe it.

Drive until the next sunrise - do not stop, whatever you may see outside the car, and keep your doors and windows locked. As soon as it is fully light, pull over. Open the purse. In it, there will be one final coin left over. Take it, hide it, and burn the purse to ashes. Get some first aid for your hands, and then get some sleep.

The coin looks like any other coin of the country you are in (a dollar, a pound, a Euro) but the markings on it are of an unknown civilization, and the face it bears is that of an elven creature. When placed under the tongue it gives the gift of languages. The coin is said to also grant the gift of understanding the languages of animals as well as humans. The coin is even able to translate written languages, including ciphers. The language of the Objects themselves is immune to the coin.

The coin is Object 195 of 2538. Be prepared to pay the price for your prize.

Tʜᴇ Hᴏʟᴅᴇʀ ᴏғ Wᴀʀ

In any city, in any country, go to any mental institution or halfway house you can get yourself to. Gaze at the ceiling with a bored expression as you walk up to the front desk, and with a voice that sounds like it is distant and indifferent ask to see "The Holder of War". You will get a light tap on the shoulder; it is now safe to look down. The attendant will smile politely and begin walking, giving a speech that sounds almost mechanical as he describes the history of the asylum. Do not react to his speech - it is insanely bloody and filled with rather graphic descriptions, but reaction at this point means a one-way trip to hell.

After some time of walking, you will come to an elaborately carved door of mahogany and gold. Stop in front of it. Keep your bored expression on your face, possibly adding a blank grin, but do not react as the worker grabs you by the back of your shirt, or he will change his grip and you will be without your head.

The worker will pitch you through the door, and you will hear it slam shut behind you. You are on what might have once been fertile farmland but is now a ravaged, blasted battlefield. Soldiers clad in two colors - a horribly bright, yet somehow stained, white and a filthy, sickeningly black - are battling in the most horrid manners possible, fighting with rifles, cannon, swords, bows, all the weapons of war that have existed since the dawn of time.

Do not shrink from this battlefield, or the soldiers will notice you, stop their quarrels, and turn upon you with a ravenous hatred, for you are what they have been fighting over, and in their fevered, battle-crazed minds, that means that you are the cause of all their bloodshed.

Also, do not try to go back through the door. It has fallen flat in the mud, pushed over by a screaming infantryman wielding a bayoneted rifle. If you let him get the better of you, he will rip you to pieces in seconds, but somehow not manage to kill you. The pain of the experience will undoubtedly drive what is left of your mind mad.

Instead, drop your bored expression and put a grim, determined one on your face. Walk in measured, military-style steps straight ahead until you see a three-story-tall structure of blasted concrete that might have once been a command bunker. Do not turn around while doing so; the armor has arrived to the field, and if you stop, or change your pace, the tanks will run you down.

Once you have entered the bunker, do not give any notice to anyone who makes a request of you or tries to talk to you, no matter how desperate they seem. They each think you are the enemy, and the moment you respond, you will be rewarded with a knife to the face. Instead, go straight up the stairway in front of you, to the second level of the bunker. As you mount the stairs, a crash will be heard behind you - that's the first doorway sealing as a flamethrower detachment attacks.

On the second level, there is only one man, sitting at a desk, yelling into a phone. The stairs to the third level are a mass of twisted concrete. The man at the desk wears the stars of a general, but does not seem to notice that the phone, as well as all those on the level, are dead.

Walk up to him, salute, and in your finest military voice, yell, "SIR!" He will snap around to stare at you. If he thinks you are not worthy of his army, he will slowly dismantle you with his hands, and you will join him in his oncoming death. If he thinks you are worthy, he will nod and stare pointedly at you. He does not like slackers, so quickly ask him your question.

The only one he will respond to is: "Where do I go, Sir?"

He will tell you. He will tell you in such detail, such horrifying detail, that you will be tempted to strangle him. Do not try it - he is a far more experienced fighter than you could ever hope to be, and should you break salute, you will meet an extremely messy demise. When he is done, he will say "at ease", and hand you his pistol. This is your cue to drop salute. Take the sidearm and put it in your holster - if you did not have one before, you do now.

An explosion will suddenly decimate the far wall and atomize the general. Through the hole you will see, on the horizon, the long, thin shape of a missile rising.

Shut your eyes tight and open them for nothing. The sounds of horrid battle will fade away until, out of the silence, a single gunshot rings out. Open your eyes.

You are standing in the middle of a field of waving wheat. Somehow, you know that this is where the horrific battle you walked through will take place. And you also know, somehow, that you will be in the general's place.

The pistol he handed you is Object 44 of 2538. Learn how to use it - it has one magazine left. If you fire the last shot at the right time, you will avoid the fate of the general. If not, you will join him.

Tʜᴇ Hᴏʟᴅᴇʀs ᴏғ ᴛʜᴇ Cᴜʟᴛ

It wasn't the best idea to do this, of course, but me and my friends felt like we had to after we found the information.

Obviously, Holders don't like to give up their Objects. They're very picky. Sometimes there's a question you can ask that means something very important to them. I don't know why, maybe it has something to do with how they became Holders, but if you do everything right, there's usually a way to convince them to give up their Object. But, that's not always the case.

I'm recording this because it's the only thing I can do. Three days ago, me and four of my friends managed to track down information on the Holders of the Cult. There wasn't much information yet as per what question to ask or what things to do, but we thought we should give it a shot anyway. We were stupid, but that's beside the point now. We gathered up what tools we needed and headed to the location to try and get their Object.

I don't think all Holders can be convinced to give up their Objects. I think some will just do everything in their power to stop the Seeker from getting what they possess. These particular Holders move from place to place around the country. Right now, they were just outside Bluffview. They were said to be a group of old ladies that owned a large house at the end of a long road, welcoming weary travelers to rest for the night. Those few that returned from their rest were on the brink of madness.

One such Seeker left a post of their location on the forum we frequented, and me and my friends took up the challenge. We all piled into station wagon and headed out. Bluffview wasn't too far away, and the Holders lived just two miles north off a long road. We got to the designated road and turned, surprised to see that this was one of the few paved roads out here in the country. It was clearly a road no one really lived on, only trees on either side, but the asphalt looked like it was only recently laid down. We joked all the way down the road, until we reached a large forest. The paved road stretched back into the dense trees, but a large branch had fallen over the road just in front of them. Carefully, we pulled over the car and got out to look. We didn't see any trees nearby that were missing limbs, but we weren't that concerned.

We left the car and headed down the paved road, which began to suddenly wind erratically through the trees. Though most of the surrounding area was flat, it suddenly became very hilly as well. It also became darker, much darker. We had arrived at 11 in the morning, but after only a couple hours, the light filtering down through the canopy of leaves dulled dramatically. It also seemed like the sun was setting. As we came up one rather large hill, we saw the house. At the end of the trail, a quaint white house sat, almost peering through the trees at us. In front of the door, we saw the figure of an old woman in a wheelchair just sitting in front of the door. She wasn't moving. I think she was staring at us.

We got the willies and decided to turn back, making our way down the hill. It couldn't have been less than a quarter-mile to the house from the top of the hill, but we had only just reached the bottom of the hill and looked back up to see the old lady standing at the top of the hill. She didn't have any eyes.

We screamed and ran, completely losing our nerve, but she came drifting down the hill. Not walking, drifting. Her feet were still on the ground, but she moved toward us without moving her legs, like she was strapped to a moving cart. The road didn't look new anymore. It was dark black and cracked everywhere. Worms started pouring out of the crack, rolling over our feet. We tried to leap off the path, but we couldn't for some reason. No matter how far we tried to step, our feet only just landed on the edge of the asphalt. We tried to step again, but the same thing happened. The worms rose to our knees. My friends were pulled down into them. I heard their screams being muffled into silence. I grabbed a tree branch, but felt the sucking. My shoes slipped off somehow. I think they melted. I looked over to see the old lady drifting through the worms like they were water. I couldn't get away. I could see the scarred backs of her eye sockets. I let go of the branch to swat at her, but ended up falling. I think I passed out.

Now I'm lying on a bed made of moldy muscles. In fact, I think everything is made out of sewn-together muscles; the floor, the ceiling, the walls. They're all moldy. They're dripping this greenish liquid that smells badly. I can't move. This thing is sitting on the headboard staring at me. They skinned my friends in this room and made them eat their own skin. It was horrible. They bled so much but they wouldn't die. Their bones were surgically removed, one by one. They still didn't die. Even after the spine was removed, their mouths were held wide with silent screams. Their vocal chords were already shredded from screaming so much. Reggie... he was hemophilic. I thought he would die first. But no, somehow, they made it so he died last.

It was because they got up. They sat up from their beds and this small gray thing on the head of the bed with the bulging eyes would attack them until the old women came in to take care of them. It hasn't stopped staring at me. I can't fall asleep, I can't move. If I move, they'll get me. It screams at me every ten minutes. I'm not going to make it out of here. I think I'm sinking into the bed. I think my body is rotting. I can feel the maggots crawling into my legs. But I can't move, I can't or the old ladies will hurt me. They're working their way up. I can't move, I can't. I can see them staring at me through the window, oh god. They don't have eyes but they're staring at me. It's like they're hungry, WHY WON'T THEY STOP STARING AT ME?! Oh the maggots, they're waiting for the maggots to eat me. It hurts, it hurts so bad but the gray thing is still staring and watching me and I have to be a good boy and stay still. The green is dripping on me and it stings and it burns and it's going inside me. They're coming inside now, they're moving closer, is it 'cause I'm talking into this? Don't come, don't let them get you, don't ever go to their house, don't let NO STAY AWAY! I'VE BEEN GOOD DON'T TAKE MY SKIN!! I HAVEN'T GOT UP, I DON'T WANT YOUR OBJECT, JUST PLEASE LET ME G

-The preceding audio recording was found inside an abandoned house 2.5 miles north of Bluffview, Wisconsin. Guy McDaniel and his companions have remained missing since April 23rd.


As I lay me down to sleep,

I pray the lord my soul to keep;

Should I die before I wake,

I pray the lord my soul to take.

By your side through night and day,

Never shall I turn away;

Should They take my only home,

Ferry me to Kingdom Come.

"Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned."

Father Andrew knelt in the confessional and clutched the two halves of a golden cross strung around his neck as if protecting a newborn baby. They glinted happily in the dim light, and he smiled down at them. Before him, the confessional window slid open. How long has it been since he - a small-town priest - had been to an honest Catholic confessional?

"What is it that brings you here, my son?"

Father Albert looked up through the screen at his fellow clergyman and swallowed his words like a lump of bitter fruit. He didn't know why he came to confess, he only knew that he had to say what was on his mind.

He stroked his cross absent-mindedly, his smile falling as whispering words filtered through his ears.

"I think that god is dying."


Father Albert steered through the city streets, staring blankly at the lines whizzing by below him. The golden cross pieces clinked around his neck, the noises swimming through the air and weaving him a story.

Find the others, it said. God wanted him to find the others, or else... Or else... If he didn't find the others, he couldn't save god.

Wife and son had wanted him to get rid of it, but they didn't hear god's call. Forbid that they might be blasphemers. He tried to get them to hear the words that he heard, the call of the lord through the sacred cross, but they heard not. They only continued to cry against him. Words wouldn't silence them. Prayers wouldn't silence them. Only the cross would silence them. Half an hour ago, they stopped crying against him, and they would cease their blasphemous words forever. He absentmindedly wiped a fleck of blood still remaining on one of the pieces.

Lights flashed in his rearview mirror, and he let his eyes flick to the mirror and back. This wasn't how it was supposed to go. He kept driving. The sirens kept going. The lights kept flashing. They dulled out the glinting golden light of the cross. He became annoyed.

When he pulled over, the police officer walked to his window in a professional manner. Father Andrew's lip curled in disgust. How high and mighty he held himself, but he was not above god. He was not above god's men. What right had he to tell him that the world of god was wrong? He turned his eyes from the guiding light, like so many others. So many sinners. Only he heard the voice.

"Can I get your license and registration?" Father Albert gave him two bullets in the right eye.

He hardly noticed the gearshift click, only that he was speeding down the highway again. He swerved through the lanes, dodging traffic, but it felt smooth to him, natural. Like a salmon swimming upstream. He dodged the obstacles to reach his goal. The voice of god called out to him.


They never found him. He sped down a rural road and grinded to a halt on dead-end gravel. He stepped out the car and looked up at the sight before him. The structure was tall, much taller than the trees. The rotating ivory arms scraped the blue sky far above him. Three of the turbines stood before him and he stared up in awe. They spun slowly and silently, hypnotizingly.

They couldn't keep him from his mission. Wife, son, police. They did not understand the will of god. God was dying. He needed help. The voice in the cross was fading. He clung to it tighter. He must coax the voice back. He would help as much as possible. He bent over and cuddled it, whispering to it and praying to it.

Soon, he said, soon will the Kingdom of god be wealthy again. Soon, the goodness of god will be everywhere.

He looked back up, and the sky was red.

"No," he murmured, reaching up into the sky. "Don't bleed, lord. Don't bleed. It's not too late."

His eyes moved to the black sun behind him. Was he too late? Had god blown his brains out? Was it over?

The cross quivered in his hands, as if it was scared. He looked back down at it again and his eyes widened. He wasn't dead, he was scared. The enemies of god were clawing at the doorstep. The armies of Satan had come. The wind turbine screeched behind him, and he turned to see that the blades were no longer ivory; they were blotched with black. Tar clung to the blades and weighed down the wings that continued to try and claw at the sky. The windmill tried to reach up to god, but the tar built and built until it slowed and stopped. The great machine ceased as the black substance clogged the turbine and slapped to the ground below.

The forms rose from the tar and turned toward Father Albert, who took a few steps backward and raised his gun. He didn't know if it would work against the spawn of the Devil, but he must defend the cross. He fired three times with his antique revolver, but it seemed to only make it madder. It advanced on him and brandished long claws. He raised the cross pieces and placed them together.

"In the name of the lord, I command you to -" he couldn't finish his command due to a punctured lung. The tar creature withdrew the claws and in one swipe, severed the chain that bound the cross pieces. They fell away, as did Father Albert. The cross fell into the tar's grasp, and Father Albert fell to the ground beside his car. He reached out, but the tar was already moving away. Others like it lurked nearby, waiting. Waiting as they brought the Object back. Albert shuddered and stammered as they took the voice of god from him.

They had taken god from him. God was dead. That, like so much else had been taken from him. His friends, his family, his following, his freedom, his sanity. It had all been taken from him. He knew he took his family's lives, in cold blood. He suddenly knew it, and for the first time that he could remember, emotion flooded him. He felt cold, he felt alone. The gun resting in his hand, with one shot remaining. He held it to his temple, and with the one remaining bullet, he ventured away once more, seeking his lord.

Jᴀᴄᴋ Eᴍᴘᴛʏ

One day you might meet a man. He'll have gray hair, gray skin, and a gray suit. He'll be smiling a little too wide, just enough to make you think something's wrong. Then you'll see the eyes: the cold, dead, hollow eyes, and you'll know you're damned.

They've called him many things. Mr. Deadeyes, The Hollow Man, Leg Breaker, The Devil's Grin, and he's come to answer to asshole, but Jack Empty's his favorite name.

There are stories about him; you'll hear them if you're a Seeker long enough. They say he's older than Legion, kept alive by profane deals and unholy pacts. They say most of Them have passed through his hands at least once. They say he's not exactly a Seeker and not really a Holder, but something in between. They say he's been to the center of Hell and back.

Many people have wondered how a man can have seen so much and still be human. They say he's not. They say that the horror of his life destroyed his humanity, his very soul, and the void created a black hole. They say if you ripped off his skin you'd find nothing underneath 'cause he's got jack inside him. He's empty. Get it?

They don't know why he still seeks. The cynical ones think it's a game to him. The sympathetic ones say that it's because he can only feel something when he gets an Object, like how a drug addict always needs another dose. All I know is that when you meet him... run.

Jack was running. He'd been running for two weeks now, since the seventh. Jack really wished he'd kept Self-Control; now he was almost out of juice. Jack was still laughing, though; he really wanted to piss them off before They got him.

Jack had ticked off The End, figured that if he could get out of the room in time he would win the Object. Jack figured wrong, and now Jack was in America with nothing the The Eyes, all of them, and the Liar's Note. Sure, the Note would work on a person, but what good was it against Him?

So Jack laughed and ran and waited to die, but whatever hell-spun creatures commissioned Jack's creation weren't done with him. And so Jack found a Haven.

Havens are this grand idea. Probably a vain hope someone conjured up while their buddy was being chased down by one of Them. A Haven, supposedly, will keep Their Forces at bay for twenty hours, forty-eight on the solstice. Just enough time for you to remember what living without Them after you was like. If you - shall we say - overstay your welcome, then They will take all life in a twenty-mile radius, forty-eight on the solstice, as recompense. The main problem with overstaying your welcome is that these are happy places, places most people would be willing to trade themselves for: playgrounds, old hometowns, grammy's houses, places we remember from our childhood or places that remind us of when we were happy. They change for each person.

What do I think a bastard like Jack Empty'd do? I think he'd tick a Holder off right before a solstice, just to watch the people burn.

Jack awoke in a warm bed. The place was happy; it radiated from the walls. Jack was disturbed by this, although he wasn't sure why; he held no grudge against joy. Jack laughed through his discomfort and did a quick check of his surroundings. His bag was in a corner and since he wasn't waked in the night whoever owned the house didn't know what was in it. Jack got up and looked in the mirror. He was dirty and unshaven and his suit was torn but other than that Jack was fine.

Jack, although empty, had his manners. He did his best to narrow his smile and warm his eyes so that he only looked to be a haunted man and not a mad one. Next, Jack headed downstairs.

"Thank you," Jack said in his best impression of humanity. "I assume it was you who helped me; I'm Jack."

The woman favored her left hand and the kid wasn't a threat, playing with his coloring book. The house was idyllic, like out of a fifties TV show. Jack took stock of the room. He noticed all of the ways he could kill them, if necessary. He noticed all the ways they could try to harm him and how to prevent them.

"Nice to meet you, Jack. I'm Sandra, now mind explaining why I had to give a stranger a room in my house?"

Jack took out the Note and handed it to her. She stared at the thing for a while longer than it should take to read a sheet of paper and finally handed it back to him.

"So how long will you need to stay here, Jack?" Her voice was dead, mechanical. The Note was still in her head, rooting its way through her.

Jack smiled. "Two days. That'll be enough."

My favorite Jack story? Well, there's this one; Jack's been wanderin' around in this dirt poor town, no one knows why he's there, just been walking around. So one day the villagers get together, they're gonna kick Jack out, 'cause he's been here for weeks.

So they meet Jack and say, "You've been here for more than a month now, haven't contributed anything. We want you out."

Jack smiles and says he hasn't begged for food either, has harmed no one, and asks them to leave him alone.

The villagers just get riled, threaten to hurt him if he doesn't get out. Jack's eyes narrow and he tells them how They were created.

Next thing you know most of the villagers are dead or crazy. Except one. This little kid: not old enough to know what Jack's talking about, parents too selfish to save it from the misery of existence. Jack takes it and trains it like an apprentice or pet, then years later after caring for this thing and raising it, Jack just abandons it in an alley. That one always cracks me up.

Jack had it nice in the Haven. He wasn't sure what The Note had said about him, but it must've been pretty good. The kid was bothering him though, it was... familiar. Jack only ever knew one other kid, it made a good pet. Scared the crap out of him one day; called him "Dad". There was just something wrong about that.

But the woman was leaving him alone with the kid. The Note had him come across as trustworthy. Jack wouldn't go out of his way to hurt the kid, but if it came down to it, at least in Jack's mind, who was more important than Mr. Deadeyes?

"So, kid, what is it you're drawing?" Jack tried to be nice, he was tired and didn't want to have to kill something today.

"My name's John, not Kid. I'm drawing my family."

Jack looked at the drawing. It was crappy, but Jack could still count the figures in it. "Is that your dad? Where is he?" Jack pronounced dad with two syllables.

"Daddy left last summer. He and Mommy had been fighting a lot. Wanna play hide-and-go-seek?"

Jack was good at hiding. He could slide between the cracks in the walls, merge with shadows, and rest between ticks of the clock. It took the kid five minutes to find him.

Have I ever seen Jack? I think I did once. I was going after Peace when I saw him. He was asking to see "The Holder of the Cost". I practically screamed when I saw him. The way he moved, it just wasn't human. He'd be perfectly still until he moved then he'd go so fast you could still see him where he used to be.

A friend of mine, Charlie, said that he had Fame, and I'd believe it, he hadn't found an item until then and your first changes you. Charlie didn't brag about it to no one other than me, and I didn't tell a soul, but two weeks after he found it Jack shows up at his door. All he'd say before I killed him. Poor guy. Jack's a rat bastard. Jack could have just killed Charlie, but instead he did... that.

Jack grinned his too-wide grin when he found John. John didn't notice. The children never notice.

"Boy," said Jack. "You sure are good at this.

"Thanks, me and my friends play it every day at lunchtime. You have much better hiding places than them, though."

"I probably do," he grinned. "But they do not always work."

"What d'ya mean?" asked John, confused. Why would a grown-up need to hide?

"Well, there is a mean man after me and I can't hide from him. But if you were to... no," smiled Jack, a plan in mind...

"What is it? Can I help?" John was eager to help. Jack seemed like such a nice grown-up and John could never help mommy on those nights when she'd cry herself to sleep.

"Well, I need something you have; it's called a Ba. If you give that to me, I promise that once I talk to the mean old man we'll play again."

"Well, what's a Ba? I've never seen it."

Jack grinned. "Of course not, it's invisible."

"Oh. Okay then, you can have it."

Jack's grin receded a bit. "Well, this isn't the kind of thing you can give away. There needs to be a... tell you what; I have a special hiding place; if you can't find me there I'll get your Ba. If you can, I'll give you these." Jack showed John his diamond cufflinks. Kids liked shiny things and they were, in fact, valuable so it was a fair game. Almost.

"Alright," smiled John, it was a win-win in John's mind. If he lost he helped out Jack, if he won he got those neat things.

"Good," and with that Jack slipped into The Yellow Road.

Y'sometimes hear, instead of the old story of Jack besting The Devil and winning some soul he was interested in, a story about Jack going to a place called The Yellow Road. They say that it's the place between nightmares and death.

An old, rotten place filled with despair and hate. They say that Jack walked along The Yellow Road, which isn't really yellow, or if it is it's not a road, and came to this giant Emerald. In the Emerald was, well, there were things outside the Emerald which gave Jack a run for his money and this thing was ten million times worse. I heard that... that He was in there.

They had a conversation of things dark and inhuman. About the ends of worlds and of places where despair loses value and suicide loses point. They say that a dark, evil deal was made.

What was that deal? God doesn't even know and we better hope it's never made good.

But Jack always makes good on his deals.

The game went on after the challenge had finished because Jack was having fun. He remembered what it was like before he'd been Jack Empty. He remembered hunting down rodents and breaking their necks. And something else clicked.

"John," Jack called. "I want to ask you a question."

"What is it?" John yelled from his hiding place.

"What's your last name?"


Jack felt the gun against his head. Jack was calm.

"John, go to your room!" Sandy Empty called.

"But me and Jack -"


"I'm already there."

"Jack smiled, "You named him after me."

"You're an egotistical bastard."

"So it was an accident that my pet's child has the same name as her master?"

"Shut up. Why are you really here?"

"Why did you leave me alone with your spawn?"

"I needed to buy the gun."

"You could have sent him to a friend's house last night." Jack smiled, the conversation brought him back to happier times. It reminded him of pulling the limbs off his first Holder.

"Why. Are. You. Here." Sandy hated Jack, she had dreamed of gutting him for the last ten years of her life. She wanted to repay him for all the canings, the false smiles, the looks he would give her which she would pretend she never saw. The looks that would make her know he would never love her. She was a pet, not a child.

"Why did you bring me into your hovel? Why aren't I dead yet? Put the gun down, Sandy. I own you today just as much as the day I found you."

Jack stood up. And Jack smiled. It was a human smile, not the bland mockery he normally plasters across his face. That did nothing to brighten it. If anything it made him all the more horrible. "Take care of the boy. I believe he will be very important one day."

And Jack stepped out of the house and onto the street. The End was waiting.

"Well, Yochanan, We thought you would stay in your Haven 'til your time was up and let these people pay for your misdeeds. Yet you shield them from Us and sacrifice yourself. Why?"

Jack smiled, "I had a deal. It needs to be done. I hope the boy is happy with himself." Jack laughed; cruel, long, and horrible. "I thought you didn't talk."

"This vessel is not talking, We are. You have done nothing but shuffle the deck. You don't work out of greed. You don't work to destroy the world. You don't even work to kill Us. We are tired of you," the man smiled, its approximation was worse than Jack's. "But we will take great pleasure from your screams." Then The End grabbed Jack.

"No. You won't," and Jack laughed. He laughed as he was dragged back to that room in the asylum. He laughed the whole time.

They say if you had sought The End during the nineties instead of the usual man talking to himself you'd have heard laughter. Nobody knows why. Some also say that if you had heard Jack's laugh before, you'd have noticed a remarkable similarity.

Do I think Jack's dead? I'm not sure. If he is though, I thank god the guy's got no soul.

'Cause they say he's older than Legion, kept alive by profane deals and unholy pacts. They say most of Them have passed through his hands at least once. They say he's not exactly a Seeker and not really a Holder, but something in between.

They say he's been to the center of Hell and back.

A Tᴀʟᴇ ғʀᴏᴍ ᴀɴ Iɴsᴀɴᴇ Sᴇᴇᴋᴇʀ

The only the kitchen. Once the rest against the desk and shimmering with your hand. Gloves are in, he might be on your defense, ask one (of one), the power of your weapon will slowly become a shallow grave.

Even if they do not, be in front of anything, or he'll still for - so don't worry - the daughters tearing it once you wake up (more vehement), you can get away! You see, the door wills to reveal the souls in the foulest, its massive blast of 538. Its owner will motion (you will be a shard). You will - you do not give - you along with the little girl of the sky raining fire, for hours, perhaps even as they finish the large room will grow, its patrons will give it up by mist.

Open your approach.

Reaching down and his place your agony for which case, donate (the room there to go) to take you have gone by, eventually, the chest. I can achieve, for you can get through, the "Truth".

The car will ever imagine, but then above a silent sentinel of Sadism and kicks it will cleave them for she goes in the hidden door; upon as pure as the people around you will have a quick moment (should you were to glance at the forces it is holding). You must resist because, in questioning, if you say, "Mighty ruler", but - you have it!

You will eventually blur and ask, "So, why will it surely be a crystal palace?" or the blade will make absolutely still.

In any distance between him: brain, and two rings. Should it will: seat, of course. They will be an unknown force.

If you will fail to find yourself back, then begin to try to see what happens when you will wilt, and start again, fight will be a child, whom his body, and look of an amount depends on a steel-gray hall, you are done when you turn and bustle in a few or place in an eternity in any country, go to the same reason why you through the end of white light upon you. Quietly, but only one side of slimy and ask you will be easily enough along with chainsaws.

Before leaving, search the room with your ear: "The Holder of your hands to know." Slowly, you must be prepared. No, it is Object 298 of disappeared silence to the Holder of Everything will to cry, cry. The light will be all the hall, straight for so much he took advantage of that stands out of a reproduction of this a literal meaning.

Tell your title. My hunger comes in the front. Keep your skin and suffer the old Clergyman wearing the Holder of all, for this item, the books contain the window of YELLOW spray paint and wait, rocking chair.

A chorus of bodies, with fresh grave cost.

Holder of Foolishness. He will hear the "Holder of fallen on your life". He will leave and you may interact with her. Her dress is Object number of any mental institution or too short. The lover and ask him clean white coat pocket knife and charge to hear things. What happens to make any motion to get yourself on the coming to that has ever visited. Sit up where you and forever tormented by the whorehouse without mercy. Finally, you a thin and you and thrown when you in. If your mercy has an eternity, surrounded by your ears shut completely undisturbed; upon opening it will drive them and destroy your present and enjoy it, reach the story of the bodies, with an unnamed by flowers and you find yourself to.

When he will permit you take, the coins will see you, you may open his shield, then whisper something to documentation. He falls over, place and she will see yourself outside into the animals from the wealth of mine until your pores. The crystal at his head that makes him show you will now show that lies in all of your own heart. Do this (must very afraid). He will rise, forever devoid of pure evil. Admire it.

Follow the sun, without flinching. Its skinless fetus in front desk, ask during the hallway and run if the dagger is near. Respond only you, telling you drop the ritual. Should you hold his story, some will be without, so bear disappearing; you will whimper. Now is asked, the time you are a rotting cell. Is a bedroom will have left hand, either shoot or straightjacket. The mere titles are different for the front desk. He will make out terrible noises around you.

She will never find you. When you will remove them, die, though they will hear "the eye is worth it?" The Universe on the fire when it does, this word, quickly look, for you see these seeds and feats most divine. He decays in this question, "which are standing in the attendant's hand?", his countenance gesture for, no matter how much he is, holding reverentially what he is. Her path is long and dry. You will break eye contact with a single, wintertime grove. The odors that will take as hard as the water's edge - stop his story ends.