Object 344

The Holder of Fire

In any city more than one hundred years old, go to the cathedral nearest the city's center. When you enter you will be greeted by a deaf, hunchbacked old priest. You must tell him, within thirty seconds of his greeting, that you wish to see "The Holder of the Fire". If you wait too long, his ears shall close up and he shall return to his soundless world until the next Seeker comes to him.

If you ask in time, he will shake his head three times. Repeat your request. This time, he will stand as straight as his years permit and look you in the eyes. Do not break eye contact with him, for the church around you is dissolving, and the sight of it will drive you mad.

After what will seem like eternity, you will find yourself standing in pitch-black darkness. Then, from the middle of the darkness, a roaring fire will appear. It will seem to have no source, indeed, you will think it is floating in midair.

In the midst of this fire will be a creature more lovely than anything you have ever seen. It will be bright, as if made of hot metal, and will take the shape of all your desires. You must not look upon this creature's body, however, only its face. If you look down it will fly into a rage, and your fate will be one of unending agony.

Speak immediately, and ask it only one thing. "How long has it burned?" If it does not answer immediately, fall to your knees and look at the floor. It would be best that you not see how you died.

If it deems you worthy of hearing the answer, it will open its mouth and a tongue of flame will shoot out. You will hear it speaking from all around you, in a million silvery voices that will send chills down your spine. The creature will tell you of everything it has seen, and everything that it has taken part in. You must remain silent until it is finished or it will stop speaking and you will find yourself back in the church. It will drive you mad that you do not know how the story ends.

When the creature finishes, you will notice that the temperature of the room has fallen, despite the flames. You must stand still and not shiver. If you are sufficiently still, the creature will ask you, "Are you cold?" You must say that you are. It will hold out its hand and give you a small flint, which will fill you with warmth. Then the darkness will grow brighter, and the creature will fade. You will find yourself back in the church. Leave immediately and do not speak to the priest of what you have seen.

The flint is Object 344 of 2538. While you hold it, you will be uncomfortably warm until you tear off your own skin. Better hurry.