Object 87

The Holder of Youth

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 Youth". The attendant will choke back a childish giggle and rise from her seat, motioning for you to follow. Do so, but do not show any emotion other than annoyance, for there are creatures watching you, waiting for a chance to erase your mind and make you do their foul bidding.

The attendant will lead you through the facility, skipping merrily along and turning down hallways at a whim. Do not bother trying to remember the path, for it will soon be irrelevant. After what will feel like hours of walking, she will turn into an empty room and halt abruptly, announcing that you have arrived. Follow her in and shut the door firmly, then move aside. She will wait, rocking gingerly on her heels, then bounce toward the door, opening it with little more than a grin.

Through the door, there will be a lush meadow, teeming with vibrancy and life. Follow your guide through the frame and stop when she does. She will then glance around nervously, and lean toward you with apprehension in her eyes; she will speak a single, whimsical word, then depart, leaving through the door and closing it. You must make sure not to forget that word.

Walk forward with rigid, stoic paces, keeping an angry visage upon your features; the guardians here know you do not belong, but will be too afraid to strike... for now.

Continue walking until you reach a ring of flowers, and step inside. They will all wilt suddenly, with the exception of one small portion. Go in that direction, and that direction only, for 44 paces, then stop, turn to your right, and walk another 44 paces. When you stop for a second time, turn completely around. You should be in a dense, verdant forest. If you are not, then the guardians have mustered their courage, and no power in this place will try to save you.

When you arrive, immediately take three steps backward; you should come to rest against a large tree. Vines and branches will snake over your body and hold you there, but do not struggle. No matter how tightly they constrict, you must not show your pain, but keep glaring forward, lest the tree decide to crush you on itself. When the growth stops, several children will burst from the bushes, laughing and playing, oblivious to your presence, and form a ring around the tree.

As they begin to dance around it, they will sing in pleasant voices, a silly children's song, making the trees around them shudder with laughter. Whatever you do, do not speak or soften your face, but wait until the children pause and sit to catch their breath. One of them will finally notice you, and ask what you are doing there. Tell them that you wish to see Father, and they will gasp as one. Should they begin to giggle, then your death will arrive soon, by creatures which no words could ever describe.

Sternly tell them again that you wish to speak with Father, and their leader will hang his head glumly, muttering acquaintances to you. He will stand and walk away, leaving all the others around you. They will begin to speak, to themselves and you, but you must not look at them, listen to them, or even think about anything they might say to you; they only seek to break your stoic mask and flee their punishment. If their words should ever cease, then growl at them, "Stop pouting about it and enjoy yourselves." You must sound as menacing as possible, and they will resume talking; no one knows what happens if they remain silent.

When the other child finally arrives, he will sit back down, and a tall, wizened figure will emerge from the thicket. He will stare at you, a gaunt, annoyed face that should match your own, and demand to know why you came here, of all places. Glare at him and ask, "Does it truly matter?" The figure will sigh darkly, and begin a long-winded rant about the follies of youth; stay silent, for he will not take kindly to interruptions. When he finally winds down, he will ask again why you are here. Ask him, "What were they before this?"

The old man's eyes will flash with understanding, and he will sit on a nearby stone and begin to speak. He will tell you, in every possible detail, what they were in a time before time, when there was still a shred of goodness within what they kept. He will explain, with a heavy voice, the calmer times, and tell you of the events that sparked their fall. Every slight, every delusion, every crushed dream will be laid bare by his words. As the old man speaks, the lush green around you will give way to blackened, dead soil, rotting trees, and foul, half-rotting vegetation; do not change your expression, and hold your gaze on the old man.

The story will end with "See what they have done to my children?" The small figures that sat around you will now be festering corpses, all eying you with gleams of sadness in their putrescent faces, begging for release. They will all stand, and trot toward you, with their Father telling you that their hunger must be sated. Now, in your loudest voice, scream the word you were told when you arrived. Should you have forgotten, or mispronounce it in any way, then you will spend the rest of eternity as the dead children's meal.

Speak it correctly, and they should all fall to the ground, clutching their ears shut, and the constricting briars from the tree will shatter. Take the largest piece of wood that you can find, run toward the old man, and stab him in the neck with it. As he chokes on his own blood, he will hold a single rose aloft. Take it from his hand, as darkness will surround you, forcing you to choke and die like him.

When your lungs feel as though they shall burst, you will find yourself at the door to the place you call home, gasping for air and clutching the flower in your clammy hand.

That rose is Object 87 of 2538, forlorn remembrance. It stands for the purity that once was, and never shall be again.