Object 512

The Holder of Comparisons

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.