CW: Mental Illness
Godry visits the city.
The dark was right. I continued following the path I was on. It joined several other paths as I walked. I always made a note of which tunnel I had come from and continued on the larger path. It was a long hike. It felt like it took a whole day. I didn’t check my timepiece, so I won’t know exactly how long. Any hopes I had for this being an objective chronicle of the layout of the Underworld have been long since abandoned. I have no interest in any further exploration. And there are potentially hundreds, maybe even thousands or more places I could have visited in these depths. Perhaps they are innumerable. And I’m sure they are all complete with their own horrors.
But now I’m at the gate. It’s… large. In the distance I can see buildings. I haven’t noticed anything that resembled civilization at any other point in this journey, but there it is. Just behind the bars.
The Underworld, Volume 3 describes that the price paid by Slumber and his attendants for entering the city was high. It doesn’t, however, say exactly what that price was. At this stage in my journey, I’ve got exactly nothing.
Gatekeeper: Are you planning on coming inside?
Godry: Who’s there? Oh, I didn’t see you.
Gatekeeper: I wasn’t here. Now I am. Are you coming inside?
Godry: To the city?
Gatekeeper: City of the Dead. The Necropolis. Whatever you wanna call it, here it is. Are you coming in?
Gatekeeper: There’s a toll.
Godry: I’ve heard.
Gatekeeper: Then you’ll know what to do. Put it in the bowl here.
Godry: There’s a golden bowl. I didn’t see it before. Forgive me, what is it that I’m putting in the bowl?
Gatekeeper: Oh, I thought you’d heard.
Godry: Not everything.
Gatekeeper: You do that a lot? Let on like you know more than you do?
Godry: What do I owe you?
Gatekeeper: A piece.
Godry: Of what? I have no precious metals.
Gatekeeper: You can’t enter the City of the Dead without leaving a piece of yourself here.
Godry: What does that mean?
Gatekeeper: Don’t know how I can make it any more clear to you, child. A part of your soul stays here with us.
Godry: What does that do to me?
Gatekeeper: You might never notice. Then again, you might never recover. Let me take a look at you.
Godry: Do you get a lot of visitors?
Gatekeeper: I think we both know that hardly no one makes it here. You want a medal or something?
Godry: I’ve come for knowledge.
Gatekeeper: Knowledge? There’s plenty of that in there for sure. A lot of it you don’t want to know.
Godry: I need to know.
Gatekeeper: I didn’t ask for your story. I just want to see your soul. Ah. What a hatchet job. A butcher would have shown more care. Is this field medicine? Have you been to war?
Godry: What do you mean?
Gatekeeper: Your soul is held in place with a piece of another. What a mess it is. We can’t take any of that.
Godry: What can I do?
Gatekeeper: You’ve got other parts here. Some are far better. We can work with that. We just won’t be able to take her soul. You’ll have to keep that. You might die if we tried to take it.
Godry: Am I going to lose memories?
Gatekeeper: Maybe. There’s all kinds of effects. I think you know that this is, without a doubt, the stupidest thing you’ve ever done in your life. Now, are you going to follow through or are you going piss off?
Godry: I’m here.
Gatekeeper: Put your hand here. Over the bowl.
Godry: Like this?
Godry: Oh, gods, it’s horrible.
Gatekeeper: Yes. It is.
Godry: (moans of pain)
Gatekeeper: Okay, that’s enough.
Godry: I feel sick.
Gatekeeper: You probably are. Before you got here even. Go on. You can enter now.
Godry: How much did you take?
Gatekeeper: Enough. Go on.
Godry: How much do I have left?
Gatekeeper: You’ll live.
(We hear a bell)
He’s gone. I feel like all of my energy has been sapped. Far worse than any of the drugs. I feel like I could just lay down here and expire. There’s fields of something that looks like grass. I might just lay there for a minute. Maybe I’ll die. It’s okay. This is where I’m meant to be. Where people matter. Where there’s meaning. Where there’s greatness. I made it. I’ll just lie down. For a minute.
I’m now in the City. It’s strange; it combines architecture from all over. Great buildings of brick and stone, wood, plaster, metal. Burroughs. Neighborhoods. It’s quiet. I haven’t seen anyone else yet, but there appears to be a pub or a cafe ahead of me where there’s some sort of activity. They have to be more talkative than the people in the other parts of the Underworld. The door’s open.
Dead 1: So then I said, I’ll be taking it back now!
(Dead 1 and two others burst into laughter. Then they stop.)
Godry: Hi. My name is Godry.
Dead 1: Welcome, newcomer.
Godry: Oh, I’m not dead.
(All three begin laughing again)
Godry: I’m not. I’m just visiting.
Dead 1: Sure. Welcome.
(They continue laughing.)
Slumber: Godry? Is that what you said?
Godry: Yes. Who are you?
Slumber: Someone who has been where you are.
Godry: Wait, you’re Emperor Slumber VII.
Slumber: Titles don’t last here. Not for a thousand years.
Godry: Oh, it’s strange to hear you speak like me.
Slumber: There is no language down here. It all becomes one.
Godry: I never thought I would actually meet you. I… I can’t believe this. There’s got to be innumerable people here.
Slumber: I saw you come in. We do not get many… visitors.
Godry: According to texts I have, there was only one who made it after you. Owusu.
Godry: Is he here as well?
Godry: I would like to meet him as well.
Slumber: Very well. Tell me, Godry, what is it that brings you here?
Godry: I am seeking knowledge. I am a student. I am well beyond my graduation date. I am one of the oldest at the university. I just need something to give me an edge. Something to help. My friends are dying out there.
Slumber: Ah. A war.
Godry: Something like that.
Slumber: I can take you to those who can help you. Practitioners of every technique. Some long forgotten. Perhaps you will find the knowledge you need.
Godry: You keep looking at me like you want to say something.
Slumber: I had hoped… That perhaps my story would prevent others from attempting what I did. Coming here. Perhaps a thousand years is too long to expect a story to last.
Godry: I’m familiar with your story.
Slumber: Then you know that I was unwell when I returned. The things I had seen. The things I had done. My empire fell apart without me.
Godry: I had to take the risk.
Slumber: There are powers here that mortals are not meant to understand. Even those of us who are dead are not meant to understand. You risk everything down here. You risk much more than you can risk on the surface. You risk your very being.
Godry: I had to come here.
Slumber: This is not a lecture. You do not owe me any answers. I am just sad to see you. I can only imagine where you’ve been.
Godry: The bridge… did you fall?
Slumber: Everyone falls. Come with me.
Godry: I am with Owusu. He… He is dressed as history tells us monks of his monastery were. Modestly. His home here is simple. He’s… drooling.
Slumber: He has fits. Sometimes he’s wide awake and more energetic, but he raves. He makes no sense. Other times, he is sedate. Other times, he doesn’t speak or act.
Godry: Even in death.
Slumber: We do not change that much in death. Some people find freedom from who they were in life. Those who are ready to leave it behind. Others, they stay the same. People in the city stay the same.
Godry: So he was at the monastery because of these fits, and one day he wanders off and ends up in the Underworld?
Slumber: He is often lucid. But he is filled with a passion that others cannot understand. Argumentative. Scattered. Easily frustrated. I think he found the monastery to temper his passions.
Godry: And somehow he made it all the way here and back.
Slumber: Untold numbers have tried what he tried. Someone was bound to make it.
Godry: I wonder how many have gone through what I have. How many failed.
Slumber: Come. I will take you to those who can help you. You shouldn’t stay here long.
//Do we want to see more of Owusu? Would Godry insist on waiting until he returns to health? Where is the ticking clock for him?
Godry: I’ve learned so much. Things… some things I would rather not know. But that’s the risk I take. I interviewed everyone I could down here. Masters of the arts, sciences, practitioners of all kinds. Some people who predate our history. I can see why some, like Slumber, choose not to share this information. I have also elected not to share it. If I die on the return journey, then it’s probably better that no one knows what I know. Only someone who has experienced all of this can have the context necessary. And even then, barely. I did speak to Owusu when he awoke, but it was during a fit. We have people like him back home, and we have help for them. After everything, I find myself asking if it was worth it. If any of it was worth it. It has to be. There is no other option. Slumber is leading me back to the gate. I’m ready to leave.
Slumber: You do not leave.
Godry: What do you mean?
Slumber: He does.
Godry: What? Wait, is that me? Why am I still at the gate, Slumber? I came in here. I remember it clearly. Why am I on the ground out there. Is that my body? Slumber, what’s going on? What have I… What’s going on, Slumber? What did I do? Is it… Did I… After all this…
Slumber: Touch him.
Godry: Through the gate?
Godry: And then what? What happens? I’m afraid.
Slumber: You must touch him.
Godry: And then what?
Slumber: And then you must tell everyone never to come here.
Godry: What happens?
Slumber: It’s the only thing you can do now.
Godry: I have to reach.
Slumber: Do it.
(Godry jerks awake)
Godry: Oh gods. I’m… I’m on the other side. I’m back on the other side. But… I’m still there. I can see myself on the other side still. With Slumber. Hey. Hey! Can you speak to me? Neither one is responding. My face. It’s so blank. How much did I leave there? Is he… He’s turning away. He… he doesn’t seem upset. Just vacant. Slumber is leaving as well. What… what did I do? Is that still me? Oh gods.
Gatekeeper: It would seem you did exactly what you meant to.
Credits: The Hollow Below by Conrad Miszuk. The Role of Godry is played by Conrad Miszuk. The role of the gatekeeper is played by Danilo Lukovic. The role of the dead is played by Bonnie Bogovich, with additional laughter by Owen Curtis. The role of Slumber is played by Jason Davids Scott. The credits are read by Kitt Keller. The Hollow Below is written, produced, directed and edited by Conrad Miszuk. For more, visit hollowbelow.com.