Object 157

The Holder of Mercy

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 Mercy". The worker will close his eyes and mumble something unintelligible and barely audible, drumming a short beat on the counter as he does so. Then he will gesture to the counter with his right hand, and open his eyes. Reach out with your open palm and the worker will press into it a small brass gear, the size of a dime. Turn away immediately and head back the way you came. Keep your eyes forward, do not look to the side or turn your head, and push the front door open with the hand holding the gear. If you do not follow these instructions exactly, you will suddenly find yourself outside, some distance from the facility, and any attempt to access a Holder thereafter will result in your death.

If you are successful in your task, when you open the front door, you will see a child before you, with a bandage over her right eye and a cast on her right arm. She will ask you, in the sweetest voice, if you could help her. Ignore her, and stand still, keeping your eyes on hers. She will ask you a second time, louder, if you could help. If your silence continues, she will become distraught, and plead again with you to help. There will be a single, echoing crack, and her left arm will snap, rent in two by some unseen force. The girl will scream in agony, clutching the useless, bleeding limb, and ask frantically for your help. Stay quiet, and do not let your face show the slightest trace of sympathy, or you will very much regret it.

If you remain indifferent, her legs will split open, spilling shards of bone and ropes of muscle upon the pavement as she renews her horrible screams, bleeding profusely. Slowly, she will stagger forward, though she should not even be able to stand, and call out again as she did before. Do not move or speak. Show no emotion whatsoever. If you manage to control yourself despite the horrifying sight of the girl's broken body, she will reach you, stretching out her shaking, blood-splattered right arm, tears streaming down her face.

Take her hand, and twist it as hard as you can. You will hear a sickening, wet tearing sound, and the girl will gasp in terror and pain, unable to accept your betrayal. Stare straight into her left eye, and speak these words: "You have not yet begun to feel." Blackness will consume your vision, and the feel of the girl's touch will vanish. The faint sound of her sobbing will fade behind you, and you will see a hallway, stark white and brightly lit. There will be a door at the end, with a single steel plate bolted to the front as its only feature. Walk toward it quickly, but don't run. You don't want to attract attention.

Soon enough, you will reach the door, and all lights save for the one directly above will shatter in a shower of sparks. Read the words etched into the plate, and remember them, for you will need them to escape. When you are satisfied with your memory, touch the door, and gently ease it open. Before you will stand a man in a long white coat, his face obscured by shadow. Approach him, and he will hold up his hands when you have come close enough.

Open your palm to show you have the gear, and the man will nod, lowering his arms. Say this, and only this: "When did they become the first?" The man will laugh, and tell you a story of incredible atrocities, recounting for you the history of the first Objects, and the destruction that they wrought on the far-flung world that contained them. The knowledge itself is anathema to our very reality, and could easily tear your mind to shreds if you fail to comprehend it.

At the end of the table, the man will hold out his left arm, its flesh riddled with arcane symbols, unknown words, and other carvings. Around his wrist will be a watch, extremely old and no longer working. Take it from him, and whisper the words carved into the door. If your memory is perfect, you will find yourself at the front desk of the mental institution or halfway house that you used for this journey. If it is not, you will be privileged to witness firsthand the power of the first Objects, for as long as your soul exists.

If you have survived, you may exit the facility with no lasting ill effects. The watch is yours to keep. Wear it, and you will always be on time. Your train will never be late, your flight will never be delayed, and no earthly circumstance will keep you from your appointments. Press the brass gear into the center of the watch, and you will never age, nor will your body show your years.

But beware: as long as the watch adorns your wrist, your perception of time will begin to slow. Seconds will grow into minutes and hours to days, and if the gear is ever removed, your true age will return to you ten times over. Make use of it carefully, and never under any condition let the Objects be reunited.

The watch is Object 157 of 2538. You would be wise to fear the time it keeps.