The second of three story seeds, these short stories are designed to compliment the mythos and atmosphere of Triptych without actually alluding to, or being a part of, them directly or their canon. This entry is written by junior writer of Triptych, Ian Wiese, showcasing his own unique style and approach to the fiction's niche.
It had been several years since I took up allegiance with the East India Trading Company. On each of their voyages to India, trying to collect various spices and other assorted goods to bring back to the empire, I would join their expeditions, as per captain’s requests. They took me for a simple wayfarer, someone who adored the idea of visiting foreign lands on the heels of the progenitor of their expeditions, a mere, as they call it, “deckhand.” That ruse constantly worked, as I continued to be brought back and forth to this vast, unchecked land, as per the whim of the cult.
One final time, the cabalist willed it for me to venture down to the East Indies. We had previous discussions of this event, wherein they called upon me for one last time to venture far from the crisp, soothing air of the French country into the balmy, unforgivingly pallid heat of the island chains. Heavily domineered by those of the Hindi faith, their gods (however many of them existed I had previously lost track of) fit the description of the prophecy the gathering spoke of, one who would return to this world and rid us of the evils that pervade it. Granted, the prophecy spoke not of whom it was referring to. It spoke, however, of the purviews of man and of the necessity of cleansing. One pujari had mentioned in one of my previous visits to the land that the god I sought was that of which they call “Kalki” the destroyer of evil. Although both mine and the cult’s knowledge were limited, my leaders had called upon me to do what they wished, and the will of the faction demands my attention. But I could still feel as though something about the situation was not as it seemed, like the collective was not aware of a detail.
Although a mild darkness had fallen upon the land, I could feel the balmy air cutting into my limbs, stifling me with thick heat. The darkened ports had an eerie stillness to them, unlike the daytime, where every desolate merchant, peasant, and seaman wandered the makeshift dock with no clear goal. It still felt…natural, in some way, as if the people had never disappeared. As the crewmen through the ropes over the bows and rails of the ship to some of the lone ghosts walking the dock, I knew that I would be coming here for the last time, as if some higher power spoke to me with intimidation on its mind. I began to slink from the interior of the ship, the stifling heat causing beads of sweat to form on my forehead. As I entered the black void of the world in front of me, I quickly grabbed my bag sitting on a table to my right, weighed down with materials that seemed like normal tools for a voyage into the area, but in reality were a cover for what I really had: the Terrendi Obtutunque, the sole book the cult in France told me to bring. Lest I reveal my true intentions to the rather gullible captains in the fleet, I had to conceal it.
“You lot ready to go ashore?” he barked at me, in a rather unwieldy British accent. His voice had an air of pompousness, as if he felt no matter my intelligence (which I could tell in reality was far superior to his) was no match for his own. Instead of bothering with a response to him, I merely walked past him and waited for the gangplank to be raised onto the ship in between a gap in the rail. Although I knew the time it took was rather insignificant, due to the humidity and the ever watchful eyes of the captain, now mildly annoyed at my defiance of his attempts to intimidate me as I perceived it, I felt my time standing there growing into hours with each passing second. The book rustled in my bag as its contents shifted slightly, but it was not enough to merit moving everything in it. Once the gangplank had kissed the edge of the ship’s deck, I began to saunter my way down it, watching the dock workers grumble to themselves that I had left the ship far before they said I could. I knew it did not matter; they always try to control your actions when the situation is already under control.
I felt my shoe move from the stability of the wooden plank into the uneven patch of gravel the people of this land had called a dock, causing it to sink into a mess of misshapen pebbles and dust as my shoe became coated in a layer of grey dust. Once fully off the ship’s gangplank and onto the uneven ground, I picked up my leg and began to swipe at the side of my shoe, getting some of the dust off. However, I felt a second shift in my bag’s contents and heard a resounding rip come from the bottom seams of my bag. Rather unceremoniously, all of the random odds and ends I had stuffed into the bag dropped out onto the gravel, scattering in various directions. Most of them did not matter to me, as the cover was no longer necessary, but the book also landed on the ground with a small thud. I began to bend over, after I had dusted off my shoe, to begin looking for the long necessary piece of my collection.
After a few moments, I did relocate my book. It lay down in the pebbles face down, as if it were trying to cover its face. I grasped the binding of it and picked it up as I began to turn it over, wanting to get rid of the dust on the front cover as well. However, after looking at the Obtutunque’s once distinguishing Theban character for a while, I had noticed something was wrong:
The character was not there.
In its place, an obscenely large red capital H stood in its place. Knowing immediately that this was not a good sign, and thinking perhaps I had mistakenly taken the wrong book, I opened the book to the front cover. As I read it to be, the words Terrendi Obtutunque still stood in their rightful place, but there again was something off. More red letters, almost as if the printer had done it meaningfully, graced the cover page, nearly covering up the title. They left a most ominous message, one that proved to me something was indeed not as it seemed about my journey to the East Indies: