The Things Without Faces introduction and drawing #2

The following is an ‘excerpt’ from an in-universe book Johann reads about the Things Without Faces, called Lordwood Signs.


The Things Without Faces are an ancient group of entities who have enormous power. They’re not quite gods, but they certainly aren’t mortals, and they’re not related to God or Satan. They’re more like gaps in the creation that those two fight over, like cosmic glitches that will exist as long as normal reality does. It’s assumed that they simply willed themselves into existence, and inserted themselves into creation just like that.

Some people think that the supposed everlasting battle in the heavens might not really be between God and Satan, but between them and God, who creates a reality, only to have it eaten by the Things, over and over again. 

Either way, the Things are outside of normal reality. They obey no laws. They have no collective motives other than hunger and want. They might all have different wants, but that’s their only defining characteristic – they all want, and what they want they will eventually get. However, they’re imprisoned beyond death, which keeps them out and away from those things for as long as possible. In a worse case scenario where they do break out, the faeries are supposed to keep them at bay until God can imprison them again, but the chance of the faeries actually doing that is extremely slim.

However, even imprisoned, the Things have agents on Earth. These are immortal beings who have tremendous power that makes them essentially gods in human form, except for a selection of weaknesses that makes them distinctly not Things or mortals, but something in between. These beings are called vampires. There are also corrupted, besital faeries who have many of the same powers as the vampires, but without immortality. They’re called werewolves, and they’re not as powerful as vampires, but they can be just as dangerous.

The Things have a very loose structure, because they are overall a bundle of barely restrained chaos. It’s unknown how many there really are, since the Things are all technically undefined entities without anything close to a real material form, but most scholars consider there to be eleven:

  • The Thing in the Well 
  • The Queen of the Birds
  • The Hanged Man 
  • The Thing With No Mouth
  • The Thing in the Cave
  • The Things in the Wall
  • The Thing Forgotten
  • The Thing That Is Not
  • The Thing That Decays
  • The Mother Over All
  • The Thing That Watches

 There are also a few others whose status as Things is debated. They are:

  • The Man in Red
  • The Changeling
  • The Thing in the Room

Each of these is explained in detail below, including the ones of debatable status.

(further posts will include the rest of the ‘excerpt’)

Also behold this drawing:

From left to right: Sylvia, Leonard, and Delta.

Huge shout-out to my IRL friend who will henceforth be known by their initials AB for coming up with the “chad reunion” joke in reaction to this photoshopped Enlightenment salon:

That’s Thomas Paine on the left and Jean-Jacques Rousseau on the right, two Enlightenment philosophers, if you don’t recognize them.

And, if you’re realizing that you don’t recognize the name ‘Delta,’ that’s because they are the new narrator for part 3 of Pact. I’ve already started writing about them, which is why they’re in the drawing, but haven’t published anything with them in it yet, which is why no one on here is going to recognize their name.

If you didn’t know, this is a reminder that hiatus posts come out on Saturdays and Wednesdays.

Thank you for reading!

Johann – 2.9.6

Johann woke up at an unholy hour of the morning the day after arriving in Nantucket, because someone was banging hard on his front door. He sat up in bed and stormed to the window, which faced the front of the house and looked down on the porch. There was someone in obnoxiously bright clothing sanding outside the front door, holding something in their hand and knocking violently on the door.

Johann left the room as quietly as he could, so as not to wake Deirdre. He threw open the door to the master bedroom and found Monty lying in bed smoking opium.

“It’s five in the hecking morning,” Monty said.

“What does ‘hecking’ mean?”

“I’m too lazy to curse for real.”

“There’s some clown outside.”

“Actually, you’re looking at the only clown in the house.”

“Yes, exactly. The second clown is out of the house.”

“I’m not moving. My joints feel like they’re about to explode.”

Johann glared at him. Monty didn’t move. After a few moments of this, Johann realized Monty wasn’t going to get the message, so he threw his hands up and went downstairs to see who was at the front door.

It was a man dressed in the obnoxiously bright multicolored clothing of a clown, with pale skin darkened by the sun and curly chestnut hair that didn’t quite touch his shoulders. He was of average height, and he had a wide, pearly white smile. 

Johann was not pleased to see a random clown showing up outside his house this early in the morning. “What do you want?”

The clown whipped a letter out from his pocket. “A letter for you, sir!” He spoke in German.

The letter was from his mother. Johann remembered how he had sent her a letter asking after the health of his brothers after having his first drug-induced hallucination beyond the void, and suddenly everything made sense. He still wasn’t sure why she had sent a clown to deliver it, but that was just a detail. “Thank you, sir.”

The clown bowed. “By the by, do you happen to know where Doctor Johann Faust lives?”

“I am him.”

“Oh! Doctor Faust, I have been sent by your family as a recent graduate of university to assist you in your studies. I will do whatever you say!”

A naive, excitable assistant was actually the last thing Johann needed at the moment, but his other options for a helper were slim, consisting of a secretive giant Frenchman, an extremely strange young woman, an opium addict, a painter, a resurrectionist, and Deirdre, who he did not want to drag into this mess. “What’s your name, then?”

“My name is Wilhelm Redd.”

“And what can you do, Mr Redd?”

“I have a university degree in medicine. I’m really very good at medicine. Oh, and I can play the pipe!”

“Which university did you graduate from?”


Johann rolled his eyes. “You’ve forgotten, have you?”

“It really was quite a while ago.”

“You said it was recent.”

“Oh, yeah.”

Johann rolled his eyes again. At least Wilhelm Redd seemed idiotic enough that he would do what he was told. “Come in, then. Take your muddy shoes off, please.”

Wilhelm took off his shoes and placed them by the door. “I am excited to work with you, Doctor Faust.”

“Good. I’ll need you to provide some kind of credentials, but otherwise-”

He was cut off by a scream from the kitchen. Sylvia had jumped up on the counter and was pointing a butcher knife at them. “Demon! Demon! Creature crawled from the depths of Hell! THERE’S A DAMN CLOWN IN THE HOUSE!”

Monty vaulted down the stairs. “Where is it?”

Fortunately, Jean was also there to stop him in his tracks and wrench the knife from Sylvia’s hands. “It’s only a clown.”

“Actually, this is Wilhelm Redd, a recent graduate from a medical school, the name of which he’s forgotten,” Johann said. “Everyone say hello.”

Monty shook Wilhelm’s hand violently. “Good morning sir, good morning! My name is Ishmael Samuel Carter, but only people I’m in love with can call me that. I’m Monty.”

Sylvia was next to smack Wilhelm on the back in greeting. “Good morning, I’m Sylvia. Where are you from, William?”

“It’s Wilhelm. I’m from around Hamelin, if you know where that is.”

“Don’t know, don’t really care.” Sylvia drank something out of a mug and gestured to Monty. “Get the man something to drink!”

Johann grabbed Wilhelm’s shoulder. “Actually, I think we’re going to go upstairs and talk about some things. Where’s Deirdre?”

Sylvia shrugged. “Still asleep.”

“Hey, Johann, aren’t I your assistant?” Monty asked.

“You’re not trustworthy enough,” said Johann.

“Ugh.” Monty tried to take an entire egg out of the cupboard and put it in the oven, but he dropped it halfway there. “Damn. I hate this.”

Johann dragged Wilhelm upstairs and showed him to the office, where he’d set up a small lab. Johann handed him a stack of newspaper clippings. “Fresh bodies.”

Wilhelm’s eyes were as large as quarters. “Do you need them?”

“Yes. Two of the people here, Richard and Alice, deal in them. I’m taking them, and you, and Monty to the Quaker graveyard tonight to find a body for our experiments.”

“Stealing a body?”

“Yes, Wilhelm, that’s what we’re doing.” Johann threw him a shovel. “Go out into one of the fields and practice digging as fast as you can. You need to be able to get that body out of the ground in less than six minutes, understand?”

Wilhelm grinned and nodded, then ran off with his shovel. Johann sat down at his desk and rubbed his temple. He was exhausted. What would be the problem with taking a few minutes of rest? Nothing, right? Johann leaned back in the chair and closed his eyes. He was asleep in seconds.

A man watched vast armies from a platform of stone. A huge three headed red dragon stood by his side, roaring for blood. The same man was sitting on a throne, a cruel glint in his eyes. His head dissolved and was replaced  by a single all seeing eye, surrounded by writhing pale tentacles. There was an executioner’s platform. The sword fell, and the head of a dark-haired young woman was held above a roaring crowd. The eye-headed man lifted his hands to the sky and tore it open. He turned and looked right at Johann. When he spoke, his voice was the voice of the legion. 

Fifteen in the first hour.

Better than seeing eleven.

Eleven will burn

But hands will learn to ruin.

Across the country and at the sea

They are missing.

Eleven get angry with Him

However, eleven managed the poems themselves.

Eleven are stronger.

When you find something missing

Put the blood in the fire

Only nothing

The war destroyed the whole earth

The future is now in the hands of eleven.

There were eleven in the last hour

Eleven will come

Johann woke up in a cold sweat. Dammit! He was sick of hearing weird, ridiculous poems in his dreams. He groaned and turned his aching neck to the small window. It was getting dark outside. Had he slept the entire day away?

He checked his watch and saw that it was five in the afternoon. Apparently he had slept upright in his uncomfortable wooden chair for a full twelve hours straight.

Johann stood up and stretched, which made all of his bones crack. He walked downstairs and found that he was the only person left in the house. Johann pulled on his coat and boots and went out into the yard. “Deirdre? Sylvia? Richard? Jean? Monty? Alice? Wilhelm?”

There was no response, but there were some broken branches at the edge of the wood. Johann had his cane with him, which he used to smack aside the few plants that the previous group hadn’t broken. There wasn’t any kind of path, but he managed to find his way pretty well, at least until he missed a stone sticking out of the ground and went flying several feet. His cane spun out of his hand, but it wasn’t activated, so it was easy to pick it up again out of the foliage, cursing to himself. 

Johann leaned down to pick up the offending stone and hurl it off into the wood. Immediately, he realized that it was too big to dig out with just his fingers. It was covered in odd grooves. Was that writing? Johann switched his efforts to trying to clean off the stone. The writing was soon revealed to be yet another strange poem.

My mother, she knew things others didn’t know

Helped the village when plague brought them low

But they burned her body and threw her in a ditch

They yelled and cursed and called her a witch

And they buried her here

Under the witches’ tree.

Oh no. Had he just disturbed a witch’s grave?

“I’m so sorry,” Johann said. “Really, I am. So sorry.”

The grave gave no response.

He remembered seeing a blackberry bush some ways back. Johann stood up and raced back to collect a sprig of the plant. He wrapped it and a random yellow flower around a pair of sticks he’d found, one hawthorne and one elder, and ran back to the witch’s grave. 

Johann looked up at the tree. He saw ancient knotted rope among the branches, and a chill went down his spine. 

Suddenly, the stupidity of the situation hit him. He was trying to appease a gravestone. His friends easily could have put this out here just to scare him. Why was he actually believing it? He was too nervous, and overworked. He would have to take a rest tomorrow, or the next day, or whenever he’d finished with the body he was going to get tonight. Johann dropped the bundle of sticks and flowers on the ground, picked up his cane, and continued on his way.

There was a clearing in the woods up ahead. Johann walked into it, and immediately nearly fell into a dry river. He stumbled back, heart racing, and stood well away from the river to reassess the situation. 

There was the dry river, about six feet deep and maybe ten feet wide. It clearly hadn’t had water in it for a while, and Johann could probably climb down into it if he worked at it. There was a bit of a rock staircase on the other side that would be useful, too. There was also a bridge a few meters away from him, too, but it was overgrown and the wood looked rotten. 

On the other side of the river was a ruined mill. It wasn’t too big, and was built out of solid cobblestone that had lasted the years, but the roof had caved in and most of the wood had rotted away. How long had this been here? Surely since the 1700s, at least.

Johann carefully climbed into the dry river, and back up again on the other side. He didn’t see any more evidence of anyone passing this way before, which meant he was probably off track, but he pressed forward anyway. What else might he discover in these woods?

Soon, the tree line ended and revealed a large clearing of maybe an acre, filled with long grass that came up to Johann’s knees. It also was filled with thorny bushes, but he didn’t discover that until he waded in and felt the first stinging on his calves. Still, he pressed on, because in the center of the clearing was what looked like an abandoned church, and that was too interesting to not explore.

The church was probably Catholic. It was a typical church – a one-story building with a sloped roof and a steeple with a cross on the top, but it also had three stained glass windows on each side. The first two windows on the right side were the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ on the cross, and the last one was probably Saint Jerome, judging from the lion at his feet. On the right side stood Saint Francis, as shown by the animals flocking around him, Saint Sebastian, who had been impaled by hundreds of meticulously done arrows, and someone who might have been any of the core apostles, but was probably Saint Peter, judging from the fact that he hung upside down on a cross. There was a very small graveyard out to that side of the church, framed by a stone fence in disrepair and shadowed by the branches of a hawthorn tree. 

Johann went inside the church, and was immediately struck by the creepiness of it. The pulpit and altar were on a raised platform at the back, which had a door behind it that presumably led to the sanctuary. There was a staircase right next to the door that led to a walkway just under the rafters, presumably to accommodate a choir. The pews were all still there, as well as most of the other furniture. The church was eerily silent, but that wasn’t the most uncanny thing about the entire place. Instead, it was the fact that the stone basin for holy water was still full, despite not being fed by any apparent source. Johann crossed himself as he entered, even though the water seemed to irritate his skin where it touched him.

There was an old bible under the pulpit, still marked on the last page that must have been read there. It was the story of Jonah, which was random but allowed Johann to calculate when the church might have been abandoned. 

The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.

But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.

Johann slammed the book shut. He’d spent enough time reading the Bible when he was younger. It was dark outside, and he needed to get back home.

As he was about to leave, he spotted another book under the pulpit. It was much thinner than the Bible, but he almost dropped it when he brought it into the light, not because of the weight but because it had the same eye he’d seen in his dream printed on the cheap paper cover. 

Johann flipped to the first page.

Faceless Messengers

Second edition

Authored by Daisy Pickman

Printed AD 1754

He thought that he knew Daisy Pickman. How was it possible that she’d published a book some time before 1754?

It looked like it was just a discussion of the thoughts and motivations of the Faceless group, the people who wanted the Things back. Johann knew he’d gone to one of their meetings, but he barely remembered it beyond seeing Jean and Camilla there.

There was a sound like someone walking along the upper walkway. Johann shoved the Faceless book in his pocket, leaving the Bible open on the pulpit, and ran. He thought he heard someone running after him, but he didn’t look back, and they never caught him.


There really are fields in Nantucket that look like a great place to take your dog to run around but are actually full of stinging thorn bushes. I had to rescue my brother from the middle of one when we were kids. It wasn’t a fun experience.

Also, I have now decided that the story is going to be put on hold for the holidays, which for me means October 30th – January 6th. However, new content will still be published, in the form of short stories, artwork, and a few posts on the lore and inner workings of the world. New chapter images will also be added at some point during this time, or possibly sooner, because not only are the old ones not very good they also aren’t on every chapter. Of course, October 30th isn’t for a while, but I thought it would be best to announce this far in advance.

Thank you for reading!

Richard – 2.8.5

Richard settled down into his blankets. This was his first night in Nantucket, and his first night in this new house. 

Well, he called it new because this was his first night in it. Otherwise, the house was older than anything around it, save maybe the stones in the deep forest. It had seen tragedy, this house, and it had a great many ghosts. When everyone was asleep and the house was silent, Richard could hear a person with grating nails making their rounds through the hallways. He was scared out of his mind when they walked past his door, but that paled in comparison to when he got up to use the restroom and saw the wet footprints along the carpet.

Richard looked up, and saw a figure standing motionless at the end of the hallway. He squeezed his eyes shut and blindly felt his way to the restroom, locking the door once he was in there to make sure that that thing couldn’t get him.

Once he was finished, Richard went back to his room, making sure to keep his eyes closed until he had locked the door. When he turned around, he nearly jumped out of his skin, because Monty was sitting on his bed.

“Monty?” Richard asked. He really did look familiar. Where had Richard seen him before?

“Hullo, Richard.”

“What is it?”

“I’m doing badly, Richard.”

“…What do you mean?”

“I’m in a really dark place tonight.”

“Oh.” Monty was coming to him for help, then. Very well, he could help this young man. Richard sat down on the bed next to him. “Do you need to talk about it?”

“I think so.”

“Alright, what do you need to talk about?”

“Well, Richard, you see, I, um,” Monty swallowed and popped his fingers nervously. His voice started to crack. “It’s just hard.”

“What’s hard?”

“Being here again. In this house.”


“Because my mother died here, a- and, my father, too. Several years apart.”

Richard sighed. “Grief can be hard.”

“But it’s not just grief, Richard, it’s also other things. You know when you’re just so depressed all of the time that you can’t even remember what it was like to be happy?”



“You’re there right now?”

Monty wiped his face. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. There’s no reason to freak out like this. No reason to be so depressed. God, I need to get a grip. I’m sorry, Richard, I shouldn’t be bothering you.” He moved to get up, but Richard touched his arm to stop him. 

“You can’t control how your mind is telling you to feel. Sometimes, you just… you get depressed like this. I understand. Do you want to tell me anything else? I’m listening.”

Monty looked like he was considering actually taking his offer, but instead he stood up and shook his head. “No, I don’t know what I was thinking. I’m sorry, Richard. Goodnight.” When he went to leave the room, his face was highlighted in profile by moonlight coming in through the window, and suddenly it clicked. Richard remembered where he had seen him before.

“Did you by any chance go to Yale between 1855 and 1857?”

“Actually, I did.”

“I think I saw you there. A few times. Under an assumed name.”

Monty smiled tentatively. “Yes, I have quite a few of those.” He reached for the doorknob again.

“Goodnight,” Richard said.

“Goodnight.” As he opened the door, he slipped something out of his pocket and put it on the dresser. Richard was confused, but he didn’t ask about it or tell Monty to take the thing back.

After Monty left, Richard was unable to sleep for a while. He didn’t understand it, but he’d felt the same instant connection with Monty that he’d felt with Leonard, and Barrorah, and his old partner Cesare. It was a different kind of connection than the one he felt with Deirdre, who was more like a sister, and Alice, who was just a best friend. Even with Camilla, Daiyu, Enoch Carter, and the rest of his writer friends, the people he felt most comfortable around, it was the same distinctly other kind. 

In the middle of overthinking and wondering if this was going to be like how it had been with Cesare, Richard fell asleep and dove right into a nightmare.

He was in a wide, open field at the base of a hill. Richard knew where he was, because he’d actually had this exact dream repeatedly when going to a new place, as many times as times he’d slept in a new place. Every time it was the same: he would dream this, and trek through the mountains to the shrine, where he would say a prayer that seemed to pop into his head at that moment. After that, he usually slept soundly and dreamlessly for several nights. Richard did not expect this time to be any different, nor did he expect to hear voices in his head before he reached the shrine.

Turn around, said the first voice. Richard shook his head, dismissing it as just part of the dream, and kept walking.

You go on a fool’s errand, the voice insisted.

Richard wasn’t sure why this dream was different from every other, but he tried not to let the creation of his unconscious mind get to him. The shrine was only a few minute’s walk away, under the trees there. He wanted to bask in the presence of his God again, and he wanted to do it alone.

Do not approach the shrine, a second voice said.

Richard stopped. One voice was strange enough, but two was bothersome. He shook his head violently, as if to knock them out of his ears.

You must not go there, said the first voice. Think of your home, of your peaceful life. If you value this at all, you will not go to the shrine today.

“Please just let me get this over with,” Richard said. “It’s just a dream.”

You will stop, or a storm will come to wash you away, the second voice said. A storm will come, and take away your friends, your home, even the land itself. The storms will come, and your God will not save you.

“Please, shut up,” said Richard. “I’m not going to listen to you. You’re just a weird blasphemous dream. Besides, whatever you’re going to do, God can stop it.”

Oh, no he can’t. He put us away. Should he save you from one of equal power to himself? I think not, young ghoul.

Richard did not immediately reply. Instead he continued to walk, fixating his eyes and mind on that shrine that had always worked before. The voices fell silent, and Richard could see the small shrine right over the ridge. He smiled, and felt as if he had triumphed over the strange dream voices. They could not keep him from doing anything.

It was then that he felt a strange tugging sensation at the bottom of his waistcoat. Richard looked down, but there was no one there. He dismissed the feeling as a breeze, put his cane down in front of him, and tried to take another step.

His foot was stuck in place. After several minutes of struggling, he managed to wrench it free, and plant it down in front of him. Now the other foot was stuck, and there were invisible hands pulling at the back of Richard’s waistcoat, pulling him down.

He fell, and landed on his back.

Do not go to the shrine, the voices chorused.

Richard stood. “This is a dream!”

Do not go.

Richard’s cane was wrenched from his hand, and thrown down the hill. He went to fetch it, and as he ran was pushed forward by some force, so that he fell again. He slid several feet, and landed in a pool of mud at a stream’s bank. Richard sat up, and stared at his reflection in the water. His dark hair was knotted with dirt, and his entire outfit – a simple waistcoat over suspenders – was covered in mud.

“Why are you doing this?” Richard asked. “Why do you care what I do in my dreams? None of this is even happening in reality.”

The voices choresed in laughter. The first one had something else to say after that. It is a better fate than going to the shrine, 

Richard would have been angry with the voice, if he hadn’t known this was a dream. Instead, he retrieved his cane from the bottom of the stream, and turned to dash up the hill. The voices would not keep him from getting to the shrine. They would not.

Turn back, turn back, do not go to the shrine, the voices chanted. Turn back, turn back or the storms will come, they will come.

The trees themselves were hindering him. Richard tripped on a root as he ran, and when he tried to stand he found that the branches were much lower than they should have been. He could see the shrine, it was only a few feet away from where he’d fallen. Richard reached out and gripped the sides of the shrine, which consisted of a stone image of a tall, cloaked man leading a sheep. The image was protected by a small half-circle, which made sure that no rain would hit the statue. Both the statue and its protection sat on a block of carved stone, which had strange writing on it. Richard didn’t know what kind of shrine it was, only that when he prayed to it he got a few nights of undisturbed sleep.

Richard began his prayers, at first whispering them under his breath, but slowly his voice increased to a shout. He prayed for sleep, thanked God for his life, for everything he had, and he prayed against the strange voices and their malicious influence over nature.

A clap of thunder sounded in the sky, and Richard saw lightning at the edges of his vision. The voices in his head were chanting in a wild frenzy, speaking a language Richard did not recognize. He was certain, however, of their intent. They were calling the storm down upon him, calling the storm to stop his prayers.

Richard finished his prayer, and tried to stand up. There were tendrils of smoke pulling him down, dragging him away from the shrine. The voices were screaming with anticipation of the coming storm, the coming sacrifice for whatever force they served. Richard screamed, and tried to claw his way back to the shrine. Smoke obscured his vision, and the tendrils pulling him were too strong to resist. He was going to die here, in this dream.

“Lord, please!” Richard said. “Please, I beg of you, spare me.”

The land fell around away around him. Richard couldn’t keep hold. He fell until he was gripping the edge of a clif with both hands, being pulled down by slimy black tentacles, and the only person above him was Dr Faust.

“Doctor Faust!” Richard shouted. “Doctor Faust, please!”

Instead, he watched as Faust turned around and injected himself with a thick black liquid, before laughing and tearing the sky in two. A pair of long, pale arms with fingers of all the same length reached through that tear, and started to pull itself through.

Faust ran up and stomped on Richard’s fingers, causing him to fall. He fell and he fell, down, down, down, until he hit Earth, and was at the bottom of a well. There were stars above him, and he watched them move until the same pale arms that had come out of the sky dove down into the well and made everything go black.

Richard awoke in a cold sweat. He rubbed the back of his neck, making sure that his head was still attached. It was just a dream. Just a dream.

Laughter sounded from the dresser. There was a doll sitting there, sewn of mismatched fabrics and no doubt stuffed with rags. Its tin button eyes shone in the feeble moonlight, and the stitched mouth was dissonantly cheerful. That must have been what Monty put on the dresser.

“Hello?” Richard asked.

The doll laughed again. “All just a dream, is it?” It was the first voice from his dream.

“I think so.”

“Maybe a premonition?”

“I’m not the prophet here.”

“Would I be talking if it was just a dream?”

“I think I’m hallucinating you.”

“All of me?”

“I don’t know if you as a doll exist, but I sure as Hell know you aren’t talking right now.”

“Am I? Am I not? If you’re real, why shouldn’t I be?”

This had gone on long enough. Richard was going to stand up and put it on one of the shelves in his closet. He hesitated, and looked at its happy burlap face, and the tin button eyes that some child had probably loved, once. This was only a doll. Why would he throw it away?

“I think you can imagine who put me here,” the doll said. 

“My dreams,” said Richard. 

“If I’m only a dream, what will you see when you wake up?”

That was it. Richard went to get out of bed, but was horrified to find that he couldn’t move. He tried and tried to move his legs, his arms, anything, but his body wouldn’t respond to even the simplest command. 

The doll laughed and laughed. “You think you have such control, don’t you. Everyone does, until they realize they don’t. Is this your realization, Richard?”

He’d always known that thanks to his skin condition, he probably wouldn’t make it much past thirty, or forty at the most. He’d never had any control over that. But he’d always thought that up until that point, his life was his own. Richard suddenly realized how ridiculous this entire thing was. A doll, telling him that he had no control, and he was believing it?

“I don’t have control either,” the doll continued. “I’m a puppet for children to play with. They move my limp limbs around and play that I’m a living thing with feelings and control over myself, even though they know I’m not. I think that’s the only difference between me and the children that play with me, Richard. I know that I’m an unconscious being who exists only as a plaything of more powerful beings. They don’t.”

The doll was soaking wet, drenched in seawater. “Humans have never realized. They don’t know what’s right on the other side of their mirrors. But they’re about to, Richard, mark my words, they’re about to.”

Suddenly, Richard was able to push himself up in bed. He shot upwards, rocking all the way forward from the inertia. The doll had fallen silent, but the first thing Richard did was stand up, pick up his cane, and go over to throw it in his closet. When he picked it up, it was wet to the touch.


Anybody read Haita the Shepherd by Ambrose Bierce? It’s a very short but very good story, and Richard’s nightmare was heavily inspired by it.

Johann – 2.3.5

Content warning: On-page drug use

Johann Faust slammed his hands on the table, and screamed, because the table was metal and it hurt. Ishmael Carter, who liked to be called Monty for some reason, looked up from where he was pinning up a sheet to close off part of the basement they lived in now, and grinned.

“That hurt, didn’t it?” Monty said.

Johann snarled at him, and he grinned and shrugged. Johann turned back to his makeshift table, where his medical tools were spread out. He was taking inventory, making sure that he had plenty of clean, usable tools, chemicals to last him through any problem that might come up, bandages, and any store-bought medicines that he had deemed safe to use. There wasn’t enough of anything, of course, and he didn’t currently have the money to buy more. He should have asked Duke Mephisto for money!

Monty looked around the sheet he was pinning up, and went to the door. Johann heard him open it and start talking with someone, but he was too focused on ways to make quick money for medical supplies to try to identify who it was. He was already selling his services as a doctor, but he could start charging more, or even get a job as an actual doctor, at a hospital. That seemed like a good idea until he thought about the \ time Mr Lister was having getting hospitals to institute hand washing. Johann would never work for an establishment like that. What other skills did he have? He’d been in seminary for a long time when he was younger, and his father had been a pastor, so he still knew how to give sermons and speeches. Could he do something with that? There were a lot of illicit operations he could perform that he hadn’t been, and he could charge more for those. He could get a factory job, but the mere idea of a man such as him, who was destined for so much more, working as a simple factory worker, made his blood boil.

“My good doctor,” Monty said. “There’s someone here to see you.”

“Did they send a calling card ahead?” Johann’s words dripped with sarcasm.

“I don’t think so. Oh, there’s a few people, actually. Say, sir, where did you get that cane? I could use one.”

“At a shop down the street from a drugstore near my house,” Richard Golson said. “Here, let me write down the address for you.”

Johann put down the instruments he was fiddling with and stepped out from behind the curtain. He wasn’t sure if Richard, also known as the Ghoul, also known as the man who delivered him bodies to operate on, would recognize him these days. Johann had grown a neat beard and had started styling his hair differently, not brushing it at all so that it gave him a wild but intelligent look. He had also found his old spectacles, and he wore them now even though Duke Mephisto had fixed his eyes. It made him look more learned.

“Ah, Dr Faust,” Richard Golson said. “That’s you, isn’t it? You look different.”

“Yes,” said Johann. “I’m aware.”

“I’m so sorry that your building burnt down. Truly. If there’s anything I can do to help you, you need only ask.”

Johann hesitated. “I need connections.”

“Connections of what kind?”

“Connections to criminals. Do you know anyone who needs illicit surgeries performed? Anyone who might need the services of a man who knows all there is to know about medicine?”

Golson shook his head. “No one can know all there is to know about anything.” He sat down at the small table.

“Actually, that’s where you’re wrong. I do know everything there is to know about medicine.” Johann sat down next to him.

“Oh? Well, do you know anything about drowned ghosts, Dr Faust?”

Johann laughed, and remembered how he’d declined to go to the afterlife. “No, I don’t.”

Golson looked disappointed. “What about people who give apocalyptic tidings? People I’ve known from a long time ago, some people who are already dead. They tell me that you have to stop whatever it is you’re doing, and that there’s some kind of god up there that’s sleeping and wants to wake up. They say you’re waking it up.”

A chill went through Johann’s body. Richard Golson didn’t know what he was saying. He couldn’t. This had to be a coincidence. Golson was mad, he had to be, he had to be a madman who had in his madness accidentally made connections that most sane people couldn’t. Johann smiled nervously, and reassured himself that whatever Golson might think, he was wrong, he was stupid, he had no idea what he was talking about. Nothing that Johann did would have lasting consequences for the human race. In fact, it was progress, and progress was always a good thing. “No, Mr Golson, I have no idea what you’re talking about. Are you feeling alright? You know, if you’re seeing things you should-”

Golson sighed and rubbed his temple. “You know, maybe you’re right.”

There was his chance to get Golson to leave. “As a doctor, I know I am.”

“Alright, thank you. I’m sorry for bothering you, Dr Faust, it looks like you have quite a lot of work to do today.” He took a wad of money out of his pocket and put it on the table. “Here, take this. It’s to find somewhere better to live. I’ll contact you in a few days with news about connections, alright?”

Johann was staring at the money. That was an obscene amount for Golson to be simply carrying around. He managed to tear himself away from looking at it, and look Golson in the eyes. “Yes, that’s alright. Do get some more sleep, Mr Golson, I think it would be beneficial to stop your hallucinations.”

Golson tipped his hat and left through the front door. Johann let out a shaky sigh, and stood up. “Monty.”

Monty bounced out from behind the curtain. “Right here!”

“I’m going to inject myself with something.”

“Oh! Morphine?”

“No, not morphine. It’s… erm… something else.”

“What is it? Can I try it, too?”

Johann paused. Should he let someone else come to the place beyond death with him? Was that a good idea, or a bad one? Monty looked hopeful and excited, and Johann felt a little bad telling him that he wasn’t allowed to try the drug that took him beyond. He sighed, and took out the bottle that held the drug itself. There was probably enough in there for two doses. “Alright, fine.”

“Oh boy! What drug?”

How to answer that question? “Um… it’s something I developed myself.”

“Very well. Hand it over.”

Johann prepared the syringes, and handed one to Monty. He took a moment to unwind the bandages around his arm which didn’t seem to cover any visible wound.

Johann disinfected his arm, and would have done Monty’s as well, had he not shied away from the cloth. He then sat down in a chair at the table and injected himself. Johann closed his eyes, but not before seeing Monty doing the same across the room.

When he opened his eyes he was sitting on a golden throne in a cavernous medieval throne room. The roof was of glass, and the walls of gilded tan stone that were painted with murals of great battles. The wooden floor was carpeted with red silk leading up to the throne. Bells rang a pleasant music, the seat was very comfortable, and the air smelled of rose petals. A heavy crown rested on Johann’s head, and he held a scepter. His throne was on a raised dais with stairs leading up to it, and Monty, dressed as a fool in motley, sat on the steps.

There were mobs of people standing all around the room, from the guards that stood next to the dias, to the courtiers crowded on either side of the carpet, to the servants who scattered rose petals on the floor. Johann shifted in his seat, feeling like something important was about to happen.

Two women blew a pair of trumpets in unison, drowning out all the other commotion with the thunderous noise of their instruments. Monty stood up and danced over to the carpet in front of Johann.

“My good king,” Monty said. “Hark, a visitor at the door, announced by trumpets and fanfare! Do you care to let them in? They come bearing gifts and change!”

“Should I let them in?” Johann asked. “Would that be wise?”
Monty’s smile was more sinister than it should have been. “Why, a man is no one to curse and deny them.”

Well, if they came bringing gifts, that was a good thing, right? An advisor with Leonard’s face tapped his cane. “My good King. Remember when I gave you the throne, and you promised to listen to me? Do not let these visitors in.”

Johann pointed at the man. “You can’t control me now. Off with his head!”
Leonard screamed and struggled as a group of guards pulled him to his knees and took his head off right then and there. His black blood pooled on the ground and soaked through the carpet, but no one seemed to care.

“What kind of methods did he use to get you on the throne?” The question was asked by a child with Richard Golson’s voice. “Perhaps if you don’t know their nature, or the nature of the visitors, don’t let them in.”

“I say go ahead and do it,” said another advisor, with the face of Duke Janson. “Let them in. This power is yours to wield.”

“You monster,” said his daughter, Clarissa Janson. “You can only ever make the situation worse.”

“Quiet, woman,” Duke Janson snarled.

Deirdre walked out of the crowd, Sylvia trailing behind her. “Don’t do it, Johann, please. I know that this is a bad idea because- well, because-” she wrung her hands and disappeared back into the crowd.

Sylvia shrugged and chugged a bottle of laudanum. “Whatever.”

Johann surveyed the crowd, and saw a smirking Jean Gévaudan standing next to an equally smug Albert Janson. Edmond Oberon and Helen Titania glared at him, vines twisting threateningly under their feet. An emotionless little ghost girl he vaguely recognized from a trip to Nantucket many years earlier grinned at him, then up at her fierce, defiant mother. A woman he knew as Camilla Chambers was nodding eagerly for him to let them in. 

It was a hard decision on who to listen to, but eventually Johann stood up and pointed his scepter at the door. “Let the visitors in!”

The doors opened, and the hall instantly became black and white. The throne dias disappeared beneath his feet, and Johann fell backwards into an inky void. He struggled to breathe, clawing at his throat desperately to try to escape the horror he had just willingly let in. It wasn’t his fault, was it? He had been led into it by Leonard and Monty and Camilla, right? Right?


Johann fell without an answer, and when he looked up he realized he could see stars above him. He reflected on his choices in the past year. He had gambled away his soul, he had reversed death, he had gone beyond and talked to incomprehensible godlike beings… and he had ruined a marvelous dreamland by his own bad decisions. Hopefully this wasn’t a premonition of anything. He wouldn’t make any decision so blatantly bad in real life, would he? He’d be able to see the signs there, right?

There were no answers here. Johann reached up, and realized he could scoop the stars from the sky in the palm of his hand. He smiled. That was some relief, at least, that was some beauty.

And then he was still falling, but this time out of his chair and onto the ground of his basement home, onto the hard packed-dirt floor. Johann hit his nose when he hit the ground, and it started bleeding almost instantly. He pressed a handkerchief to his face and eased his aching body back into his chair. That seemed like it had been a lot less time than before, but when Johann went to the door he saw that it was dark outside. If he had taken the drug at noon, then hours and hours must have slipped through his fingers.

Monty was lying on the floor with his distinctive hat pulled over his face, either still in a trance or fast asleep. Johann went to his workbench and started cleaning his scalpels again. They didn’t need cleaning, but he did it anyway, if only to get his hands moving. He thought about the marvellous court he’d ruined and told himself over and over that it wasn’t really his fault. He’d been pushed into it, he told himself. He hadn’t known the consequences.

There was a knock at the door that startled Johann out of his frantic cleaning. He went to see who it was, and was horrified to see Camilla Chambers.

“Where’s Monty?” She asked.

“Monty?” Johann gestured to where the man was in a heap on the floor. 

Camilla pushed past him, another woman he’d seen but never been introduced to trailing behind her. Granted, he’d only ever met Camilla once, at the dinner where Leonard had challenged Duke Janson, but after the dream he felt like he’d known her his whole life.

Camilla and the other woman pulled Monty to his feet. He groaned, and they shoved him forward so that he had to support himself. 

“Really?” Monty asked. He was standing on his own now, but hunched over significantly, and rubbing his arms like they were sore. “Couldn’t you have waited? Let me sleep just a little little bit more?”

“You’re going to be late to the meeting,” Camilla said.

“I don’t care. Let me sleep.”

“No, you have to come with us. We need you there for support.”

“What would you need me there to support? What can I do?”

“You’re good at public speaking and making things up on the fly. Come on, Monty, we need to get to the meeting or we’ll be late.”

Johann tapped her shoulder. “Excuse me, but what kind of meeting?”

“A meeting of the Faceless.”

Johann had heard that name whispered before in the shadows. It was some kind of society of people who wanted to radically change the world, how, he didn’t know. They were dangerous, he’d heard, and would bring about the downfall of society. Those facts only intrigued Johann more, and made him want to find out more about them, even join them if he could. He nodded excitedly when Camilla mentioned them, and said, “ah, the Faceless. You’re part of this group?”


“Would you let me come to your meeting? Please? I’ve been so curious for so long.”

Camilla looked at the other woman, who shrugged. She looked back at Johann. “Listen, you come to this meeting, you don’t repeat a word of what you hear there. Do you understand?”

“Yes, yes, I understand.”

“Good.” She hauled Monty out the door, Daisy trailing behind. Johann followed them more slowly, so that he could lock the door behind him. They went down an alleyway, across a street, into another alley, over a wall, out onto another street, down that street, made several more turns, and finally went into a club called The Winded Bird.

The club was dimly lit and smelled of smoke. Johann followed Camilla into a back room, where a group of people were clustered around a large oval table.

Johann was surprised by how many of the people he recognized. There was Jean Gévaudan, and Emma Janson, sitting next to Tate Johnson and Hai Daiyu. There were more people who he didn’t recognize, too, such as a tall African man with sharp, intelligent features and yellow eyes, and a young woman with blonde hair and big, watery blue eyes.

Camilla took her place at the head of the table, with Monty and Daisy on each side of her. Johann sat next to Monty, fascinated and ready for anything.

“People in attendance?” Camilla asked.

Daisy read off a list. “Camilla Chambers, Daisy Pickman, Alice Egerton, Jean Gévaudan, Emma Janson, Tate Johnson, Hai Daiyu, Barrorah, Johann Faust, and Ishmael Carter.”

“My name is Monty, not Ishmael!” Monty shouted.

“It’s for official records,” said Daisy.

“Yeah, a secret anarchist meeting in the back of a club, really official.”

“Ishmael Carter-”

Monty shot out of his chair. “My name is Monty!” 

“God, sorry. Calm down and sit, Monty.”

Monty slowly sank back down into his seat. 

Daisy looked around for any more dissenters, and saw none. “Good, now, can someone tell Faust what we’re doing here? I don’t think he knows.”

Johann was glad they were finally paying attention to him again. “I’m content to sit and watch.”

Daisy ignored him. “This is a meeting of Faceless, the underground society who seek the radical change of society and government at the current day… as well as the return of the Things Without Faces. Do you know what those are, Dr Faust?”

“Not really.” Something in the back of his mind told him that he had met them before, in some place that he had forgotten, but he wasn’t sure how to tell her that without sounding like a lunatic.

Daisy smiled. “Would you like to learn?”

Johann shrugged. What could they teach him that he didn’t already know?

Camilla Chambers grabbed his arm and straightened it out. Daisy approached with a needle. Johann sighed and let her inject him for the second time today. He closed his  eyes and sat back in his chair, waiting to slip away.

“Just relax.” Camilla’s voice sounded distant and hollow. “You’ll see something eventually.”

Johann opened his eyes, despite them still being closed in real life, and saw that he was standing in the middle of a pitch black void. There was something here, something dark that knew his name. He swallowed hard and boldly reached his hand into the void, absolutely sure that nothing could hurt him in this dream. He smiled triumphantly, and held his hand up to see the black gunk dripping off it. Johann flicked his fingers, and some of the stuff splashed into his eyes.

There was no describing what he saw next, and no remembering it. It was gone in an instant, but it was the most terrifying thing he had ever seen in his life. 

Johann tried to open his real eyes, but found it impossible. He was trapped here, inside his mind or in whatever place he was at the moment. There was no escape until he had learned what they wanted him to.


I accidentally published this on Monday because I thought that Monday was Tuesday (it wasn’t, unfortunately). The publication schedule will stay the same.