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The Neighbor


hakoMike
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Guild Interrogation Archival

File: 15440-12

Cross Reference Case: 15438, 14855

Subject: NAME REDACTED

BEGIN INTERROGATION TRANSCRIPT:

I already told the last guy who asked, and that’s all I know. We were neighbors but I barely knew the guy. Yeah, I’ll go over it all again but I don’t think I missed anything. I can leave after this, right?

He was already living in the tenement when I was placed there by your hospitality agency. What was it now? About six months ago. I came to Malifaux for work. I wasn’t able to find a job that side of the breach after a little incident in the Westerland office. Yeah, that was for the mining company. I wasn't down in the actual mine you see but in the office at the top. You know how that all works. Someone's got to keep track of who’s coming and going and send out for supplies and such. See they thought I was skimming cash. They never could prove anything, but the boss told me to hit the road and everywhere else I went word of what happened seemed to beat me there. That’s when I heard how you folks got a lot of men who can swing a pick-axe but precious few who could help run the mine. It seemed a good idea since it was my last option.

So I took the train and went through the breach. Can’t say I felt that funny feeling that some get. Just the flash and my ears kind of popped like when you know there’s a big storm coming. My case worker had this place already arranged for me when I arrived. It’s not much to look at but I don’t need a lot. I mostly keep to myself, especially since arriving here. It was nice to be on the third floor too. That’s the top floor, so nobody's stomping around on your ceiling. I first noticed Mr. Rayburn... that’s what you said his name was, right? I never did hear him say it himself. I first noticed Mr. Rayburn as I was coming home from work one evening about a week after I moved in. He was coming out of his flat with an armload of books. Big, thick ones. Must have been six or seven of them.

“Evening,” I said. He just tipped his head politely and squeezed past me in the hall. Didn’t say a word. That’s okay. Some people are like that before they are properly introduced I suppose. I remember the smell of the books, like when water gets trapped under something. That old, wet smell. It seemed like a strange thing for someone living there to be hauling around arm-loads of books, but I was new to this place and I didn’t know what to expect. Maybe he was a student. I didn’t know of any school or university, but like I said I didn’t know what to find strange or commonplace yet. Having been here a while, I see how strange it is.

I saw him a couple times after that, every few weeks, coming or going, always with at least two or three books, always looking like he was late for something and his mind a mile off. Each time I bid him good morning, or evening, or what have you. Each time he nodded or gave a quick word of greeting. We weren’t what I would call friends. We weren't even acquaintances at that point. I’ll admit I was getting curious about the books though. One night I heard him leaving, so I stepped into the hall to ask him about them.

“Evening. So where are heading out to with those books...”

“Tomes,” he corrected, looking self-conscious for having done so.

“...those tomes at this late hour?” I asked, trying my best to look friendly and non-threatening. He seemed the skittish type and I didn’t want to upset him. He stared hard at my face. It was an uncomfortably long time before he spoke.

“I’m meeting some associates.” He paused again, as if trying to determine whether to say the next words. “This place isn’t like back on Earth. There is knowledge hidden away here, and it’s just waiting to...” I could see the spark in his eyes until he trailed off. This was passion for him, and as much as he desperately wanted to share it with someone he clearly still did not trust me enough to do so. “Excuse me,” he muttered and ducked by me.

Over the weeks from that point I saw him less frequently, even though I would listen for his comings and goings so I could try and find out more. He’s right about one thing. This place is different. It changes men. It beats some down into quiet wrecks and inspires others to be so much more than they would ever be Earth-side and for the life of me I can’t figure out why. Suffice to say that Mr. Rayburn was becoming more and more a recluse. If he managed to leave or return it was either when I was off at the mine or else he was so quiet that I never heard a thing. I suspect the latter, as the few times I saw him just before... well, before the incident, he was seemed like a shadow. No, I don’t really know what I mean by that. He was just quiet and, well you could sort of look past him and never notice him. He also stopped carrying the books, sorry tomes, around with him. Now he just looked at his hands, which he would form into strange shapes in front of him, and talk to himself. I managed to stop him once, about a week before it all happened. As soon as I spoke he swiftly put his hands behind his back and slowly looked up. He seemed shorter than before, but maybe it was just how he was standing. He had a long wool coat on that dragged the ground. He looked less fearful of me, but still looked like he was about to run at any second.

“Imagine finding an oyster and opening it to reveal a pearl,” he slowly uttered. He voice was so distant that I wasn’t even sure he was talking to me. “Then opening the pearl and finding another oyster, then opening that oyster and finding the ocean.” He started giggling softly. “I can’t believe it was so obvious. All this time.”

“Is that some sort of poetry?” I asked. I hadn’t been one for the arts, but I thought maybe this whole time he had been involved in those opium poet circles I’ve heard about back East. He looked at me with amusement.

“Oh, yes. Verse and rhyme and meter!” And with that he straightened, and was again as tall as me, and strode off with purpose, fearless as I’ve seen any man. It left me puzzled, that’s for sure. I figured whatever this fellow, I mean Mr. Rayburn, was into wasn’t a healthy sort of pursuit. I’ve seen men waste themselves away on opium and I wasn’t hoping to die like that.

I didn’t see or hear from him again until the night of... well, you know. I heard a little knock on my door just after supper. Like a child's knock. When I opened there he was, all hunched over and tiny again. Any confidence from last we met was shaken for sure.

“I wanted to say goodbye. They’re coming for me tonight,” he explained in a distant voice. “You should stay in tonight and don’t poke around.” I figured he was having some sort of opium dream, but I couldn’t smell it on him. Ha! If I only knew! He gave me a sad smile and walked to his door.

About an hour later the noises started. I can’t say whether the noises in his flat started first or the ones in the hall but there was crashing and stomping and some sort of animal noise. What kind of animal? I don’t know. Sort of like when a horse spooks, that sort of noise they make? But not really like that. Also like a cat. No, I don’t think I can make the noise for you.

Anyway, this part you probably know, because someone was pounding on his door yelling “Guild! Open this door now!” and I will admit I peeked out of my door, curious to see what would happen. I wondered why he had stuck around if he knew someone was coming for him, but I didn’t know the half of it, did I? That’s when the crashing and those other sounds got really loud behind his closed door, and the two officers took a step back and looked at each other with uncertainty. One spotted me and sternly told me to go back inside. I ducked back in for a moment and then peeked back out. The officers were clearly deciding what to do, but when the noises stopped they gave each other a resolved look and then one kicked the door in. I expected them to rush in, but they stopped short. Their faces were frozen into masks of shock and revulsion. They stepped into the room slowly, guns drawn but arms hanging at their sides. Overcome by curiosity, I stepped into the hall to get a look.

I got to hand it to your officers, because they have stronger stomach than I do. As soon as I saw the inside of that room I sicked up in the hallway. They didn’t even seem to notice me. There were piles of those books stacked against the walls and the smell was intense, but it was the writing that really got to me. The walls and floor had some sort of writing on them, if you could even call it that. I couldn’t even tell you what color it was. It confounded the eyes to even look at it, and … it didn’t exactly glow but it just sort of jumped out at you. It was no kind of writing that I've ever seen before, and I hope to never see it again. It didn't even look like letters. Even those oriental languages have their writing and at least you can say it looks like some kind of language, but this was so different. And it moved. Did the officers say it moved? I don’t know if I really saw that or not. It seemed to kind of creep around a little, like the symbols wanted to rearrange themselves and say something different. Does that make sense? I don’t think I’m making a lick of sense. It wasn’t until my eyes got off the writing that I was able to see the damage to the room. It looked like someone had taken an axe and cut an eight foot hole across the outside wall, that’s what it looked like. There was broken glass and plaster on the floor too. No, I don’t know what could have done that, thank you very much. On the third floor no less! If I thought it would help me sleep any better I’d ask you to tell me what it was, but I think knowing might be worse.

Look, that’s everything I saw. I locked myself in my place and didn’t come out again until my shift in the morning. I heard all sorts of voices and crashing about by you all during the night. Next I saw you had boarded his doorway up and put Guild seals on it. Even the hole in the outside wall was all boarded over. So I just kept to my own business and did my shift and went home. That is, until your officers showed up to escort me, as they so kindly put it, to this office. I told them I would tell you absolutely everything and I have. Three times now. I don’t think I've left anything out, so I would appreciate being allowed to go home at this point. Yes, I know you just want to be thorough but it’s been a long time now and I’m getting tired.

END OF INTERROGATION TRANSCRIPT

Recommendation: Subject was not involved in incident, and should be relocated to different living quarters. His position in the mining operation makes simple disappearance inconvenient, so monitoring for a period of one year is recommended to prevent possible Arcanist contact.

Edited by hakoMike
typo's and clarification
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I find it hard to read fan stories as I have read some dubious ones in the past but this story is great! It was really concise and really reflected Malifaux. I especially liked that the guy was main character was left unharmed at the end, that was a far less expected ending than if he had of been killed.

Keep up the good work you have yourself a fan!

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