Lord Blackwood in the Land of the Unclean
rating: +337+x

December 25th, 1875:

As far and as wide as I have travelled in my years, there is nothing in the world quite like Christmas-time in London. The crisp winter air echoes with the song of carolers and everywhere one looks the eyes of his fellow men are filled with an air of peace and charity. I gave the help the day off after our early meal and have spent the evening in quiet reflection and planning - for this Christmas, the germ of a grand and glorious new expedition has presented itself to me.

Two nights ago I attended a Christmas party at the gentlemen's club. The food was fine and the drinks flowed freely, and I remained in conversation with several of my fellow naturalists until well into the morning. Shortly after midnight our discussion turned to the topic of the super-natural, and Mr. Wallace, the famed father of evolutionary theory and a noted Spiritualist, told me of a most unusual occurrence he had heard of recently. An associate of his had recently returned from the Levant with a most unusual artifact - a small red disc, fashioned perhaps of cinnabar, carved with runes he thought to be an early form of Phoenician, or perhaps Cretan. When left to its own devices, the object would roll about on its own and reach great speeds, breaking through walls and crushing anything in its path, until it came to rest upon a mirrored surface. A man could pick it up easily no matter how fast it moved, he claimed, and until it was set down it would glow brightly in strange colours. We found this account most curious, but what Mr. Wallace told us next proved even more interesting.

Two months ago, he said, his associate's maid had been cleaning in the room where the disc laid pressed against one of his dressing mirrors. Ignorant of the object's nature, the maid lifted it up to dust underneath it and set it back upon the mirror - whereupon, the maid had said, the mirror's surface rippled and a man in strange clothes fell through, as if he had been leaning upon a wall that gave way. The man panicked and began flailing about and shouting nonsensically, and tried to flee before the maid locked him in the room and summoned the police, who took the man away as he shouted and tried to run back in the direction of the room he had apparated in. Mr. Wallace's associate had thought him at first a common thief, but there was absolutely no way the man could have entered the estate without arousing suspicion, and the maid's account was most clear - he had come through the mirror.

I have long wondered if there were other worlds in Creation where man, or beings like man, have existed and thrived; but owing to the great vastness of space, I have long assumed that none of them would be within our reach for some time. If Mr. Wallace's account was true, there might be a way to travel to one of those worlds right here in London! I entreated with Mr. Wallace for some time to divulge the name of his confederate; he refused out of respect for his friend's privacy, but told me that the strange intruder, who claimed the name "Izikaiah Belson", had been declared mad by the court and sentenced to Bedlam, and that I might find him there if I wished to. After New Year's, I intend to call upon this madman.

January 3rd, 1876:

The fact that an institution like Bedlam is allowed to exist in our great nation is an affront. Were a man not already mad upon entering these walls, the circumstances of his internment would make him so. I did my best to avert my eyes from the lunatics packed into dingy cells and overcrowded wards as a porter lead me to a padded cell where the man called Izikaiah Belson had been locked away alone. None of the doctors had been able to speak to him, she said; if I wished to try, I was more than welcome to do so. A gruff-looking gaoler with a large and ancient-looking key-ring unlocked the door, and I invited myself inside, where Mr. Belson sat alone in the corner. I introduced myself and said I had come to learn what I could of who he was and where he came from. He did not respond at first and turned his head away, mumbling under his breath. I listened carefully and found that the tongue he spoke almost resembled the English language, but it was far from any tongue that has ever been spoken in the Queen's court; twisted and altered as if by centuries of deviation, not dissimilar from how the many and various Romance languages evolved amidst the collapse of the Roman Empire. I stood and listened attentively as he repeated a series of sentences three times, that I present below;

Hae who are bitwayn space, press'd is yir voce. Yi are watchen n' I yir vyss'l, here n' here n' there. Awaye wit' me sin, Vaader, n' shed for me yir sanggre weppin', n' I'll but do the word of the Vaaders b'low ye. S'beit.

The man's accent was strange, and it was part-way through his third recitation when it occurred to me that he was attempting to pray. I knew the prayer well, and when he finished his third recitation, I repeated it back to him in the Queen's English. He fell silent as he heard my rendition. His first reaction was more vitriolic than I expected - I believe he accused me of having "the speech of the old elders", and accused me of being a sinner or a witch. I assured him as best I could that I was neither; I am a naturalist. He seemed to calm himself somewhat when he heard that word; in any event, he no longer feared me, and over the course of an hour or two we worked out a pidgin of English and his dialect in which we could converse. In time, I came to the conclusion that he hails from a world which is surprisingly like, and yet completely alien to our own.

Mr. Belson claimed to have come from a place called "The City Where Elijah Fell". He describes it as a metropolis that would put London to shame; tens of millions of souls call it home, living in towers thousands of feet high, commuting on great trains and horse-less carriages that moved hundreds of miles per hour through the packed streets. Every building was wired with electricity, and possessed devices for receiving of sights and sounds from the other end of the world, for delivering the contained knowledge of entire libraries, and other incredible wonders. I showed him a map of the world and asked where this city lay, and he pointed to America, on the western coast of the Floridian peninsula. He claimed he had been at work in one of the city's great towers, momentarily leaning against a wall during a prayer break, when the wall seemed to fall away behind him and he found himself in a strange old house with a strangely dressed woman screaming at him, confirming Mr. Wallace's account.

I showed him a Bible I procured from one of the doctors and asked if he was a Christian. He recoiled at the proposition as he had when I recited the Lord's Prayer, and informed me that, while the elders had been Christians in days gone by, all of that had changed with the Second Coming and the authoring of the Third Testament, and that to openly proclaim to be a Christian was a heresy and a most heinous crime. I gather that in the nation Mr. Belson hails from, which he claims to control the entire world, the church and the state have been brought together in a way that would make the Archbishop of Canterbury himself a proponent of disestablishmentarianism. I asked what becomes of heretics when they are caught and he informed me that they are "made pure in S'Tears"; for if heresy is allowed to spread unchecked, then "the Unclean" shall come and bring destruction to the pure and the wicked alike.

Mr. Belson refused to elaborate further when I asked him what the Unclean were. He asserted that it was blasphemy to even speak of them, for to say their name might draw their attention. I assured him that nobody in London would harm him for speaking of this matter, and that, whatever an "Unclean" might be, there were none in any corner of this world that I have explored. Belson was visibly frightened as he told me, in halting whispers, that the Unclean were the Devil. But unlike the Devil of the heretics, who lived in the pits below, these Devils walked the Earth. They were giant creatures, behemoths of pure sin, all of man's unrighteous thoughts and deeds given flesh. They stalked the darkest corners of the world and their sin tainted the Earth itself so that no crop could grow and no man could live, and it took all the efforts of the holiest crusaders to keep them so imprisoned lest they break free and the world come to an end.

Until such time as the doctor assured me I must leave for the night, I remained in Belson's cell and learned as much as I could of this strange world he came from - matters of language, culture, fashion, everything a man might need to know to travel amongst its gleaming cities anonymously. I managed to cajole a young nurse at the clerk's desk into letting me review Belson's file, and I learned that the affray that lead to his arrest occurred in Notting Hill at the residence of a Mr. Weathers. Tomorrow I shall call upon him and state my intent to purchase this disc that turns mirrors into gateways to another world; for I intend to conduct a survey of this civilization to rival Sir Burton's forbidden journey into Mecca, and, if I can, find one of these diabolical monsters Mr. Belson speaks of, and make it my prey.

January 9th, 1876:

Mr. Weathers was quite relieved to be rid of the disc when I purchased it from him. It glowed an eerie purple as he handed it to me; and yet once in my own hand, its aura seemed to fade, and become instead a greenish hue. I took it home and placed it on a mirror in my study, and immediately the glass seemed to become as water. I saw a pastoral scene not unlike that which one might behold in our own country-side; a farmhouse in the distance, tilled fields with tall crops between. There were children running and playing among the crops, and in the distance, over the horizon, I saw in silhouette titanic structures taller than any building man on this Earth has ever made. For several days I observed through the mirror; on a few occasions the farmer and his hands came close enough that I could hear their speech; the accent not as thick as Mr. Belson's had been, but foreign enough that I strained to decypher their conversations. The clothes they wore were not unlike those a farm-hand might wear in England; but Mr. Belson had warned me the fashions in the city were very different from what he had seen in London, and I would be most out of place in any of my usual clothes. A visit to the Metropolitan Police, and after a lengthy conversation with the precinct constable and the promise of a sizable donation I was able to acquire the clothes Mr. Belson had been wearing at the time he entered our world. It was not dissimilar to morning dress, but to my eye it seemed less formal; there was no waistcoat, the jacket was shorter and cut more conservatively with broad lapels, the cravat was thin and a solid shade of black. I had Deeds tailor it to fit me, and I stowed it away for when I reach the city.

I have packed lightly, for I shall be travelling alone and I shall have none of the native currency, for Mr. Belson had carried no bill-fold when he entered our world. I have my clothes and rations for a few days, and I shall enter dressed in a farmer's garb and remain so dressed until I reach the metropolis. Gold and silver I have brought in the hopes of trading for currency (Mr. Belson having informed me that the principal form of trade is paper), and within my pack I have hidden my pistol and several of Mr. Moth's weapons. I have my compass, my sextant, my electric torch, a comprehensive atlas of the world, and my journal, and a few good luck talismans besides those. The cycle of day and night in this other world is some eight hours behind our own; from this I deduce that the scene I behold is somewhere along the western coast of America. I shall cross through the looking-glass under cover of night this evening, for fear of alarming the farmers of my presence, and make my way towards the city; where, hopefully, I can discover a library or an institute of learning and document the history and culture of this world - and where the so-called Unfertile Zones are located, so that I might observe these Unclean for myself.

January 10th, 1876:

What a world this is indeed.

This is indeed one of the more temperate parts of the world, for though it was past midnight local time when I entered this world, the air was perfectly warm. Based on my reading of the stars, I judge myself to be somewhere near the thirty-fourth parallel, in the region that must in this world correspond to the land of California. Here in the fields it is dark; but in the southeast I behold a stunning panorama of light shining into the darkness, the aura of the great metropolis bathed in electric light so bright that it shrouds the stars themselves above it. In the distance I heard sounds like great engines. The terrain was easily passed, even in the darkness, save for a fence at the edge of the farm I had alighted into, which I was forced to climb.

The sight I beheld when I reached the source of the noise was unbelievable. A great paved road lay stretched across the grassland, solid barriers at either side. It was wider than any road I have ever beheld, and stripes painted on the road indicated sixteen lanes for traffic - eight going in one direction, and eight in the other. The entire road was lit by giant lamps brighter than the gas-lamps of London or New York, and one could have read a newspaper comfortably by their light. Even at this late hour, I watched in surprise and wonder (and no small amount of terror, I must admit) as motor-carriages far more advanced than Mr. Bollee's steam-cars hurtled along the road at speeds faster than the finest locomotive or the fastest race-horse. They must have been travelling a hundred miles per hour or more - some of them small enough to carry a handful of people, others massive like train cars and looking to haul cargo by the ton. Some never touched the roadway at all, seemingly gliding on a cushion of air. I had to sit by the roadside, obscured in shadow, for some time while I took this in. Many times in my life I have encountered savage tribes that never before have seen the wonders of civilization. At this moment, I felt the savage myself, beholding wonders he has no hope of contemplating.

I dared not cross the road, and as it seemed like a straight-away enough path to the city,I walked for several hours along its shoulder. It was difficult to tell in the darkness, but it looked to be about thirty miles to the out-skirts of the city, and I judged it would take well past mid-day to reach the inhabited areas. I feared that any of the carriages hurtling by might at any moment careen out of control and catastrophe would ensue, and I wondered how any man could bear such speeds. The eastern sky was beginning to show the tint of dawn when one of the carriages slowed to a stop on the edge of the road, next to me, a door opened, and a voice from within asked if I desired a ride into the city. I have never been one to rely on the charity of strangers, but I was curious to examine one of the carriages from the inside and accepted.

It was scarsely a quarter hour before we were among the crystalline towers of the metropolis. I did my best to disguise my terror as the driver, who identified himself as Ben O'Kazzem, inquired of my business. I told him my name was Teodor Swarzrod (that, Mr. Belson had told me, being how my name would be presented in his language), that I was a farm-hand in the nearby country-side, and that I had never before been to the city but that I intended to research my family's history at one of the major libraries therein. We struggled to understand each other as I had yet to fully master the dialect, but his assumption that I merely had a "country accent" saved me any uncomfortable questions. I disembarked in the financial center of the city and offered to pay him for the ride with one of my gold slugs. He refused saying it was far too much for a simple ride, and I offered him a silver slug instead - which he accepted, and offered me a considerable sum of paper currency in the balance, while commenting that he never imagined the country-folk had such wealth at their disposal.

This metropolis, which I now know to be called the City of Angelic Glory, is easily larger than any city in all the world - I imagine the entire population of England could dwell within and find themselves wanting for neighbours. There is a great bustle everywhere I go in the city, and yet, there is a desperation and fear that underlies it all; nobody meets anyone's gaze, and every man seems constantly to fear and suspect every other. With the bank-notes Mr. O'Kazzem had given me, I breakfasted in a bustling cafe where I enjoyed a meal barely dissimilar from the full breakfast one can find at any reputable establishment in London, and I have found board in a grand hotel named the St. George. Imagine my surprise when I was told my room would be on the seventy-eighth floor! An electric lift that would make Mr. Otis green with envy whisked me to the impossible height in seconds, and I found myself staring out a window at the gargantuan city. Towers like the one in which I stood jutted out in all directions, many of them extending hundreds of feet even above my own vantage point. Highways not unlike the one that took me to the city cris-crossed the metropolis and formed a ring around its perimeter, and I beheld a massive network of smaller roads and railways. The hotel concierge has given me directions to the civic library - tomorrow I shall seek it out, but for now I must close the curtains on this impossible scene and rest, for I find myself overwhelmed and weary.

January 11th, 1876:

My findings at this city's great library have shed much light into the nature of the world I now find myself in. The library itself stood twelve levels high - not as tall as many of the other buildings in the City of Angelic Glory, but easily taller than any institution of learning in London. A librarian guided me to the eighth level where I would find books of history and geography, and I spent the day immersed in study. Though the books are written in strange letters that do not resemble any I have ever seen, I have found somehow that I am able to understand them as if it were common English writing.

A comparison of a world map to the one in my own atlas confirmed that I was in the land of California, in about the same area as a town that in our world is known as Los Angeles. Many great cities in this world stood in the same place as cities in our own, though none shared the same name - London was here called the City of Winston's Stand, and Edo the City of David's Triumph. I saw no national boundaries on the map, though there were many names indicating different regions - the United Lands of the Son, Huffasia, the Land Bountiful. The only divisions indicated were between the "Blessed Lands", colored green, and the "Unfertile Lands", colored red. There were Unfertile Lands spread across the globe, though I found the distribution most uneven - in North America I saw but seven, and in Europe four, while Africa had dozens, and almost the entirety of China was covered by them.

I found that the Bible exists in this world, but it is a Bible very unlike our own. It is about a thousand pages longer and is divided into three sections, named the First, Second, and Third Testaments. The First and Second Testaments are similar to the Old and New Testaments of our Bible, but have been extensively rewritten - all references to "God", "the LORD", or "the Father" have been replaced with a simple reference to "Him", and there is a greater emphasis on sin, uncleanliness, and purification than I recall ever learning in school.

The Third Testament appears to have been written in the seventeenth century; and as I had not the time or inclination to read it in full, I referred to a history book about what is referred to in this world as the Second Coming. Prior to the year 1621 or so, I found, the history of this world had been much like our own aside from certain linguistic and cultural details, and an indication that the wide-spread colonization of the Americas had begun several hundred years earlier. In that year, the being called Him made itself known to the people of the world, and nations worldwide proclaimed it to be their God. He provided them with great advances in technology and medicine, which were the impetus of the advanced civilization I now beheld; but war broke out across the world over the question of which nations were most worthy of His love. When He beheld the devastation that His children had wrought, He wept - and where His tears fell, those who tasted of them were purified of sin and lost their inclination to fight. But those who refused to cease in strife, those who were consumed by sin and evil, their wickedness was magnified in His absence and took form until it became the Unclean, the giant abominations that to this day lurk in the Unfertile Lands. All life that the Unclean encounter is destroyed utterly - men and women, animals, even plants, are all consumed by the creatures and vanish into thin air, leaving behind only the ichor of sin it discharges when it feeds. Agents of the church known as the Blessed Militia guard these lands, and do constant battle to keep the Unclean imprisoned within.

In time, the United Lands of the Son brought together the nations of the world under the rule of a theocracy, governed by a man called the Most Holy Father. There were ten ranks of the clergy, from the Most Holy Father himself to the Blessed Fathers at the bottom, whose hierarchy comprised not only the church, but the courts, the legislature, and the executive powers of government. The judicial system was not unlike English law, though it incorporated elements similar to the canon law of the Roman church, and the clergy were exempt from its direct judgment, for only the Most Holy himself could pass judgment on them. The death penalty was unknown - those who had committed great crimes were bathed in a compound called the Tears, supposedly refined from His own weepings, and if they survived the trial the urge to sin was cleansed from their mind.

As luck would have it, one of the few Unfertile Lands in this country is located in the deserts a hundred miles east of this city. On the maps I spotted a railway line that draws dangerously close to this border. Interestingly enough I noticed that almost every city had a rail line leading directly into the Unfertile Lands as well; but those were marked as for militia use only and I deemed them inaccessible. Tomorrow I shall travel on the train that passes this border and find a way to depart as close to the edge as possible, and determine whether I can smuggle myself into this forbidden land. I know not how much of the history I have read is true and how much is hagiography concocted by the church, but soon I shall find out.

January 14th, 1876:

I am lucky to have escaped the events of the past few days with my life, but even now I may be doomed.

My entry into the Unfertile Lands was uneventful. I was able to excuse myself stealthily from the train during a brief stop, and hiked but a few miles under the desert sun to the edge. The perimeter in this region was guarded only by a fence with prominent signage;




By order of the Regional High Father, City of St. Francis' Triumph

The Blessed Militia, I assumed, must have some means of tracking the Unclean and preventing them from crossing the borders of this country. I, on the other hand, would have to rely on luck and Providence.

I could smell the Unclean for hours before I spotted it. Nothing grows in this land and there is no running water, nor so much as a buzzard in the sky, but the air hangs heavy with the undeniable stench of death, worse than the foulest Scottish abattoir or the banks of the putrid Ganges. I could have been sick, but I steeled myself and pressed onward in the direction from which the stench seemed to be its strongest. I assembled and readied the destabilizing musket I had carried in my pack, a special model Mr. Moth had prepared especially for this expedition, and bringing to bear considerably more potential for atomic disassembly than the standard models.

I spotted it after climbing a ridge and almost turned around and retreated right away. I had expected a creature the size of a man or not much larger. The abomination I beheld was easily five hundred feet long and dozens of feet tall. It was almost the shape of a man, but it had no legs; two arms that seemed to grow and shrink as they moved dragged a massive trunk across the desert sands, while a head with no face seemed to lull and stare at nothing in particular. Its skin, the tone of a white man's, was smooth and hairless across its entire body, and it made no sound as it seemed to crawl about aimlessly, a brown ichor seeming to ooze from it before quickly evaporating. It was no wonder the people of this world thought these things to be devils made flesh. Even with my heavy destabilizer at the ready, I was obviously ill-equipped to hunt a creature of this size.

I observed for several hours as it seemed to crawl aimlessly in the same general area, with no particular direction or agenda, taking notes and making sketches. It was late in the afternoon when I determined I would have to turn around - a train bound in the opposite direction would pass by shortly after night-fall, and I intended to board it and return to the city. But luck was not with me - as I stood from my hiding spot upon the ridge, the Unclean's head turned in my direction and it stopped its incessant crawling about. Though it had no eyes or ears, it somehow knew I was there; and though it had no mouth, the abomination let out a blood-curdling moan that echoed for miles. One of the creature's giant arms stretched out in my direction and it began to drag itself my way. I had no choice but to stand and fight. I raised my musket at the creature's featureless visage, took careful aim, and fired.

The Unclean was wholly unaffected as the bolt from my musket passed harmlessly through it and dissipated in the atmosphere. In seconds it was before me and I was sure I was about to die. The creature loomed above me, resting itself on its giant hands, as the face bore down upon me. Before it could presumably devour me whole, I heard a massive report, and a giant shell struck the Unclean in the face and exploded. I was showered with foul-smelling brown ichor as the beast's face was torn open, and though the wound seemed to seal itself quickly, more and more shells struck it in the face, the trunk, the arms. It stumbled and I ran to avoid it falling on me, as men in dark-colored uniforms, decorated with symbols like those I had found on the disc in London, pounded it with artillery. It lurched at them, and one of the soldiers was devoured whole by the creature, its clothes and weapons falling to the ground as the man vanished. Soon it could take no more as the barrage continued, and it turned around and fled back into the desert.

I retreated in the direction from which I had come to find a convoy of armored motor-carriages armed with heavy cannons. I attempted to run, but in seconds the soldiers surrounded me and apprehended me in the name of the Blessed Militia. I was told I was lucky to be alive after attempting such a foolish pursuit and that I would be put to the question by the Court of Blessed Voices. My situation was compounded when one of the soldiers searched my pack and found one of my good-luck charms - a small gold cross that had been given to me by the Patriarch of Alexandria during my exploits there in 1855. The soldiers immediately declared me a heretic, and some were of the opinion I should be shot then and there, or taken back for the Unclean to devour. In either event, I was bound with steel cuffs and escorted to a prison cell where I now await trial. They do not know I still have this journal, though if I am convicted of heresy and put to the Tears it may not long matter.

January 16th, 1876:

I was brought before the Court of Blessed Voices yesterday. The scene I found myself in looked like a scene out of the Spanish Inquisition; three men in arcane robes beheld me from atop the judge's bench, while I stood in the dock guarded by the Blessed Militia. The senior judge advised me I had been accused of heresy and trespassing in the Unfertile Lands and that I faced the Tears, and demanded my plea. No lawyer had been provided of me, and I expected nothing resembling a fair trial if I contested the charges; yet if I plead guilty I would surely be put to the Tears and my mind torn apart by that mysterious concoction. Recalling that the laws of this land were similar to those of medieval England, and that no member of the priesthood might be tried by them, I took a gamble and insisted that I was a man of the cloth, and thereby was entitled to benefit of clergy - the ancient right of a holy man to avoid prosecution by proving his ability to read from the Bible.

The judges were most skeptical of this proposition; even in this nation, the benefit of clergy was an outdated rite, for many more people could read in these days than simply the priesthood. A reference to their legal texts, however, found that the rite had never been disestablished. I was told I could attempt to exercise that benefit if I wished, but that it would then be up to the Most Holy Father himself to judge my fate, and he would be less forgiving than this court. I hoped for nothing less than to play for time, and I agreed.

It was decided that I would be expected to read three verses. One of the strange Bibles of this world was placed before me and opened to the Third Testament, and I was asked to read a passage called Edward 7:22. As before, the strange lettering of this world's language made itself clear to me, and I read;

Be free of sin, therefore, as He and His angels are free of sin; for wherever evil transpires in the hearts of men, the Unclean walk among us.

Next the book was opened to the First Testament, and I was asked to read Psalm 23:4. It was most unlike the version I had learned in chapel many years ago, but I read it clear and true;

Though I walk in the land of the Unclean, I will fear no evil, for you are always watching; your voice and your sight protect me.

I was surprised when the judge closed the book and proclaimed I would have to prove myself by reciting the third verse from memory. I was challenged to recite Matthew 5:38-39 from the Second Testament. I knew well enough the verse in King James' Bible; but I had no way of knowing how it might have been presented in this world, or even enough of their strange theology to guess. I felt doom creep upon me and decided to do the best I could, and closed my eyes as I recited the verses I knew;

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

The judges did not at first respond to this reading. They retreated to their bench and discussed amongst themselves for a few moments, and one departed briefly, returning with a truly ancient book which they examined while conferring further. I wondered if reciting the verse in its original form might have only confirmed their accusation of me, when my bonds were removed and I was ordered to follow the chief judge to his chambers.

Seated behind a magnificent desk of fine ebony, the chief judge informed me that I had correctly recited the verse in question as it had existed in the ancient Bible, before the Second Coming. Those old texts were forbidden to the public; even the heretic sects made do with modern versions, and the only known copies in existence were in possession of the church fathers themselves for their personal study. The book he had examined was the only ancient Bible in the entire city, and before today had not been removed from safe-keeping for over fifty years; and yet, I knew its verses by heart. Therefore, he said, it was obvious that I was at the very least a Holy Father, one of the third-highest echelon of the clergy, who had travelled incognito to his land for some purpose. Though he had no power as a mere Blessed Voice to compel my obedience, he asked why I had come, and what I had been doing in the Unfertile Lands with a heretic's cross and a strange weapon that was useless against the Unclean.

An opportunity had been granted to me, and I chose to take advantage of it. I was, I informed the Blessed Voice, a senior member of the church's scientific research division, conducting tests on the development of improved weapons for suppressing or even killing the Unclean. I told him my destabilizing musket was the product of this project and it had shown promise in tests against tissue samples, and I had been delegated to test it myself in the field. Unfortunately, it had not lived up to its promise, and further refinements would obviously be needed before it could live up to its full potential. The cross, I claimed, was merely a trophy I had taken from a heretic in the priesthood after I exposed his treason.

To my surprise, the Blessed Voice did not question my account at all. So great the respect for and fear of authority is within this nation, I suspect, that the mere supposition that I was his superior was enough to put me beyond reproach. By the end of our meeting, he had offered me access to a laboratory in the Blessed Militia's base at the edge of the Unfertile Zone. I accepted his proposition and today I found myself examining a facility which makes the laboratory in my own estate look like a child's play-thing. It is fully appointed with every instrument a man of science could want for and several that I do not yet even understand the purpose of. There are full stocks of chemicals, as well as tissue samples acquired from the Unclean, samples of their ichorous discharge, and a variety of medical nutrients and fluids, including the mind-altering substance called the Lord's Tears.

I have been given private quarters within the base, and the militiamen give me a wide berth - I have noticed they avert their eyes as I pass them in the halls, and all conversation ceases when I enter a room. They believe I hold power over their very lives - for now, at least, I shall make no effort to disabuse them of this notion. It shall take me some time, but perhaps with this equipment and the samples provided me, I can learn enough of the nature of the Unclean to genuinely construct a weapon capable of causing true damage to them. If only Deeds were here - at least I would have a capable lab assistant.

February 27th, 1876:

I have made a truly horrifying breakthrough in my research today. I do not even know if the most senior leaders of this world know the truth - some of them must surely know, if a heretic from another world was able to figure it out so quickly - and they have gone to great lengths to hide it from the world in their lie of a religion.

The beings called Unclean are not devils or beings of pure sin, but gross mutations of the human form itself. The key is the Tears. I know not what the true origin of that compound is or from whence it comes, but it is more than a simple tool of mind control. When human flesh is exposed to a significant enough concentration, it changes - the bonds that hold the atoms together peel away, and it becomes mutable and elastic, folding around and absorbing all other life introduced to it. A single mutant becomes two, and then three, and four, growing larger and larger, becoming less and less human in form, until it becomes Unclean.

I wondered how these creatures first came to be created. Did the church fathers make weapons of them, to unleash upon those renegade nations that refused to submit to their will? Perhaps they use them for that reason still - I had found numerous reports in the history books of cities and country-sides being attacked by Unclean, suddenly loosed from their Unfertile Lands, whenever sentiment in that land had turned against the church. Even now they continued to throw millions of people into the Tears every year to better control them - some of them surely mutating as the result and becoming the basis of a new abomination. No wonder there were railways leading into the Unfertile Zones - it was necessary to dispose of the persons so changed. I wondered how many were sacrificed intentionally to make the Unclean more powerful and more menacing as weapons of terror.

I wondered what might happen if news of this horror became known to the people. How many more heretics would the elders throw in the Tears? How many cities would they loose the Unclean upon to suppress the threat to their power? How many uprisings could they manage, how many mutants could take form, before the Unclean became uncontrollable and society itself was brought to its knees? I shudder to think of it.

But with this horror has come revelation. The Unclean are born of using the Tears to allow people to absorb others into themselves. What if a compound could be produced that weakened those bonds? I think I can develop a way to produce a variant of the Tears that will counter the effect the original has had on these poor souls. I owe it to the people of this world to try.

March 20th, 1876:

Today is a day I shall remember the rest of my life. After weeks of research I have produced my weapon, a serum which I have with no small amount of pride named Blackwood's Tears. I have tested it on tissue samples of the Unclean and watched them dissolve before my very eyes. It took several days experimenting with one of the most sophisticated repeater-rifles used by the militiamen of this world, but I have developed a custom rifle that fires syringes filled with Blackwood's Tears. Upon impact, the force should activate the plunging device and inject the serum directly into its target. I have produced several hundred rounds of serum and loaded them into magazines; if my calculations prove true, it should take only a few dozen to destroy one of the abominations.

Yesterday, I spoke to a colonel of the militia-men who confirmed that the trains into the Unfertile Zones are used to carry people who the fathers have declared "incurably sinful", though he did not know the true meaning of that infamous phrase. He said a highly purified vial of Tears was contained on each train which lured the Unclean to it; thus, the incurable were disposed of and the Unclean were kept from wandering too far. I arranged for the train to be sent out this morning empty but for myself, my weapon, and the purified Tears. Before I left, I gave him a copy of my findings and made him promise to read it entirely, including my opinions on what might happen if this knowledge becomes widely known, and to make sure that Blackwood's Tears were being manufactured around the world before the day when that knowledge comes out. He nodded in silent agreement as the train pulled away.

Shortly before noon, the train parked itself at a dead end in the middle of the desert. I readied my weapon and waited in a blind outside the train as the stench of the Unclean began to fill the air. As I watched the abomination approach, I sighted its face through the remarkably sophisticated scope on the weapon and loosed the first round.

The Unclean screamed with a fury unimaginable. I almost dropped my gun and collapsed in agony; but as I watched through the scope, the creature lurched and seemed to grow a few feet smaller than it had been before. I fired another round and a piece seemed to vanish from its head; but now it had sight of me and it was coming in my direction. I loosed several more rounds before I was forced to run. Pieces of flesh seemed to be sloughing off the creature as it dragged itself in my direction, its screams piercing the air with a deafening madness. I ran blindly, turning occasionally to fire in its direction, changing magazines from time to time. Alas, I had been paying more attention to the creature behind me than the terrain in front of me; and I found myself boxed in. I turned to fire again, and to my horror I discovered the gun had jammed.

The Unclean was less than half the size it had been before. It dragged itself in my direction, slowed but still unrelenting as I furiously tried to clear the jam. It screamed as it raised itself up above me. Somehow, in its wounded state, the monster seemed more human than it had before. Across every inch of the giant's skin I seemed to behold a different face, and each furious proclamation it made seemed to echo with hundreds of voices in fear and agony. I was still trying to clear the jam when it began to bear down on me and I thought I was soon to join the souls that comprised that thing in their unceasing damnation. But when the titanic head was barely feet away from me, it stopped. The Unclean held itself motionless above me. It could have moved in for the kill at any time, but instead it waited as I cleared the jam, and seconds later, my weapon was ready to fire. I understood - the Unclean was an amalgamation of cursed souls in eternal pain and confusion, seeking a release that was forever denied to them. The thing before me wanted to die. I aimed my weapon, closed my eyes, and emptied the magazine into its faceless visage as it screamed a final time and the scream was instantly cut short, echoing across the desert before dissipating entirely.

When I opened my eyes a scene of utter carnage lay before me. Of the Unclean itself, there was no sign; but instead, hundreds of men and women and children, naked as the day they were born, lay sprawled across the desert plains, dead or dying. I walked among them and saw young and old, gasping for air in their final moments (for none of them lasted more than a few moments before expiring). Among the crowd I spotted a face I recognized - the soldier of the Blessed Militia who had been killed, so I thought at the time, in the attack that saved my life. As I looked at the dying man, his eyes met mine and he spoke two words;

Thank you.

I made my way back west in the direction I had intended to flee in January, and boarded the train back to the City of Angelic Glory. The faster I can put this scene and these Unfertile Lands behind me, the better it shall be for my sanity.

March 23rd, 1876:

I returned through the mirror to London before dawn in the morning of this world, arriving back in my study just after noon London time. I was most thankful to find the gateway still worked; I had not expected to be away as long as I have been, and feared it might have ceased functioning or the disc removed from the mirror. I immediately removed it from the mirror myself and set it on the ground, whereupon it rolled back to the mirror and attached itself; but having not been placed there by a human being, the mirror was only a looking-glass; and the portal to that world and the horrors that populated it was, for now, sealed.

I do not think I shall journey to that world again. The Unclean were monstrous enough, but there is a certain irony in the fact that, as alien and terrifying as they were, the greatest evil to populate that land was man itself, for it was the leaders of men who must have created the Unclean to begin with, and who continued to allow their existence in order to perpetuate their reign of terror. The gun and the Blackwood's Tears I have brought back with me shall likely prove of little use in this world; but I shall store them at my house in the country for now, for if the being that provided the Tears to that Earth ever visits our own, the compound may one day prove of great utility.

I visited Mr. Belson again today at Bedlam. I told him of my journey to his land (but what I had learned there, I kept to myself) and that I had the means to return him there if he so desired it. He declined; having been gone so long, and having vanished so suddenly, he would surely be under great suspicion if he returned, and would likely be put to the Tears, a fate that I now wished on no man. I have promised to vouch for him with the gaolers and earn his release; I told him that when and if he becomes a free man, there shall be a position available for him in my household staff if he desires one.

Deeds was very fascinated by my tale of my adventures in that parallel Earth and suggested I publish it; but who could believe such a fanciful story of worlds accessible through a looking glass and gigantic horrors? Perhaps I shall present it as fiction in one of the penny journals that have become so popular among the working-class; for whether they regard it as true or not, I suppose it does make a most entertaining yarn.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License