Object 30

The Holder of the Flame

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 Flame". The worker will stare impassively at you for many minutes before pointing, silently, to a door behind you. The door was not there, and anyone else around you will not notice it. Approach the door and close your eyes before grasping the knocker. You need knock only once. If the metal suddenly cools in your hand, run. Run far away, and keep running. Only hope that you have escaped, for the alternative is a horror only the souls of hell can comprehend.

If the knocker grows warm, hold onto it tightly, even when it begins to sear into your hand. Eventually, the pain will stop. Once this has happened, open your eyes. You will be in a small garden, illuminated by the light of a full moon, and surrounded by ivy-covered stone walls. To your left will be a pond. Do not look directly into the water, lest the multitude of terrors lurking within capture and drown you again and again for the rest of eternity. To your right will be a funeral pyre, not yet lit, slickly dark with a flammable liquid.

Take exactly 5 steps toward the pyre. Do not ask why. You will find the corpse of a castrated male child, his arms folded over a vial of quicksilver. Say nothing but the question: "What caused their immolation?"

The corpse will not move, but the pyre will ignite of its own free will. As will the bushes, the grass, the trees, and the flowers all around it. The flames will shift colors, from the normal colors of fire, to the red of freshly spilt blood, to the green of infection and disease. The plants will shriek in agony as the walls surrounding the garden are consumed. The pond will dry out, the water itself burning with a blistering heat, as the souls of the damned rise upward in the steam, howling their litany of curses upon you.

As the first curse reaches your ears, you must summon your courage and begin to laugh. Loudly, spitefully, arrogantly, but not softly. If the curses become more vehement, you are safe. If they stop, then throw yourself on the pyre to escape a fate far worse.

In the midst of the tempest, the corpse will calmly sit upright, consumed entirely in flames, and will proffer the vial. You must continue to laugh, and cross your arms. You must not accept this gift now.

The corpse will open its mouth, and if you are lucky, what you will see in its depths will not leave you laughing in madness for the rest of your mortal life.

The vial will drop, shatter, and spill its contents upon the blackened remains of the grass as the flames die down. Everything will be silent. At your feet will be a new flower, its stem hard and spiny, its petals painted with the colors of hellfire and damnation. Pick it, and you will find yourself away from the garden and back in front of the door.

This flower is Object 30 of 2538. It will burn itself deep into your soul, and ignite the fires of madness.